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Battle Star: Trek Wars
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2018 04:00:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Alpha Blue-book clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page reserved for notes, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, leaving us with 70 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This book is an expansion for Venger As’Nas Satanis’ sleazy scifi-RPG Alpha Blue, which is inspired by 70s and early 80s porn-parodies. If exposed boobs and nudity offend you, if you can’t chuckle over what may be deemed to be puerile humor, then this may not be for you. To give you an example: One b/w-artwork has a guy standing in line at the space unemployment agency, asking the clerk to tell him more about “those outer rim jobs.” That being said, at the same time, there are not artworks depicting intercourse or the like – pin-up-style nudity is as raunchy as this one gets.

Then again, at this point I’ve reviewed so many Alpha Blue supplements you probably already know whether the tone is to your liking, so since we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a look at the material herein!

We begin this supplement with a massive piece of well-written prose to set the stage thematically, “Cold as Ice,” before the pdf begins with a nomenclature-change that was overdue – The official term for the GM in Alpha Blue now is the BDSM – Bold Dungeon Space Master. The abbreviation was so obvious, I kinda hoped it would catch on. The pdf then provides a seven words/phrases means of character generation that works well with the very rules-lite approach Alpha Blue takes – what does the character do professionally, how does the character look like, who is the character as a person,, what is the character good at, likes/dislikes, special equipment/vessels and stand out traits – there, character generation in a few quick steps. If you honestly dislike rolling dice and want an even bigger step of being almost-0-rules, there is an alternative that gets rid of rolling for damage; the brief table makes you pool up attack dice pool and that’s it. Nice: The BDSM gets default stats for stock character NPCs next to some further DMing advice, which champions sticking to briefer scenes. Shutting lengthy combats down and rough guidelines for the number of rounds acceptable, can be helpful – as the header notes “remember the cantina” – it’s brevity is what makes the scene work. A d12 table to end combats that have stretched on for too long The sleaze once more enters the frame via the rather funny table that provides mechanically-relevant effects that accompany an alien’s orgasm. The pdf also provides a d12 table to determine random underwear worn, a d4 table to determine the condition, and a d6 table for the couture of the vaginal area. If you happen to be a fan of Alpha Blue who prefers males, you won’t get any tables for male underpants or genital area.

The section also introduces the dread Cheetosian slut-bots, a sex robot so potent it has a 1 in 3 chance of killing you. Losers of high-stakes games sometimes have to take the bet and introduce fingers etc. in the bot – those that survive end up with permanent cheeto fingers/genitalia, coated in orange dust. A fate that’s rather…disgusting. 12 quick hooks to begin an Alpha Blue adventure, 20 things that folks may want in return for assistance and 30 weapons are next. The latter include assassin blades hidden in clown shoes, crotch cannons, bowel disruptors, etc. 6 weapons, hilariously, were left over and get their own brief table.

The next idea is pretty funny: Snadq’ua is a game, where you have to trick someone to look at your dick/balls. Depending on the move, the loser may have to pay MeowMeowBeenz, and the pdf mentions how this could be used in metagame – the victor can take the loser’s “Steal the Spotlight” for the session. It should be obvious that the latter metagame requires sane and mature adults, but, as a suggestion, it’s very much possible to make this based on boobs as well. Gamifying NOT staring at cleavage may actually do some socially slightly challenged folks some good…

30 detailed random transmissions to pick up (assassin guilds celebrating their 110th kill, Purple Prizm, now with aphrodisiac, etc.) and a brief d6-die drop table to determine stability in a region are next, and then we get a MASSIVE, 100-entry strong table of odd NPCs to add to the game – from space dwarves to armed slugs to really weird folks, this table is really useful and breathes Venger’s creativity in the best of ways. While we’re on the subject of the die-drop component: The pdf comes with a MASSIVE, high-res –jpg hex-map of the Ta’andor galaxy, noting the spheres of influence of factions from “Abhorrent Entities of Eldritch Alignment” to the “Church of Arthos” or “Ta’andorian Pleasure Seekers.”

There is also a 100-entry strong loot table, which includes a detachable penis, parking tickets, a handheld sonic douching machine, vials LS3-D…pretty fun and diverse table. 10 reasons why you don’t get to pick someone up are also provided, which had me think of a weird combination: Space Quest meets Leisure Suit Larry. I can kinda see that work as a campaign idea! This also ties in with a table that determines the degree of being pussy-whipped (extra points for running Steel Panther’s song when rolling on it…) and one that randomly lets you determine how long it takes for a male to be able to go again.

MeowMeowBeenz are concisely defined, btw. – it’s crypto currency that has become popular after the finance markets crashed. Its value is partially contingent on how ostensibly awesome you manage to sell yourself. Here’s the kicker: The system also rates the users on a scale of 1 to 5, not akin to the social rating dystopia shown in the third season of Black Mirror. MeowMeowBeenz thus feel pretty…sinister to me. The fluctuating value and fluid economy is, of course, pretty much carte blanche for the BDSM, so some further explanations give you some guidelines. I really enjoyed this section – the easy come, easy go randomness is appealing and fits the themes of Alpha Blue.

All right, as before in the Alpha Blue supplements released so far, we move on towards the adventure/scenario section next. As before, read aloud text is usually reduced to a bare minimum, namely setting the stage for the adventure; there is no plot-synopsis given, and you definitely should read the entire respective scenario prior to running it. Big plus: We actually get stats where relevant.

All right, since we’re now taking a look at the adventures themselves, consider this to be the SPOILER-warning for players. If you want to play these yourself, you should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only BDSMs around? Great! So, the first scenario “I Wear My Heart On My Sleaze” begins with at the favorite dive bar, where a Dallas Space Cowboy Cheerleader is waiting for the bathroom to become free, proceeding then to peeing herself when she can’t hold it any more. This being Alpha Blue, the aftermath can result is sex. As the PCs happen upon a flyer noting a libertarian party going on, they also get a note that none Ta’andorian citizens will have to have intercourse in the next 3 hours or die horribly. The consequence is simple: Get laid at the party or die trying is the name of the game, and when a humanoid carrot advertizes the symbiotic jellyfish condoms that can actually form ridges etc., we’re definitely in full-blown Alpha Blue territory. While playing strip-sabacc, the PCs may run afoul of a pick-pocket, and there are 12 reasons for some dude wanting the PCs dead. A super smart inventor is thinking about selling a short-range teleportation device to score; a lady may be saved from a scintillating bastard of an alien from a Zonga-line…and then fungoid spacers (alas, sans stats) kidnap a princess…which may make for another interesting adventure. All in all, a delightfully goofy extended encounter/downtime scenario.

The second adventure would be “Emergency Escape Sequence Delta Green,” which begins with a table of 6 different flashbacks as the PCs emerge on the moon A’atu, only to pick up a Romulyn battle cruiser on their scanners, Shasta, which hails the PCs and provides an ultimatum – scram or be pulverized. The moon seems to be suffering from a blockade, courtesy of a change in Federation tax codes. The remainder of the module deals with a free-form approach towards the situation: Do the PCs attempt to save the moon? Will they join the Federation or attempt to brave all odds and eliminate the superior forces of the Federation? In order to defeat a battle cruiser, the PCs will probably have to infiltrate it, and stats for standard troopers and an Admiral are provided alongside a brief d6 table of different welcoming committees. And that’s about it. A solid digression/diversion.

Thirdly, we get the “Outer Rim Jobs of Ta’andor” begins with 6 easy-come-easy-go reasons for the PCs to be broke. Facing their dwindling resources, they are likely to say yes to the job awaiting on Avon 7, where a scouring winds ravage the land and a bald, Tibetan-looking monk awaits. A group of fully statted rival spacers will attempt to take out the PCs as they take the job, taking turquoise teleportation bracelets…only to me dread Xa’ax, the mind-raping orange (nice callback to Kort’thalis early works! And yes, it’s fully statted!). The potent fruit asks the PCs to represent it at a singing contest. And yes, the orange can be killed – wearing its peel can net you the potent powers of the entity for a brief time. The contest itself features glory holes in the rest rooms and the rules to resolve the contest are painless and nice. The judges (fluff-only) include a hip-hop-apotamus…and David Hasselhoff. Thing is, the orange is a bastard – it actually wants to kill everyone associated with the contest. How they get rid of the nuke they were duped into carrying before the 5 minutes elapse, is all up to the players. Some suggestions would have been nice. Killing Xa’ax will be tough – he has caught the famous space cops Tango and Cash, and beyond the orange, a deadly Zith lord, the Crimson Chaos, will need to be defeated. The aforementioned Tibetan monk can make for a NPC-aid or replacement PC and as such, comes with stats. All in all, a hilarious, amazing and outré little module – easily one of my favorites in all of Alpha Blue’s canon.

The final scenario would be “Panty Raid on Papyrus 5” – you see, Papyrus is a cluster of 5 university planets, with #5 being the one focused on culture, language and the liberal arts. As such, there are a lot of ladies there. The module itself is basically a free-form scenario: The motivation of the PCs can oscillate, and the module accounts for that, by providing the tools to generate such a scenario: There is a brief table of reactions to stealing panties, and patrol ships are noted. Campus security gets stats, as do rival raiders. If you desire a straight narrative, there is a specific lady whose panties are particularly treasured by a gross insect thing…good money in it. There is a planet with economy based on worn panties, and it is here that PCs may end up recalling past lives after being exposed to a strange crystal. 8 Sample previous identities and 6 reasons for memory implants quote the total recall angle, but how that develops is ultimately up to players and BDSM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with original artworks that range from amazing to solid, and the map noted before is a nice bonus. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with very detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience, and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. On a layout-perspective, I loved how e.g. “Purple Prizm” is always printed in purple, with its own custom font – it’s a small thing, but I liked that decision. On another note, the per se great layout and artwork clash slightly in a few instances, but that remains an aesthetic nitpick.

Venger As’Nas Satanis “Battle Star – Trek Wars” is a great expansion for the Alpha Blue game; from the serious to the utterly ridiculous, the adventures should offer something for all folks that enjoy his take on the raunchy scifi-parody genre. Particularly the 3rd adventure is absolutely hilarious in its outrageous concepts. The random tables also easily count among the best in Alpha Blue’s history so far – much like “Universal Exploits”, this book provides quite a few very helpful components that flesh out the implicit setting without feeling overly restrictive, with particularly the MeowMeowBeenz-economy being a great way to explain fluctuating fortunes. Now, while the adventure components don’t engage in much handholding, they do show that the author has learned from past adventures: The environments are more relevant, stats are provided where they make sense, and as a whole, this elevates the encounters and modules from sketches to material you can run without requiring much preparation beyond reading the respective components.

