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Eldritch Role Playing System (Revised)
Publisher: Crossroads Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2015 02:42:54
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 201 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front-cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC,1 blank page at the end, leaving us with 195 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


This massive core-book for the revised edition of Eldritch Roleplaying (ERP) begins with an introduction that sums up several of the virtues of this system - adequately so, I should mention. At the same time, though, personally, I felt this component to be somewhat overblown, much like a sales-pitch when the very presence of the book clearly does not necessitate this component - this may be a personal pet-peeve of mine, but I do not think games should try to tell their readers how awesome they are and instead stand on the virtue of their own merits - but let's see whether this works, shall we?


The default assumption of this system is a world of fantasy, obviously. We begin with a glossary of terms and what they mean - since the following review will make excessive use of them, I'll give you the brief run-down:


-Ability: This specifies a skill or innate capacity.

-Ability Branch: A single component of an ability tree, specifying Specialties and Masteries. An ability check is made via such a branch, with no more than one roll of the basic tier, plus one specialty, plus one mastery.

-Ability Check: Each such check involves one ability branch, rolling up to 3 dice to beat the target number.

-Ability Tree: Base ability + all branches. Tier 1 denotes base abilities, tier 2 denotes specialties and each specialty further branches off into different masteries, which constitute tier 3.

-Base Tier: First tier, always has a single die (from d4 to d12)

-Branch Rank: Term used to establish general competence in an ability branch. Just add max values and check the table.

-Character Points: Point-buy for abilities.

-Damage Reduction: Reduce threat points before the active defense pool.

-Defense Pool: Number of points used to mitigate or cancel threats

-Defense, Active: Using active DP to mitigate one attack via the corresponding ability.

-Defense, Passive: One passive defense pool or fortitude.

-Die-rank: Value of any creature's single die of an ability tree tier; ranges from d3 to d20 and includes d14, d16 and d18.

-Max Value (MV): Highest die-result possible with a given die or die combination.

-Needed Number (NN): Measure for spellcasting difficulty.

-Restricted/unrestricted Ability: Restricted abilities can't be used without having at least a certain die-rank, most of the time, a d4. Consider this the ability to only use certain abilities when "trained" in them.

-Special maneuvers: Combat maneuvers, essentially.

-Threat Points: Measurement of the potential harm from a specific ability branch - the damage potential from which active defenses etc. are detracted to determine the actually inflicted harm.


So, to sum it up - we have a system that is very much skill-based, using a combination of dice over specializations and pitting rolls vs. rolls, with minor fixed value modifications, kind of like a variant of Shadowrun that utilizes more die-types over increasing numbers of d6s.


Character creation is simple: You have 30 character points. Assigning age and sex is free and you can modify the value by taking advantages (at cost) or disadvantages (increasing your character points). It should be noted that adolescence is considered to take for all races to reach - while I get the streamlining rationale, such a factor inherently makes me wonder how the "better" races have not yet developed a more stable population


Each race MUST buy the minimum ranks in certain abilities associated with them, which range from 15 (dwarves) to 4 (humans) and racial advantages, if appropriate - all dwarves must expend the 3 character points for night vision, for example. While the individual abilities and costs are provided, a quick glance also shows you the total value, including the modifications of the compulsory advantages/disadvantages hard-coded into the race. Over all, the ability-package as presented makes the races work pretty well and choosing them rather simple - at the same time, the restrictions imposed here by a lack of racial customization directly contradicts the assertion of supreme control over character concepts claimed in the slightly overblown introduction, but that just as a snarky side-note to emphasize why I consider intros like that undue.


The advantages and disadvantages provided run a pretty broad gamut of abilities, again, bringing Shadowrun to mind, just instead of the modification of dice-pool sizes, we have the die-step improvements. This allows for e.g. magical defense that allows a caster to extend it to physical attacks in two steps, with the more costly version also applying to ranged attacks. Subtle casting, attractiveness and similar benefits can be gained as well. Personally, I really enjoyed and loathed one particular advantage at the same time: Literacy. It always galls me in any fantasy setting, when the default assumption is that people can read - it's an obvious anachronism not supported by the infrastructure in most areas. So yes, kudos for including that.


Being able to read and write ALL languages for one meager character point more, though, actually sabotages quite a few narratives - from strange languages to deciphering ancient tongues, this advantage counters quite a few potential plots, thus rendering its upgrade problematic. Now here would be as good a place as any to mention the easy customization capacities of this system - are you like me and utterly loathe this concept? Just modify the advantage to instead apply on a point per language basis. Want discrepancies in fluency and capacity? Build your own ability-tree. The system is ridiculously easy to modify in these finer components without breaking it, a huge plus when it comes to modifying it to apply to different settings, something you will want to do -but more on that later.


From darkvision (here called Night Vision) to underworld contacts, the advantages are generally solid. Among the disadvantages, one can find addictions, compulsions, missing limbs - you get the idea.


Abilities, as mentioned above, are governed by the size of the die: Unrestricted abilities begin at d4 and cost a cumulative +2 character points to increase. Restricted abilities cost 2 character points to get to d4-size and subsequent costs of die-size minus two for the respective rank. (D12 costs 10 character points, for example.)


On a didactic side, the presentation of the values of character points it takes to rank up is pretty much more opaque than it should be: As presented, one can read the process as the cost depicted representing the total cost of character points or as the cost to increase from the previous rank - while one can deduce the correct way from the examples provided in the book, I had exactly that issue come up during character generation for playtesting, with different players having different opinions. Abilities are noted as P (Primary), S (Support), R (Restricted) and U (Unrestricted). While we get a short list, I can't help but feel that a proper table would have been preferable here.


Magic items, buffs etc. that sport a +1 to a given ability increase the die-size by +1. In a nice idea, characters can also pursue occupations as an optional general orientation that codifies the character as being, more or less aligned with the role of a given "class." It should be noted that this is more of a cosmetic accumulation of traditional nomenclature than a description of the capabilities of the character as a whole deal package.


Next up would be the calculation of the character's defense pools, of which there are two: Active Defense and Passive Defense. Active Defense includes parrying, dodging, agility and unarmed combat and can incorporate static DR via shields. Passive Defense is determined by Fortitude and includes DR via armor, if applicable. The Defense Pool calculations are dead simple - add up the maximum values of the ability tree, including all specialties and masteries. Once again, the basic explanation of the features, alas, could have been more concise - as presented, the basic step leaves you wondering whether active defense accumulates and adds parrying etc. or not - only by delving deeper into the grit of the system does this opacity become resolved, which, once again, presents a thoroughly unnecessary confusion-barrier for novices to the rules that could have been rectified by one simple sentence providing clearer rules language.


Starting equipment and character concept are determined in conjunction with the GM, with suggestions for general, broad roles provided for the individual character roles - melee types for example receive a weapon, armor, shield and steed, whereas rogues get thieves' tools, light armor and a weapon. Currency substitutes "crowns" for "Dollars" or "Euros." Equipment, especially mundane equipment, is pretty much glossed over by the system, claiming it does not require the level of detail etc. - we will return to this claim later.


First, we'll now take a look at the action resolution system: This is actually as simple as opposing rolls get - you roll the dice and if there is active opponent, both applicable rolls are compared, with specialties and masteries adding their die-sizes to the fray if applicable: Let's say you have someone specialized in Stealth, a subcategory of Skullduggery, with a Mastery in Urban environments - he'd add all 3 to an ability check when sneaking around in an urban environment, but as soon as the character would seek to apply his skillset in the wilderness, he'd only receive the dice from basic Skullduggery and Stealth, but not the bonus for Urban Mastery.


On a downside, I do believe the example provided, which I have here consciously quoted, would have benefited from actually stating that it is opposed by Perception - while pretty much self-evident, clear opposition-structures, especially when explaining the base system, do help. At the same time, the way in which whether a specialty or mastery applies is explained can be considered exceedingly concise, so kudos there. Challenges imposed by the GM follow a similar structure - the GM selects a set of dice to describe the general difficulty, rolls them and compares them to the player's roll. Here, I have a slight issue with the game - the good-roll-makes-possible-syndrome. it is a matter of taste, but the most difficult tasks are set at 3d12 -and yes, these can be nigh impossible. At the same time, though, a character who is lucky can achieve things the GM considered beyond him.


While, once again, easily modifiable via static DCs or GM-fiat, the general inclination of this swingy assumption of dice vs. dice means that you'll have a relatively pronounced luck-factor when tackling such challenges - theoretically, you may beat the set-up with a paltry d4. Yes, the chance of this happening is pretty paltry (as anyone with even a cursory understanding of math should know, but I *have* seen rolls like that - more than one...) - so ultimately, whether you consider this a bug or a feature ultimately depends on your personal inclinations. The undeniable benefit of this would obviously be something that works its way through the whole system - namely that you never become truly invincible to paltry/low-level threats. Yes, it becomes increasingly unlikely that you fall to them, but the chance still exists, which is a component that personally appeals as much to me as the swingy distribution does not.


What very much appeals to me and tends to find its way into all of my games in one way or another, would be the pretty concise and easy to use degrees of success and failure that further enhance the randomness factor and reward/punish the respective rolls. Oh, since I failed to mention this - if in doubt, resolutions tend to favor the defender, which is an interesting component that makes generally defensively-inclined characters work better than in similar systems of e.g. the d20-basis.


In case you wondered, btw. - weapons and equipment and fighting also follow all of these rules, with the ability melee weapons leading into very broad weapon groups specialties and particular weapon type masteries, which, in practice, makes surprising amounts of sense. Speaking of combat, let's take a closer look, all right?


I already mentioned the different defense pools available (and should note that this system makes shields actually relevant and mechanically distinct, which I do enjoy immensely!), so how does initiative work? A round is 15 second long, with a descending order of battle phases, scaling via Agility's ability down from d12 to d4 in 5 phases, with each phase taking 3 seconds. Creatures with an even higher or lower Agility take their corresponding place in the initiative order and act before (or after, in the latter case) the others. A creature gets exactly one action per round, which can be used to take actions, cast spells, activate magic items or use special abilities. Initiative is governed by the ability tree of Agility, Reflexes and Reaction Time, with equipment further potentially modifying this value. But what if creatures act in the same phase? Here, envision my smile evaporating - fixed order: PC, exceptional creatures, standard creatures, minor creatures. This suggestion allows you to metagame the "named" NPCs out of a crowd and makes no sense within the world - and as such, I loathe it, in spite of the inclusion of NPCs/special creatures having the option to be treated as PCs. Ties between foes and PCs are always won by the PC, another component I'd personally switch on its head, but that ultimately remains my forte because I'm a mean, mean GM Thankfully, a GM can easily, once again, devise a modification of the suggested system to remedy just about every component of the system as presented herein.


But what about surprise? There is a distinction between simple and total surprise, with the latter locking the defending characters out of their active pool defense pools -OUCH. Simple surprise only takes away your action in the surprise round. A character may move 18 yards + MV Agility per round, more if the character incurs a penalty, with masteries further enhancing this. Oddly, the penalty incurred by faster movement makes surprising sense in in-game dramaturgy. Interesting here - the actual feasibility of defensive characters. The D-pools a character has deplete over the course of a combat and simulate fatigue, much like the ones in the classic German old-school RPG Midgard - once they are depleted, you take damage to fortitude, so there's a difference to Midgard here. At 0 fortitude you drop unconscious, at minus MV fortitude, you die. So that's how you die. But how do you make creatures die?


