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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: The Ghost-Light that Dreamed, Gozutozawa (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2011 16:12:14
I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Pathfinder uses the same stats for creatures and NPCs that it does for player-characters. This is not only a nod towards ease of use – since what’s good for the PCs is good for the monsters and vice versa – but also allows for some interesting combinations when you begin to freely mix and match. Case in point, Faces of the Tarnished Souk: The Ghost-Light That Dreamed, Gozutozawa.

Gozutozawa, the Ghostlight That Dreamed, is an excellent example of a monster using PC-oriented resources, fleshed out with some new material, that creates a truly innovative character. In this case the eponymous Gozutozawa is a will-o-wisp with levels of summoner…and its eidolon is a human named Lucky.

The base form of Gozutozawa, which has an impressive amount of levels as well as two templates, is a hefty foe at CR 21 (with full stats for its eidolon, of course). The book also presents two lower-level versions for GMs interested in introducing this unique character to their group before it’s reached the pinnacle of its power.

Of course, this PDF is far more interesting for what it presents that round out the character. For example, we’re told what Gozutozawa’s hope, aspiration, and goals are should you place the character within the context of Coliseum Morpheuon (though the character works anywhere) along with a sidebar about ways to integrate the character into the game.

It’s after this that we see the new mechanics (and a few reprinted from other sources), and these are what truly make the character. Along with two new feats that let a creature like a will-o-wisp cast when it has no arms or voice, there’s a method for implanting ioun stones in a creature’s body, and a series of new magic items which include a generous number of new ioun stones.

Finally, we come to the new summoner archetype – the monstrous summoner. This doesn’t truly swap out any existing class abilities. Instead, it makes their eidolon have a humanoid form with a few mechanical modifications, and opens up some new potential evolutions. Finally, we have the new Crafty and Tough templates, which are tightly focused in strengthening a creature in their respective areas.

Gozutozawa isn’t just an incredibly innovative character, it’s also a great sourcebook for making characters that blend the line between monsters and characters. A will-o-wisp that summons a person is just the beginning of the possibilities that are presented here. The Ghostlight That Dreamed is a sweet dream that will bring a lot to your campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: The Ghost-Light that Dreamed, Gozutozawa  (PFRPG)
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Character Studies #4: Eve Sylver
Publisher: Dakkar Unlimited
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2011 15:13:19
It’s always been a bit difficult to depict a robot chick that’s actually sexy. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible, but in the cases where it happens it’s usually that she’s a perfect gynoid, who can’t really be distinguished from her human counterparts; any robotic bits are seen as something of a failing in that they detract from her arousing appearance. As the ideas for technology have become more advanced (to say nothing of technology itself), however, we’ve started to imagine women like Eve Sylver, the subject of Dakkar Unlimited’s Character Studies #4, who are made of metal and yet sacrifice none of the sensuality of the feminine form. Let’s take a closer look.

The book opens with a brief overview of what it presents and what other Hot Chicks RPG books it references. This last part is key because, in my opinion, the Hot Chicks role-playing game is starting to get lost in its own mythos. For example, Eve Sylver as she appears here (she’s been featured in earlier Hot Chicks supplements) has already undergone the events of Inner Darkness 2: The Depravity War…but not the events of Villain-Net, which build off of the ideas presented here.

Now, none of this invalidates the usefulness of this product. Eve’s stat block is solid, with a minor caveat that it’s been altered for where she is at this point in her life, and works just fine in a game. Similarly, her back-story up until now is engaging and doesn’t require any other supplements to understand. It’s just that, if you’re looking for a cohesive narrative through the various Hot Chicks supplements (such as Eve’s development), you need to do some careful research on what products follow which others.

Having said that, Eve’s history is not a robot per-se, but rather is a person made of living metal. She has DNA and biological functions, just with a metal form. Her history is short but intense, and sets up several of Eve’s natural enemies (and a few allies as well).

