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Monster Menagerie: The Construct Companion
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/04/2015 06:05:45
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 123 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1.5 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page blank back cover, leaving us with 114.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We begin this massive, huge book with an aptly-written piece of prose before diving straight into this massive book, which can be pictured as w2hat would happen if a book of the series formerly known as Mythic Menagerie (renamed due to the release of the mythic rules) took more steroids than an 80s locker-room full of pro-wrestlers. What do i mean by this? Well, this huge book is almost completely crunch - which means that, were I to go into my usual level of detail, this would be a review of epic proportions indeed. Instead of this, I opted for a more dynamic approach and filtered the analysis I undertook for your convenience. I will hence try to give you a fair sampling of what to expect within this book, so let's not lose any more time and get this beast going!



Well, the first thing you obviously have to know is that this book can be considered a toolkit among other things and contains a new expanded array of options for the creation of animated objects - whether it is the option of animated objects to animate more objects themselves, anchoring or a means to avoid detection, special materials and even swarm-form - the options herein enhance animated objects in meaningful, evocative ways - to the point where the few pages devoted to that made me come up with no less than 3 adventures. Better yet, following the design-philosophy of the horsemen's great gruesome monster templates, the inclusion of drawbacks for animated objects allow a GM to create adversaries that reward clever players, rendering this very much in line with my own tastes. This is NOT where the usefulness of this chapter end, though - we receive a second massive list for re-animated objects - whether from the remains of an alchemist's laboratory or from carrion, the added options here in no way remain behind in means of evocative ideas presented.



Speaking of evocative: Animated traps. I have NO IDEA how no one so far, me included, failed to codify a trope I have used in so many adventures, I can't even count it - the concept of a self-aware trap that can reset itself not only can enhance greatly the believability of a given world (who resets those death-traps?), it also sports easy and concise guidelines along samples for GMs to embrace this great concept - one less "A wizard did it." lame excuse. Animate Objects variants for diverse spell levels alongside mythic spell support further complement the awesomeness delivered so far. How can you increase my squee-factor further? Simple - add cool vessels. And indeed, animated dirigibles and galleys can be found here, though I admittedly found myself wishing the authors had opted for at least one options that was more far out.



Golemcrafters and DMs should grins from ear to ear at the selection of options that follows now - construct modifications. Whether as enchantments or templates, the options are glorious. What do I mean by that? Well, Jacob Blackmon's rendition of a plague-doctor-mask-wearing golem with a bloody saw and a hand of injector-needles captures, in spite of Jacob's lighthearted style very much the level of disturbing options here. Oh, and MOBILE SUIT GOLEM. Do I really have to say anything more? Best of all - no overlap with Rite's multi-pilot suit: Here, we have an option for a one-character golem-suit, whereas Rite provided the Saber Rider/Power Rangers "All control one"-style. The constructed creature and golem creature template also add a significant array of unique options to the fray. So that would be the toolkit section herein.



Of course, if you've followed the series, you expect a bestiary - and I never said it was not one. Since I've already gushed about animated objects - need some? Well, this pdf delivers in spades -from ill-tempered gates to wells with delusions of being a gallows, the diversity and imagery evoked here leaves simply nothing to be desired. What about canopic jars with multiple different subtypes? "But endy", I hear you say, "this is not necessarily a 'sexy' type of construct!"Got ya, but what would you say about full-blown mythic support in the guise of a return of our friends, the massive colossi? Gigantic, nay, colossal constructs of ice, vegetation...giant bodies? Yes, they're as awesome as they sound. Now what would happen if the Iron Throne of "A Song of Fire and Ice" were a golem? The CR 15 Broken Blade Golem, lavishly rendered, answers exactly this question. Golems made from the flesh of fey and the 4 unique constructs first premiered in the small pdf by Christina Stiles Presents can also be found within this chapter, though admittedly, one can perceive the growth of the horsemen since then. That being said, receiving mythic alternatives for example for the spiritflesh golem is cool and golden golems, grave golems or lodestone golems are awesome.



Now as you may know, I'm a HUGE Ravenloft fanboy and hence, I obviously also have run Vecna Reborn and Die, Vecna, Die!- though heavily modified since both modules sucked hard. I made them essentially a end-times scenario of the worst kind. Why am I bothering you with this? Because, when my players infiltrated the fortress-city of Vecna, the group's paladin led his final charge with the last survivors against the armies of Vecna's undead, duking it out against "The Eye", one of the 2 unique golems of Vecna. Well, there is a golem in that style in here as well, the disturbing, eye-themed Oculus Golem, who coincidentally comes with AWESOME upgrade templates for blinking and cursing glares. I ADORE this golem. Crystalline record-keepers, things entirely made of poisonous stinger - in here. What about a mechanical kraken or sand or salt golems?



Fans of Catherynne M. Valente's "Cities of Gold and Spice" will enjoy the tooth golem, a way to potentially represent the dread being entirely made of teeth, Gholad - once again, especially due to the glorious CR-modifying additional options available for the golem. Totem and Tusk golems can also indeed prove to be fertile grounds for the imagination, though the soldier-storing war golem should also be explicitly mentioned as a creature I enjoy. Beyond golems, guardian lions, mechanical butlers, disturbing construct butchers, telepathic link and poison combining mechanical scarabs - this chapter is thoroughly exciting, with all creatures sporting some sort of unique and compelling combination of options and signature abilities.



This is more than just a bestiary, though - we also have a new player race with the Impendigs - obviously artificial creatures that get +2 Con and Int, -4 Wis, darkvision and low-light vision. They may choose a skill each day and receive the benefits of Skill Focus for the chosen skill and are half-constructs. An okay race, I guess, though I can name a couple more compelling ones. The Adaptable Arcanist Wizard archetype receives a wildcard-slot at his highest spell level known (later on all ) that can be used to cast any spell in the arcanist's spellbook (or learned via Spell Mastery) instead of Scribe Scroll. At 5th level, the archetype can also choose a specialization every day with freely chosen opposing schools, but without gaining bonus slots or focused arcane school powers. All in all, okay, if a bit on the strong side - not a fan of further increasing the flexibility of the already very strong wizard class. The awakened would be a construct-themed druid, using Cha instead of Wis as governing spellcasting attribute.



The Inexorable construct race receives +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, get darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision, ferocity, 6 + level SR, a slam attack at 1d4 + 1.5 times the Str-mod and the half-construct type. Again, okay though I can name some imho more compelling construct races. Racial-archetype wise, we get the drone fighter, who get modified proficiencies (minus heavy armor, plus firearm), base skills per level (4 instead of 2) - drones are created for one of 3 divisions: Command, strike or infantry, all of which modify the class skill list and various abilities of the archetype, rendering it more versatile than one could expect -at least thematically. While I LOVE this concept-wise, the actual impact on gameplay imho should have been more distinct - as written, we get a cool design-idea that is only carried through halfway to its logical conclusion. Still - kudos on a design-aesthetic level, also for the skill-deviation. :)



The second archetype would be the Munitionist gunslinger, a gunslinger with an integrated firearm who can spend grit to temporarily enhance the firearm with enhancement bonuses and weapon-qualities, magus-style. Solid.



There also are a selection of non-race specific archetypes to be found herein, though construct/half-construct as types remain prerequisite for the bloodless sorceror, for example, who essentially replace bloodline powers with natural armor, slam attacks et al. as well as one wild-card spell. Golem Slayer rangers are pretty self-explanatory concept-wise, though the immunity-negating and nasty debuff sigils render them more than a default bland nemesis archetype. Idolater clerics summon construct creatures and channel elemental construct healing energy. Lawbringer cavaliers get a construct companion (its own template/companion archetype) and the accompanying law-themed order fits, though it is not revolutionary. The Progenitor summoner replaces summon monster with animating objects and gets appropriately-themed substitution for the eidolon, in which he can also store spells. The capstone exoskeleton deserves special mention here - I honestly wished the archetype had focused on that one instead of its current focus. The Shielded magus is the first of these archetypes I truly consider cool - a shield specialist, these guys can grant properties of animated objects to their shields - and with new arcana and scaling effects, the tactical options this one allows are intriguing indeed. Finally, the warmachine fighter is also interesting, gaining half-construct benefits at the cost of permanent penalties of mental attributes and appropriately themed benefits. Over all, a nice archetype that allows for several concepts and narrative twists I like, though I have solved the same concept in a more scaling-heavy way in my own game.



Among the PrCs presented, the maker (d6, 2+Int skills, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression, full spellcasting progression) determines a creature she has made as her guardian and thus provides scaling benefits, including skills, feats and abilities for said construct - pretty much a pet PrC with spell storing, no berserk etc. On the nitpicky side, the special column is usually in the class table between saves and spell progression, not at the end, but that is a cosmetic gripe at best. The second PrC, the Martinet (d8, 2+Int mod skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort- and will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression) has the same presentation peculiarity and can be considered a bard-based commander-PrC - solid, though I've seen so many options to execute this theme that I can't really get excited about it. It's solid. The aforementioned template for construct companions and construct familiars respectively do not share this fate - I really like both options.



The pdf, obviously, also sports feats - a LOT o them: From natural armor to DR, you can expect quite a few customization options, with the themes, obviously, being construct upgrades and item creation feats. Not much to complain here. Where the pdf returns to full-blown form, though, would not be with feats that render golem creation a valid option during an adventurer's career - it's with the magic items, which btw. include their share of mythic items - for example golem armor, which, powered by mythic power, can confer temporarily the tricks of these iconic sentries upon their wearers.



Speaking of mythic - I have intentionally so far kept my mouth shut regarding abstraction golems - these would be mythic golems that represent special concepts from love to time, with corresponding templates and unique abilities as well as sample builds. The academic in me ADORES this chapter - why? Because it enhances the narrative cohesion by allowing a GM to provide mechanically relevant options for constructs that serve to emphasize chosen leitmotifs - from the temporal immortality of death golems to the obsession-inducing love golems (in case you need inspiration for a horror-story with this theme, play the indie-adventure Anna and unlock the final ending...), these golems are absolutely glorious. and combinations can provide more - take the sample dust golem, crafted from sand and time: Fear in a handful of dust indeed!



