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The Flayed King
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2018 05:03:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This FREE mini-adventure clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure contains slightly mature themes. Nothing grievous, but if you’re really easily offended, you may want to look elsewhere. Personally, I consider this to be pretty much PG 13. The module assumes S&W rules and should best suit a party of 4 of about 3rd – 4th level characters; depending on player-expertise, lower level PCs may survive.

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

..

.

All right, still here? Only referees around? Great! So, this module depicts a small dungeon, situated in Tullius Well. Slightly unfortunate regarding formatting of information: We have regular text, which can act as efficient and nice read-aloud text, if you choose to run the module as such; rules-relevant sections are printed in italics, which makes the discerning of spells etc. harder than it probably should be. Anyways, the well has no rules to climb down and conceals a small complex of 6 rooms – 7, really. A big plus here: There are reliefs in the doors and pressing the right ones can open a door. In a really nice twist, the first room may actually stump PCs a bit – footfalls echo. You see, the floor conceals a sealed hidden room and falling into it after demolishing it may put the PCs into a bind, as 6 draugr have been sealed here, wearing funerary necklaces for funds in the world thereafter. Here, a key may be gained by the lucky survivors.

Bypassing the complex lock, the PCs can walk a room of petroglyph-covered limestone walls, where finding a depiction of a 6-breasted boar as the correct glyph to progress. Once they do, though, the PCs will have to defeat Goreth, guardian of the Flayed King. Living to tell the tale of the combat against the undead champion might yield the minor artifact Ring or Raraek. The artifact’s exact properties are utterly opaque and subject to GM interpretation, alas. In the end, the PCs will find the grisly sight that you can see on the cover – the Flayed King, still alive and in pain, his skin nailed to the floor, petroglyphs etched into his flesh. The king can answer one question before remaining silent for a year; he is immortal…and freeing him may put the PCs at odds with the very deities themselves…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se good – on a rules-language level, I’d have preferred hard guidelines to free the king or for the artifact, though. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and is optimized for 6’’ by 9’’. The pdf sports two surprisingly cool b/w-artworks by Jim Magnusson – huge kudos for them. The artwork of the flayed king, reproduced herein, is fantastic and warrants downloading this. Cartography is b/w, functional and the pdf does not provide a key-less version, but the map provided does not display the secret room, so you can at least cut it up and hand it to the players. The pdf does not sport any bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment, but not a grievous one at this length.

Tim Shorts’ second Mini-manor is a solid, unpretentious little adventure. I really like the old-school mentality that makes the interaction with doors and dungeon less contingent on rolls and rather on roleplaying. The atmosphere of the small complex is nice, with particularly the flayed king having some serious panache regarding visuals etc. That being said, this falls a bit flat when compared to the exceedingly impressive “Faces Without Screams” and its innovative premise and twists, feeling more like a typical, old-school sidequest. As a commercial module, I would rate this at 3 stars – a solid offering, but nothing to truly write home about. However, this module is actually FREE.

As in: $0.00 price-tag. That is amazing and frankly, the art alone warrants downloading this. Personally, I think the flayed king would warrant a bigger complex, to add to the gravitas of the situation, but yeah. The FREE nature of this pdf adds +0.5 stars to my final verdict, and since I have an in dubio pro reo policy, my official verdict will round up. A solid little adventure and, for free, one worth taking a look at.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Flayed King
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Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2018 05:01:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, as the name implies, this school of magic is only available for elves and shadow fey – mainly due to both secrecy and a requirement of hundreds of years of study – as such, it is intended to be rare, which is something that GMs should bear in mind, We begin with a new magic tradition to represent it, which grants the ritual savant feature at 2nd level, which halves the time and gold requires to copy a high magic spell into the spellbook. Also at 2nd level, the tradition grants Ritual Focus. You can spend up to 10 minutes to create a ritual focus, which may be used for one of 3 different effects: 1) You can cast a ritual version of a spell sans the casting time increase. 2) You can expend a spell slot one or more levels higher to cast the ritual version, if any, of the spell. The ritual thus takes effect at the expended spell slot’s level instead of the minimum. 3) Some spells of high magic have an additional effect assigned to the ritual focus. The limitation here would be that the ritual focus can’t be used again until you have completed a short or long rest.

Now, as a nitpick here, this slightly confused me at first, since the ability stated that it “creates a ritual focus” – if we argue in favor of a creation of some sort of physical entity, then we could create, in theory, a ton of ritual foci, each of which can only be used once per rest interval – now that would obviously be way OP, but it is not the intent of the feature. As far as I could glean, this behaves very much like e.g. a psionic focus in 3.5/PFRPG, i.e. it represents not a physical focus, but an internal one – and as such, you’re limited to one in total, as opposed to one per use or unlimited ones. While this represents no big issue per se, the rules-language could have been a bit tighter here.

At 6th level, we get the Bound Magic feature, which lets you select a ritual that targets an area. You cast the ritual using the ritual focus as well and expend herbs worth 200 gp per spell level. As a consequence, the ritual’s duration becomes a year and a day. You can also make the effect permanent by casting the ritual for 30 days. The feature also increases your number of ritual focus expenditures per rest-interval to 2. Okay, we have a few snafus here: The expenditure of the ritual focus here, does it provide the benefits of the base ritual focus feature as well, or does the feature’s use of the ritual focus count as consuming it on its own? If it does not grant the benefits of the base ritual focus feature, can you expend two ritual foci to combine the effects of the ritual focus feature with bound magic and make an improved version of the ritual spell last that long? Regarding the option to make the spell permanent, do the subsequent casts of the spell required to make it permanent once more require the expenditure of ritual focus and/or the herbs? I really like where this is going and what it attempts, but the precise functionality of the rules here require some serious clarification.

10th level yields Ritual Master: This allows you to copy any spell with the ritual tag, regardless of class spell list, into your spell book, but their spell level may not exceed ½ your wizard level. These spells may only be cast as rituals, unless learned by other means – nice catch there! 14th level unlocks High Magic, which makes ritual spells you cast behave as one spell level higher than the slot actually used. Kudos here: This allows for combination with Ritual Focus’ spell-level increase. Good catch! The feature also expands your number of ritual foci per rest interval to 3.

The pdf proceeds to provide a total of 17 new spells associated with the high elven magic, all of which sport an additional benefit for ritual focus expenditure. Minor aesthetic complaint: The “Ritual Focus” and At Higher Levels”-lines at the bottom of each spell description should be italicized in addition to being bolded. At 1st level, we get two new spells, both of which are available for bard and wizard, with extract foyson also available for warlock and druid. This spell is really cool, as it lets you extract, permanently, the nutritional value from food into a flour-like powder – by expending the ritual focus, you instead make delicious, elven bread. Now, this spell actually has some seriously cool tricks included, once you stop and think about it: Why are people starving, even though they’re eating? You can tell a seriously nefarious tale here. The spell for bards and wizards only would be guest of honor, which nets a +1d4 bonus to Charisma (Persuasion) checks for the duration; the ritual focus lets you expand the duration of the spell to a day. If you’re playing with Midgard’s status rules, you also increase that value by +2. (Nice!)

Among the 2nd level-spells, we find 5 spells: Sorcerers, warlocks and wizards can learn the black swan strike, which generates a 5-ft.-cube of swirling black feathers. The swirling feathers decrease the illumination levels by one step within 20 ft. The cube inflicts 2d8 force damage, Dexterity to halve, +1d8 per spell level when cast at higher levels. Now here’s the deal: By expending the ritual focus, you can actually move the cube, up to 15 ft. per round as a bonus action, but must remain near you. This is a good example of a well-balanced spell: While its damage type is better than e.g. flaming sphere, and its damage dice are bigger (2d8 vs. 2d6), it also has half the range of the sphere, doesn’t ignite stuff and requires a class feature expenditure to gain movement, and then requires you remaining in the vicinity. I’d allow this spell in my game. Now, the three arcane classes as well as the bard may also learn the new heartache spell, which has a range of 30 feet and forces a target to suffer the agonies of heartache – which translates to 5d6 psychic damage, Charisma save halves. Using a higher spell slot allows you to target additional targets, and using the ritual focus makes the target suffer the incapacitated condition for 1 round on a failed save. Considering the low range and using dissonant whispers as a base-line, this makes sense – no complaints.

Shadows brought to light is available for bards, clerics, paladins, warlocks and wizards and causes the target’s shadow to come to life and reveal one scandalous secret of the target – you get to choose whether the shadow whispers to you only or speaks in a twisted voice of the target aloud. The target gets -2 to Charisma-based checks versus anyone hearing that secret for the remainder of the day. The ritual focus expenditure upgrades that to disadvantage as well as a status decrease for the remainder of the day; furthermore, at the day’s end, the target saves again – on a failure, the status loss is permanent. Love this one! There are two spells available for druid, ranger and wizard, one of which would be vine trestle, which lets you go all Jack and the Beanstalk, allowing you to grow a vine that can carry 600 pounds of weight, with a range of 30 ft., which, I assume, also is the length of the vine, which is not otherwise specified in the spell. Damage threshold and AC as well as climbing the vine are covered though. Higher levels make it carry more and tougher, while ritual focus expenditure makes it permanent.

