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The Destroyer's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2016 10:41:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Drop Dead Studios' Spheres of Power-expansions clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After the introductory prose, we dive right into the archetype-section of the book, with the first being the Admixture Savant elementalist, who gets a modified skill-list, casts via Int and gains an admixture pool instead of evasion and the dodge bonus at 2nd level. These points may be expended to either remove the increase of casting time of the Admixture talent or reduce the spell point expenditure of metamagic feats by 1 point per admixture point spent. Instead of combat feats, these guys gain metamagic feats and 3rd level allows them to target adversaries with destructive blasts, gaining +1/2 level as a bonus to damage, with 9th and 15th level increasing that further, though at the cost of favored element. 11th level provides a wild card destruction sphere talent and as a capstone, we have a spell point cost reduction for blasts modified with metamagic.


The blaster armorist gets an arm cannon bound weapon, which attacks touch AC and has a base damage of 1d6, +1d6 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, with no range penalties and a maximum range of close, being treated as both a destructive blast AND a ranged weapon. Destruction is granted as a bonus talent (with replacements, should you have it already) and unique arsenal tricks being provided as well: With buckler as a secondary function for the cannon, charging your shots, gaining an intelligent cannon or adding blast shapes to the cannon, the archetype has some seriously cool tricks - and yes, this can be considered to be the megaman-archetype. Kudos!


The doomblade mageknight, can, as a swift action, form his blast into a blade-like shape that lasts for casting ability modifier rounds - cool. And yes, takes blast shape etc. into account. Elemental Scion shifters cast via Cha, get a modified skill list and gain the Alteration sphere as well as Elemental Transformation, but also beast soul as a drawback sans associated granted talent and, should the character already have the like, proper wording for these cases. The class may use a lesser Elemental Transformation sans ability increase, fly speed, earth glide etc. (but also sans spell point cost!) and, at higher levels, reduced costs for elemental transformation when using the talent self-only. When in the shape of a given elemental, the scion increases the potency of associated destructive blasts.


The entropic sage hedgewitch loses traditions and a modified proficiency list as well as the Destruction sphere and Energy Blade talent at 1st level, but also Focused Shape as a drawback, with monk-like AC and CMD bonuses as well as Improved Unarmed Strike at first level; higher levels unlock more monk-style benefits...and, in case you were wondering, the archetype is compatible with PFU's unchained monk, allowing for the learning of ki powers as well as style feats. Interesting one!


The kinetic scourge mageknight has a modified proficiency list and gains both Destruction sphere and the Energy Tether talent as well as the focused shape drawback, with only move actions required for concentration of these tethers. The archetype focuses of ranged combat maneuvers via Energy Tether and e.g. anchoring flying foes via Tether Adept. The Soulfire Master Thaumaturge suffers no backlash when using forbidden lore, instead taking ability burn - Constitution, to be exact, which is regenerated after 8 hours of resting,but to offset this power-increase, backlash chance is increased to 50%, with 4th level unlocking Soulfire and burning lore sans risk of backlash and higher levels allowing for the passing off of Con-burn via channel punishment.


The wandslinger gunslinger would be, yup, another take on the wand-blasting gunslinger, complete with modified skill list, with the grit-determining attribute being treated as casting ability modifier. Interesting: grit can be used to prevent wand spell point expenditure for destructive lasts and aiming that increases range as well as Dex-mod to damage with destructive blasts from wands and Gather Energy when firing wands. 11th level provides dual-wand activation. Solid.


The second chapter herein covers basic magic, grouping blast type groups as well as providing blast shapes -from chain blasts to energy bombs and auras to using your destructive blasts to propel you forward, to gaining a satellite that you can discharge upon nearby foes as an immediate action to aforementioned energy tethers, the options are neat. Blast type talents are similarly diverse: Want alkali blasts that send foes to the floor? Done. Bull rushing stone hails? Temporary Fort-debuffs? Tripping nonlethal blasts? Temporary hit points for allies, balanced within SoP's frame? Shrapnel or concentration/mental skill-check hampering blasts? The pdf obliges.


Other talents, including the aforementioned admixture, are provided as well - which deserves special mention, as it takes the discrepancy between blast die-sizes into account, providing concise guidance here. Cascading penalties, immunity to your own blasts...very helpful. Since SoP talents usually lack the descriptor tags (but they're nice and pretty helpful to have) the pdf provides a short summary here as well - kudos.


Chapter 4 provides a smattering of advanced talents for your perusal, with an upgrade of Crystal Blasts to encase foes in cocoons of crystal. Extreme range energy sniping is cool: 1000 ft. + 100 ft. per CL (OUCH!) range, but it can only target squares or large objects, making it basically SoP-siege blasts. Personally, I'm not a big fan of sacred and profane damage featuring here, but since the primary source of conflict regarding these damage types are spells that are absent in SoP, I can live with them making a return here. Causing radiation sickness via your blasts in 4 radiation severities is similarly covered. Here's the section, though, that will make this pdf a must-own buy for pretty much every SoP-using group: The chapter covers adaptation of new blasts: Basically, it codifies detrimental effects codified via blasts in an easy to grasp system, allowing you to create your very own custom blasts via an easy to grasp system. Two thumbs up!


The pdf also features two rituals as well 5 fully detailed incantations - that allow you to call forth spheres of annihilation, perform the dance of ruin, call forth omnimental or make willing/helpless targets walking bombs - this section is pure awesome.


The book also sports a wide array of new feats, with Arcing Strike blasts, higher crit-range, blasts that snake onward (combo-potential = awesome) or adding effects to specific types of destructive blasts. combo-sphere talents, feats to increase e.g. Energy Leap or better tethering - basically, the array here allows you to specialize in a wide variety of manners. The pdf also provides the shape focus drawback, 5 traits (with the proper trait-type) as well as tricks for the arsenal and incanter specialization. Fans of DSP's races will certainly enjoy the alternate racial traits for Forgeborn and Dromites that are featured among those for more common races herein - if you're like me and gravitate towards combining SoP and Psionics, you'll certainly enjoy it!


The pdf also features new weapon properties and specific items that can be utilized to add weapon properties to blasts or imbuing weapons with them; massive disintegrating but unstable cannons, bullets of entangling crystal - pretty cool selection here and the cost/strength-ratio of the items generally seems to be neat as well - kudos!


Chapter 7, then, provides the bestiary, which contains the CR 7 crystal golem alongside 6 types of omnimentals (ranging from CR 2 to 12), adapting the classic creature concept well to the SoP-destruction sphere context. The pdf also features several templates, from destructive elementals to walking bombs and creatures attuned to elemental rifts. Finally, the last page provides a couple of tips and tactics for playing destructive blast specialists.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level. No complaints here. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios' two-column full-color standard for these books, with a mix of stock and original full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Andrew Stoeckle's Destroyer's Handbook had the potential to wreck the whole SoP system. It is my pleasure to tell you that it doesn't. Instead of going a power-creep route, this focuses on options galore, with evocative concepts, unique tricks and a wide, wide arsenal of cool tricks to employ. But we've come to expect the like from these books. Where this one truly captured my heart and what elevates it from very good to excellence, though, at least to me, would be the DIY-build-your-own-blast section. Extremely useful and a perfect representation of the "Say Yes!"-enabling spirit of the Spheres of Power rules. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Destroyer's Handbook
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Unarmored and Dangerous (PFRPG)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/12/2016 10:06:02

An Endzeitgeist.com


This massive sourcebook clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page of front cover, 1 page of editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with...yes. 82 pages of content. That's a lot of ground to cover, so let's take a look!


This book, just fyi, is not a collection of classes in the traditional sense - instead, the goal of this book is to provide a unified set of traditions to codify martial arts in Pathfinder. The pdf does this by introducing martial "ways" - like the Way of the Void, which adds Wisdom-modifier to AC and CMD, even when flat-footed and to touch AC. The Way of Life does the same for Charisma, but loses the bonuses when becoming flat-footed. Both work only when unarmored and unencumbered.


The Way of the Mind adds 1 point of Int-mod per class level as a dodge bonus to AC and CMD, but only while armed with a melee weapon and not denied Dex-mod and the martial arts style works with regular (non-large) shields and when wearing light armor. Way of the Body get their Constitution modifier as a circumstance bonus to AC and may stack their bonus with natural armor and enhancements thereof as well as with shields, but the AC does not enhance for CMD or touch AC. Way of Force assumes that the character has some means of erecting force armor. Finally, Way of Armor is considered to be the armor-wearing option for the characters. So that would be the classification of (already existing!) defense options that can be gained via classes, archetypes et al.


Next would be martial strikes, with a handy table that breaks down base damage for Small, Medium and Large sizes by BAB (and includes non-martial artists) - martial artists using an unarmed strike get Improved Unarmed Strike and thus, the monk-y damage types are covered here. After a brief discussion of weapon groups, we dive into archetypes for the respective classes that allow you to basically add martial arts to existing classes, grouped for your convenience by the Way the archetypes adhere to - and yes, this is the reason why I bothered to explain the respective way-classifications in detail. They are useful to bear in mind for designers, sure - but beyond that, understanding them once allows you to basically create your own archetypes pretty easily.


Now, as for the Way of the Void, we have 3 archetypes - the Iron Inquisitor, the Path of Spirit Cleric and the Void Fighter. All of these have in common that they gain not only the Wis-modifier to AC, they also gain scaling further bonuses to AC at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, following the guidelines as presented above in the brief discussion on the way of the void. The respective archetypes also feature a proper unarmed fighting damage progression, that increases the damage-die size at BAB +4, +8 and +12, respectively. While this is a minor deviation from usual rules-language, which tends to codify the like in levels instead, it is a functionally sound one. Obviously, the exchanged abilities differ from class to class, with the loss of proficiencies in the armor department being a unifying theme. The inquisitor also loses track and domain, the cleric domain powers, spells and spell-slots, though the cleric does get a modified skill-list including Acrobatics etc. to make up for this. The fighter, finally, would be the most complex of the modifications, gaining a modified skill-list (but, alas, no upgrade to skills per level - poor sap is still stuck with 2 + Int mod...) as well as a +1 bonus to Reflex saves that increases by +1 every four levels beyond second, replacing thus bravery. Armor training is lost in favor of 3rd level evasion and 19th level nets DR 5/- instead of armor mastery, with the capstone replacing weapon mastery with gaining an auto-confirm for one type of weapon (and a multiplier increased by 1); if unarmed strikes are chosen, the character gains 18-20/x3. Additionally, the character can no longer be disarmed when wielding this weapon. Nice one! This would be as good a place as any to note that each archetype presented herein comes with a sample character, drawing upon the rich variety of races available in the Porphyra-setting.


The Way of Life, the Charisma-governed array of archetypes, provides a total of 4 such archetypes, though their balancing is a tad bit more complex, with none of them providing a straight and narrow concept applied. The Child of Wild Ranger, for example, does receive his bonus to touch attacks in a conscious deviation from the established base-line and gains uncanny dodge at 2nmd level instead of the combat style feat. (It should be noted that, as far as I read this, the choice for combat styles still must be made here, to ensure the integrity of follow-up abilities in the class progression - only the feat is lost, not combat style per se as a class feature. This is something to bear in mind and may be an oversight or not - I assume competence here due to the rather deliberate wording, but still felt that prospective readers might want to be aware of this peculiarity.


The Noble Savage Barbarian (EZG flashes back to "Introduction to Cultural Studies" and the tropes of the noble savage...) may enter a disciplined rage - basically, the archetype can burn 2 rounds of rage per round instead of one, allowing the character to utilize rage powers, but not benefit from other benefits of rage. The character can freely switch between regular and disciplined rage and duration stacks with regular rage benefits for fatigue cool-down, unless it is the only rage employed, where the character no longer takes the fatigued condition. Starting at 5th level, 1 minute of disciplined rage translates to 1 round of rage burned, with 9th and 13th level increasing the ratio to 10 minutes and an hour, respectively and 19th level unlocking the option to always use rage powers...which is very strong. Uncanny dodge is gained at 3rd level and its improved brethren at 7th and indomitable will being unlocked at 15th.


The archetype pay for these powers with trap sense as well as DR and also gets an expanded skill-list. Overall, I may be weary of powerful barbarian archetypes - the general notion that barbarians rank among the most powerful melee classes is something I'd immediately sign, having experienced the brutal annihilation that 3 power-gamer barbarians with vastly diverging builds have brought upon foes at my table. This archetype, as a whole, does not lose any crucial features and takes a limited resource, namely rage powers, balanced by their limited availability, and amplifies their availability by factor 10, then factor 10 again and then factor 60. Do the math. The system of the class is not made for this and it simply begs to be abused to all hell. Another issue would pertain rage-cycling tricks - if e.g. 10 minutes of disciplined rage count as 1 round of rage and the barbarian ends it after 2 minutes, does that allow for yet another use upon restarting the disciplined rage? If so, does it resume at the 2 minute mark? I assume no, but I am not sure, since the archetype does manage to cover interaction between rage and disciplined rage, but not within it.


The Oracle of the Way goes a different route, beginning play with Improved Unarmed Strike and, when unarmored and unencumbered, adds Cha-mod to her dodge bonus to AC and CMD, applying it against touch attacks as well and losing them when encumbered or deprived of Dexterity mod to AC, replacing armor proficiencies and the oracle's curse. The martial strikes damage-die progression can be gained via the selection of one of the archetype-exclusive revelations, which also includes significant bonuses to Acrobatics, Evasion, Fast Movement, Stunning Fist and Uncanny Dodge - the basics of martial arts. However, the oracle may never select a revelation that grants an armor bonus.