I already mentioned the threat pool: This is weapon/magic pillar + weapon group (and bonuses)/spell type + specific weapon/spell mastery. Note that some spells may bypass specific defenses fielded against them, increasing the required roll. It should be noted that no two defense pools can be combined - you either try to dodge or parry, for example - not both. Willpower is used to resist non-physical threats. Dual-wielding characters incur a battle phase penalty and yes, there are simple rules for attacks of opportunity, here called opportune attacks. Interesting here: A character may sacrifice a specialty or mastery to add its MV to the associated defense pool. While not engaged in hand-to-hand or melee, a character may revitalize, regaining 20% of all D-pools. D-pools are tied to encounters, which I LOATHE - you're all by now aware of why "per-encounter" anything ultimate lands on my "oh why"-list; they make no sense. At the same time, though, the system presented here does have the easy option for the GM to customize this limit away and replace it with a fixed duration of rest etc. - in fact, I'd suggest such a system for pretty much any strenuous activity beyond combat, but again - that's my preference and not something that impacts the review.


Magic in the system is separated into 7 so-called pillars: Alteration, Arcanum, Conjuration, Elementalism, Illusion, Invocation and Psychogenics. Failure to roll the needed number of the spell to be cast may incur unpleasant effects for the caster, so there is a certain sense of unpredictability inherent in the system, one further enhanced by the basic set-up of swinging distribution of the dice-results inherent in the system. Saving throws are either based directly on willpower and its follow-ups or directly on fortitude. It should also be noted that quite a few spells have essentially built-in metamagic, with modifications to the NN. It should also be noted that aforementioned degrees of failure-philosophy also applies to the general rules of spellcasting. In order to allow for a broad array of customization and homebrewing, what amounts to a DIY-spell-building kit with sample effects and NNs provide a surprisingly concise amount of guidance for the GM and trigger summonings, casting spells as rituals etc. all can be found among the options presented here. It should be noted that, while each pillar receives its array of spells, the focus here lies on the toolkit.


I've been talking quite a bit about "GM this and GM that" -well, instead of XP as another resource to track, ERP directly awards character points, cutting out the middleman, so to speak. An elegant solution within the confines of this system. Traps and creature development are also covered with concise rules and plenty of examples for the GM to choose from, alongside tables of generic treasure. Much like 13th Age, monsters are provided in a plentiful array and sport very simple statblocks that do not feature much beyond type, threat dice, extra attacks, DR, HP, Saves and Agility ranks - a minimalistic approach, though at the other side of things. Where monsters in 13th Age derived their rules-symmetry from the lack of swinging dice, the beasts in ERP derive their rules-symmetry from the fact that they swing just as much as PCs do. From classic horses to Lilith herself, the section covers quite some ground, though ultimately, you should not expect too much from the variety of the monsters themselves - vampires may have vampiric bite or hypnotic gaze, yes, but that is all that remains codified - the rest is left to the GM.


Also, much like 13th Age, ERP does feature a kind of primer of a sample campaign setting, with the default world of Ainerêve, whose morphological nomenclature I enjoyed as much as the Tennyson-reference leading into the chapter. And indeed, the somewhat linguistically-versed GM will not be surprised by a rather interesting component of this setting: For one, the world coexists undetectably with ours, as a kind of shadow. More importantly, the dream-connotation is further enhanced by a presumed mutability of lands - folk beliefs, convictions and ideologies transform the world and have significant power, with proximity in establishment being governed by conceptual and ideological nearness. This is at once brilliant, but at the same time also somewhat reductive in that it organizes the world in a fashion that is easier to structure - over all, the world still manages to feel pretty concise in its make-up and depiction, with sample NPCs, information on local law etc. being sported for many in ample details, going so far as to produce a pronunciation guide, nomenclature etc., with ample random name-generators. As awesome as the world is as a conception and as strongly as it might resonate with me and the themes of real world mythology, I still felt myself slogging through the campaign world's information - this is not a bad world and its premise is utterly AWESOME - but what was crafted from the premise pretty much disappointed me as a rather vanilla fantasy world - hence my assertion in the beginning that you'll want to apply your own modifications regarding the campaign setting.


The book also sports handy GM two-page cheat-sheets and 2 page character-sheets, which are horizontally aligned.


Now before I jump to the conclusion, what is missing here? 1) Encumbrance. The stance here is "encumbrance is not fun", meaning you can carry tons of stuff around/potentially generating the Christmas Tree syndrome. Sample poisons/diseases - while provided as hazards, some examples would have been nice and virulence tec. does not feature - the two components exist pretty much in a half-defined limbo that leaves much in the GM's hands, in spite of plenty of interaction with spells and abilities. I also think the system does require non-battle fatigue systems for weather/exposure etc. - once again, yes, they can be devised by the GM, but I still feel they deserve more focus.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of glitches herein. Especially formatting, quite honestly, annoyed me. Obvious bullet-point lists are simple lists, which detracts from the readability. And personally, my eyes glaze over when I read the statblocks. Why? Because of the overabundance of ">." You see, "Ability > Specialty > Mastery" is the format and whenever I looked at such a sign, I felt the layout-need to actually insert an arrow-graphic. It may just be me, though. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that still retains a pretty printer-friendly basis, so that's nice. The artwork...well. It exists. It neither adheres to a uniform standard or style, nor did I consider the pieces particularly nice. It doesn't get better than the cover, so art-fanatics may not want to get this for the aesthetic values.


Dan Cross and Randall Petras have crafted an interesting system here - one that is governed by chaos and swinging results, yes, but also one that is pretty transparent in its rules. In fact, ERP is ridiculously easy to learn once you have someone explain it to you - or are an experienced roleplayer. The book, alas, is pretty much as "eldritch" in the beginning as its name implies - the first explanations and sequence of rules-presentations is NOT simple, nor didactically well-chosen in all occasions, which made running this more frustrating that it really should be - for it's actually easy! When I read the book for the first time, I saw the claim of "easy character generation" and thought "Yeah right! I have no idea what's going on!" - the key-word here is patience. The sequence of rules-presentation is not particularly well-chosen, so if you don't let that frustrate you, ERP actually *IS* so easy to grasp and run - you just have to get past the annoying introduction and to the point where all the pools are actually concisely explained.


Now if the above review wasn't ample clue - I intensely dislike a plethora of design-decisions, not from a reviewer's perspective, but from a personal one, so no, I am not going to bash the system for it. This dislike never extends to the base mechanics, mind you, but rather to many of the details - and here, the genius component of this roleplaying system shine: This is perhaps one of the most easily customizable systems I've seen in quite a while. Don't like terrain-rules being swingy? Replace with fixed values. Don't enjoy the tilting of the scales in favor of the PCs to give them a slight mathematical edge in the game of swinging dice vs. swinging dice? Eliminate it in favor of more lethality. This system is extremely customizable and makes defense worthwhile while providing a combat that is streamlined. In my experience, it is NOT necessarily faster than other systems, though - why? Because rolling competing throws of the dice does take up time that cannot be reduced. (Ask anyone who's ever played a game featuring them...) Yes, you will not be flipping rule-books much and look for obscure rule xyz, but still - obscure rules can be learned, whereas the rolling of the dice versus another always takes the same time.


In fact, this is my second attempt at writing a conclusion, since my first was focused on demolishing the introductory text - and the game does not deserve this. As much as many design decisions rub me the wrong way, as much as I consider the setting's potential unrealized and as much as I dislike the simple monsters, all of that ultimately does not matter that much. Why? Because anyone halfway versed in crunch-design or houseruling material can customize the hell out of this system, which ultimately is the huge strength of what is presented here - the mathematical elegance of chance and the simplicity of the system's swinging numbers translate to a game that transcends the limitations of its imho subpar presentation and slight didactic hiccups.


Know what I honestly did not expect, especially considering how much I do not like the setting? I actually found myself enjoying this system - it feels like a great framework. one that can use expansions, polish and a nicer "coat" (layout + art), one that can use expansions to deal with detailed alchemy, necromancy etc. While not absent from this book, the traditions of the like imho can certainly use a more refined and explicit depiction in future publications. Now I won't use this all the time - the swinginess of results, while endearing for some narratives and stories, ends up annoying me as much as permanently running the cruise-control monsters of 13th Age. But I will return to ERP in the future. It is an interesting system and, if what I wrote, if the customization, is what you're looking for, then be sure to take a look at this. My final verdict, in spite of gripes and some opacity in the presentation, will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Why? Because to me, l good content and basic structure trumps a nice polish and because I thoroughly appreciate the versatility of this system.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Eldritch Role Playing System (Revised)
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Call to Arms: Fantastic Technology
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/26/2015 06:36:50
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Fat Goblin Games' Call to Arms-series clocks in at a massive 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages of content so let's take a look!


Now this book, obviously, expands on the content of the Technology Guide, so I expect familiarity with that material in this review.


This supplement begins with a piece of adept prose and recap on the significant influence technology has had on the development of our very society and there is a reason for that: Before we can take a look at how technology works in game, we have to imho consider the implications of the addition of technology - namely why and how it found its way into a given game world. If you are like me and consider the internal consistency of a given game world to be of tantamount importance, you probably have sneered at quite a few explanations for the existence of technology in a given fantasy context - and thus, this book presents us with a plethora of options that explain the rise or prevalence of technology, including rationalizations for the potential of a limited prominence amid cultures. The intriguing component of these basic concepts that range from divine inspiration (see Zobeck's gear goddess) to the gifts of the precursors, would be that the respective rules by which technology operates in a fantastic context necessarily ought to change - and the results should not be ignored. If technology is, for example, granted by a divine mandate, it should come as no surprise that adversaries of the doctrine will have a more nature-bound, savage mindset - and vice versa. The inclusion of such ideas and adventure hooks renders this section a useful tool for most DMs who do not want to provide a static backdrop for technology that is relegated to a limited area.


Now here, things become pretty intriguing, at least to me: One of the basic and utterly jarring components of the basic Kingdom-building rules, even when supplemented by Legendary Games' superb expansions, would be the absence of a true means of properly advancing your kingdom. Sure, you can improve infrastructure etc., but you won't be able to create a bastion of enlightened scholars amid the savages, a kind of Neo-Atlantis/Azlant/Ankheshel. Indeed, the kingdom-building rules, by virtue of their origin, assume a medieval backdrop. If your campaign has a different scope, perhaps even spanning the lifetimes of multiple characters, then this will be a full-blown example in awesomeness: What am I talking about? Technology-levels for kingdom-building with concise definitions of which goods and buildings become available, which sciences are taught, etc. And yes, the respective technology tiers do sport rules-relevant benefits for the kingdoms that achieve them and bonuses for researching all technologies. I absolutely adore this chapter since, to me, it completely came out of left field - and yes, there is a huge array of new buildings to create, including android factories and orbital space stations. That's awesome. i mean, who wouldn't want to go all JLA on the bad guys? At the same time, there is one tiny component the system imho ought to have covered in a slightly different manner: Tier-advancement. As provided, the guidelines assume essentially a list of prerequisites that must be met regarding buildings and technology, but personally, I would have enjoyed a cost to upgrade once all the prerequisites are met - essentially a conscious push to move into the next age. It should be noted, however, that this very much represents a personal preference and thus does not negatively influence my verdict - plus, one can always include such an obstacle.