The second spell would be clearing the field and is damn cool: You eliminate all obscuring plant life that would hamper movement or obscure targets within 40 ft. Plant creatures are not affected and the plant life returns after the spell ends. If you expend the ritual focus, plant creatures must succeed a Con-save or be reduced. Higher level spell slots increase the duration. There is one 3rd level spell, once more available to druid, ranger and wizard – that would be song of the forest. This spell attunes you to the natural world, allowing you to picture clearly the sounds and origins thereof of e.g. rustling leaves etc. in the vicinity, granting you tremorsense 10 ft. as well as advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sound. It generally only works in natural terrain and the ritual focus may be used to upgrade the sense gained to blindsight 30 ft.

The pdf has 1 4th-level spell, namely shadowy retribution, which is available for cleric, warlock, sorcerer and wizard. This one requires filling a cup with your blood, pronouncing an oath of vengeance. Once reduced to 0 hit points, blood pours from your mouth, forming a shadow that attacks the target that reduced you to 0 hit points. Higher spell slots allow for more shadows to manifest and if you expend ritual focus while casting this, you get to call a frickin’ banshee instead. (Cool!) Additional undead from the at-higher level feature remain shadows, though. The 5th level spell would be tongue tied, available for bard, cleric, wizard and warlock: With a range of 30 ft., you can cause a target who fails his Wisdom-save to suffer from disadvantage on Cha-based checks requiring speech. Additionally, casting spells requires a Con-check versus your spell-save DC; on a failure, the action, but not the spell slot of the attempted spell casting is lost. If you expend the ritual focus, the target also takes 2d6 psychic damage whenever it tries to speak. I am pretty sure that the spell should require a Constitution saving throw, not a Constitution check, to cast a spell, analogue to the base concentration rules.

At 6th level, we get encroaching shadows, which is a potent area-control spell – 150 ft. range, it affects an area of 200 ft. on a side and 50 ft. high, dropping illumination by one step. Nonmagical spells can’t increase the illumination and magic that causes light automatically fails if its level is below the spells. Spells that have “shadow” in their name or create darkness/shadow effects have their effect in the area increased as though they were cast at one level higher. At higher levels and via ritual focus expenditure both provide means to increase the duration, with the latter preventing dispelling. Okay, I like this one, but it has a few rough edges: The spell enhances shadow-spells in the area, but only in the area – when they move out of the area, does the spell effect revert to its actual spell level? If so, then the interaction with spell effects can become somewhat weird. It would be more elegant to have the spell simply behave at +1 spell level when it’s cast in the area, regardless of whether its effects move out of it or not. The second gripe I have here pertains the area of effect – I am pretty sure that the spell should specify that it is a cylinder….or should it be a cube or sphere? Not 100% sure.

7th level provides celebration for bard and the three arcane classes, which creates a 30-ft. radius party zone – intelligent targets that enter it have a compulsion to party, procrastinate and miss appointments, etc., partying instead. A Wis-save negates and those that succeed may freely enter or leave the fête. At higher levels, we get increased duration, while ritual focus expenditure requires saves on subsequent rounds from those that resist it.

At 8th level, we get 3 spells, the first of which would be bloom, available for cleric, druid and wizard: You plant a silver acorn and change the land within one mile to the fertile terrain that you wanted – resting in this area also maximizes the hit points for HD expended in short rests. The mighty spell also has its counterpart, desolation, which instead strips the land of fertility and life, halving hit points regained from short rests. Both can be made permanent with ritual focus expenditure. Harsh light of summer’s glare is a really cool spell: Creatures that can see you within 90 ft. are affected, regardless o whether they avert their gaze or wear a blindfold – on a failed Con-save, the targets are blinded; if they have darkvision, they are also stunned. For ritual focus expenditure, you charm them instead of blinding them. Really cool!

We close the pdf with 2 9th-level spells, the first of which would be afflict line, available for clerics, warlocks and wizards. You do not need a clear path to your target or see it, just have it in the 1-mile range of the spell. On a failed Wisdom save, the target is cursed with disadvantage on ability checks and saves with a chosen ability score. Additionally, the firstborn offspring inherits the curse; if the firstborn is dead, the next in line inherits it. Offspring get a save to resist the curse as well. For ritual focus expenditure, you make the curse truly hereditary. Nasty! The second spell would be only for wizards, cosmic alignment. You choose a Comprehension of the Starry Sky (see Illumination magic) and cast spells as if under its effects for 24 hours. Instead of insight expenditure, you expend ritual focus instead. The spell must be cast outside AND is immediately obvious to anyone WITHIN 100 MILES.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good – apart from the minor formatting hiccup of missed italicizations, I only noticed a bracket not properly closed. As far as rules-language goes, we have a bit of another situation here: While the pdf, as a whole, is precise regarding many components, the base engine of the ritual focus, the very foundation of what makes this pdf cool, could use some elaboration regarding its intricacies. A couple of spell effects also could be slightly tighter. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf contains amazing, full-color artwork. The pdf comes with based bookmarks for chapter-headers.

I really like where Greg marks’ elven high magic is going. It is potent and flavorful and has a strong thematic tie with both elves and the beloved shadow fey. The ritual focus is an elegant mechanic that almost works perfectly…but just almost. It is a sad truth that the base engine, as presented here, requires some GM-interpretation. That being said, if you’re willing to do that, you’ll get a really cool supplement. The spells per se are really cool as well, though I did find myself wishing that we’d bet some fodder for sorcerers and warlocks as well – RAW, only wizards get the ritual focus engine, which makes the spells less interesting for other classes. Still, as a whole, I considered this to be an interesting pdf. I’d love to recommend it more highly, but with the flaws in the central component of the engine I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
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Heir & Back Again -- Deck of Cards
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2018 05:01:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is basically a card-deck, which sports one card per Quest Item featured in the Heir and Back Again homage to the classic point and click adventure games.

It's first part contains 29 cards that represent the Quest Items that can be found in the pdf, with the back sporting a fairy tale castle and the logo, and the front sporting the artwork of the item, as well as a brief description.

The deal also comes with an archive, which contains the respective artworks in high-res jpgs.

Do you absolutely need this supplement for these item-cards? No, but it makes for a nice prop for the game, particularly when playing the module with kids.

However, as of right now, there is more to the deck!

Now here is an amazing thing and proof that AAW Games cares and listens: The deck has been expanded and now provides a second set of cards, one that depicts the lavishly-illustrated locations! These cards have a different back, allowing for easy identification. Oh, and they can be used to represent the locations at the table. Huge plus!

So yeah, this expanded deck has greatly increased its value, courtesy of the nice location artwork cards. Hence, the final verdict is adjusted as well, to 5 stars.

Publishers: This is how it's done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heir & Back Again -- Deck of Cards
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Legendary Hybrids: Yakuza
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2018 04:57:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Hybrid Class clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, which, as always for Legendary Games, are chock-full with text – so yeah, there’s more content herein that the page-count might lead you to believe,

All right, so the yakuza is a hybrid of the unchained monk…Wait. It’s NOT? WTF? So yeah, the yakuza’s parent classes are actually something completely different: Cavalier and ninja. I know, right?

So, the yakuza gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and d8 HD as well as 6 + Int skills per level. Proficiency-wise, we get proficiency with simple weapons, kama, katana, kusarigama (HECK YEAH!), kyoketsu shoge, nunchaku, sai, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, siangham and wakizashi as well as light armor, but not shields. The class begins play with a teamwork feat, for which he must meet the prerequisites. As a standard action, the yakuza can grant this feat to all allies within 30 ft that can see and hear the yakuza. This feat is retained for 3 rounds + 1 round for every 2 class levels the yakuza possesses. These allies don’t have to meet the prerequisites. This ability may be used 1/day, + an additional time per day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter and is treated as the tactician class feature for the purpose of prerequisites and archetypes, etc. Additionally, all members of the yakuza gang are treated as having the teamwork feat for the purpose of determining bonuses granted by the yakuza’s teamwork feats. 9th level and 18th level provide more choices here regarding feats and improve action economy and allow for the sharing, in the latter case, of more teamwork feats at once.

Now, pretty cool: The Yakuza begins play with a contact and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. They also get +2 to Diplomacy to procure services from contacts. If the contact is part of the same yakuza gang, the Trust level will be increased by 1. However, violating the tenets of the gang will result in a general reduction of Trust level by 1, by 2 for members of the respective gang. Gang? Yep, the equivalent of the cavalier’s orders is chosen at 1st level. Adherence to a gang’s ideals and what constitutes a violation thereof is within the realms of GM interpretation and changing gangs first strips you of the former gang’s abilities and requires a process of re-dedication.

The pdf provides a total of 5 such sample gangs. Each gang modifies the character by granting a boost to sneak attack and skills at first level; the skill boosts provide their benefit to one use of a given skill, like e.g. influencing a creature’s attitude. Formula-wise, the bonuses granted are +1/3 class level, minimum +1. Beyond those, 2nd, 8th and 15th level provide gang abilities. What do the gangs do? The black rain gang grants a +2 bonus to atk versus foes that are unaware of the presence of the character (or consider him an ally) when sneak attacking; 2nd level is treated as having concealment versus such targets and 8th level allows for a Cha-governed, supernatural, ki-powered suggestion. 15th level allows for the maximizing of sneak attack damage when attacking unaware or friendly targets.