In short: If you enjoyed Alpha Blue or just like gonzo space opera with a dash of sleaze strewn in, then this book is a no-brainer. It is one of the best books in the product line, on par with the quality of Universal Exploits. As always for Alpha Blue-expansions, this will not change your mind if unapologetically puerile, self-referential humor that very much recognizes what it does, if the parody angle, does not work for you. If it does, then this is a gem and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battle Star: Trek Wars
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Star Log.EM-018: Msvokas
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2018 03:57:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After the by now traditional introduction to the subject matter, we begin with the flavorful component of the presentation of the race. The “Playing as XX“-section, as before in the series, is the only missing component in this section that contextualizes the race within Starfinder. As before, if you’re interested in Rogue Genius Games and Everyman Gaming’s shared Xa-Osoro system, you’ll be in for a bit of a treat, as the section unobtrusively notes how the races works within this implicit setting. The msvokas, somewhat goofy-looking though they may be, as you can see on the cover, are pretty unique:

They get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Strength, and have darkvision. They also get immunity to nonmagical radiation. +4 to saves versus magical radiation (should be, bonus-type-wise, a racial bonus) and fire resistance 5. Msvokas are naturally radioactive with a radius of 0 ft., extending only to their skin. However, grappling these creatures can cause radiation poisoning. I assume that the level of the radiation incurred is based on the scaling save DC, but having that explicitly stated would have been nice. As written, one could assume that the level of radiation is missing.

They can also unleash a radioactive ranged blast from their mouth, targeting EAC. Targets hit get a save or become poisoned by low radiation. If the msvoka expends Resolve Point, the blast ignores environmental protection versus radiation, though the usual +4 bonus such protections might convey is still applied. Here, things become really freaky, in a cool way: As radioactive beings that accrue toxic materials etc. within their bodies – after 6d4 months, these toxic substances begin breaking down their bodies, affecting them with the racial disease of isotopic degradation, which is based on Constitution, track-wise. It is incurable and cannot be distilled into doses. Now, here’s the thing:

When a msvoka rests for 8 hours, at the end, they can opt to undergo rebirthing, which turns their body to ash, cures the disease, and leaves a 1-foot egg with negligible bulk. The egg needs to be incubated for 4d6 days by a source of radiation; after hatching, the msvoka grows to adulthood in 1d3 days. Rules for infant/toddler-stages are noted, and upon reaching adulthood, the reborn msvoka regains the respective abilities. This rebirthing process may also be initiated upon dying, though at the cost of 2 negative levels added to the process. Death effects or accumulating negative levels, or falling to isotopic degradation, are the exceptions from this. Destruction of the egg also eliminates the msvoka.

Notice something? Yeah, the racial hit points, alas, are missing from the write up in an obvious and unnecessary oversight. The pdf also comes with a racial feat, Radiation Flare, which allows you to spend Resolve to extend the radiation aura – cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the lack of the racial hit points are the one serious glitch here. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and Jacob Blackmon’s artwork for the race is great. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ msvokas are easily one of the coolest races I’ve seen in a while: The bubbly, somewhat friendly radiation-phoenix-race is creative in the best of ways, and really makes me want to play this critter. The radiation-angle is cool, and while I would have loved to see the radiation-level component explicitly spelled out, the race still is damn cool, one of the most unique races I’ve seen in ages! In fact, this would be a 5 star + seal race, but lacking racial hit points and with the slight inconvenience regarding radiation levels, I unfortunately can’t go higher than 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-018: Msvokas
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Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2018 05:48:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 78 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 71.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons.

So, as the pdf notes, the book contains, no surprises there, new mythic paths. However, there is one distinct difference here, namely that the book has been crafted with an eye towards providing options for some of the more popular 3pp-materials: Psionics, pact-magic-based spirit-binding, temporal shenanigans (Time Thief and Warden), as well as e.g. Rite Publishing’s take of shapeshifting via the taskshaper. The pdf thus provides a lot of synergy if you have these respective supplements. However, at the same time, the book does not lose its value for groups that do not employ there – the mythic paths that help for the respective subsystems are fully viable even without using e.g. pact magic, sporting plenty of options that do not require the use of such a subsystem. In short: While the support is here, the designs within do not force you to employ these systems.

After the introduction, we begin with some cosmological ideas, namely the Lost Spheres as a kind of meta-setting that also codifies power-sources. You can run with this brief summary or ignore it; once more, the pdf does not force you to buy into a cosmological conception, which is a good thing in my book. Similarly, I believe that thinking about magic this way makes sense. In my homegame, I tend to precisely codify magic in a kind of almost scientific way, as that is what my players and myself enjoy the most. Having a solid structure that can be explained and elaborated upon can also yield really interesting thought-experiments that the PLAYERS can undertake, solving magical issues, rather than limiting the solving of a magical problem with just a roll of the dice. I developed my own system regarding the function of magic pretty much on a similar basis as the one that this book posits in brevity….but I digress. In short, it makes sense to think about magic in a somewhat structured manner.

The aforementioned Lost Spheres are also noted in the appendix, where we learn about the Black lattice in the shadow plane, the City at the End of Dream, a planar doppelgänger world, and much more. While these are fluff only, they have aged surprisingly well due to this, and if you’re also a SFRPG-GM looking for some amazing ideas for creative worlds, then this appendix delivers.

This book contains a total of 10 different mythic paths, with each of the paths, obviously, codifying abilities by tier 1st, 3rd, 6th – as established. The paths all span the full 10 tiers and come with a brief discussion regarding the role of the respective characters, including a paragraph that contextualizes them within the aforementioned Lost Spheres.

Note: I am beginning this review with my discussion of the previously released stand-alone mythic paths, with my reviews duplicated for the sake of completion. I will note below when the discussion of previously not covered material begins.

All righty, that out of the way, let us take a look at those mythic paths! The first would be the godhunter, who gains 5 hit points per tier and the devour the divine ability, which may take one of three shapes: You can choose to either spend mythic power as an immediate action to add your tier to a saving throw AND gain a reroll versus a divine effect. On a success, you are not affected and instead heal hit points based on tier, which btw., when exceeding your maximum hit points, can partially be converted to temporary hit points. The second option lets you spend mythic power as an immediate action to collect divine remnants, so-called detria. These act as ameans to duplicate, spell-storing style, one divine spell or spell-like ability of a creature slain. These may only be used by the godhunter that created them, and require UMD to activate. This one, RAW, does require a lot of spell/SP-tracking and can become pretty potent. Considering the value of mythic power, I have no issue with the power-level this has, and detria cannot be stockpiled as a balancing caveat. The third option represents the means to spend mythic power for a tier-based bonus to atk, and bonus damage versus divine spellcasters and outsiders. The path nets a path ability every tier and the capstone ability nets basically advantage on saves vs. divine spells cast by non-mythic targets, as well as SR versus divine spells.

Now, as far as path abilities are concerned, we have the option to get another one of the aforementioned devour the divine abilities. We have means to prevent teleportation and plane shifting, or, for example, a means to extend the benefits of the aforementioned attack/damage boost to any target currently affected by a divine spell, which is pretty interesting. Making detria behave as potions is nice…but I really like the means to for example steal channel energy uses. The path abilities also include interesting passive abilities – like divine spellcasters needing to save versus their own spells when targeting the godhunter, potentially being dazed for a round. Minor complaint here – the ability only specifically mentions targeting, meaning that area of effect effects not necessarily being included. Extending the benefits of the healing option to allies targeted nearby. Reducing the CL of hostile divine spells to determine duration is also nice – though I think that rounds reduced to 0 should probably cancel out this component; that, or have a 1 round minimum duration. Cool: There is an ability that lets you hijack divine spells. Item-use, transfer wounds.

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we have the means to employ metamagic feats via the burning of detria; imposing basically disadvantage (roll twice, take worse result) on concentration checks is intriguing. Leeching off excess healing in the vicinity. On the nitpicky side, the Hungry Zeal ability, which nets another use of the Zealotry ability, should specify the requirement of the Zealotry ability. Limited domain poaching and becoming immune to a domain of a vanquished spellcaster makes for some cool tricks – particularly since the latter is balanced, once more, by tier, having a sensible scaling. In short, as before, this offers further upgrades, building on previous tricks. The 6th tier abilities include means to hold more detria at once, as well as the option to use detria for Item Creation purposes…or what about tattoos infused with detria that render you immune to a divine spell, with the maximum spell level gated by tier? Yeah, cool! All in all, I enjoyed this mythic path and consider it to be a nice means to play a dedicated foe of a selection of, or all deities and their agents.

The second mythic path of the lost spheres to have had a previous, stand-alone release, would be the Hollow One, who gets 3 hit points per tier and is really interesting: One of the base abilities of the path allows you to temporarily assign a negative condition, bad pact (pact magic!), disease of the like and switch it to another creature temporarily. This handling of affliction transfer is pretty tough to get right, and, much like before, the pdf does something smart in that it concisely codifies such terms. I also enjoyed the second of these abilities, which allows you to grant yourself a boon, which scales depending on by how many afflictions you’re affected, capping at tier to prevent abuse. Thirdly, you can use a swift action (SANS mythic power expenditure!) to ignore the detrimental effects of such an affliction. The base abilities already entwine rather well and promise some cool stuff for the path abilities here. The tier 10 option allows you to regain mythic power, allowing you to regain one if affected by two afflictions in a single round.

Among the path abilities, we have access to forlorn feats from that Transcendent 10-installment and a really cool one: Gain Charisma for every curse you suffer from! Similar tricks can be applied to other ability scores, making this a great offering for the angsty, doomed antihero that draws strength from a doomed fate thrust upon him. An aura that renders 1s and 2s automatic failures, ignoring possessions by entities…and the path builds on that: In an AMAZING idea, the path offers the means to tap into the SPs and psi-like abilities of possessing entities! That is frankly glorious! Stealing possessions and curses, leeching off supernatural abilities, gaining sneak attack based on tier versus creatures targeting you with an affliction (should specify that it lasts only for the duration of the affliction), negative energy channeling per affliction borne…or what about making morale or insight bonus granting abilities count as curses? What about reflexive rage or bloodrage? You can tap into the skills of possessing creatures as well. What about delivering poisons that affect you?

At 3rd tier, we have access to an oracle mystery, fast healing contingent on curses borne (not a fan), spreading afflictions in an aura…or, if you’re going for pact magic, bind a spirit OPPOSED to the first one! And that’s only a selection! Gating in an outsider with an opposed alignment that may be heartbound to you is also really cool and rife with RPG-potential. Even though Im not happy with every single aspect of this path, I adore it to bits – this one requires serious system mastery to pull off, but rewards you with as close to playing Many-as-One as I have seen in pen & paper games. Two thumbs up, flavor-wise one of my favorite mythic paths ever.

Begin of the discussion of not yet reviewed material right here!

The Hivemaster would be the first previously unreleased path, who gets 4 hit points per tier and a selection of 3 different base abilities: One lets the character respawn a dying summoned or undead creature with another one, fully healed, or re-establish control over a dominated/charmed target. This is problematic, as it contradicts base summoning rules: A summoned creature reduced to 0 hp is returned to whence it came, while an undead is destroyed – neither can, RAW, be dying, making this aspect simply not work as intended. Temporarily making the next creature to come under your command count as mythic is nice, though the lack of specifics regarding tiers can be slightly problematic; while many abilities only distinguish between mythic/non-mythic (for which this is obviously intended), there also exist comparative tier-based mechanics that aren’t taken into account. Granted, these are rare, but it would still have been nice to see. Still, I assume this to be working as intended, sans tier-reference, and will not take this criticism into account for the purpose of my final verdict. The third ability calls an additional creature or lets you dominate an additional target. Odd here: the verbiage refers to dominate specifically, which does not include charm, an option very much present in the first of these ability choices. Verbiage-wise, employing descriptors would have been a way to more tightly codify this one. The capstone is potent: When your servitors (including summoned beings and dominated ones) kill a mythic foe, you regain one use of mythic power.

