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Ultimate Commander
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2015 02:36:03
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive class-pdf clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 30 pages of pure content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Before we get into the details of the general class, let me explain some of the basic premises of this class. If you've been following my reviews *VERY* carefully, you may be aware of the fact that I consider the troop-subtype awesome - much like swarms, it makes the pitchfork-wielding mob a challenge and its level of abstraction enables venue of storytelling not well-supported by the default system. At the same point, I am a pretty big fan of the mass-combat rules introduced in Ultimate Campaign, superbly supported by Legendary Games' glorious plug-ins. Both have one thing in common - a disjoint of abstraction, one that is slightly exacerbated by mass combat.



Pathfinder's combat is detailed to the point where one may argue that the game turns into a kind of simulator once combat begins - it is probably as close to a simulator with a low level of abstraction as you can get without compromising the fluidity of the playing experience. At the same time, mass-combat rules provide a relatively high degree of abstraction. The general attempts to bridge the gap between the mass combat and regular combat rules. As a base chassis, the general is a class with d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, shields and light + medium armor as well as goo fort- and will-saves.



The basic means to achieve that would be the general's squad. A squad can be considered a somewhat abstract troop of individuals which doubles as a kind of pet-creature that defends the general. As such, an obviously slightly gamist level of abstraction is required to run the class, but one that makes sense - but can the base mechanics stand up to the premise? Gained at 1st level, a squad acts as an aggregate, is not subject to flanking or massive damage, but to sneak attack and massive damage and when reduced to 0 HP, it disbands. A squad counts as one creature for the purpose of skill-checks, attacks, initiative, etc. Squads initially occupy 3 squares, shapeable as the squad sees fit, with actual size category determined by the component creatures. One may move through their squares and the squad may move through occupied squares, but incurs AoOs when it does. Squads cannot be dragged, pushed, repositioned, tripped, grappled or bull-rush'd, except when the effect applies to an area. Squads grappling opponents do incur the grappled condition. Squads are immune to single target spells and require AoE-spells to be properly affected, though, thankfully, with the massive array of spells, the GM remains the final arbiter to whether an obscure spell affects the squad. Squads obviously take +50% damage from spells and effects that inflict AoE damage. Nonlethal damage is properly covered as well.



Whenever a squad disperses or takes damage that is not magically healed within 1 minute, calculate 1/4 of the damage as casualties. Casualty damage cannot be healed by natural healing, since it not only stems from injury and death, but also from loss of morale and desertion. A squad suffering from more than 1/4 of its HP as in casualties receives 1 negative level, though said level cannot kill squads, only impose the penalty- Squads that suffer more than 3/4 maximum HP in casualties are disbanded until the casualty damage can be repaired. Yes, this is pretty much in line with how such mechanics work when used in mass combat. In order to regain troops, generals have to journey to a given settlement to recruit new members. Handy DCs by settlement-size are provided and a squad has a relatively simple attack, though one that can be supplemented by a second attack or a shield. Squads can execute combat maneuvers, threaten squares and can execute AoOs as normal.



Squads increase their HD (D8) every level and have 3/4 BAB-progression, good ref-saves and begin play with1 feat, gaining +1 at 3rd level and then +1 every odd level thereafter. A squad gets good ref-saves and increases its armor bonus every level by +1. Squads also receive a scaling str/con-bonus that scales from +0 to +7 and increase the numbers over the levels of up to 12-18 soldiers, occupying increasing amounts of squares, up to 6 squares. Squads also have their own skill-list and get 2+Int skills per level. Squads can make their teamwork feats only work in conjunction with one allied character.



Now, obviously, the general makes for a superb general when used in conjunction with the kingdom building rules, including quicker, scaling training and army-limits - awesome! Whenever a general benefits from a tactical bonus due to placement on the battlefield, he increases this bonus, rewarding players actually playing the general as the tactical commander he is intended to be. Now where things become interesting is via the synergy of general and squad: As a standard action, the general can enhance the squad's BAB to equal his level and at higher levels, the commands become VERY interesting - 3rd level unlocks the swarm attack: When the general issues this command as a standard action, the squad may expend a standard action to deal general-level damage to all creatures and unattended objects in reach. At higher levels, a buffing command that can be executed as a swift action provides further bonuses.



3+Cha-mod times per day, generals may issue motivational speeches to heal non-casualty damages to the squad that scale thankfully. At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, a general may learn one squad tactic. Here, we have an example of the rare Legendary Games-glitch, with the page number not being correct, instead listing a "page ??" - thankfully, the adjacent internal linking renders this glitch cosmetic at best. Squad tactics cover a list of 3 pages, with improved mobility and aiding as well as the option to temporarily render terrain difficult. Further hampering spellcasting, firing volleys of bolts etc. can all be found, alongside more conventional tricks à la Blind Fight etc. Holy or unholy damage are also interesting. I noticed a minor issue with Mitigation tactics: This allows the squad to mitigate damage retained, with the amount depending on the general level - namely that since the ability does not use DR or resistance, I'm not sure whether the minimum damage of 1 still applies or not. Granted, this one point is not going to cut it in most cases, but I still would have loved to see this covered. Raising or lowering earth squares in record time may sound none too impressive, but oh boy can you make nasty ambushes with just a bit of time on your hands... All in all, these squad talents are great, though formatting can't seem to decide whether to include a blank line between the talents or not - mind you, this gripe remains an aesthetic one.



At 2nd level, 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the general may select a genius stratagem, which can be executed as a move action and the stratagem either affects an ally or his squad within 30 ft. The stratagems lasts for Int-mod rounds and cover various supplemental buffs, with some being relegated to higher levels. A personal favorite of mine allows for nonlethal damage sans penalties. The general also receives the cavalier banner class feature at 3rd level, with cavalier level +2 as the effective level. 4th level nets contacts in all sorts of places, with command skill determining availability. 5th level also nets higher effective scores for kingdom-building-related bonuses to Loyalty and Stability. Now if the action-economy seemed pretty bled-dry, you'll like to hear that, at 7th level, the general, fighting in tandem with his squad, may lend the enhancement bonus and weapon special abilities to his squad, more interestingly in conjunction with ranged weapons and a proper interaction with ammunition.



Better yet, at higher level, increased power in mass combat, with full synergy with Ultimate Battle, extends the general's field of influence from kingdom building to mass combat. Beyond these abilities, soldiers from the squad sacrificing themselves to keep the general from harm and similar defensive abilities round out an excellent class, with the capstone making the general an instantly recognizable man of wide renown.



The class provides solid favored class options for the core races and also features several archetypes: The Crusader would be a religious commander who can incite a kingdom to forego a kingdom's leader bonus to stability, instead applying it to a reroll of the three checks rolled. Other than that, the archetype nets favored weapons and a minor defensive aura. The guerrilla receives different squad stats and an emphasis on hit and run tactics, with vital strike-charge-synergy, for example. Kingpins would be the subtle commanders, with Stealth and Disguise allowing the kingpin to blend with the squad and the squad to be less conspicuous. Via their illicit gains, they can mitigate failed stability checks and foiling truth-finding and becoming pretty divination-proof also help. Damn cool one! The mindbender is a kind of eldritch-themed enchantment-specialist with a limited array of SPs that help recruiting and succinctly, ways of determining magical influence and a psychic debuff. I like the fluff here, but found myself wishing this had been realized as a telepathy-related archetype instead.

Nobles obviously have quite a bunch of gold to through around and may maintain endowments of a building autonomous of the kingdom and may have friends in higher places. The Rallier provides bravery and more enduring marches. Reavers share teamwork feats with their squad, but take longer to command it and can charge through their squad with a nasty synergy attack. Redeemers are specialists of rehabilitation and nonlethal victories - love them! Revolutionaries receive automatic casualty-replacements when in an area with sufficient dissent. They may also destabilize kingdoms and high-level revolutionaries may whip their squads into zealous frenzy, preventing dispersal.



Strategists do not get the support command, but may designate high-value targets and keep said order lasting longer. Tacticians depend mostly on Intelligence, not Charisma for motivational speeches etc. and may have two sets of squad tactics, switching between the two with a drill. And yes, the archetype gets a contingency plan. the Tactician can be VERY strong, as it essentially has a gestalty-squad. Tyrants use fear-based tactics and intimidation, while warbringers are the bloodthirsty barbarian warlords. On a nitpicky side, I don't think "Blood Rage" is a smart way of naming an ability, with the bloodrager out there.



The pdf also provides an alternate class, the hordelord, who must be evil, gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with light armor, scythes and simple weapons and arcane spell failure in better armor. The class gets 1/2 BAB-progression as well as fort- and will-saves. Instead of a squad, the hordelord receives a unit of zombies that pretty much follows the rules for squads, with the exception that dispersal is handled differently and that replacements require only a ritual and some monetary investment. Hordelords receive channel energy as a cleric of their level and command undead as a bonus feat at 1st level. Hordelords get spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level, governed by Cha, but restrict their spell-selection to necromancy spells and those with the fear and death-descriptors. In a nice catch, the pdf does specify the priority sequence for spells that can be found on multiple lists with different spell levels. The hordelord also receives a kind of adaptation of squad tactics at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with some unique tactics thrown into the mix. (The question-mark glitch also can be found here, btw.) At 2nd level, the class also receives the path of depravity, a bloodline-like modification that further provides bonuses at 9th and 16th level - 3 such paths are provided. Increased and trampling zombies, killing off zombies to power your spells and becoming a scythe-wielding master of the undead - all covered. It should btw. be noted that the zombie horde does NOT suffer from the usual staggered-issue of the shambling undead.



The pdf also provides 2 pages of feats with extra class feature-uses, class feature upgrades, combat maneuvers, excluding allies from swarm attacks, etc. - a solid array of feats. The final page covers interaction of Leadership feat and general and lists the troop-subtype's characteristics for your convenience.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, only some very minor glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides ample gorgeous full-color artworks, some of which may be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Will McCardell and Linda Zayas-Palmer make for an excellent team - after their superb and impressive demiurge-class, the general manages to achieve an unprecedented feat in blending personal and kingdom-level adventuring, spanning the gap between the two. When I first heard about this pdf, I expected a lot of undue overlap with Michael Sayre's cool Battle Lord, perhaps the most interesting adventurer-group commander I've seen so far. Instead of going that route, the general does something wholly unique, not only providing perfect synergy with kingdom building and mass combat, it also is distinct n that it makes adventuring with a troop of allies a valid option - hey, perhaps your players actually provide names for the squad members! Whether Bridgeburners or Black Company, the general has significant narrative potential that surprisingly is supplemented by tactical options beyond the scope of other classes - not necessarily in power, but in the breadth - battlefield control via earth-lowering etc. make for damn awesome tricks, for example. The fluid flux from the personal to the abstract dimension make this an achievement in design that proved to eb exceedingly fun to play, more so than many pet-classes I have seen. The synergy with Ultimate Rulership and Battle further enhance this.



So all absolutely awesome? As far as the base-class is concerned, yes. Now I'm not saying that the archetypes and alternate class are bad, far from it. However, I would have enjoyed the zombie horde to be more distinct - it didn't feel very zombie-ish to me - no staggered condition, no consumption of foes, no instant regain of casualties, no increased amount of members/area covered.... that and the VERY similar scaling of the squad's stats (being almost carbon copies) render the horde and its master a reskin that falls woefully short of being truly distinct. When the hordelord should have had me cackle with glee, it disappointed me as a minor reskin with some basic modifications. More paths would also have helped here. So that would be missed chance one. Some of the archetypes provided also feel very basic, with only a few truly blowing me away. That being said, I am pretty nitpicky here and ultimately, these gripes are not necessarily fair - why? Because both archetypes and alternate class provide imho less of a distinct, unique identity - they are system/engine-tweaks for the class. Basically, they serve to highlight a significant array of possible modifications for the general-chassis and thus can be considered guidelines to modify and adapt the base engine of the class - which is superb.



"But wait", you say, "I don't want to play with kingdom-building!" - you're lucky. While the general is intended for the like, just letting these fall under the rug does not impede the performance of the class - the general can be played without those rules and is still a powerful class. Since the kingdom-building/mass-combat abilities do not influence regular adventuring, you won't lose any power, just some of the experiences that render the class so incredibly awesome.



I've been thinking quite a bit about the final verdict here - on the one hand, we get a superb class that is mechanically truly distinct and innovative; on the other hand, the supplemental content did fall flat of the potential and uniqueness of the class, being essentially an array of engine-tweaks that provide options galore, yes, but on their own, they will not make you gush. So I waited for the playtest and asked about the fun-level this class provides - and here, the general excels. While I am not impressed by most of the supplemental content beyond their functionality as engine-tweaks, there are some gems herein and ultimately, no problems worth complaining about. More importantly, the general itself is a piece of beauty and genius - it is fun, both in regular and kingdom-building campaigns, utilizes several jamais-vu-level innovative mechanics and manages to proudly place its banner where no other class has tread before - and ultimately, I love it for that and recommend it wholeheartedly. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval....now can we have more kingdom-synergy-classes? Ultimate Kings and Queens, for example?

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Commander
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Spell Components (Core)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2015 02:32:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' inexpensive Storeroom-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, providing 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Every roleplaying game, ultimately, is a game of abstractions, of rules and individual interpretation - that's why no movie will ever amount to the awesomeness of the one stunt that character pulled off...and why discrepancies between a GM's description and a player's perception thereof prove to be such a source of frustration when they happen.