Oh, and if you're on the time-starved and/or lazy side, you will definitely appreciate the sample encounters provided in chapter five, where a recap's gambit (lavishly illustrated) can end up extremely nasty for the PCs or where golden and lodestoen golems combine for lethal threats in defense of the treasures of the kind of thieves. Have I mentioned the deadly tooth fairy swarm?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, especially considering the size of this massive book - on both a rules-language and a formal level. Layout is the one component of this book I positively loathe - each page has wide margins left and right, above and below, which also sport colored graphics in the background. Not only does this mean that this pdf takes more pages when printing it out, it also drains more printer. I don't understand why the fragmented artwork, mostly obscured by the main area of text anyway, still remains - it has NO FUNCTION and does not look good: What help is half an elven lady's head o the left side? The only thing this does is distract me from the text and wonder why the artwork has been cropped into the borders. Urgh. On the plus side, you will be hard-pressed to find a 3pp-pdf with such a vast density of qualitatively high full-color artworks: Jacob Blackmon's distinct style is evident in every artwork and renders a sense of visual cohesion to this pdf that somewhat serves to offset the layout faux-pas. So kudos to master Blackmon! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive nested bookmarks for your convenience.



The author-collective/roleplaying think-tank called the The Four Horseman, consisting of Steven T. Helt, Stephen Rowe and Dan Dillon have a reputation with me - why? Because their templates rank among the very few monster books that still elicit excitement from me. Let's face it - with over 2000 reviews and most 3.X monster books by 3pps at my place, I've read more monsters than I probably should have. I still have all those second edition appendices and still remember the time when monsters were defined by story, not just mechanics. PFRPG's current development, at least in the 3pp-market, has thankfully moved away from the bland reconfiguration of mechanics towards unique and compelling creatures - but still, at one point or another, you have just seen SO MUCH. You get déjà-vus ALL THE TIME.



Where am I going with this rant? Well, usually it falls to Rite Publishing's complex builds or Legendary Games' unique mythic abilities to provide this sense of the exciting and new to me. This pdf manages exactly this feeling as well. Once you've read a certain amount of books, you get a kind of radar for when an author phones in a creature. You won't find that in here. Indeed, it can be considered stupefying how many unique tricks can be found in this massive bestiary/toolbox- for this is exactly that: A huge kit to render constructs relevant and exciting, a smart book full of inspired concepts that reward brains. Now the toolkit aspect, imho, is also a minor flaw of this book - for as inspired as I consider the monster/item sections, I would lie when claiming that I was blown away by races or archetypes.



The player-centric material, while solid, just does not have the space and detail to shine - from missing FCOs to traits, age, height and weight-tables etc., it is evident that these components are bonuses that have been included to make this a definite resource - and in the end, at least to me, they detracted more from the book than they added to it. Why? Because the other components, from the expanded animated object options to the mythic abstraction golems universally reach a level of quality only seldom seen in a bestiary, much less so in one with such an excellent bang-for-buck-ratio. It is against this backdrop of stellar concepts that anything "only" good seems infinitely less compelling. So, at least for players, this is perhaps not the revelation that it most definitely is for GMs.



The golems and options here are varied, unique and inspired - and were all components of this book as awesome (and the borders not as &%$§$), this would be a candidate for my top ten. As written, it remains one STELLAR, huge book that showcases well the reason why the Four Horsemen have developed a following in such a short time. This belongs in the library of any GM looking to make golems interesting and fun...and, most of all: Versatile. This is one of the best monster books I've read in ages and demands 5 stars + seal of approval - and rest assured in a book of a lesser quality, my rant on layout et al. would have been much more pronounced. Here, though, both that and the aforementioned pieces just are swallowed by awesomeness. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Menagerie: The Construct Companion
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Urban Dressing: Elven Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/03/2015 08:39:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So this time around, our trip through diverse towns brings us into a town of elves - where the sights and sounds, of which no less than 100 are provided - from mist that stubbornly refuses to yield to the encroaching rays of the sun to out-of-place snowless lakes to newborns ritualistically drinking the sap of trees, this provides an aptly mystical glance at the insides of elven culture.



A total of 50 different businesses, from animal-shelter-style menageries to courier-services that utilize the branches above for fast travel through the forests and crystalline wind-chimes, all provide a distinct and somewhat unearthly flair. Of course, these places would, on their own, remain pretty opaque - hence, we get a massive array of no less than 50 entries detailing short fluff-only entries of sample inhabitants, which, while in focus obviously elven, also sport a diverse array of characters not belonging to this ethnicity -from obviously xenophobic "newborns" to halflings with a nasty temper, the array of characters covers quite a broad spectrum from benevolent to malicious - have I mentioned the incognito vampire?



In case all of these entries do not spark your interest right from the bat, you can still count on the final table covering 12 hooks and complications, with elven funerals and warriors providing quite a bit of nice hooks to draw this in.



Conclusion:

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



Josh Vogt's Urban Dressing on elves could have been pretty much bland, but thankfully, that is not the case - much like the installment on dwarven towns, this provides inspired fluff galore to make your elven towns, no matter the precise look and feel for them you prefer in your games. This installment of Urban Dressing once again is a wonderful installment and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Elven Town
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Classes of NeoExodus: Mythic Machinesmith (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2015 07:20:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The machinesmith class is a deservedly beloved addition NeoExodus has contributed to many a group beyond the scope of its own campaign setting - and here we get the material needed to run these guys in a mythic context, so how do they hold up?



We begin this pdf with the 10-tier Futurist mythic path - which already provides imho a basic issue: Is it a path for just the machinesmith class? The answer, thankfully, is NO. The path nets 4 hit points per tier and a path ability at every tier, with first tier granting one of 3 futurist revelations: Surprise grenade allows you to expend a swift action and mythic power to draw and throw an alchemical item, thrown weapon or grenade, suffering a penalty to saves equal to your tier. per se cool, but why lock alchemist bombs out of the equation? As written, bombs are not covered, which remains my one gripe in an otherwise nice ability. The second revelation would be the energy shot, which allows you to attack with a ranged weapon as a swift action for the expenditure of mythic power, increasing the attack's damage by + tier and changing the damage-type for this attack to force. An issue here would be the omission of specification at what BAB the attack is executed - while the default, obviously, is full BAB, this still constitutes a minor blemish in rules-precision. The third option would be to use mythic power as a substitute for uses of extracts, prototypes or wands without expending a slot or charge, forcing non-mythic creatures to roll twice. This ability has two issues: Can one mythic power act as fuel for an ability or effect that would require the expenditure of multiple slots or charges? Would it instead decrease the number of charges by 1 or can't it be used? Secondly, what action does this require? Swift? immediate? Free? Part of the activation? While not rendering the ability unusable, it does constitute an issue.



As always, you can select more of these revelations as path abilities, but you may want to think carefully here - why? because the path abilities are pretty much unique: What about making all damage your vehicle does (including all attached weapons) ignore ALL DR? Yes, this is damn cool, but I very much wished it was not automatic and had a scaling mechanism that progressively unlocked DR-ignoring at higher tiers - as written, it means low level futurists can pretty much mow down legions of golems beyond their levels. Disarming traps and opening locks as move action sans provoking AoOs kind of works, though, once again, I wished it had a scaling-mechanism tied to the tier.



On the nice-side, this does provide full-blown support for the Technology Guide, sporting a means to offset glitches and firearm mishaps, an integration I also hope to see in the compiled machinesmith. Less charge-consumption for such items due to mythic power is also an intriguing option that adds a nice level of versatility. A humble and yet cool path ability allows you to wield firearms one size larger than you without penalty - though I'd definitely prevent large PC-races from taking this ability. On a design-aesthetic perspective, I am not a fan of an ability that allows you to return any single-target arcane spell or spell-like ability back to its originator when you save or SR against it for one mythic power - while limited by mythic power - there ought to be a discrepancy here between non-mythic and mythic magic. This is baffling since the similar ability for divine spells has just that caveat - though here, it pertains to the duration of short-term STUNNING - without save to resist, mind you.



A nice ability that takes the DiY into account would be Force Armor, which allows you to add AC bonuses of any armors you craft to touch AC, but only when wearing them yourself. I am also pretty much a fan of an ability that allows you to reverse-engineer spells from magic items to add them to your spellbook. Now while the spellbook does imply a sense of limited usefulness, I would have preferred a more open wording to allow non-spellbook-using prepared casters to benefit from this path ability. What about doubling any AoE spell or effect via the expenditure of mythic power, while also increasing the damage output AND knocking non-mythic targets prone? That one is incredibly broken -stack that with metamagic and/or class abilities get HUGE blasts - not gonna happen in my group.



On the plus-side, upgrading weapons in a flexible manner to higher technology tiers on the other hand is pretty much awesome! Class-specific options can be found inside as well - greatworks that are not the mechanus can provide a mythic power-based buff to allies upon activation. Nice! Cybertech implantation can also be found alongside the option to add metamagic to spell trigger or spell completion items. I also enjoy particularly the option to UMD past magical traps without triggering them, potentially allowing you and your allies to turn a deathtrap dungeon against its inhabitants.



Among the 3rd tier abilities, scaling DR 1/epic that improves by 1 for each implant and using mythic power to make one drone-spell or prototype permanent (and only one at a given time) is a neat idea, as is firing through foes. Among the 6th tier abilities, construct-apotheosis and turning non-magic items into universal crafting material grey goo also is nice, though perhaps a bit high up the tier-scale. Merging magic items for slot-convenience also constitutes an interesting design-choice. Awakening constructs and mythic power-based rerolls can also be found within these pages. As a capstone, the path allows for the creation of technological items in one day and for the purposes of cybertech, your capacity is vastly enhanced.



A feat nets you +1 machinesmith trick and we also get 8 new mythic versions of feats - which include, obviously, rules from the technology guide - from Craft Technological Arms and Armor to quicker crafting of Pharmaceuticals, these feats generally make sense and do a good job at integrating technology and mythic. We also get a total of 6 mythic versions of drone-spells that include unlimited ranges for exterminator drones - which is awesome. I am VERY weary of mythic moebius converters - why? Because it can be used to restore mythic power IN ADDITION to spells, extracts or prototypes - seeing how mythic power can be used to power these, this regeneration of mythic power as the most powerful resource available is something usually avoided - and for a good reason.



The pdf also provides a CR 10/MR 5 Mythic Ironforged.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting generally are very good, I noticed no significant issues regarding the formal language, though rules-language could be more precise. Layout adheres to LPJr Design's gorgeous two-column full-color standard and includes some beautiful artworks you may know from other NeoExodus-supplements. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a slight comfort detriment. The pdf comes with a second, no less beautiful, but more printer-friendly version.