The blood tong gains a +2 bonus versus foes that damaged him; skill-boost is applied to brokering a deal. The 2nd level ability nets a bonus versus targets that broke an oath with the yakuza or the blood tong. 8th level nets the option to use ki to make a deal a blood pact, which bestows a curse upon those that dare break it. The 15th level option allows the yakuza to shift obligations of blood oaths to other characters and treats the blood oath as geas/quest. The dragon lords chooses a ranger’s favored enemy and applies a +2 atk to sneak attacks versus that type. Skill-boost-wise, we get the bonus to Bluff non-dragon lord yakuza. 2nd level allows for aid another as a swift action and 8th level has something cool: 1/day when using aid another, the aided character also gets a move action. This may be used an additional time at 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter, 15th level allows for the expenditure of two uses of this ability to grant a standard action.

The Jade Triad gets the sneak boost versus demoralized foes, the skill boost to demoralize targets. 2nd level allows for swift action demoralizing when hitting a target with a sneak attack. 8th level upgrades demoralization to cause the target to be frightened 1/day. For ki expenditure, he may even bypass fear immunity. 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield another daily use. The 15th level ability allows for sneak attack damage dice rerolls versus demoralized targets: All that come up as 1 may be rerolled once. For 1 ki expenditure, the dice that come up as 1s and 2s may be rerolled, and they may be rerolled until they all come up as 3+. Finally, the white tigers gain their sneak boost versus targets threatened by more allies and apply their skill boost to shift attitudes of friends and foes via Diplomacy. 2nd level provides a 5-ft.-speed reduction (I assume, all movement rates are affected) accompanying sneak attack, for Cha-mod rounds, min 1. 8th and 16th level increase that speed reduction by 5 ft., respectively. 8th level provides the ability to expend a point of ki when successfully sneak attacking a target; if the yakuza does, the target may not use withdraw or 5-ft-steps for Cha-mod rounds, min 1. The 15th level ability allows for the expenditure of ki when damaging a foe with sneak attack, setting their speed to 0 and inflicting the staggered condition on a failed Ref-save. Minor complaint here – no save DC is given. While it is pretty obvious that the DC should be 10 + ½ class level + Cha-mod, analogue to other gang abilities, that can be a bit confusing at first.

2nd level nets a ki pool equal to ½ class level + Cha-mod. This nets them two hadou techniques: By spending 1 ki point, the yakuza can grant himself a +1d6 bonus on a skill check or save, or to atk versus a target who is denied Dex-mod to AC or flanked. Additionally, for spending one ki, the yakuza can grant himself an additional 5-foot-step of a +20 ft. speed enhancement for 1 round. Finally, 1 ki may be spent to grant the yakuza the option to open/close a door or draw/sheathe a weapon when using Sleight of Hand to conceal. These are activated as a swift action. Minor complaint: The save boost probably should have been activated as an immediate action instead; otherwise, it’s pretty useless. Cool: The ability covers interaction with other ki-based classes. 2nd level also yields sneak attack, which increases in die-pool-size by +1d6 every 3 levels after 2nd.

At 3rd level, the yakuza gains no trace who not only provide a bonus to Disguise and opposed Stealth checks, it also makes tracking them, particularly if they lay low, increasingly harder. This level also nets home turf, , which means that he treats all urban terrain as favored terrain, gaining Knowledge (local) instead of Knowledge (geography), boost-wise. The bonus begins at +2 and improved by +2 every 5 levels thereafter. Cool: The yakuza is not automatically familiar with a new city – it takes a bit of studying, represented rather well in the engine. He may only have one home turf, though. Even cooler: The bonus actually is not simply passive: The yakuza actually may use ki in such familiar terrains to increase his AC and is not impeded by crowds! REALLY cool representation of the concept.

4th level yields uncanny dodge and 7th level, improved uncanny dodge. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a ninja trick, with 12th level unlocking master tricks. At 5th level, the yakuza gains the right to wear the elaborate tattoos that we associate with the concept. These provide a +1 moral bonus to saves versus fear effects for all allies within 30 ft., which increases to +2 for gang members and further scales up by +1 every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, the yakuza gains Dazzling Display, with a +2 to Intimidate versus targets that can see his tattoos. This bonus similarly scales. 6th level nets Black marketer, which nets Black Market Dealings as a bonus feat. Any team lead by the yakuza gets +2 to all Cha-based social skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate) related to black markets. 10th level yields uncanny flanker, treating class level as 4 higher for the purpose of determining flanking capabilities regarding improved uncanny dodge. Additionally, the yakuza may spend 1 point of ki as a swift action to determine any adjacent square as her position for setting up flanking positions. COOL!

At 11th level, we get druglord, basically providing poison use and gets +1/2 class level to Craft checks to make drugs and poisons as well as +4 to saves to resist poison, drugs and alcohol, including recovery from intoxication or addiction. Knowingly ingesting a poison, the yakuza can delay the onset of its effects via ki expenditure. “Sure, this wine is totally not laced with black lotus. See, I’ll take the first sip…” Damn cool. Additionally, via ki, the yakuza can combine poisons and drugs, though such combined materials are short-lived, preventing the creation of ridiculous mega-drugs/poisons. Well done.

At 13th level, gambler nets the option to spend ki to roll twice when gambling (or guessing riddles). Also, whenever the yakuza rolls a natural 1, he can expend 1 ki for a reroll with +1d6 luck bonus – but if the reroll is still a failure, he takes -1 to all d20-rolls and can’t use the ability for 1 minute. Nice one. 19th level eliminates the autofail of atk, saves and some skill checks on a natural 1 and the capstone prevents dying from old age as well as providing immunity to death effects, diseases and poisons. Any accrued age-related penalties may be suppressed via ki expenditure. Cool one!

Now, I already mentioned one of the new feats herein, Black Market Dealings: This one nets +4 to Diplomacy to access it and eliminates the gp-cost to do so as well as the consequences for failing to the check by 10 or more. Additionally, and that is pretty damn cool, you can attempt to find merchants with deeper pockets by increasing the access DC, with a settlement’s crime modifier as a bonus. I really liked this and its concise rules. Mind Trick lets you select one Dex-based class skill, which may then be used as governed by Cha, ignoring armor check penalty for it. Additionally, when using aid another with the skill, you add Cha-mod to the boost granted, which can be brutal, but fits. Overflowing Ki makes you count as always having at least 1 ki for the purpose of abilities that require that you have at least 1 point. Additionally, you can meditate for 1 hour to regain 1 point of ki. The class also comes with favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, catfolk, dhampir, drow, fetchling, goblin, hobgoblin, ifrit, kobold, orc, oread, ratfolk, sylph, tengu, tuefling and undine. In an uncharacteristic glitch, three favored class options lack their numerical values: Orc and half-orc deal “+ damage on sneak attacks”, which probably should be +1; goblins and humans get “+ of a ninja trick”, which probably should be 1/6, analogue to the rogue FCO.

A total of 8 different archetypes are included in the pdf: The Absent bansho replaces the teamwork sharing and contacts features with the vigilante’s dual identity and seamless guise; the teamwork sharing abilities are delayed to 5th and 13th level and yakuza-levels are treated as 4 lower for the purpose of these benefits. To make up for this, the gang abilities are replaces with a vigilante talent at 2nd, 8th and 15th level, assuming the stalker specialization. The flying tiger does not gain light armor proficiency and replaces the teamwork sharing with Improved Unarmed Strike and monk-like damage scaling. They also begin play with Tiger Style and get Tiger Claws at 4th, Tiger Pounce at 8th level, replacing the ninja tricks at these levels. Contacts are delayed to 6th level and are treated as -5 levels. Instead of 2nd level’s sneak attack, the character gains rain of star, +1 attack in a full-attack, +2 attacks at 11th level; for +1 ki, another attack may be added, though all such attacks must be executed with shuriken. Sneak attack is delayed to 4th level and gained at -2 yakuza levels and 3rd level yields slow fall and 6th level, high jump. Starting at 12th level, the character may choose style feats or monk bonus feats instead of ninja tricks. Instead of uncanny dodge, we get evasion at 4th level and 7th level nets swoop, which is really cool: As a sift or immediate action, you can spend 1 ki during a jump or fall to turn up to 90 degrees and move ½ slow fall distance in any direction, including up. Yes, it’s double-jumping/swooshing as seen in Wuxia-media, games like Devil May Cry, etc. Love it. Also: This movement has a dodge bonus to AC based on Cha associated with it...or you may forfeit the bonus, to end the changed movement with an unarmed strike.

At 10th level, this ability can be further enhanced and allows you to drag foes –love this part of the engine. 11th level nets improved evasion and 13th level nets flight for class level minutes per day, with the option to increase duration via ki-expenditure. And yes, sports proper interaction with the swooping ricks. A real winner here. Love this archetype.