If your game is like mine, there is a certain level of simulation - and I believe that spellcasting would be considered much more balanced, if one tracked how much uses of this bat guano stuff the wizard has. The one issue here would be that, ultimately, there is the component pouch - and we have no idea what's inside. While this abstraction helps render the game more fluid, it does prove to be a problem once you start asking whether obscure component for ritual xyz is part of one's pouch, a problem, which to a similar extent can be applied to kits.



This pdf can be considered the ridiculously inexpensive solution to this issue - in handy tables, all foci and material components of spells from the CORE-book are tracked in easily navigated tables. Better yet, the pdf provides a sensible suggestion of how much such a pouch can hold and what (probably) is contained in such a pouch - and yes, the contents come with a nice 1-page full-color rendition by Rick Hershey.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a 1-column printer-friendly standard and the pdf comes with full nested bookmarks for easy navigation. This can be easily printed out in digest-format, btw., making it a nice booklet to carry along.

This pdf, compiled and presented by Mark Gedak, essentially can be considered a godsend in my book. This is a humble, utterly awesome little pdf that may not be crucial for any group, but it adds a sense of realism to the game I adore. It takes a wibbly-wobbly, ill-defined, esoteric component of the rules and provides one-glance-done coverage. I love this pdf. For the low price, this is just awesome and I hope to see all other big books covered as well - this is extremely useful and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Spell Components (Core)
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Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2015 01:00:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive, huge tome clocks in at 378 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages backer-list, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 367 pages of content, so let's...

...wait. I can't really convey the illusion of spontaneity here. Why? Because I have written and deleted this review 3 times as I'm writing these lines. This is quite literally one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, mainly because conveying my stance on Deep Magic is pretty ambiguous and prone to misinterpretation.



But let's start at the beginning. This book is beautiful. Thanks to one particularly helpful gentleman, I managed to pledge by proxy over him (didn't have the bucks when the KS ran...) and when this book's physical copy arrived in the mail, I was utterly blown away. Not only did I receive a massive, gorgeous stitch-bound hardcover, it was in gorgeous full color and sported some of the very best pieces of artwork I've EVER SEEN. The matte paper helps create an illusion of an "old" tome and the superb, copious artworks render this book so beautiful, it even mops the floor with quite a few Paizo-books. Yes, that gorgeous. The layout, with its parchment-look, its subdued, unobtrusive glyphs further enhances this. Deep Magic is one of the most mind-staggeringly gorgeous books I've ever had the pleasure to read and both artists and layout-artists have been up to their A+++-game. Kudos!



Then, I went on and started reading beyond the forewords and the introductory short story by Ed Greenwood and after them, yes, I was utterly blown away and totally in the mind-set for the things to come:



The first we see would be the respective magical traditions. Old time fans of Kobold Quarterly and Kobold Press will see quite an array of old favorites herein again - from blood magic to fool's summonings, quite a bunch of conceptual goldies can be found herein. At their very best, these new traditions are ridiculously inspired - new ioun stones and ley lines would be two such examples. The latter, for examples, can be tapped by casters with concise rules to tap into their powers - while very powerful, these ley-lines can not only make for interesting tools that can turn the tide of battle and e.g. prevent a TPK or provide unique, cool ways to execute narratives. The transient nature of ley lines and the option to burn them out/change their course places control firmly within the hands of the DM, preventing abuse. That being said, as a DM, I have to decidedly advise against making the numerous ley line feats available for PCs - their balancing is odd/non-existent, with no-save, no-SR 1-round blinding effects and the like not necessarily constituting good resources to place in player hands.



The fool's summoning tricks go a different way - beyond interesting, more risky, but also more powerful summoning tricks, a copious amount of spells receive flavorful modifications and reskins - which brings me to another point. These traditions sport unique effects, and the same holds true for chaos/wonder magic, with distinct, odd effects and abilities rendering the experience of playing the respective schools pretty interesting. Alas, not all of the traditions herein receive such interesting rules - in fact, quite a few of the traditions adhere to the following presentation: We receive a short fluff-text, spell-lists by caster/level and then, a sample spellbook, including preparation ritual. (And yes, rules for intelligent, living spellbooks can be found herein as well - they are pretty sinister and narrative gold.)Now don't get me wrong, I *love* the inclusion of these books, but all in all, the respective "schools"/traditions, at least partially, feel too rudimentary - there is not enough to set the spells themselves apart, no guidance to develop additional spells for such a school and some classes receive e.g. one exclusive spell for such a tradition - not much reason to pick a tradition. By providing a tighter focus, the traditions could have been infinitely more compelling, more specific...but...on the other hand, we for example receive a complete, new full-blown mythic path with the living saint.



What are living saints? Well, for one, they are chosen of god(s) - what I mean by this is that, like many a mythological leader of religious prowess, these guys experience a highly interesting phase of tribulations, wherein they are severed from their gods and besieged by the whole pantheon - essentially, all gods can tempt the saint towards their ideology and sphere of influence, proposing different spells etc. for obeisance and quests. This can also be used for interesting foreshadowing and over all, the mythic path, intended for divine casters, is pretty much a cool choice with plenty of narrative potential ingrained into the very fabric of the thing, especially due to the numerous spells sporting names of the saints, adding a cool narrative dimension and unobtrusive fluff to these miraculous powers. This mythic path is the first that actually feels like it could have originated in fiction, like it not only provides a rules-escalation, but an actually defining, narrative tool. I adore this path and the resonance of our own world's myths, with obvious references to Christian (sans the ideology, mind you - you can't be offended by this guy) narrative structures that are very ingrained into how we perceive certain myths, this path is a thing of beauty.



Vril, the unique pseudo-atlantean power-source introduced in Sunken Empires (inspired by Bulwer-Lytton's writing) also receives new specialists, both archetype, feat and spell-wise. Converting spells into vril-blasts, for example, is pretty interesting. That being said, careful looks into this system also shows us a couple of somewhat odd choices - the archetypes, for example, are separated and relegated to their own chapter - so instead of looking up e.g. vril magic, you have to know where what can be found. Yes, organization is neatly organized by crunch-type, but in a book this focused on awesome concepts, I think another solution would have been appropriate. Also odd - Ink Magic, in depiction pretty much a tradition, can be found in the chapter on rune-magic. Strange.



But this line of reasoning brings me to the first issue of this book, though it is admittedly one of preference. The traditions as such, as has always been the strong forte of Kobold Press, just BRIM with imagination. They provide iconic, well--crafted concepts that set the imagination ablaze. I know a couple of them from their original books and the fluff, usually, did in some way limit the respective traditions - whether it's the lost magic of vril, the blood magic of some limited tribes/traditions or the lost magic used to slow the progress of the Wasted West's Old Ones...there always was this implied scarcity, this alignment of crunch with philosophies, ethnicities and accomplishments. So the PCs have this powerful spell xyz, BECAUSE they have taken on caster zxy, because they have braved the ruins of Gru'tharkrr...



This book collects all of these traditions and breaks their spells into a massive, huge chapter, dissolving the lines between them and implying by its very organization a general availability not implied in singular presentations - essentially, we have a disjunction of fluff from crunch to a certain extent. Now this means that you have to search the spells in the lists if you want to make a specialist, but have an easier time when just browsing through the book, looking for spells generally available - hence, the implication is that these spells are available freely, akin to how spell presentation works in Paizo's big books. Now don't get me wrong, one could argue that THIS is exactly what this book tries to do, analogue to the big Paizo-books, where you essentially slap down the book and have a general extension of the arsenal. My contention, ultimately, is that this is balance-wise one of the decisions that shoot the book in its metaphorical foot.



In my first iteration of this review, I went through all of the crunch here in these traditions step-by-step - alas, this bloated the review to the point where it wasn't helpful anymore. (And if I'm saying that, with my tendency towards verbose reviews, you'll have an inkling of what a monstrosity this would have become - my guess was 20+ pages - and let's be honest, no one would read that...)



So, Deep Magic does sport, a HUGE chapter of spells, both new and old - all collated and organized by handy spell-levels. This chapter is where my first and second review-attempts broke apart. The first one due to my so far pretty jubilant review receiving a harsh dose of reality, the second because I realized that step-by-step analysis makes no sense, bloating the review. If that was not ample clue - not all is well here. It is only understandable that a vast array of authors will have diverging voices and different mastery of the system and yes, this does show herein. Now before you get the pitchforks, let me state one thing explicitly and clearly - the *concepts* of these spells are WONDROUS. Gorgeous. Superb. They are iconic. They *feel* like magic, not like some energy-colored damage-dealing vehicles. They manage to capture the elusive spirit of what magic ought to be and bring the "magic" back into a game often lost and sorely missed. I'd take the concepts of this book over those in Ultimate Magic and Combat combined any day.



The concepts.



For there is no way around the following statement, no way to sugar-coat it without outright lying. There are a lot of cool, functional spells herein. However, there also is a vast array of spells that would have desperately required the hands of an editor who truly knows rules-language and/or a capable developer. Name the issue and you have a very good chance of finding a representative of the issue herein, quite possibly in a spell that you absolutely love concept-wise.



This chapter almost broke my heart.



Any closer analysis shows ample problems, often to the point of rendering a spell highly ambiguous, unbalanced or downright inoperable - there are examples of authors obviously mixing up flat-footed and touch attack AC. Mechanics more closely related to 3.X-design. Spells that do not allow for saves which should. SR that is ignored when comparable spells allow for it. Contradictions between spell-block and its text. Faulty AoEs/ranges/targets. False spell-block formatting. Wrong save. Damage-escalation. You name it. Damage + no-save stagger at a level where it's ridiculous. Non-sense descriptor-placement. Balance is not even crying in the corner anymore, it is utterly GONE, evaporated into some nebulous dimension. Some author(s) seem to not get the distinction between material components, foci and divine foci. Unspecified bleed damage à la inflict " receives bleed 3" - bleed 3 WHAT? Hp? Attribute? What about a spell generating an AoE geyser-like effect that gets just about everything wrong you can possibly get wrong regarding AoEs? Racial spells that could have simply used focus as a limiting component instead of wonky wording-crutches that try (badly) to cut out other races? Sentences that peter off. Wording so convoluted I can't tell you how exactly a spell works. You name the glitch, it's here - and right next to it, you may see one of the coolest spells ever.



This massive chapter was one of the most heart-rending experiences of my reviewer-career. My first skip through it saw me exhilarated. Closer scrutiny brought disappointment, actual in-depth analysis...well, there's no way around it...pain. Now beyond the glitches, the balance-concerns herein may partially stem from bad design-choices and lack of rules-language development...but at least partially, they also have their origin in the simple fact that the book took the "soft" restrictions that served as a balancing factor before and took them away by smashing all spells into one big chapter. Where before, spells may have been "broken", but rare, the implication here is that they are freely available, exacerbating what might before have been a reward into power-escalation. Now yes, in face of the vast army of issues that plague this chapter, even a change in presentation in the proposed way would be a drop of water in a vast desert of issues and would do nothing to render the formal issues void...but yeah, that would be one exacerbating factor.



And one that extends, alas, to the next chapter. I am a huge fan of runic/glyph magic. Allowing non-casters to learn the powers of rues is one of the most-beloved tropes for me - whether clad in a pseudo-Scandinavian guise or via lovecraftian alignment with aboleths et al.; The very concepts of the runes are powerful, and intentionally so. But once again, stripping these of their fluff, of their direct place within the world, of the achievements required to learn them, renders them problematic. When you have to mimic the deeds of the gods to learn the rune Uruz and then, finally have it, it becomes okay if you can paint it on your shield for a 1/day +20 bonus to overrun/bull rush - chances are, your DM knew what was coming and planned accordingly. If the fluff context is taken away, a ridiculously powerful rune, accessible for 1 feat, remains - and suddenly, we see the system stumble under the weight of one of its foundations being eroded.



I'm not going to analyze the word of power-subchapter, mainly because I consider the base-system introduced in Ultimate Magic just not well-designed. On the plus-side, the awesome incantations pioneered by Zombie Sky Press back in the day receive a significant array of new ones and these tend to be pretty awesome narrative devices.



Alas, the sloppy rules-language of the spells also partially (but thankfully, only partially!) extends to the following chapter, detailing bloodlines and mysteries. What about tentacle-attacks that do not specify as what they are treated? Check. Flawed target/reach-nomenclature...check. Sp, Su and Ex, in some cases, seem to have been determined at random, rendering some abilities utterly opaque. You get the idea. Now yes, the problems are much less pronounced than among the spells, but they are still here. As an additional note - the options among these class options do not feel as though they were balanced among themselves, with power-levels ranging from weak to VERY strong. Still, overall, these options feel relatively operable and easily fixed and the concepts provided are often utterly unique and cool. On a footnote, wizards, oddly, have their arcane discoveries/focused schools etc. in the tradition-section in the beginning, ripping the class options associated with the traditions in half. The problems outlined here also extend, alas and much to my chagrin, to the chapter on archetypes. That being said, the archetype's main flaw remains the focus on the spells/traditions - you can't build a house on sand and these, as compelling as they often are, sometimes do just that - which is a pity, for here, much like with aforementioned class options, the imaginative potential is rather impressive..



The following chapters, thankfully, at least for me, redeemed the book, at least partially - a concise and utterly awesome chapter on the creation of homunculi/leastlings and simple rules for undead crafting as well as nice clockwork templates for familiars et al. make provide significant fun, engagement and narrative potential. Speaking of which - portrayed in glorious artworks, a significant array of iconic, cool NPCs - those that are here, are great and flavorful, but I can't help but feel that one per tradition would have been nice to see.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good. On a rules-level, they are BAD and ironically, deeply flawed. Layout, as mentioned, adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the artworks range among the most stunning I've ever seen in an RPG-book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the dead-tree copy ranks among the most beautiful books in my shelves.