Mythic Rules are VERY hard to get right, not only because balancing them is exceedingly peculiar and hard, but also because the intricacies of rules-language are amplified by the inclusion of new terms and components. Worse, the balancing of mythic, as peculiar and fragile as it is, very much requires a lot of knowledge of abstract, implicit rules-decisions and it is this component that this pdf, alas, flaunts in quite a few instances - essentially, mythic is, at least in lower tiers, not about absolutes, but about enabling a distinction to operate on the power-level of heroes like wonder woman or superman instead of on those of batman or green arrow - you get some tools on the superman-level that are extremely efficient versus mere mortals, but you don't yet get to walk right over them - that comes at higher tiers. While not per se bad, this pdf gets exactly this component wrong in quite a few instances. Author Jonathan Palmer has grasped the basic concepts on how to write and use the syntax and semantics of the mythic rules - you can see that he gets the grand picture and delivers something functional. At the same time, it is apparent to me that the interaction and way things work diverge from the base mythic standards - and this constitutes an issue in a system this fragile.



At the same time, this pdf juggles another component, namely the Technology Guide-sub-system and it does this rather well - as problematic as some decisions in the path are, as awesome is the blending of both systems. I also pretty much like how you could mash this and Legendary Games' genius-path together without that much overlap.



On the one hand, and there is no denying this, we have here an example of a flawed pdf. At the same time, though, universally, the issues can be caught by a capable DM and yes, ironed out with a minimum of effort - fixing the balance-issues that are herein pretty much would probably amount to about 2 hours and that's it - if you do that, you'll have a functional and fun pdf for a more than fair price at your hands. This has the potential for full 5 stars +seal of approval, but as long as the issues persist, I cannot rate this higher than 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of NeoExodus: Mythic Machinesmith (PFRPG)
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Mythic Minis 52: Mythic Weapons
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2015 07:18:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal - 3 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let's go!



-Blade-eating Battleaxe: This battleaxe can essentially dual-sunder as a standard action and apply mythic surge benefits to the two sunders. Furthermore, with the expenditure of mythic power, it allows for whirlwind-sundering and allows for reflexive sunderings to counter certain combat maneuvers and abilities. The complex mechanics required here actually work out very well - nice one!



-Kinslayer's Knife: Nasty blade with blood biography and the target's relatives becoming apparent to the wielder, making this one very lethal for those carrying out a bloody vendetta.



-Redflame Trollblade: A +1 flaming burst humanoid (giant) bane bastard sword that has its bane further enhanced versus trolls, while also sporting color-coded glowing warnings regarding the presence of certain types of adversaries. In the hands of mythic characters, it also gets the mighty cleaving property and can use mythic power to grant Mythic Cleave, adding in a 5-foot step. Alas, the blade also calls all trolls within 1 mile, compelling them to seek out and slay the wielder or perish in battle. Nasty!



-Silverspark Longbow: Arrows fired from these intelligent bows made to slay evil wizards and witches are silver and grant SR in addition to their significant enchantments. 1/day, they can fire a lightning bolt modified by the Disruptive Spell feat - and one that is half divine energy. In the hands of mythic characters, limning and shocking burst are added versus targets and the lightning bolt can be shot multiple times per day, powered by mythic power.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Jason Nelson delivers 4 mechanically complex mythic weapons here, all of which have in common that they tackle complex rules and manage to execute them in interesting ways. Additionally, they all sport this nice extra oomph - the unique ability that goes beyond an accumulation of properties and renders them unique. Nice and well worth 5 stars +seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 52: Mythic Weapons
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Adventure Quarterly #6 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2015 06:44:13
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The sixth installment of Rite Publishing's spiritual heir of the Dungeon magazine clocks in at 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than a massive 67 pages of content - quite a huge array, so let's take a look!



As always, we begin the issue with a nice editorial by Robert N. Emerson before jumping into the meat of the respective modules. This being a review of an adventure-based magazine, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! The first module herein takes us back into the iconic training ground/artificial dungeon of Questhaven's Questor's Society, the Ruins Perilous, wherein 4th level PCs are challenged by Mike Welham to enter the Fungarium! What once was a gigantic banquet hall has since the various cataclysms befell the ruins turned into a kind of interesting fungal habitation, one that is by now separated in two factions of fungoid life-forms that exist in a brokered, uneasy truce - and yes, this means that the best option indeed boils down to actually negotiating with the strange fungoid creatures. If Diplomacy is not up to your PC's alley, fighting does remain an option, though they will miss out on a boon for the PCs. However, this is not where this dungeon-level shines alone - indeed, the creepy atmosphere is well-supplemented by a diverse array of cool hazards and yes, these strange mushrooms add a nice dimension to the encounters. Fungal forlarren queens that share a mind may be there for negotiation, but unaligned fungoid creatures and a dangerous spiny otyugh do make for quite a few nice, challenging foes for combat-centric PCs to defeat, rounding out one of the arguably coolest levels in the ruins yet - fun, diverse and consistent - I love it! This gets even more awesome by supplementing tidbits like stats for the trap-resetting ratfolk workers, an anti-fungus weapon and stats for groundkeepers et al.



The second module, Bret Boyd's Fire and Ice, not related to the neofolk band of the same name, begins with the death of adventurers, though thankfully not the PCs - instead, a company of competing adventurers has been all but wiped out while trying to thwart an evil organization's plan to harvest divine essences. Their sole survivor, as it happens, is on the same ship as the PCs - and draws the ire of the primary antagonist, the immortal assassin Malkin and an iceberg-vessel - upon temporarily defeating the threat, the poor survivor comes clean and asks the PCs for aid and so they're off to the island of pleasure, Mibre, a small paradise, where an order of enigmatic monks poses an interesting puzzle (including trouble-shooting advice and means t brute-force it) - for without the help of the monks, the PCs will have a hard time bringing the magical crystal to the plane of fire to sunder it and thwart the plans of the evil cabal. My one gripe here would constitute in the lack of vessel stats for the iceberg ship and the PC's ship, but on the plus-side, the settlement at least does sport a full settlement statblock.



The final module within these pages, penned by Alex Putnam (and Danielle Doss), would be "In Iron Clad," wherein 14th level PCs have their business trip to a mercane merchant (and a remote metropolis)rudely interrupted while aboard a massive, dwarven sand-steamer used to traverse the massive, lethal badlands - only to have it be attacked by a massive behemoth - and this is only the first of things to come - deadly divs herald the shape of things to come, as the PCs happen upon the massive artifact, the metal heart. Bringing this to the metropolis, the PCs are tasked to pilot the Iron Knight -and yes, we're talking about the Saber Rider/power Rangers-style mecha also featured in the glorious Kaiju Codex. Much like its rendition there, the rules provided could be a teeny tiny bit more precise, though they should not overexert the capabilities of most groups - and yes, the task thereafter is to pilot the gigantic mecha to vanquish the corrupted, elemental-themed kaiju-sized creatures. But that is not where the module ends - indeed, the PCs have to brave a legendary, vast tomb to find a magic weapon for the iron knight, the Sword of Ages' End, and use it to vanquish the legendary corruptor in one massive boss battle of gargantuan proportions - quite literally!



After these modules, Creighton Broadhurst provides an array of complex, multi-round hazards/encounters to drop into your game, some of his best work, btw., while Steven D. Russell continues his advice for wide open sandboxing campaigns, including some handy lists t use at one's convenience.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's 2-column full-color standard with a significant array of gorgeous, original full-color artworks AND there are A LOT of awesome maps in here - if you need any more proof that Tommi Salama is perhaps THE heir to Jonathan Roberts, this one delivers - in diverse styles and color, the maps are ridiculously beautiful. Better yet, the maps also come as high-res jpgs for use with virtual tabletops or the printer AND there are player-friendly high-res versions of the maps as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



This is a first in the run of Adventure Quarterly - for the first time, more than module blew me away - and honestly, I really like all 3. Each sports unique locations, nice, compact storylines and deliver, in spades, some absolutely imaginative vistas. Better yet, Alex Putnam's final module is perhaps the best high-level module in any Adventure Quarterly - high-stakes, unique and supplemented by lavish, copious maps, this module is a stroke of genius and will have your players talking about it for years to come - heck, it may be the perfect transition from regular gaming to making full use of the superb Kaiju Codex and truly high-fantasy gaming! This installment is creative in all the right ways and sports glorious ideas as well as Rite Publishing's trademark focus on high concepts - even the supplemental material went above and beyond - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Quarterly #6 (PFRPG)
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Secret Societies of Vathak: The Final Phase
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2015 10:28:15
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Vathak-supplement clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The Final Phase is a cult that sprung form an appropriately nihilistic vision of life as sorrow unending and thus, it should come as no surprise that the already questionable ideology (as much of it as the well-written intro-fluff showcases) has been perverted even further in a world like Vathak - now, the cult is pretty much a decadent accumulation of cultists with a surprising range of influence. More disturbingly, the cult believes that the Great Old Ones hold the key to prevent resorption into the unending cycle of sorrow the multiverse propagates - and while this may sound angsty, in a fantasy setting with demons, angels etc., the clue is - they are kind of right. Okay, bringing the Great Old Ones to the world is not a good idea, but the aforementioned point has been a central and very effective theme in my last campaign: In the words of one of my favorite metal bands: "If my soul could revive from my carnal remains, what does it matter to me? If it all fades to black and I'm born once again, then no one really is free."



A pyramid structure that mirrors their inverted ziggurat ritualistic place is detailed alongside the current headquarters and initiation into the cult - particular mention deserves that WE ACTUALLY GET THE OATH the initiates recite. See, *this* is exactly what makes a cult come to life, what makes it more than just a collection of cultists.



The pdf also sports unique magical items, namely the Belt of the Great Old Ones that not only bestows ooze-like immunities and a miss chance on the wearer, but also allows you to squeeze through tight spaces - and make foes rue the day they tried to see through your miss-chance... On a nitpicky side, the item has a minor italicization glitch. The second item would be the Lamprey Sleeves. In the lower sections of aforementioned ziggurat is a vat, wherein lamprey await - upon plunging your arm inside, the lampreys devour the arm and magically turn into a disturbing facsimile of the arm, returning to their original disgusting form only upon activation, acting as a buckler and allowing for the wearer's choice of either vampiric touch or touch of madness 3/day, though again, with minor italicization glitches.



The pdf closes with adventure hooks.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, apart from some minor italicization glitches, I noticed nothing severe. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is thematically fitting.



Jeffrey Swank's Final Phase has been an odd pdf for me to review. This began, to be honest, with me not being particularly excited - yet another nihilistic cult? Yawn. Only slowly did the themes and leitmotifs of self-determination emerge and lend an actual identity to the cult herein. The sample oath provided in particular made me wish this pdf sported more fluff like that, for it is here that the pdf shines -at this point, I expected this to be pretty much in the mediocre/good range. Then the items hit and hit hard - they are unique, strange and downright creepy, adding an element of body horror to the philosophical underpinning of the cult, blending a strange mix of psychological and body horror with the utterly creepy premise of elitism and "good intentions for the enlightened" to form an amalgam that is something I did not expect this pdf to deliver - something genuinely creepy.