The gun runner is proficient with all firearms, excluding siege engines and replaces contracts with Gunsmithing. 2nd level nets Amateur Gunslinger as a bonus feat, using ki as a grit-substitute. While he has at least 1 ki, he gains + Dex-mod to damage with firearms, capping, thankfully, at yakuza level, though. 2nd level increases reload speed by one step, stacking with Rapid Reload (note here – it would have been convenient to get the actions listed, but that is only the slightest comfort detriment); 8th level lets you spend a ki point to double the first range increment of a firearm wielded for Cha-mod rounds. I assume the action to be swift here, in line with other swift action ability uses, though the Su may point otherwise. Clarification would be neat here. 15th level upgrades this to also adding +Cha-mod damage, but only until the next round.

The junk pirate loses light armor proficiency and delays contacts gained to 6th level, treating his class level as 5 lower for it. However, they gain +2 to Sleight of Hand to conceal small objects, as well as to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Linguistics and Profession checks to come off as a regular businessman. At 3rd level, they can spend 1 ki to force targets to roll at basically disadvantage (taking the worse result) when opposing these skills with Perception or Sense Motive, with a Cha-governed Will-save to negate. No trace is replaces with scaling skill boosts to Swim as well as Climb and Acrobatics atop a ship and in aquatic terrain. Home turf is replaced with favored terrain (aquatic) and the ninja tricks are replaced with deep sea pirate tricks. 4th level nets a familiar at ½ level, which also helps prevent being flanked while in the vicinity. 7th level nets the option to cut sneak attack damage in half for a free reposition as well as the option to move to a square thus freed as a swift action, sans AoO and in addition to other movement, mind you. Instead of gambling, we get ki-based curses, which improve at 15th level.

The pack rat is only proficient with simple weapons and light armor and gets either Catch off-Guard or Throw Anything at first weapon. He replaces the gang-based ability with a scaling crazy-prepared ability – 100 gp per class level. While the ability has a maximum item value and weight caveat, it does not have a no-specific-items caveat, which is a somewhat annoying oversight. The archetype also is treated as +4 Str for the purpose of carrying capacity if he properly packs his stuff and gains +4 to Sleight of Hand to conceal small objects. 3rd level allows the character to attempt Profession untrained, as well as getting +1 to trained Craft and Profession checks. Also at 3rd level, we get the option to use ki to feint as a response to being attacked by a higher CR foe; on a success, the foe must save or deem the pack rat harmless, focusing on other targets. A target thus bluffed can be attacked by the packrat as though flat-footed for one round. Nice: The ability has a caveat to avoid spamming it or use the trick on those that witness it, with a hex-like cooldown. 4th level nets a pack animal animal companion or familiar. No trace is delayed to 6th level and 7th level nets the gang war teamwork sharing ability, but only pertaining the companion. 11th level lets the archetype use dirty tricks in conjunction with improvised weaponry or unarmed strikes versus targets that are denied Dex mod.

The serpent chemist loses proficiency with light armor and delays contacts to 6th level, but gains druglord at 1st level. 3rd level nets swift poisoner. The archetype gets poison-related tricks to choose from, including some SPs in conjunction with drugs/poison or select some alchemical extracts. 9th level has an Int-governed option to create more doses, with Master Alchemist synergy provided as well. 10th level nets DC increases based on sneak attack damage dice foregoing as well as ki-based swift action poisoning. 11th level nets the option to use ki to reroll saves versus alcohol, poison or drugs immediately, taking the better result, which may also, as a full-round action, be extended to an ally. Minor complaint: The ability has no range and it probably should – 30 ft. or adjacent. The ability also allows the chemist to mitigate ability score drain and damage an ally has suffered from such toxins. 13th level allows for super-fast toxin creation.

The tattooed one replaces contacts with better Intimidate versus non-yakuza, better Diplomacy for yakuza. Additionally, fear effect DCs are increased by 1- 2nd level allows the yakuza to use prestidigitation at-will via his magical tattoos and higher levels net ki-based illusions, with 10th level and higher unlocking shadow illusions. These are btw. considered to be parts of the gang. Sneak attack is delayed to 4th level and 3rd level allows the tattoos to dance to fascinate targets, with ki to power the ability and 8th and 13th level improving the action economy of the ability. 8th level allows for the use of ki to double the range. Instead of uncanny dodge, we get the option to shake off nauseated, sickened, fatigued and exhausted conditions on subsequent rounds or halve the duration of save-less conditions. The conditions to which this applies are expanded by dazed, frightened, shaken and stunned at 7th level. Instead of black marketeer, the archetype can mark targets with tattoos, duplicate some cantrips and use ki for tattoo-based unseen servants. 9th level provides more ki-powered SP-like tattoo-animation.

Finally, the triad enforcer gets Enforcer at 1st level and replaces home turf and no trace with a samurai’s resolve. Cool: They can use their own resolve or ki to break that of other creatures! They can also cause Wis-damage (save to negate) with demoralizations, but for a cost of ki. Gang war is delayed to 5th level and 6th level nets a bonus to Bluff and Intimidate. Cool: This one has honor point system synergy, taking only half the penalty for dishonorable actions. 7th level nets dirty fighting, which helps with improvised weapons and CMB-checks as well as allowing the character to forego critical bonus damage for debuff effects. 11th level lets you add, as a swift action, another attack when reducing a target to 0 hp, at +character level damage. 13th level nets fear immunity as wellas the option to spend ki to affect creatures usually immune to fear, but only if they are no more than one size larger than the enforcer.

Finally, the pdf sports a detailed and lavishly-illustrated sample NPC, Shinsuke Tatsu a CR 7 tattooed one yakuza, whose story ties in with the deadly NPC from Legendary Villains: Vigilantes. It should be noted that the name of the character’s lost lover is Yoshi, which usually denotes a male in Japanese. Personally, I applaud the integration of a well-rounded, gay badass here. It should be noted that the NPC comes with a full boon-write-up as well, ending the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good for the main class; the supplemental material sports a few more glitches in the details than usual for Legendary games, though – none of them are grievous, but they slightly tarnish this otherwise inspired book. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard. Weird: The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. The full-color artworks are a blend of artworks LG has used before and the new, cool class piece.

Okay, so first things first: I frickin’ LOVE Jason Nelson and N. Jolly’s Yakuza. This is a hybrid class done right. It plays differently from both of its parent classes; the abilities do an AMAZING job of reflecting the flavor of the yakuza and the tropes associated with them. The archetypes, even the engine-tweaks, are all meaningful modifications of the chassis and the abilities of the class manage to marry fluff and crunch in precise and flavorful ways. If only all hybrid classes were this good…

Now, the base class is great and expertly balanced – it should not provide issues in even low-powered, gritty games and I adore the vast majority of this pdf…but unfortunately, the minor hiccups here and there do need to be represented in some way in the final verdict. Hence, I will rate this as 5 stars, but omit my seal of approval. If the minor gripes I noted don’t faze you, then get this hybrid asap!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Hybrids: Yakuza
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Mini-Dungeon #062: What the Dickens
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:53:58

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 and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

Okay, so in a masterstroke of the old adage of „opportunity creates thieves“, a young pick-pocket named Dodger managed to steal an amulet. Problem #1): The target is a marais rakshasa. Problem #2): The amulet is actually a raktavarna raksaha. The evil outsiders, alas, have failed to reclaim the “amulet” and as such, they have set up a mini thieves’ guild, a coaching service for aspiring criminals of sorts, one that obviously resonates with the Dickensian overtones that you expected from the title. This is, once you think about it, rather hilarious, and indeed, when the pdf notes how one of the rakshasa in disguise looks after his “little wascals”, of the mighty marais disguised as a bawdy cockney gal, you’ll be hard-pressed to swallow your inevitable chuckle.

The adventure itself begins when the rakshasa asks the PCs to “stop the thief” – actually, she finally noticed dodger and attacked him, but he managed to escape. Provided the PCs survive catching up with Dodger, they’ll have to deal with “Nancy” – and after that, the adventure flips and has Dodger recruit the PCs to free his fellow young thieves from the new “guild.” Infiltrating the guild and stopping the evil outsiders will not be an easy job.

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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

This is an utterly delightful, hilarious example of an excellent mini-dungeon; full of literary allusions, as seen through the lens of gaming, this is challenging, hilarious, challenging and utterly amazing, ranking as one of the best mini-dungeons in the whole line. It is baffling how much flavor is crammed into these 2 pages. Oh, and it’s been written by none other than Richard Develyn, you know, the man who writes the 4 Dollar Dungeons; the brilliant author whose modules regularly manage to get the first spot on my Top Ten lists. (Yes, you should absolutely own all of his modules; apart from his first one, they’re all masterpieces in one way or another.) Yeah, once you realize that, you probably won’t be surprised by how good this is. 5 stars + seal of approval, given without any hesitation.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #062: What the Dickens
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5E Mini-Dungeon #062: What the Dickens
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:51:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

Okay, so in a masterstroke of the old adage of „opportunity creates thieves“, a young pick-pocket named Dodger managed to steal a ring. Problem #1): The target is a rakshasa. Problem #2): The amulet is actually a ring of djinni summoning. The evil outsider is not alone, and, alas, they have failed to reclaim the ring and as such, they have set up a mini thieves’ guild, a coaching service for aspiring criminals of sorts, one that obviously resonates with the Dickensian overtones that you expected from the title. This is, once you think about it, rather hilarious, and indeed, when the pdf notes how one of the rakshasa in disguise looks after his “little wascals”, of the mighty rakshasa, disguised as a bawdy cockney gal, you’ll be hard-pressed to swallow your inevitable chuckle.