Okay, after this not only extremely useful, but also surprisingly inspired chapter, we finally move to what I thought this book was all about when I first laid eyes on it: Technological items. Though, once again, this claim just now would be ultimately just as reductive as my previous conception of what this contains. Let me elaborate: The very inclusion of the material plastic with concise stats is pretty much a "Why has no one done this before?" facepalm-moment - and I mean that in the most flattering way: With decreased weight and electricity resistance, plastic is an interesting material indeed. At the same time, though, it does receive vulnerability to fire, which results in a somewhat wonky interaction: Energy damage to objects is usually halved and ignores hardness - so am I correct in the assumption that this halving does not occur for fire damage? It would only make sense, but ultimately, this constitutes a pretty minor issue.


Beyond plastics, there is a further component that has galled me about the implementation of technology in most given rules-contexts: The assumption of total functionality vs. being broken - the totality of both conditions is a component, wherein not only the internal game world's consistency slightly suffers, but also a crucial deviation from the super-science/pulp/science-fantasy tropes the very rules are supposed to provide for. Ultimately, I can get behind class-specific technology that only works for one type of character the same way I can accept psionics and magic, but once you render this an item-class, this assumption fell away and the exclusivity-clause was removed. Enter this book.


The basic concept is absolutely iconic and genius and perfectly encapsulated in the term "augmentations" - these can be added to a given piece of equipment by characters sporting the Craft Technological Arms and Armor feat akin to how magic works, with a base price of magnitude squared times an amount of gold and magnitude also governing the Craft DC. Now annoyingly, formatting has botched in the bullet point-list that contains these rules - while not rendering the rules opaque in any way, the glitch is so obvious that even casual glimpses should have caught it. But I'll set that aside to talk about what can be done: From radioactive to monofilament enhancements in different degrees of efficiency, the augmentations are awesome and pretty much represent the fulfillment of my craving for orcs that tack barely understood chainsaws to their axes. And yes, I came to roleplaying games over Warhammer. From graviton hammers to chainsaw swords to plasma-axe muskets, the items herein, some of which receive lavish full-color artworks, uniformly deserve praise on a conceptual level. Interesting here would be that, while there are very minor hiccups here and there, the rules-language, traditionally not exactly the strongest forte of Fat Goblin Games, is up to a pretty high standard and supplements the logical consistency of the items provided - chain-blades, once activated, for example penalize Stealth heavily.


When technology becomes more relevant in warfare, it'll be only a matter of time before espionage and sabotage become a threat - and thus, the new cause for glitches gremlinite should be considered a further and potentially narratively rewarding addition to the glitch-rules. Beyond these, there is a pretty basic and wide-spread trope of certain items with an ingrained personality - whether it's a quantum processor-powered AI, a ghost in the shell or a HAL 9000 - AIs are inextricably linked to scifi and fantastic technology. Thus, the rules for actually creating AIs is simple - and the sample item "possessed" by this AI is also rather interesting. Now if that were not enough, what about adding a slew of mythic into the fray, providing new legendary item abilities that most certainly will see use by the Genius, Futurist and Stranger paths, should they feature in your game -what about e.g. overclocking beams to make them AoE? Yeah, ouch! What about an absolutely inspired and unwieldy artifact that can make a high-level dungeon indeed rather strategic? New vehicle propulsion options, from combustion engines to fusion?


The pdf closes with 4 feats that allow you to create Robots, scavenge parts of technological items for your crafting or make AIs. And there is a feat that lets you unarmed punch empty items to get one final charge out of them - thankfully with a cap to prevent abuse.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a mixed bag - on the one hand, the rules-language is much more precise than I expected it to be, to the point where actually, I don't have any proper complaints that would truly detract from this book -so kudos to editor Lucus Palosaari! On the other hand, there are some obviously rushed glitches regarding formatting that annoyed me to no end -though it should be noted, that for most people out there, the amount of glitches will not be within annoyance parameters. The pdf does sport a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with quite a few nice, original full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, though the bookmarks do sport a couple of wonderful names like"h.izabluogbq3a" before providing the proper (and correctly named) bookmarks - so yes, existent, but you should scroll down - and another example of the avoidable glitches that haunt this pdf.


When this landed on my pile to review, I was admittedly less than excited - Fat Goblin Games has a track record with me of having interesting concepts (and since John Bennett took the reins as line-developer, an actually great horror setting!), but issues with the finer rules-interactions. So analyzing a 40+ page book of rules was not exactly my definition of a good time. At this point, I wish to sincerely apologize for this obviously less than flattering preconception. Fat Goblin Games and author Garrett Guillotte have delivered a massive supplemental book that is so much better than I ever anticipated it would be. I expected a somewhat reductive and repetitive accumulation of Technological items herein - what I instead got can be considered the massive appendix for the Technology rules.


In some of my previous reviews pertaining subsystems generated by Paizo, I lamented the lack of synergy and further support for systems once established, while at the same time pointing out that this is pretty much where 3pps can take control and deliver. This book makes perfect use of this thesis - not only do we get some material for mythic fans, the kingdom-building component essentially provides the backdrop for campaigns to take a whole new scope: Instead of just focusing on one age or dynasty, one can utilize these to essentially make kingdom-building, Sid Meier's Civilization-edition. Indeed, a capable GM can just slot more tiers in between for a finer gradient between tiers and expand the concept further, allowing you to potentially tell stories of truly epic scope and breadth. If you've been following my reviews for a while, you'll note that this simple fact is something I value over almost anything else - beyond the mechanics of augmentations, the new items and AI-rules, it is the rules-framework to tell a *NEW* type of story that was previously not supported by a given system that ultimately makes me grin, makes me happy, makes me cherish a product.


And sometimes, I get lucky - first Alexander Augunas' Microsized Adventures, now this book - and two whole new inspiring ideas take form: When combining the two, you could conceivably play characters shrunken to enter an organism and fight diseases with their nanite "subjects" while kingdom-building the immune system. Yes, I'm actually going to run this for my group.


What I'm trying to say here is: This book ranks among the few truly inspired crunch book that manage to be innovative. At the same time, I do have a criticism of this book and that ultimately boils down to scope: Whether it's AIs, augmentations, tiers - I found myself ultimately wishing each of the cool components herein had seen more support and yes, I'd definitely would be very interested in a sequel - the ideas featured herein are so good, I actually would have loved to see them expanded beyond their page-count. Now for the amount of content provided, this is an inexpensive pdf and I wholeheartedly encourage you all to check this out - I don't mention books of the superb quality of Microsized Adventures lightly in the context of other books.


At the same time, though, the (kind of) professional reviewer has to grit his teeth and point out that this pdf is not perfect; it does have flaws and I wished the glitches I noted weren't there. If this were either more focused or longer or had no glitches, we'd have a definite candidate for my Top ten of 2015 here. It's that good. Alas, there are some hiccups in presentation and some concepts that could imho have benefited from more space to render them clearer. So no, I can't rate this the full 5 stars - I should probably round down. But know what? that would be a disservice to the book and ultimately, you, my readers. This book is inspiring and I always have and always will prefer innovation and inspiration over bland mechanical perfection - and here, this book delivers in spades. hence my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5, and yes, this book gets my seal of approval - it is simply too much fun, too inspired to be bogged down by the glitches, though the more nitpicky among you should remember that they're here and probably rather round down.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Fantastic Technology
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Mini-Dungeon #019: The Goblin Warren
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/26/2015 06:34:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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


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


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


Still here?

All right!


Situated amidst a barrow thought to be curse, the quasit Viletongue has had a good run - what demon doesn't delight in driving mortal priests mad and have them kill one another? Alack and alas, today, he is still imprisoned, though he has found new ears to whisper in - those of goblins. Bilemaw the Impaler and his warparty, complete with goblin dogs, has since moved in and followed the quasit. The PCs, sent to eradicate the goblins, may actually do the crafty outsider a favor by re-consecrating a desecrated shrine that ironically makes it harder for the demon to escape. So yeah, the PCs may unintentionally unleash a pretty nasty beast...


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!


I wasn't looking forward to Jonathan Ely's Goblin Warrens, mainly due to hating the exceedingly generic hobgoblin lair. With an interesting shape and set-up, traps thrown in the mix and a background story as well as things to do beyond "kill everything", this one is a proof of an author who is coming into his game - seeing how limited the space allotted is, I was pretty impressed by the level of detail provided and implied and firmly believe that a capable GM can make this warren rather memorable, in spite of the classic themes. Now, sure, this does not reinvent the wheel, but is has fun ideas and deserves a rating as a good mini-dungeon, scoring a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #019: The Goblin Warren
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Mythic Minis 67: Goblin Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/26/2015 06:32:02
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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


-Burn! Burn! Burn!: +1d4+tier fire damage when attacking with mundane and alchemical fire; also greatly increases saves vs. catching fire AND allowing you to expend mythic power to negate fire resistance or hardness. Nice one!


-Deafening Explosion: Adds deafening effect to your bombs, with splash damage deafening for shorter durations.


-Demoralizing Lash: It you hit a creature that is shaken, increase condition severity to frightened, with shaken following. Also increases the demoralize effect on adversaries witnessing your assault. Nice combo-potential.


-Fire Hand: Makes non-mythic foes always have to check versus catching fire; also allows you to use surge die to increase the DC. Cool!


-Fire Tamer: Increase save bonus to +4 and apply it to all fire effects; Also, at-will spark and mythic-power-based quench. CL = tier.


-Flame Heart: Fire resistance increases to 10; use mythic power for 5 times tier fire resistance without needing to expend an action. Also: "When casting fire spells with the fire descriptor or throwing alchemist bombs that deal fire damage, treat your caster level or alchemist level as though it was." I think something is missing here - I have no idea what this sentence is supposed to mean.


-Focusing Blow: Help allies shake off mind-control; non-hobgoblins need to take at least 10 points of damage and get +1 to the save per 10 points inflicted. Use mythic power to crit your allies and render 1/2 the damage nonlethal, while still treating it as full damage for the purpose of this feat.


-Goblin Gunslinger: Bull rush or trip foes at range via medium-sized firearms, using Dex instead of Str for CMB. On a critical hit, this behaves as Awesome Blow. The maneuver is penalized by -5, with non-mythic targets sporting less pronounced penalties. On the nitpicky side, awesome blow may behave like a maneuver, but it technically is not one, though the pdf's wording implies just that.


-Hobgoblin Discipline: +1/3 tier bonus to the effects of the base feat; double that versus fear-based effects; expend a mythic power to share the benefits with all hobgoblins within 30 ft. increasing the bonus if there are enough hobgoblins around. Okay one.


-Tangle Feet: Uses of +1/2 mythic tier versus larger creatures per round; when only using it against one target, increase the Acrobatics DC by tier, by 1/2 tier when affecting multiple creatures. Interesting one!


-Taskmaster: Use it as swift or move action, with cap being creatures not exceeding your HD and tier. If used as a standard action, +2 atk, damage and Will saves vs. mind-influencing effects. Use mythic power to negate the AC-penalty and skill-penalty or retain the penalty and extend the effects to tier round.