Finally, the uncanny monk gets uncanny dodge at 3rd level, its improved brother at 7thand pays for that with Still Mind, otherwise being a pretty straight conversion of the monk to the Cha-based way of martial arts.


Next up would be the archetypes for the Way of the Mind, with the Magus getting two of them, the Canny Magus and the Magus of the Mind. The canny magus replaces medium and heavy armor proficiency with canny defense and moves improved spell recall to 13th level. Straight and simple. The Magus of the Mind has no armor proficiency and proficiencies with monk/oriental weapons and also gets canny defense, replacing the armor proficiencies, but also gets the martial strike damage die scaling and moves Improved Spell Recall down to 10th level - this would be the more monk-y variant, basically. Canny Rangers are proficient with light armors and shields only, get a modified skill list, fast movement at 4th level, uncanny dodge at 7th and improved uncanny dodge at 13th. 10th level makes all jumps long and provides full speed while balancing/climbing. All in all, a solid take on the concept. The Canny Rogue is basic, replacing trapfinding with canny defense. The Canny Summoner loses armor and shield proficiency in favor of Canny Defense. Quicksilver Alchemists, finally, get a modified proficiency list, canny defense replacing swift and instant alchemy and the option to generate quicksilver oils, which modify the extracts-list. This modification, though, also means that the alchemist loses basically the own-body-transformation extracts.


The Way of the Body provides 5 archetypes, the first of which would be the Animal Adoptee, who gets a modified skill-list as well as an extension of prohibited armors, but also the Constitution-based Way of the Body - and no, it does not stack with wild shape's natural armor bonuses. The Brave Barbarian exchanges armor proficiencies with Way of the Body, noting that rage does not increase the AC gained thus. The Grizzled Ranger adds Acrobatics to his list of class skills and exchanges armor proficiency with Way of the Body. The Iron Man Fighter does not gain a suit - quite the contrary; he gets a modified skill-list as well as Way of the Body, but pay for that with armor training. Armor mastery is instead applied to being unarmored. The Scarred Alchemist similarly exchanges his armor and shield proficiencies with Way of the Body. All in all, more linear, basic archetypes here, maintaining thus more multi-archetype potential.


The final way, the Way of the Force, covers 10 archetypes: The Dandy Bard gets a modified proficiency list, losing out on, among other things, armor, but gains mage armor at 4th level as a 1st level bard spell and may stack its bonus with bracers. The Force Knight cavalier loses all armor and shield proficiencies, but starts play with the option to generate a +7 armor of force that can be enhanced with spells etc.; but such enhancements do not stack with 4th level's ability to stack bracers of armor on it. The bonus granted by this armor is +7, which is pretty hardcore at 1st level, particularly since the armor comes with a matching shield of force. 4th level unlocks 1/day mage armor that can only affect the mount and 6th level allows for the creation of force weapons that get the ghost touch property...and may be enchanted. Question, though: They are generally not considered magical as in getting +1 bonus, only for affecting creatures, so how do you calculate further enhancing force weapons? Alas, no idea. I'm generally weary of this archetype - with an indestructible armor at 1st level, the archetype is too dip-prone for my tastes, with only expert trainer and the 6th level feat-gain paying for these powerful tools.


The Ghost Hunter Rogue gets the mage armor/bracers-combo, with the SP for mage armor starting off at 2/day, +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. At 3rd level, the rogue gains at-will disrupt undead, which can be used in conjunction with full attacks and sneak attacks. Additionally, he inflicts full damage versus incorporeal foes and may inflict sneak attack damage on them. Additionally, the SP may be used in melee and increases in potency and range, with high levels allowing for other creature types to be affected. This does replace trapfinding and trap sense, though, requiring the expenditure of a rogue talent to be able to disarm magical traps. Ghost Knight cavaliers get s a modified proficiency list and begin play with a destiny that powers the SPs and SUs of the knight as a narrative device. These knights get the ghostly armors and shields of the force knight, with the same trepidations applying, but this one also helping with Disguise-checks...+10. OUCH. 2nd level replaces the order ability with perma ghost touch on weapons wielded as well as SP mage armor for the mount. The mount is replaced with the third level ability to gain a phantom steed (1/day; at-will at 6th level; 9th level: As a swift action; 12th level: As an immediate action; 15th level: Steed becomes incorporeal), basically eliminating the need for mount-y cool-downs after it perishes. 4th level replaces expert trainer with an extra-dimensional weapons cache (!!) and 8th level replaces the order ability gained there with 1/day ethereal jaunt. The final order ability at 15th level is replaced with an extension of ghost touch to all allies within 60 ft. I like this one's fluff, though I consider it slightly too powerful for what it takes - see above for the dip-issue and adding the steed and cache...makes for a cool archetype, yes...but also one that is imho a tad bit too good.


The Guard Maid Paladin gets the force aura/bracer combo as well as the force shield, but pays for it with armor and shield proficiency. The archetype also receives the Body-guard-Ward theme, replacing aura of good and may smite threats to the target, greatly enhancing smite's versatility. Lay on hands may only be used on herself and her ward and instead of detect evil, scaling bonuses to Profession 8servant), which may be used as a replacement for Perception, are gained at 2nd level. 4th level nets the extra-dimensional weapon cache and spells that usually affect only evil creatures apply their benefits versus threats to her ward - OUCH! Divine bond must be a weapon. 14th level makes all attacks within 10 feet count as lawful and 17th level provides DR 5/- and immunity to compulsion spells and SPs, with allies gaining a save-boost instead. As a capstone, the archetype increases DR and adds banishment to smite. I like the theme of this archetype, though the force-trickery PLUS the significantly improves smite and spells render this one too strong in my book -at least while the smite lasts. Once the daily array is done, the archetype loses quite a bit of power, making the playing experience a bit swingy.


The Protégé Bard gains a familiar at first level and the usual mage armor/bracers-synergy of the Way of Force, including loss of armor proficiencies. At 1st level, the protégé gains a patron audience - a powerful entity that may gate in the bard, thus allowing for a great rationale for absentee players to vanish. Furthermore, high levels provide more interaction options here and limited control for the bard - a VERY cool ability that is basically narrative gold if handled correctly. Just FYI, it replaces deadly performance and the familiar kills off countersong and distraction. Instead of bardic knowledge and jack of all trades, these bards also add patron spells to their bard spells known and 10th level nets commune at-will. Easily one of my favorite archetypes herein.


The Robe Magus is once again a simple one - replace the medium and heavy armor proficiencies with the mage armor-trick, but also add scaling bonuses at higher levels to retain its viability. The Robed Summoner similarly loses the armor and shield proficiencies, but may stack mage armor and bracers and also gets 6 force-themed spells. The Shield Maiden Paladin would be the light-version archetype herein, with modified skill lists, no armor proficiency and a force armor akin to that of the ghost knight, including the Disguise bonus. Her shields are ghost touch and her divine bond is modified to apply to her shield instead. 8th level nets SP fly on herself (and mount) +1/day at 8th level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 11th level granting overland flight as an alternative and 17th level making the ability at will, replacing aura of righteousness thus. No complaints about this one. The Shining Cleric get the force armor (only at +5 AC, though) and replace channel energy with basically the sacerdote's untyped ray (see my review of Legendary Classes: Sacerdote for this one) and the shield as well. Shining inquisitors lose proficiency with shields and armor and gain the same sacred aura as their cleric brothers as also gets the force shield.


All right, the pdf has even more to offer, though; it also features a total of 5 new base classes, with each exemplifying one of the martial arts codified herein. The first of these would be the Boxer, who gains full BAB-progression, d12 HD, 2 +Int skills per level , proficiency with simple and close weapon group weapons as well as with shields. Boxers may not wear armor or use shields or carry something in two hands and gain, obviously, Improved Unarmed Strike. Boxers add class level to damage, +1/2 class level with two weapons or shields. He gets the canny Int per level to AC and CMD and adds Con-mod as natural AC. At 2nd level, the boxer gets the Block class feature, which lets him perform a competing attack roll against an incoming attack - on a success, he blocks it, with every 5 levels thereafter allowing for +1 block per round. After such a block, however, the boxer is staggered for 1 round, which cannot be mitigated. I assume this to also offset immunity to being staggered and it's the reason why I'm not rattling off my usual disdain-for-swingyness of competing rolls rant right now. Higher levels provide more bonuses to atk and damage, resistance versus certain conditions, more AoOs and 3rd level (+ 6th, 11th, 16th and 20th) allow for the progression of the chosen boxing style, which can be likened to orders or similar linear ability-suites. 3 boxing styles are provided, with haymakers allowing for his weapons/unarmed attacks to count as two-handed, 6th level dazing blows...generally nice. At 16th level, the style lets you perform one attack as a full-round action. If you hit, it's automatically a critical threat and damage multiplier is enhanced to x3. Ouch, particularly considering the significant damage bonuses of the class. 20th level provides crippling criticals here, with reduced speed, attribute damage, etc..


Stylists are defensive and agile, allowing them to follow up blocks with AoOs. Swarmers would be the TWF-specalists here, with high levels allowing for a 10 ft-step instead of a 5 ft-step or a 5 ft-step in difficult terrain.


The second class would be the fencer, who gains full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as light armors and shields. They get canny defense, Weapon finesse, add fencer level to damage in melee when one-handing a weapon (+1/2 level when employing a buckler) as well as parry, riposte and the like - this is basically a twist on the duelist as a base class (with all that entails - I'll spare you my usual rant here), though one that also features an order/bloodline-akin set of fencing schools, somewhat analogue to the boxing styles mentioned before...oh, and there are 13 of these and they modify much, much more: Agrippa, Bonetti, Capo Ferro, Carranza, Firentine, Ghisliero, Grazzi, Hard Knocks, Hayd’n, Melane, Military, Tibault and Yeoman can be selected. These schools have requirements (Agrippa can only be used with Weapon Finesse weapons and may not be sued in conjunction with off-hand weapons or shields, but off-hand ranged weapons such as throwing daggers are permitted.) and grant abilities at 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 11th, 16th and 20th level. And guess what...in spite of not being a big fan of the parry mechanic...I consider this class to be pretty much the most faithful and coolest take on the fencer; personally, I actually prefer it over the swashbuckler, since tricks like Weapon Bind and the ability array as such generally maintains the flair of the historic inspirations for the styles...this would be my default fencer class in a magic-less swashbuckling game. Granted, I'll make the class more modular and convert swashbuckler options to more customization options to enhance player agenda...but still: Kudos!


The Lin-Kuei gets 3/4 BAB-progression, all good saves, d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, the monk AC-bonus, fast movement, proficiency with a smattering of oriental weapons and lethal sneak attack, which increases to up to 7d6, but does not apply when flanking a foe...oh, and guess what: The class has a minimum damage-caveat to avoid shuriken-sneak attack exploits! KUDOS! And yes, via so-called secret techniques,basically the talents of the class, these guys can get lethal flanking, use shuriken to flat-foot foes, poach among ninja tricks and render targets charged flat-footed against the character. With 4th level ki pool, evasion and uncanny dodge etc. and basically a significant array of monk tricks, these guys can be pictured as a powerful (never thought I'd write that in the monk context!) hybrid of monk and ninja...and boy, me likes. While pretty potent and definitely better than rogue and monk, these guys make for pretty much a perfect class for the quick-footed martial artist and prove to be a more than cool addition to the fray! Another winner here!


The Mystic Dancer gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, ingrained unarmed strike progression, d8 HD and 6+Int skills per level as well as a modified proficiency list (barring armors) and Cha-governed spontaneous spellcasting, drawn from the bard list. They may not apply Still spell to any spells, but may apply Silent Spell to them. They use Way of Life (i.e. the Charisma-based martial art) and can best be pictured as a monk/bard-hybrid. Now this is a personal preference, but I consider the full bardic spellcasting and skill upgrade a bit much here...though, admittedly, the class should probably not completely outclass the bard, since by now the class has a lot of unique material to utilize. Still, in comparison to a core-only bard, the mystic dancer will probably win...if not restricted, for the performance they use is dependent on movement, which may well be the most deceptively cool balancing mechanism in the finer details I've seen in quite a while. In play, this relatively simple restriction proved to be a rather intriguing tactical component...so yeah...another interesting one here and one I'd allow in my games!