The adventure itself begins when the rakshasa asks the PCs to “stop the thief” – actually, she finally noticed dodger and attacked him, but he managed to escape. Provided the PCs survive catching up with Dodger, they’ll have to deal with “Nancy” – and after that, the adventure flips and has Dodger recruit the PCs to free his fellow young thieves from the new “guild.” Infiltrating the guild and stopping the evil outsiders will not be an easy job.

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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

This is an utterly delightful, hilarious example of an excellent mini-dungeon; full of literary allusions, as seen through the lens of gaming, this is challenging, hilarious, challenging and utterly amazing, ranking as one of the best mini-dungeons in the whole line. It is baffling how much flavor is crammed into these 2 pages. Oh, and it’s been written by none other than Richard Develyn, you know, the man who writes the 4 Dollar Dungeons; the brilliant author whose modules regularly manage to get the first spot on my Top Ten lists. (Yes, you should absolutely own all of his modules; apart from his first one, they’re all masterpieces in one way or another.) Yeah, once you realize that, you probably won’t be surprised by how good this is. That being said, as much as I like Chris Harris’ conversion here, the PFRPG original is clearly the better book – not due to a bad conversion, mind you, but because the original makes use of PFRPG’s vast creature array in amazing ways – the ring, in PFRPG, is actually a disguised rakshasa subspecies in the shape of an amulet, the rakshasa faced is ophidian and triggers Dodger’s fear of it. It’s small flourishes, but they can’t be translated well. If you have the luxury to choose the version, get the PFRPG-version. That being said, the 5e-version remains absolutely engrossing and cool and deserving of a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #062: What the Dickens
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Everyman Minis: Injuries and Scars
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:49:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

So, one of the components I’m not too fond of in any iteration of D&D or d20-based systems would be that injuries don’t matter much; similarly, curative magic can reduce scars and the like to an aesthetic footnote.

This pdf provides a small toolkit for that: The basic premise for scars is simple: When you take damage equal to ½ maximum hit points or greater, you must succeed a Fort-save equal to 15 + ½ HD. On a success, you get a scar and roll on a table for the location of the scar. Spells of 6th level or lower can’t remove them unless specifically noted, but regenerate can remove one, if 500 gp of material cost in diamond dust is added. Returning from death does not remove scars. Displaying a scar can be beneficial: You get +1 to Cha-based skill checks versus creatures that would be impressed by them , but against some creatures, that may instead translate to a -1 penalty, perhaps even -2 for particularly squeamish individuals.

The pdf then proceeds to provide the Dodging Death section: Whenever a character is reduced to negative hit points equal to Con score or higher, the character can attempt a DC 15 Fort save. ON a success, the character takes an injury and stabilizes at negative hit points equal to Con score -1, instead of dying. This save is not allowed by death effects or when dying from a coup de grace. This should probably also note whether this works for poisons, diseases, Con-damage…

Anyway, you roll a d12 to determine the injury, or have the GM determine the injury. You usually incur a minor injury, unless you roll a 12, in which case you instead take a severe injury. Spells of 6th level or lower can’t remove an injury unless specifically noted, but regenerate can remove one, if 500 gp of material cost in diamond dust is added. Returning from death does not remove injuries incurred. Injuries can injure ears, eyes, locomotive system, arm, groin, spine, neck, head, chest, vitals or heart. Minor injuries, as a whole, cause minor penalties associated with the respective limb/organ damaged.

And that’s pretty much it – the majority of the pdf is devoted to depicting the respective injuries. As a whole, I enjoyed them all.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to the two-column printer-friendly standard of the series and the pdf comes without bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The piece of full-color artwork is nice, though I’ve seen it before.

James Ballod’s injuries and scars are per se a nice system. I like the idea, the implementation, and it can add some nice grit to a given game. Particularly in the more down-to-earth campaigns, this should be a neat addition to the game. That being said, I can’t help myself – the topic/subject matter deserved a broader stance. Interaction with weird creatures and anatomies and generally more options would have enriched this supplement in my book. That being said, I’d very much enjoy to see this expanded and may well build on it if my time permits. You could also use these to represent drawbacks, should you choose to. In short: This is worth checking out. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it – not because I don’t want to or due to a true shortcoming of the pdf, but due to the fact that it can’t develop its concept to be wholly encompassing.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Injuries and Scars
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Albion's Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:47:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive second part of the Albion’s Ransom-saga clocks in at 80 pages, 76 if you only count content and take away editorial, etc. The review is based primarily on the softcover print version of the adventure.

This review was requested by my patreons.

Now, first things first: This module does not require that the group has completed part I of Albion’s Ransom, “Little Girl Lost”; if the PCs were rather successful in the previous adventure, the Esoterrorists enact a contingency plan to make sure that the events herein take place. Considering the way in which the first adventure “cheated” to put the players in a serious disadvantage, that feels like a bit of a cop-out to me and may be something that rubs you the wrong way, big time. A triumph in adventure #1 ranks as one of the hardest things to achieve in an investigation scenario I have ever seen; the very least I expected was to see this adventure acknowledge the skill it took to achieve a victory by presenting a branching path of sorts or some kind of serious benefit. Alas, while success in the previous module does make things a bit easier, it’s not by much and the overall impact on how this module plays out, is pretty subdued. More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

It should be noted that, depending on the tastes of you and your group, this adventure may work actually better as a stand-alone, for the themes evoked in this adventure are radically different from “Little Girl Lost.”

If you’ve enjoyed the previous adventure for its subdued themes, is mystery-angle and slow burner tension build-up, etc., then you’ll be surprised to hear that this adventure is a rather action-heavy scenario that diverges pretty significantly from the themes and mood established in part I. In a way, this is closer to fantasy in a modern world than actual horror.

Now, there is one more note: GUMSHOE, as we all know, does investigation really well and is slightly less amazing regarding combat. However, this book was released a long time ago and the system has since come a long way. If you run this today, I’d probably suggest revising it for the rules established in Night’s Black Agents and Double Tap – and indeed, the adventure may actually work better in such a context than in the more down-to-earth Esoterrorists context.

In order to talk more about that, I need to go into heavy SPOILER-territory, though. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, I already touched upon the structural issues regarding the transition from book #1 to #2. Since we’re in the spoiler-section now, let me spell it out clearly: Catriona’s fate is utterly meaningless. While the pdf begins with a detailed post-mortem and veil-out section for adventure #1, that should have been in the previous book. Similarly, the utterly grating idea of a compromised Mr. Verity, one of the big things that dragged down the previous adventure and made it unfair, is resolved as an aside – the character in question gets stats and all, but ultimately, he does not contribute anything of significance to the plot of this adventure.

You see, whether or not Catriona was saved, Isa Kenaz’ plan works. They had a contingency. Now, personally, I applaud that – smart villains are a good thing and the cabal would be pretty stupid if it didn’t have such a failsafe for their villainous masterstroke. However, I object to how meaningless the module makes…anything that was achieved in module #1. If she ends up as a brainwashed priestess, we get stats, sure. But her impact on the overall story? Pretty much non-existent. If the PCs managed to rock module #1, they won’t have to face an ambush-scene in the so-called Boggart Hole. That’s pretty much it.

Now, the remainder of the adventure represents a RADICAL departure from the first adventure. Wherein “Little Girl Lost” was very psychological and reminded me in parts of Twin Peaks or The Killing, this one goes a completely different route. One attack one could have made on “Little Girl Lost”, beyond the structural issues I complained about, would be that it’s not really a horror-adventure. It’s a meticulously-crafted, very difficult, but rewarding investigation with some mystery and conspiracy elements added. Well, if you liked that, if you enjoyed that aspect, there is a pretty good chance you’ll hate this adventure, or that you’ll at least get some minor form of thematic whiplash. It almost feels like the author tried to do the exact opposite of what he did in “Little Girl Lost”, falling off the bandwagon on the other side.

That elaborate, smart Hell Haven safehouse system, the one that only really diligent investigators could even find out about or crack? Well, it’s handed to the PCs on a silver platter and the module spends the majority of its page-count dealing with the PCs trying to hunt down the leadership of Isa Kenaz, all while the Fimbulvetr is unleashed. Yes, this cheapens the achievement of cracking it in module #1. No, there are no benefits for doing so.

Which brings me to another aspect in which the module diverges greatly from the previous adventure in both structure and theme: As the mythical winter of Norse apocalypse is unleashed, Isa Kenaz is devoting time and resources to sacrificing for Níðhöggr (called Nithogg in the book, but as you know, I’m particular about that type of thing…) and Bergelmir, gaining the support of two types of supernatural goons: Ur-Mensch (German for: Prehistoric human) Svartalfr and Trolls. Yes, you’ll be duking it out with basically degenerate, magically-mutated creatures from myth. See what I meant with “modern fantasy”? In fact, close to the end of the adventure, optional scenes deal with Bergelmir and Níðhöggr manifestations. I’m not even kidding you.