There also is a feat on the SRD-page:


-Terrorizing Display: Use Dazzling Display as a standard action; as a move at -5; as a swift action at -10. Allies within 30 ft get +2 atk, damage and Will saves vs. mind-influencing effects; allies between 30 and 60 ft away get +1; affected allies get -2 to AC and skill checks; Use mythic power to negate the penalty or extend the duration.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though there are some glitches here. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jason Nelson and Robert Brookes deliver an interesting array of (Hob-)Goblin-themed feats herein and more often than not, the rules-decisions made feel concise and sensible, providing more than just a boring mechanical escalation. That being said, though I do enjoy this pdf, it also has minor wording hiccups and some of the feats herein feel like they are a tad bit less awesome than others. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 67: Goblin Feats
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Monster Advancement: Enhanced Fey
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2015 03:02:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Monster Advancement-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


In case you haven't read my review of the previous Monster Advancement-installment - the basic premise of this series is simple: provide a concise, template-based toolkit to customize your creatures and make them more interesting than slapping a bland simple template on it - instead, the goal of these book and their achievement lies within the construction of a concise, big toolkit for GMs to use when crafting the respective monsters.


As in the previous installment, novice GMs do receive some advice on properly codified DR-stacking and researching the unique abilities sported by the modified fey featured herein and yes, there are obviously some thematic overlaps with the previous installment on undead - you will find breath weapons herein (again, with 3 damage-entries per CR), abilities that allow you to create fey with elemental themes and obviously, basic monster abilities like regeneration et al. are mong the tools a GM can add to fey via this toolkit.


Now if you think that this constitutes a carbon copy of the previous installment, you'd be wrong - obviously, the divine holy/unholy component is less pronounced here and mastery of animals and plants can be found in a multitude of cases herein. The general theme of luck/misfortune and curses also suffuses the modifications available within these pages. Intoxicating frolicking, commanding confused characters and euphoria-inducing abilities complement the themes of the fey further, while evasion and scavenging in bardic trickery, poison kisses and the like also feature herein. If, like me, you enjoy supplements and publishers actually cross-promoting, psioncis and pact magic-support will most certainly bring a smile to your face.


In the case of the optional flaws that reward PCs doing their legwork and the option for fey to go into dormancy, further options enhance the respective creature types further. Now if you've been designing monsters, you'll run into one issue: Fey traits pretty much suck. Not as bad as giants, but oh boy. Thus I pretty much enjoyed the fact that fey may scavenge in the properties and immunities of other creature types. Thankfully and unlike just about every monster book I've read, general suggestions to improve fey without changing the component of fragility and trickery can be found herein - though personally, I consider it a pity that no rules for super-illusion fey-glamers are provided.


The pdf also provides advice on properly using the template and 6 sample creatures made with the rules herein.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks beyond the cover art, but needs none. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Julian Neale had a tough task in this pdf - I'ma huge fan of fey and loathe how much they tend to suck in PFRPG and how the basic fey fail to convey the component of alien psychology that ultimately renders fey distinct and memorable. Well, the former is not fixed, but that is not the task of a crunch book; what is fixed, though, would be an array of problems regarding predictability when exactly that concept should be anathema to fey. The toolkit presented within these pages is fun, concise, easy to use and over all, a good addition to a GM's arsenal. At the same time, though, I found myself wishing more than once that there was slightly less overlap with the undead and, more importantly, that this sported a means for fey to expand their penchant for illusions beyond the capabilities and providence of mortals. It should also be noted that this toolkit does not cover the abilities traditionally associated with the unseelie - shadowtheft and changeling-making, undead mastery and time-control would not be aspects found herein, rendering the toolkit very much in tradition with the depiction of mainstream fey by necessity of design-assignment.


At the same time, though, I felt as though exactly this rendered the overall toolkit feeling slightly less encompassing than the previous one, even though it is longer. However, at the same time, this pdf actually tries to do what few pdfs try - fix something that is not working as it should. This is a pretty big deal for me, for especially novice GMs should certainly find some sound advice herein to make their fey last longer and feel more efficient...and magical. Hence, I can still award this 5 stars + seal of approval, for what is here, is rather great.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Advancement: Enhanced Fey
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Mythic Minis 66: Sorcerer Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2015 03:00:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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


-Create Sanguine Elixir: You do not lose access to a bloodline power when making a sanguine elixir whose minimum level is less than tier; less than 2 x tier when expending mythic power. Imbibers may also delay the onset of the elixir's effects by tier rounds; the drinker's effective level would be your sorceror level or HD + 1/2 tier, whichever is lower. Damn cool one!


-Destructive Dispel: +1/2 tier to DC versus the stun; non-mythic creatures extend the stun/sickened duration to 1/2 tier rounds. When using an area dispel, expend mythic power stagger and sicken targets until your next turn, with fort to negate for mythic creatures, partially negates for non-mythic foes. Nice!


-Dispel Synergy: Penalty of the opponent extends to all spells, not just your own, for 1/2 mythic tier rounds.


-Evolved Familiar: Adds either 2 1-point or a 2-point evolution. Solid, though I think the evolved familiars should lose the evolutions upon leaving your service.


-Extra Cantrips or Orisons: Add +1 cantrip or orison each tier; alternatively add a mythic version of a cantrip or orison you know.


-Improved Eldritch Heritage: +1 bloodline bonus feat (or mythic variant); also, you're treated as having full character level for the purpose of 3rd and 9th level bloodline abilities.


-Greater Eldritch Heritage: Gain bloodline powers at your full level and use full level to determine effects.


-Spell Specialization: Add the communal, greater, lesser, mass versions of the spell or even alternate versions designated by Roman numerals to your list of spells known. Adding metamagic to the specialized spell does not increase the casting duration. Use mythic power to cast the mythic or mythic augmented versions of the spell, at tier-2 for the purpose of qualifying for augments. Mechanically interesting tie-in with the tier.



-Greater Spell Specialization: Cast spontaneously the communal, greater, lesser, mass versions of the spell or even alternate versions designated by Roman numerals. Adding metamagic to the specialized spell does not increase the casting duration. Mythic Spell Focus allows you to change your specialized spell to one of the same school via a long meditation and the expenditure of mythic power. Damn cool - this not only makes the concept viable, but it also makes the character more flexible.


-Sorcerous Bloodstrike: +1/2 mythic tier uses per day; also activate it whenever you reduce a creature to 0 or less HP with a spell/spell-like/supernatural abilities. Additionally, 1/day, regain 1 mythic power when defeating a mythic foe via a spell, but only if the target's tier is at least 1/2 yours.


-Sorcerous Strike: Add a mythic power-powered effect as a free action when delivering bloodline powers through an unarmed strike. The ability may only have a swift action or less to activate.


Conclusion:

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


Jason Nelson, Jonathan H. Keith, Robert Brookes - gentlemen, this one is fine indeed: With several new tricks and combos facilitated by these feats and several interesting mechanical design-decisions, this is a great example for what the series can do with feats. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 66: Sorcerer Feats
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B23: Ruins of Gilead
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2015 03:17:35
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This being an adventure-review, the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! There is nothing good on jungle islands. EVER. Alas, this crucial piece of wisdom was not imparted upon the hapless treasure hunting team sent by the Northern Pass Trading Company under the command of Henry Beckett and the experienced hunter Bethany Tirsbury. Rule #2 when finding a ruined city and unearthing a gilded idol: Destroy it ASAP, with extreme prejudice, but only after determining that destroying it does not set the unavoidable, evil entity trapped inside free. If it would pursue other methods. The expedition has not heard about this one either, unearthing the idol containing the demon Aravax, who happily subsequently drove the expedition into cheerful slaughter and hatred. All of this is history - and now, the PCs have been sent to the island to succeed where the first expedition failed and preferably, return with valuable artifacts that do not kill everyone.


So, whether you elect to include a proper mission briefing or not, this module's meat begins upon the PCs finding the first corpse...and then more. A trail of grisly breadcrumbs leads them right towards the former camp of the expedition (fully mapped, btw.), where they happen upon the grisly remains of a massacre and, once dramaturgy dictates it's time to enhance the mood of dilapidation further, a GM can spring Bethany upon the players - the clearly disheveled and insane woman makes for a complex social scene with plentiful read-aloud-text for GMs less adept at improvising text. Oddly, the madwoman demands at the threat of violence that the PCs read the journal of Henry (depicted as a kind of hand-out in its own font, should you elect to simply print out and cut out that section of the page) - Bethany is obviously illiterate and while the barbarian-class to which she belongs no longer prescribes this drawback, I consider it sensible as an assumption for any quasi-medieval setting -at least in my home-game, peasants do not read.


Actually reading the text sets Bethany on a deadly course that may be exploited by the PCs - driven into a paranoid obsession, she seeks to find and kill Henry, drive Aravax from the idol and kill it and then claim her prize - obviously, PCs should realize that she is just another unwitting pawn of this corruptive influence - but still, when played right, they may use the confused woman... After this odd visitor and plundering the camp (potentially finding a weird item), the PCs will probably be on their way towards the eponymous ruins of Gilead. Haunted by swarms of deadly hornets and hostile guardian spirits, the PCs make their way to the obelisk at the center of the city - where an intriguing puzzle-combat begins: Essentially, activating the magical mechanism isn't easy and more and more guardian spirits arrive, though their relatively straight-forward and dumb programming means that they can be outfoxed by smart PCs, thus allowing them to have brains trump brawns in an encounter that plays in a surprisingly fun manner. However, this is only the beginning - with the map thus in hand, the PCs are off to the mapped and remote temple that contains Aravax' idol - which btw. includes a nasty trap that may drown you in wall of force-like blood. Beyond this ominous threshold, the vile idol and Henry await - the chosen of the demonic spirit sporting unique, strange abilities that render him a more formidable foe than the sum of his class levels. Once again, communication with the obsessed man is lavishly detailed - and defeating him does not end the threat, which only ends once the PCs deal with the idol in a permanent manner and defeat the evil within once and for all. Oh, and yes - the PCs better not dawdle, for Henry's ritual is a ticking clock...


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to AAW Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a blend of stock and original art, the latter of which is pretty awesome. Cartography is solid and in full color and comes with player-friendly versions. The adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


By all means, I should hate Jeffrey Gomez' Ruins of Gilead. The paranoia-expedition and its tropes are almost by-the-book pulp tropes and indeed, if you subtract the rules, you could arguably play this in ANY setting, even a real world one à la CoC. This module does not reinvent the wheel - but it does sport something I thoroughly enjoy about it - an excellent pacing. Never is an investigation lagging, no dearth of clues - the module runs like a pretty smooth and well-oiled machine and quickly delivers what it sets out to do. Add to that the nice tidbits, from the ability to use the terrain to negate the threat of foes to some iconic imagery and variants and I, surprisingly, actually enjoyed this module far more than I anticipated. It also ran smoothly in an easy 6-hours playtest, though slower groups can probably take up to 4 sessions, depending on the pace set by the GM.


In the end, this is clearly a nice little love-letter to the pulp-genre's classic tropes and showcases a promising author from whom I most certainly would like to read more. My final verdict clocks in at 4 stars, with an explicit recommendation for less experienced GMs who have an issue with improvising NPC-interactions.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
B23: Ruins of Gilead
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Mythic Minis 65: Planetouched Feats III
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2015 03:14:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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


-Angel Wings: Your wings radiate light and you increase you fly speed by +10 ft. per 3 tiers. Spend one mythic power to increase maneuverability to good for mythic tier minutes.