Now granted, not all components of the organization hit home perfectly, but the blending of themes makes this work better than I honestly expected, rendering the cult a fun, inexpensive addition to one's game, mainly hampered by the brevity of the format - with a couple of additional pages to showcase ideology and rituals in more detail, this could have been top-tier awesome. As provided, it is a compelling secret society just short of true excellence and thus well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies of Vathak: The Final Phase
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Mythic Minis 51: Metamagic Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2015 10:24:14
An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal - 4 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages content, let's go!



-Burning Spell: Twice spell level damage on follow-up rounds; then + spell level damage for 1 round per 2 mythic tiers, min 1. +1/2 mythic tier feat-uses per day and the option to spontaneously make a spell burning via mythic power without preparing it beforehand, increasing casting time or spell level. Solid.



-Coaxing Spell: Affect mindless oozes and vermin as well as sentient creatures. You still can choose to affect only one type of adversary, providing a penalty to the target's will save. As minor nitpick, the minus herein is not properly displayed, though that does not impede the ability to understand it - btw., this glitch that displays a strike-through box instead of a minus extends to all instances where a minus should be in the pdf. Can be spontaneously added via mythic power akin to Burning Spell. This extends to almost all of the feats herein, so no, I will not mention is for every one of them.



-Concussive Spell: Adds Ac-penalty to the insult of the feat and makes target risk falling prone, with standing up being not as simple as usual -standing up may see you falling back prone. Nice one.



-Consecrate Spell: Spell level consecrate added; creatures targeted count as consecrated. Very interesting, not necessarily on a hard number basis, but on a narrative basis. I like it!

-Echoing Spell: Now we're talking - get the full spell as a1/day at-will SP. Can be spontaneously added via mythic power akin to Burning Spell. This is simple, yet awesome and manages to get even the focus-requirement right. Love it!



-Flaring Spell: Add blind and dazzle to the spell. Solid.



-Jinxed Spell: Jinx up to 1/2 mythic tier creatures with jinxed spells. Additionally, a creature that makes its save can be targeted by your halfling jinx, with a normal save. Nice one!



-Piercing Spell: Treat SR as 5 plus mythic tier for non-mythic opponents or 5 + 1/2 mythic tier for mythic foes lower when targeting with a Piercing Spell.



-Rime Spell: Add temporary fatigue to the entangle effect. Can be spontaneously added via mythic power akin to Burning Spell. Neat.



-Seeking Spell: Use this in conjunction with ranged attacks or ranged touch attacks or with Ref-save allowing spells, ignoring cover-bonuses. This one allows for some fun tricks - nice!



-Shadow Grasp: Add dazzle to the entangle condition. Shrouded creatures gain concealment against foes more than 5 ft away (10 ft. for creatures with low-light vision, no effect versus darkvision). Okay, I guess - the feat's secondary effects have some potential when used in conjunction with Stealth/shadow-characters.

-Tenebrous Spell: + mythic tier to concentration checks made to cast the Tenebrous Spell in bright light. Attempts to dispel such a spell only get a bonus of +2, while you conversely increase CL and save DC by +2 for you when casting it in darkness or shadows and penalize dispel checks by 4 in such areas. The feat does reference Umbral Spell instead of Tenebrous Spell once in a harmless cut-copy-paste-glitch.

-Thanatopic Spell: Attempt caster level checks to temporarily suppress death effects, negative levels, negative energy or energy drain, potentially suppressing the effect. With mythic power, you can,a s a swift action, affect more than one creature.



-Threatening Illusion: Select any number of 5-foot squares within a figment you create, making the squares count as threatening regarding flanking etc. The feat gets combat maneuvers et al. and interaction right and the balancing via spell instead of feat is downright genius. One of my favorites herein.



-Threnodic Spell: Affect living and undead at the same time or penalize one type's will-saves for a number of rounds - essentially a copy of Coaxing Spell in that regard, though you may not choose the living.



-Toppling Spell: +1/2 mythic tier, min. 1 to CMB to trip creatures. Unique and awesome - add +2 to checks to topple targets adjacent to a target you've toppled, including stacking and getting the complex rules-language here right. One of my favorites - awesome!



-Umbral Spell: The target radiates deeper darkness (with a special caveat for cantrips). Unique and elegant.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, only the aforementioned cut copy paste error and the strange minus-layout-glitch. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Jason Nelson's Metamagic feats were a surprise to me - while I expected the mythic power to cast spontaneously angle employed by most of them and while I get certain analogues among the respective feats, I did not expect to actually enjoy some of these feats - there are quite a few examples that go beyond what one would expect, providing some unique tactical options. While not perfect, this is still a very good pdf, well worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a tiny margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 51: Metamagic Feats
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Akashic Mysteries: Guru
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:17:37
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Michael Sayre's Incarnum-style series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Depicted herein would be the Guru-base-class, who gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made - more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested + wis-mod. Essence investment into prepared veils can be reallocated as a swift action.



I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch - if a guru invests one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + wis-mod bonus, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC's path. What's also pretty odd - per essence invested, the ability deals +1d4 nonlethal damage. Now the issue is - does this stack with the wis-mod bonus damage? If so, then this is pretty much a very powerful damage boost, perhaps beyond what one would expect. Also: Does the first, unlocking point of essence invested add the +1d4 as well or just the wis-mod? The double increase to damage makes me think that the wis-mod perhaps was supposed to replace Str or Dex for the purpose of BAB-calculation? Be that as it may, while not broken, this ability could use some clarification. Beyond this, I also believe that the ability perhaps could use an exclusion-clause for shuriken and the like - since the damage applies to everything, combining that with shuriken and/or multiclass'd flurries of stars...OUCH.



1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power - you can't write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks - the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.



The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack - this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs - imho, this one should be nerfed to at least +1 per essence. You don't need me to make the math for unbeatable DCs. The negative condition lasts for wis-mod rounds (odd, seeing how the DC is essence-based - why not also increase durations here?) and scales up over the levels.



7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence invested, though essence invested in the limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of foes that are immune to nonlethal damage. 16th level provides, apart from a lack of bolding of the ability name, the option to expend stunning fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes - cool and surprisingly powerful!



Now I mentioned philosophies - a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon proficiencies the first of which would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities. Alternatively, these points can be used to execute as a veil of positive energy. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible, as is shooting rays - which deal an untyped damage AND lack information on their range. Both should be rectified. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light - it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability.



The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds- "After all, the guru can always conjure forth light and meditate for temporary essence points...blablaba" - you get the rationale: Burning temporary essence at 16th level would grant up to +40 to damage for one attack. Now this *looks* much worse than it is in game - meditating this one back would require 8 minutes, so no spamming AND it is a significant expenditure. See, that's why I playtest these classes - this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers.



The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic - it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp - interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I'm still not 100% sold here - though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this - limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement (lacking italicization) and some minor non-standard wording - inescapable unarmed attacks (powered by essence + grab quality...) and AoE unarmed attacks are cool, though the most powerful ability here lacks a duration for the paralyze effect -and if it's supposed to be permanent...ouch. Even at level 19 nasty.



The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater's tanky playstyle - using essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or duplicate spells (lacking italicization) as well as getting back up quickly. 10th level nets breath of life and is solid. The base ability allows for debuffs of foes that target creatures that are not the vayist, essentially making him a solid kiter - why? Because not including the vayist in attacks allows for them to regain essence burn - which works perfectly considering the emphasis on movement and flexibility - for players that enjoy flexibility and movement superiority, this one is fun indeed. It's also the most refined philosophy in that it imho has the least minor hiccups.



The pdf, obviously, also sports a significant array of feats, some of which you will probably know from the vizier's pdf - that is, obvious gestalting functionality is still maintained in the tradition of incarnum, surpassing the options of this system by quite a bit. Now some feats imho could be a tad bit more refined - when untyped energy damage (against which no DR or resistance helps) can be added to attacks, that's nasty. Increased maneuver-bonuses AND better damage outputs in conjunction with Piranha Strikes and Power Attack are pretty strong, though that is balanced by requiring, obviously, essence-investment. Enhanced Veil Capacity, still proved to be pretty much a no-brainer in my playtests. Life Bond proved to be somewhat problematic for akasin gurus - why? Because it lets you take damage and heal allies - since the akasin can heal himself indefinitely as long as he has time and access to light, we're seeing an infinite healing option for the group here and one that can break in-game logic pretty hard - can you see the nightmarish visions of guru-healing-batteries beyond the front-lines of the evil empire? I can. Damn. That imagery is actually cool. Still, I think there needs to be some limitations implemented here. This problem also extend to the Martyr's Toga veil, btw., though that one's wording makes me believe it was supposed to have a daily limit of uses akin to other healing veils.



Dual binding of veils is also possible and offers yet another tactical option. Essence of the Immortal provides 2 x essence pool bonus hp and counts as toughness - a pretty blatant power-escalation even without the additional essence granted by feats et al. - this can easily upgrade your hit points by ~50 for non-optimized builds. While fitting the theme of specific builds, I still consider this in need of a gentle whack with the nerfbat - or a different scaling mechanism that is not based on total essence. Perhaps grant a base hp-bonus and allow for essence burn to temporarily increase that?



The veils presented obviously have some overlap with those of the vizier, but are not limited to those already known from the first pdf - there are quite a few cool exclusives here! One theme you'll note is movement - from air walking to increased movement rates make sense - though the latter's lack of bonus type means it'll allow for a nasty combination of speed-types you usually don't see - with items and spells, you can get problematic speeds here. The Stalker's Tabi is a pretty nasty beast - unlimited short range teleportation and hide while being observed/in plain sight is slightly earlier than usual - 6th level, when usually HiPS is relegated to 7th or 9th level - perhaps include a level-based scaling mechanism here? The Eyes of the Hawkguard can be bound first as see invisibility, later even as true seeing - constant! And yes, this one gets the balancing right! Fluid partial conversion of energy damage taken to one favored by the guru is also an option provided by veils - one that can be considered an unique take. It should also be noted that some of these veils actually do interact in rather cool and unique ways with class abilities, including psionic abilities - providing further combo options and screws to tinker with.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can still be considered good, though I noticed quite a few instances of missing bolding, italicization glitches and the like on a formal level. Michael Sayre's rules-language is pretty concise and more refined than in the vizier, with a more concise terminology - on a nitpicky side, establishing one type of wording for essence burn vs. burn essence would make the pdf more concise still. The pdf comes in two versions, one in gorgeous 2-column full-color layout and one more printer-friendly version. The artworks are a combination of original pieces and stock art. Strangely, my full-color version had no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.