The adventure takes on a distinct, post-apocalyptic notion the further it progresses: As temperatures plummet and society starts to fall apart, there are some genuinely freaky and spooky scenes to be found herein, but they are contrasted against taking all limitations off. PCs get uncommon vehicles and can drive them, the strict weapon laws of the UK fall away – where module #1 was devoted in a truly impressive manner to generate a sense of realism, this module kicks that all out. And it’s, to a degree, doing so intentionally – the contrast is intended to heighten the desperation and scope of what’s at stake. Unfortunately, the veil-out on a success and sheer scope of otherworldly incursions will be exceedingly hard to justify. This adventure, in short, doesn’t really allow the PCs to be good agents of the OV, instead focusing on damage control.

If module #1 was a smart, horrific, psychological thriller, then this is a popcorn-cinema action flick.

This 180° turn regarding themes is also represented in the structure of the module: The main plot, as noted before, focuses on hunting down the leadership of Isa Kenaz and on foiling their plans to further escalate the Fimbulvetr. Whereas module #1 required METICULOUS time-management skills on part of the players to succeed, this adventure does the opposite, putting the progression more or less in the hands of the GM. This wouldn’t be an issue per se, but after “Little Girl Lost” has hammered in, in both structure and consequence, time and again, that EVERY.MINUTE.COUNTS., this adventure does the opposite, which can be frustrating. The module can span multiple weeks in theory, and players will be conditioned after adventure #1, particularly if they failed to save Catriona, to agonize over every single decision. This puts a serious damper on the action-flick-like mentality of the adventure, as the detailed planning is often simply not required or has no significant consequences.

On a GM-side, it is nice to see a ton of floating scenes that can be used when the PCs travel through the icebound UK, and some of these, as mentioned before, offer genuinely creepy visuals. These are, however, undermined by the end-of-the-world survivalesque aspects of the adventure; what would be really disturbing and horrific in a regular context feels like just the consequence of the fantasy-apocalypse that has intruded into the world. Structurally, these floating scenes amount to dressing in most cases, but serve as a means to emphasize and improve the transitions from the respective hunting down of the Isa Kenaz leader of the week.

Okay, that sounded more vitriolic than it should. You see, the progression from leader to leader is per se nice; I also found myself enjoying the fact that a halfway capable GM can render the hunting down of these fellows in a modular manner. While the cult leaders themselves remain comparatively pale, the section has huge merits, even though I personally would consider this, the main meat of the adventure, to work better as a scavenging grounds, mainly due to the law of diminishing returns. You see, each of the cults is categorized by the same avid prose, meticulous research and compassion for its members. Take the Moravian splinter sect Adorers of the Wound. What another writer would have depicted as a sect of crackpot Christian fundamentalists gets a valid and rather nice background: The sect, born of anxiety towards ones own sexuality, in particularly homosexuality, has resolved this anxiety by basically connotating the desire to engage in same-sex sexual acts as a desire to pierce Christ’s wounds or be pierced like he was. There is some ideological background here that makes sense, that renders it plausible that its members follow such a creed. The same goes for the Covenant of Morrigan, a hardcore feminist group of green activists or the biker gang Sons of Satan. These groups are not depicted as condemnable beings, but rather as victims to Esoterrorist machinations and infiltration, and their respective members indeed are portrayed as plausible beings. And yes, the amazing Desdemona Reinhart character makes a reappearance and in fact may be crucial to stopping the downfall of more than one of these cults. It should also be noted that they all have wildly different themes, morals and that resolving the respective situations requires different strategies, in spite of the structural similarities. In that way, this chapter can be considered to be a resounding success that highlights very well the strengths of the author’s prose.

At the same time, the cults all suffer from the same problem, namely the somewhat opaque nature of their respective bases – the only maps we get are overview maps of the country as well as one of the final location of the adventure; the respective bases thus remain opaque and require some fleshing out by the GM, making that aspect needlessly work intense. And yes, GUMSHOE is less reliant on maps than other games, but the infiltrations thus, ultimately, feel just as opaque as the finale of “Little Girl Lost.” That weakness notwithstanding, one can consider this section of the module to be a success and GMs should, even if they don’t run the module in its entirety, find a place for these cults in their game.

As a whole, the structure of the module does suffer from the thematic overlap here: While the floating scenes can, and should obviously, be used to establish the worsening of the climate and to present a change of pace, they ultimately contribute to the thematic whiplash between pretty conservative and well-crafted investigations and the world coming apart in the frigid cold of the Fimbulvetr.

And then, there would be the finale, which sounds pretty amazing on paper: After the Sons of Satan-chapter, the PCs will quickly see an escalation of potentially globally catastrophic levels, namely the fact that the Esoterrorists have a sleeper in the British military, atop the HMS Vengeance. That would a nuclear sub, capable of nuclear strikes. The PCs thus are faced with what feels like a James Bond scenario in the end: A race against the clock to get atop the sub and prevent a nuclear winter. The military base does not get a map, and, once more, remains opaque. The PCs stop the final agent and that’s it. The Fimbulvetr subsides, but frankly, at this point, a proper veil-out of all that can have happened should be nigh impossible…and is instead brushed away as “the cold did it.”

After literally nuking the fridge regarding themes, and figuratively in game, that feels like a bit of an insult. It also posits a huge logic bug within the module as a whole: While rising panic and global tension serve as a backdrop to potentially justify the race against the clock and the inaction of the sleeper in the sub, we have spent two whole modules highlighting how ostensibly smart Isa Kenaz is supposed to be. If they really were that smart, they’d have launched the nuclear component right after the triggering of the initial onset of the Fimbulvetr. The internal justification for this component not being employed sooner feels, at this point, flimsy at best.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, if not perfect, on both a formal and rules-level. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and is nice. The b/w-artworks within similarly are pretty neat. Cartography is another matter – it is too sparse for its own good. If you really want this, I strongly suggest getting the print version. The pdf lacks bookmarks, which, at this length, is a grating comfort-detriment; if you only want a pdf, detract at least half a star from the final verdict.

I almost didn’t believe that the same author wrote these two adventures, were it not for the evocative and interesting cults as well as the depiction of organic, multi-faceted characters. Ian Sturrock’s prose is per se amazing and inspiring…but. This module may not fall into the traps of its predecessor, but one could have claimed that the first part of this saga failed as a horror module, due to being too psychological, too deeply-routed in the mystery. I didn’t, because, to me, that made it fresh and unique.

“Worm of Sixty Winters” misses the mark of being horrific on the other end of the spectrum, by burying relatable elements under the coat of the supernatural cold apocalypse. It’s too easy for players to stop caring about the details, and the structure of the module doesn’t help engender an adverse response: The lack of consequences from Part I can act as a huge demotivator, and the escalating state of Britain’s clime generally results in an atmosphere (haha) of cold indifference, where the agents do what needs to be done – i.e. kill ‘em all. In that way, the module almost feels like a precursor to Night’s Black Agents, but without the refinement and stakes of moving against a massive conspiracy. The horror and intricacies of Night’s Black Agents can be pictured as scalpels that are slowly twisted; in comparison, this adventure is a sledgehammer. It strikes once with blunt impact, but after the novelty of the escalation this represents has worn off, it’ll be rather hard to return to the covert, methodical playstyle championed by Esoterrorists.

In short: This nukes the fridge regarding the basic themes and tenets of the setting. An immediate response may be “Awesome!”, but in the long run, it hurts the game. And also, to a degree, the system. The opaque locations don’t help infiltrations and made me think that I’d rather be playing Shadowrun. The pretty much straight-forward fantasy-elements made me want to play a game that excels at portraying exciting combat. Instead on focusing, like the first adventure, on playing to GUMSHOE’s strengths, the module seems hell-bent on trying to depict a type of gameplay that can work in GUMSHOE, but which needs to be executed with the utmost care.

From the lack of true consequences regarding the first adventure to the sudden run-and-gun mentality to the unfitting finale, I, as a person, absolutely despised this module. In spite of liking some aspects of it, it is the first Esoterrorist book that I really wish I hadn’t bought. While “Little Girl Lost”’s unnecessary cheap shots at the players and narrative cheating regarding the big boss annoyed me, it absolutely excelled in the investigation angle. I was so stoked for this sequel, mainly because I wanted it to win; I wanted to see this develop the story further, develop the intricate web “Little Girl Lost” had spun. Instead, I got the equivalent of a Roland Emmerich movie with a thin coating of rudimentary investigation; almost as if this were a conciliatory note by the author for being too difficult, cerebral and challenging in the first book. If this was intended to be completely different from book #1, then it succeeded. The problem is, that it’s not different in a good way.

And this is where we come full circle. This is why I’d consider this to be functional, yes, but less so as part #2 of the series, and even less so in the context of Esoterrorists. Where “Little Girl Lost” is an adventure I’d love to run in pretty much any GUMSHOE-system, in spite of its flaws, this one falls short of capturing the high-octane espionage of NBA, the themes of Esoterrorists or the desperation of Fear Itself.

How to rate this? OH BOY. As a person, I absolutely despised this module. For me, this is one of those rare 1-star-“what were they thinking”-moments. However, as a reviewer, I am required by my own ethics to try to abstract my own biases from the verdict as much as possible.