Read this list: Wolfgang Baur, Creighton Broadhurst, Jason Bulmahn, Tim Connors, Adam Daigle, Mike Franke, Ed Greenwood, Frank Gori, Jim Groves, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Brandon Hodge, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Neil Spicer, Mike Welham, Margaret Weis. With this amount of creative potential assembled, does it surprise you that I consider this book the most inspiring spellbook I've ever read? Alas, even these titans can stumble. And they did.



This book could have been the ultimate spellcasting-milestone, a legend, a book that defines the very game we play, a whole new dimension of spellcasting. And it is - on a concept-level.



Instead, at least on a crunch-level, it is pretty much, as much as I'm loathe to say it, a wreck -not one that has sunk, but one that leaks. The lack of a rules-savvy editor/developer is readily apparent - there are plenty of glitches herein that could have been caught by even a cursory inspection.



And no, that's not just me being overly picky. I put this book before one of my less rules-savvy players, opened it on a random page in the spell-section and had him read spells. Inadvertently, he stumbled over an ambiguity, an issue.



Were I to rate this one the crunch alone, I'd smash it to smithereens - the very skeleton of the book is flawed and that radiates outward to almost all chapters, poisoning them as well. Allowing this book flat and without scrutiny at a table is an invitation for rules-discussions and balance-issues - at least if the players are halfway capable at making efficient characters.



Why am I not bashing this further? Because, while deeply flawed, Deep Magic is also deeply inspired - the concepts herein are staggering, setting the mind ablaze with possibilities, conjuring forth ideas for adventures, campaigns even. Quite a bunch of the flaws can be ironed out by a capable DM...and flawed though it may be, Deep Magic has A LOT of passion, heart's blood and soul oozing from its pages. The concepts of this tome, in the end, made it worthwhile, at least for me.



I'm not going to lie. My players will never get their hands on this book. But I will take the concepts, take the spells, fix them and reap the benefits of the exceedingly awesome concepts provided herein. On the one hand, we thus have a terribly flawed book that fails quite spectacularly and depressingly at becoming what it ALMOST achieved - being the best spellbook for any iteration of a d20-based system ever. On the other, the often flawed crunch does provide more great spell-ideas and concepts (as opposed to their execution...) than the APG, ARG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat combined.



Whether this book is for you depends very much on what you expect - if you want solid crunch, a book to just slap on the table and allow...well, then stay the 11 Midgardian hells away from this book. If, on the other hand, you're willing to work with it, if you're looking for inspiration and are competent regarding the design/balancing of material, then this is a scavenger's mithril-mine and a great resource to have - you literally can't open a single page in this book without stumbling over at least one awesome, iconic concept. The hardcover is also great to show off to non-gamer friends and make them marvel at the glorious artworks, layout and presentation.



How to rate this, then? I hate and love this book. I want to slap my seal of approval on it, in spite of its flaws. But I can't. Deep Magic has too many issues and I can't rate potential, as much as I'd love to. I can only rate what is here and its effects - which oscillate between "utterly awesome and inspiring" and "wtf is this supposed to do?"



Without the superb concepts, the lore-steeped ideas, the downright inspired take on magic and its flavor, I would have gone further down on my scale. But, as a reviewer, I also have to take these into account, as well as the people out there who are like me and still can take a lot from this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
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Mini-Dungeon #016: The Halls of Hellfire
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2015 00:58:47
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf.



Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!



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



Still here?

All right!



The Halls of Hellfire were once a sacred neutral ground, a place for peace talks - now, the halls are a beacon for creatures of pure evil, tainted by the darkness that saw the downfall of this once-sacred space. Now, the lamia of the desert have been drawn to this place and both regular specimen of the feared species as well as a matriarch await the PCs to toy with their minds and break both their bodies and souls.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf comes with a nice piece of full-color artwork.



Jonathan Ely's Halls of Hellfire provide a storied locale with per se cool combat encounters and some solid traps. Alas, at the same time, I did feel like this locale fell short of its awesome background story - some tantalizing hints, a bit more fluff, perhaps a series of short haunts - something to make the PCs experience the tragedy of the place first-hand would have gone a long way to make this more than a cool ruin inhabited by some lethal lamia. That being said, this mini-dungeon is by no means bad and well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #016: The Halls of Hellfire
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Varakt's Halo: The Great Pubo Hunt (1 of 3)
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2015 04:25:21
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages, so let's take a look!



This pdf does sport a psionic psyllabus-page - essentially a handy cheat-sheet that sums up the basic peculiarities of the psionics-system on a handy page - nice for novices to psionics - who also happen to be the target demographic of this module. 11 pregens are provided for the perusal of the players, with all getting their own artworks - while these may not be beautiful, the pregens do sport roughly the same level of optimization, so that's nice to see.

Why eleven? Well, because there are two new psionic races native to the island of Varakt: The first would be the athmer, who get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, wild talent as a bonus feat, darkvision 60 ft., Run as a bonus feat and +2 initiative, are amphibious and can 1/day unleash a breath weapon of either cold or electricity damage that deals 1d6 damage of the chosen type in a 50 ft.-line. They also get energy resistance 5 to the breath weapon's chosen element, are amphibious and can choose +1 power point as an FCO. Personally, I consider this race to be slightly too strong - either eliminating the Run-feat and initiative or the amphibious racial trait. There is a nice tribal distinction between electricity and cold-based athmer and the fluff of the race is nice.



The second race would be the Hrek, who get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Con, are naturally psionic and gain the FCO-option. They also receive darkvision and can reduce the penalty to Stealth while moving by 5 and can use it while running at -20 penalty. 1/day, hrek can cause iron or steel touched to grow into another object - alas, the ability fails to specify what action this takes. the ability also does not specify the effects on magical equipment, whether this can be used offensively in combat, etc. Hrek are treated as +1 level higher when casting spells with the fire descriptor, for the purposes of the fire domain or the fire elemental bloodline, the flame mystery's revelations and alchemist fire damage-causing bombs. Odd that this does not extend to psionic powers utilizing fire as the chosen energy. Hrek also get a breath weapon and resistances tied to it akin to the Athmer, only theirs is a cone and either fire or acid-based. Very odd here - why can't one choose acid and related class abilities for +1 CL? And why have psionics not been included in that + 1 level? The two races come with age., height and weight-tables. I'm honestly not a big fan of the Hrek either.



But this is a module and as such, that's what I'll talk about next - so, from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here? All right! The PCs begin this module stranded on the odd tropical island (fully mapped, btw.) after an assault of goblin pirates wrecked their ship and awake on the lush beach - only to be attacked by sahuagin and promptly, saved by a group of hrek -while pretty friendly, they pantomime to the players the issues and creatures looming beyond the treaded paths. Overcoming the communication obstacle, hampered by the strange crystals on this island, does make for some awesome roleplaying potential that cannot be solved by just one roll of the dice or magic. It should also be noted that awakening to psionic powers also falls into this chapter, which should be interesting for the pregens, whose strange unfamiliarity is explained via this change. Nice way of tying mechanics with the story! Decoding grat, this language, is a task beyond the immediate scope of this module, though nearby pylons and a skeleton of a translator at least help with communication to a point where it becomes kind of functional.



It seems like the annual Suar rains will soon be upon the island - which requires a sacrifice of a so-called pubo - which would be a fatter, dumber and psionically active local variant of the dodo. Alas, beyond this, the issue of the coastal sahuagin complicating hunting remains. Entering the pubo hunting grounds results in hilarious pain - the birds not only have cognitive crystal kidney stones, they also drop explosive excrement. Finding and capturing one of the dumb birds isn't that hard - but why are there no other predators in the area? Well, once a huge, mutated mamma pubo comes running, the PCs will know why. And yes, this beast is very lethal! Following the trail of the unnatural mutation, the PCs can find some interesting hints that someone is engineering troubles - as a conch-shell resounds and denotes another attack. On the way back, the PCs can test their mettle further in combat with both blue aegis and soulknives.



Upon their return, the PCs are made to understand that they'll sacrifice the pubo the next day on the volcano - but at night the blue tribe attacks and steals the pubo they brought - in the case of mama pubo, should the PCs have opted for her, leaving a huge trail they can easily follow and making the hrek look rather incompetent. At the blue's camp, the showdown with the remaining blues constitutes the finale of this module.



As a nice hand-out, sheets for each player-character allow for a nice help regarding pantomime, representing different words they can decode, providing a great, optional way of simulating the communication in grat-pidgin.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, colorful 2-column full-color standard. Artworks range from the nice cover to thematically-fitting stock-art and the less than gorgeous pregen-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography ranges from great to okay and provides a total of 3 maps, all with player-friendly iterations.



Mike Myler's great pubo hunt is something I don't get to see often - a genuinely funny module. While it may not be apparent when just reading it, actually playing the pantomime/communication-breakdown is just FUN and this is further emphasized by the hilarious pubo-hunting. This is pretty much a very FUN module that can work perfectly when used with kids - it's not grim or dark or nasty, it's just FUN and even young audiences can appreciate the tone when handled by a halfway decent GM. The supplemental help also is a nice bonus and as far as the adventure is concerned. The great pubo hunt is a module that is just fun - a change of pace and a solid introduction to psionics, though mama pubo can provide a very challenging opponent. So, all perfect? No. Quite honestly, I wished the hunt itself had more detail and the same holds true for the hrek-settlement and the settling-in-period. This module would definitely have benefited from stretching this component longer and not just boiling it down to a short period of relative inconvenience. The finale could also have used more details, perhaps some more terrain features, traps, a map or something like that - anything to make it slightly more distinct, especially after the cool battle against the deadly mutation...

In short, I found myself often wishing that there were less pregens and more adventure herein, probably also since I'm not a big fan of either new race - they conceptually left me unimpressed.

This divide becomes more apparent when taking the exceedingly cool module that is here into account - the module-part here breathes Mike's trademark playfulness and imaginative talent. I contemplated quite a while, but ultimately, I'm going to settle on a final verdict of 4 stars. Consider me excited about the sequels!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Varakt's Halo: The Great Pubo Hunt (1 of 3)
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AaWBlog Presents: Cultus Sanguineus
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2015 04:22:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, what do we get here? Well, essentially, we get a small collection of thematically-linked encounters - think of them as pretty much a kind of sandbox to fill out: You get the key-scenes and fill in the rest. Got that? All right! As such, the following obviously contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here? All right! Countess Veresovich and Count Krev Ragata have been up to no good: Finding a set of dread scrolls during her travels, the countess plans to conjure forth a powerful entity - alas, and thankfully for the Klavekian metropolis of Mohkba, the players are involved. In the mean and gritty streets of a less savory neighborhood, the PCs witness an obviously incognito noble, said Count Ragata is stabbed and robbed right in front of the PCs - as they navigate the dark and rather gritty (and lavishly-mapped) alleyways of Mohkba, they hopefully manage to track down the assailants and avoid falling to the haunt -in the aftermath, they are invited to nothing less than Veresovich's masquerade ball - perhaps even keeping a mask as suggested by the count.



The masquerade ball itself can be considered a nice array of read-aloud texts and socializing. In any way, the masquerade will probably feature the items sanguineus, now assembled. A set of 3 magic items that collectively can transform the wielder into a vampire also feature herein...though oddly, the countess seems to vanish from the ball and when suddenly, walls of force supplemented by lethal blood vortex haunts lock down the house, things get ugly fast. The assembled nobles find out, the hard way, that the countess is not to be trifled with, as the floor of the ball room collapses and dumps them below the house...



Seeking of the house - there is a nice miniature map, but I don't get why we don't get a properly-sized map - as provided, the map is the one herein you can't properly use. And yes, the caverns below the house also sport a proper, big map - once again, just as useful as the one for the alleyways. So what is going on down in those nasty caverns - well, the countess' is currently engaging in the massive slaughter required for her ritual's success. In order to stop her, the PCs not only have to brave her cultists, they may also have to deal with allies foolish enough to wear the sangineus items and perhaps the vampiric Count Ragata, all while moving past massive blood pools filled with leech swarms - oh, and if you want to - this final encounter does sport mass combat between trapped nobles and cultists - oh, and yes, the daemon the Countess seeks to summon is part of the deal, as are even more, nasty haunts.



Thematically fitting traps further complement this supplement, as do valid pieces of advice regarding mass combat and when to use which rules and the same goes for social encounters.



I should also not fail to mention the presence of multiple magic items, all with significant descriptions, beautiful full-color renditions and lore-sections.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard and the pdf comes with quite a few gorgeous full-color artworks. The cartography is very good and evocative, though I really wished the mansion-map had also been featured in one-page-size to actually be printed out.



Mike Myler, Jonathan Ely, Justin Andrew Mason, Rory Toma and Brian Wiborg Mønster deliver a damn cool vampire-themed set-up of encounters and set-pieces. The encounters themselves are great - every one of them, ultimately, can be considered fun and uncommon with at least one or more neat options/ideas per encounter. That being said, at the same time, this pdf does feel a bit like it has an identity-crisis.



I can get behind the format of roughly, thematically-linked encounters to flesh out - I actually like that. At the same point, this pdf left me feeling somewhat confused regarding the transitions and how the whole master-plan connects - essentially, what we have here is a GLORIOUS adventure, a superb investigation...that was not fleshed out. If you are familiar with The Skinsaw Murders: Think about the Sanitarium Encounter going to the Farmstead going to the Clocktower. You just feel constantly like the sinews that connect an awesome storyline are missing. Now this is partially due to the format, granted, but in this case, it frustrated me to no end.