The aforementioned design-paradigms established in the godhunter path can also be found here: More base abilities and those that build upon them. Adding plants, vermin, undead or constructs to the controlled roster and affecting them with mind-affecting spells etc. can be found; here, the finer balancing aspects of the game should have assigned the construct abilities to a higher tier, for constructs very much rely on their immunities for defenses, which this one bypasses. On the positive side, making your own custom summon list is a cool, creative endeavor for players and GMs alike, though this ability does require somewhat advanced knowledge on the part of the GM in order to make up for the inadequacies of the CR-system, though that is no fault of the ability, and rather a system-immanent one. Doubled undead-controlling HD, and mythic power-based instant spawning are interesting. Problematic, even for mythic adventure’s high power level, would be blanket life link between one another for all summoned critters, pooling hit points of sorts. Once more, this is very potent and should, at the very least, probably be assigned to 6th tier+ OR have a mythic power cost. I have no issues regarding the means to pay mythic power to apply evolutions or mutations to targets summoned, astral constructs created, etc. Leadership, gaining a defensive boost equal to the number of adjacent, controlled creatures, harder to detect control…there are some gems here. There are a couple of rules-terminology issues here, like a control DC, but there also are cool tricks, like making servitors assume the forms of other beings controlled. Forcing targets to take hits for you once per round is pretty damn potent and probably should have at least action expenditure or a cost associated at this tier. There also is a nice means to have summoned beings sport a Heartbound feat from the Transcendent 10-series.

At 3rd tier, we have template addition and an interesting idea that can transfer a magic item benefit from a controlled creature to the hivemaster – nice: Slot-issues are taken into account! Also at this tier, you can have the psionic tactician’s collective. I also loved the idea to blow up your summoned creatures in channel energy bursts…and at 6th tier, this may extend to dominated targets, though these get at least two saves. Still, usually the like grants a +4 bonus to saves. Anyways, among the 6th tier abilities, we have the option to reflexively possess servants via marionette possession, which is nice. (Minor complaint: raise dead reference not italicized.) I also like the option to follow a dismissed extraplanar creature controlled to the homeplane. The hivemaster has potential and is a good idea that is pretty well-executed. However, it also has more rough edges than the godhunter and sports a couple of design-decisions that are flawed or balance-wise, problematic.

The master of shapes, unsurprisingly, would be the shapeshifting specialist here, gaining 5 hp per tier. This one has the base abilities to reassign shapechange/metamorphosis, etc., combine a charge with such an effect or immediate action cast a spell or use an ability that conveys resistance or immunity to an effect you’re exposed to. Once more, we have mythic power-replenishment as the capstone, this time assigned to defeating targets when activating shapechanging. Hand me that bag of kittens, please…

The tier abilities allow for the creation of an additional item slot, wielding weapons of a size larger, transferring weapon abilities to the natural attacks of new forms (OUCH!), growing pustules that allow you and your allies to poison weapons etc., growing a node that can be enchanted as a brow slot…etc. There are further means to conceal rings, wondrous items, etc. in your form, with a further upgrade that makes conceal, integrated rings no longer count against the total number slots. Combining Elemental Body with the aforementioned reactive resistance base ability…interesting. Multiclass characters will particularly love e.g. the means for combo’d taskshaper/psionic characters to spend power points to regains moments of change, and there is a similar means to convert wildshape uses into moments of change.

At 3rd tier, there is one that I am not 100% happy: Bonuses of the same type, but different origins that alter the character’s shape, can stack with the Alpha Form ability; it is, in short, an invitation to min-max, offsetting an important balancing factor. Using mythic power to tap into SP/psi-like abilities is interesting, and it can be used to instill chemical imbalances to duplicate rages or cognatogens. There also is one that allows you to gain a short-lived, low-cost wondrous item or temporarily gain feats you have witnessed – however, this should clarify that it requires meeting prerequisites. There also is a marionette possession variant based on parasites and resisted by Fort-saves. While “alchemist class feature of your tier” is not perfect, I do like the idea to make blood volatile and bomb-like, and discovery-synergy is fun. Among the 6th tier abilities, we have blue magic-style access to supernatural abilities, duplicating physical forms of those touched, and limited recharging of integrated wands, which, at this tier, is probably okay. Gaining an internalized sub-mind akin to a psicrystal, with schism-tricks, is also rather cool. I kinda like this path, though it is pretty broad in its scope. Not as cool as the best ones herein, though.

Next up would be the overmage, who gains +3 hp per tier, with the base abilities providing immediate action,. Mythic power-based counterspells and mimicking, with restrictions powers, spells and feats used are nice, but using a full-round action and mythic power to cast a spell (up to tier level) from another source, using your primary casting attribute. The 10th tier ability requires that a single creature has to fail 3 saves versus different effects you generated.

The path abilities of the overmage allows for the lacing of spells into bombs, including affecting targets in splash range, at -2 DC or half damage. This is still VERY powerful in the hands of the right build, namely one focusing on single-target kill-spells that suddenly can target multiple beings. Really cool, tapping into the sense of consistency and logic I mentioned previously, there is an ability that allows for the use of bloodline-using characters to make extracts, with a solid limitation. Lacing familiars with the ability to temporarily add spells to your array of spells known is also creative. Synergy with the mosaic mage. Dispelling wrack has a somewhat annoying glitch, lacking the word “damage”, which makes the ability look almost like it eliminated spell slots. Access to mutagens and the means to use any spell slots of classes to cast spells known is interesting, if potentially rather strong – as you can glean, this is another path that can be rather potent in the hands of a player with sufficient system mastery. Indeed, there is a path ability that provides full synergy between spellcasting classes, with tier as the limit. This is very, very potent in the right hands. An oracle mystery, short-term item-benefits, dual casting – the powers here are significant, and frankly, quite a few of these should be restricted to a higher tier.

At 3rd tier, sacrificing arcane spells as part of a turning attempt to improve the attempt is per se nice, but lacks a prerequisite. Improvements of previous abilities and Leadership-synergy copied effects are creative and complex, while bonuses gained when casting are interesting. The path also has the means to pay psionic power points per spell level to retain spell slots or cast even three spells with a combined full-round + swift action…ouch. This one should imho be 6th tier. Speaking of which: Here, we get eidolons, or a synthesist’s fused eidolon. Interesting and really cool: This tier also allows for the removal (or gaining!) of an archetype! I have never seen the like, but it is a complex and work-intense, but also rewarding ability. Gaining essentially a mythic power-based retributive strike, is amazing. (As a nitpick: Mythic power is not known as points in rules-language, but this is aesthetics.) I like the concept of this super-theurge, but at the same time, I am very wary of its vast power. Several of the lower-tier abilities belong to a higher tier in my book, and compared to the archmage, this one can blow the classic mythic path away.

The second magic-themed path would be the scion of high sorcery, who also receives 3 hp per tier. Basic path ability-wise, we get an ability that can change the face of the gaming world,, namely the option to use mythic power to cast spells of family members removed 1 generation per tier. The importance of blood-relation can account for mighty caster-dynasties and carry, concept-wise, whole campaigns. Similarly, using mythic power to lend targets spells to relations and rerolls of saves is nice…though the latter option allows you to regain a spell slot upon success. Aesthetics-wise, this should have a minimum spell-level, though the mythic power expenditure prevents abuse. The capstone tier halves damage from arcane sources after all other reductions. 1/round, when saving successfully versus an arcane effect, you regain a use of mythic power.

As before, we get once more the option to get more basic path abilities, and temporarily gain bloodline arcana or powers from a blood-relationship, which lacks a limit based for the powers; low level characters can get access to high-level bloodline powers, which is not okay. Higher maximum age. Extracting blood from targets, learning bloodlines, switching bloodline spells, gaining channel energy and aura (and godling-synergy, if using RGG’s Godling-rules). Did I mention making elementals of blood or temporarily gaining a creature type related to your bloodline when using your bloodline spells? Yeah, cool! On a nitpicky side, quite a few of these should specify the requirement of a bloodline as a prerequisite. Providing surge for followers and the inverse switching of bloodlines (air to earth, for example) is also cool – though, as a minor and purely aesthetic complaint, the opposite of the celestial bloodline could be construed to be abyssal, not infernal. Still, this is nitpicking at the highest level.

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we have the means to draw power from the falling of blood-related allies, delivering touch spells through lifeblood elementals and imbuing magic in allies is interesting. There is also a means to regain Constitution damage (as an aside – the ability score is not capitalized in this path). 6th tier allows you to awaken sorcerous powers in others (EPIC!), via quick retraining, and there is an ability that allows the scion to suppress spontaneous casting ability, potentially permanently. This should probably be codified as some sort of effect, and while I love it, the presentation is a bit awkward, as more mythic power can be spent for longer durations –a table would have been more elegant here. Speaking of rough edges – the next ability mistakes “lethal damage” for “being killed”, and lacks an italicization. The idea here is to enter a target upon being killed, which is cool; however, lethal damage in PFRPG is every damage that is not non-lethal. There is also a Will-save reference not capitalized properly. The formatting and rough parts aside, this path is awesome. The idea here can carry whole campaigns and deserves applause, though I wished the path received a little polish to make it shine as brightly as it deserves to.

Next up would be the super genius, who gains +4 hp per tier. This one…is problematic, to a degree. One of the basic abilities allows for the substitution of Knowledge skills for an attack roll, something I only consider to be palatable due to the mythic power-requirement. The second one uses a similar ability to render targets flat-footed, and another one has AC as the benefits of such a basis. The capstone allows the regaining of mythic power from defeating identified targets. The path abilities allow for the addition of Intelligence modifier to atk and damage for 1 round per mythic tier. Enhancing items temporarily by tier via UMD and mythic power, denying divine authority (i.e. passive save bonus, plus the option to use Knowledge (religion) as SR versus divine effects, using Handle Animal for magical beasts, gaining Sense Motive-based Ac-bonuses, substituting Wisdom for Constitution modifier, Strength for Charisma, Dexterity for Wisdom…you get the idea here. The power here varies rather significantly, with one really weak one allowing for movement alongside vertical surfaces – per point over DC 30, 5’; contrast that with the potent ability-score substitution and you’ll know what I meant.

At 3rd tier, we have some really potent ones: Using Autohypnosis skill checks to negate the last damage taken, provided the check exceeded damage, for example. As you can see, the theme of the super-genius is basically skill-use, and that, system-immanently, is somewhat problematic, considering how easily skills can be blown through the roof via items and spells. Now, granted, the path does not necessarily allow for super-cheesy breaking of rules, but neither is it particularly elegant. Synergy regarding Inspired Creations from Profession (Cook) is nice; on the other hand, a 6th tier ability nets one 1st level psionic power, usable 3/day. Further taking of the ability allows for the selection of another power, one level higher. This one does not feel exactly like a 6th tier power. I am not a particularly big fan of this one.