-Angelic Blood: save-bonus vs. evil increases to +4; said bonus also applies to check to remove/dispel such effects. When an undead or creature with the evil subtype deals bleed or blood drain to you, you may as an immediate action attack the target with a touch attack, your blood acting as holy water.


-Angelic Flesh: Brazen Flesh nets fire resistance 10, +5 per 5 mythic tiers and double surge-effectiveness when saving vs. fire; Golden Flesh nets a saving throw bonus increased to +4; Increase CL of light/illusion (pattern) spells by 1/2 surge die result; Silver Flesh also increases the bonus and adds 1/2 surge die when attacking creatures with DR/silver with unarmed strikes or natural weapons for iterative attacks; Steel Flesh increases AC-bonus to +2 and has a similar effect like silver flesh, but for creatures with DR/cold iron. Very interesting one!


-Celestial Servant: Companion, mount, etc. treats natural weapons as good and does not apply its SR versus your own tricks, but increases it by 1/2 tier versus evil descriptor spells7effects or those originating from fiends, half-fiends, etc. Aligned attacks are very strong, so not sold on this per se.


-Channel Force: +2 to CMB made to push/pull; expend mythic power to increase the distance by 5 ft. per 1d6 of the channel; also still move the target on a made save. I LOVE this one -cool rules-tie-ins and interesting options!


-Improved Channel Force: Further +2 and use mythic power to increase DC and length of the effect generated, with different shapes for lines and cones.


-Greater Channel Force: Further +2 to CMB and choose which targets to push and which to pull; also adds stagger effect for mythic power or modify your burst's size. Interesting!


-Heavenly Radiance: Use mythic power to use the mythic or augmented versions of aasimar racial spell abilities.


-Metallic Wings: Deal damage as a creature of +1 size with your wings and treat them as either cold iron or silver. Spend 1 mythic power to use them as primary natural weapons. Cool!


Conclusion:

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


Jeff Lee and Jonathan H. Keith deliver an intriguing array of aasimar-themed mythic feats for the champions of the heavens, with concepts herein being on the high-end. With several unique options, this can be considered one of the more interesting mythic minis, though I'm not sold on Celestial Servant's effects being a good idea regarding the inclusion of it in a given game. However, at the same time, the powerful Force Channel-tree is mechanically fun and plays just as well, offsetting this minor complaint - so in the end, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 65: Planetouched Feats III
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Mythic Minis 64: Divine Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2015 03:12:05
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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


-Abundant Revelations: + 1/2 mythic tier uses of chosen revelation; You change the revelation to which this applies by spending 1 mythic power upon meditating to refresh your spellcasting ability.


-Channeled Revival: Adds healing for allies in range of the effect as if you had expended channel energy for this purpose. The target of the channeled revival does not receive this healing. Expend one use of mythic power and mythic breath of life the target. If you can cast breath of life, you can expend mythic power or an equal number of channel energy uses to cast the mythic or augmented versions of the spell. I'm not sure I'm reading this correctly - how much mythic power? One? Regular (1 or 2 at 9th tier)?


-Channeling Scourge: +tier to cleric levels for determining channel energy damage dice and DC. Spend 1 mythic power to extend the effect by 5 ft., +5 ft per mythic tiers. I consider this one to be too strong; the damage-escalation feels excessive.


-Contingent Channeling: If a target imbued is reduced to 0 HP, the character triggers a 30-ft burst of positive healing energy, while ALSO damaging undead. Has synergy with Selective Channeling. I think this effect should cost mythic power - this is essentially a powerful contingency healing with area effect.


-Create Reliquary Arms and Shields: Your creation can serve any creature serving your religion/deity. Mythic creatures wielding it can spend mythic power to consecrate/desecrate as an SP, centered on the item. When crafting the item, you can also imbue mythic divine spells equal to your tier in the object by expending mythic power. Once completed, mythic divine spellcasters following your patron deity may spend mythic power to cast these spells. You may change the imbued spells. I really like this one, even though, personally, I'd prevent some spells from being included in items like this!


-Crusader's Fist: Spend 1 mythic power to have Crusader's Fist's bonus damage also multiply on a crit. Numerical escalation, and for crits to boot. Not a fan.


-Double Bane: For mythic tier rounds per day, apply bane to two weapons while only expending 1 round of bane. If you hit the same creature with both bane weapons in a round, you may expend mythic power to make the second attack a critical threat. Nasty, cool and mechanically interesting. Like it.


-Extra Bane: Spend mythic power to extend the bane duration by 1/2 tier. these rounds do not count against your maximum, but end immediately upon changing the bane effect. Awesome!


-Instant Judgment: Spend 1 mythic power to pronounce a judgment or change an active one as a free action.


-Menacing Bane: Weapon is considered BOTH menacing and bane; synergy with Double Bane. Nice.


-Merciful Bane: When using non-lethal damage via bane, you increase the critical multiplier by 1/2 your tier. I really like nonlethal...wait. WHAT? + 1/2 TIER? I can break x10 crit damage with this. Not gonna happen in my game.


The SRD page has even more material:


-Planar Wild Shape: Spend +2 wild shape uses and 2 mythic power to wild-shape into half-fiend or half-celestial animal forms. Nice.


-Righteous Healing: Maximizes all your cure spells while a judgment is in effect. This is pretty powerful - imho a tad bit too powerful.


-Shapeshifting Hunter: Whenever you reduce a favored enemy (with minimum HD equal to yours -4) to -1 hit points or less, you regain one use of wild shape. While it has a means of preventing being kitten'd at higher levels, I'd still have preferred an absolute cap based on mythic tier, with mythic power as a means to increase the cap/daily uses beyond tier uses to prevent a limited resource being unlimited. Some always tries to cheese options like this.


-Shared Judgment: +1 ally can share in the judgment per tier you have. OUCH!


-Spell Bane: Use mythic power to force two saves with your Spell bane, targets taking the worse result.


Conclusion:

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


Jason Nelson, Jonathan H. Keith and Robert Brookes' divine feats have been a mixed bag for me - I am wary of the balance implications of quite a few of these feats, with several breaking even the increased power-levels of mythic gameplay. At the same time, some of the options herein are pretty creative and honestly, a capable GM can enforce additional restrictions on some of the less refined feats herein. While one of the more problematic mythic feat-collections out there, this is not bad per se and thus, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 64: Divine Feats
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Path of War Expanded: Harbinger
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2015 03:02:23
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Before we dive into the analysis of this pdf, let me first make some things clear -I am not going to judge this pdf as per the power-level of the base game and instead take a look at it in the context of Path of War and its increased power-level -anything different would be rather ridiculous regarding an expansion to said system, after all. Conversely, this is not going to be a rehash of all my different takes on individual rules-decisions of Path of War that ultimately, to me, are unnecessary design-relics. If you're not familiar with the gripes I have with the base-system (and the opinions which diverged from mine on that, after all, I do not consider my reviews to be the only valid opinion!), you can read up on them in the extensive discussion on my site and certain boards. Hence, I will try to limit my complaining about these old gripes to a minimum, should I encounter them. Got all of that? Great!



This pdf introduces a new Path of War-class, the Harbinger, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial melee weapons, light armor and shields. The harbinger begins play with 5 maneuvers known, 3 of which can be readied and 1 stance, increasing this to 16 known, 10 readied and 6 stances at 20th level. Maneuvers may be chosen from Cursed Razor, Primal Fury, Shattered Mirror and Veiled Moon. For my issues with the old disciplines, please check my reviews of those. I'll return to the new disciplines later. Harbingers can be considered the brooding anti-heroes, the dark bringers of woe and as such, contemplating1 0 minutes of negativity allows the harbinger to ready other maneuvers. In order to regain spent maneuvers in combat, Dark Claim is used - as a swift action, the harbinger can claim a creature in close range she can see - this lasts for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 her class level.



A harbinger can only have up to Int-mod creatures claimed at a given time, though such creatures provoke AoOs when leaving squares threatened by the harbinger with the withdraw action. The harbinger automatically knows the location of claimed creatures, though creatures not seen still receive total concealment and this does not prevent flanking etc. Whenever the harbinger activates this class feature, she recovers one maneuver and when she vanquishes a claimed target, she recovers Int-mod maneuvers. Alternatively, a harbinger may focus and spend a standard action to regain a maneuver. This mechanic is versatile indeed and worked pretty well in my playtest - while I personally prefer maneuver regaining to have a drawback to provide a more strategic process (and a playing experience with more high/low-phases), I really enjoyed how this plays out -clever tactics are rewarded: If played smartly, a harbinger will not want for maneuvers, though they *can* run out of them, requiring the expenditure of actions. Personally, I do believe it should be easier to run out of maneuvers. Still, the tying of the mechanic to setting up future maneuver-recoveries puts player agenda higher on the level, without providing the warlord's imho too significant benefits for doing so. More importantly, this enhances the skirmisher playing experience the class obviously goes for.



First level harbingers add 1/2 their Int-mod to attack rolls, 10th level harbingers also add full Int-mod to damage rolls, offsetting their 3/4 BAB. I am NOT a fan of dual stats to any roll, but that is documented by now, alongside the obvious means to min-max the s*** out of such a set up, right? They also get +10 ft. movement rate, increasing this by a further 10 ft at 10th level. At 2nd level, the class gets Dark Focus - a kind of specialization on one discipline, which nets +1 competence bonus to atk and save DCs with boosts and strikes of said discipline, increasing the bonus by a further +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 6th level nets wither Advanced Study or Discipline Focus as a bonus feat; 10th level nets a second discipline and 14th level provides the option to spontaneously expend a maneuver readied to spontaneously perform a maneuver known from the Dark Focus, which has a level equal to or lower than the expended maneuver. Finally, 20th level makes all maneuvers known of the chosen disciplines count as readied in addition to the ones readied regularly.



At 3rd level, harbingers may 1/encounter (thankfully now defined in in-game time in Path of War, so no more complaints regarding that!) move up to her speed as a swift action, increasing this by +1/encounter at 9th and 15th level; however, at these very same levels, harbingers can also opt for fly speed, swim speed and immunity to inhaled toxins/no more breathing required, or climb speed with bonuses to disarm and grapple OR the ability to teleport up to her speed as a move action - while the latter sounds like it is the most powerful of these, that would be a flawed assumption - the action economy versatility does somewhat balance these out, though teleport and flight remain clearly the stronger options. On a nitpicky side, though, I do believe that this short-range teleport ability does need to specify that it is a conjuration [teleport]-effect. Why? To maintain balance with existing mechanics that block teleportation-effects. Still, not a grievous oversight here.



At 4th level, the harbinger may initiate a readied strike as an immediate action once per encounter whenever she reduces a foe to 0 Hp or below, with the strike being required to have an initiation action of one standard action, +1/encounter use at 10th and 16th level. The limit helps to keep this in line and makes it a good resort when a harbinger needs an extra oomph. Now granted, this ability, while not looking like much on paper, is actually very powerful - seeing how, in many games, the GMs are not as adept at drawing out combats, these abilities may be considered very painful for a continuous micro-novaing through "small" encounters. 5th level provides a +2 bonus to AC and Ref when moving more than 10 ft. in a given round, rewarding alacrity - as does the 11th level ability, which allows for the movement of 1/2 movement as an immediate action 1/encounter. I like this ability per se, but does it have the capacity to waste e.g. attacks or spells executed against the harbinger? This messing with the movement economy is not bad, but some clarification would be nice.