Why? Because this is a supreme set-up of glorious encounters that get the gorier aspects of horror downright perfect in flavor - the encounters are FUN. The atmosphere is great. The adversaries are cool and the same goes for traps, haunts and items - but in the end, what we get here is a sketch - a sketch of something awesome, but a sketch nonetheless. The encounters do NOT need a fully fleshed out connecting thread - but they imho would benefit immensely from an actual structure being presented to the GM.

A capable GM can make this a full-blown 3-part adventure saga, perhaps even a full-blown AP, and it is inspired in what it delivers - but I wished its components had been connected better. Essentially, we get three set-pieces that are almost required to be run in conjunction, and still, we are left wondering about the transitions and left with a feeling of lack- when a short break-down of the plot, some structure to guide from encounter to encounter and expansions would have made this a legendary 5 star + seal of approval module.



As provided, this is a nice compilation, yes, but one with opaque villain motivations and structure that is held back from true greatness by being too story-driven and unique to work as disparate drop-and-forget-encounters, by being too adventure-like for being a disconnected encounter-collection, and by not providing enough connecting narrative thread for a collection of linked encounters.

Conversely, if judged as an adventure, even as a skeletal sandbox, it feels too unstructured to make the most of its great premises. I figured that running this as written would change my impression - alas, it didn't, it only made me wish more that this had been a full-blown gothic horror saga.

For scavenging purposes, this is an excellent buy, but as a sourcebook or as a DIY-module-toolbox, it falls behind the potential of its easy 5-star-premise. So, if you're looking for some bloody material to craft with, take a look, you won't be disappointed - if you want a full-blown module or drop-and-forget encounters, you may wish to look elsewhere. Still, this remains a solid pdf, one I hope will one day be made into its own, complex, investigation-heavy horror AP. For now, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars - and since I am a fanboy of all the themes evoked, as a person, I will round out. As a reviewer, though, I think I need to round down.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
AaWBlog Presents: Cultus Sanguineus
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Dungeonlands: Palace of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Savage Mojo
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2015 03:04:41
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 220 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us a massive 212 pages of content, so let's take a look at this!



This review was chosen as a prioritized review and moved up my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. Furthermore, I received a hardcover copy of this book for the expressive purpose of running it and providing a fair, unbiased review.



Wait, there's one more thing - after I ripped Tomb of the Lich Queen, the first part of the trilogy, a new one, why don't I review Part II, Machine of the Lich Queen next and instead jump to the final book? Simple - because Machine and Tomb still receive some polish/revisions and I'd rather review and playtest the best iteration of a given book. All right, so that out of the way, we begin this massive book with a truly extensive and well-written chapter of prose detailing the legends of the 9 fragments the lich queen has stored in her mental palace, providing further and somewhat tragic exposition for the genesis of this being- and after that, the crunch begins.



This being an adventure-review, unsurprisingly, the following will contain massive SPOILERS. Potential players should thus jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here? All right! The lich queen's hall of world-spanning mirrors lies shattered by her hand, the machine grinding and stuttering - and to reach the palace of her, the PCs will have to traverse what amounts to a gigantic array of planes-hopping. If you're familiar with Savage Mojo's Suzerain Continuum, that may not come as a surprise; if not, let me give you a run-down - there are *A LOT* of what amounts to campaign settings galore, each with their own, unique takes. Beyond just taking a look at either of them, the respective chapters essentially provide a means for the PCs (and players) to glimpse at the wondrous realms provided - think of them like a selection of Gossamer Worlds for Lords of Gossamer and Shadows or akin to the strange alternate realities provided in Shadowrun's classic Harlequin's Return-saga. So while the cynic in me considers this a kind of advertisement, the fanboy grins and considers this a very smart move - why? Because, let's face it, at the end of a campaign, there is always the discussion on what to play next - here, more than its fair share of interesting options are provided.



Now, by design, this does mean that each world is represented in what amounts to a short vignette (I'm using this term through the review to denote the literary function implied by its meaning, not one of the others) that sums up some peculiarities and pits your PCs against a target adversary, aligns them with a positive figure and provides a bonus for success, a story-hook/future conflict in the case of failure. The first array of these vignettes, happening in day-time, send the PCs off to a true myriad of established settings and new ones: A Greece-inspired scifi-setting with mechanic pegasi would just be the first of these excursions - beyond this strange world, the PCs get a glimpse at a dystopian cyberpunk citystate controlled by a monolithic church, struggling to find a chosen child that can shatter the boundaries of reality, all while being besieged by strange anarchists and probably playing into the very plans of a silver-tongued angel in service of true darkness. In a celtic world, an assault on a ritual site against armies of demons awaits and fans of Greek mythology may actually fight side by side with Jason and pit wits and magic against none other than Circe.



In a steampunk world of highly-spohisticated goblins, a time-travelling tub and an aerial chase through the dangerous skies provides for a change of pace, before, sooner or later, the PCs get a chance to test their mettle against a demonic incursion to free the Dark One from his celestial prison, finally fighting against a tainted solar...and said being may not even want to escape his eternal prison. When none other than the sung-god Ra draws up on his chariot (a hyper-modern sports-car) to take the PCs on a trip through his hyper-technological pyramids and finally, stop agents of Set in a night-club, including zombie-ravers, that's awesome. Stopping agents of chaos from exposing the rigidity in a hyper-lawful realm may sound conventional, but at that point, the PCs enter a realm of pure science, elevated to the realm where it becomes indistinguishable from magic - when you're defending a mad scientist from his elemental Frankenstein's monster and what amounts to a revenant-igor, all while powerful spirits that embody chemistry, physics and biology try to kill them, your players WILL continue to talk about the wealth of ideas here.



What about a planet where hyper-powerful cybertechnology has been blended with wild west stand-offs or one where hyper-technological dinosaurs duke it out in an alternate stone age? There is also a vignette wherein the 3 ages of Relic blend in a kind of temporal disjunctions, a swashbuckling-themed, fast-paced one wherein the PCs get to defend a ship from a massive sea-dragon and yes, a terrible post-apocalypse of nanite and radiation-caused mutations and doom, where an impending nuclear strike might well be within the range of options. Have I mentioned the sojourn to what amounts to the Plane of Fire or the City of Brass, where agents of an unknown entity seek to extinguish the eternal flames of the grand braziers? Now each of these places does have something to offer for the further journey -and after all those short vignettes, finally, night is upon the PCs as they traverse the myriad worlds - and from here on out, the lethality of the vignettes, in which the PCs so far have shaken hands with legends and gods, increases further.



Here would as well a place as any to note several peculiarities I noticed so far - for one, by necessity for a module that spans this many realities, the respective vignettes are somewhat sketchy - do not expect handholding or excessive read-aloud texts - it is very much assumed that, provided the massive array of high-level statblocks, you as a DM can properly portray the respective worlds. While reading this, I was extremely skeptical whether this worked out in practice, but the frenetic pace assumed by world transitions did, in actual playtesting smash so many unique vistas over my PC's heads they didn't mind - whether this whole chapter works depends very much on an experienced DM who can maintain a fast pace that does not allow for too many in-depth analysis on parts of the player - as well as assuming a pretty cinematic transition from key-scene to key-scene. At the same time, though, this actually can work in favor of the module: This high-fantasy realm-stuff, these clockwork-gadgets or high-scifi-stuff you always wanted to use? Well, here you can. I ultimately failed to resist the lure of adding my material and some unique worlds to the fray - after all, how often do you get a chance like that? And at this level, very much all gloves are off - your PCs are called demigods by the module for a reason... Now, this slight opaqueness, which was an exacerbated issue in the first part of the saga, ultimately is here, yes, but at the same time, this book is very much concrete - the key-scenes, like the clockwork aerial chase, provide full vehicle-rules, terrain-hazards and features where applicable, are fully integrated and the book makes smart use of the troop-subtype alongside many items and yes, even the Technology-rules in a minor way. Among the nighttime-worlds, fighting in an alternate Shanghai versus huge mobs of vampires and braving deadly haunts in a realm of gothic horror only constitute two examples of proper rules-usage that supplements the narrative - a significant step forwards, especially considering the fact that the complex builds for the high-level adversaries and allies, while not always being flawless, generally come out on the good side of things.



Not on the good side of things, at least for the players, would be a venture into imperial Rome, where Ceasar has just been slain by demo cultists and only defeating a massive shadow kraken may provide an escape...though this world has a particularly nasty story-game-over for a bad, bad decision on the player's side... From an imperial Rome in the throes of demonic possession, the journey continues onwards into a tale of American noir, where possessed train yard cranes await. The realms of winter, complete with their nasty fey, do something I would have expected from a certain Dresden File book - including a fey lord that encases himself in a gigantic frost-mecha. In an alternate version of Tokyo, the PCs can duke it out against magical girls corrupted by a powerful hero-hunting demon, before they ultimately are deposited in a realm of darkest fantasy, including a blotted-out sun and a showdown in a ruined abbey before entering the Red Realm, a prison plane, and, more importantly, a nasty place where insanity abounds and a silent hill-esque array of perception-tricks, as well as a harrowing escape await. The final two vignettes pit the PCs against the horrors of a full-blown China Miéville-style fantasy...and has them battle Fafnir. Who makes proper use of the kaiju-subtype. NICE!



Then, finally, the chaos of worlds ends and the palace and its 7 halls loom: Here, this book becomes a much more conservative killer-dungeon once again - with each of the massive halls providing ever-escalating danger as well as full-color maps with solid detail, though you should be aware that no blow-up 1-page versions are provided. In the first hall, massive, lavishly-illustrated briar worms, demonic apes and finally, the Great Beast await the PC's prowess - only to have to face down the mashine gun-like efficiency of the deadly archer Tianet - though personally, I used the Deadly Aim-feat when modifying Tianet's build - at her firing rate, the damage piles quicker up that way -oddly, this will not be the last they've seen of the huntress and smart fighting is rewarded here. In the Garden Hall, flytrap hydras and the Lich Queen's foster mother Grandmother Maugh await and the Hall of Grandeur pits the PCs ambitions as well as djinns to finally defeat another mentor of the queen - the erstwhile djinn-binder par excellence, turned into her mayor-domo, Ranalek the terrible. The 4th hall does offer a new challenge - the hall of pleasure, where the lich queen's consort awaits alongside untold pleasures that can destroy one's spirit, memory and thus, identities - in this gilded hell, the lich queen's consort is the gatekeeper and, upon defeating him, the PCs will note he in fact is an automaton - the true fate of the poor sort is cataloged in the adventure "Consort of the Lich Queen", which I do not own. Even if you don't have it, though, you'll notice something - obviously, Ayrawn has purged any thoughts of doubt from her mind to retain her sanity- perhaps the one shot the PCs truly have to defeat her - and defeat her they'll want after the next hall, wherein the PCs are subject to a nasty, never-ending array of tortures - which may permanently cripple them, if they are not smart enough to escape their mistress.



Speaking of smarts - a vast library may see the PCs fight - but only if they behave in a manner unfitting of the place - otherwise, they'll find an agrippa, a man turned into a tome and librarian, master who once told Ayrawn to purge memories from herself, seeking freedom - and offering a further piece with which the PCS may shake the immortal confidence of the legendary lich queen. In case your PC's swords have since then dried of viscera, the hall of bones will end that - while the lich queen's tutor and lich here also provides a further piece of information about a skull with which the PCs can shake the confidence of the legendary adversary, she also follows her commands and unleashes not only her own might, but also that of a vast horde of powerful undead - and yes, the combines stats span multiple pages.



Finally, after much tears, exposition and pain, the PCS can final track down Ayrawn in her Hall of Broken Mirrors - her and all her mayor allies not yet slain, rendering this confrontation potentially very, very nasty - worse, the lich queen's phylactery is the very dungeon itself and only by shaking her confidence, only by understanding, can the PCs cause a realmsquake and breach the phylactery...and only then will the lich queen truly be slain by their efforts. Should they achieve this miraculous feat, they'll bear witness to the collapse of dungeonlands and possibly even ascend beyond the providence of mere mortals - in any case, infinite possibilities await.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a few italicization glitches, minor errors in statblocks and the like, but seeing the size of this tome and the complexity of the statblocks, that is not surprising and well within the level of tolerance. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that conspires with a mix of gorgeous full-color and b/w artworks to render this book a truly beautiful book to behold -aesthetically, there is nothing to complain about here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and my hardcover sports nice, thick, matte high-quality paper and a shiny cover - all great in that regard.



Kevin Andrew Murphy, Darren Pearce, George "Loki" Williams, Allan Hoffman, Andrew Hoskins, Brendan LaSalle, Matthew Medeiros, Richard Moore, Monte Reed - this is one epic book and it was a fun ride to embark on. But also one that is terribly hard to rate.



Why? For one, there would be the issue of high-level gameplay requiring a lot of foresight - pre-written modules have a hard time properly predicting PC-capabilities and one massive issue with the first book was the arbitrary stripping of powers from PCs and the issues with rules-interactions. I am more than happy to report that this book sports NONE of these. Neither will you find "Pcs have to solve this EXACTLY like this"-solutions and similar issues - instead, this massive mega-adventure essentially provides vignettes, vistas and general storylines - you can skip through them at your leisure, ignore some, substitute your own or expand them to full-blown module length.