Next up would be the timelord, who gains +3 hit points per tier, with the basic abilities allowing for feat-or spell-substitution. I like the idea to delay a d20-result, and the third ability lets you sacrifice value to gain items, drawing them from another timeline. The capstone nets you one mythic power whenever a mythic effects ends on you. As you can probably assume, the path is particularly suited for time thieves/wardens and clairsentience-specialists. The 1st tier abilities include temporary evolutions. Maximizing an attack’s damage and all random results is BRUTAL for 1st tier and should be relegated to a higher tier. Extending the delaying of d20 rolls to nearby allies, quickened natural rest, extended durations, retracing a move action…interesting. Speaking of which: The deferred d20s may be stored with the right ability, suddenly behaving as a pool. Quite a bunch of abilities are based directly on using this fate pool. Motes of time synergy and the like render this, ability-interaction-wise, one of my favorites within this book. The means to 1/encounter rolling advantage on a save, alas, annoying refer to per-encounter abilities, so please picture me inserting my old rant on how per-encounter mechanics make no sense in-game.

That being said, power-level-wise, the timelord’s 1st tier abilities feel more on par with one another than those of quite a few other paths herein. The innovative ideas here also extend to the higher-tier abilities: Choose an attack type, and this will then make the lowest damage rolls be treated as +1 higher, i.e. 1s as 2s – after that, the ability further improves. There is also a GENIUS ability here: When an ally dies, the timelord can alter the timeline so he did not join the PCs; instead, the no-longer-deceased PC met up with another character, who then proceeds to become the new PC of the player. New and old PC know each other, so there is, indeed, a reason for the new PC knowing about current themes. I absolutely adore this!! IT’s easily one of my favorite mythic powers ever! Did I mention the means to fuse stored d20 rolls into aevum? Among the 6th tier tricks, splitting into actual two beings that share a single hp pool, is potent – but while it is active, you may not use any other mythic powers. Slightly problematic here – the ability has no daily cap or power-activation requirement. Shielding areas versus temporal manipulation is nice; however, personally, I also adore the means to replace yourself with a tightly-codified alternate of yourself.

…okay, I am a Dr. Who fan, and I adore the ideas and execution here. Winner!

The next path takes the award for best name of a mythic path, ever: Will-of-all. Come on, that is cool! The path gets 3 bonus hit points per tier and allows with the base abilities, to either share a feat, regardless of prerequisites, with allies. A complaint here would pertain the necessarily limitation for metamagic feats being based on tier and spell level adjustment – here, total modified spell level would have made more sense. The second ability allows you to sacrifice a spell slot, spell known or power points sufficient to manifest a power as a swift action, allowing an ally to regain what you sacrificed, and their next spell/power gets a +1/2 tier bonus to CL. (As a nitpick, since the ability encompasses psionics, it should also reference ML.) This…is brutal. This basically utterly delimits casting and allows for basically pool-sharing, which does not work. Spell slots are not equal for all classes, and neither are power points. This begs to be broken, particularly due to not requiring mythic power expenditure. Thirdly, we have a swift action means to replenish a class ability with daily uses or pool-based mechanics, replenishing it. You can also grant an ally psionic focus. While there is a hard cap imposed based on tier on how many times an ally can be affected by it per day, this should, rules-aesthetics-wise, differentiate between daily abilities, those than can be used more often, etc. – in essence, this is too wide open. As before, there are means to unlock the other basic abilities not chosen at first tier.

The path abilities often blend flavor with mechanics: One lets you set up basically a site of remembrance, and then conveys a sliver of an ancestor’s abilities. I also really like how gaining the mental attributes of a past life! This is REALLY cool. Gaining a collective is super potent and probably too strong for 1st tier, and somewhat to my chagrin, the notion of zones from the rather problematic Transcendent 10-installment returns. These are very problematic, and while indiscriminate, can result in numbers quickly spiraling out of control. On the other hand, there are some true gems here, with the options to establish denial zones that lock down certain tricks. To nitpick: Unfortunately, prerequisites required by path abilities have not been consistently implemented.

At higher tier we have the means to treat character level as class level for binder, manifester, etc. levels, which can be a boon for multiclass characters, and the option, and sharing effects and similarly complex operations are included. The focuses of this one are past lives (represented as alternate spirit Leadership, etc.) as well as superb AoE buff/debuffing. The ideas here are really cool, but the finetuning of this one is pretty tough: This could either be a flavorful, evocative option, or super-broken mess. I like it, but it’s an option that demands a gentlemen’s agreement between player and GM to not minmax the hell out of it. Mythic power is, at 20th level, regained when you or an ally have benefited from a path ability (I assume, one from the will-of-one!) and rolls a natural 20 versus a mythic effect.

The final mythic path included in this tome would be the worldsinger, who gets 4 bonus hit points per tier. The base abilities allow you to expend mythic power as a swift action, to affect a creature that can hear you with a touch-range power, and you may substitute Perform checks for attack. Skills are easily minmaxed and broken, plus this will make megaphone spells and items really popular. I’d have preferred a hard cap on range that scales with tier. As provided, this is brutal. The second option lets you substitute Perform checks for save DCs. Wait. WUT? Sure, mythic foes can expend mythic power as an immediate action to save versus the regular DC, and it does cost mythic power…but yeah. No. Not gonna happen. Immediate action mythic-power-driven countersong of spells or powers is interesting. The capstone nets you mythic power when a non-mythic creature affected by a morale bonus defeats a mythic creature. Nice way to prevent kitten-abuse. As before, the tier abilities allow you to get the base abilities you have not yet chosen. The path abilities…are strangely underwhelming. They require mythic power expenditure and a Perform check (what happens upon failure?) versus a paltry DC (20) – this unnecessarily bogs down gameplay.

There are a couple of innovative, if slightly clunky options here as well: A variety of dances that exchange two ability scores for allies benefiting from your morale bonuses is interesting. Adding a penalty to Will-saves to resist your mind-affecting effects can add a sting to the morale boost and is intriguing. At the same time, balance between path abilities isn’t exactly precise: 10 minutes + 1 mythic power to make a Perform check and have it count as heal for long-term care+ a paltry goodberry? Where can I sign up to waste my path ability? Sorry, I try to keep the sarcasm down, but it’s a tough bastard to get rid of. Synergy with rage or bloodrage that shares them in addition to the boosts in effect. There also is a path ability I frankly don’t understand. “For 1 round per tier damage inflicted due to morale damage bonuses you is returned to attackers as healing. The creatures damaged by these attacks only grant healing if they possess a life-force .” Are attackers healed? Is their damage converted prior or after attacking? Can you still die? No idea. Heartbound feat synergy can be found, and in case you’re currently attempting to play a god-wilder, what about sharing wild surge WITH EVERYONE currently under the effects of your morale bonuses? The path is the bardic superbuffer with a ton of multiclass-based options, but it can be absolutely devastating when handled right. Not a fan of this one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal and rules-language level, are somewhat inconsistent. On one hand, the pdf gets complex rules-operations of the highest order right, on the other, it fails at more simple ones here and there, becoming more ambiguous than it should be – most of the time due to the difficult concepts this tries to encompass. This is top-tier difficulty, mind you…but still. This could have used a really picky rules-dev. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard that fits a lot of text on the page, and the full-color artworks that are here, are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Nice: the pdf comes with a second, more mobile-device-friendly version that only clocks in at roughly 16 mbs.

Christen N. Sowards’ mythic paths are an impressive book, considering how early in the life-cycle of Lost Spheres Publishing it was released. This book is ambitious and injects a ton of flavor in many of its options, making them feel distinct and not as generic as some of the basic mythic powers. That being said, the rules-language is inconsistent and the book, alas, also is inconsistent in the power-level of path abilities, which range from preposterously potent to laughably weak. That being said, it is my firm conviction that this book, while not a diamond in the rough per se, does have its truly inspired moments. When the book gets it right, it does so triumphantly.

Which leaves me with a bit of a conundrum. You see, this is a flawed book, and there are no two ways around that. I would not allow it sight unseen in my group, and system-immanently, deciding whether an ability works or not, can be a tough call to make for the GM. This requires oversight by a capable, experienced GM who understands the math the rules, the numbers. Without this oversight, some paths herein can wreck havoc with the opposition.

At the same time, I really want to recommend this book. There is so much to be loved within these pages; there is honest passion radiating from the material, and it never is boring. It may not be perfect, but it is a worthwhile addition for experienced groups that can negotiate a suitable power-level. For such groups, particularly if you’re using subsystems like psionics and pact magic, this should be definitely worth a look, though I’d strongly suggest reassigning a couple of the abilities, tier-wise.

How do I rate this? Damn, this is hard. You see, as a person, I cherish the concepts herein; I have the experience to reassign abilities and nerf them, to polish the components herein that deserve applause. Then again, not all paths share this high quality – the stand-alone paths were wisely chosen and feel like they had more polish than will-of-all, for example; some are rather rough around the edges, and I have to maintain consistency with other reviews. So yeah, unfortunately, while, as a person, I’d round up, my official verdict can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down. For experienced groups using a lot of 3pp with mythic content, this is most certainly worth checking out, though.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres
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Star Log.EM-017: Gnolls
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2018 05:46:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction to the subject matter, we begin with a flavorful series of fluffy bits that serve to contextualize the gnoll race thematically within Starfinder as a rules system, as well as within the implied Xa-Osoro setting shared by Everyman Gaming and Rogue Genius Games. As before in the Star Log.EM-series, the “Playing a XX”-section that notes how you likely behave and how other races view you, is missing here.

Mechanically, gnolls get +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, 6 hit points, and they are Medium with a 30 ft. speed. They get low-light vision, as well as a +2 bonus to saves versus disease, fear and poison. The bonus type here is not properly codified – it should be a racial bonus. They get unarmed natural weapon, analogue to that of the vesk race. As a unique ability, gnolls can heckle targets. They get Intimidate as a class skill and gain +1 to Intimidate instead f they already have the skill. Gnolls may attempt to demoralize all foes within 30 ft. as a full action.

The pdf also contains 5 feats: Canine Gait allows you to adopt or stand from a 4-limed movement rate as a move action, for quicker movement. Charging allows for the standing up as a swift action…or would, if it worked properly. A full action in SFRPG prevents the use of a swift action, and charging is a full action. Clamouring Heckle and Goading Heckle build on the AoE-demoralize, with the first allowing for quicker regular and AoE-demoralize, the latter allowing for the addition of the off-target condition, or the extension of such an effect created by an ally. Finally, Hyena Shape is cool, allowing you to assume hyena shape and potentially knock targets you hit that form prone. Like it!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The glitch in the perhaps coolest feat does hurt the pdf somewhat, though. Layout adheres to the full-color two-column standard of the series, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ take on gnolls in SFRPG is per se solid; I like the Intimidate-focus via heckling – it makes sense to me and adds some unique identity to the gnolls. That being said, I would have loved to see the race have an additional trick. The minor snafus decrease the final verdict this receives from being considered to be a good offering. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-017: Gnolls
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Star Log Deluxe: Aging Rules
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:35:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This extra-long installment of the Star Log-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, after a brief introduction to the subject matter, we begin with defining age categories, a component I found puzzling in its absence from the Starfinder core rulebook.

This pdf seeks to remedy this gap and provide mechanically-relevant consequences of age. The pdf recognizes 8 age categories: Infant, toddler, child, adolescent, young adult, mature adult, old adult, and venerable adult. Mental and physical age category usually are identical, but don’t have to be.