As a nice mind game, at-will magic aura at 7th level makes for a flavorful ability, though one that imho would make sense at a lower level. 8th level nets better flanking and 12th level makes claimed targets shaken. 13th level provides one nasty control-trick - for Int-mod rounds, the harbinger may treat close range as melee reach for the purpose of initiating strikes, smartly avoiding the whole mess with reach and threatened areas - which is good! However, in an odd kind of way, the ability somewhat feels like it actually contradicts how the class plays - first, you're all about mobility and then, you extend your reach like a turret? Odd and an ability that ultimately feels like a jarring change of pace that does not fit within the frame of the class and its feel - like a foreign object. This ability fits better into a different class. 18th level allows for strike initiation (strikes with standard action initiation only) as an AoO and 19th level strikes IGNORE ALL IMMUNITIES. Ouch!



Okay, so the base frame of this class is very interesting and it is one of the most solid of the Path of War-frames provided so far - it also makes the flexible skirmisher concept, usually pretty hard to pull off, work very well, so yes, over all, I do enjoy the class, though it could use a tad bit more options to choose from among the class abilities to enhance the diversity among members of the class. However, I do see an issue and this would lie in the excessive increase of DCs - since the class uses Int for almost everything and does not suffer from a significant MAD, the sample builds, thanks to Dark Focus, managed a level of DC that surpassed other initiator classes and casters in direct comparison - with the power of the maneuvers, this constitutes a balance issue even within the context of Path of War even before taking other abilities into account, one that needs to be rectified.



Now there are two archetypes provided herein - the Crimson Countess and the Ravenlord. The Crimson Countess deals damage to creatures claimed - 1d4 at first, then 2d4 at 6th level, +1d4 every 4 levels thereafter. The ability per se is rather cool, though I have an issue with the damage being untyped - the lack of a means to negate the damage renders the character extremely potent against any threat that is short on HP and great on alternate damage-negation. This, theoretically, allows for very easy high-DR construct-slaying, for example. Applying a proper damage type would help here. At 2nd level, the crimson countess receives a pool of vitae points equal o the number of claimed targets, with a max storage capacity equal to the class level of the countess. The pool drops to 0 after 1 minute out of combat and the countess receives +1/2 Vitae points as morale bonus to atk and damage rolls made via maneuvers, +2 when executed against claimed creatures. The ability also scales with levels, providing unlocking additional means of utilizing vitae, with further untyped damage equal to her class level to all claimed creatures as a move action, additionally potentially providing 1d6 hp per creature claimed - the healing may be none too much, but it still makes me think that my countesses would carry bags of kittens around for handy claim-kills and infinite personal healing. *sigh*



On the plus-side, the ability does provide an expansion of the recovery options available, with higher levels netting forced teleportation (which should specify that the effect is a conjuration [teleport]-effect for the purpose of interaction with base rules) and a 1/encounter option to shove off half damage (or ability damage) to a target claimed creature - the latter can be extremely powerful, though the archetype actually prevents the worst of the ability's potential for OP abuse by establishing a minimum required amount of vitae to execute it, requiring a set-up. The capstone provides an exceedingly lethal save or take damage ability, though one that thankfully does not suffer from the base class's increased DC-issue due to this replacing Dark Focus. On the awesome side, the class receives the powerful ability to turn into a big pool of blood and reform later, getting a bunch of unique benefits while in said form. This archetype, in a nutshell, replaces agility with reliable damage-output - though swift action movement is still here. I love the fluff of this glorious beast. The Crimson Countess actually will see some use in my game (ONLY as an NPC-class) with very minor tweaks and imho, this archetype play radically different, with the minimum of vitae points putting player agenda and planning higher on the agenda than I would have expected. This is not a cookie-cutter archetype and it is fun - some minor tweaks can make it work even within my conservative preferred power frame.



The second archetype, the Ravenlord receives a bird-exclusive animal companion with the harbinger's Int that shares in several class abilities - now the clue is that the ravenlord may have the companion execute maneuvers, though only one strike may be executed per round by the pair. The interesting component here would be that they also generate a small area of debuffing gloom whenever the OTHER executes a strike, allowing for a fluid (and EXCEEDINGLY fun) switching between roles and benefits. Also: They actually can be defended against by being designated in proper rules-terms - good, since the penalties are massive. Still, no complaints against this awesome mechanic. Higher levels net increased durability for the messenger and switching teleportation (again, insert core-rules-interaction-mechanic). While this archetype has the Dark Focus issue persist, if you take this one's issues away (which is none too hard for an experienced GM), you get a thoroughly compelling and interesting archetype I sincerely enjoy.



Now this book also sports new feats, which are interesting - there are two mutually-exclusive feats that penalize claimed creature's atk by the number of creatures claimed, but only either when attacking creatures other than you or against you - but you may only choose ONE of these feats - either you divert or you kite, essentially. Making claimed creatures provoke AoOs when 5-foot-stepping through your threatened squares is cool as it emphasizes the tactics of the class. I also like a feat that lets you claim up to +2 creatures with one action, but I do think it should have a low minimum level - my gut'd say 5th level. Adding debuff effects to claiming, additional uses for limited abilities - the usual is here. Reach through Darkness is odd - it lets you treat creatures claimed that are 35 or more feet away from you as though they were only 30 ft. away for the purpose of powers, maneuvers and spells - this means yes, the target is considered in range. This is VERY powerful, though the lack of mitigation of line of sight/effect still limits the feat a bit, rendering it only a slightly ridiculous, instead of utterly ridiculous- thankfully! The Sin Eater feat is interesting in my book - it nets you twice the HD of a vanquished claimed creature as temporary hit points. Jup, kitten-proof. Kudos! I also like the ability to increase your movement rate by 5 ft. per creature currently claimed. Over all, perhaps the most solid feat-chapter I've read in a given Path of War-installment, with plenty of unique tricks.



Now you are, of course, interested in the two new disciplines herein, right? Well, the first would be Cursed Razor. This discipline is associated with heavy and light blades and spears, with Spellcraft being the key skill. Shattered Mirror, the second discipline, focuses on heavy and light blades and close weapons and uses Craft (glassmaking, painting, sculpture or sketching. Broken Mirror offers stances to curse temporarily foes hit by you and strikes that add nasty spell failure chances (also to divine casters!) - nice! There also would be a pretty interesting counter, one where I actually *drum roll* LIKE the fact that it's powered by a skill-roll. Why? Because it's a magical counter and it requires the target to be cursed - this requires set-up and provides a grounding of the odd mechanics within the context of the gameworld. Oh, and it helps that the effect is not one that vastly benefits from maxing the hell out of the skill. That being said, the "cursed" caveat employed by some of these maneuvers imho should be defined, unless the harbinger-class is intended to be the ultimate oracle slayer.

Spreading curses inside your aura, using brands to disrupt abilities - the discipline as such provides an intriguing array of options. The maneuvers also allow for paralysis - which is problematic since the maneuver in question ignores immunity to the save-or-suck effect, which, especially considering the VERY high DCs harbingers can get, is too nasty in my book. That being said, long-range teleporting foes into adjacent non-difficult terrain, attack with bonus damage? Cool! Plus: It gets the descriptor-thingy right! High-level stealing of abilities is also evil and fun. This is, no hyperbole, my favorite discipline so far -strategic, bereft of legacy-rules and logic bugs and focused on nasty debuffs and unique tricks, it is powerful - at low levels, perhaps a bit too much. But still - over all, the most PFRPG-feeling discipline I've read so far, with issues stemming primarily from the nasty and excessive DC-stacking of the base class.



The Shattered Mirror lets you do something interesting - utilize, for example, the atk of the last attack of the foe, dealing nasty damage to the target. Know another thing? The Skill/attack-material here is intriguing - using a skill IN ADDITION to attack rolls to add benefits to strikes? Now that a) makes sense to me and b) is elegant and avoids the easy stacking of bonuses on skills - kudos! A very powerful maneuver would be Equivocate - choose a target: When said target is subject to a power, psi-like ability, spell or spell-like ability, you also receive the benefits - and vice versa. While VERY powerful, this also allows for a vast array of exciting tactics. That being said, it is WIDE OPEN for abuse. You can elect to fail saves, so this one ability makes dragon-slaying pretty easy - establish this one, no save, eat harm and watch the colossus eat it as well - have I mentioned that the effects apply to single target spells and so on, even mitigating invalid ranges. OUCH. This needs some serious nerfing in my book. I'm not a fan of using a craft-check in lieu of a save, but that one will not break the game. Doubling strikes and setting the range at close is powerful - as is a strike that curses a target to receive damage equal to what it inflicts - thankfully of the same type. Still - nasty and also open for abuse, though to a lesser extent. Imho, such a maneuver should have a caveat that precludes AoE-damage from being reflected multiple times. The capstone covers a save-or-suck strike that imprisons the target's soul - yeah, ouch. Cool imagery, though. Shattered Mirror is an odd discipline in that it imposes, much like Blue Mage/Mimic-style-classes, a task on the GM - namely one that should be *very* aware of the potential of NPC/Monster abilities being hijacked. This does not need to be an issue, but it could be one since that type of foresight usually is not required - and yes, I can see a GM walk face first into a brick wall here.

I maintain, though, that integrating a scaling-mechanism into the ability-hijacks would help maintain a balance for less experienced GMs.

Much like Cursed Razor, I really like this discipline - though, once again, there are some maneuvers herein that can, even in Path of War's context need a serious whack with the nerf-bat and restrictions - still, very much more refined and versatile than what I've seen so far and, especially regarding the design-aesthetics, closer to the conventions of PFRPG. This does feel more like an offering belonging to PFRPG for me.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant formal glitches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with nice artworks (partially stock) and is fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes in two versions, with a second one being more printer-friendly.



So, I was not looking forward to reviewing this. Path of War was a colossal amount of work and ended up, in spite of me trying to be very clear regarding my gripes and issues with the system, a controversial review. I honestly wondered whether I should review Path of War Expanded at all since the fans seemed to, at least partially, not want any criticism of the system and since the detractors just wanted me to bash it - neither of which ultimately was my intent. In the end, when Dreamscarred Press sent me the file, I admired the company's integrity and figured "What the hell."



I pulled out my copy and scheduled playtests for the material herein. Granted, playtests whose announcement did not elicit much excitement from my players, but when I actually read and ran this one, it turned out to be a thoroughly interesting class - my favorite in the whole series, in fact. The harbinger feels distinct, very distinct - more so than the original Path of War-classes. It is also, thankfully, bereft of any infinite-healing exploits ( with the exception of the Crimson Countess, who can be kitten'd and does get fast healing in blood pool form, but only late in the game), streamlines obsolete mechanics away and instead incorporates the heritage, including mechanics, in a frame that fits more organically with the PFRPG-rules. Chris Bennett and Jade Ripley have, on a formal level, created so far the best Path of War-class out there that has the most refined design-aesthetics. No make-believe damage types, no easy +20 atk.-exploits...nice.