The final class herein would be the Swordmage, who gets full BAB-progression, d10 HD, 2+Int skills per level, good Fort- and Will-saves and no armor proficiency. They can cast a limited array of spells (up to 4th level) from the magus spell-list and must prepare their Int-governed spells in advance. They treat all magus and sorc/wiz spells as on their list for spell-trigger purposes, with 3rd level allowing them to use sorc/wiz spells for crafting purposes. They get Scribe Scroll at 2nd level and begin play with the full +7 AC-bonus force armor and the capacity to use a force shield. At 4th level, the swordmage can cast spells with somatic components with his weapon hand and 5th level nets an arcane pool, which, among basic enchantments, allows at 9th level for the swordmage to cast spells ritualistically from the sorc/wiz spell list, provided he has the scroll - combat utility here is almost zero, mind you: Beyond a level-restriction, it also takes at least 1 minute to do so, which maintains a sense of balance here. Spellstrike is gained at 8th level and higher levels allow for the expenditure of arcane pool points to move as a swift action, Quicken magus spells and line of sight/effect-dependent short-range teleport...alas, lacking the declaration as conjuration [teleportation]-effect...but at 17th level, that's probably not that important anymore anyways. This one is easily my least favorite of the classes introduced herein, it being basically a full BAB-twist on the magus, a kind of arcane paladin. It's not a bad take on the concept, mind you. In fact, it's one of the better takes on it...but it also is not too unique in how it plays, with the somatic component being probably the most defining feature of its playing style.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - Purple Duck Games has really taken care to make sure that the formatting is precise and functional here. On a rules-language level, there are quite a few deviations here and there - most notably a lower-case attribute here, a "Constitution bonus" instead of modifier there when it should be modifier...for the most part, these do not hamper the rules themselves, but they can be a bit annoying if you're as anal-retentive about things like this as I am. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that still is very printer-friendly. Artwork deserves special mention here: The book has A LOT of artworks for the unique characters featured herein, with many gorgeous 1-page artworks...kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks pointing to each class, archetype, way...the book is easy to navigate.


Carl Cramér, Julian Neale and August Hahn deliver in this book...something completely different than what I expected. This is not a WuXia-toolkit like Dragon Tiger Ox; neither is it Path of War or the Martial Arts Guidebook - this book, in a way, is much more down to earth and compatible with your average Pathfinder group. Why? Because it basically codifies the already existing martial defenses that stand in for armor and defines them as entities. After that, it proceeds to apply said defenses as ready toolkits to existing classes, showing you the easy modifications you need to make. Extrapolating a relative value for them and applying them further is rather easy at this point - and it may be the coolest thing about the archetype-section. I won't lie - that section of the book did not wow me from a creativity stand-point...but it incited an understanding for the mindset behind applying the respective martial arts to base-classes...and if I'm not sorely mistaken, that's ultimately the idea of this book.


This is further enforced by the base classes introduced here - for while not all of them did blow me away, a couple actually did...to the point where I want to use them, play them even. That's a pretty big deal, considering the limited space allotted to them. And yes, they lack favored class options. However, while certainly not perfect, the central achievement of this book, to me, lies in its didactic component. A halfway crunch-savvy GM can take the ideas herein and run with them, making a whole array of unique martial arts-y classes that end up being more artsy (haha -sorry...will punch myself later for that) than the didactically-used archetypes herein. To me, this book teaches by showing and evaluating and it does so in a surprisingly concise manner, in spite of hiccups here and there.


How to rate this, then? Well, here, things become a bit difficult - you see, for me as a person and designer, I liked this book much more than I would have imagined...mainly because I wasn't consciously aware, not thinking of these defenses as codified "ways", but rather as yet another set of class abilities. This book did generate an awareness for me I value rather highly. Beyond that, the book actually sports no less than three classes I can see myself using and enjoying...in spite of all of them being relatively simple and me gravitating usually towards the complexity-monsters. So, once again, this book has some serious plusses. At the same time, I consider a couple of botches in the rules-language, rare though they are, unnecessary and some of the balance-decisions to be a bit off, particularly regarding the force armors and shields.


The fact remains, though, that this is basically the easiest-to-apply unarmored-martial-arts-y-toolkit for Pathfinder I know of; no new system to learn, no complex modifications - choose a base class or an archetype (most of which retain compatibility with as many archetypes as possible) and there you go. This book probably won't blow you out of the water, but its achievement lies in its gentle, unobtrusive teaching, in its simple-to-add options to the game. I can't rate this 5 stars, even though I want to...but I will rate it 4 stars. And, at least for me and from a designer/homebrewing-perspective, this very much is a superb scavenging ground that slowly but steadily grows on you and provides quite a hefty dose of food for thought and basic chassis to embellish and build upon. Hence, I will also add my seal of approval to it, with the caveat that for simple plug and play, this does somewhat lose a bit of its appeal. If you do not plan to tinker with it, consider this a 3.5 - 4 stars-file instead.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Unarmored and Dangerous (PFRPG)
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Fun & Facts: For the Hive!
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 06:08:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page back cover, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


Well, before we dive into the nit and grit - this is not simply a regular module; it also is a means to convey information and teach facts to the players without making it feel like just jamming information down their throats. And every gamer can attest to the power of gaming regarding the acquisition of information - whether it's sheer vocabulary or other components, RPGs are "brainy" hobby that teaches without feeling like teaching. It is thus pretty much a given that the combination of teaching and gaming makes sense. Playground Adventures's modules tend to be aimed at a younger audience, with this one targeting kids from ages 4+ - a valid projection in my book; smaller kids may need a bit more handholding; youths that start hitting puberty may require slightly more edginess (the module has scenes that can work that way), but as a whole, this module works for ages 4 up rather well; at least it did in my playtest.


It should also be mentioned that this module takes place in the fairy tale village of Glavost, first featured in Pixies on Parade and then expanded with its own little supplement, so if you're looking for a bit of internal consistency, there you have it -and yes, there is a nod to "A Friend in Need" as well.


All right, so this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


Most of us know how crucial bees are for plants and ultimately, even us as a species. In a magical world, it is only fair to assume that magical bees similarly exist. Owen, apprentice to the wizard/librarian of Glavost (and pen-pal of the gifted origami-magic savant Azumi from "A Friend in Need") is contacted by the bee sprite Bzzercup...and since adults curiously seem to be incapable of perceiving the fantastical suffusing Glavost, it falls to the PCs to help the bee sprite. You see, Owen botched big time. He began making paper wasps per Azumi's instructions and they failed to animate...however, they did have enough lingering magic and thus, were stolen by a particularly nasty gremlin named Chuft.


Animating the paper constructs, he has taken control over a magical bee hive by capturing the queen and forcing the bees to do his bidding. The only chance to save the hive sans wrecking it, is to find the "Be the Bug"-elixir left by the former apprentice...but, alas, the bottles are unlabeled. Thankfully, though, a letter provides clues and a nice puzzle for the kids to figure out: Basically, the former apprentice, Owen's sister, has provided a classic exclusion/deduction logic puzzle for the kids to solve, with the proper guideline for the GM as well...and yes, you can simply skill check brute force it, but at least all tables I play with prefer beating the puzzle. Even cooler than just brute-forcing is that the pdf does have a replacement puzzle that is easier, based on bottle shapes.


Drinking the elixir shrinks the PCs immediately down to the size of bees, an, whether with or without origami swords, the PCs get the sealed mission briefing. Throughout the module, Bzzercup "accompanies" the PCs as a GM proxy that can be used to convey a LOT of information pertaining bees and their impact on the world. This works via buzz lines, basically a kind of magical headset. Now usually, shrinking does entail a number of complex rules operations - for a summary of these for groups that wish for a more rules-conform switch (or more modular size-increase/decrease operations), I'll heartily recommend the superb Microsized Adventures by Everyman Gaming. For the purpose of this module, no complex changes are required, since the combats take place within the size frame of the shrunken PCs: While crossing the backyard in the shrunken state (a wilderness crawl most unusual), the PCs will, for example, deal with a praying mantis that seems rather gigantic for them -a great way to talk about predators of honey bees, for example.


After the PCs have made their way past the backyard, they will have to infiltrate the hive itself, where the paper wasps make for their primary antagonists - and, rather importantly, they will have a means to engage in constructive tasks: Feeding the larvae, for example. The unique terrain is similarly utilized well - spending too much time in the pollen cells isn't healthy, for example. In the end, the PCs will have to defeat Chuft after climbing through the hive and free the queen.


Now, this module being educational, the pdf has a list of further reading, should you wish to increase this component. Beyond that, a CR 3 variant of paper wasps as a swarm, suitable for Medium adventurers. beyond that, instructions to make paper wasps (in 3 difficulty-levels!) are provided via links, allowing you to create paper models to use in conjunction with the module. Beyond that, the maps of backyard and the hive are provided in both GM and player-friendly versions...oh, and the pdf does draw attention to the threats our own honey bees face in these days -with CCD causing ever more colonies to collapse, we should indeed take care of the bees.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous, custom 2-column full-color standard with bee-themed borders. Combined with the full-color artwork, this does make the module a beautiful one. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and as mentioned before, the cartography is excellent.


J Gray's "For the Hive" is a truly unique module - I have never read a module like it; It's creative, interesting, provides a blending of wilderness and dungeon, is educational, offers multiple solutions for challenges and a blending of different things to do; There is combat, there is room for being smart; there is room for being kind...and all the while, the pdf conveys useful information in a manner, teaches while playing. Even adults may have a blast with this one; granted, most will know a lot of the bee-related facts, but the module that remains beyond the educational component can very well stand on its own.


As a whole, this module can be considered an excellent addition to one's table and, from just reading it and analyzing it on paper, I would have went with a final verdict of 5 stars. However, the playtests of this one pretty much have been met with total acclaim and excitement by the kid-group, who loved the sense of consistency and truly enjoyed it, made me reconsider. Even those of my players who usually fall on the somewhat darker spectrum regarding their tastes enjoyed this, in spite of its lightheartedness. Hence, this does get my seal of approval as well.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fun & Facts: For the Hive!
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The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:10:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The freshman offering of Dark Naga Adventures clocks in at a classic 32 pages, with one page editorial and 1 page SRD, leaving 30 pages of content - and no, this does not include the front and back cover, since this book very much does not only hearken back to the classic era in tone - it is saddle-stitched and has a detachable color cover that sports maps on the inside - of course in the classic blue/white!


This module was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. The review is based on this print copy of the kickstarter premium print edition.


Okay, before we dive into the nit and grit of this book's actual plot, let's talk a bit about the dual-system format of it, shall we? The module itself does feature the OSR stats in the respective entries and the module does not assuming an additive AC - i.e., you'll see THAC0s and the like. As for combat purposes, the final 3 pages feature the statblocks for OSR and 5e as well as the 2 magic items and special effects introduced herein. One of the magic items is basically a plot-device evil grimoire for the GM to utilize as she sees fit; the second would be a mace+2 that mentions disadvantage, but at the same time lacks the scarcity-entry of 5e's magic item statblocks...as well as whether it requires attunement or not. In the OSR-version, it is but a single line in the wielder's statblock that casts blindness on each hit.


Hiccups like this, unfortunately, do extend to the builds provided for the 5e stats, with e.g. the town drunk noting "STR", but no score. Similarly, if you expect from the 5e stats more than the basics, like unique abilities or straight class progressions, you won't necessarily find that - what's here suffices to run the module, but nothing beyond that. The statblocks also have glitches like a magic bonus from aforementioned mace not featured in atk. So, if you do have the luxury of choosing with which system to play the module, I'd suggest OSR over 5e for this one...though, at least for the weapon, you should probably at least read the 5e-section. The adversaries in the module tend to have an ancient ability called "linking" - in 5e, this allows a character to use their reaction to give an ally they can see +2 to atk, spell DCs and saves...which can be extremely brutal when played smart by the GM. As a nitpick, reactions usually require a specific trigger. In OSR, they can grant +2 attack, defense and a 2 point bonus to saves "and all party saving throws have a 2 point penalty" - at least in the OSR-systems I'm familiar with, I'm not aware of party saving throws. I assume that should refer to the saves of PCs targeted by the linked creatures.


In short: On a formal rules-language level, this is not the most precise of books. That being said, this adventure does have its merits and plays significantly better than it reads. Let me elaborate: For one, the cartography of three villages provided by none other than Alyssa Faden is excellent and player-friendly for these components; similarly, the regional map of the Boldon region in which this module takes place is nice as well. The region as such is lavishly detailed - it can easily be plugged into just about every fantasy gaming world and the relative lack of elves etc. means that the module works pretty well even in human-centric settings. 4 settlements (Boldon, Ponto, Maria, Sumer), all with maps, will be visited by the PCs and the module actually takes heed of consequences...


...and this is pretty much as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! It starts, as often, with a tavern and a tale - on a full page, the local drunk and erstwhile productive member of the community, Fredu, has a tale to tell for sufficient alcohol - a tale of a temple forgotten from a bygone age, when evil reigned. The tale itself is a massive, 1-page read-aloud text in a module that otherwise requires the improvisation of the like. The drunkard, plagued by visions and blackouts, has stumbled upon a place dedicated to none other than Hastur and ever since, he has tried to quench the nightmares...saving him from certain death at the bottom of a glass is but one potential action the PCs may take. However, he also mentions having told more people about it - a retired wizard, for example...and then there is that fletcher, who is fashioning a map.


Beyond the tale, the module is very much a free-form sandbox, as the PCs follow the leads of Fredu's tale and try to find the hidden complex...which isn't that hidden, after all: The servants of Hastur have taken residence and the timer ticks: The dread statue contained within is fed continues sacrifices and its cultist-enhancing aura extends further and further. On an organization note, the aura's effects should have been noted in the overarcing chapter and depiction of its progression, not only in the room where it actually stands...considering the SERIOUS power it conveys to the cultists. That is a nitpick, though - there are a lot of things I absolutely adored in this module: For one, the old-school design-aesthetic. In an age where practically every puzzle and obstacle can be "rolled away", notes on how PCs have to be extremely lucky, regardless of level or doors that require you to find their combination due to the gazillion possible combinations feel very much refreshing.