Each age category has an aging modifier that applies to many of the character’s abilities, acting as ability penalties, which may only be lessened, removed or suppressed by other aging effects. The mental age category’s aging penalty is applied to the mental ability score, the physical one to the physical ability scores. Infants and toddlers are restricted regarding both physical and mental acumen, while they and children have restrictions regarding physical traits. The maximum age penalty an age category can impose on its own is -5. The age categories are concisely presented – toddlers and infants are, obviously, highly restricted on the actions they can take, for example.

But more important, the aging process in itself is concisely defined, and a massive table notes age categories for the core races, legacy Pathfinder races and the massive amount of Starfinder races, including the skinwalkers introduced in the Star Log.EM-series. Since the scifi-genre is rife with complex races and uncommon life-cycles, the system can account for reverse aging etc. and similar oddities. Since the pdf provides, step by step breakdowns of aging categories, the pdf is superbly easy to tweak regarding these components. Heck, provided the GM allows, there is the option to treat characters as 25% younger or older to account for differences in maturity.

Now, Julian Barnes once said, that “identity is memory, memory identity”. – it is a sad truth that the deterioration of the physical form represents a fate that all living things have to come to terms with. Optional rules to avoid mental and physical deterioration are provided, which allow you to depict the ever-growing strain that trauma can impose on the well-being of the individual. Particularly if you’re aiming for a more gritty Starfinder-experience, these rules should prove o be inspiring. Special cases like androids or samsarans are also mentioned.

This out of the way, we are introduced to two new themes: Old-times nets +1 to one mental ability score and nets you and Int-based theme skill. 6th level enhances your bonuses for covering fire, harrying fire and aid another, provided your skill bonus in the skill in question, BAB or age exceeds that of the assisted ally – the respective conditions are presented in a concise and precise manner. 12th level lets you add +1d4 to a nearby younger ally’s skill check, provided the ally has been under your tutelage. This can be used only once per day per target, with Resolve paying for additional uses. At 18th level, you can regain limited Resolve when a younger being rolls a natural 20. The ability has a hard cap to prevent abuse. Cool theme!

The second theme is prodigy, which nets a class skill, -5 to all of the skill’s DCs, and nets you +1 in the associated ability score. 6th level allows you to roll a skill check in the skill at advantage (roll twice, take better result) 1/day. 12th level allows you to complete longer tasks quicker by entering a trance that leaves you wide open. As a capstone, at 20th level, you can regain limited Resolve when rolling a natural 20 in the skill you specialize in. The pdf also includes new technology associated with age:

NCNUs (neural cartography nanite units) are implanted in the brain and rewire the mind, enhancing the character to Young Adult category in 6 months; Youth Enhancer Systems (endocrine slot) reduce physical ability score penalties imposed by the aging modifier – these come up to Mk V. Also for the endocrine system, there’d be the quick-gro biotech, basically the biotech means to physically age you to young adulthood quickly. There are two magic serums introduced – one for age regression and one for age progression.

The pdf also contains two different hybrid items, the first of which would be the external neural interface, which allows you to directly interface with powered armor, starships or vehicles. Powered armor pilots gain initiative and Ref-saves bonuses and increased maximum Dexterity values; starships can be piloted better and gunning, obviously, also improves when taking that role. Vehicles can be enhanced regarding attacks and AI autopilots overridden. Implanting this item in adults is more dangerous than usual – though kids have an easier time surviving the process unharmed. Particularly nasty: The higher Mk versions require the previous one to be present, meaning that a new surgery for upgrading is required. Similarly, reducing such a system takes multiple surgeries, so you better know what you’re getting into… Secondly, rejuvies are pills that combine necromancy and nanobots to combat aging in a delightful satire of our culture’s obsession with youth: These can alleviate age penalties and pain, and “Gray Away” pills can get rid of physical age modifiers, with greater versions allowing for the temporary regression of mental age – this can make for particularly interesting narratives in conjunction with the deterioration-rules in grittier games, or to offset penalties of an aged character, with a pressure to adventure for credits to keep the rejuvies flowing…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no significant formal or rules-relevant guffaws. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas’ aging rules are precise, easy to grasp, and cleanly-presented. They fill an important hole in Starfinder’s core rules and do so elegantly. The material presented is complex enough to be mechanically-relevant, without becoming too potent, too character-defining; your character will be race and class first, then defined by the age, not vice versa. Min-maxing isn’t a good option here either. Sure, there are tangible benefits to age categories, but not enough to unhinge the math. In short, this represents a well-crafted, interesting supplement, well worth checking out: My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log Deluxe: Aging Rules
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:34:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ’zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/introduction/suggested reading/listening/watching, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As before, the rules assumed here regarding OSR-system employed would be LotFP. As such, it is intended for mature audiences and has a weird/dark fantasy vibe. The pdf sports vulgarity, if you mind the like.

The pdf’s proper content begins with a d66 table of names, with male, female and family-name column provided, and family names focusing on a somewhat English/French-style: Chamberlain and d’Aguillon, for example. This is followed by a nice, painless page that depicts the different, classic zodiac signs, assigning a +1 ability score bonus and suggesting personality traits for the signs. Solid, if not exactly mind-blowing so far.

This changes immediately on the next pages: On a two-page spread, we get a top-tier, gorgeous isometric b/w-map of the forlorn fishing village Dretcher’s Bay. Seriously, I was utterly flabbergasted to see a map of this quality in a humble fanzine, and the map is annotated in a player-friendly, key-less style, thus not breaking immersion. Led by three crabber captains (who come with mugshots on the lower border of the page), the place is pretty miserable, but ties seamlessly into the next article, on carcinology, where the naturalist living in Dretcher’s Bay shares his observations on the local bell crabs and highlights the costly sea coat. And yes, aforementioned Bell Crabs get monster stats. Oh, and there is the issue of the nephropids, lobster-like humanoids that live on a nearby island, making for a further complication for the region. Scratchy pencil-artworks add an illusion of looking into a notebook, and the read-aloud text for these crunchy bits adds to this conceit. Heck, we even get a size comparison.

The next double-page spread deals with the secrets of Acray, ruins nearby, swallowed by the sea. The article mentions briefly e.g. the presence of a dolphin sorceress (alas, sans stats) and loot to be found under the sea, as well as Bell Crab icons noting where these dangerous beings can be found. This is a nice addition to Dretcher’s Bay, though here, we only get a keyed version – no player-friendly version is included, which is a bit of a pity, for the top-down map is pretty nice.

After this, we have a guest article by none other than Anxious P, known for creative and unique artworks in various OSR-supplements. Here, we learn about oarsmen and the strange fares they may demand – from years to fingernails and vitality, this section makes paying the price…interesting. This one also comes with a d66-table of various woes the oarsman may confess to. Another winner!

After this, we take a look at brief sidetrek module inspired by a LotFP-artwork, intended for low level characters: Long ago, a Cyclops roamed the world, doomed to roam the world for the sin of treason. The titular eye has very potent effects and comes with full stats as a magic item. The Cyclops, doomed, died one day, and when an insane backwater guy found the tomb with its cyclopean motifs, he managed to create a misguided pseudo-religion of sorts around it. The hillbilly-ish man has since spawned a clan (called “Behelden” – and yes, the author knows this is no word!) of devoted beings. Wandering monsters and a solid map accompany this mini-adventure, and we get stats. While a player-friendly, key-less version of the map would have been nice, I consider this to be a solid sidetrek.

The ‘zine concludes with an interview with Greg Gorgonmilk.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The b/w layout deserves special mentioning, as does the artwork and cartography – this ‘zine is absolutely GORGEOUS and aesthetically-pleasing. The cartography of Dretcher’s Bay alone makes the low $2.00 asking price of the otherwise pretty brief ‘zine totally worthwhile. The maps are really cool, but I wished they were layered or came with player-friendly versions. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Clint Krause and Anxious P provide a surprisingly inspired installment: Anxious P’s article is great and the connected articles on Dretcher’s Bay are amazing, generating a cool, compelling atmosphere. The crunch-density increased in comparison to #1, and all without compromising the atmosphere. The adventure side-trek is slightly less amazing, but considering the extremely low price, this is absolutely worth getting if you enjoy the slightly odd. 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!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
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Places of Power: Khla'Akear
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:32:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the GM’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the GM to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions!! The PFRPG-version does come with a nice marketplace section, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every Gm worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like Raging Swan Press’ general low-crunch aesthetics hurt this place. I mean, come on, tapping into rakshasa-souls? That’s awesome, and it should have proper mechanical representations. Special casting tricks, a unique fighting style – this type of thing begs for mechanical realization, something the pdf does not provide. The series has a really high level, and, let me make that abundantly clear, what’s here is great. However, the pdf still left me with a feeling of unrealized potential, at least for the PFRPG-version. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Khla'Akear
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, Thilo for your thoughts. I much appreciate the review!
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:30:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the referee’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the referee to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, with class-references adjusted to old-school classes, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions!! The system neutral-version does come with a nice marketplace section that has been adjusted to account for the different realities of old-school gaming, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here. This being the system neutral version, I won’t hold that against the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every referee worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

In contrast to the PFRPG and 5e-versions, it would not be fair to complain about a lack of rules for the tapping into the souls of the fiends within, and neither would it be fair to hold the lack of unique martial tricks against this. As such, I am left with a supplement that is frankly inspired and nothing to complain about – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, Thilo for your thoughts. I much appreciate the review! Glad you enjoyed the System Neutral Edition version!
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:29:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the GM’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the GM to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions that have been properly adjusted to account for 5e’s mechanics!! The 5e-version does come with a nice, modified marketplace section, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every Gm worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like Raging Swan Press’ general low-crunch aesthetics hurt this place. I mean, come on, tapping into rakshasa-souls? That’s awesome, and it should have proper mechanical representations. Special casting tricks, a unique fighting style – this type of thing begs for mechanical realization, something the pdf does not provide. The series has a really high level, and, let me make that abundantly clear, what’s here is great. However, the pdf still left me with a feeling of unrealized potential, at least for the 5e-version. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, Thilo for your thoughts. I much appreciate the review!
Rude Awakening
Publisher: Gamer Printshop
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2018 06:33:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover/advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, first of all, this is FREE. Originally created as a One-Page-Dungeon, it surprisingly does not show this humble origin; the adventure is intended for 4 1st level characters, and sports a detailed read-aloud introductory text, that presumes that the PCs are in cryosleep, something allowed by the cryogenic pods, bulk 4, which is introduced herein. Once common, in a post-drift era, these have become more rare, and for a reason. The pdf also notes the details for good crew berths and the turbo caterpillar drive, which allow for underwater movement. The pdf also provides detailed rules for long cold sleep – while death is possible, it is EXTREMELY unlikely, and the pdf provides a variety of mental effects…and there may be special effects, like temporarily gaining the ability to detect thoughts (not italicized properly). This generator/hazard encompasses physical and mental effects, and in a nitpick, does not specify the condition-durations for the minor mental effects, but judging from the presentation and explicit statements regarding durations of more pronounced effects, I assume these to last for only the immediate aftermath of cold sleep. On the plus-side, I did enjoy the decision to highlight terrain features and rules-relevant components in small boxes; it makes running the module smoother.