All the positive things I've said about akashic classes in my review of the vizier still hold true, so if you want to read about me rambling over the superiority of the system over incarnum, take a look at that review - it still holds true here.



I adore the akashic classes I've read so far - the classes are ALL about player agenda - there are so many options to choose, screws to tinker with, math to run - the flexibility of the classes and fully functional gestalting options are exceedingly versatile and utterly fun. They are also a nightmare to review, but that's beside the point - most classes I LOVE tend to fit that criteria. The guru's rewarding of nonlethal damage, of actually not being a murder hobo, is something that resonates deeply with my convictions of what it means to be good, so thematically, I ultimately ended up loving this class.



That being said, as much as I'd like to praise this in the highest tones, there are some instances where the wording still needs some refinement, some rough edges that need to be sanded off. If my review above seemed nitpicky, then mainly because I so want the final book to be perfect. One surprise of this pdf, at least to me, was that the guru, on paper, looked essentially broken, with many knee-jerk-reaction inducing choices that mellowed out when doing the math/actually playing the class. The grand potential of problems can be seen in Life Bond - the feat itself isn't that strong, but as soon as it allows for infinite healing (which it didn't for the vizier), one can see one tiny oversight in the rules-language that radiates outwards - this needs a daily activation cap akin to similar options to maintain functionality with the akasin - and to future-proof the system to prevent ample future abuse.



So how to rate this? I love Michael Sayre's akashic classes and can't wait for the final book, but with the rough edges still in here, I can't go higher than a final verdict of 4 stars for now - with the explicit note that this very much resonates with me - I am stoked to see the final book - it may be one for the EZG-Essentials-list if Dreamscarred Press can get rid of the rough patches!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Guru
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#30 Magic Tools (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:15:46
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, know what pretty much I don't get? In all those high magic magocracies and settings, why are there no actual tools, you know, everyday-useful magic items to make life more convenient? I mean, literature is full of wizards using convenient items to render life more comfortable for themselves and in a setting where the crafting of deadly, costly magical weapons, it is only sensible that some of the funds circulated would be used to actually improve the tools used to generate the respective tools, right?



Right - so here we are, new magic tools. All of them are masterwork per default, as the pdf notices and framed by an aptly-written, short piece of IC-prose, we dive right in: The Arcane Anthology, for example, opens itself on the correct page and politely positions itself in front of the reader, levitating and leaving his or her hands free. If that is not inspiring to you in and of itself, then the short piece of history provided for each item should exactly help in that regard. Now this is pretty much awesome, though, alas, not all items herein reach this level of coolness - take the Brass of Binding: It prevents the rider from being dismounted "no matter what happens." No matter how good the CMB, no matter the circumstance - unless the points of the maple-leaf brass are tapped. Alas, this does not specify what type of action tapping the maple leaf's points is. Oh, and cost: 1000 GP. For never being dismounted, ever. WUT? This sounds like it needs a hard whack with the nerf-bat or rather, a tighter wording: It is clear this should only prevent dismounting due to the rider's own failed checks - and yes, I am very much aware that this is supposed to be a tool for the Ride-skill only, but as written, it does look like it can be used otherwise AND it still fails to mention the action required for (de-)activation, alas a glitch I noticed a couple of times when the item's text (à la mental command) etc. provides no clear means of determining the activation action, though I do assume the standard action default for wondrous items. But I'm rambling about a nitpick, so onwards!



A spoon that can purify any poison from food 3/day and detect it 3/day as well is a cool item, though personally, I think I'd prefer the detecting and purification to be based on poison DCs, but I am aware that this is just a personal preference and won't hold it against the pdf. There also would be an enchanted chisel that can carve into wood on its own. A compass that can lead you to food, animals or locations pictured in your mind is nice, as are gloves that turn held items invisible. The Flawpicker item needs a scaling mechanism - picking out flaws from gems is fine with me - eliminating curses from cursed items, on the other hand, imho should have a scaling rate of success chances. I do like the sight-enhancing magical kohl. Mantles that help you avoid detection are nice, but what about shoons that 1/day create a platform mid-flight to push off, adding +10 ft. height and length to a jump? Yeah, awesome. Pins to improvise opening locks and helping with escaping manacles et al. also are a-ok with me. What about a patch that allows for quicker application of liquids?



There also would be slippers that allow caught thieves to generate an illusion of an animal darting away, providing an excuse for any noises created? Using a needle to animate cloths and the like to entangle foes? Cool! What about a babelfish-like translating butterfly? Nice!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a couple of typos, italicization glitches and the like. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks consist of thematically-fitting stock art.



Liz Smith's items are glorious on the one hand - they make sense and in many, many cases, they can be considered awesome in their flair - breathing the spirit of fairy-tales and feeling like actual MAGIC instead of an accumulation of numerical bonuses, the tools herein may not be 100% perfect, but they have more soul than many magic item books I've read. Yes, there are some minor ambiguities and yes, I pretty much prefer Scaling options over those that work as a default - but in the end, most of the gripes I could field apply mainly to my personal preference, which has never been a sufficient reason for me to rate a pdf down, leaving as valid gripes only the glitches and non-preference hiccups, which ultimately are offset by the sheer imaginative potential herein. It should be noted that the items herein fit perfectly as rare items in a low magic game, so yeah, versatility is accounted for.

Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4. 5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Magic Tools (PFRPG)
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Subterranean Enclave: Dilath's Hold
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:13:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As mentioned before, you can essentially consider this a pdf that depicts a settlement of the storied underdark, wherein the less than pleasant races roam. In this case, most people who come to the place do not want to be here. Why? Well, founded by an exiled drow noble, Dilath's Hold is not a nice place - it is a slave hub. That being said, the danger rate of 10 the village's statblock provides should net you a good idea that this is NOT a place to take shelter in. The marketplace's offerings do mirror the theme of the locale and, as always, we not only receive a beautiful pencil-drawn cartography, but also DCs of the village's lore and short notes on the nomenclature of the dominant cultures in the enclave, here that being drow and duergar.



It should be noted, though, that this is NOT simply a slaver's village with a hack filing off of the serial numbers - from houses of gigantic snail shells to labyrinths of caverns and webs, this place breathes the wonder that should, nay, must suffuse subterranean settlements. Have I mentioned the nasty druid (fully statted!) with an unhealthy obsession of experimentation with fungi etc.? Finally, as always, some rumors which may or may not be true and sample events add a certain amount of local color to the place.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly high-res maps via Raging Swan Press' patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.



Brian Wiborg Mønster's subterranean enclave could have very well been bland - when I read the premise of this one, I was less than excited about it - how many times have I seen the like? Well, I'm happy to report that, while I'm not 100% blown away by the concept, it is in the small details and power-dealings, in the unique sense of wonder conveyed, that this settlement manages to surpass what otherwise would have been a common premise and become something unique and worthwhile. Capturing the wonder of the underdark exceedingly well, the pdf does this component rather well. Then again, as a slaver's town, particularly as one so unique, I was missing the added spice - the unique drug used to ensure slave-compliance, the secret uprising in the making - some additional material would have definitely helped here. Now I am aware I am complaining at a very high level here, but still. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Dilath's Hold
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Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2015 03:38:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion to Purple Duck Games' great system of covenant magic clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We begin this pdf with a handy page of FAQ regarding some of the more peculiar questions of covenant magic that did not arise from issues, mind you, but rather from the system's admitted complexity. With a concise definition of occult spirits, the pdf does provide a nice list.



I do assume familiarity with covenant magic for this review, so in case you need an explanation of the concepts, I'll refer to my reviews of the original covenant magic pdf and its expansion.



We begin with a total of 6 new influences for mediums to choose from, with Dark Hedonism constituting the first and providing future-proof support for the Monsters of Porphyra II patreon project, though remaining perfectly functional without that - the focus here, obviously, lies on trickery and enchantment. The more benevolent Elysian Blessings influence provides a surprisingly diverse array of trance SPs that center around the theme of freedom, with covenants allowing for resilience and a focus on themes identified for azata.



Faith Slayers can be considered not only atheists - they are the true foes of the divine, engaging in pretty despicable acts with a theme of self-buffing and a latent Übermensch-style ideology suffusing the spell-like ability and covenant choices. I do consider this one slightly problematic in that it is codified straight as evil, with the capstone making this abundantly clear - while I realize that fanaticism never creates a helpful breeding ground, I have seen my fair share of religiously motivated hypocrisy and issues in real life - when taking this up to the n-th degree, one can easily construct cases in which direct and violent opposition towards deities in a magical setting does not need to be evil - imho, we have a lost chance for a shades of gray duality here, instead opting towards the general concepts espoused by the asura.



The Kyton Enlightenment on the other hand is more versatile than the oftentimes reductive depiction of kytons in mainstream PFRPG. Why? Because BDSM in most mainstream media, including PFRPG is codified as evil, as something to revile, as something inherently sinister - and I *get* why. That being said, I have always considered this to be a pretty much massive flaw, an undue reduction of a variety of compelling concepts - the self-flogging martyr achieving spiritual ecstasy through pain, the yogi - one can field ample examples wherein the concept of enlightenment through pain need not be connoted with evil and thankfully, the kyton enlightenment influence, while retaining the somewhat sinister theme of kytons is not coded as evil - nice!



Guardians of the fallen can elect to choose the new Sacred Duty enlightenment, associated thematically with psychopomps and thus can be pictured as slayers of undead, with a hex-like cap on the otherwise extremely powerful harm-only heal Spell-like ability. But all of these pale in awesomeness when compared to the qlippothic redeemer: Know how most qlippoths try to end all life yaddayaddayadda? Well, these guys are more constructive! The souls of chaotic evil beings flood the abyss and generate demons, right? So how can the qlippoths stem the tide, hope to regain their supremacy? Well, what about converting those pesky psychos and leading them on a path of redemption? I.e. doing the right thing for the most wrong reason possible? This enlightenment is GLORIOUS -related to an evil outsider race, it is predisposed to work well for good and neutral characters, mirroring in SP and trance covenant selection a theme of redemption and kindness. The roleplaying potential of these guys is VAST and the great full color artwork of one of them is ncie to see as well.



The Technophobe archetype is great for everyone using the Technology Guide, poaching in remove radioactivity and similar tricks - essentially, these guys can be considered the anti-technology mediums - solid!