Similarly, a highlight of the module, as strange as it sounds, may well be the legwork - PCs can be heroes and save old apothecaries from angry peasants, duke it out with loud-mouthed cultists and end on the wrong side of the law - whether due to their own actions or due to corrupt officers standing in their way, the module manages to evoke a sense of consistency and a feeling of being alive that you only rarely see. Similarly, the fact that there are A LOT of beautiful b/w-artworks, all with the same style (AND quality!) as the cover, lends a sense of consistency and continuity to the proceedings and makes for great hand-outs for the players to enjoy.


The sandboxy section here is pretty "realistic" in that it manages to convey exceedingly well and illusion of a group of mercenaries planning an excursion to a forgotten temple, while dark forces stir and try to stop them. Similarly detailed, notes on air quality, illumination and the like can be found for the complex itself. The intriguing component about this temple itself would once again not necessarily be the set-up - that's as classic as it gets; it's the focus on cultists and a dynamic environment, with entries on what cultists are doing when featuring in the respective rooms helping to keep things flowing. Regarding terrains and traps, this module is a bit on the weak side in this section, though. Ultimately, the temple is a pretty straightforward attack on the hide-out of a well-organized cult...and it is extremely deadly. Not kidding, if the PCs are dumb, they will die HORRIBLY in this complex. On a nitpick: The unique demons featured in the book could have used a detailed description - as provided, they remain a bit opaque. The cultists receive significant benefits here, particularly within the sphere of influence of their idol, and should not be underestimated - saves at disadvantage, cultist attacks at advantage. And no, this does not have an OSR-equivalent; familiarity with this component of 5e- terminology is assumed for that aspect of the module.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-level, it does have a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard. As mentioned above, both the copious number of artworks by Rick Hershey and the great cartography render this module rather beautiful and contribute a lot to its atmosphere. The print copy I have is certainly a module I am glad to have. I can't comment on the electronic version.


Kevin Watson's first part of the "Haunting of Hastur"-series is a module that is honestly significantly better than I expected it to be. You see, the set-up of the module isn't the most evocative and I tend to be a bit weary of dual-system books. That being said, whatever system you end up using, you won't have paid for a lot of content you won't use; the emphasis of this book is pretty much on the roleplaying aspect and the expert-level atmosphere this one manages to evoke. Were it just for the atmosphere, this undoubtedly would score higher, but the fact is that the dual-system approach doesn't always work too well in the book; OSR gaming seems to be the default assumption and then, suddenly, 5e-terminology seems to be featured in the default assumptions. It is my honest belief that the module would have fared better with one carefully crafted OSR-version and one for 5e, instead of this blending, but that may just be me. If you do not mind this, however, you pretty much get a module where you can mix and mash the two.


Sooo...do I recommend this? It ultimately depends. If you're looking for a challenging, atmospheric module with an old-school aesthetic in design and presentation, then yes, this may be a nice addition to your library. If you expect more new school handholding, preset DCs for actions and a bit more guidance, then you may end up disappointed. Similarly, this module should best be run by experienced GMs, since there is, beyond the beginning, no read-aloud text: You need to improvise that/know what's where and while e.g. conversations with NPCs provide an astounding depth of guidance via bullet-points and consequences of PC-actions, there is still quite a bit left up to the GM. How to rate this, then? Well, here things get a bit tough for me: You see, I really liked this module, but it does show a bunch of the freshman offering-hiccups that can tank the game for less experienced GMs.


In the end, for OSR, I consider this to be a 4 star module; for 5e, I'd rather consider this 3 stars, since the system's skills, proficiencies and similar components could have used more direct consequences within the module. Since this is a freshman offering, this gets the benefit of the doubt and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR)
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Psionics Augmented: Soulknives
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:06:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1/2 page blank, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this pdf with a selection of new blade skills for the soulknife to use: 34, to be precise - several of which, just fyi, are archetype-exclusives. In these cases, they sport the archetype's name in brackets, acting as an additional prerequisite to the ones pertaining other blade skills. To give you an example: Animal Senses nets you low-light vision and scent as well as +2 to Perception, but is only available for the Feral heart and requires the form claws class feature to take, basically adding the sensory aspect to the claw-theme. Blade Rush is pretty brutal - it allows for the swift action expenditure of the psionic focus to move up to the soulknife's speed as a swift action...which is strong. Where the blade skill does overshoot the target a bit is with the caveat that the soulknife provokes no attacks of opportunity with this movement. No "from adjacent targets" caveat - just flat-out no AoOs. At the same time, minimum 6th level does alleviate this a bit...but still, for less high-powered games, this is a very potent option and should probably be nerfed. Its follow-up allows the soulknife to move up to her movement speed as a full-round action (no AoOs!) and make a single melee attack at highest BAB -2 against each target she is adjacent to. The "adjacent" caveat is the only thing that keeps me from engaging in a full-blown diatribe here. Still, this is arguably MUCH better than any form of full-round attack you can usually perform, unless you're only fighting against one adversary (when action economy outclasses the foe against the average adventuring party anyways). The one balancing feature would be the psionic focus expenditure, which prevents you from spamming this move. The minimum level? 8th. Not any high-level trickery. 8th. This one completely outclasses similar one-use abilities granted at high levels, has only a resource determined by action economy and is rather overpowered for its minimum level.


That being said, as much as I consider this one problematic, the pdf also has some absolute gems that work for pretty much every game - Caltrop Spray, for example, where you break your own mind blade to create more potent psychic caltrops that can tell friend from foe for cool soft terrain control. Starting at 10th level, these guys can also expend their psionic focus to fold space as a standard action (move action at 16th level+), allowing for a level-wise great take on the phasing soulknife. And yes, there is actually a BALANCED low-level phasing trick for the soulknife as well - at 4th level, via Ghost Step, which has strict action economy/focus requirements and played rather neat in my games. Knife to the Soul enhancers, psionic focus-based dispels etc. can be found and combining the soulbolt's empowered strikes with unarmed attack/natural attacks is cool as well. As a minor nitpick "Deadly Fis" is missing its "t" in the end - but that's a typo. Similarly, empowering natural weapons. Manyshot mindbolts, better deadly shields and mind armaments. I am somewhat weary of improved psychokientic discharge, which lets the soulknife perform empowered strike full-attacks at range.


On the plus-side, a whip-shaped mindblade that can cause 1-round dazes on failed saves is cool, though the daze should probably specify that it's a pain-effect, at least judging from the fluff of the ability that justifies it via "intense levels of pain." Very cool for multi-limbed creatures: There is now a blade skill for more than 2 soulknives at once! Kudos for stitching that hole! Increasing power points, psychic grappling hooks (!!!)...pretty cool. Have I mentioned the platform they can now make? It can be slick, elastic...whatever the soulknife desires and has the concise rules to support it. Yeah - this is UTILITY beyond combat, ladies and gentlemen! Gaining psychic strike if it had been traded away, firing psychic strikes as blasts (or 10-foot splash bombs), gain mind armaments (see below) and there is a unique one: Speed of Thought + Mental Leap, with psychic strike's charge as an alternate means of paying for the expenditure required by the secondary abilities. Cool! Soulbolts can now also learn to form melee mind blades. I am not a fan of foregoing psychic strike charge to ignore all hardness or DR at 4th level - the lack of scaling regarding both render the blade skills problematic for some tables - I know I'll ban that one in my games or at least introduces a scaling mechanism that allows for the continuous progression of the ability instead of full-blown DR ignoring. Oh, and we have an infinite healing crap-ability. Deal only 1/2 psychic strike damage to heal this amount. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens and a HP-to-ally-transferring ability, please? Then we'll have infinite healing not only for the soulknife, but for the whole group. Blergh. A simple minimum-HD-caveat that scales with soulknife-levels would eliminate the issue, as almost all similar designs do by now. You may not consider it an issue, but I do - to me, such an exploit represents sloppy design and the low point of this supplement.


Okay, next up are the archetypes and one word of warning - they are COMPLEX. As in: They modify A LOT and certainly are not cookie cutters - we get really big ones here, with the Augmented Blade being the first. This archetype is basically THE option for all those rounds and games where the idea of a ghostly/energy-style soulknife didn't work with the feeling of the campaign: Instead of a mindblade, the augmented blade archetype gains a psicrystal, which is then attached to weapons to e.g. coat them in crystal or sport similar means of visual customization. Beyond that, the psicrystal can be attached to a variety of items, augmenting them in unique ways - and this works on a rather fluid basis, allowing for quick slotting and a lot of variables you can change on the fly - and yes, this renders the archetype rather fun to play, particularly considering the fact that the archetype learns to split the psicrystal AND has Metaforge/Aegis multiclass information. Absolutely GLORIOUS archetype that basically "unlocks" the soulknife for settings where it would not work, replacing basically the core class mechanics with new ones...and it thus plays differently, too! A prime example for a great archetype!


The second one would be the brutality blade, who uses Charisma as governing attribute for the soulknife class features and may manifest rage blades, which may not be thrown, must be single blades and they increase the enhancement bonus of the mind blade by +1, allowing the brutality blade (always hear Mortal Kombat's theme music when I write this, but that just as an aside), with 7th and 13th level increasing the bonus by a further +1. The rage blade can be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level beyond 1st. Upon dismissing the blade, though, the brutality blade loses psionic focus and is fatigued for 1d4 +1 round, during which he may not regain psionic focus. Additionally, the brutality blade has a 10% chance to suffer psychic enervation when manifesting this godblade style mindblade on steroids, risking 2 times class level damage. So, as you see, the archetype basically functions as a barbarian-y soulknife on steroids with a sprinkling of wilder as for its base functionality. This becomes more apparent with 4th level, when the brutality blade gains the raging surge that adds +4 to Str while the blade's out, +2 to Con at 8th level, further +2 to both at 12th, Strength increases to +6 at 16th and both to +6 at 20th level. 5th level unlocks free action rage blade manifestation...but the archetype also gains unique wrath augments, basically specialized blade skills. For example, when using a rage blade, the brutality blade may, as a full-round action, expend psionic focus to jam the blade into the ground to duplicate Whirlwind Attack as soon as 4th level, balanced by the rage blade requirement. Growing in size as per expansion with claws of crude knives, expending psionic focus to reroll Fort- or Will-saves as immediate actions (again: Better balanced than mettle!), causing bleeding wounds and gaining a raging euphoria that can be shared with allies or a focus-based rend...the options are powerful, but well-placed regarding minimum-levels and feature glorious visuals. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues and no longer suffers from a chance of psychic enervation. This archetype is superb - and its mechanical possibilities are not even close to being covered here - the enervation, rage blade and unique mechanics practically beg to be further expanded. The archetype plays like a completely different class and does so gloriously - it is one of the coolest godblade-style archetype/classes I've seen in quite a while and generally can be considered to be a cool, well-balanced addition to the game.


Thirdly, the psychic armory can be seen on the cover - with a panoply of blades circling her, she begins play with 1 + Wisdom modifier light and one-handed such blades, 2nd level unlocking an additional 1 + Wisdom modifier two-handed blades. These blades may not be used to attack in melee and are only quasi-real, until hurled psychokinetically at foes - and yes, they can be used to perform AoOs in melee range with proper rules-language covering all the bases. Expended blades replenish upon the armory's next turn. This panoply of weapons may not be used in conjunction with wielded weapons or off-hand/natural attacks, but the base damage-types employed may be changed for each weapon group used in the panoply of blades. Special abilities still require extensive meditation and may not be fluidly switched. I already mentioned psychokinetic throws, which basically translates to using Wisdom instead of Dexterity to determine ranged atk with the panoply and also adds Wisdom to damage, with regular light weapons duplicated having a range increment of 20 ft. and 1-handed ones a range-increment of 15 ft. 2nd level also unlocks throwing 2-handed weapons from her array with a range increment of 10 ft. Here's the unique thing, though: The armory may, as a standard action, direct the panoply to a place within medium range and have it explode in a 20-ft.-burst, using all her blades for the round in favor of 1d6 damage per class level + enhancement bonus, Ref-save halves, with the rules actually covering the blending of damage types and their substitution. 3rd level allows for the panoply to apply soulknife mind blade enhancements by weapon group and 5th level lets the armory call forth her panoply as a swift action. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues.


Oh, and the archetype comes with more than one page of unique blade skills that allow for the panoply to gather into a temporary mind blade of a more traditional bent, increase the reach of the threatened area by +5 ft., increase the range, flurry with the panoply a limited amount of times per day at range (here, the pricing with minimum level 14th is appropriate) or use an opposed attack roll to counter another as an immediate action. While personally, I dislike the mechanic due to d20 vs. d20 being rather swingy, your mileage may vary here. Making the panoply lines, expand to becoming difficult terrain (and threatened area!) or form a barrier - the options are truly evocative. Oh, psychic armory...how torn am I regarding you. You see, this one is obviously in flair and style something more suitable for high-psionics/magic campaigns and for these it works OH SO WELL. My personal disdain for the d20 vs. d20 blade skill notwithstanding, the archetype is just so beautiful. Its three assortments of preconfigured mindblades are very powerful and, honestly, may be a tad bit too powerful. Similarly, unlimited 20 ft--burst long-range attacks that deal class level x 1d6 + enhancement bonus physical damage outclass A LOT of builds and classes out there. Alchemists can take their bombs and go home, sobbing, for example - at least until iterative attacks allow for outclassing of these blasts....but then again, the panoply's blast of blades is ALWAYS a standard action. You fire this burst...and then you're standing around with not even a weapon in your hands. You threaten nobody. If you get outmaneuvered using this ability, you're basically screwed very hard until your next turn, bereft of all the cool tricks you have. This makes the archetype play in a very unique manner - you need a bit of tactics here. The panoply also has another...potentially pretty nasty component - it can have multiple weapons in the panoply bearing psychic charges, which is a pretty big deal. Then again, can you see the class charging its blades and firing them? This is basically one of my favorite video game bosses of all times, the archetype (extra brownie points if you can guess which one I'm referring to!). The psychic armory can deal a lot of damage, is flexible, consolidates Dex and Str into Wis for her attacks...and honestly, I should be screaming OP by now. It...kinda is. For low-powered, conservative campaigns, this one should probably be reserved to powerful puzzle-bosses. In high-powered high fantasy/psionics-campaigns, though? OMG. While personally, I'll nerf this gal a bit, I absolutely ADORE this archetype. Sure, I wished it was a bit more conservative...but she plays just so beautifully!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and impressively good on a rules-level - this book may have a some minor typo-level hiccups, but it engages in very complex rules-operations and manages to do so very well. Layout-wise, the pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdfs also sport nice, full-color artworks.