For all of that, it should be mentioned that fifty-two pages of this sixty-four page PDF are full-page illustrations of Eve. These are all done in 3D computer graphic images, something which is Dakkar’s signature style. These have no titles or captions, which makes them somewhat hard to navigate (and the lack of bookmarks is no help there), which all of the pictures being single full color images.

The pictures themselves give us about forty images of Eve standing and apparently posing for the camera (it should be mentioned that most, but not all, of these have a fully developed background as well). The first twenty or so feature Eve in her natural, metallic form, and show her progressively stripping down until she’s naked. The next twenty repeat this process (using different poses of course; the pictures aren’t just repeated) but this time with Eve in her full-body makeup that she wears to disguise herself as a human. Then there are a little over a dozen images of Eve’s fight with Lillith.

One thing should be noted about Eve’s nude pictures is that they’re all erotica, rather than porn. What that means is that, while we’re getting to see Eve naked, it’s arousing but never what could be called lewd or lascivious. For example, Eve does playfully pose for the camera, but her legs are almost always kept shut, and she’s never touching herself; we never get a good look directly between her legs, and she’s always alone in the sexy pictures. In other words, these pictures are fairly tame, despite Eve showing off her T&A.

The book closes out with a word from the authors regarding their development of Eve’s character, along with a number of adventure seeds and where Eve is likely to go from here.

Overall, Eve’s character study is about four-fifths gallery and one-fifth character information. This isn’t a bad thing, as Eve is quite pleasing to the eye, but I found myself wishing that her gallery would have ventured beyond softcore nudity. It’s also somewhat ironic to read about what Eve’s future might possibly hold, when we know how her quest for vengeance turns out (though again, this doesn’t detract from the product).

My real complaints about the book are it’s lack of anything allowing for ease of navigation (bookmarks would have helped quite a bit here) and that, for all the talk about how Eve is a metal-yet-biological person, there’s no game stats for anyone who wishes to run a character like her (that said, you could try to reverse-engineer her character sheet).

With that said, this is still a solid and sexy book about one of the iconic Hot Chicks of the eponymous RPG. Eve has a lot of tie-ins to other characters and organizations of the Hot Chicks world, and plays an important role in shaping things. Her character is one you won’t regret studying.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Character Studies #4: Eve Sylver
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Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor's Edge (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/16/2011 14:49:31
Feats are one of the best and most obvious ways to differentiate characters. Two characters of the same race, class, and level can be radically different depending on what feats they take, not just mechanically but also in terms of characterizing what sort of person they are and what their background is. Now design feats based around the inquisitor class from the APG – a class which is already full of flavor – and you’ve got some exceptionally colorful feats waiting to happen. Case in point, Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor’s Edge.

This sixteen page book introduces thirty new feats, only four of which are specific to the inquisitor class. The remaining feats cover thematic areas that the class excels at, but which most other characters could conceivably fill. For example, the Track Spirits feat lets you track incorporeal creatures, whereas Magical Savant lets you treat one mental ability score as though it were 4 points higher only for the purpose of determining what level of spells you can learn and cast.

Of course, the best part of this book (and indeed, all books in the Advanced Feats series) is the author’s insights, presented with a small commentary section at the end of each feat. Getting to peek “behind the curtain” as it were has always been both entertaining and informative, and this is no exception. The author telling us how the Eschew Divine Focus feat can be used to make an inquisitor who goes undercover since he doesn’t need a holy symbol is as evocative as it is fun.

There are also three sample class builds at the end of the book. These present a series of specific steps (telling you race to take, what feats to take when, what ability scores to raise, etc.) to make an inquisitor that excels in a certain area. These are the bloodhound (specializing in tracking down his prey and giving it a beat down), the wolf in sheep’s clothing (specializing in infiltration via lies and enchantments to make people think they’re trustworthy), and the detective (a Sherlock Holmes-esque blend of crime solver and skilled combatant using an enemy’s weaknesses against them). Each of these also has a sidebar covering the themes that these characters tend to deal with in game.