We also get a diverse array of new covenants, ranging from least to superior - from magical khopeshs to strikes that temporarily neuter the ability to cast divine magic (with a hex-like 1/ 24 hours-balancing caveat), grant yourself regeneration (with means to offset it) or a stun-inducing gaze attack that also helps you take down those pesky demons. All in all, the respective places in which they're gained make sense, with superior covenants providing massive benefits, with least covenants provide nice imagery and solid low level options.



The pdf also provides statblocks - a medium 4/ranger 1, an animist druid, a tiefling, dwarf and green hag medium, even a tengu and a high-level CR 17 foe. The pdf closes with 3 minor pieces of errata for its predecessor file - which imho should have been updated in that file instead of featured in this pdf.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues. layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly 2-column standard with a nice page of full-color artwork featured as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Julian Neale is one of the designers that deserves more attention than he gets - his designs tend to be not too flashy, that is true. But they have a very humble elegance in many instances and this is no different. Oh well, wait, it is - actually, here, Julian has went all out - the concepts as presented herein began pretty solid, if unremarkable and then, BAM, the qlippothic redeemer. This influence alone is worth the asking price for the vast myriad of narratives one can weave from the theme - I can literally sketch a whole campaign based on the concept introduced herein. Yes, this is awesome. The solid technology-related archetype is a nice bonus and the covenants provided are diverse as well. While I am not a fan of all design-decisions herein, with especially the amount of apotheosis-capstones boring me at this point, this does boil down to personal preference more than any true and valid gripe I could field against this pdf. In the end, this is an inspired expansion and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
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Cutthroats and Crew
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2015 03:35:01
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure path plug-in for any pirate-themed campaign/module clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So the first question you may have is: What does distinguish this from Legendary Games' Pirate Codex? The answer is pretty simple - the Pirate Codex is all about sample NPCs/statblocks - this book is about NPCs with an emphasis on the "C," i.e. the character component. Beyond that, this is pretty much a collection of NPCs that will prove a godsend to especially groups with less participating players - the collection of NPCs herein covers the roles that some of your players potentially don't want to cover: No motivation to cover the siege engines? Hire the feisty dwarven maid Jenna Ironflame, one of the last scions of the elite dwarven clan and you'll see how deadly siege weapons can be! Need a capable first mate? Lachlan Chardet, a fighter (cad)/rogue (pirate, scout) is not only an interesting build with both multiclassing and extensive templating, he's also more than up to the task! Need a ship's mage? What about Mayjen, the crossblooded gnome sorceror? Or do you need a good lookout? A total of +12 in Perception for a 4th level fighter/oracle multiclass is certainly efficient and up to the task.



Perhaps you are looking for some diversity - so what about adding a tengu cleric (separatist) as the ship's surgeon with Rukaia? A great sea-singer bard to keep up the morale, a changeling druid as the ship's mate or a bard (buccaneer)/fighter (weapon master) captain as well as a rogue (swashbuckler) carpenter and a half-orc boatswain (ranger with the freebooter archetype) all are in here, each NPC sporting a compelling little background story - obviously potentially also making for an alternate crew to pit against the PCs, should you choose to - of course, you could also use these NPCs as cohorts for higher level NPCs to take the naval combat completely out of their hands regarding the rolls.



Now, so far I've covered the "crew" aspect, but that would only be the first part of this pdf - the second covers the cutthroats and, if the moniker wasn't ample clue, these guys and gals are not to be trifled with -an array of dangerous villains, if you will. First among these nefarious beings would be an oracle that comes fully detailed with a nasty grimoire of dark magics, including preparation rituals and read-aloud text depicting it. Oh, have I mentioned the nice synergy with the Islands of Plunder-series?



Fans of Razor Coast especially will definitely appreciate the hobgoblin barbarian wereshark (scarred rager) and his megalodon mount as well as his wereshark henchmen riding hammerheads -all fully statted, mind you. And jup, wereshark shaman? Covered. Here I was thinking I'd one day get tired of weresharks. No, still awesome - especially when riding HAMMERHEAD SHARKS AND MEGALODONS. Come on, you have to love this! And yes, I will use one template or another to make the sharks shoot lasers from their eyes. Why? Because I can.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard for Skull and Shackles plug-ins and the pdf comes with an array of artworks, some of them new, some reused from previous LG books. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with the good type of hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com for the more complex/unusual of rules.



Matt Goodall and Jason Nelson deliver big time - I absolutely adore this cool NPC collection -while specialized and unique, nothing keeps you from using the NPCs herein as templates for characters to use in your game. The nice thing about them, though, would be that they feel right - while optimized to a certain extent to fit their tasks, the NPCs herein do sport those nice, small tidbits that usually only develop from the quirks of players - you know, the hyper-optimized character who has a couple of ranks in Craft (glassblowing) - while the characters herein obviously aren't that on the min-maxy side, this extreme example should illustrate what I'm trying to get at - the characters feel organic and the level of detail provided is ultimately nice, fun and captivating. My one gripe with this pdf is that, personally, I would have loved one pdf for crew members, one for cutthroats - more villains, more crewmembers. As provided, I felt myself wishing there were more adversaries, more of these well-crafted crew-members to choose from - though, obviously, clamoring for more is a pretty good sign in my book.

Ultimately, this pdf delivers all it promises and more - and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cutthroats and Crew
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Path of the Genius
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2015 04:17:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' mythic paths-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 3 pages advertisements, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of raw content detailing this new mythic path, so let's take a look, shall we?



Much like the previous installment in the series detailing the path of the stranger, we have a mythic path here that is intended for PC-use, so let's take a look at the genius. Framework-wise, we receive 3 Hp per tier and at 1st tier, we get a so-called genius idea, which is selected from 3 options: Brilliant Distraction allows you to expend mythic power to execute a melee or ranged attack as a swift action against a target within 30 ft, using Int in lieu of Str or Dex for purposes of atk and damage. If your attack hits, adjacent allies may execute a n AoO versus the target with your Int-mod as bonus. Also as a swift action, deadly throw allows you to use mythic power to draw and throw a weapon or bomb, rolling twice, taking the better result and adding tier to damage. Finally, immediate action rerolls allow allies (and only allies!) to reroll failed saves, using your Int as governing attribute for the save's base instead of Con, Dex or Wis.



Each level nets a path ability, with 1st tier abilities, but there is one more peculiarity of this path - a number of abilities herein require tinker supplies, which cost 1d6 gp times the HD the ability is used on, doubling cost for 3rd tier abilities, multiplying cost by 5 for 6th tier abilities. These costs may be halved via the expenditure of mythic power and a lab or town is sufficient to refresh the supplies, with weight being akin to gold, which is, btw., defined as 50 gp = 1 lbs. in a rule most players are unaware of - so kudos for including the info!



The path abilities themselves are quite diverse - while using Int instead of Cha for purposes of Bluff or Intimidate may sound boring, adding the fascinated condition to demoralize's array is interesting, especially since you can actually make the target subsequently reveal information via Bluff. of course, gaining the other genius ideas can also be accomplished via path abilities, akin to how the stranger handled that. Eliminating AoOs from imbibing (or drinking them faster via mythic power) and skill rerolls powered by mythic power work pretty well, though I'm not a big fan of analytical eye's metagaming returning once again. Providing numerical escalation for investigators inspiration class features and talents and better crafting would fall into the range of the expected. The Bulletproof power that not only improves your AC versus bullets, arrows etc., it also potentially negates their devastating criticals.



I am also partial to a particularly cool idea - when you have access to a library, lab or the like, you can spend time there to gain a kind of virtual mythic surge specifically intended (and buffed) to solve Knowledge, Craft or Profession-checks - but beyond that, the ability also allows you to deduce whether the proposed solution to a puzzle or riddle would work, helping immensely. What about nonlethal electro shocks that may remove detrimental conditions from the targets? Adding numerical escalation and increased splash radius will find some adherents among alchemists, while mundane healing that duplicates cure light wounds and its follow-ups can be scavenged with its table for no/rare magic campaigns - just replace mythic power costs with another limited resource and there we go! Nice, especially since the follow-up ability at 3rd tier increases the usefulness further! Providing divination-like glimpses of the future or at-will hypnotism are also covered. Brads will certainly enjoy the fact that bardic performance-related feats and class abilities can be applied to bardic performances and rangers/rogues et al. will enjoy a similar upgrade for trapfinding traps and ranger traps. Particularly useful should be the option to dabble in other paths akin to the trickster.



Pretty nice - as a shout-out to NeoExodus' popular machinesmith-class, mythic discoveries covers the tricks of this class alongside alchemist and wizard discoveries. Limited application of both Int and Wis to ability or skill checks or will-saves may not be my favorite application, but at least, the ability has a limit that prevents a constant numerical escalation. Using alchemy in lieu of Heal and making alchemical remedies should also be explicitly mentioned - including options to improve conjuration (healing) spells or extracts via mythic power, rendering them mythic, though here, the wording could have been a tiny bit smoother.



Upgrading implants that grant message, sending and later telepathic bond, with more mythic power allowing for even better links and an upgrading spy drone acts a similar duplicate of spells, with the obvious difference of being themed around concepts à la prying eyes, later even allowing you to cast spells through it. Negating misfires and support for the rules of the Technology Guide is also nice to see. Fans of the stranger may also recognize the exotic weapon-adaption ability I particularly liked there.



The 3rd tier abilities include making primitive firearms behave as advanced firearms, including additional options to enhance them via mythic power, making clockwork constructs and animating objects (again, with a scaling) and sabotage of equipment at a mere touch - all pretty cool. What about making dominate drones via implants? Yeah, cool! PCs annoyed by villains having cool escape plans (which are glorious) may enjoy receiving access to this ability as well, while fleshwarping potions cater to the mad scientist-fan-crowd.



I also enjoy "One Step Ahead", which allows you to spend mythic power to execute abilities which can counter that of your adversaries as an immediate action, allowing you to smirk and counter all those nice combos your enemies have planned for you.