Chris Bennett has delivered a solid, massive piece of capital letters CRUNCH here. The pdf contains A LOT of material on its pages, with a very satisfying crunch-per-page ratio. Furthermore, the quality of the crunch, generally, is top-notch. You will not find any bland cookie-cutter designs herein and, while sufficiently mathfindery and combo-heavy to make the optimizers happy, this pdf excels in its concepts.


Yes, I consider the skirmishing blade skill to be underpriced. Yes, I consider the failed kitten-test to be simply unnecessarily sloppy in an otherwise extremely precise and evocative book. Yes, the psychic armory is not for every campaign. So, this is my warning: Conservative groups using psionics for less high-powered games should carefully run each component by the GM.


And this is as far as the grouchy, complaining part of my personality gets with this one. As you probably have gleaned from the above, my complaints rang this loud within the review because I absolutely adore more than 95% of this book. As in squee-level adoration. As a person, I couldn't care less that the psychic armory is too powerful for the default, non-high-powered campaign; I adore it. The brutality blade and the augmented blade are absolutely awesome for less high-powered tables and all three archetypes have in common that they damn well rock my world. They are basically what archetypes should be like. In fact, lesser designers would have probably sold them as full-blown friggin' base classes. Not only do they sport completely different visuals, they actually play radically differently, with the new array of blade skills filling holes in the rules that needed filling and providing cool, new options.


Yes, I may have complained about a few pieces herein...but the significant majority of content herein is just BEAUTIFUL. As in crunch-masterclass-level awesomeness. This is basically a book that put the middle-finger to all bland +1/+X abilities and modifications and cookie cutter archetypes. Its totality may not be for everyone; but I can guarantee that every single table out there that uses a soulknife will find something in this pdf they fall in love with. High-psionics campaigns NEED the armory in them. Low-powered games or those that dislike the laser-y flair need the augmented blade. Seriously. No exceptions for either. I'd also like to emphasize the sheer density of this volume - no broad borders, no filler - this pdf may look brief, but it really isn't, with very tightly formatted rules-text, you get a lot of bang for your buck here.


What I try to express with my inane rambling here is simple: I love this book. In spite of its flaws and hitting some serious pet-peeves of mine. I took about 5 minutes to modify (as in: Change min-level, add cool-down, the like.) a couple of pieces of crunch for my table and that's it - I have pretty much a truly superb book in my hands, one that is allowed in my main campaign, mind you. Even before these minor modifications, the book must be considered a must own addition for psionics-using tables; not one that should just be flat-out allowed for all, but definitely one that enriches all games it touches. And that, dear readers, is more important that nitpicking, my own pet-peeves or disagreements pertaining power-levels and pricing of a scant few abilities. While I don't consider this to be mechanically perfect, I thus will still rate this 5 stars + seal of approval - considering the complexity of the material, the amount of greatness and the unique playing experiences this offers, penalizing it for its minor flaws would be a disservice to the file. Yes, it's that evocative. Were it not for the minor hiccups, this would be a top ten candidate.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives
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Fifth Edition Options
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:04:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is this? Basically, this is a huge selection of variant rules for 5e that you can drag and drop in your game. We begin with alternate methods of ability score generation, with grid, dice pool, point-buy that goes up to 18 from the get-go and alternate ability arrays. Rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest and having the GM do the same and then dealing with the devil behind the screen is also mentioned. There is also a option by which class choice and backgrounds influence the attributes, with e.g. Warlocks gaining +1 to Int and Cha and those with a soldier background gaining either +1 Str or Con. The idea of racial maximum stats (here, 18) can be found, though with this system, dwarves get suckerpunched - they're the only race that has two capped attributes.


The pdf also provides rules for Small and Large characters, with Strength and Constitution being capped differently and minor modifications. The balance here, though, is off: Large creatures cap Str and Con at 22, gaina dvantage on saves against being pushed, tripped, etc. and have double the capacity of their Medium brethren. Downsides? None. Small characters cap Con at 18, Str at 16, get +1 AC and have only half the carrying capacity of Medium creatures. Yeah...that wasn't really thought through.


2d6 rolls to determine handedness, ability score proficiencies, feats at 1st level with various means of balancing the power-increase this represents - the book has a couple of rather nice customization considerations here. Similarly, the pdf introduces flaws, which can be rather flavorful, though GMs should take heed that the character who takes a flaw gets one befitting of the class: Foes gaining advantage on the first attack roll in melee is nasty, as it should be, but if the character keeps running from melee/ is a caster/etc., it loses some of its oomph. Still, I do enjoy these generally and their effects are generally potent enough.


As a whole, I enjoyed this chapter, though a bit more guidance pertaining the ramifications of the respective power-increases and caps would probably have been beneficent to the less experienced GMs out there. The pdf also provides means for the old-school gamer to play double or triple classes via a stunted XP-progression; basically think of this as the grognard's gestalting before there was gestalting. The pdf also offer variant XP-progressions (basically slow and fast track) as well as ability score increases by level instead of class, which becomes, obviously, relevant when employing the multiclass rules. The pdf also features starting wealth suggestions for higher level characters. If you wish for less lethal saves, adding +1/2 proficiency bonus is suggested for nonproficient saves...though I'm not the biggest fan here.


The second, massive chapter is all about skills: It suggests skill advancement at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, stat-like increases to skills or the altogether elimination of them as optional rules. Alternate skill lists are presented alongside an interesting take on expertise, which suggests using advantage instead, making you more reliable, but capping the maximum you can reach - this one makes A LOT of sense to me and generally can be considered to be one of the rules I'll certainly take from this book. Now the next section will either be useless or a godsend to you, depending on your perspective. 5e's skills are deliberately fast and loose to speed up gameplay; at the same time, one quick google will show you a lot of reddit-questions pertaining which skill to use when etc. - this chapter, thus, provides sample DCs for different tasks for the respective skills - in particular the vastly expanded animal handling DCs should prove to be helpful. While this may not be for every GM, I know that this section will be a rather significant boon for many a table.


Now, as long-time readers may note, one of the few components I liked about 4th edition was the introduction of skill challenges and this book does provide a 5e-twist on them with complex skill checks that require multiple successes that build upon another. The system introduced here is rather smooth and goes through the skills, skill by skill, providing some general guidance and examples for single skill complex checks, though these obviously can be combined. Similarly, complex skill-checks based on tools get a mention here.


Chapter 3 provides more detailed crafting rules that retain the straightforwardness of 5e design. Rules for simpler ammo-handling, impossible rest in armors, better crossbows and firearms that penalize armor, rules for masterwork equipment and new equipment options to enrich the game: From double weapons to those that can be folded or those that are oversized, the book sports quite a few of those, though e.g. doubled damage dice for the big ones with just the note that they "requrie training" and that characters aren't proficient in them can be deemed to be somewhat problematic. Come on, even Guts in Berserk can't swing his dragonslayer as fast as a regular sword. Want to distill poisons? Yup, rules for that in here.


The third chapter deals with combat - there is an alternate rule for rolling two smaller dice to make the hit point roll less swingy. Personally, I absolutely LOVED the slower healing, limited HD-expenditure and fatiguing injuries rules herein: D&D 5e already makes for a surprisingly good dark/low fantasy system and these alternate rules for grittier gameplay really add to that effect. On the other hand, if you dislike the element of chance when recovering, a fixing amount system can be found here as well. Similarly, if you liked the vitality and wounds systems, you'll have a 5e-iteration of the system here...including an ultra-gritty variant.


The pdf goes on with conditions - while 5e has a couple of them, older systems had more - if you're missing some of these, well - here's the list to cherry pick those you want back. The pdf also sports variant initiative systems: Rolling each round, while dynamic, slows down gameplay and round table initiative is simple, but also not that rewarding for all but the player who rolled highest - personally, I prefer that one for beer-and-pretzels-style games. Your mileage may vary, of course!


Minor tweaks like inadvertently hitting allies when firing into melee (default house-rule in my game) and tougher rising from the prone condition makes sense - default 5e is pretty lenient on that one, considering the effects of the prone condition.


Okay, the next section will be rather divisive, I wager. We get combat maneuvers. Including the whole Pathfinder array not covered by 5e as well as Power Attack, leaping on larger creatures etc. Myself, I am torn - Power Attack, for example, provides twice the penalty taken to atk as a bonus to damage, which I am not a fan of in the context of 5e. Then again, and this is a pretty big thing, the maneuvers remain worse than the comparative abilities of the Battle Master...at least as long as you don't add the loathsome feats introduced in the companion book to this one.


The pdf also has a variant rule for stacking advantages and disadvantages, more opportunity attacks, variant crits, inherent class defense bonuses, armor as DR (not a fan for 5e)...a lot of material. Rules for sniffing out magic items, for identifying them etc., while not necessarily the thing I look for in 5e-games, may well be welcome in some other tables. Similarly, feat-based better attunement may work for higher fantasy games. Personally, I'm a pretty big fan of the variant counterspelling for higher magic games, since it actually does allow for pretty quick and easy mage duels. Groups that wish to abolish the hard limit on spells in effect via concentration have a means to do so via this book and if you're missing bonus spells for high spellcasting ability scores, well, here's the table. Special conditions for simpler spell recovery, resurrection that permanently decreases attributes...quite a few nice tricks here.


The pdf also provides a simple fear-system for horror-games (based on Wis-saves) that does its job, but is pretty barebones. Doom, as an opposite of inspiration (somewhat akin to the Conan-RPG) is mentioned and extended inspiration mechanics are covered alongside a simplified XPsystem based on tokens. Alternate alignments based on convictions (very welcome in my game) with circumstantial advantage on certain checks based on the characters conviction are pretty neat, though the mechanical balance of them isn't always perfect. The pdf also provides three appropriately weak, barebones NPC-base classes and concludes with campaign templates, where a selection of rules are compiled for your convenience. Kudos!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good on both a formal and rules-language level. layout adheres to a parchment-style two-color full-color standard with solid stock artwork. In a minor nitpick, sometimes single letters in headers do look a bit larger than their brethren - might be a cosmetic font hiccup, but yeah. Artworks ranged from b/w-pieces I haven't seen before to full-color; it's generally nice, but not the reason you would get this book. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Brian Berg and Jason Sonia's 5th edition options...were a total surprise to me. After the horrendous book on feats, I honestly didn't expect to like this book. Well, guess what? I really like this book. No group will ever use all of the variant rules herein. Roleplaying games veterans will be familiar with the concepts. However, they actually have been updated to 5e rules with...care and precision. Total Party Kill Games delivers a complete 180; If I didn't know better, I'd refuse to believe that this book was crafted by the same company as the feat book.


This book utilizes proper rules; it takes complex variant systems and adjusts them for use with 5e. Wounds and vitality? Check. Crafting? Check. It provides basically the vast majority of alternate rules you can find out there, with only a complex crit/fumble-system à la Laying Waste or a complex Sanity system à la ToC/CoC missing. Apart from these two (which could be, scope-wise, books of their own), this pdf offers options. A LOT of options. Not all options will be great for all groups; not all rules will be utilized by any group out there. But whether you want a higher fantasy closer to Pathfinder, or a simpler, grittier lower fantasy closer to the darker OSR-options, this has the customization tools.


While here and there, I would have liked to see a bit more guidance for the respective GMs regarding the consequences of the respective rules-implementations to help them choose, the book as such does a great job in collecting a TON of alternate rules and ideas to customize the very tone of the campaign. Make no mistake - this is a toolkit. A big one and one that probably will have something for almost every 5e-game out there. While the required broadness of the scope also means that some further elaborations would have helped and that no group will ever use the totality of this book, I do consider this to be a fair and good buy, particularly for GMs hesitant (or too time-starved) to change the rules themselves. How to rate this, then? Well, you see, this is where it becomes difficult for me, since testing all combinations of rules herein is a sheer impossibility. I can see some conflicts/minor issues crop up - but generally, this is indeed a great toolkit. If anything, the main weakness of this kit lies in the fact that it does not have the one killer-variant-rule-system. It has, though, several small ones that can coalesce into cool templates to use.


In the end, this book will not elicit universal cheers on every page, but just about each group will find some nice material to scavenge within these pages. hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fifth Edition Options
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Tales from the Tabletop: Year One
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 10:55:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Okay, now for something completely different: This book clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages advertisement (unless I've miscounted, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So how does this book work out? Well, basically, AAW Games publishes Jacob Blackmon's art and leaves speech bubbles open for the fans to fill - the funniest of the respective lines are collected in this book, with the respective authors of the lines credited, including the runner-ups, so even if you dislike one, you certainly will find a smile among the alternatives.