Unfortunately, a few errors did creep into the book. In a few places the author lists the Track feat (which doesn’t exist in Pathfinder) as a prerequisite. That’s a bit of an embarrassment (though certainly an understandable one) for one of the primary guys behind the Netbook of Feats. Also, in a number of places where there’s supposed to be a dash there’s instead a boxed X symbol, which throws off the next letter’s formatting slightly. These are small things, but they do mar what’s otherwise a flawless book.

Having said that, this book is still an excellent addition to any Pathfinder game. The new feats it presents are a boon to any character, particularly inquisitors, and the sample builds offer some great ideas about how to make an inquisitor that performs a given suite of tasks exceptionally well. Give your inquisitor an edge with Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor’s Edge.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor's Edge (Pathfinder RPG)
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: The Dark Lady Ninyantë, Mistress of Venom (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2011 15:34:25
Rite Publishing’s Coliseum Morpheuon was a watershed product for the Pathfinder community, providing not only an excellent mini-campaign specifically designed for high-level play, but also providing a great new backdrop for campaigning. This was best highlighted by the incredibly colorful and diverse cast of characters that inhabited the city around the Coliseum. Given that, I was quite pleased to see that Rite Publishing is expanding that roster with their Faces of the Tarnished Souk line, which continues with Dark Lady Ninyante, Mistress of Venom.

A fifteen page PDF file, the product is fully bookmarked, which is always a plus, even for shorter books. The page borders are quite ornate, in Rite’s signature style, which may make printing somewhat difficult. Several black and white interior illustrations are spread throughout the book, showing Ninyante herself and a few of her toys, among other pictures.

The book opens with an overview of Lady Ninyante and her place in the City of the Coliseum. A poison-merchant and socialite, a sidebar covers several ways to intermingle her into a campaign with the PCs – delightfully, there’s also information specific to Coliseum Morpheuon, as it outlines plot threads from that book, and lists Ninyante’s dreams (for dreamburning rules).

Ninyante herself is presented next, providing a stat block that’s every bit worthy of its 21 Challenge Rating. Following this are two new feats, one to grant a creature the Poison Use ability, the other of which lets you make a poison specific to a creature; there’s even a way it lets you poison a creature normally immune to poison, on top of that! Further are three new magic items, all of which Ninyante herself uses. I quite liked these, as one of the big draws among the NPCs of the Coliseum was how they’re not only unique, but have unique stats and equipment. The PCs shouldn’t know exactly what they’re up against, as they’re just a few more fishes in a very big pond.

We’re then treated to two more stat blocks for Ninyante, each at lower CRs. It’s never explicitly stated, but these are probably for campaigns that want a lower-level NPC to use. I can understand that, but perhaps more could have been done here, like outlining that these were Ninyante as she was gaining power and rising up through the ranks of the Tarnished Souk.

Helpfully, the book then lists in full the two templates used in Ninyante’s construction: the Amalgam and Spellpowered templates. While both of these are from other sourcebooks, it was nice to see them here (and updated to Pathfinder as well). I consider this a bonus, since these are among the most versatile of all templates – one lets you merge two creatures into a new creature, and the other lets you assign any number of spell-like abilities.

Overall, this book adds a great new character in the tradition of Coliseum Morpheuon, helping to round out and present new opportunities for such a rich, evocative location. Ninyante, if used as more than a direct antagonist, presents some great opportunities for characters to make an uneasy ally or deadly new enemy among the Coliseum. And like other NPCs in that place, she can easily cross paths with the characters simply because she has a relationship with someone else the PCs might know. Even if you don’t play Coliseum Morpheuon, this is still an exotic, powerful character that’ll add a lot to your game. Pick your poison with this latest entry among the Faces of the Tarnished Souk!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: The Dark Lady Ninyantë, Mistress of Venom  (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
I wanted to thank Shane o' Conner for taking the time to do a review of our product. Steve Russell Rite Publishing. 5/5 Snoopy happy dance of joy.
Building Blocks: Active Reputation
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2011 21:56:41
It’s funny that modern-setting RPGs aren’t as popular as their fantastic equivalents (or so it seems to me, at least). One would think that it’d be easier to play a game where the world in question is one we’re so much more familiar with. But perhaps it’s that familiarity that works against a modern RPG, since its failings regarding accurately portraying some facet of modern life are thrown into relief much more starkly. For instance, the way that celebrities and other pop culture personalities are able to let their fame work for them – something that Building Blocks: Active Reputation attempts to address.