That being said, purists may want to be aware of the very much annoying need to still specify what is "cursed" - which, ultimately, alas, could devolve in the final book into yet another inorganic make-believe term that requires massive revision on part of the GM like the loathsome '*&%§$ that is holy/unholy damage. Let's hope the definition does not go this route. EDIT, since two people have made this observation: Yes, I am aware of Cursed Razor specifying what "cursed" is in the intro-text of the discipline. Alas, there are a couple of issues with that: The cursed condition has no direct effects, which is a violation of how conditions work. Secondly, the term "cursed" is already heavily used in Pathfinder in a context where it does NOT pertain to effects of Cursed Razor, rendering the referring to the "condition" somewhat problematic. In order to future-proof this beast and render it less ambiguous, I'd strongly suggest a fixed definition of the condition set apart from the discipline as well as a new name for the condition that is not already assigned to a plethora of contexts. Or at least very specific referrals towards the condition as specified, as opposed to the other meanings of the word.When e.g. a boost refers to "when you initiate this boost you gain a +1 luck bonus to AC for each cursed opponent within medium range (100 feet + 10 feet per level), up to a maximum bonus of +5." there is no mention of the cursed condition, which creates a gaping loophole.



And yes, much like previous Path of War classes, the optimization threshold for the classes is pretty much non-existent - you *will* get a *very* efficient character out of this without needs to optimize; If you do, you'll get a beast, which also remains one of the reasons I am pretty much convinced that, as much as I like this class, the harbinger will not fit into low-powered games.



The harbinger is a fun glass cannon/controller/skirmisher-hybrid that plays very much like a magus on steroids that specializes in actually effective skirmishing tactics over move-into-melee and kill, something the PFRPG-rules usually discourage. Now yes, the class does have some balance-streamlining issues - the escalated save DCs are NASTY and blow the saves against the maneuvers to a point that is beyond what I'm comfortable with, even in a Path of War context. So yes, I do believe that there is some streamlining to be done here. At the same, I have to applaud that the archetypes actually radically change the playing experience. This pdf, essentially, constitutes very much what I hoped to see from the get-go from the series. Would I allow the class in a regular power-level game? No! The harbinger is a debuff monster that can be very nasty and its overall optimization-requirements are very, very low. But I actually *will* do the work to nerf it for use in my game. Why?

Because I genuinely like the concept of the class and because the new disciplines have some pretty unique tricks I will use for monster special abilities etc. and to make some REALLY nasty adversaries. Plus, I am actually going to use this class in more high-powered games for adversaries, since none of the design-decisions create a frame I can't fix or modify to suit my needs. So yes, this can be considered a good class, one that borders, in the context of Path of War, on the edge of greatness. And as a reviewer, I absolutely applaud what this pdf represents!



At the same time, I still am very much conscious of this class being not for every group - if what you observed in Path of War galled you to no end in components that pertained to balance as opposed to those related to design-aesthetics, then this will still not be made for you.



Now if the minor hiccups are cleaned up and with minor filing off of rough patches to streamline some unbalanced components, this has the potential to be glorious. My final verdict, after much deliberation, clocks in at 4 stars, mainly due to the balance-concerns I still have, even in a Path of War context. Note that, much like the original Path of War, this amps up the power-curve of your game and if you're conservative regarding PC-balance and interaction with established concepts (or if you're playing gritty low fantasy etc.), you should detract a star, though all herein is more refined than the first book. Consider my interest for the series reignited!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War Expanded: Harbinger
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Monster Advancement: Enhanced Undead
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2015 02:59:45
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the monster advancement-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So what do we have here? Essentially, this pdf provides one expanded, massive, extremely customizable templatey toolkit to enhance undead (d'uh), but with a focus of skeletal champions and zombie lords, thematically - so no, VtM-fans, you won't find a huge array of vampiric powers in here, though the modifications within this book are generic enough to be applicable to just about any undead - the primary focus (and thus mechanical execution) simply is different.



Basically, the template provides one special quality per 3 points of CR, though capable GMs should have no issue playing with the pretty simple base mechanics. At the same time, though, novices are not left in the proverbial dark with the undead: Instead, what we have here, is a concise depiction of the thought-process behind the undead - from researching special abilities to an actually concise explanation of DR-enhancement (and any designer who tried to write one of those will appreciate the effort!), the explanations are nice indeed.



Now as for the content provided, we actually go one step beyond what one would expect - with e.g. support for Pact magic by Radiance House Press, we can see an example of commendable 3pp-camraderie. Beyond this instance, though, we have more than basic augmentations: Necrotic pustules for plagued undead, disease-causing breaths, auras of despair, soul devouring, ability drain - you name the basic, nasty tricks and they're here. However, even beyond these, especially GMs in horror-themed campaigns (or those of you fed up with certain tactics) will cackle with glee upon reading of undead that can temporarily shut down divine casting, those that act as dimensional anchors or negative energy breath weapons.



Speaking of which: Julian Neale is one of the few designers I know who is *VERY MUCH* into the nit and grit of math - so much so that his designs tend to look less impressive than they actually are in gameplay: Here, though, this predilection works exceedingly in his favor - if you're going for a breath weapon, you'll have a massive table for each CR from 3 to 20, sporting 3 entries - one with smoothed and pretty continuous output, one that is swingy and, if that's how you roll (or rather, not roll), one containing damage averages. That is above and beyond of what I expected - kudos for going the extra mile!



With Kyuss-style vermin-mastery, better undead control, gaze attacks, object-ruining claws, desecrate auras, telekinesis, flawless two-weapon fighting and a significant and upgradeable array of SPs, the undead herein can be made truly deadly and versatile. Following a design-tenet near and dear to my heart that rewards players for their legwork, flaws are presented as optional modifications, as are specific armors. Skill bonuses and subtype-acquisition are listed as further means of modification. Beyond simply providing this massive toolkit and leaving you alone with it, advice on actually using it is provided - as are 6 sample undead, including a lamia juju zombie inquisitor or a mummy cleric.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting, while not perfect, can still be considered pretty good. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but ultimately needs none. The pdf comes fully and extensively bookmarked for your convenience.



Julian Neale, as mentioned above, is a designer who quite frankly should see more exposure - his humble and often intriguing designs, with their unpretentious subtlety can be pretty much a joy to read, especially when tackling monsters etc. This pdf, then, plays his strengths perfectly - what we have here is basically a nice, complex toolkit that blends basic and more complex options and allows a GM to quickly and efficiently customize the undead that his players have destroyed time and again and bring the fear of them back. As far as I'm concerned, I thoroughly enjoyed this toolkit and consider it definitely superior to simply slapping a bland "advanced" template on a creature - this kit changes tactics, and often in a rather crucial manner. Every fan of the undead and horror GMs in particular should take a look at this. While you won't find inspiring fluff herein, the toolkit and its rules very much make for a fun addition that *will* keep the players on their toes. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Advancement: Enhanced Undead
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Mini-Dungeon #018: Neotomas' Paradise
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2015 02:56:44
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



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



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



Still here?

All right!



So, beggars have been vanishing and thus, it falls to the PCs to venture forth into the sewers to find them - and yes, they may contact a disease more horrible than filth fever here - which is a nice deviation from the tired "contract filth fever"-routine...after all, bubonic plague is so much more unsettling. Exploring the dark caverns, the PCs not only have to brave rat swarms, they will also encounter a ghost of a slain beggar before finding the culprit of the disappearances - a nasty wererat slaver on a recruiting spree and by now transformed were-rat beggars...oh, and yes, the PCs can walk into a gelatinous cube.



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!



Michael Smith delivers a sewer level, but one of the good ones - with lighting, environmental hazards and actual chances for social interaction and some minor investigation, it is quite impressive to see what he managed to cram into these two paltry pages. In fact, this is pretty much an example in many ways on how you can render such a tired trope work, even when hobbled by the strictest page-count imaginable. This mini-dungeon was absolutely fun for its brevity and deserves a final verdict of 4.5 stars, falling short of the round up only due to the absence of skill-related obstacles herein - swimming, climbing etc. and minor terrain hazards beyond would have made this even more impressive.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #018: Neotomas' Paradise
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Call to Arms: Ten-Foot Poles (April Fool's Edition)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2015 09:45:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So, in case you're not 100% sure - yes, this is an April's Fools product. And yes, I'm reviewing it in August. Sad, but better late than never, right? So this begins with a basic, humorous introduction of poles - both in the game worlds and in real life. Let me go on a slight tangent here: If you do not know 10-foot-poles, they are perhaps the source of more anecdotes and prevented PC-death in old-school gaming than any other item. They also are the punch-line of more dirty jokes than rods of lordly might - and in case you're new school and never got see their awesomeness in action, take a look at 2 pages of long (and surprisingly viable!) suggestions on how to use these poles and potentially prevent your character's death - you'll never want to leave your home without your trusty pole.

...

..

I'm sorry. I'll put a buck in the groaner joke jar. So, during the years, 10-foot poles, their usefulness undisputed and tried and tested by more adventurers in varying degrees of success, have obviously spawned an array of variants, many of which can be found herein - from butterfly nets with which you can capture those annoying pixies to balancing poles, there are quite a few nice variants to be found - of course, including the 11-foot pole for the customer who goes one step beyond. This also includes folding poles and the combat ladder - an exotic weapon with the brace, blocking, disarm, grapple, monk, performance, reach and trip qualities. Overpowered? Perhaps. But -6 to atk and CMB when using it sober are at least some nice drawbacks. I just wished the basic drunkeness rules of PFRPG were better. If you actually plan on using this weapon, I'd strongly suggest using it with Raging Swan Press' rules for barroom brawls and tie it to the hammered condition featured in that book. Technology Guide-based hydraulic poles, vermin attracting giant toothpicks, stilts - the mundane objects herein, while not always perfectly balanced, generally fall within the purview of being rather well-crafted indeed.



Of course, some poles are magical, they grow when... Ouch. Yes, I'll stop. Sorry. Must be the summer heat BBQing my brain. *puts another dime in the groaner jar* Here, we can find bandolier containing toothpicks that can extend to proper poles; Decoy poles with hats etc. on top that act as protection from arrows. Poles with continuous flames on top; those that behave like a compass needle pr one that can be transformed in a cat with a limited movement radius. No, this pun was not one of my creation! What about a robe containing multiple useful poles? Hej, my clothes...OUCH. Yes, I'll stop.



One step beyond these, there also are cursed poles - petulant ones that refuse to properly modify; magnetic ones...or what about the pole-ka, which is best combined with playing Weird Al instrumentals irl? Yes, the poles here are genuinely funny. What about an intelligent limbo pole that acts as a one-way portal through walls...if you can limbo under it, becoming progressively harder? There even are mythic poles herein, and I'm not talking about...Ouch. *puts another one in the jar*



What about the Staff of Sun Wukong (aka Son Goku?) Yes, cool. The giant stick bug, which may also act as a familiar, makes for a nice additional creature, before we dive into the new bard archetype, the pole dancer. Pole dancers replace bardic knowledge with a battle dance - with the effects only affecting the pole dancer and initiation actions required scaling. They also are masters of fighting with ten-foot poles, gaining dex to atk and damage with them and allowing them to treat the weapons as other types regarding damage. The overall slight decrease in power is offset by an increased capacity to use alluring abilities and the ability to substitute Perform (Dance) for Acrobatics, making them save that skill-investment. At higher levels, battle dancing pole dancers are treated as hasted and in an interesting way, they may quicken spells by expending move actions while casting spells. Powerful defensive dances that heal damage and moving while making attacks and the capstone nets an attack versus all foes in range during any point of a move. The pole dancer is an interesting archetype I very much like concept-wise. At the same time, it suffers from some issues - it is not clear whether battle dance is gained in addition to bardic performance or replaces it - I assume the latter, since the former would be pretty OP. Conversely, I assume the battle dances have a round-cap akin to performance, but the ability doesn't specify it, which is a pity. Some of the other abilities also sport minor ambiguities that can be problematic, the most glaring component here would be the absence of weapon statistics for the 10-foot pole. I assume an improvised large weapon, but I'm not sure. On a nitpicky side, the archetype also switches genders mid-sentence, which I consider supremely annoying.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - some entries sport font-changes and there are some minor hiccups in the rules-language here and there. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color two-column standard with nice, stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a detriment regarding the convenient use of this pdf in my book.