So this, ultimately, is a product of our community...and it is one that made me chuckle and laugh loud while reading this comic: When the party's hanging on a single rope and the characters caution against reminding the GM of maximum load capacity; when a paladin riding into a blackguard convention thinks of the worst blind date ever, when a dragon feeds the PCs a gelatinous cube and tells them to digest it before it digests them, then I got more than a few laughs out of the set-up and the on-point punchlines.


When a charismatic elf is bluffing a troll and a runner-up is "Hey, Billy Mage here with a new, fantastic offer!", I really laughed out loud!


How to rate this, then? Well, to me the artwork by Jacob Blackmon was great and similarly, the funny lines add a cool dimension to the comic itself. Humor, however, is subjective and not everyone will obviously consider every line funny; a couple of these, admittedly, didn't elicit the same sense of excitement than others, but over all, this book indeed provided what its goal was -fun! This collection of comics made me smile and that makes it very much worth it for me. So yes - this very much is worth getting if you're interested in some cool, gamer-humor. This pdf delivered what I wanted from it. Hence, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Tabletop: Year One
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Tales from the Tabletop: Year One (PDF)
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 10:52:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Okay, now for something completely different: This book clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages advertisement (unless I've miscounted, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So how does this book work out? Well, basically, AAW Games publishes Jacob Blackmon's art and leaves speech bubbles open for the fans to fill - the funniest of the respective lines are collected in this book, with the respective authors of the lines credited, including the runner-ups, so even if you dislike one, you certainly will find a smile among the alternatives.


So this, ultimately, is a product of our community...and it is one that made me chuckle and laugh loud while reading this comic: When the party's hanging on a single rope and the characters caution against reminding the GM of maximum load capacity; when a paladin riding into a blackguard convention thinks off the worst blind date ever, when a dragon feeds the PCs a gelatinous cube and tells them to digest it before it digests them, then I got more than a few laughs out of the set-up and the on-point punchlines.


When a charismatic elf is bluffing a troll and a runner-up is "Hey, Billy Mage here with a new, fantastic offer!", I really laughed out loud!


How to rate this, then? Well, to me the artwork by Jacob Blackmon was great and similarly, the funny lines add a cool dimension to the comic itself. Humor, however, is subjective and not everyone will obviously consider every line funny; a couple of these, admittedly, didn't elicit the same sense of excitement than others, but over all, this book indeed provided what its goal was -fun! This collection of comics made me smile and that makes it very much worth it for me. So yes - this very much is worth getting if you're interested in some cool, gamer-humor. This pdf delivered what I wanted from it. Hence, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Tabletop: Year One (PDF)
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Class Expansions: Apothecary Plaguewright Archetype (PFRPG)
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 09:42:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This PWYW-expansion for the plaguewright class clocks in at 3 pages -1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so what does the apothecary do?


Apothecaries must utilize benign strains in each of their vials (but still may also use malignant strains!) and gain a dosage pool at first level equal to their apothecary level. Whenever the apothecary draws a culture from his vials, he may spend a dosage point to add a terminal mutation known to the syringe as though it were present in the culture. He must add benign mutations to benign strains and malignant mutations to malignant strains.


Also at 1st level, all benign strains gain the terminal euphoria terminal mutation without occupying a mutation slot; this mutation heals 1 point of damage upon the mutation ending and may be taken multiple times (class levels determining the maximum), thus replacing discerning eye. As a capstone, terminal mutations added are treated as though they had been taken an additional time.


The pdf also provides three benign terminal mutations - as a nitpick, these do not have the terminal descriptor and only note being terminal in their name, but oh well. Terminal Bravado allows for fear-save rerolls, terminal clarity for limited DR-ignoring and Terminal Rehabilitation for the healing of attribute damage.


The pdf also contains two new feats: Chaser Coating makes you choose a vial and mutation known that is both benign and malignant. Cultures made in the vial get chosen mutation added sans occupied mutation slot, but mutations that take up two or more slots can't be chosen this way. The feat can be taken multiple times. Another feat lets you ignore the DR of willing creatures.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the descriptor-hiccup, which is pretty much cosmetic, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to IG's two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Bradley Crouch's plaguewright is one of the weirder classes that have come out of Interjection Games' oeuvre and it is COMPLEX. In fact, it is perhaps one of the hardest to grasp classes and this pdf offers a cool, free expansion for the class. While terminal euphoria is nice, I found myself wishing that its scaling was slightly more pronounced - the largest untapped potential for the plaguewright, ultimately, is that of a science-y healer for campaigns where the gods don't heal...or the PCs aren't on their good side. The archetype helps here, but the restriction pertaining the enforced presence of benign strains limits the offense capabilities of the archetype a bit. You can enhance these, both offense and healing, mind you - the class has a ton of moving parts with which you can work and, combined with Terminal Vigor and the temporary hit points from terminal health, the archetype works in interesting buff-combos.


So yeah, while personally, I'll upgrade that one's potency a bit, the pdf is also, ultimately, available for any price you're willing to pay and for a PWYW-book, this is certainly worth a tip and a download. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Class Expansions: Apothecary Plaguewright Archetype (PFRPG)
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Ponyfinder - Griffons of Everglow
Publisher: Silver Games LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 09:38:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This beautiful hardcover clocks in at 64 pages of net content (excluding ToC, covers and SRD) and depicts the griffons of storied everglow, so let's take a look!


This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy.


Ah, the griffons of everglow - old and proud, with memories both accurate and long, predating the advent of ponykind's empire. We begin this book, as befitting of the proud race, with their history - from stopping the rampage of Apep to the altercations with the purrsians to witnessing the rise and fall of the pony empire and the arrival of bipedal races, the griffons have a long history and a unique perspective on everglow, somewhere between stoic conservatism and surprisingly progressive notions -so flavor-wise, we begin with one of the most evocative sections I've read so far in a ponyfinder book.


A discussion of the traits of griffons accompanies the presentation of racial stats - and people like yours truly will enjoy them: The first thing you'll notice is, that the section on griffons actually follows the standards of PFRPG regarding the depiction of racial stats - you know, proper attributes, not abbreviations and the like. Nice! Griffons gte +2 Str and Wis, have a base speed of 30 ft. and a bipdeal speed of 20 ft, a fly speed of 40 ft. with poor maneuverability, low-light vision, a 1d6 bite and they may treat clouds and mists as solid. The hippogriff gets +2 to one ability score, low-light vision, base speed 40 ft., bipedal speed 30 ft, 30 ft. fly speed, unique destiny and are treated as both griffons and ponykind via subtypes and effects. Both are quadruped - in an unfortunate typo, the trait is called "quadraped", though. Griffons can be modified via an aspect that takes into account different heritages - and here as well, the presentation is closer in line with PFRPG's standards, which is a big plus.


Default griffons have the predator aspect, while cheetahs increase their land speed, their charge, run and withdraw options and they decrease their flight speed by 10 feet and one maneuverability. Cursed griffons get -2 Strength, +2 Constitution and Wild Talent as a bonus feat (being naturally psionic), while prey aspect griffons lose their bite and get -2 Strength, +2 Charisma and increase their CL by 1 as well as their domain/mystery/blessing effects as though they had one level more, up to the cap of their HD - and yes, has the "no early access" caveat. Pride griffons imho are lopsided: +4 Charisma, -4 Wisdom makes them very minmaxy...and flavor-wise, it's a bit odd to have griffon diplomats suck at Sense Motive, but yeah. Scavenger griffons get +2 Intelligence and Dexterity, -2 to Wisdom and Strength. Sea aspect griffons decrease fly speed by 10 ft and one maneuverability, but gain a swim speed of 30 ft. and may speak and cast spells under water - this is considered to be strenuous activity for purposes of suffocation, since they still have to breathe. Finally, snow aspect griffons decrease their fly speed by 10 ft. and reduce their maneuverability by one step. They also gain +4 to Stealth in snow and treat it as a class skill, are Large-sized (not capitalized) and get Endurance, +1 to saves vs. cold (not typed, unlike other bonuses here), -2 to saves versus fire and heat and lose cloud walker, but gain the Endurance feat. VERY odd, though I do understand it balance-wise: Reach does not increase, making the Large size actually a liability...and the bonus to Stealth is completely negated by the size penalty...not sure whether that's intended...but I think it's not.


The pdf also sports 5 alternate racial traits - a claw attack (properly codified natural weapon type, unlike the bite in the standard trait - kudos!), +2 Perception and Sense Motive instead of low-light vision, small-sized griffons, +2/+4 Stealth in dim light/darkness or replacing bite with 1/day SPs light, prestidigitation, unseen servant can be found herein. The pdf does provide favored class options for barbarian, brawler, cavalier, cleric, druid (not bolded), fighter, ranger, rogue, skald, summoner (not bolded) and sorceror. The pdf has a nice heritage table to randomly determine avian and feline aspects as well as dominant coloration and unusual heritages. - the table is nice, though for age, height and weight, you have to consult the base CS.


The next chapter is extremely detailed and goes into the respective takes griffons have on the classes and then, we get 16 racial feats that range from bonuses to two skills that increase at 10 ranks (boring) to using Acrobatics while running sans speed decrease (cool!), 1/day free choice of mental attribute used in a skill check, gaining cloud walker, properly codified, minor DR-ignoring charges, longer breath, sun cat teamwork feat access, more stable flying...well, guessw what? This time around, they actually are functional! Seriously! While I still seethe when looking at lower-case skills, the material here...is nice! The griffons also get traits - which are similarly well-crafted. The book also contains 6 archetypes: Divine psions use Wis as governing manifester attribute and gain Empower Power at 5th level. Midmountii master monks can flurry with natural attacks and replaces stunning with blinding foes; at 7th level, instead of slow fall, they may earth glide via ki. Sky rider cavaliers may select big avians (unlocking them only later) and 5th level provides growth for the mount - with an odd caveat "Its stats are not otherwise affected." This is patently wrong, since size increases do affect stats - should we ignore these??


Talon Warrior fighters replace bravery with scaling bonuses to Perception and Fly and 2nd level eliminates penalties incurred by AoOs when performing combat maneuvers. 11th level unlocks pounce and 15th level potentially adds an extra claw attack when pouncing, but fails to specify at what BAB - though one can assume full BAB. Weapon mastery and training apply to both bite and claw. Storm Dancer fighters emit fog when attacked in melee, gaining 20% concealment miss chance, 50% for attacks after the first, but only while wearing light or no armor. Oddly, "this has no effect on ranged weapons." Do ranged weapons not trigger it or do they shoot through? Concealment may also block line of sight, which is relevant for spells and I'm not sure this was intended, since imho, the ability botches nomenclature pertaining concealment and miss chance granted by concealment. 2nd level adds secondary targets to bull rushes (at 15th level: also trip, disarm and dirty trick), 8th level no longer treats fog and smoke as vision detriments and as a capstone, the character becomes "immune to wind" and can only be moved by it if they wish.


Finally, the skycrown pledged samurai penalizes attacks of the challenged against other targets, gets a modified skill list, may, after failing an action, retry in the subsequent round 1/day at a +4 insight bonus (+1/day every 4 levels beyond 2nd) and at 8th level, they gain Great Cleave and a +1 dodge bonus to AC for one round for each enemy struck. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens? As a level 15 ability, these guys may spend resolve as an immediate action to intercept attackers.


The pdf also provides claw and beak tips, rules for (somewhat wonky) griffon-feathered arrows and three special weapon/armor properties - which aren't bad, in fact, though the lack of formatting for the creation requirements is annoying...and yes, spells are not italicized.


Okay, after this, we begin with an extensive introduction to the faiths of the griffons - from the Sun King to the huntress to white talon, the three deities come with extensive information, though it remains, apart from favored weapons and domains, fluff-centric. The book contains 5 spells that have all issues and represent the worst portion, mechanics-wise, of the book. Internal reference to spells is not italicized in some cases. There is a spell that allows for bonus damage to natural attacks which allows the caster to change elements - okay. However, with a Knowledge (arcana) check as part of attacking, rarer energies like sonic, negative energy or force can be chosen - which makes no sense, considering that force is superior to all other damage types at the cost of damage die reduction to d4. Changing elements is a move action, though - so no idea whether that supersedes the rare energy caveat or not or whether the rare energies only apply to one attack or all. The spell can be discharged, dealing 3d6 or 3d4 damage, thus implying that the energy change is maintained for more than one attack. Lionheart nets haste's extra attack when using a full attack and +4 Str AND Con - textbook power-creep. Eagle Soul seemingly contradicts itself - "until your next action" vs. duration of 1 round/level; however, at closer observation, one can assume the speed burst the spell offers to be the initial effect, the attribute boost to last longer - slightly cleaner wording would have helped here. Griffon's Majesty employs the non-existent "divine" bonus type. That being said, the mask of obedience cursed item is interesting.