When handled properly, these vignettes can act as epic, never-ending climaxes - if you took the final scenes of a vast array of stories and stitched them together, a kind of cool-moment-collage, if you will. Better yet, where applicable, the places do sport nice rules-tidbits from mutation-tables to steampunk gadgets. While not all such tidbits are perfect, this is a module and the like is simply not the focus of this review. The world/planes-hopping vignettes ultimately can be a vast amount of fun if handled properly, but they could also go horribly wrong - if you are accustomed to handholding, extensive read-aloud texts and not good at making transitions and filling in the blanks of the respective vignettes, that may result in massive issues - essentially, do not expect any guidance beyond a basic plot-summary and the statblocks for the respective adversaries. Yes, this DOES include a lack of maps for the respective vignettes, but not one I'm going to fault the pdf for - why? Because the focus on cinematic transitions ultimately, at least here, does not require them necessarily. In my game, this went off pretty well after my players sopped trying for the analysis-route.



The second part is a more old-school killer-dungeon and it is very much worth the status as a finale - the palace itself is exceedingly deadly, full of iconic adversaries and challenges and provides a great way for the DM to provide some exposition regarding the dread lich queen. The background story, as written, is surprisingly intelligent and beyond what you'd expect from a killer-dungeon, so yeah - kudos here. On the downside, the lack of one-page maps to print out can be considered a comfort detriment.



So, what does that mean? It means that this module, more so than many others, will prove to be a very polarizing book. If you can see the vignette-style planes-hopping working for you, then chances are, you'll love this beast and enjoy it immensely. On the other hand, if you as a DM have problems generating transitions or fleshing out details on the fly, or if your players are all about the small details, then this one may result in some issues - the discrepancy between whether this will be awesome, or, well, not so great - it all very much depends on your group's tastes, capabilities etc..



At the same time, this book, unlike the first one, does not cheat in obtrusive ways - one instance where a sleeping gas may send players to their sleep sans DC or stats comes to mind, but, quite frankly, if DC 40 is too hard for the PCs at this point, they're doing it wrong anyways... So overall, this book can be considered indeed one of the few examples of high-level modules that truly managed to captivate me - the glimpses at realms beyond the regular, whether released or yet unpublished, is interesting indeed and provides some pretty imaginative ideas and a much needed change of pace, while also providing a sense of the epic to the whole experience.



It struggled quite a bit with how to describe this massive module - and the closest analogue was delivered by one of my players - this is pretty much a module-equivalent of an all-star-movie akin to Avengers - it provides components for each world and concept to shine and show what's cool about it - but there is, by virtue of its format, no room to linger on the individuals, to go into depth regarding the individual vignettes and their characters. So do not expect the module equivalent of primer or a TV drama, but rather that of a big-screen all-star action movie. Personally, I tend to prefer more detailed modules, which is also why I'm pretty happy to have been able to test this module in detail -and while I did not have an easy time as a DM and preparation did take a lot of time, the results proved to be very entertaining and my players, surprisingly, enjoyed the continuous barrage the weird of the continuum threw at them. While some minor oversights can be brought to field against this book, the amount of material that works and shows an understanding of the intricacies of Pathfinder does offset this in my book.



Yes, I'm rambling. My final verdict, ultimately, will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform, while less experienced DMs should probably round down due to the significant skill this requires to pull off.

Personally, I loved the massive array of cool ideas spotlighted and hence, I'll add my seal of approval for the vast imaginative potential.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Palace of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
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The Motebringer - An Edgewalker Archetype
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2015 04:13:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This archetype for the edgewalker-class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The motebringer has the same basic class-chassis regarding saves and BAB as the edgewalker - unlike the edgewalker, who oscillates between light and darkness, the motebringer is a specialist of utilizing light - as such, the archetype only receives a radiance pool equal to class levels x2 + Wis-mod - but no shadow pool. Seeing how this means that several of the combo-set-ups that render the edgewalker captivating to play fall away, we thus receive a significant array of infusions, the first of which is gained at second level, +1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels of motebringer thereafter.



This list of unique tricks, ultimately, is here for one reason - to add a level of flexibility the class would have otherwise lost - and I applaud the motebringer for it. Reflexive temporary hit points, high-level poison immunity, energy resistance and the like can all be found herein -as can blinding motes of light that act as replenishing blinding flash bombs. The significant array of choices is interesting due to two further design decisions - at 2nd level, the motebringer receives a mote pool that scales with the level totaling 1/2 of class levels, rounded down -these are spent when infusing aforementioned infusions into the second interacting component - the radiant shawls.



Also gained at 2nd level, radiant shawls constitute pieces of roughly-shawl-like solid light that can be modified with infusions by spending 1 hour. The shawl occupies the shoulder slot and also provides a bonus to AC and a penalty to Stealth-checks - it can be activated and deactivated as a standard action, and yes, the infusions that can be woven into the shawl can, for example, grant temporary radiance pool points to power the waypoints learned. Both radiance and mote pools increase over the levels and obviously, hide in plain sight is not part of the deal for motebringers. The capstone allows for instant modification of infusion loadouts as well as replenishment of daily uses of infusions.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn't necessarily require them at this length.



Bradley Crouch's motebringer is a good archetype - it replaces the MAD and combo-playstyle of the edgewalker with a more deliberate planning that makes the motebringer easier to run for less experienced players. While I was weary of a loss in flexibility, the new mechanics and their interplay render the playing experience per se fun. While personally, I draw more satisfaction from setting up combos and the duality of the base edgewalker, the motebringer provides for a fun experience with a different emphasis. I really applaud the fact that this is not a bland +/-2 archetype, but one with a completely different style and for the extremely fair price, this pdf definitely delivers. I know I'll send some light-shawl wearing badasses at my PCs sooner rather than later. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Motebringer - An Edgewalker Archetype
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GM's Screen Inserts (Landscape Version)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2015 04:11:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

What do all screens I have for PFRPG have in common? They never seem to list the modifiers I actually need.



Enter these screen-inserts: The landscape format inserts provide a list of action types by abilities, skills and spells, movements and mounts, miscellaneous, attacks and equipment uses alongside maneuvers, identifying monsters and movement rate modifications, covering just about all action types.



Page 2 covers combat modifiers to attack rolls, including a separate table for two-weapon fighting and AC-modifiers as well as default concealment miss-chances and a splash weapon miss diagram. DMs will probably also appreciate the 3 advanced, giant and young simple templates receiving a summary. The list of common conditions alongside their effects (including grappled, energy drain etc.), but excluding the more obscure dazed and cowering conditions in both iterations. It should also be noted that either iteration of the screen lacks the rules for feinting DCs (though it's covered among the action-tables) in either maneuvers (though technically, feinting is not a maneuver) or Bluff as a section. Conversely, demoralizing foes via intimidate would constitute another component that would have imho warranted a short entry - intimidate is completely absent from the screens.



Page 3 covers magic and treasure, with lists providing the identifying DCs for items and auras, concentration-modifiers and yes, an extra table of alignment-detect-spells. The page also provides the battle-mat-style square-representations of 15-foot cones, 30-foot cones, radii from 5 - 20-feet, and ways to align 30-foot-lines.



Page 4 covers the skills - but not all. Rather than duplicating the default screen, Acrobatics, Climb, Ride, Swim, Perception, Bluff, Diplomacy, Sense Motive and Disable Device are covered, i.e. the skills that have the most impact in combat and the least cohesive structure in DCs. It should be noted that the portrait-screen-inserts lack the Sense Motive entry, meaning you'll objectively be better off with the landscape version.



Conclusion:

I'm gonna deviate from my usual reviewing standard and just mention that the pdfs come with versions for both printer and screen-use as well as a separate credits pdf. Creighton Broadhurst delivers a significant step up when compared to PFRPG's default screen - the tables herein proved to be significantly more useful than those of the default screens. At the same time, each screen-insert-style product needs to be very selective with what to include and what not - and ultimately, I found myself wishing the screens had not included the prep-time-associated simple templates and instead provided entries for demoralizing or feinting targets - yes, the rules are simple, but with them, one could consider this one pretty much complete. As provided, it is a step upwards and well worth the investment, but it falls slightly short of what I'd subjectively consider perfection. I get the restriction regarding space the portrait-version suffers from, but providing slightly less content that the landscape version makes a difference for me. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the landscape version, rounded down for the portrait version.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen Inserts (Landscape Version)
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GM's Screen Inserts (Portrait Version)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2015 04:10:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

What do all screens I have for PFRPG have in common? They never seem to list the modifiers I actually need.



Enter these screen-inserts: The landscape format inserts provide a list of action types by abilities, skills and spells, movements and mounts, miscellaneous, attacks and equipment uses alongside maneuvers, identifying monsters and movement rate modifications, covering just about all action types.



Page 2 covers combat modifiers to attack rolls, including a separate table for two-weapon fighting and AC-modifiers as well as default concealment miss-chances and a splash weapon miss diagram. DMs will probably also appreciate the 3 advanced, giant and young simple templates receiving a summary. The list of common conditions alongside their effects (including grappled, energy drain etc.), but excluding the more obscure dazed and cowering conditions in both iterations. It should also be noted that either iteration of the screen lacks the rules for feinting DCs (though it's covered among the action-tables) in either maneuvers (though technically, feinting is not a maneuver) or Bluff as a section. Conversely, demoralizing foes via intimidate would constitute another component that would have imho warranted a short entry - intimidate is completely absent from the screens.



Page 3 covers magic and treasure, with lists providing the identifying DCs for items and auras, concentration-modifiers and yes, an extra table of alignment-detect-spells. The page also provides the battle-mat-style square-representations of 15-foot cones, 30-foot cones, radii from 5 - 20-feet, and ways to align 30-foot-lines.



Page 4 covers the skills - but not all. Rather than duplicating the default screen, Acrobatics, Climb, Ride, Swim, Perception, Bluff, Diplomacy, Sense Motive and Disable Device are covered, i.e. the skills that have the most impact in combat and the least cohesive structure in DCs. It should be noted that the portrait-screen-inserts lack the Sense Motive entry, meaning you'll objectively be better off with the landscape version.



Conclusion:

I'm gonna deviate from my usual reviewing standard and just mention that the pdfs come with versions for both printer and screen-use as well as a separate credits pdf. Creighton Broadhurst delivers a significant step up when compared to PFRPG's default screen - the tables herein proved to be significantly more useful than those of the default screens. At the same time, each screen-insert-style product needs to be very selective with what to include and what not - and ultimately, I found myself wishing the screens had not included the prep-time-associated simple templates and instead provided entries for demoralizing or feinting targets - yes, the rules are simple, but with them, one could consider this one pretty much complete. As provided, it is a step upwards and well worth the investment, but it falls slightly short of what I'd subjectively consider perfection. I get the restriction regarding space the portrait-version suffers from, but providing slightly less content that the landscape version makes a difference for me. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the landscape version, rounded down for the portrait version.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen Inserts (Portrait Version)
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Pants!
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2015 04:09:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This statement by grandmaster crunch Owen K.C. Stephens could have come from a review of yours truly as well: "Know your item slots. Don't just invent them. Best to avoid magic pants.", to briefly paraphrase the comment that spawned this supplement - so yes, here, we tread in the glorious tradition of the Baldur's Gate-saga's easter-egg and get magical pants, though admittedly more balanced ones than the ridiculously OP item we got via the pantalon-transmuter.



So, this pdf introduces the leg-slot, where one may wear leggings, kilts, skirts, stockings and the like - a decision I actually like because I NEVER understood the lack of battle-kilts, stockings of seduction and similar items in the presence of belts, amulets etc. That being said, this does not mean that the items themselves universally lack a certain winking, unobtrusive sense of humor: Take the Clam Diggers of Harvest - they allow you to be considered proficient with monk's shovels (and treat all shovels as such), confer a +2 bonus to atk and damage versus crab and clam-vermin and let you treat shallow water and mud flats as normal terrain instead of as difficult terrain. This is at once hilarious to me and makes sense - in a world where giant crabs and deadly clams exist, why wouldn't there be specialized magical equipment to deal with them?



On the high-level David Bowie-fanboy side of things, the legendary Codpiece of the Goblin King increases your illusion and enchantment DCs by +2 while also increasing your sorceror level by no less than +5 for the purpose of determining which bloodline powers they possess. Here, I do think the item overshoots its target; unlocking new bloodline powers 5 levels early (in the face of no caveat that abilities are not gained early) seems excessive. That being said, this can be nerfed easily. And it's the codpiece of the goblin king - dance, baby, dance!



Also pretty interesting - Grown-up Pants - +4 to saves versus fear effects and 1/day swift action enlarge person for 8 minutes. Pretty hilarious! The very costly and powerful Happy Pants increase any beneficial morale bonuses by +1, while also providing immunity to spells of the emotion and mind-affecting descriptors. On the low-level end, 3/day message and +4 to Heal checks as well as no requirement for a healer's kit are interesting options. It should be noted, that not all of these items imho are well-priced - the Jodhpurs of the Mounted Guard provide no less than +5 to Ride checks AND the Mounted Combat and Spirited Charge-feats AND makes all mounts be treated as combat-trained- for a paltry 7500 GP. There are also some glitches to be found herein - the Kilt of the Tyrant, for example, has only a CL of 5th, which, for an item that costs 59000 GP - while I get this rationale for the spell-like ability it confers and seeing how the headband of alluring charisma has a CL of 8th.



Fans of magical girl anime may enjoy the new magical miniskirt, whereas fans of classic comedy will almost certainly get a chuckle out of parachute pants. Skald's kilts provide btw. benefits for the ACG-class, so yes, there is some support for that one herein as well - and yes, swashbucklers et al. also get there. I also very much got a smile out of magical traveling pants that lose their enchantment if not passed to new wearers regularly...