The Building Blocks series presents a single new aspect to Modern d20 games, presenting a new organization, an NPC, and an optional rule that support a given idea. In this case, it’s using a character’s Reputation score proactively, rather than something that is made on the GM’s part to see if an NPC recognizes a character.

In my opinion, the best way to go about doing this would be to present the new mechanics, and then follow them up with an NPC to serve as an example for the new rules, and then the new organization to create a backdrop that helps bring those rules into the game world. The problem is, Building Blocks: Active Modern gets it backwards.

The book (after the introduction) talks about the new organization, Campbell Daniels Industries. While primarily a construction crew, its thrill-seeking president (the new NPC) uses it primarily to fund whatever activities he thinks will get him back into the public eye. We’re given the history of the company, some skill check DCs for learning about it or its owner, and then the NPC stat block for Campbell Daniels himself.

It’s only after this that we’re presented with the new rules for Reputation, and this is where things become a real letdown. Instead of presenting any sort of detailed new rules for actively using one’s Reputation to influence people, what we’re given is largely a couple of suggestions, largely boiling down to “use the Reputation score for a Charisma check, or some skill checks, or with a feat.” It’s a real disappointment, and comes across as an afterthought, when it should be the central aspect of the book.

Building Blocks: Active Reputation isn’t a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It presents a new organization without any problems, gives us a solid NPC stat block, and has some good ideas. The problem is that none of these are anything that a competent GM couldn’t have generated on their own, and with ease and only a short amount of time. The company is fairly boilerplate, the NPC one-dimensional, and the new rules aren’t rules but suggestions. For a book that wants to increase the uses of Reputation, it doesn’t live up to the reputation it wants to project.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Building Blocks: Active Reputation
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 7 Stupid Weapon Designs
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2011 13:44:15
I can sympathize with the sentiment behind Super Genius Games’s newest product line. Sometimes you really just want to ignore the flavor text and get straight to the new rules, so see where you can add them into your home game. In that regard, it’s also nice to see a line of short projects in this regard, since it lets them pitch ideas without worrying too much about them being viable enough to sustain a larger sourcebook. Case in point is the latest release: 7 Stupid Weapon Designs.

This three page product (opening, game rules, and OGL) presents seven weapons which are all fairly ridiculous. These are the bastard club (a really big piece of wood), the battle lute (a lute that you bash things with), the spiked codpiece (when yours just has to be bigger), the extended pike (a 40 ft. spiked pole), the glaive-guisarme-bec-de-voulge (every kind of weird polearm ever made all rolled into one), the greatwhip (a two-handed whip), and star-chuks (five nunchucks each attached to a wrist-ring).

It should be self-evident that these are something you’d never see in a serious game (inspired by anime notwithstanding). That said, all the necessary game rules are present such that you could use these if you were insane enough to; it mentions what their damage type is, if they’re martial or exotic, if they have reach or can be used to disarm, etc. There were one or two things that looked like errors (the small-size extended pike does less damage than the medium-size extended pike), but these were easily overlooked.

My biggest complaint about this product will probably be the same that other people have, though different in the specifics: that there were stupid weapon designs that didn’t make it into this book. Where’s the sword-bolas, for example? Or the crossbow that launches greataxes? Yes, it’s good to limit yourself to one page, but there were some contenders that should have been here. Your mileage may vary though.