Now, much like Forgotten past, the somewhat misnamed "Griffon Society" chapter (1/3 of the book!) contains information of famous griffons and ponykind, with numerous interesting NPC write-ups. These generally are well-written, feature advice for the GM and copious amounts of neat artworks....but, like the previous books, if you're looking for stats, I'll have to disappoint you. Similarly, the 6th chapter, which details settlements of the griffons and runs a wide gamut in themes and diversity, does not feature a single settlement statblock for the villages. The villages, cities, etc., however, are truly diverse -from deep waters sheltered in the forest of dreams to razorback ridge, the places are unique. One truly impressive facet here would be that the cartography of the griffon heartland and the metropolis of cuachan, which comes in even more details, similarly gets a truly GORGEOUS full-page map. These sections brim and bristle with the imagination and unique flavor of everglow - and it covers about 2/3rds of the whole book, making this section significantly stronger than in the other Ponyfinder books I've read.


The final section of the book provides a new "living trap" at CR 6 with cliffside eels as well as three new creatures - the CR 9 gem golem and with unique spell reflections and dazzling brightness is pretty great. The CR 13 mountain worm, in comparison, is a more conservative critter with no truly unique ability. Finally, the CR 6 sky mask can call down lightning - think of them as Super Mario's grumpy clouds. All in all, the critters aren't bad...but formatting and editing is less precise than in Forgotten past's bestiary, with bolding missing from the majority of the statblocks and some typos creeping in.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are SIGNIFICANTLY better than in the last two Ponyfinder books I read - while it still is flawed, the flaws mainly pertain rules-language formatting for the most part. While there are crunch components that are problematic, the respective issues are significantly less pronounced, though lower case skills, missing italicizations and the like still are here. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the book has a killer array of full-color artworks. The cartography featured in the book is similarly stunning. The hardcover I have is a beautiful book and certainly one worthy of owning. I can't comment on the features of the electronic version since I do not have it.


David Silver's griffons of everglow represent a return to form to approximately the level of the campaign setting; while there are some unfortunate glitches in the crunch and its presentation, it is functional! The content may not perfect, but it actually works and the book does not flaunt the established rules-language as much as the previous books, adhering to formatting standards and providing, as a whole, a significant improvement over the previous books in sheer, objective quality of the crunch. Now the fluff was never an issue for Ponyfinder and indeed, this book with its massive amount of flavor is evocative and not only fans of everglow will most certainly adore the well-written fluff herein. All in all, this book represents a great development for the ponyfinder-line - while still short of perfection, this is a nice purchase indeed and while the flaws of the crunch prevent a higher rating, I feel justified in settling on a final verdict of 3.5 stars; round down if you're in it for the crunch, round up if you want all the evocative flavor and prose. As for my official verdict, I will round up for this book, since its focus lies obviously on the flavor and campaign setting information.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ponyfinder - Griffons of Everglow
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Wheel of the Year
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:14:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 3/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As always, we begin this installment with a brief letter from the planes- and worlds-jumping vessel called Flaming Crab before we dive into the respective cntent - though this time around, we really get creative. You see, as the pdf's name implies, this is all about the wheel of the year, a concept probably rather familiar to those of you interested in mythology, pagan religions and the like - but before the respective holidays themselves, we start with full moons.


Structure-wise, the respective festival begins with a flavor-based explanation of the celebration, proceeds to mention which deity/deities (domain/theme-wise) is/are aligned with it and then goes on to introduce a mystic resonance as well as a ritual. In the case of full moon, masquerades and organized hunts would be common means of celebrating the festival, with feasts commencing thereafter. Mystic resonance-wise, the full moon, beyond the obvious association with lycanthropes, has actual game-mechanics, with spellcasters being able to cast a single transmutation (polymorph) spell as though quickened ( I assume, with them still requiring the preparation, since this information does not have the "without increasing the spell-slot-caveat, but I may be wrong here.), while druids may 1/moon wild shape as a swift action. However, conjurations are weakened, with durations reduced and summoned creatures requiring a save to avoid the effects of being temporarily confused.


Now I also mentioned rituals - these would be presented as spells for the respective holidays, however, as the pdf suggests, they probably should be freely available to the respective characters. Their casting time, unsurprisingly, is pretty long, with durations lasting e.g. until midnight. For the full moon, the spell would be call of the huntmaster, which can only be cast on a full moon and requires a bonfire. Effect-wise, this ritual makes ammunition magic, enhances one animal per participant with magic fang and provides expeditious retreat to the mounts of the hunters, making the hunting party significantly more potent and providing some serious flavorful potential for roleplaying.


During the Yule/Yuetide festival, light and fire spells may be enhanced (here with the wording being precise and sans ambigueties) and, in an interesting twist, there is a random chance that the respective spell slot is not expended, with spontaneous/prepared caster paradigms being accounted for. However, necromancy is hampered during the festival. Yule tree requires an animal sacrifice for the tree to be consecrated, but items may be summoned forth, but only one for each participant in a given year. Cool take on the festival!


Imbolc, halfway between Yule and spring equinox, is aligned with divination, poetry and growth and as such evocations lose a bit of potency (nice additional detriment to waging war in early spring/right after winter), with the spell associated, healing well allowing the ritualistic cleansing of the body via participation in a ritual featuring a well or spring, including losing a variety of negative conditions - which makes particular sense in the context of a less fantastic world where not every 2nd village has a high level caster capable of tending to all the needs. Ostara, if the name did not already elicit that connotation on its own, represents the vernal equinox and thus is associated with regenerative magics, once again hampering the forces of necromancy. The ritual is very evocative, featuring upright-standing eggs placed on the ground to ensure fertility...provided the gods deem to bless their followers.


Beltane, as, with Samhain, one of the more commonly known traditional festivals, enhances abjuration magics, with them being automatically affected by either Extend or Enlarge Spell, but all other magics are hampered on Beltane. The massive, bonfire-based rite imbues protective qualities, with even the ash of the fire providing some protective qualities. Midsummer is the festival of marriage and divination, with newly-weds embarking upon the seeking the fern flower ritual, which can either provide a monetary boon to those seeking it or an enhanced aid another for a year.


Lughnasadh, the harvest holiday, enhances transmutation magics, but hampers enchantment - those that manage to resist its effects may benefit from heroism for 1 round after the effect. Hero's shape, as a ritual, is interesting, rendering you literally larger than life and adding bonuses to all physical attributes. While the haste-effect the recipient may tap into could be a tad bit more streamlined in its wording, it is a cool ritual that requires some stamina from the caster to pull off. Mabon, the end of the harvest season, cuts all aligned spells in half regarding their duration and range, while spells affecting willing targets are Extended and basically rendered communal for the day - very unique! The harvest feast rite eliminates exhaustion and the like and provides a hearty glow to the participants. Finally, Samhain provides access to spells that allow for the speaking with other planes or the dead to spontaneous casters (at -2 spell levels!), but summoning during these times of thinned veils are hazardous, resulting potentially in lethal creatures showing up. Planar Horde, a high-level ritual, allows the caster to conjure forth 50 HD worth of outsiders, with an individual outsider's HD capping at 6, to do the caller's bidding - if he provides the payment.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on the formal side; on the rules-language side, there are some minor discrepancies that show the different authors that contributed here, though none truly impede the functionality of the pdf. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, with great Tarot-card-like artworks depicting them themes of the respective holidays. Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.


J Gray, JJ Jordan, Nate Love and Lucus Palosaari deliver one great pdf here; evocative, cool and flavorful, these holidays add a significant sense of the magical to the game world, with the mythological resonance and familiarity of the concepts employed adding a nice sense of continuity with our world to the subject matter. The festivals themselves, though, do retain their significant "magic", their flavor and unique concepts. I really enjoyed this system and believe that many a gaming world would benefit from holy days that are actually relevant - the general holidays herein already are very evocative and unique While, as a whole, the pdf may fall short of perfection, it is a great buy for a low price, a book that provides a LOT of cool ideas for adventures to come, a fun, flavorful addition to the game - in short, I consider this, in spite of my nitpicks, a great buy worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Wheel of the Year
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Mini-Dungeon #032: Howling Halls
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:12:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. It should be noted that this one's hyperlinks have a couple of omissions, i.e. not working, underlined hyperlinks. This does not really influence the usefulness of the file, though.


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.


...


..


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Still here?


All right! The Howling Halls can easily be inserted into the context of a grander dungeon and generally represents a hauntingly cold crypt-complex, which makes neat use of the environmental rules. Beyond a couple of nice traps, the theme, obviously, would be undead regarding the enemies contained herein and the exploration yields keys with script that can be used to open the central rooms of the crypts and battle the progressively harder guardians of this place - finally wresting a magical key labeled "peace" from the final crypt - but for what purpose remains up to the GM to decide.


Conclusion:


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


Jonathan Ely's Howling Halls is a nice insert into a bigger dungeon complex. With two tower-like structures, the howling halls can easily be used by an enterprising GM as a kind of suture to connect two unrelated dungeon-levels and the challenges per se are nice, the content solid. The dungeon, in short, does what it's supposed to do and provides a fun, cool diversion and leaves an interesting hook for the GM in the player's hands. At the same time, it is just that - it does what it sets out to do well. For what it tries to be, this is a solid hub/sidetrek well worth 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #032: Howling Halls
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Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:10:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what are these? Focused disciplines, basically are advanced disciplines; ability-array that modify the discipline in question's non power-related abilities. As such, each has replacement abilities they replace with the new ones. Each discipline (minus athanatism) gains 4 such focused disciplines, so let's take a look!


Clairsentience begins with the aura sight ability at 8th level - as long as you maintain psionic focus, you can see the alignment of creatures, with the expenditure as a swift action allowing you to see the intensity of the aura, 14th level lets you smite evil at 1/2 class level 1/day (+1 every 4 levels thereafter), except it applies to any creature with an alignment different than yours. I'm...not a fan of this one, to say the least. I already dislike detect abilities that are at-will, but thankfully, players tend to forget these. This one's always on, which is extremely annoying from a GM and internal setting-logic perspective: When a significant array of people can see alignment sans even trying, hiding your alignment becomes even more annoying and may wreck quite a few of assumptions of modules. Not gonna get near my table.


Falsehood Allows you to expend your psionic focus, starting at 2nd level, to penalize the next two d20-rolls of a foe within 30 ft, with 8th level providing a 20 ft. AoE-bursty variant. Both allow for no save, but ultimately won't break the game. Reading provides, at 8th level, a retroactive bonus of +2 to an attack roll or saving throw 1/day, with every 2 levels increasing the bonus by +1 and adding 1/day use and 14th level allowing you to share the benefits with an ally. Also at 14th level, the discipline has another annoying metagame ability -1/day learn a creature's alignment, lowest and highest ability score and what classes it has levels in. If you also expend your psionic focus, you also learn the 3 highest skills and the creature's HD. Not a fan. Terror adds 2 rounds of shaken to creatures failing to save versus your clairsentience powers, with focus expenditure increasing that to frightened. Every 4 levels thereafter increase duration by +1 round. This one...is nasty. 14th level nets you an always-on-while-focused 10 ft. aura that works somewhat akin to a hex; on a successful save, the target's shaken and becomes immune for 24 hours, on a failed save, the target becomes panicked for 1d4 rounds. Personally, I think the immunity caveat should apply to the whole ability, not only to the successful save, but that may be me and is just a design-aesthetic preference.


Metacreativity sports the crystal discipline...and it has a problematic component: Crystal shot allows the psion to expend his psionic focus as a swift action to fire a 30 ft.-range, two range-increment piercing lance of crystal, with x3 crit mod. The lance can (but does not have to!) use Int-mod instead of Dex-mod to calculate atk. Base damage is 1d8, +1d8 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. On its own, this is not problematic, but the increased damage output, particularly for multi-class'd characters, can be nasty. At 8th level, the base damage of the ability is added to attacks with all manufactured weapons while maintaining focus. Guiding provides bonuses to all attacks against foes within 25 ft, with 14th level allowing you to expend your psionic focus as an immediate action to double the bonus for a single attack made within 30 ft. of you. Plasmic lets you create a skill-enhancing ectoplasma tool and 14th level makes your tools really potent. Steel allows you to expend psionic focus to temporarily buff your AC versus an incoming attack and 14th level provides an always-on-while-focused +5 shield bonus to AC.


Psychokinetists may opt for Blaze, which nets fire resistance and the option to temporarily extend its benefits to allies while damaging nearby foes. 14th level allows you to reduce the fire resistance of foes versus your fire-based powers, with creatures sans resistance being treated as though they were vulnerable to fire. Additionally, resistance reduced to zero results in fire damage for nearby creatures...which is a bit odd: So, does this damage also apply if a creature has no fire resistance? The rules could be interpreted either way.


Boom adherents add 5-ft-radius minor sonic damage to single-target powers and 8th level adds deafened for 1 hour to sonic-based single-target powers. Somewhat wonky: "You may expend your psionic focus to affect all creatures within 5 feet of the creature instead." I assume this only applies to the deafened condition and that the target still is affected. Chill similarly reduces all movement speeds of creatures affected by your cold damage dealing powers, but including AoEs this time around...which is pretty OP regarding terrain control. Oh, and it has no duration or means to cure. Speaking of which: 14th level lets you expend psionic focus to stagger foes - even on a successful save, but only for 1 round! Still, considering the power level of the staggered condition, this is OP.Spark grants you bonuses for successfully caused electricity damage for short periods of time, with high levels allowing you to reduce the duration to extend the benefits to allies within 20 ft., but only a limited amount of times per day.