More fun still - what about cursed pants that compel you to brag about your own awesomeness? Pants that conjure forth swarms of ants...inside? Pants that set themselves ablaze whenever the wearer utters a lie? Yeah, fun!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of minor issues, though nothing too jarring. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column standard, which means you can print this one out in digest-format. The pdf provides one original piece of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mark Gedak, Perry Fehr, Sean O'Connor and Jacob Trier have crafted some pretty awesome and fun material - the pants herein are ridiculous and often, downright fun. And no, I do not expect magical pants, an item-class that adds a new slot (resulting in more stacking options etc.) to be perfectly balanced. Alas, in some cases, there obviously are some issues herein, with CLs not lining 100% perfect up and power-levels of some pants being quite frankly beyond what I'm comfortable with. If you utilize some caution and nerfing, this *WILL* be a very inexpensive, exceedingly fun product, but without it, it does sport some rough patches in balance and minor hiccups in rules-syntax/semantics. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Pants!
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: An NPC Collection (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2015 04:35:48
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at no less than 323 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 314 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



Well, first of all, I will deviate from my usual take on detailed analysis of the individual pieces of content herein -why? Because that would take AGES and bloat this review beyond the page-count where this would have any semblance of help for anyone of my readers. Beyond that, there is another factor - I have written detailed reviews for each and every NPC (apart from the new one) sported in this massive compilation - combining them would result in more than 30 pages, so there you go. If you're interested in one particular NPC, you can have a detailed analysis of said build in my individual review of the respective pdfs. If you have read them, here's a general summation of what sets the NPCs apart.



Fluff-wise, the Tarnished Souk can be considered an interplanar nexus situated on the plane of dreams, right outside the legendary Coliseum Morpheuon, where the most powerful mortals and immortals duke it out under the auspice of the khan of nightmares, all hoping to gain the cusp of desires. Oh, and yes, the tarrasque is actually part of the competition's challenges, to give you an inkling of the level of expertise required in this competition. Dreams are a vaulable currency in Coliseum Morpheuon and thus, they actually carry relevance beyond the story's basic requirements for the characters in question. As such, they may actually be found by PCs and provide a level of background information one regularly does not expect. Dreams are more, though - they are power. While dreamburning rules from Coliseum Morpheuon are not required for this book, it does add a nice further dimension and honestly, Coliseum Morpheuon is the best high-level module available for Pathfinder, so you definitely should have that beast anyways.



So what is special about the NPCs herein? Well, regarding crunch they are special to me because they don't suck. There. I said it. Pathfinder's high-level gameplay and the general experience of many a DM that high-level gameplay comes apart, at least partially, is due to just about all published books simply having an impossible job at their hands: The directive is to create adversaries that a casual gaming group can vanquish and the more the levels pile up, the bigger the discrepancy becomes between people that exhibit a high degree of system mastery and those who don't. At high levels, this ultimately leads to whining I've seen on boards about ACs of 36 in high level-ranges where that is not an insurmountable defense. At the same time, posts complain about 1-round curb-stomping BBeGs, a problem exacerbated by the mythic rules, famously being quoted by Alexander Augunas as the Rocket-launcher-standoff.



In my main campaign, I run next to no unmodified published modules - why? Because, if I took Karzoug against half my group, they'd mop the floor with him. Yes, I'm talking about the enhanced Anniversary Edition. Playtesting published modules only VERY rarely results in any PC deaths at my table, even in Frog God Games killer beasts. And I'm not alone in this issue. While my group may be an extreme example, it is a trend that is exacerbated with each new release, with each slight power-creep. In 3.X that resulted in me wearing down my Advanced Bestiary and templating EVERYTHING. In PFRPG, I follow a similar modus operandi, though one supplemented with many, many base classes, archetypes etc. So that would be problem No.1.



Problem number 2 is a more pleasant one to have - ultimately, there are MANY awesome 3pp-products out there -glorious base-classes, exceedingly fun subsystems etc. - and yes, I'm using more 3pp material than Paizo material at this point. Alack and alas, there is no big 3pp NPC Codex and that means making A LOT of NPCs and monsters from scratch. Faces of the Tarnished Souk did something rather unique - it provides a vast array of templates,. both original and from the best of sources and combines them with unique classes - taskshapers and time thieves, malefactors - whatever your heart desires, there is a good chance you'll find some of the unmitigated stars within these pages. Add to that unique, custom-tailored magic items and you get an array of NPCs that is ACTUALLY CHALLENGING.



Now that would be awesome in and of itself, but it becomes even better when you take into account the vast imaginative potential that lies at the roots of the characters provided herein - you won't find "Human Paladin 20" herein - instead, you'll find, for example, Nameless Nil, the Beggar of Self. An imaginary friend turned killer turned beggar, whose wonderful class/template line reads "Bloody Maw Half-construct horrifically overpowered hungry nightmare unfettered eidolon savant 10." This is, as the back cover proudly proclaims, NOT your pappy's NPC book. Nameless Nil's prose and background story ranks among the best pieces of character writing I have seen in ANY roleplaying product, btw. - this guy is my favorite NPC for Pathfinder. Yes, I'm talking about all-out number 1 spot. Oh, and have I mentioned that, for example the legendary bulwark Ahnkar-Kosh has an AC of 64? This should put an end to the smirk on your level 20 min-maxers face...



But wait, before you put away this review - no, not all NPCs in this book exist only in the CR ~20-range - instead, each of the NPCs herein comes with a build for low levels, mid levels and high levels, allowing you to introduce the NPCs at any level you like and depict their progression to greatness- or utilize the statblocks of the lower iterations for servants, creatures or whatever you like. Another issue you may expect to face would lie in the aforementioned presence of a lot of 3pp-content utilized in the truly beautiful builds created herein. Well, approximately the last 100 pages of the book are used to provide all rules used in the builds of this massive cadre of glorious CHARACTERS. For, thanks to the interplay of glorious prose and superb crunch, the NPCs become more than the sum of their respective parts.



If you are not inspired by the glorious write-ups of the respective NPCs, many of which can spawn multiple adventures (or even campaigns!), boxes with pieces of advice further help using the NPCs and integrating them into the mythos of your campaign. Have I btw. mentioned Smiles-Under-teh-Bed, the legendary Cheshire cat that is pretty much a psychotic, playful killer that clocks in at CR 19 in its most powerful iteration? The eidolon that is the summoner that wants to be mortal? The goblin time thief convinced that things between the seconds are gearing up to tear time and reality asunder? If you have ANY joy contemplating high-stakes games, personal tragedies, captivating NPCs and a level of imagination I have not seen since the heyday of Planescape, and there only in its better products, then this compilation should be considered a ridiculously glorious must-buy.



How can this be further enhanced? well, the original pdfs sported some artwork which has since been used by other supplements as well - this has been expanded by new pieces that seamlessly fit with the respective character portrayals, with Juan Diego Dianderas and Kamil Jadczak delivering great pieces in the fitting b/w-standard this book offers and adding to the talents of illustrators that not only include master of the creepy Mark Hyzer, but also Tamás Baranya and Hugo Solis and many, many more. How can this be made better on a content-level, you ask? Well, what about adding a brand new NPC by none other than legendary, Ennie-award-winning design Ben McFarland? This would be Strai Tkossirk, the whispered word of dream. This would be, in his highest CR-iteration, a psychic (telekinetic) vrock oracle (aetherurgist) - and the level of imaginative potential of this NPC in no way falls back behind the ridiculously high standard of the series, utilizing for example a magical drug-addiction in the mid-level version. And yes, as per the tradition with this series, vivid prose, GM-advice and tactics combine to create a creature that is more than the sum of its myriad parts. On a nitpicky side - I think it would have made more sense to include him in the NPC-roster instead of in the appendix, but that is ultimately one design in a huge book....and remains the only true gripe I can muster against this tome.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, especially for a massive tome of this size. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with elegant borders and the artworks provided, as mentioned above, are thematically fitting and, in many cases, awesome. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



I have all individual pdfs printed out. I want this book in dead-tree. This is not "an" NPC collection - to me, this is THE NPC collection. Faces of the Tarnished Souk epitomizes what made me a fan of Rite Publishing in the first place: The combination of awesome prose and imaginative fluff that goes one step further. I guarantee that the vast majority of characters herein, once encountered, will remain the talk of your gaming groups for years to come. Beyond the cool mechanics, this series has pretty much defined what I consider apex-level NPC-crafting and remains my point of reference for any such book. It should be noted that exactly ONE pdf can claim to adhere to this level of awesomeness beyond the series - LPJr Design's Cyrix. That's pretty much it.

When anyone asks me for challenging or simply evocative NPC builds, this book immediately comes to mind. When someone asks me for the spirit of truly uncommon fantasy, this book is what I think about. Whether as antagonists, allies or both, the characters herein pretty much define my campaigns in subtle ways - by the legends they have crafted, by the guidance they provide, by the growth my PCs can witness. Matt Banach, Justin Sluder, Steven D. Russell and Ben McFarland have quite simply created THE NPC collection for the discerning game-master, the remedy for players bored with standard builds and, via the builds herein, a great toolkit for GMs to use themselves.



Even if you never plan to run any of the characters herein and are not interested in Coliseum Morpheuon, this book provides so many iconic characters that it remains my honest belief that this book can serve as an inspiration for other settings as well. If my gushing diatribe before was not ample clue, I consider this quite frankly the best NPC collection out there, one distinguished by excellence in the beautiful statblocks AND the prose that draws vivid pictures of truly unique characters that deserve the moniker while epitomizing the key strengths of Rite Publishing as a publisher. This book, unsurprisingly, receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval as well as being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: An NPC Collection (PFRPG)
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ZEITGEIST #9: The Last Starry Sky (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2015 07:38:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The ninth installment of the superb Zeitgeist AP clocks in at a whopping 105 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 100 (!!) pages of content - that's more than some self-proclaimed mega-adventures out there...



This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. As such, players wishing to play this intelligent and exceedingly ambitious AP should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here?

We rejoin our loyal constables of the RHC in the realm of the Dreaming, the lands of the fey, where they were dumped after facing off against Nicodemus, the immortal head of the Ob's conspiracy. Now if you have any degree of familiarity with roleplaying, you'll probably know that the combination of "Stranded" and "Fey" in any combination in one sentence do not bode well and indeed, if the PCs were expecting whimsy, they'll get that - of the lethal sort, for there is war brewing in the realms of the fey. Let me elaborate - two courts have been in a state of cold war for quite some time - until Rock Rackus, troublemaker and celebrity bard, entered the fray - remember this loud-mouth from the campaign's beginning? Well, turned out that his claims have had some truth - he indeed slept with the Queen of the Fey...who also is the king, as the mirrored face of said lord projects the subconscious of any who look upon the entity. Worse, his inclination of "sticking it to the man" made him a pawn of the machinations of the second court as well and thus, a valid linchpin to destabilize the whole realm.

The fey/elder evil-combination the players know from adventure #3, the Voice of Rot, has had an agent abduct Rock and "murder" a false body instead, inciting hostilities between the courts - a conflict the PCs will have to resolve to return home. That is if they manage to maneuver through the politics and oddities of the fey courts - worse, returning home is not as simple as one would deem, nor is finding Rock, who has been safely sealed away in a pocket/prison dimension-ish place called the absurdist web. It should be noted that unearthing the truth may not *necessarily* be the interest of the PCs - allying with the mastermind behind the abduction may well be a smart move...for now. Then again, choosing the new sovereign of the fey and duking it out with a potential candidate or the majesty ought to be considerable fun. Still, the investigation here is just as modular, odd and challenging as you'd expect it to be. My only gripe here would be the lack of a proper planar-trait synopsis as established in PFRPG's standard, though that admittedly is a gripe I can classify as a nitpick in view of the overall interesting plot here - including a rather phenomenal potential for a face-off against a fey-titan that is truly ridiculously huge...and deadly.



Time, alas, waits for no one, not even PCs stranded in the realms of the fey, and meanwhile, the world is succumbing to the vision of the Ob, with Risur a beacon of hope and resistance, thanks in no small parts to the PCs warning the king and thus ensuring the united spirit of his people (as established via the concept of Rites of Rulership) to remain intact - for now, for when the PCs arrive at a wedding he oversees, the OB's plan kicks in and they use wayfarer lanterns to draw the vfery palace into the Bleak Gate. The PCs have exactly 5 minutes to thwart this transition before they and everyone is fully manifest in the Bleak Gate and faces essentially unbeatable odds. Oh, not that the constant barrage of elite assassination teams and Ob-forces defending the lanterns would make for an easy time - quite the contrary. The Ob have failsafe upon failsafe and defeating one team is by far not enough - essentially, this is a constant stream of highly lethal attacks on the king, with success being rather likely unless the PCs are up to the a-game. The Ob are smart - let's hope the player's minds have been sharpened as well by the constant tangling with their foes.



Whether the king lives or dies - there is more to be done, namely interrupting the ritual of Stanfield - only issue being having to attack the best-defended lighthouse in the world - simple, right? An epic naval battle ensues, one that comes, as always, with my firm advice to utilize the naval combat rules of Fire as She Bears instead. Other than that, the dramatics and set-up here are pretty much awesome - as would be the final assault on Stanfield's fortress, where the mighty oracle fights the PCs with all his prior incarnations. But once he falls, so does the sky, evaporating his lighthouse and saving Risur...for now - but as the PCs scramble from the rubble, they realize that their magic is gone (a notion covered and explained alongside the rules of the New World Order in a sidebox that makes infinitely more sense than the ill-conceived 30-cap in #8) and there may or may not be one final battle to brave...in any way, as the night-sky changes, the nebulae of the heavens form the shape of titanic gears - the New World Order has dawned and the PCs may have witnessed indeed the last starry sky...