Beyond that, we get stats for a new tier 3 spaceship, the devilfish, which looks just as you’d expect – like a spacefaring mantaray! Now, here, I feel the need to comment on the supplemental material this pdf provides. You see, the adventure comes with a massive archive that includes VTT-friendly versions of the maps employed herein, as well as a pdf that provides the maps once more. Why? Well, you can print out both main map and deck plan of the ship in full scale, large size, 32 x54 inches & 28 x 31 inches, respectively) and as an additional bonus, the main map of the module comes with a LAYERED version! Yes, you heard me. You can easily customize this as you see fit, and the supplemental map-pdf is even bookmarked! Right from the get-go, that is a pretty amazing feat right there, and even if you are not interested in the module per se, I’d strongly suggest checking this out for the maps! (Seriously, this type of map-support should be the standard!)

All right, this is probably as far as I can go without diving into deep SPOILER-territory, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion!

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs revive from cold sleep, only to find that, beyond the locker room that contains their equipment, there isn’t much left of their ship – a massive hull breach awaits, and while spacesuits with magnetic boots (to avoid the issues of…well, space and zero G) are available, there isn’t much oxygen left – the PCs will have to hustle to get to safety! Indeed, the adventure, which could easily work in a convention slot, can be rather lethal here…if you choose to. The PCs will have to jump across the hull breach, and the Acrobatics DC is stiff. Consequences-wise, being off-kilter…or, well, dead, provide two variants on different ways to run the module. Indeed, at DC 20, the Acrobatics checks to do the like are pretty stiff. As the PCs hopefully make their way past the pressurized and unpressurized collapsed drone bays. Speaking of which: The first combat encounter will be with a hostile drone, which annoyingly notes just “good/poor saves” in the statblock, instead of noting them. While it’s only a quick flip of the corebook to determine the proper saves, that still constitutes a comfort detriment – the drone should have proper monster stats, not stats based on the mechanic class feature. Another thing you’ll notice, is that the statblock formatting of the stats herein lacks a couple of blank spaces and that sometimes, line breaks are missing, making the statblock formatting feel a bit rough. While I’m nitpicking – it’s still “electricity damage,” not “electrical damage”, as a plasma-hazard erroneously notes.

Anyways, the PCs will have to make their way past hostile mercenaries and navigate the broken vessel they found themselves in – best before the oxygen runs out! This is particularly interesting, considering that quite a few hazards have the potential to break spacesuits and leak oxygen. On the downside, the implementation of hazards like this is not always as concise as it should be: There are instances where no damage type is given, though we clearly have, for example, fire damage. Similarly, there is no such thing as “heat damage” in Starfinder and “enflamed” space suits could also use a more precise rules language. Anyways, the PCs will make their way to the aforementioned mantaray-spaceship, where they should attempt to open the hangar doors and bypass the biometric locks to escape…but, alas, no rules for the like are presented.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – I noticed quite a few formatting deviations, as well as issues regarding damage types, missing DCs and similar hiccups in the rules-language department. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is the star of this pdf – the full VTT-support, player-friendly, layered maps, etc. – it’s worth the download all on its own.

Michael Tumey’s brief little introductory module is, theme-wise, fun and interesting, and the supplemental material is surprisingly detailed, testament to the care that went into this. The adventure works well as a forgiving introduction or as a really deadly convention-style/hardcore game. That being said, the module does falter and stumble a bit regarding the rules-language, sporting more issues in the details than I am frankly comfortable with. As a commercial supplement, I’d consider this to be a mixed bag, but it is actually FREE – and frankly, I’d consider this to be worth downloading for the maps. Considering that this is FREE, I consider this to definitely worth checking out. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars....and the maps warrant granting this my seal of approval; getting these for FREE is a huge deal and needs to be rewarded!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rude Awakening
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Star Log.EM-016: Stellar Revelations
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2018 06:29:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Solarian-class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After the introduction, which also discusses the dualistic nature of the class, we move straight into the new stellar revelations of the class, with graviton and pulsar revelations both sporting a “G” or “P” to denote their respective type. We begin with 2nd level, where 3 revelations are provided, 2 of which are proton revelations: Proton blast lets you fire plasma as a laser small arm, with an item level no greater than one below your solarian level. This cannot have autofire, does not require charges, and inflicts E& F damage. Solar weapon and manifestation apply their benefits to this blast. Proton lash acts similarly, using a taclash as a basis, using Charisma bonus instead of Strength bonus, with the tweaks otherwise being similar. The Graviton defender revelation, alas, is slightly wonky: Whenever an ally within 60 ft. of you makes an attack, you can use your reaction to divert the attack, making it behave as covering fire sans requiring an attack roll, with the penalty being -2 or Charisma modifier, whichever is higher. Covering fire, as per SFRPG, requires that you designate a selected ally, something that this ability does not mention; I assume that the affected ally is the one whose attack you diverted.

At 6th level, 3 new revelations are provided as well: The plasma flare proton revelation makes it possible for enemies hit with plasma weapons while in proton mode to get the burning condition on a failed save,a s you tap into solar armor’s power, which acts as a prerequisite. One of the two graviton revelations also requires solar armor: Graviton impact allows you, while attuned to graviton mode and taking a full attack, attack or charge t spend 1 Resolve Point. If you do, the next time you hit a target before the start of your next turn, you may use a free sunder attempt versus that enemy’s weaponry or armor, using attack roll as the combat maneuver, applying all usual bonuses. When fully attuned, you add the penetrating special weapon quality. The second graviton revelation lets you, as a standard action, target a foe within 30 ft., who must succeed a Fort-save or suffer temporarily as though carrying additional bulk. When fully attuned, you also impose a penalty based on Charisma to determine the amount of bulk the target can carry thus.

The pdf also sports two 10th level revelations. Graviton fluctuations lets you, when in graviton mode and using defy gravity to gain a fly speed, leave fluctuations in your wake that may render targets off-kilter on a failed save, with 12th level allowing for the extension of durations. Damn cool! Nitpick: The ability does not specify that it requires defy gravity, which it probably should. The proton burst revelation builds on the proton blast/lash or solarian weapon: When making a single attack with these as a standard action, you can adopt proton mode until the start of your next turn. You may choose explosion or line mode, adding explode (5 ft.) for melee (should probably note “melee” explicitly, even though that aspect is evident from context), acting as a grenade at range. In line mode, proton burst counts as having the unwieldy and line properties, but no benefits for the other options are provided here.

The pdf closes with a nice section that talks about solarians in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there were a few minor nitpicks for me to note. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf has a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

The solarian is one of the most interesting classes in SFRPG, and easily one aspects of the game that sets it apart from other Scifi games. I really enjoy the flavor and ideas inherent in the Solarian options, and the mode-based playstyle is intriguing. The added options presented here allow for some intriguing tweaks to the chassis and generally are components that I enjoy. However, at the same time, the rules are a tad bit less refined than what I’m accustomed to see from Alexander Augunas, and at this length, minor flaws weigh heavier than in larger files. If you can look past aforementioned nitpicks, then consider this to be worth rounding up; as a reviewer, I can’t round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-016: Stellar Revelations
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Star Log.EM-015: Skinwalker
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 06:37:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with a brief introduction to the subject matter at hand before getting a detailed depiction of the Skinwalker races, including a physical description, notes on their home world and the like – and indeed, the race’s history in the Xa-Osoro system is rather amazing: When Blood Space seeped into Eogawa’s atmosphere, the non-native population of the moon was turned into frothing lycanthropes…and yet, by some miracle, those infected while pregnant gave birth to skinwalkers, rising from savagery courtesy of vanara aid! A young race defined by the culture into which they’re birthed, we get notes on different skinwalker relations and yes, as such a young species, they have adventuring pretty much hardcoded into their DNA. Minor nitpick: No “Playing as…”-section is provided. Vital statistics regarding weight, etc. are not included, alas, though one can assume the human baseline.

Rules-wise, skinwalkers get 4 hp, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and add +2 to a physical ability score of their choice. Skinwalkers are humanoids with the human, skinwalker and shapechanger subtypes, are Medium and have a base speed of 30 ft. One animal or vermin is chosen as lineage. Every skinwalker can assume a hybrid shape based on their lineage as a standard action (reversal is the same), granting them a +10 racial bonus to Disguise. Being knocked unconscious and the like is properly covered. In this hybrid form, they get a +1 bonus to AC. They also have low-light vision, gain +2 to Survival and in their hybrid form, they get natural attacks analogue to the Vesk.

At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th or 18th level, a skinwalker may choose the Bestial Shapechange feat as if granted by an archetype. When taking the feat, you get to choose one of several manifestations, provided you meet the prerequisites, if any. These include no penalties to damage and atk underwater with kinetic melee weapons, and being able to hold your breath longer. Being able to speak with vermin, magical beasts and animals, gaining a blindsight (type taken into account; it must make sense regarding lineage – this is an important balancing factor, as it prevents taking the more potent blindsight variants), darkvision (can be improved regarding range), quicker shapechanging and gaining two class skills from a brief list complement this section.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports a nice piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas provides an interesting race here: Born from a cataclysmic event, skinwalkers allow you to play, in a balanced manner, the classic lycanthrope concept without the infection issues that usually accompany it. The benefits of the feat are weighed and presented in an interesting manner as well. All in all, I consider this to be a well-crafted little racial supplement. While the supplement could have used a tiny bit more material regarding secondary flavor, I consider it to be a worthwhile offering. 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!]
Star Log.EM-015: Skinwalker
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A Thousand Dead Babies
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 06:36:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Zzarchov Kowolski’s self-published dual-format NGR/OSR-adventures clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons.

So, let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room first. The title is basically a gigantic trigger warning. This module is NOT about killing infants or the like, quite to the contrary. However, it deals with a really sadistic, high-impact conundrum that involves, well, babies. If infanticide by bad guys and the like are not something your group can handle, then don’t even bother. It goes without saying that this module needs to be handled with care, and that it is NOT for everyone. Genre-wise, this is really gritty, really, really DARK dark fantasy, so the title, ultimately acts as a deterrent and as a caveat emptor for anyone contemplating getting this. In that way, the title must almost considered to be a form of fair warning.

Anyways, this is the second of the author’s NGR/OSR dual-statted modules, and difficulty-wise, it is a step up. Some monsters for OSR-games are referred to by being e.g. wraiths, and chances of being heard, for example are presented as e.g. 1/6. Formatting-wise, e.g. magic items are noted as bolded in the text (not as italicized, as in most games), and e.g. some key-NPCs have notes like: “Level 4 Cavalier, Anti-Paladin or Fighter with XYZ strength (not capitalized) and maximum hit points.” If you’re using this module with more classic OSR-games, you’ll need to do a bit of work. For NGR, the book is more precise, noting parts of classes, specializations and the like. More importantly, holy/unholy ground is rules-wise more relevant and noted where applicable. As far as level-ranges are considered, I’d probably play this at the very soonest at 2nd level in most OSR-games, as the adventure can become TPK-y-lethal very fast otherwise.