6th tier provides the ability to temporarily clone non-limited class abilities of your allies and expanding the durations of elixirs et al. to a day is pretty massive. Want to go Frankenstein? Well, there would be an option for that via specialization of making Mythic Constructs. What about infecting foes with a nanite virus that kills them and turns them into zombies under your command? Yes, that one is awesome, though I personally would have preferred a unique template for nanite zombies (who become constructs and are treated as either regular or fast zombies). Fans of the technology guide will definitely like the ability that lets you convert magic items into technological items. As a capstone 10th tier ability, the genius may roll twice on all Int and Wis-based checks, skill-checks and initiative, taking the better result. For one mythic power, you are treated as having rolled a 20 and any surge-dice used are automatically maximized and sufficient knowledge versus creatures allows you a free cunning bane ability to add to ALL attacks you execute, while also increasing any DCs.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect, I noticed no glitches apart from a box where a minus should be - cosmetic, really. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with copious amounts of full-color artwork, including some gorgeous 1-page pictures, though you may know some from previous LG-supplements. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Jason Nelson's Genius is a fun mythic path that provides an interesting array of options and cutting-edge awareness of other rules and subsystems, which is indeed nice to see. The path itself is well-crafted and versatile, though I wasn't blown away by the resurgence of the metagamey analytical eye-based abilities. Still don't like those. This path also has some overlap with the stranger and while that is only fitting, I caught myself being slightly less blown away here - the design here feels a bit more conventional, with slightly more escalation abilities - that, though, remains me being a nagging, spoiled reviewer. Ultimately, this is a cool path and fun, though one that remains slightly less (subjectively, and for me) awesome than its stranger-brethren. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal.



Now let the discussion begin - is Batman a Genius or a Stranger? ;)

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of the Genius
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Search for Lost Legacy 3: By Shadow's Grasp
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2015 04:16:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Search for Lost Legacy adventure arc clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 50 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great!

So, at the end of the module, the PCs began traversing an underground river towards the third level of the dungeon and thus, this module kicks off with an encounter of a duergar expedition force, including full stats for a vessel, the Ironkeel. Alas, nothing is doen with the vessel. No vehicular combat - a missed chance. Once victorious, the PCs will find evidence that bespeaks of duergar trying to loot the complex ahead - they are not alone here. While I get why this choice was made from a dramaturgical perspective, it does somewhat dilute, at least to me, what made I and II so captivating - the sense of dilapidation and abandonment that suffused the complex, a feeling of isolation and shattered dreams.



At the same time, though, the complex manages to retain its believability to a laudable extent - that s, one can still see the themes that rendered the series compelling so far being represented within these pages. What am I trying to say by this? While the focus herein pertains more crucial rooms of Vargon's former complex, the respective rooms still feature an intriguing array of details of their former functionality. The defense-mechanisms and passwords that the PCs can unearth, as a whole, do provide a sense of realistic cohesion - the defense-mechanisms and checks provided makes surprising sense, even when referring to the unique fiendish minotaur herein.



The motifs of mephits and unobtrusive riddles still can be found within these pages, though one that refers to the initial letters of a rhyme imho requires more careful specification to be fair - as written, the players imho will have a very hard time guessing the intended solution. At the same time, this module does sport one "puzzle" that is downright awesome: There is a very strong xorn in here, who challenges PCs to a Tic-Tac-Toe variant, where the candidates put one hand on their head and then draw via the remaining hand(s) - i.e. one for PCs, two for the xorn, resulting in two xorn moves for any PC. And yes, this can allow the PCs to distract the guardian and plunder to their heart's content - just make sure, the creature is occupied by its "fair winning streak"...



Beyond the remnants of Vargon's forces, this level also constitutes a means for the PCs to meet their dangerous opposition - Tanrik and his henchmen have also infiltrated this level, providing additional opposition and, in Tanrik's case, the prime antagonist and boss of this level -his background story and the legend of the perished emerald band are recounted among the appendices and again, we have nice full-color maps including player-friendly versions provided.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - both on a formal and rules-level, there are quite a few minor glitches that plague the writing and constitute a detrimental factor in the details. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with neat artworks and cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



I have noted in the second installment a strange fluctuation in writing quality and ultimately, this very much extends to this installment, but in a rather significantly exacerbated form - when e.g. alchemical potions can create expeditious phase I have NO IDEA what that is supposed to mean. As much as I love the use of diaries etc. to foreshadow the things to come and fill in the blanks of the story, sentences à la "He states that he has attained just enough spell power now to bring the magical barrier." [sic!] eject me straight from the level of immersion attained by the indirect story-telling. This does extend to magical item treasures, where a price modification could be in addition or as part of a piece of jewelry's price - small glitches like this, while certainly not hampering the GM to the extent as to make this problematic, ultimately constitute my main issue with this installment in the arc.



This is by no means bad, mind you, and it inherits the logic and feeling of realistic exploration as well as the series' proclivity for indirect storytelling. At the same time, John R. Davis' writing is less refined herein, with quite a few small issues, more so than in the previous installments. It should also be noted, that, while this does refer to 3.X in a couple of instances, no rules for this system are provided - this is very much a PFRPG-only module, not one of AAW Games' earlier dual-stat modules.



Over all, this installment proved to be less refined both as a reading experience and in actual gameplay - my experience did show that, while this can be the most challenging of modules in the series so far, it also runs slightly less smooth than part I and II. When I'm also taking aforementioned, partially content-influencing glitches into account, I can't unfortunately settle on a final verdict higher than 3.5 stars, though I will round up by a teeny tiny margin for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Search for Lost Legacy 3: By Shadow's Grasp
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Psionics Augmented: Wilders
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2015 06:47:30
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This pdf begins with a short introduction of the wilder class and a contemplation of its themes before diving right into the two new archetypes herein, the first of which would be the surging muse.



The surging muse is all about the Surging Aura-feat, granting such an aura even if the archetype does not have the feat or otherwise expands the range of it. More importantly, though, would be the fact that allies within the aura receive an insight bonus to damage equal to the surge's intensity. Surge blast is replaced with a very powerful ability - at the cost of expending psionic focus, the surging muse can add + her Cha-mod as force damage to all melee and ranged attacks of her allies within her aura and at 2nd level, the allies within the aura also receive a +1 dodge bonus to AC, which increases by +1 every 4 levels thereafter. I really enjoy the concept and generally, execution of this support archetype - the buffing capabilities are cool and the archetype is solidly written. That being said, the stacking of massive bonus damage to attack for all allies can very quickly escalate - badly. A wilder of 1st level can expend her psionic focus for AoE + 4 force damage, +1 for wild surge; that's AoE +5 to atk and damage at first level - presuming "only" a Cha-mod of 18. I've playtested this ability and it makes a meatgrinder out of any halfway decent adventuring group - +5 to damage at first level for all allies with 15 ft. may not seem like much, but try it in-game and you'll know what I mean. Additionally, I'm not that big a fan of force damage at first level, though here at least, the ability allows other PCs excel in the otherwise frustrating cliché shadow-boss fight that is sported in so many 1st level modules. One more thing - this ability makes dipping in the archetype much too good and resource-balancing wise, force damage is usually a limited resource for casters, not a semi-unlimited one, much less one available in this quantity. All in all, an archetype I really enjoy and one only a different, better balanced scaling mechanism (for said force damage) and some finetuning away from being really neat!



The second archetype herein would be a complex one, namely the voidheart. Not drawing upon emotion per se, but rather a sense of nihilistic emptiness, her surges actually decrease the manifester level of the surged power, but also decrease the level of means of dispelling powers and spells by such an amount. Effectively, this makes the surged powers less boomy, but also impedes means of actually eliminating them. And yes, this does get the complex wording required right. Voidhearts do not suffer from psychic enervation and receive immunity to energy drain in lieu of surge bond. More interesting would be the replacement of surge blast - by emitting a roar, a voidheart can affect a creature within medium range -on a failed save, this ability prevents any form of healing for Cha-mod rounds. I really, really, really love this ability - I've been experimenting with the like in my home-game and it adds an interesting dimension to combat. Now personally, I would have very much preferred an explicit statement regarding fast healing and regeneration, but since that is kind of subsumed under "healing of any variety", I won't hold that against the archetype. Further immunities centered on negative emotions and the theme of death and a surging euphoria complement this archetype further with a theme of an emotional vampire. The capstone allows for a 1/day-limited super surge at -10 ML that causes negative levels and power point loss. I adore this archetype. It completely changes playing experience, does not shirk from complex concepts and has style galore. Kudos!



Next up would be the first 5-level PrC, the cross-discipline master, who gets 3/4 BAB-progression, medium will-saves, d8, 5/6 manifesting progression, d8 and 4+Int skills per level. Yes, this PrC covers 6 levels, not the usual 5 or 10. As befitting of the name, at 1st level and every level thereafter, this PrC nets the character 1 power from a discipline chosen - even if it is not on the character's list. This gets multiple list-caveats right, btw. Additionally, the manifester level of the PrC for that discipline increases by a further +1. Conversely, it is this last component of which I am not a fan - Apart from 1 level, all levels net manifester level progression. This ability is supposed to broaden the options of the wilder, but, if you choose to, you can focus on one discipline, stacking up +6 ML for this discipline in addition to those granted by regular PrC-progression. Taking a look at the chassis of the PrC, I am pretty sure this is intended to offset the one progression-less level for the chosen discipline - so yeah, a slightly more precise wording to prevent a reading that allows for single discipline ML-stacking would be in order here.



3rd level nets 3/day swift action wild surges to temporarily learn a new power from a selected discipline for minutes equal to the wild surge's intensity, i.e. the plus-bonus. This is interesting since the PrC does not explicitly grant surging progression, making this a limited wildcard trick that broadens the very limited focus of the wilder without being broken. 5th level nets a decrease of all power point costs by 1, to a minimum of 1. 6th level nets an ability which hits one of my pet-peeves - you choose a metapsionic feat and can use it to manifest a power sans expending your psionic focus - 1/encounter. I do like the action economy and flexibility this grants, I really do...but why use a per-encounter-mechanic? Why not simply go with a cool-down based on actual in-game time?



The surge-adept gets d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-saves, 4/5th ML-progression and, surprise, is all about the surge. The surge adept decreases her psychic enervation chance by 5% (to a minimum of 1%) and stacks class levels for the purpose of surge progression. At 3rd level, the adept may invoke her wild surge as an immediate action whenever an ally within 30 ft. manifests a power, lending the surge's effects to said ally, while the surge adept still is the one risking enervation. As a capstone, the PrC can 1/day declare a surge a master surge, ignoring power resistance and energy resistance equal to the surge adept's ML and does not cause enervation. The nitpicky sucker in me assumes that the ML in question is the one modified by wild surge, not the non-surged ML, as per default, but I won't hold this minor ambiguity against the PrC.