The pdf also deals with the rather likely death of the king and the notion of PCs becoming monarchs, appendices with stats for both creatures, NPCs, ships, etc., magic and training and handy maps that e.g. make the overlaps of the lanterns during the assassination apparent, etc. - as always, the quality of the full-color maps is superb, though I wished the layered pdf had a way to make them player-friendly (i.e. no legend/keys).



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Zeitgeist's beautiful, layered two-column full-color standard and thus allows for significant customization. Artworks range from gorgeous to stock and are copious. The cartography is excellent, as always.



Ryan Nock's #9 of the AP sees a return to form for me - while I am not yet sold on whether the new abilities imposed by the finale of the module will receive proper rules-translation in future installments, I can safely say that this installment of the series, apart from pretty much negligible details, can be considered one of the most creative. Much like in WotBS, this one could be deemed the oddball, feyish, planar interlude and as such would make perhaps one of the easiest modules to rip out of the context of the whole AP - the first Act, the assassination etc. could be relatively easily scavenged for other purposes beyond this AP. That being said, the main star of this module, let's be honest, is the cinematographic dramaturgy exhibited by the scenes - the stakes are impossibly high at this point and one can see that from the get-go. The challenges also reflect this more than just on a cursory way and yes, when played right, this module can be a delight, but also exceedingly lethal. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, though I am somewhat skeptical about the new magic rules for the world and whether they will work properly in future installments. One more nitpick, perhaps - the rules, at least as hinted here, seem to not take #7 into account, which imho is a lost chance for the meta-plot to make the PC's decisions matter - an oversight I hope to see rectified in the compilation of the second act.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #9: The Last Starry Sky (Pathfinder RPG)
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Compendium Arcanum Vol. 3: 2nd-Level Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: d20pfsrd.com
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2015 08:58:39
UPDATE to reflect the added errata:
The big design-guffaws I've mentioned have been cleaned up by the errata and the installment benefits quite a bit from that. At the same time, not all have been cleaned up -there are quite a few still remaining and, once again, the base system's issues regarding the interaction and balance with other components of spellcasting is not addressed. Hence, my verdict will remain.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Compendium Arcanum-series clocks in at 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 117 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So what is this series about? In a nutshell, the compendium arcanum-series takes the concept of 3.X's Arcana Evolved for the option of heightening/diminishing spells and translates that to PFRPG. This means a spell can be cast as one level higher or as one level lower. The series covers all spells from the core-book, APG, UM and Ultimate Combat. If a class has no level lower (i.e. no cantrip slots), you can't cast the diminished spell and the heightened effects require you to be able to cast the heightened spell level - obviously preventing classes from casting a heightened spell that would e.g. be 10th level for a full caster or 5th level, for a paladin, to give you two examples.



After the unfortunate cantrip-debacle of the second installment of the series, we here do not have the issue with potential infinite casts, remaining with only a significant increase in flexibility. At first glance, one can see a nice little improvement in layout -diminished and heightened effects are now denoted by small, neat arrow-icons, making the actual use of this pdf more comfortable - nice! On the downside, at this point I feel obliged to mention two significant gaps in the system that were simply not relevant in the first installment and paled behind the vast issues the 1st level-installment had. Number 1 would be that the pdf does not specify how e.g. light/darkness-counterspells work - can e.g. a diminished light counterspell a heightened darkness? The pdfs remain silent on this. Secondly - what about spell-like abilities? How do they work within in the frame of this system? No idea.



Now what kind of balancing mechanisms do we get? Well, among others, the obvious ones would include modified durations as well as changed range/target-lines - limiting a spell from touch to personal, for example, makes sense, as does the upgrade from e.g. +2 to +4 bonuses. However, not all spell-scaling effects can be considered well-crafted - the by themselves powerful "massive bonus spells" like acute senses - the diminished version nets only a +5 bonus, scaling up to +10. The heightened effect, however, increases duration by factor ten for 10 min/level. Alas, there are glitches herein- take the diminished effects of alchemical allocation: "If the spell contained in the potion or elixir has variable, numeric effects, they are decreased by half, including bonuses to those dice rolls. If the spell contained in the potion or elixir has variable, numeric effects, then instead its duration is decreased by half. " Sooo...what is it? I don't get how this is supposed to work. Something obviously went pretty wrong here.



Now on the plus-side, adding cure light wounds to allfood's heightened effects would be a pretty cool idea, going into breadth, rather than depth (though the former spell is not italicized) and animal aspect's diverse heightened effects (one for each animal chosen) make for a cool idea. Arcane Lock's heightened effect allows you to specify a password to temporarily bypass the lock - which makes more than just a bit sense and can be used for plenty a cool narrative - it is in instances like this where Timothy Wallace's talent definitely shines. On the downside, there simply are quite a few guffaws herein - blur's heightened effects e.g., among others, changes target to "creature touched" - which the spell already has - instead, it should clarify the number of creatures to be touched. Why? In another issue, the spell's heightened effects allow you to freely assign the duration in 1-minute intervals among creatures touched - which renders the spell effectively a kind-of-(communal) spell, so why not simply utilize that terminology?



Chameleon Stride would be an example of a diminished effect gone horribly wrong, with the diminished version providing " You gain a +10 bonus on Stealth checks, but are not granted any concealment. The bonus increases to +20 at caster level 5th, and to +30 (the maximum) at caster level 9th." -no concealment, yes, but a bonus that may be on par (and as untyped, stacking) with invisibility. Remember, that would be for a level one spell. The heightened version provides concealment for all attacks further than 5 feet away. This renders reach weapons rather useless and also eliminates any possibility to target creatures with spells and effects that require line of sight. For a level 3 spell, that's pretty sick.



On the plus-side - using a heightened command undead without needing to speak the commands, instead going for the telepathic route once again can be considered a stroke of genius - undead ninjas with a necromancer-commander? Why not? Nice! Lesser Confusion/Confusion have been merged into a nice combined version and a similar merger has been made for continual flame and light: Makes sense, as does the combination of pit trap/spiked pit. Instant revelation of all information via detect thought's heightened effect once again feel a bit problematic in my book.



On the plus-side, integration of all relevant and required information for e.g. catching on fire is a pretty neat added convenience. Moving flaming spheres to execute ranged combat maneuvers with a concentration-check may be a bit too much, though - ranged maneuvers at what amounts to a full BAB-class bonus, plus trait/feat-trickery is very strong, especially considering the additional damage/AoE-upgrade. Stinking Cloud has been delegated to being the heightened version of fog cloud, which may be a bit too weak for 3rd level.



Extending the effects of grace to creatures touched would constitute another gripe I have here - the base spell is OP enough, allowing it to be extended to other characters makes it ridiculously powerful, even for 3rd level. Share Memory's diminished effects allow you to share memories only for a limited time, allowing for significantly more complex narrative frames - so yeah - this one is pretty brilliant. Silk to Steel's heightened effect is pretty awesome, allowing you to use it either for defense or as a scorpion whip. Here one might nitpick that the spell does not confer proficiency, but it doesn't need to - the wording specified "as if" - and in dubio pro reo, so this one's safe from my nagging. Heightened Touch injection sans chance to poison yourself, even without poison use, also makes sense - at least for non-alchemists. Spitting poisons transmuted from potions makes for another interesting option and the option to make undetectable alignment kind of communal via the heightened version also is pretty cool. Adding minor energy resistance of your choice to a web shelter also is a rather awesome decision.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is pretty solid on a formal level - on the rules-level, the book could have used a close look by a solid developer. Layout adheres to the easy-to-read, well-presented 2-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The added icons make reading the pdf easier - kudos. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience - one for each spell! Kudos! The pdf also comes in two versions, with one sporting extensive hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com's shop and the other being free of them, should you prefer it that way.



Timothy Wallace, generally, knows what he is doing. However, this is longer than 120 pages and thus, I wasn't surprised to see some hiccups here - some of the new options presented here are quite frankly not appropriate for the spell-level to which they adhere - at least in my book. Now usually, I'd be slightly more lenient in that regard, but as anyone who has ever run a game with compendium arcanum-rules can attest, these modifications significantly enhance the flexibility of all casters, thus making the required balancing all the more peculiar. The series is notoriously quiet on its rather significant effects on balancing - personally, I'd suggest taking a very close look at whether your game is up for the increased caster-power provided here. Especially prepared casters imho simply do not require the additional flexibility. But that won't influence my verdict - what will, though, are the glitches that can be found and the at times very problematic, even broken effects. HOWEVER, at the same time, the (communal)-tricks, the spell-mergers...there is a lot of cool material to be found herein, some of it downright inspired. So while the balance-concerns within the system would usually have me round down, I'll instead settle for a verdict that reflects this as a quintessential mixed bag, for a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 stars for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Compendium Arcanum Vol. 3: 2nd-Level Spells (PFRPG)
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Psionics Augmented: Mythic Psionics
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2015 03:38:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 75 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 71 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This supplement was moved up in my queue as a prioritized review by my patreons.



So there we have it - the massive sourcebook that brings the much beloved psionics system up to mythic proportions, but can it whether the test of numerical escalation while also providing some iconic tricks? We'll see.



First of all, the pdf does something smart - it covers terminology. Why is that smart? Well psionic powers tend to have an Augment-option, whereas mythic spellcasting has established an "Augmented" line - making the difference clear is pretty vital, with a similar potential confusion regarding psychic warrior paths and mythic paths being another topic that is clarified from the get-go. This deserves special mention because it renders nomenclature precise from the get-go and renders the potential for ambiguity issues minimal - kudos!



We begin this supplement's huge array of crunchy options with a psionic-exclusive mythic path, the path of the overmind. Covering the whole ten tiers, with each tier netting 3 bonus hit points, this path begins with a psionic secret. these include the option to expend one use of mythic power to manifest any one psionic power without expending power points, with augmenting being treated as if augmented to the manifester level of the character, if applicable. The power thus manifested cannot be improved via metapsionic feats and requires non-mythic creatures to save twice and take the worse result - so yes, this is kind of a modified wild surge that is different from the regular wilder ability in some unique ways - and yes, having both actually yields different results in their customizations, so mythic wilders may still get something out of this - and the two abilities can work in tandem, though there are more efficient uses of either. Another option allows for the expenditure of one mythic power as a swift action to execute an attack that bypasses all DR and adds +tier to damage, but does not allow bonus damage from e.g. weapon special abilities still are subject to resistances and immunities.

Surging psionics allow you to expend a use of mythic power as a standard action to treat your manifester level as two higher for level-dependent effects, with the power being treated as if augmented to your manifester level, should it provide augmenting. You can apply metapsionic feats to this power, but still need to expend your psionic focus and still have to pay for the power, which may not exceed your manifester level and still count versus psionic augmenting. On a nitpicky side, I do consider this wording to be somewhat less precise than it could be, as the wording does not specify whether the surge-enhanced modified manifester level or the base manifester-level applies for purposes of augments - I assume the modified level, though. Where things become somewhat complex is once you apply this power to powers enhanced by wild surges - the stacking of manifester levels can potentially be rather nasty here, with potential ML-increases of up to +8 being rather significant. Via one path ability, one may even expend one use of mythic power to increase ML by 1/2 tier, which translates to a potential +11 ML for wilders. Both leave me HIGHLY uncomfortable.

A more important change of pace these mythic path abilities provide would not be apparent at first - since the reduction of manifesting time down to 1 standard action is pretty massive, astral caravans/travelers, augured answers etc. pretty significant changes in the utility of such powers -checking through Ultimate Psionics, the powers for which such a decrease proved relevant turned out to be mostly information-based/utility/healing-centric, so not that bad - just something to bear in mind regarding the future-proofing of mythic psionics. This also deviates somewhat from Paizo's standard of tackling similar abilities - in the base array, the intent is to expend a swift action for mythic power to ENABLE the better casting of the respective spell. While the prominence of swift/immediate actions among powers would render this less effective, just locking psionic powers into standard actions overrides their manifesting time and thus can result in problems. Additionally, this changes action economy in a second, significant way - it allows you to break the 1 swift/immediate action limit per round by fixing the mythic augmented manifesting time at the standard action-level. While per se presenting a concise way to handle the general system, I am at this point not 100% convinced this system is airtight - while psionics makes excessive use of swift/immediate actions on its own, the combination with other classes and sub-systems may be used to execute some truly nasty combos otherwise prevented by the hard action-type-limit. While this is less of an issue with mythic rules in general, I can see issues arising from this and wished the manifesting time modification had a slightly more limited flexibility. I really wished this mechanic did not lock manifestation times as standard actions.



1st tier and every tier thereafter net the overmind an overmind path ability or, of course, an universal path ability, with the capstone netting 15 +highest manifester level PR, forcing non-mythic targets to roll twice for any save and take the worse result. Additionally, once per round when subjected to a power manifested by a mythic foe that fails to penetrate your PR, you regain a use of mythic power. Here, I got ready to complain hard, but the pdf at least specifies that the foe needs to be an enemy, thus preventing an easy infinite mythic power-exploit. Nice job! As with all paths, tier abilities come in 3 general categories: 1st, 3rd and 6th-tier abilities. The abilities here all have in common that they do something rather significant: Psions may, for example, unlock additional discipline abilities of a second discipline and a scaling force-field that provides a 3+tier AC-bonus that works essentially on an unlimited basis as well as aforementioned surge-improvement all have in common that they change the way in which a psion of mythic proportions works. Getting power points from the collective and using mythic power to manifest powers of a member of the collective also can be considered unique benefits, with thankfully tier being utilized as a means of limitation.