This can also be found in the new spells: 8 of them are provided in total, but 2 only exist in the NGR-rules – bane of mush’kar, which allows for the storage of a removed tooth of a still living person. When burning the tooth, the spell is cast by the burning being. Breath of the moors is a spell that conjures forth fog, based on the obfuscation spell template. There are three low level (level 1 for OSR) spells for magic-users: One conjures forth a bee swarm, with the OSR version being a bit confused regarding verbiage:”… in a devastating cone with a radius at any given point equal to the distance from the caster.” Cone or radius? The NGR version does not have this issue. Faerie sense lets you smell magical items, and screams of anguish doesn’t generate more than, well, a scream, which can make for a good distraction. In NGR, the scream can slightly increase the difficulty of another spell. At 2nd spell level for OSR, we have a wall of thorns, and the 3rd level spell dire goose makes a goose (which are FRIGHTENING when angered – take it from me, I grew up in the country!) into a massive monster with 3HD, AC as leather and two 1d6 wing attacks. In NGR, the stress mechanics explain the rage of the monster. No, you don’t control it. Yes, I consider that to be funny. Finally, there is a spell to bind extraplanar beings in empty tomes, filling the book with cursed text – in OSR-games, this is a 5th level spell. In NGR, the spell is more interesting, requiring the creature to be defeated briefly after being touched.

There are quite a few magic items to be found in the module as well; even basic items like a +1 dagger of bone that also acts as a holy symbol get their one section, and the book of Aarrrgh (aptly named due to the demon bound within), a scroll made of manleather, a cursed coin, a pouch of teeth and the like provide a surprising depth regarding descriptions and effects for both systems.

One item is btw. also the central fixture and high-impact problem that the PCs will need to deal with, but before we discuss that one, I should note that the module comes with a really elegant layout and cartography (though no player-friendly maps), and that it has consequences for the actions of the PCs, and there is a pretty good chance that things will not end up well for the surrounding area – retaining the status quo should be considered to be a success. Did I mention Old MacDonald’s farm?

All right, in order to discuss further details of this adventure, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the module is somewhat akin to the first dual-statted module published by the author, in that it takes places in a remote locale, here, the vale of Corroc, named for the settlement of the same name. As in the “Gnomes of Levnec”, we are introduced to the key-NPCs for the settlement, including the yeoman, a local berry-plucker, the village priest, etc. We also get such a fluff-centric write-up for e.g. the cook of the lumber camp, and the settlement New Smithwald, south of the Thousand Acre Wood, houses a potent knight, who has not been punished for not converting due to his stalwart loyalty and reputation.

Converted? Well, yes, for we once more have a situation akin to that of “Gnomes of Levnec”, where a remnants of a pagan cult are competing with Christianity (or its stand-in), but unlike in that module, there is no misguided cult of blithering, violent idiots responsible for some of the odd happenings. Instead, there is but one active human (she does have elven allies) member of the cult of Titania left – in the power vacuum that accompanied the purging of heathens, a dread cult of Baphomet has taken root. Alas, the none-too-smart village priest can’t keep it in his pants, having an illicit love affair. If his deeds are brought to like, they will have dire consequences for the poor maiden engaging with him, but failure to do so will not be helpful in the long run either. The very medieval aesthetic also is represented in the existence of a rather pitiful example of a black library of the church in town, which btw. also houses the crypts of once mighty pagans, where clever PCs can get magic items…or get a blessing from a fountain that may guarantee offspring. No matter the usual physiological hindrances like race or sex.

Anyways, the PCs are most likely here because they heard about footprints of an upright walking goat, and indeed, the dark cult of Baphomet is busy at work: Beyond the cultists in the settlement, there is a very potent black knight and an upright-walking, razor-sharp teeth sporting demonic goat monstrosity that watch over/participate in the grisly orgy/ritual every night…for they have found a mighty juju tree, once sacred. The tree is now afflicted with a demonic fungal infestation, a literal corruption, one that may be dealt wish, provided the PCs manage to stop the cult and water the heart of the tree with blood…provided they can survive the trip into the small dungeon, that is.

But how can a cult generate enough sacrifices? How does the cult manage to keep up all this mystical pressure on the potent tree? Well, the Goat in the Woods has a potent cursed artifact, found after the previous owner has committed suicide, being unable to cope with the responsibility. This vile artifact would be responsible for the module’s name – it’s the stork’s bassinet, and it teleports to its owner (who may only be saved by death or potent magics from ownership) every day. It then produces a single, healthy baby. Every. Single. Day. In the lack of an owner, the babies simply pile up. Are they teleported away from somewhere? Are they magical simulacra? Clones? No idea, but whatever choice you opt for, the consequences will be DARK. In the aftermath of the cult’s demise, it is quite likely that a PC will end up being the owner of the bassinet, which will require a quest to destroy. While it is easy enough for the GM to rule that one of the magic items in the module can destroy it, this is per se not intended by the adventure. This is also the reason why this adventure can really use the title to scare away folks that definitely will be offended – leaving the item or the babies generated anywhere will be a rather bleak and dark move for PCs and players to swallow, and even if you devise an easy and quick way to destroy it, there still will remain the fact that an untold number of these infants were slaughtered. This is not for every table.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, there are a few minor hiccups and, due to the dual-stat nature of the module, the formatting can be somewhat unconventional. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports two really neat original b/w-artworks that could come straight out of Death Frost Doom – no surprise, as Jez Gordon is responsible for both. Same goes for the cartography, where the absence of player-friendly versions of the maps makes for a comfort detriment. The pdf sports a couple of basic bookmarks.

Zzarchov Kowolski’s “A Thousand Dead Babies” is, on a formal level, more refined that “Gnomes of Levnec;” the presentation is smoother, and while we don’t get a cool “getting lost”-generator this time around, the module’s presentation and sequence is professional and nice. That being said, where the supplement on the gnomes focused on the weird and genuinely hilarious, this one is pretty much the epitome of super-dark fantasy. There is some subdued quip to be found here and there, but considering the subject matter, this is probably one of the darkest modules I know.

…and, to be honest, I don’t think the module required the shock value. If you tone that aspect done, you water down what makes this module have such a gut-wrenching impact, but you’re also left with a rather well-crafted adventure. Now, I firmly believe that a reviewer should be capable of abstracting being offended and the like, and I do not condone the subject matter; killing kids and infants is one of the few things that I do not tackle in my games, which otherwise tend to gravitate towards the dark. That being said, the PCs ARE the heroes here; they get to end this horrid massacre, and while the consequences may be hard to swallow, I can see this work well for groups seeking to explore the logistic and moral conundrums that arise from ownership of the vile item that made the cult’s atrocities possible.

Would I inflict this module on my players? No. But it is not up to me to decide what works and what doesn’t work for you and your game.

Which leaves me with the craftsmanship of the adventure, its locales, etc. – and here, the module manages to create a grim, captivating atmosphere that feels very medieval, grimy and desolate. Prose-wise, this is impressive. As far as the rules-components are concerned, I’d consider the NGR-rules to be significantly tighter than the OSR-material posed; lack of adherence to a specific system and minor inconsistencies mar that aspect for more common old-school games somewhat.

Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot to like here, and the module is not a gratuitous gorefest; however, it is hard to stomach due to its subject matter, and at this point, you probably already know whether this is for you or not.

Which leaves me with the job of rating this. I won’t lie. I wouldn’t have reviewed this sans the request, mainly because I have a hard time giving this a fair shake, because it’s really hard for me to look past one of the few things that I, as a person, consider distasteful and don’t want to see in my games. As a person, I frankly considered the grimdark topic of the adventure to be…well, superfluous. The base line is similar enough to the “Gnomes of Levnec” to allow for direct comparison, and where the latter went the weird (and hilarious) route in a slightly dark manner, this one goes pitch-black regarding its themes. If you enjoy that kind of thing and thought that Gnomes was too lighthearted, if you really wanted a twisted moral conundrum and shock value galore, if you thought that LotFP’s “Doom Cave of Crystal-Headed Children” was too gonzo/goofy and didn’t provide real grimdark themes…well, then this one delivers in spades.

If you’re not that into super-dark subject matter and want to check out what the author has in store, I wholeheartedly recommend the “Gnomes of Levnec” without any reservations; for this adventure, I am left with a per se captivating dark fantasy yarn that, depending on your preferences, either is enhanced or ruined by the themes presented. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, and I’d ask you to round up if you are interested in the like; if you’re offended, then steer clear. However, the minor imperfections in the OSR-rules and the lack of suggestions regarding the central moral conundrum in the aftermath represent both needless detractors from the adventure; a “solution” or at least some suggestions, would have gone a long way to render this more palatable, at least for me. My final verdict will hence round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Thousand Dead Babies
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Star Log.EM-014: Eldritch Knight
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 06:33:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after the by now classic introduction, we dive into the rules, though it should be noted that it makes sense to read this, as the design goal here was to encapsulate, in spite of the existence of the soldier-class, the flavor of the classic eldritch knight.

The eldritch knight archetype grants additional class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level. At 2nd level, we have spell critical, which is a special critical hit effect that you can use instead of that of the weapon. When confirming a crit, you may cast a spell as a swift action, which must include the target among those affected. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. This is problematic in as much as that the spell does not state a maximum casting time, which is not exactly a smart means of future-proofing this one. The ability should restrict the eligible spell in some way. All other class features provide a fighting style technique from the arcane assailant soldier; rune of the eldritch knight at 6th, secret of the magi at 9th, power of legend at 12th and secret of the archmagi at 18th level.

The pdf also presents a total of 4 new feats to complement the concept: Disrupting Grappler forces foes to succeed a caster level check in order to cast a spell when you’re grappling them, with DC scaling via your BAB. Enhanced Dispel Magic provides a bonus to dispel SPs that work like specific spells and extends the counterspell range to long. Nice! Riving Strike requires Mystic Strike or rune of the eldritch knight, and allows you to render opponents vulnerable to magic, penalizing saves or reducing SR temporarily with a standard action attack. You need to expend a swift action to add this, though. Will save DC scales with your highest ability score modifier and BAB or CL. Nice: A target affected by it can’t be affected again for a day, providing a means to prevent cheesing. Interesting here: Full action-using attacks do not allow for this, courtesy of SFRPG’s action economy, which means that the feat promotes more creative play. Kudos! Finally, we have Spell Severance, which once more requires Mystic Strike or the rune, as well as 1 rank Mysticism, which is really neat: 1/day, you can dispel magic a foe hit with a magic weapon, using BAB as CL. Really cool, though personally, I would have added a means to spend (a lot) of Resolve to recharge it.

The pdf closes with a nice piece of flavor-text regarding eldritch knights in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no obvious formatting snafus etc. Layout adheres to the colorful standard of the series and the pdf sports the nice artwork on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ eldritch knight has a tough heritage – the classic option hasn’t been the most remarkable out there in the first place, and since the soldier incorporates much of the thematic concept, we are left with a solid, if not perfect take on the idea of the eldritch knight that goes as light step further than the soldier, but which doesn’t necessarily feel radically different. As noted, I am convinced that the spell critical class feature should be future-proofed regarding maximum casting time; apart from this one, I enjoyed all of the feats herein, leaving us with a mixed bag that is slightly on the positive side of things. Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s closer to the 4 stars than to the 3, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-014: Eldritch Knight
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Everyman Unchained: Bards
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2018 04:18:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The unchained bard clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 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.