Quite a team has worked on this one: Ismael Alvarez, Jeff Gomez, J. Gray, Garrett Guillotte, Kiel Howell, Taylor Hubler, Lucus Palosaari, Matt Roth, Jessie Staffler, Jeffrey Swank - surprisingly, now, this does not translate to a feeling of disparate voices.



I did not expect much from this book and was positively surprised - yes, this is a joke offering; and yes, not all content herein may be perfect. But this book actually manages to be something only a few roleplaying books achieve - genuinely funny. Beyond this rare achievement, portal limbo poles are a stroke of genius and quite a few other ideas herein a delightful, playful and, best of all - feel magical. Whimsical even. While, alas, due to aforementioned glitches and minor hiccups, I can't rate this among the highest echelons of my rating system, this still very much is a good, and more importantly, fun offering and thus well worth a final verdict of 4 stars - oh, and you can get it as a "Pay what you want"-book, so no reason not to check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Ten-Foot Poles (April Fool's Edition)
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The Book of Loot
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2015 03:22:00
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book clocks in at 72 pages. I received this book in print for the purpose of an unbiased, critical review and it thus was moved up in my reviewing queue. Even if you are not interested in 13th Age, please read this review. Finally: I do not own the pdf version of this book, so I can't comment on it.



All right, so if you've been reading my reviews for a while, you'll know what my introductory spiel will be here: If there is one thing I loathe about d20-based systems, it would be that they wrecked magic. What do I mean by this? The massive rules-interaction possibilities and mathematical crafting rules ultimately enabled players to create their own legends, yes, but at the same time, the system necessitated a codification of magic items, armor, etc. via the paradigms of gold, spells known and feats invested. Ultimately, this practice led to a plethora of humorous posts on how the ecology in any such a world would not work properly (or be driven wholly by murder hobos...) - google it and you'll surely find one or two such issues and I'm not even scratching the surface here.



While I am perhaps one of the more anal-retentive GMs out there regarding the feeling of the world I play in, one of the guys who design customs, rune-languages etc. to enhance internal consistency of a world, this component is surprisingly not the one that has irked me the most. What has galled me to no end is that magic just lost its luster and glory, it became not only easy to codify, it became predictable, with all unpredictability stemming ultimately from a huge array of sourcebooks that not only perpetuated power escalation among options like spells, but ultimately also among magic items based on said spells. With the Christmas-tree syndrome becoming more and more apparent (and loathed by at least a certain part of the target demographic), alternate means of power gain closer to our beloved fictional narratives were sought, found and implemented, with legacy weapons being refined into legendary weapons over the years and various system-modifications allowing for a playstyle that does not hinge on covering your PC in more magical bling than an early 90s rapper. (Note: While I am a goth/metal-head, I actually like hip hop...go figure, this was not a barb.)



Now 13th Age does several thing right with the magical items - from potential jealousy to quirks that are projected onto the character, the basic premise of 13th Age imho managed to offset this exceedingly grievous complaint many a person has with magic items: In 13th Age, magical items may once again feel like MAGIC, like something unpredictable. Now yes, the 13th Age system does assume the Iconics as movers and shakers and if you recall my review of the core book, I wasn't too thrilled by them. Now obviously, the items herein are grouped by iconic that created them (or that thematically fits them) - and honestly, the items provide more indirect characterization of the respective iconics than the base book's write-up. The Archmage's pomp, the Diabolist's reality-rending, the difference between the savage magic of the High Druid and the Emperor - the item classes actually feel differently o an extent I did not anticipate.



And yes, this book does have, obviously, some traditionally "useful" items - like a robe that teleports you out of danger when you reach 0 HP or an armor that deals fire damage to any supernatural being teleporting while in your proximity. It is not these items that have made me grin, almost continuously, from ear to ear while reading this book - it is the sheer, vast, huge imaginative potential of the items herein: Take for example the Dwarf King - a beard of entanglement is at the same time ridiculous and awesome - it has the whimsical quality I expect from magic. Or take the incredibly faithful hat that will show up EVERYWHERE you end up, including the 3 items you put in its compartments. I quote the book: "[...]stripped naked, hurled through a portal into the abyss and carried by a demonic roc to its nest in an uncharted, infernal mountain range -and you'll find your hat waiting there." And yes, you pet your hat as if it were a pet. This is awesome on so many levels!



Students of classic literature will surely enjoy the helm that can go full-blown Castle of Otranto as a defensible watchtower, while advocates of a certain barbarian and his timeless question of what is best in life most certainly will enjoy the throne-threading sandals. Now if you're like me, these examples alone (by far not the only ones, btw.!) will be enough to make you love this book, but if you don't have humor and do not enjoy this type of thing, then rest assured that there are enough "serious" items herein - what about e.g. a ring that declares you as one of the Elf Queen's consorts for your easy and daily fix of debauchery and court politics? Or what about the literal hand of winter that may or may not force you to draw the season back to where it belongs once it gets out of control? Or perhaps you prefer the more subtle side of things and with it a girdle that makes you the ultimate chameleon - but perhaps at the cost of finding out that interpersonal interaction and potential conflict ultimately are a crucial component that defines us.



Beyond these glorious, specific items, treasure trove generators, general item-creation advice and concise lists of items by chakra and a few potions and oils further complement this absolutely stunning book.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book comes softbound and on glossy, thick high-quality paper that withstood my page-skipping while I was sweating terribly due to my Scandinavian ancestry.



This book, much like the superb Bestiary of 13th Age, is more inspired than I ever believed it to be possible - the Book of Loot was NOT a book I looked forward to reading and when I did, I was continuously and constantly blown away - so much so, that I have used A LOT of the items herein - in 13th Age, PFRPG, DCC - their playfulness and imaginative potential is downright genius and they bring back a sense of the unpredictable, of the MAGICAL.

Author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan delivers an absolutely stunning assortment of items that breathe narrative potential, that inspire, that actually feel like they could spring straight from the pages of your favorite fantasy novels, with the vast majority of them being able to support a story all on their own - or even a campaign. Add to that the novice-friendly advice in the beginning and we have a book that is a little masterpiece - it constitutes one of the best magic item books I've read since 2nd edition and brings back defining characteristics of what magic items can be - more than a sum of endlessly recombined numbers, bonuses and parts, more than just a mathematical bonus-machinery. And yes, there are such items herein, but ultimately, even these have some sort of component that makes them transcend their system-dependency. I consider this book an excellent buy for all d20-based systems and as such, this book receives 5 stars + my seal of approval and status as a candidate of my Top Ten of 2015 - a capable GM who understands the mechanics of 13th Age and another system can easily convert them. GLORIOUS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Loot
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Remedial Tinkering: Rocket's Red Glare
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2015 03:18:16
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the tinker clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As the pdf observes, this pdf offers options for lower levels tinkers - though this time around, a minimum of 3rd level to get properly started. It should also be mentioned that this pdf links up with rules in the SUPERB tinker-expansion Happy Little Automatons, which every fan of the class should have.



We have three new invention types herein - compartments and fireworks. Compartment inventions are introduced to streamline the compartment-questions provided in previous installments that featured some sort of fuel/etc. Fireworks-inventions are special inventions that occupy space in a given compartment as though they were goods - they thus need compartment space and may, important, NOT be launched by hand, only by the respective invention. Fireworks have a range of 30 ft., max 150 ft. and they are executed against grid intersections (AC 5) and may target occupied and unoccupied intersections, thus deviating from splash weapons, though occupied intersections are treated as ranged fire into melee, including potential for penalty negation via Precise Shot. Intersections sans walls etc. also have their AC increased. On a miss, we determine how it missed, also providing concise rules for determining z-axis issues when shot into the air (or into a pit).



Finally, there would be propellant inventions, which modify all fireworks in a given compartment at the time of deployment; only one propellant can be added per compartment.



All right, got that? We thus gain 3 new innovations: One that negates the chance of fireworks exploding when going unlaunched, one that increases capacity of all compartments by +1 as though they were improved compartments for the purpose of holding different substances and one that lets you break the "only one propellant"-rule and allows you to add 2 in a single compartment.



And then, we have inventions - and at this point, anyone who has ever made a tinker starts cackling with glee, mainly because the by now beautifully customizable system benefits from the expansions made so far: Take e.g. Alphas that contains vast amounts of fireworks that furthermore has an increased propellant capacity, increasing the value of the fireworks stored by the alpha.



The base for fireworks would be firework tubes or hot pockets, reloading from a chosen compartment as a move action, launching them as a directed attack, with potential options to fire multiple fireworks and synergy with Rapid Reload and Rapid Shot. Hot Pockets may be used to prime fireworks and fire them all at once as a directed attack, though primed fireworks continuously decrease their maximum range and may even explode in the automaton if the tinker fails to direct the attack, making the base system work essentially like a pretty interesting game of action-economy conversion and set-ups. And yes, e.g. The Late Bloomer can be used to increase the radius of launched fireworks, while a propellant may be added to increase the range of fireworks - a potential synergy with another range-increasing tube-modification.



Even general fireworks end up having something interesting going for them, with AC-penalizing caustic fireworks, propellants that may dazzle those adjacent to the flight or fireworks that contains hundreds of angry spiders (!!!)?



Want something cooler? What about a propellant that makes it hard for undead to cross the exhaust-line left by a rocket for smart terrain control? Or ones that contain entangling good? What about a glitterdust-y emission of tracer particles? Have I mention condition stacking, damage to adjacent creatures in the flight path? Oh yeah!



Oh, and btw. - yes, the pdf has a list of which inventions get the compartment-subtype. Kudos!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard and sports thematically fitting b/w-artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks and does not necessarily require them at this length.



The last Remedial tinkering-expansion by Bradley Crouch was absolutely AWESOME in that it not only provided great low-level tricks, its combo-set-up potential was thoroughly inspired. Now, one can say pretty much the same for the content herein, with one minor gripe on my end: It quite frankly took me longer than I would have liked to piece together how exactly fireworks are launched - a slightly more concise explanation in the beginning would have certainly helped here.



That being said, not only do the fireworks here work how they should and in a mechanically distinct way, they also sport a damn cool array of combo potentials. Now I might grumble a bit here, but then there's one more thing to consider: This is FREE. It costs zilch, zero, nada, nothing - and who am I to nitpick on a quality, fun and simply interesting expansion that is free to boot? All in all, I'm glad I can now add this cool array of options to my tinkers, though I certainly wished that a) this was longer and b), it explained the process of launching fireworks in a slightly more concise manner. That being said, this is still a great expansion and one that requires literally zero investment from you - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars +seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remedial Tinkering: Rocket's Red Glare
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