Bypass mental defenses also deserves special mention - the ability allows you to affect a creature immune to mind-affecting effects with a class feature or psionic power for the price of one use of mythic power. While this pretty much can translate into an "I win"-button versus certain enemies, the caveat that this does not work versus mindless foes renders the whole trick actually valid without marginalizing constructs and similar adversaries, so kudos here. Better crafting can be found herein alongside significant increases to ML for the purposes of discipline abilities, thankfully sans netting earlier access to them and one favorite of mine allows for the free distribution of dice between two active energy types, thankfully applying the bonus to either to all dice and attack rolls - more impressively, the ability does provide a wording that prevents confusion with e.g. the Elemental Blast feat, being limited to powers. Gaining resistance to energy you manifest and access to discipline-exclusive powers can also be found herein and adding an augment to a personal healing power is also covered, thus allowing for an interesting interaction with vitalists in particular. Numerical escalation of class ability-granted insight bonuses and more efficient methods and warrior's path abilities can be found alongside having a focus active while being asleep, unconscious, etc. Using mythic power to ignore any and all energy resistance and immunity does not gel well with me - usually, the default mode would be to differentiate between non-mythic and mythic adversaries and flat-out ignoring of all instead of a scaling formula does feel a bit off to me. Reflexive blasts when being crited as well as better and faster astral construct generation may be awesome, though e.g. expending mythic power to swap one of your psionic powers with another one on your class list of equivalent level feels VERY powerful.



Among the higher-level abilities, using metapsionic feats that do not increase the PP-cost of a power sans expending the psionic focus via the expenditure of mythic power can be considered an interesting option. Psychic Tsunami is pretty iconic in its imagery: For one use of mythic power, you generate a 30-ft.-aura that damages all non-magical objects in range for 5 x tier force damage that ignores hardness for tier rounds, with psionic focus allowing you to exempt structures, creatures and objects at your leisure. Additionally, the vortex makes the area difficult terrain. An aura of scaling fire is also among the cool options one can take here. Ravaging Time, as an ability, imho needs a tighter wording: "When you are affected by time stop or similar effects that alter your time relative to the manifester’s, you can expend one use of mythic power to take a standard action during the effect." So, as per this definition, what constitutes an eligible effect? Can an allied spellcaster cast haste on you and thus unlock an option to expend 1 use of mythic power for + standard action? Or does this only apply when being targeted by a detrimental effect? I get what this ability tries to do, but as written, it remains less precise than what I'm accustomed to by Dreamscarred Press. The 6th tier abilities allow for mythic power-based immunity to mind-affecting effects for 1 round and AoE telekinetic bull rushes also work rather well - as do the creature-enslavement-enhancer tricks. Sample builds for overmind are provided.



Beyond the path of the overmind, we also receive expanded path ability lists for the other mythic paths, with a storm of AoE-mindblades for champions, significantly increased DR for astral suits and grapple-based cages for guardians. personally, I'm not a fan of the parrying mechanic used here, but that is a personal preference - the rules-language is precise enough and the immediate action-requirement prevents abuse. Marshals may choose to use any marshal mythic power on any creature in their collective. As a 1st tier ability. This is powerful. Fitting, yes, but it specifically makes powers you could only target on yourself available at bigger ranges, so that's definitely something to be wary of. Extending the collective to all creatures within 100 feet at a 6th tier ability also is something that may be pretty nasty.



A glitch has crept in among the trickster abilities - "You can expend your psionic focus to add your mythic tier to your altered defense value for one round." - is that supposed to be AC or is it supposed to apply to the cryptic's altered defense class feature as implied by the prereq? If so, the wording is not 100% in line with how such things are usually phrased. In any case, the wording could be *slightly* more concise in its reference towards the correct class feature. And yes, I'm aware this is nitpicking - I certainly won't rate down the pdf for this hiccup, just wanted to provide this as an example. Project Impossible Location is, on the other hand, a trickster ability that is worth its weight in gold: As an immediate action, you can expend a mythic power to make a 5-foot-step, making the attack miss. If a creature fails a will-save, further attacks may miss as well. The ability manages to get the 5-ft-step limit covered as well, so kudos!



The universal path abilities can mostly be summed up by "numerical escalation" -better disrupt pattern, more astral suit customization options, expanded collective, better devastating touch, breaking the mind blade's +10 limit - you get the idea. Interaction with select core mythic rules pertaining spellcasting is also covered.



The next chapter covers a literal ton of mythic psionic feats - enough so that the feat-table spans no less than 2 full pages. Perhaps most interesting would be Ascendant Power - this metapsionic feat requires the expenditure of your psionic focus and increases the power point cost by a whopping +8 - for this, the power instead uses its mythic version, but still does not count as a mythic power for the purpose of effects interacting with it. The thus improved power cannot benefit from mythic augmentation and does not allow for the utilization of effects that require the expenditure of mythic power. What this feat essentially does is unlocking mythic psionics for non-mythic manifesters. It also allows for a significant increase in flexibility beyond the feat-tax that Mythic Powers Known imposes, which clocks in at 1 power per tier. Mythic Psionic Attack is interesting, allowing for all attacks in a given round to benefit from the expenditure of your psionic focus - I say "interesting" because it decreases the focus on singular, exceedingly powerful attacks towards a support of multiple ones, rendering characters with many attacks instantly superior to those with just one. This changes basically how Psionic Fist/Weapon-builds work and puts the whole thing on its head. While not a bad choice, imho, this could have required a more fluid balancing - as written, it just inverts the build, thus greatly decreasing the comparative efficiency of single-hit-builds. A great idea, though one I wished had more complex mechanics for a more fluid experience.



The other feats herein represent mythic versions of the numerous feats and they can, like most mythic feats, be grouped into various types: For one, we can find numerical escalations, which, while fitting, tend to not exactly blow me away - essentially, I am of the conviction that mythic gameplay already is escalated enough in that regard. The second and in my opinion, more interesting array of feats allow for an increased array of tactical options - going into breadth and flexibility over numerical depth, if you will. Here, the feats and their benefits range from the solid to the exciting: Using mythic power and a swift action to change the alignment component utilized by Aligned Strike, for example, would constitute such an increase in flexibility.



Body Fuel would also be interesting in that it only requires one attribute to suffer the ability burn of the base feat, mitigating one drawback of the original feat and increasing its potency. Rendering astral constructs mythic for the purpose of interaction with other creatures and increasing their DR is impressive, though rendering the DR as bypassed only by epic weapons makes them pretty strong in certain campaigns - personally, I would have preferred a DR-bypass that scales with the levels of power or manifesters. Burrowing Power's mythic version also should be noted in that it no longer requires line of sight - a powerful and fun option generally, though I wished the wording were a tad bit more specific regarding the failure criteria: "If no creature is in that space, the power fails." - from an aesthetic position, I would have preferred this to reference the target/area of effect of the power itself. Now note that this does not render the feat bad or problematic, it only constitutes a minor nitpick that will not influence my final verdict. Deep Impact's mythic version may be a bit nasty, allowing for the expenditure of mythic power to treat all your attacks as touch attacks for the remainder of the round. Efficient Aid not only increases the efficiency of healing requested by +50%, it also allows for the expenditure of mythic power to allow for the healing of attribute damage.



Of course, mythic upgrades of the +x class ability-type feats can be found in this chapter. Nomads fast stepping as a swift or immediate action are interesting - though, alas, the immediate action trick opens up an issue that was not part of the original Fast Step - the teleport can now be used reflexively, though the feat does not specify whether using it as a response to an attack negates said attack, makes it miss or lets the attacker decide in which way to utilize he attack that would have been directed at the psion phasing away. While this is no something a DM can easily fix, it still remains a minor blemish. I am also not a fan of utilizing mythic power to make a skill-check count as if a natural 20, as some feats utilize in their mechanics. Adding a tier-based or scaling bonus would probably have yielded a bit more flexible results.



The next chapter provides us with a massive, huge list of mythic powers - again, we begin the chapter with a rock-solid explanation of functionality and terminology of mythic powers, how to get them and how they work, including nice options to make them spontaneously more potent or more resilient towards being dispelled. This section can be considered a very well-written piece that provides the functionality and examples required to make the blending of psionics and mythic rules work. All in all, one can assert that basic modification via these choices and the aforementioned options as well as the non-mythic augment-options render the powers themselves more flexible than comparable spells, thus making up for the decreased flexibility from power selection itself. Kudos! The power-lists come organized by class and level.



The powers provided do sport some instances of numerical escalation and, of course, augmented-options dependant on tier in some cases, with just about all tiers being featured. Yes, this includes 10th tier: The augmented option for temporal acceleration allows for the use of 3 uses of mythic power to increase the duration of the now multi-target power to 1 hour per level. Yes, this is essentially permanent, mass crush-em-all and broken as all hell, but at tier 10, that's exactly the capstone-level of brutal destructive potential I like to see. Telekinetic force's now longer duration should also be considered to be interesting in that it enhances the move option and provides a more powerful throw option (that also expends it) - a nice example for numerical escalation that in fact is no escalation, but rather an expansion into breadth rather than depth.



I also enjoy the option to selectively exclude some targets from swarms of crystals and while slumber nets a linear increase of hit dice affected by the power, its true benefit imho would be the control exerted over which creatures are affected. Now the 8th tier augmented option is AWESOME: Affect all living creatures with 8 HD or less within a mile of you - for days on end! Yes, 3 uses of mythic power are steep, but this is narrative gold. Love it! Schism's second augmented option also deserves special mention, as it provides a swift action to the second mind you create. If that does not sound like much, then you've never had a psion with this power as a combo-enabler in your game. Personally, love the engine-tweak here! As a nice note, even basic powers that did not provide this much strategy like the energy-based powers do benefit from an extension in breadth - energy push foes straight upwards? Yup, this can be pretty awesome. Over all, this chapter did impress me most among the pieces of content provided so far - it is relatively imaginative, provides a significant array of tactical depth and goes beyond basic formula for the powers - it very much feels like something lovingly handcrafted.



The final chapter of this book provides 9 mythic versions of monsters introduced in the Psionic Bestiary, from the deranged trepanner to the puppeteer and phrenic scourge, they range from CR 16/MR 6 to CR 2/MR 1. They provide some interesting, added signature abilities and enhancements for their respective mythic powers - generally, a solid array...so when do we get the full mythic psionic bestiary? ;)



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting generally are very good - I noticed no serious, formal hiccups, though here and there a minor rules-glitch has entered the fray. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides an array of nice full-color artworks, some original, some I have seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version - very considerate!



Jeremy Smith, Andreas Rönnqvist, Eric Hindley, Guillermo Daniel Ordoñez - gentlemen, you have my respect. Psionics and mythic are not that easy to blend - I've been experimenting with it myself and there is a LOT to take into account. Psionics has more connected, moving parts than regular spellcasting and as such, the task of upgrading this system to mythic rules is not something I'd consider easy by any means of the word.



That good news is, my nitpicky complaining-tirades none withstanding, this is pretty much the functional, neat upgrade to mythic rules fans of psionics have been clamoring for. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the relative diversity of options provided herein, many of which go above and beyond what one would expect to see in such a massive supplement. More often than not, the authors have opted to provide unique perspectives and tactical options rather than succumbing to the numerical nuking less inspired mythic design is prone to.



On the other side, it would be remiss to mention that the complex interaction of mythic and psionic rules with all the moving parts inherent in either system does result in some sand grinding in the well-oiled engines of both systems. While some of the gripes boil down to nitpicks, minor inconsistencies and similar issues that can easily be handled by a capable DM, this pdf also does sport some combos that leave me shuddering and which are, ultimately in my book, in need of a nerfing. Even in the context of mythic rules, there quite frankly are some combos herein that are a tad bit too good to be considered okay in my book. Especially the fixed reduction of manifesting time to one standard action is not only a component that deviates from how the spellcasting-analogue works (which is required, as powers adhere to a different manifesting action economy), but also changes in a somewhat wonky way how the systems interact with one another. The new mythic path provided does sport some of these components. However, at the same time, the path does not sport boring or pseudo-feat-abilities, instead opting for utterly unique tricks - kudos for getting that right!



If you've read this massive review, you will have noticed quite a few instances where I picked apart some components and mechanics - however, at the same time, this pdf does provide a staggering amount of content, much of which can be called downright inspired. Finally, and there are no two ways to look at this, this is the all but required supplement for use of psionics with the mythic rules. How do I rate this brute, then? I've been honestly struggling with finding a verdict here. On the one side, this supplement works perfectly (for the most time) in game and has some awesome, inspired components. On the other hand, it does have some rough edges that can be abused and/or grind the game to a halt - essentially, there are also some design-aesthetic deviations from how Paizo and Legendary Games have structured mythic augments etc.



In the end, I could have settled on a review in the middle range of my rating system, but that would have been a disservice to the content provided herein. While obviously, this pdf is not perfect, chances are that you'll find some truly exciting and interesting options within these pages and for mythic campaigns, there are no two ways around this, this book remains a must-buy option. My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4 stars, with the caveat that DMs using this book should have some serious experience with psionics under their belts to prevent some of the combos this enables from overwhelming them and to be in a position to say no to some of the combinations.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Mythic Psionics
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