So, the first page, beyond having a brief ToC, summarizes the design-paradigm of this class, and frankly, what’s here sounds feasible – the central focus lies on making the bard more interesting and versatile without requiring archetypes and other modifications, so let’s see how this fellow holds up!

The unchained bard gets d8 HD as well as 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level – here, it should be noted that the skills are presented in a tidy table, as opposed to the usually cluttered skill-block. I really like this, as it makes looking class skills up quicker. Proficiency-wise, we cover light armor, shields (except tower shields) and simple weapons plus longsword, rapier, saps, shortswords, shortbows and whips. Once more, we have a nice presentation-innovation, as the proficiency-list has a subheader for armor- and weapon-proficiencies. Once more, that represents an improvement in my book. We still have ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves. The unchained bard retains spellcasting of up to 6th level, and every bard spell has a verbal component, with Charisma as governing attribute and spontaneous spellcasting.

And this is pretty much where the similarities end. On first level, the bard chooses a Muse, gaining skill ranks in that muse’s associated Performance skill for free at each class level. These muses also determine associated skills and denoted the performance components (A for audible, and V for visual; these and the limitations they entail are clearly noted in the bardic masterpiece entry) in their respective brackets, making presentation here once more truly streamlined. 12 muses are presented and range from classics à la strings to keyboard, stage magic, legerdemain, etc., covering even more obscure Perform variants like juggling. What do the associated skills do? Well, starting at 3rd level, a bard can use his total ranks in the muse’s key Perform skill instead for the associated skills; ranks previously assigned to associated skills are refunded. These skills are treated as on the class skill list and also may be treated as though they were governed by Charisma, analogue to the Perform skill, instead.

Bardic performance has been rewired: It now starts a bardic masterpiece, and its effects last 1 round, but the effects may be maintained as a free action, unless otherwise noted in the respective action entry. The decision to maintain a performance must be made at the start of the round, and duration caps at 1 minute per bard level, unless otherwise noted. Performances immediately end upon becoming paralyzed, etc. and performances may be started Charisma-modifier +1/2 class level times per day. Notice something? Yep, the maintenance of performances no longer expends rounds! This means that low level bards won’t run out of juice as fast, and the different ability improvement and metrics mean that high-level bards won’t drown in rounds they can't employ properly.

Now, I already mentioned bardic masterpieces – these are different from the often maligned, yet intriguing feature of the same name that was originally tacked on to grant the bard more unique tricks. The unchained bard begins play with one masterpiece known and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. Save DC calculation is interesting: 10 + ½ the ranks in the muse’s key performance skill + Charisma modifier. If the masterpiece requires that an opponent makes a skill check, the DC is 10 + 1.5 times the bard’s skill ranks in the key Perform skill associated with the muse + the bard’s Charisma modifier. A bard also begins play with a so-called performance bonus, which begins at +1 and increases by a further +1 at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. The bonus type depends on to what the bardic masterpiece applies it: Attack and damage rolls gain a competence bonus, saving throws a morale bonus and otherwise, we have an insight bonus. This makes sense to be, both from a design and logic perspective. Starting at 7th level, the action economy of starting bardic masterpieces improves, and masterpieces that required a standard action may be used as a move action, with 1th level allowing optionally to start performances that need a standard or move action to be initiated as a swift action. Presentation-wise, it should be noted that all these aspects are grouped under the same ability-header, with distinct subheaders to set them apart. This presentation-sequence makes sense and renders grasping the mechanics easier. Kudos!

Also at first level, the bard picks a so-called repertoire from a list of 7. Each repertoire covers 4 different skills, and the bard gains a bonus on skill checks associated with them equal to ½ class level, minimum 1. Trained only skills may be used untrained. Starting at 9th level, the bard may take 10 in these skills, even while distracted or in danger, and he may expend a bardic performance use to take 20 instead, in spite of the circumstances, and taking the regular amount of time, not the usual, extended one.

Now, as noted before bardic masterpieces are crucial component to the engine, and the class unlocks new available selections at 3rd, 7th, 11th and 15th level. Muses determine the type of masterpieces you can learn, and area, range, effects etc. are part of the masterpiece’s block. Each performance also comes with a bit of flavor-text, which is nice. Now, the pdf does something really clever: The header of each masterpiece sports one or multiple, self-explanatory glyphs that are explained in a sidebar, though personally, I considered their meaning to be self-evident: The glyphs denote basically descriptor types. See a comic-style text-bubble? Language-dependent. Caduceus? Healing. Skull and bones? Death. Brain? Mind-affecting. It’s simple, but it helps render the rules-language less monstrous, while at the same time retaining the complexity demanded.

These melodies, fyi, accomplish a ton of different things, and some of them provide massive changes to party dynamics. We have to look no further than Ameliorating melody, the very first of these masterpieces. All allies in a 60 ft. emanation heal 1 hit point per performance bonus, and one ally heals 1d8 per performance bonus. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, remember that it lasts 1 minute per bard level – that’s a lot of healing, even at first level! While this sounds like much, and it pretty much is, the design-paradigm is clear here: This is slower, less bursty healing than what the cleric offers– but this masterpiece alone provides, mathematically, sufficient healing to classify the unchained bard as a primary healer. While the sheer amount of healing this offers is pretty massive, it should be taken into account that the bard lacks the spell-healing capabilities. Depending on how gritty you like your games to be and your personal aesthetics, you may or may not like this – personally, I’m not the biggest fan of burst-y instant-healing that returns characters constantly from the brink of death. We’ve all been there: The roly-poly syndrome of PCs falling, dying, being healed and getting back up, falling again…the more spread out healing can be sensible for grittier games that prefer to avoid this. Or, well, there’s also a chance that the sheer amount of healing is something you don’t like in your games. The bard’s healing array will be hard to whittle down via attrition tactics. Personally, I very much enjoy how this makes a group sans healing-cleric more viable, particularly in games that sport a darker aesthetic. The one thing that should be monitored here by the GM is, that a combination of a good healer-cleric AND a bard with this option can be really, really brutal and may be something that can, depending on your campaign’s goal and themes, prove to be very strong.

Soooo, basically the very first masterpiece already provides a rather pronounced paradigm change. Now, it should be noted that masterpieces differentiate between effects that begin when starting a performance, and then maintained; others reduplicate their initial effects time and again, as they’re maintained. Summoning critters, for example is an effect that is tied to the start of a performance, with the maintenance of the summoning via maintenance of the performance. The scaling of this one, btw., is based on half class level. Rendering targets prone via laughing, the classic fascinate and inspire competence, courage, etc. can be found, and raging song is also codified as such – and yes, there is a spellsteal option here as well! At 3rd level, gathering of crowds, condition alleviation, mocking debuffs, sonic strikes (that cannot be cheesed regarding action economy). Minor nitpick: there’s a typo here ” work” should refer to “word”; this is cosmetic, though. 7th level includes the options, among others, to antagonize targets (see Ultimate Charisma; the pdf has a few abilities referring to the amazing Psychology DC and antagonize-rules from that book), provide resistances, reincarnate targets (takes time and a lot of daily uses)…At 11th level, we have the dance of the dead, untyped damage based on type/subtype or wandering star motes become available. Finally, we get a discordant confusion effect (that interacts correctly with conclusion), pied piping and raising the dead (at massive cost of resources), all added to the list to choose from at 15th level. The capstone provides the inspire legends bardic masterpiece that combines two others into one.

Now, this is not the end – at 2nd level, the unchained bard gets a performance flourish, with another one gained every 2 levels thereafter. These behave somewhat like talents and are grouped in three categories: The first bunch becomes available for the choosing at 2nd level, with 8th and 16th level unlocking a new array. If a flourish allows for a save, or prompts a skill check from an opponent, the DCs are calculated in the same way as for masterpieces. There is an option to gain an additional masterpiece, which can be taken up to three times, with 10th and 18th level as subsequent minimum levels and applicable level-restrictions. A couple of them are passive, and allow, for example, for 2d4 minutes of time invested to make armor worn to behave as glamered. HOWEVER, there is more to this ability-class. You see, there also are a couple of them that sport an asterisk. These flourishes apply to a bardic masterpiece, and are chosen upon starting or maintaining a masterpiece, allowing for reassigning etc.. Only one such effect can be applied at any given time and this section includes the classic distraction, countersong, etc., as well as escapist’s jig etc. – in short, what previously were helpful, but for the bard-character, potentially boring actions, now are customizations for the heroic, active stuff he does. Poaching among psychic, oracle or sorcerer tricks, being famous, affecting plants, making allies believing in the same deity count as brandishing holy symbols – we basically have tweaks and more active agenda here. Gone are the times when the bard was required to perform away his rounds to maintain support for allies. Tricking targets into spilling the beans has a hex-caveat to limit the at-will availability. There is another balancing component here, as, beyond the masterpiece ability trees, there are some flourishes restricted to certain masterpieces. Increased ranges and numerical boosts, spell kennings and the like – your heart’s desires and classic tricks may be found here. Among the higher level tricks, we have mass expansions for previous flourishes or the means to absorb and return spells with suitable mechanics, building on spellsteal. We thus have a wide array of significantly expanded player agenda during building as well as at the table.

The engine becomes more complex: At 5th level, the class gets accompaniment: When maintaining a bardic masterpiece, he can start a second masterpiece as a standard action, counting the new performance against the total daily uses as usual. The second one must be one that can be started as a standard action or less, regarding of modifying class features that decrease action economy, and its maintenance is a move action. This second one can only be maintained after the primary masterpiece has been maintained. 17th level further upgrades that to allow for the retaining of a third masterpiece. The maintenance action of the third one, however, is locked to a standard action.

Starting at 2nd level, a bard gets a +4 insight bonus versus figments, patterns, language-dependent effects, sonic effects and other bardic performances – minor nitpick here: While the text and table place this one at 2nd level, the header reads 3rd, which is incorrect.

Now, this is not everything: At 7th level, and once more every 4 levels thereafter, the unchained bard gets a versatility talent. These apply the key Perform skill to a variety of different tasks and circumstances: Here, we can once more learn masterpieces, muses, repertoires or increase the starting attitude of animals, with the added option to use bardic performance uses to duplicate speak with animals. Gaining muse key skill ranks as BAB for the purpose of a combat maneuver, expanding the associated skills of a muse, slandering targets, evasion, becoming harder to antagonize, feint, etc., teamwork feats, etc.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; apart from minor typo-level glitches and the aforementioned minor level snafu, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s new, two-column standard and the pdf sports several, original, gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I love Alexander Augunas’ unchained bard. The class has evolved beyond its linear and oftentimes, somewhat bland beginnings. The massive amount of customization available for the class means that players finally have all the agenda they want. The unchained bard manages to not only enhance the choices of the PCs, it also succeeds in making the playing experience as meaningful as it should be. The bard remains a jack of all trades, versatile and unique, but now, the active abilities have been retweaked, have become stronger and no longer require that you need to spend your rounds doing boring stuff. In short, this is the definite bard. The fact that it can make for a good healer is another huge boon, particularly for groups that lack a ton of players or that are bored by clerics. In short, this is a resounding success of its attempted design goals. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Unchained: Bards
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