The 3rd one would be the Volcanic Mind, which uses the same basic class-chassis as the surge adept. They also stack wild surge-progression...but increase their psychic enervation chance by 5% every round not suffering from it, up to a maximum of 80%. Instead of suffering from a condition gained through psychic enervation, this PrC may opt to take 1d6 Wis-damage instead. Whenever a volcanic mind suffers psychic enervation, hostile creatures within 30 ft. suffer manifester level damage and become sickened for manifester level rounds due to the psychic eruption. Here, I am honestly not sure whether the ML of the surge that prompted the enervation or whether the unmodified ML is the one you go with. 2nd level nets cleaving power, a new feat, sans increasing power point cost - this works like cleave for targeted powers, btw., at the cost of +4 power points. Higher levels also add the deafened condition. More importantly would be that suffering from such a power eruption essentially negate the distance-requirements between wilder and target - the victims are treated as in range for as long as the effect persists. This is kind of problematic - while it works well for non-targeted powers with ranges à la close, medium, long, etc., the ability does fall apart to some extent when faced with powers of a different range, mainly because they cease making sense: Cover and concealment apply still, but what if the target teleports away? The ability explicitly states that it only requires the targets to remain on the same plane - no line of sight or line of effect. Is attacking foes that teleported away handled as attacking a target while blind? What about powers with a range of personal or touch? Can touch-based powers be enhanced like this? If yes, that is very powerful and pretty much an invitation for some very nasty, broken combos. What about otherwise personal powers? I firmly believe that this ability requires some clarification - I *think* the intent is to mitigate the range-restrictions. If that is the case, I'd suggest allowing for ranged touch attacks to work with it (providing rules for creatures out of sight/how the ability interacts with line of sight/effect) and explicitly excluding regular touch and personal powers. The Vent Agony feat, which extends overchannel or psychic enervation to the 30-ft.-radius and may one hostile creatures with its effects, also gets an AoE-upgrade and as a capstone, the staggered condition is added to the collective debuffs these guys can heap on opponents.



If the above was not ample clue, yes, this pdf does sport an array of new feats specifically for the wilder. In this chapter, the new [Surge] feat descriptor is introduced, which requires wild surge as an activation and prompt psychic enervation-checks. Enduring Mind and its follow-ups can be seen as providing a cushion for mental ability damage/drain, reducing that by 2, but thankfully not allowing for abuse regarding abilities of the character powered by burning mental ability, with the follow-up feat allowing for the expenditure of the psionic focus for full-blown negation while also scaling the base cushion up by a further +2. Gaining temporary hit points via psionic focus with a daily limit and follow-ups that grant fast healing (with a cool-down - hallelujah!) can be found alongside those that net you an AC-bonus while focused.

Not all of these feats are this well-crafted, though - I am, for example NOT sold on using wild surge as a resource to heal damage to physical attributes equal to the surge's intensity - while not bad at mid to high levels, the low prereqs of this feat allow for pretty easy healing of attribute damage at lower levels, where it is supposed to be a powerful resource that cannot be easily negated. Mental Equilibrium is a feat that must die. It renders immune to the effects of psychic enervation, your own or others, apart from hit point or power point loss. This essentially takes away one crucial component of balancing the already pretty uncommon and somewhat wonky wild surge mechanics - and its effects are opaque - "You still suffer any other effects of psychic enervation." - so is one immune or not? Does this render the debuffing of the voidheart moot? If one assumes immunity, one cuts off a significant amount of the cool tricks of volcanic mind and voidheart in addition to the benefits for the wilder. Oh, and what about the extended target/range-abilities of the volcanic mind? Do they still work or not? This feat can btw. be taken at 1st level. It opens a can of worms of issues and imho is jeopardizing the intricately-linked abilities presented in this pdf. Well, there would be an option to make wilders superb counterspellers/manifesters, reducing the ML/CL of spells by wild surge's intensity, but increasing your chance of psychic enervation. Feats like this add much-needed breadth to the wilder's arsenal, but become infinite toolboxes once this loathsome Mental Equilibrium is introduced, it invalidates their drawbacks.



This is especially jarring since I do actually enjoy the design-style. Another feat would allow you to form a psionic collective that allows you to disperse the negative effects of psychic enervation to willing targets, providing concise rules for dividing damage incurred via Overchannel etc. and making for a much more compelling experience of teamplay - while also begging to have its cool idea expanded. Piercing energy and power resistance via a feat may be powerful, but seeing the wilder's limited power selection, it renders some otherwise bad choices more viable. So that one's fine with me as well. Another feat that needs to DIE is Psychic Celerity. Expend your psionic focus to move up to your movement rate as a swift action. No limits. Know what one of the most powerful low-level items is? Quickrunner's Shirt. It has a 1/day cap, sure, but ALL of my players try to get it as soon as possible. Any breaking of the action economy is a VERY strong benefit and this allows for the nigh constant breaking of it. Usually, the very few limited means of doing the like on a more flexible basis are relegated to beyond 10th level, usually capped in daily uses - and they are powerful then. With only 2 feats as a prereq, this one is terribly broken and needs some severe smacking with the nerf-bat. On the other hand, using wild surges to enhance mind blades is pretty cool, as is a reflexive damage to attempts at unwanted telepathic contact.



The new powers introduced here also sport a unique new rules-innovation - surge augmentations. These augmentations are only applied to a power when it is manifested as part of a wild surge. Getting a buffer versus physical attribute damage can for example be used via surges on other characters or to grant you DR/- equal to the surge's intensity. Yes, these augments provide the one thing the wilder severely lacked - breadth and versatility and in one case, once can choose from 4 regular and 1 surge augment - pretty cool, especially considering that the increasing costs of the regular augment provide an interesting scaling mechanism to keep the power relevant over the levels. Not all powers are perfect, though - there are some ambiguities. Take Fracture Pattern - it essentially forces a foe to take +50% damage from a damage type -you create a vulnerability and one that makes sense for the levels. However, the augment can also add UNTYPED damage. You know, the kind that has NO means of being negated. Worse, it is not clear whether this added damage effect is also negated as the primary effect of the power on a successful save - I assume so, yes, but clarification would be in order. EDIT: Since this has been questioned - yes, I am very much aware of "Save negates" usually also referring to the effects of augments, but when an augment provides a unique secondary effect, I consider a wording akin to how it's handled in pretty much every spell-write up that distinctly notes whether the effect is prtially or wholly mitigated in order. An aura of crystalline shards that can either provide some defenses or nasty damage to nearby targets, plus bleed damage on a failed save. While this aura only covers 10 ft., I do think it could require a nerf - why? Because 5d6 slashing damage sans save to halve or negate is pretty much a meatgrinder. I love this power's imagery and flexibility, but its balance imho is off - take a look at comparable effects of 4th level powers and you'll get what I mean - 5d6 + 2d6 bleed for 1/round per level, no save to mitigate 5d6 damage....that's capital letter level nasty. I do not object to the surge augment using offensive and defensive at once, but the offense does need a nerf.



AoE sonic damage emanations are cool, though the wording here has a minor hiccup - "For each additional power point you spend, this power's damage increases by one die (d4)" - This may not be ambiguous, but usually, one would go for a wording à la "increases by +1d4". The words "increase" and "die/dice" in combination usually denote an increase in die-size from d4 -> d6 -> d8, etc. - now this will not influence the final verdict, but I still considered it worthwhile to mention. And yes, I am aware that psionics have used this type of wording before. As mentioned, a nitpick. Spreading fear-based affects between targets is also a cool idea - I btw. also like that this one has different power point costs for dreads and psions/wilders, though here, the massive debuff the surge augment grants is pretty nasty. Sacrificing up to 1/2 of your hit points to also deal this amount of damage to a target, with only a will to negate the added sickened condition would be another power that needs a heavy whack with the nerf-bat. It's terribly broken - a) The damage incurred by the target is untyped. b) The target has no save to negate. c) The damage is extremely reliable. d) The damage can easily be healed. If you can't see how this is broken as hell, make a high Con-character and combine that with reliable healing. If that's not enough to drive home the point I'm making, instead use a monster with high HP and add this power - this outclasses all 3rd and 4th level powers in damage potential as the numbers go up. "But Endy, surely that's not so bad?" - My group's 7th level witch has more than 50 Hp. Were the character a psion, that would amount to 25 points of guaranteed damage per round, with healing the damage being within the paradigm of what his friggin' cohort is capable of delivering. Need a better example? Give that power to a dragon. This archmage enshrouded in immunities and x protective sorceries? Pff, drop 100 hit points and booyah, guaranteed kill, no means to mitigate and through the PR you can cleave. If the dragon has wilder levels and surges, you could use the surge augment to instead deal 200 points of damage! Yeah, not gonna happen anywhere near my game - this 2nd level power outclasses harm and must DIE.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - I noticed no significant glitches, though here and there some minor deviations from rules semantics have crept in. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It also sports some nice original full-color artworks and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.



The wilder is the one psionic class I considered not too compelling -all about power, at the cost of limited flexibility. While nice for min-maxers who are okay with a limited array of options, I never considered the class too compelling due to its lack of breadth. Jade Ripley does a stellar job at expanding the options at the wilder's fingertips and I adore many of the choices herein: I love the voidheart. The PrCs are quite cool and while not perfect, they actually do some damn cool things with the wild surge - they feel UNIQUE and offer different playing experiences. The Surge-feats and Surge-augments are AWESOME choices and I sincerely hope we'll see many, many more powers with surge augments in the future -adding player agenda to alleviate the one-trick-pony playing experience of the wilder is EXACTLY what this class needs! I love this pdf for all of this and the total absence of anything that even remotely resembles cookie-cutter design -this is complex, worthwhile, high-concept material.



At the same time, I can't fathom how some of the feats and powers EVER got past playtesting. The numbers don't add up for the respective levels and some feats are more powerful than 10th-level-plus class abilities - essentially, there are quite a bunch examples herein that are textbook-broken. I'd honestly bash this further, but at the same time, this pdf provides several choices I absolutely adore - to the point where I was contemplating a 4.5 star + seal rating before properly analyzing the feats and powers chapters. Alas, these issues are here - and they are significant. I sincerely urge DMs to carefully consider allowing some of the options herein at the table, but at the same time, I find myself incapable of not recommending this pdf - it makes the wilder infinitely more compelling and offers some design-innovations I really hope to see expanded in the future - Jade Ripley has, in a nutshell, made a class infinitely more compelling, but also broke balancing HARD in quite a few cases, making this, in spite of the inspired components, a mixed bag that oscillates between "OMG, how awesome is this?" and *Plinkett-voice*"What were they thinking?" /Plinkett voice.

Still, as much as I love much of the content herein, with glaring balance-issues like this, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform - I can still recommend this to any GM seeking to add actual identity to the wilder, though - just be sure you check this carefully and ban the living hell out of some components - what works herein in stellar material, after all.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Wilders
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