Psychometabolism specialists can opt for the adrenal discipline, which nets you scaling dodge bonuses to AC and Ref-saves when manifesting psychometabolism powers and allows you to add buffs to your personal-range psychometabolism powers. No complaints here. Animalia adds an augment option to all psychometabolism powers to enhance your physical attributes at 8th level and 14th level allows you to retaliate when successfully critically hit via AoOs with bonuses, but only a limited amount of times per day. Second Gear enhances your movement rates while focused and 14th level allows you to manifest two powers that require a standard action or less as a full-round action, with your manifester level being the cap regarding total power point cost and +1 use at 16th, 18th and 20th level. Significantly stronger than resilient body and metabolic healing...not a fan. Storage nets you basically a built-in bag of holding and 14th level allows you to empty this pocket in an explosive burst as a standard action, dealing 2d6 per cubic foot you filled. the bag starts with oen cubic foot and gains + 1 at 4th level and every two levels thereafter. oh, and no save to halve the damage.


Psychoportation specialists that specialize on bypass may teleport 20 ft as a move action when expending their psionic focus and the ability contradicts itself - it says once "at-will" and then goes on to state daily limits that increase...so, which is it? Starting at 14th level, you may "gain insight on a single Stealth check to hide equal to your class level" -that should probably be "insight bonus," since "insight" on its own is not a thing in PFRPG. Drive allows you to short-range teleport willing allies, with higher levels providing group-ports. Labyrinth allows you to bypass tremorsense and blindsense and at 14th level, you gain skill-bonuses to Survival and Knowledge (geography). Retrieval lets you call unattended objects nearby to your hand, with 8th level providing a free returning to thrown weapons.


Telepaths may elect to specialize on channel: This allows you to link minds with a single creature...and unwilling creatures get no save to resist. Can you see the gaslighting plot? 14th level allows you to send messages to targets you linked with in the last week - which is generally cool and allows for some cool tricks. Specialists of the closed discipline allows you to render a creature temporarily deaf and bereft of telepathy, with higher levels increasing the damage you and your allies cause against the target. Personally, as much as I dislike it, I'd have made this precision damage due to internal consistency of the system. Informants add 1/2 level to all Knowledge and Diplomacy checks while focused and, on a failed Stealth check, they may, at high levels, reroll with a bonus when they expend their focus - a cool ability, but at 14th level very late. Mystique adherents can break a LOT of plots: They can concentrate on a target...and the ability is wonky as all hell: "As a standard action while you're psionically focused, you make a Sense Motive check. One intelligent creature within 30 ft. of your choice must then make a Will save." Okay, against which DC? the usual 10 + 1/2 level + manifester mod? The Sense Motive result? No idea. On a failed save, you gain 5 hours (!!!) worth of the creature's memories, +1 hour for every point by which they fail the save. Not functional as written can wreck A LOT of modules. The 8th level memory implant is similarly problematic - "If they fail, you convince them that they experienced something that they didn't actually experience. They may use your Bluff modifier instead of their own when convincing people of this." The "may" here implies that they can choose, which they shouldn't be able to. Also: The implanted memories lack specifics: Can you implant memories that supersede others? Can you rewrite a whole life? No idea, since the ability fails to specify the extent of its powers.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level are top-notch. On a rules-level, it is less consistent in its internal terminology than I've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press - "expend your psionic focus" versus "expend psionic focus" and similar cosmetic hiccups can be found here, with some pieces of rules-language being simply not as clear as it should be. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version. Artwork-wise, the focus lies on fitting stock art.


Sasha Hall's expansion for psionics, let me reiterate that, isn't bad. Considering the tight wiggle-room that the concept offers, there are some seriously cool options here. If you don't share my loathing for metagame-y abilities, the pdf will gain a bit of appeal. At the same time, though, the overall pdf is uncharacteristically inconsistent for a Dreamscarred Press offering. The power-ratio of replaced abilities is off in quite a few places regarding the abilities replaced and comparable abilities offered in the very same book. That is one issue this has; the second would be that the book does have a couple of internal hiccups: The telepathy-lock-down, for example: Can it be used to sever the connection to a collective, as employed by the tactician, vitalist, etc.? The focused discipline hampers "all telepathic abilities" - which is NOT a defined term in the context of Ultimate Psionics. There are quite a few of these issues here and they accumulate. This may not be bad, but it does fall short of the standards established by Dreamscarred Press. In the end, this is a mixed bag and hence, my review will clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
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Gunfighter Class (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 09:38:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. The review is based on V.1 of the pdf.


We begin this class with a brief, concise introduction to the subject matter at hand, including advice on creating a gunfighter and quick-build information. Gunfighters begin play with the option to create ammo and the like, with a nice, suggested alternate rule based on Intelligence modifier. In a minor nitpick, the material cost and maintenance-section of the item mentions $1.00 of the item's market value - a conversion rate of $1 = 5 gp is provided, but generally, considering the setting-agnostic nature of the class, this may be perceived as a needless complication by some. I won't penalize the pdf for it, but it is something to keep in mind. If a PC is not using at least 1 hour in a long rest to clean the guns he owns, natural 1s and 2s result in the broken condition for the weapon. A gunfighter can keep a number of firearms in good repair like this equal to his Intelligence modifier. At 13th level, you may craft twice your Intelligence modifier bullets during a long rest.


Now, let's take a look at the gun-rules required here: Ammo can't be salvaged (check!), broken condition requires an Intelligence saving throw on critical misses to avoid (no auto-blow-up). Focus is important - these weapons require steadying - as an action, movement is reduced to 0 ft. and, on the next turn, the gun can be fired. Guns are loud and can be heard FAR away and reloading is an action. Firearms with spread deal AoE-damage, but allow for Dex-saves based on you Intelligence modifier and proficiency bonus to negate.


The pdf provides 4 such weapons: Single action revolvers, repeating rifles, shotguns and buffalo rifles, with the latter being the only one requiring focus - and it better should, considering 4d10 piercing base damage, as opposed to 2d6 for the revolver.


The class gets 1d10 HD, simple weapon and firearm proficiency, vehicle (land) ans smith's tools as well as Dex- and Int-save proficiency and their choice of Animal Handling, Deception, Insight, Investigation (called "Investigate" here), Perception, Sleight of Hand and Stealth regarding skill proficiency. The starting equipment contains a revolver and a horse and includes notes on costs of animals in the Wild West. Gunfighters begin play with a gunfighting style that includes melee-shotgun-using sans disadvantage or double pistol fighting. The latter is somewhat awkwardly phrased "You can treat the weapons as light, and take advantage of two weapon fighting with them." Does this mean the style grants advantage on attack rolls when dual-wielding? I assume no, but wording wise, the use of "advantage" isn't too great. Duel specialists add Intelligence modifier to atk and damage when one-handing guns. Long-distance shooters don't suffer disadvantage at long range and add Intelligence modifier to attack rolls. Fast draw specialists have advantage on their first attack each combat and can't be surprised.


2nd level provides an action surge for +1 action, but only once per rest-interval as well as advantage on Dexterity saving throws versus effects you can see coming - like traps, spells, etc. Ability score improvements are gained at 3th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 19th level. 11th level allows you to attack twice instead of once.


At 5th level, you may reload one firearm as a bonus action and 6th level allows you to ranged disarm foes once per rest-interval.


Starting at 9th level, you may infuse cold, fire or acid damage into up to 12 of your bullets. 17th level nets you evasion and 20th level allows you to add Wisdom modifier either to attack or damage rolls...which feels a bit odd, considering that the base chassis of the class is otherwise themed around Intelligence and Dexterity.


As you may have figured, the gunfighter does gain the obligatory archetype-selection, this time around called gunfighter path. A total of 3 such paths are included and they net abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th and 18th level. The first of these paths would be the bounty hunter, who can choose creatures as their mark, gaining advantage on Intelligence (Investigate[sic!] - should be Investigation) and Wisdom (Perception) checks, gaining +2 to attacks versus them...but they can only have Intelligence modifier marks a day, with long rests resetting the timer. They also deal bonus damage versus marks and at 10th level, heal minor wounds once per rest-interval. 15th level nets a potentially paralyzing shot. 18th level, allows for special double damage shots - oddly, the pdf refers to being affected by "Wing 'em" - which I suppose was a WIP-name for the mark. Still, slightly confusing.


Desperados gain cunning action at 3rd level, 7th level sneak attack (scaling up to +4d6 at 19th level), uncanny dodge at 10th level and vanish at 15th. 18th level lets NO attack roll against you have advantage....which is pretty OP, imho. Somewhat odd: "If you are hit, you may take a reaction to make an Attack against the attack that hit you" - I think, some text is missing here...or the wording's a bit odd. You can target an attack, okay...what happens if you hit the attack? Do you shoot a missile out of the air? Do you sunder an axe? Or should that be attacker? No idea.


Finally, the Lone Ranger is the outdoorsman and gains advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Survival) and 7th level nets crits on 19s and 20s. 10th level "Adds another fighting style" - which should probably refer to "gunfighting style" instead and 15th nets you a stunning shot, while 18th level allows you perform 1 level of exhaustion causing shots 1/day. Pretty cool.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are generally good, though, oddly, the final pages seem to drop a bit regarding their precision. Rules-language similarly is mostly precise and well-crafted, with some minor hiccups. The pdf comes with great, thematically fitting photography-style artworks and the pdf has no bookmarks, but at 6 pages, that's still okay. Layout adheres to Tribality's two-column full-color standard and is clean and concise, though the upper and lower borders are pretty broad.


Michael Long's gunfighter is per se a damn cool class - and for the most part, it is precise and well-crafted, with the first couple of pages only featuring very minor hiccups like "Investigate" instead of "Investigation" or the aforementioned unfortunate wording choice pertaining advantage being good examples. The gunfighter paths have somewhat more glitches and unfortunately, the pdf does have some glitches that influence the rules-language. While the gunfighter is functional and elegant and appropriate for new players due to the relatively easy to grasp rules and low complexity, it is the collection of these minor hiccups that makes it impossible for me to rate this as high as I'd like to. The gunfighter certainly is no funfighter; the gunfighter is a cool class for its low, and more than fair, price point. While not perfect, it certainly deserves a final verdict of 4 stars - if you expect no perfection, you'll probably love this class as an easy to use, fun Western-class.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gunfighter Class (5E)
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Occult Character Codex: Spiritualists
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 09:33:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Legendary Games' collection of Occult Adventures pre-built NPCs clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of how to use/introduction to the subject matter, 1 page ToC, 1/2 a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, it has been a while since I covered one of these, so let's recapitualte: The Occult Character Codex-series basically provides NPC-codex style entries for the respective class, utilizing automatic bonus progression as introduced in Pathfinder Unchained as well as buffing featured in the respective statblocks. The statblocks themselves feature a pre-buffing section where applicable and, for ease of reference, save DCs come with F, R, and W as shorthand for the saves in the respective spell etc. entries, allowing for an easy reference.


CR-wise, the NPCs herein range from CR 1/2 to CR 19, covering the whole breadth. The respective spiritualist builds, obviously, feature their respective phantom pet, rendering the overall statblock density of the book relatively high. The builds in the series do try to depict organically grown characters, i.e. the NPCs herein, while being efficient, also feature capabilities that ground them in the respective world, a decision I generally applaud.


As has become the tradition with the series, the NPCs featured herein diverge in their respective focus - while we do have some classic, CORE-races using spiritualists in the book, there also are samsarans and even grippli to be found among the builds. The onmyoji archetype is used in a few of the builds as well - so racial diversity's here; archetype-wise, the book could sport a bit more diversity.


Regarding the emotional focus of the respective phantoms, the pdf does provide a sufficient array of diverse options, with the foci generally fitting well the theme of the respective phantoms. The same can't be said about all of the spell-selections certain themes in spells can be readily identified - granted, there is diversity here, but it could have been a tad bit more pronounced. On the plus-side, while a similar observation can be made pertaining some feats, the overall breadth of strategies via builds is significantly broader. Kudos!


That being said, unlike the other OCC's I've covered, there is something I need to mention - the phantoms have some glitches in central abilities; unfortunately, these glitches tend to be rather crucial ones - slam damage is incorrect in some cases, correct in some and does not progress properly, extending the issue to the respective damage caused; similarly, DR-scaling of the phantoms is not accurate. The frustrating component here is that there are quite a few of the entries that work out well, but still, those are pretty central components in the respective build.


Does this make the book unusable? No. But it does limit its appeal.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good, though this time around, the uncharacteristic glitches in he builds do somewhat limit the book's appeal. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork-wise, we get some classic LG-artworks as well as the cool cover artwork.


Julian Neale's spiritualists are the weakest entry in the series and were a rather odd experience for me, reviewing-wise. Why? Because I happen to have the build-notes for them and while these also have hiccups here and there, they are other hiccups - while e.g. the DR in the build-notes for the level 20 NPC isn't correct, the slam attack base damage actually is. My theory is that: Something went wrong in layout/dev. Some of the glitches obviously are cut-copy-paste hiccups. EDIT: The author has contacted me and taken full responsibility - that takes guts and backbone, so kudos!!


That being said, there is still value to be drawn from this pdf - the builds themselves are pretty complex and even with their glitches, the pdf still represents some seriously spared time. The glitches mentioned can be relatively easily purged and while the pdf thus can't be considered to be the high-point of the series, neither does it deserve being dismissed. What's here, generally, is cool and GMs willing to invest a bit of work to fix the glitches get some complex builds out of this one. Still, the pdf could also have employed more in the archetype discipline.


In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars; if you're in it for flawless statblocks, round down; if you want the majority of grunt work done for you, you'll still find use for this. My official final verdict will round up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Character Codex: Spiritualists
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