In light of that, I can provide a limited recommendation for this adventure for the following things: The cults per se are interesting. If you want to scavenge them and run them on their own, then this may be worth checking out. If you don’t mind your Esoterrorists game mutating into basically fantasy against an apocalyptic backdrop, then this should not elicit the same visceral response from you. Similarly, if the relative lack of consequence, change of pace, etc. don’t mind you and if you always thought that Esoterrorists should be more action-packed, then this may well be a module you can enjoy.

I have rarely gritted my teeth to this extent, but I have to concede that I can see this working for some groups, and rather well at that. This leaves us with the structural issues and the opaque nature of locales as well as with the issues regarding the interplay between this module and its predecessor. Thus, while I as a person would not recommend this to anyone (get part #1, fix the cheating aspects, have fun), as a reviewer, I have to admit to this probably having an appeal for some folks. Hence, my final verdict clocks in at 2.5 stars for the module of Ian Sturrock and Matthew Sanderson, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Albion's Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters
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5E Mini-Dungeon #061: The Cackling Madness of Umberstone Manor
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:40:46

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 and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes both a GM and a player-friendly version of the area depicted, all ready for VTT-use. Kudos!

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!

So, first thing you’ll notice is that this mini-dungeon is actually no dungeon – instead, it is basically an adventure sketch of sorts, presenting the basic set-up, plot and providing guidelines to run this adventure, all on two pages. The eponymous Umberstone Manor is the ancestral seat of the Valniboom family, antique dealers of some renown; the manor is situated in the shadow of a massive mountain and, indeed, is the private playground of the family and, indeed, the entire umberstone hill carries a really, really potent global effect that will have PCs struggle, even at high levels. Really nice: Not only the small details, but this curse in particular have been properly adjusted for 5e-gameplay, making good use of the system’s mechanics.

Now, the PCs have been hired to investigate the strange curse that has befallen the local populace – 2/3rd of them have developed a cackling mania, with more affected by the strange cackling curse daily. Weirdly, though, no one seems to be dying from the curse…

The resolution is actually really cool and a plan befitting of PCs in how wickedly cool and over the top it is: You see, the Valnibooms are actually vampires – and they can, obviously, control the living, right? So, what’s a good vampire hunter gotta do? Well, Nicoletta Vasille’s response was to dump a boatload of specialized poison into the local water supplies; harmless to mortals, but it temporarily renders their blood unpalatable for the undead. Oh, and gibbering mania as a side-effect, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? Well, that’s not all. She also hired dwarves to create a tunnel into the mountain, planning on BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN, thus exposing the manor to sunlight AND letting a huge avalanche/rock slide crash down. And you thought your PCs have a tendency for overkill…

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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

This is but a sketch of a full scenario, but the amount of details it provides in scant few words is AMAZING. How the PCs interact with the factions, what they do – it all depends on you, but this makes a great 1-page adventure set-up that is more interesting than many that I’ve read. Yes, it needs some fleshing out, obviously, but Justin Andrew Mason’s angle here works admirably well. My one complaint here is that I’d have loved to see this fully developed as a big sandbox; you know, fully depicted villages, progression of everyone becoming ever more manic… the scope feels almost too ambitious for even the sketch-formula of this MD. The 5e-version is just as efficient as the PFRPG-iteration. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #061: The Cackling Madness of Umberstone Manor
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Mini-Dungeon #061: The Cackling Madness of Umberstone Manor
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:38:16

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 and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

So, first thing you’ll notice is that this mini-dungeon is actually no dungeon – instead, it is basically an adventure sketch of sorts, presenting the basic set-up, plot and providing guidelines to run this adventure, all on two pages. The eponymous Umberstone Manor is the ancestral seat of the Valniboom family, antique dealers of some renown; the manor is situated in the shadow of a massive mountain and, indeed, is the private playground of the family and, indeed, the entire umberstone hill carries a really, really potent global effect that will have PCs struggle, even at high levels – kudos!

Now, the PCs have been hired to investigate the strange curse that has befallen the local populace – 2/3rd of them have developed a cackling mania, with more affected by the strange cackling curse daily. Weirdly, though, no one seems to be dying from the curse…

The resolution is actually really cool and a plan befitting of PCs in how wickedly cool and over the top it is: You see, the Valnibooms are actually vampires – and they can, obviously, control the living, right? So, what’s a good vampire hunter gotta do? Well, Nicoletta Vasille’s response was to dump a boatload of specialized poison into the local water supplies; harmless to mortals, but it temporarily renders their blood unpalatable for the undead. Oh, and gibbering mania as a side-effect, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? Well, that’s not all. She also hired dwarves to create a tunnel into the mountain, planning on BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN, thus exposing the manor to sunlight AND letting a huge avalanche/rock slide crash down. And you thought your PCs have a tendency for overkill…

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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

This is but a sketch of a full scenario, but the amount of details it provides in scant few words is AMAZING. How the PCs interact with the factions, what they do – it all depends on you, but this makes a great 1-page adventure set-up that is more interesting than many that I’ve read. Yes, it needs some fleshing out, obviously, but Justin Andrew Mason’s angle here works admirably well. My one complaint here is that I’d have loved to see this fully developed as a big sandbox; you know, fully depicted villages, progression of everyone becoming ever more manic…the scope feels almost too ambitious for even the sketch-formula of this MD. Still, this is worth getting. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #061: The Cackling Madness of Umberstone Manor
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5E Mini-Dungeon #060: The Unquenched Thirst
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:36:40

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 and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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!

This mini-dungeon is a wilderness sidetrek on an island known for stranding folks, where orc watering parties have turned undead, deadly rapids drag towards the cascade that hides a cave; enchanted water,, the very rocks thirsting for blood - from children of the briar to leshies to interesting terrain features, the misery and death that has haunted this place is evident, sharply contrasting its dangerous nature with the per se pretty idyllic map for a relatively dark and interesting, if slightly unfocused, cursed region.

Wait, leshies? Yeah, page 2 of this conversion is taken up by the stats of both creatures, which have been reproduced here for your convenience. They originally appeared in Kobold Press’ fantastic Tome of Beasts and are credited as such. Nice!

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 really nice, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Michael Allen provides a region the PCs can happen upon that should be considered to be pretty fun, unconventional wilderness set-piece. The theme of nature as mystic, hostile, makes for a cool change of pace and I like very much how this works. Personally, I think the leitmotif could be slightly stronger and focused, but I'm complaining at a high level here. The conversion to 5E by Chris Harris is well done and on par with the PFRPG version and gets the same verdict: 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform, but only by a tiny margin.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #060: The Unquenched Thirst
Click to show product description

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Village Backdrop: Echo Harbour
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2018 04:31:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Echo harbor is somewhat uncommon, as a brief look at the village’s demographics should point out immediately: Of the almost 200 inhabitants, more than ½ the population actually comes from rather uncommon stock, namely, we’re talking orcs and merfolk. There is a reason for this: Not too long ago, this was the solitary home of a tribe of merfolk, but that did change when a wounded, old dragon turtle and her orc attendants entered the bay, tired of a nomadic lifestyle. A deal was struck: Protection would be granted by the orcs and their mighty guardian, but in turn, they’d be allowed to settle. The alliance was the founding event of the settlement, with the council of community leaders, the “Recognized” making smart business decisions. Recently, though, the mighty dragon turtle vanished – and it remains to be seen whether Echo Harbour can stand on its own.

Still, for now, as a glance at the PFRPG settlement stats should show, the village remains relatively safe. Following the evolved village backdrop-formula, we get a generic marketplace section denoting items for sale, an entry on villager appearance and nomenclature as well as some village lore for PCs to unearth. 6 different whispers and rumors can also be found to add some spice to the experience.

The b/w-map by Maciej Zagorksi is really nice and the pdf does provide some nice, detailed notes on law enforcement, trade and local customs and traditions. Contests of skill and former adoption into the village’s fold are mentioned and the pdf comes with a total of 20 entries of dressing and events, which can add some nice local color to the village. The village of Echo Harbour’s vicinity is one of tropical coastlines, with reliable trade winds blowing in customers; obviously, this does mean that there are pirates as well – and in a cool twist, the village’s surrounding area also includes a description of the underwater area near the village.

Now, the pdf also contains a total of 7 notable points of interest and 5 different NPCs. The NPCs, as always, focus on a fluffy, statless depiction, with mannerism, personality and distinguishing features noted. Both the NPCs and the locations do feature their own read-aloud text for your convenience. As following the expanded formula of the series, the pdf also features one single, brief and localized table of events for the marketplace of the town, notes on food and drink in the local tavern, and we get notes on the kelp farms, the cave where Echo Harbour was founded as well as on the local shipyards. One of the locations also has two small quest-hooks suggested.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches on a formal of rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant, nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features amazing cartography and art, both in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and it comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Amber Underwood’s “Echo Harbour” is an interesting village: Its cosmopolitan nature makes it a good hub for an adventuring group and the recent disappearance of the village’s guardian means that there is plenty of reason why it’s not as fortified or well-defended as it should be. There is a lot of room for the times to change. While the prose of the village didn’t captivate me to peak extent, the village excels in its sheer functionality.

You see, Echo harbor acts as a perfect hub and transition axis – the village’s trade connections can explain getting the exotic goods PCs are known to like, and its location allows it to act as a hub and transition point from in-land adventuring to naval or underwater adventuring and vice versa, acting as a great starting point for a change of pace. This makes the village rather valuable for longer campaigns that cherish changes of scenery. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – very much worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Echo Harbour
Click to show product description

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Creator Reply:
Hooray! Thanks very much for the review and the kind words. Glad you liked Echo Harbour!
Village Backdrop: Echo Harbour (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2018 04:30:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Echo harbor is somewhat uncommon, as a brief look at the village’s demographics should point out immediately: Of the almost 200 inhabitants, more than ½ the population actually comes from rather uncommon stock, namely, we’re talking orcs and merfolk. There is a reason for this: Not too long ago, this was the solitary home of a tribe of merfolk, but that did change when a wounded, old dragon turtle and her orc attendants entered the bay, tired of a nomadic lifestyle. A deal was struck: Protection would be granted by the orcs and their mighty guardian, but in turn, they’d be allowed to settle. The alliance was the founding event of the settlement, with the council of community leaders, the “Recognized” making smart business decisions. Recently, though, the mighty dragon turtle vanished – and it remains to be seen whether Echo Harbour can stand on its own.

Still, for now, the village remains relatively safe. Following the evolved village backdrop-formula, we get a generic marketplace section denoting items for sale, an entry on villager appearance and nomenclature as well as some village lore for PCs to unearth. 6 different whispers and rumors can also be found to add some spice to the experience.

The b/w-map by Maciej Zagorksi is really nice and the pdf does provide some nice, detailed notes on law enforcement, trade and local customs and traditions. Contests of skill and former adoption into the village’s fold are mentioned and the pdf comes with a total of 20 entries of dressing and events, which can add some nice local color to the village. The village of Echo Harbour’s vicinity is one of tropical coastlines, with reliable trade winds blowing in customers; obviously, this does mean that there are pirates as well – and in a cool twist, the village’s surrounding area also includes a description of the underwater area near the village.

Now, the pdf also contains a total of 7 notable points of interest and 5 different NPCs. The NPCs, as always, focus on a fluffy, statless depiction, referencing in some cases the standard stats of 5e, with mannerism, personality and distinguishing features noted. Both the NPCs and the locations do feature their own read-aloud text for your convenience. As following the expanded formula of the series, the pdf also features one single, brief and localized table of events for the marketplace of the town, notes on food and drink in the local tavern, and we get notes on the kelp farms, the cave where Echo Harbour was founded as well as on the local shipyards. One of the locations also has two small quest-hooks suggested. The magic items for sale in the village have had their list adjusted to reflect 5e’s sensibilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches on a formal of rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant, nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features amazing cartography and art, both in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and it comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Amber Underwood’s “Echo Harbour” is an interesting village: Its cosmopolitan nature makes it a good hub for an adventuring group and the recent disappearance of the village’s guardian means that there is plenty of reason why it’s not as fortified or well-defended as it should be. There is a lot of room for the times to change. While the prose of the village didn’t captivate me to peak extent, the village excels in its sheer functionality.

You see, Echo harbor acts as a perfect hub and transition axis – the village’s trade connections can explain getting the exotic goods PCs are known to like, and its location allows it to act as a hub and transition point from in-land adventuring to naval or underwater adventuring and vice versa, acting as a great starting point for a change of pace. This makes the village rather valuable for longer campaigns that cherish changes of scenery. The 5e-version of Echo harbor is just as refined and well-crafted as its PFRPG-version. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – very much worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Echo Harbour (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Creator Reply:
Hooray! Thanks very much for the review and the kind words. Glad you liked Echo Harbour!
Village Backdrop: Echo Harbour (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2018 04:28:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Echo harbor is somewhat uncommon, as a brief look at the village’s demographics should point out immediately: Of the almost 200 inhabitants, more than ½ the population actually comes from rather uncommon stock, namely, we’re talking orcs and merfolk. There is a reason for this: Not too long ago, this was the solitary home of a tribe of merfolk, but that did change when a wounded, old dragon turtle and her orc attendants entered the bay, tired of a nomadic lifestyle. A deal was struck: Protection would be granted by the orcs and their mighty guardian, but in turn, they’d be allowed to settle. The alliance was the founding event of the settlement, with the council of community leaders, the “Recognized” making smart business decisions. Recently, though, the mighty dragon turtle vanished – and it remains to be seen whether Echo Harbour can stand on its own.

Still, for now, the village remains relatively safe. Following the evolved village backdrop-formula, we get a generic marketplace section denoting items for sale, an entry on villager appearance and nomenclature as well as some village lore for PCs to unearth. 6 different whispers and rumors can also be found to add some spice to the experience.

The b/w-map by Maciej Zagorksi is really nice and the pdf does provide some nice, detailed notes on law enforcement, trade and local customs and traditions. Contests of skill and former adoption into the village’s fold are mentioned and the pdf comes with a total of 20 entries of dressing and events, which can add some nice local color to the village. The village of Echo Harbour’s vicinity is one of tropical coastlines, with reliable trade winds blowing in customers; obviously, this does mean that there are pirates as well – and in a cool twist, the village’s surrounding area also includes a description of the underwater area near the village.

Now, the pdf also contains a total of 7 notable points of interest and 5 different NPCs. The NPCs, as always, focus on a fluffy, statless depiction, with mannerism, personality and distinguishing features noted. Big plus: The suggested levels for the NPCs refer to the proper classes of the old-school systems – magic-users and thieves, for example. Both the NPCs and the locations do feature their own read-aloud text for your convenience. As following the expanded formula of the series, the pdf also features one single, brief and localized table of events for the marketplace of the town, notes on food and drink in the local tavern, and we get notes on the kelp farms, the cave where Echo Harbour was founded as well as on the local shipyards. It should also be noted that magic items for sale have been adjusted to reflect items in line with old-school gaming. One of the locations also has two small quest-hooks suggested.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches on a formal of rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant, nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features amazing cartography and art, both in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and it comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Amber Underwood’s “Echo Harbour” is an interesting village: Its cosmopolitan nature makes it a good hub for an adventuring group and the recent disappearance of the village’s guardian means that there is plenty of reason why it’s not as fortified or well-defended as it should be. There is a lot of room for the times to change. While the prose of the village didn’t captivate me to peak extent, the village excels in its sheer functionality.

You see, Echo harbor acts as a perfect hub and transition axis – the village’s trade connections can explain getting the exotic goods PCs are known to like, and its location allows it to act as a hub and transition point from in-land adventuring to naval or underwater adventuring and vice versa, acting as a great starting point for a change of pace. This makes the village rather valuable for longer campaigns that cherish changes of scenery. The system neutral version loses nothing of the charm of the other versions. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – very much worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Echo Harbour (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Hooray! Thanks very much for the review and the kind words. Glad you liked Echo Harbour!
By this Poleaxe
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2018 04:26:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little FREE pdf clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 3 pages of content.

This supplemental pdf basically provides a small-scale battle-rules variant of the mass combat system presented in “By this Axe.”

Each squad is made up of up to 5 combatants and is represented by a single figure.

Squads have 5 attributes: AV (attack value), DV (defense value), MV (morale value), HTK (hits to kill), M (movement).

Attack value is a squad’s ability to hit on a d10; total HD and divide by 5. A table of modifiers and AV by HD is provided. DV is calculated by averaging the AC of the squad and is used as a saving throw – I also assume that we use a d10 here, but I’m not 100% sure. Cover and defensive abilities modify this. Morale represents the value that you need to roll under to avoid breaking and running. Morale is checked when the squad takes a hit, when attacked from rear, flank or surprise or when friendlies are routed in line of sight. Footmen receiving a mounted charge must also check.

HtK is based on members of the squad and HD of the participants. A squad at 0 HtK is obviously out of the fight, and must roll on the table to determine how many are killed, with priests and druids helping the chances of surviving.

Movement is categorized in abstract move spaces, with common base move rates translated. Starting distance is an abstract 2d6 move spaces at the start of combat and missile/ranged weapon ranges are codified by move spaces as well.

Combat works as follows: Both sides declare movements/charges, then move half the distance. Missile fire and spells are next and then, both sides finish movement and melee is resolved last.

Nice: Spells and their effect on the squad are codified in a brief table, which is good to see.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious formal hiccups, though the rules of e.g. what to roll for DV could have been cleaner. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports public domain art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Chris Kutalik’s skirmishing expansion for “By this Axe” makes for an intriguing little pdf – I actually liked this pdf more than its parent – mainly because I either want a hyper-detailed war-resolution OR a free-form mind’s eye solution. This pdf manages to be abstract, but actually doesn’t need minis, representing a synthesis of sorts of the two systems introduced in By this Axe. Speaking of which – this is intended, but it really pays off to read the parent pdf – without it, the system presented herein may seem a bit confusing.

That being said, the parent pdf is really inexpensive and this pdf is FREE. That’s a price that is hard to beat and allows you to check this pdf out without any risk whatsoever. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
By this Poleaxe
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