Overall, these weapons may be stupid, but they’re stupidly effective if you want to go over-the-top in portraying your character.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 7 Stupid Weapon Designs
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The Sages Must be Crazy: Let Them Eat Cake
Publisher: Healing Fireball
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2011 09:57:58
Adventurers live in a very harsh, tense world. They regularly face monsters and evil-doers in mortal combat, often while on a quest to save their town, country, or even world. Given that, one would expect them to take at least some time to kick back and relax, perhaps even have a little fun. Unfortunately, there’s little in the game rules that are helpful in that regard, and so most players are left on their own to figure out how their PCs would blow off stress. But thanks to Healing Fireball, adding a lighter touch to your game is a piece of cake! How, you ask? With their light-hearted book The Sages Must Be Crazy: Let Them Eat Cake.

Let Them Eat Cake is a brief sourcebook for 3.5 gaming, and comes with two PDF files. The first is the main product, with the second being a printer-friendly version thereof (you could call that the icing on the cake). The printer-friendly version is printer-friendly largely because it removed the background coloring that the main file has, but it still kept the interior images. This isn’t really that bad, since these are small black-and-white pictures (along with the occasional sidebar graphic), but seems slightly unnecessary. Still, it’s unlikely to tax your printer too much. On the plus side, both files have bookmarks, which is always a plus.

Presented by the humorless sage Ebenzer Killjoy, this book is presented as a treatise warning against pranksters who would use delicious foodstuffs as a way of pranking a community with low-class magic. In that regard, the book is divided into three parts.

The first introduces a handful of new spells. All very low-level, these have things such as making a pie exceptionally sour, changing the flavor of an object, or deadening someone’s taste buds. There’s nothing here that’ll make you a combat expert, certainly, but I liked that these offered something new – when’s the last time you saw a spell that cursed someone with being unable to enjoy the flavor of food?

The second section introduces new cakes and pies that are made alchemically. Though the name of the book deals with cake, there are also pies and rolls of bread to be found here. From icing that has a purgative agent mixed into it to bread that explodes when you cut it to pie that makes it impossible to speak for a few minutes after you’ve eaten it, there’s a lot of creative prank ideas here. Perhaps best of all is the sidebar covering how to use a thrown pie as a weapon.

The final section is cakes that are actually created as magic items. From dough that magically expands beyond its normal confines to lead pound cake (it weighs ten pounds!), these are wacky foods as only spellcasters could create. My personal favorite was the cake that explodes, when cut, into a burst of confetti and balloons (with a sidebar on variant “flavors”).

Ultimately, Let Them Eat Cake is a product that isn’t for all occasions, but shines when you really need it. If you want a trickster character that is out to cause mischief and fun-tinged mayhem, this is an excellent arsenal of magic to arm him with. With this book, you can add a lighter side to your character, letting them have their cake and eat it too.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sages Must be Crazy: Let Them Eat Cake
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Sorcerer Specialist: The Illusionist
Publisher: UKG Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 13:44:29
People who’ve been playing the world’s most popular fantasy role-playing game for a long time may remember that, back in its first edition, the illusionist was a class unto itself, separate from their wizard brethren. Subsequent versions have simplified matters, making the illusionist into just a variant of the wizard, without only a slightly greater focus on spells meant to fool other people.

In Sorcerer Specialist: The Illusionist UKG Publishing brings us back the illusionist as its own base class, separate from the wizard once again, for your 3.5 game. This review peels back the illusion and tells you what’s really there.

To start, let’s look at the mechanics of the file. This product comes as two PDFs, one being the book and the other being a printer-friendly layout of said book. This was nice, as too many PDFs nowadays seem to think that printer-friendly versions are a thing of the past. The PDFs both allow copy and pasting, but only the full-color version includes bookmarks (presumably since the printer-friendly copy won’t be used for screen-reading).

The mail PDF file does a nice job with visual presentation. The pages are on a slightly off-white background, and include several full-color CG illustrations sprinkled throughout (in the same style as the resplendent cover). The printer-friendly version, naturally, removes all of this in favor of simple back text on a white background.

Beyond technical presentation though, let’s look at the content. Following the foreword and table of contents, we’re introduced to the illusionist itself. This is a spontaneous arcane spellcasting class, akin to the sorcerer. However, the illusionist has its own spell list (presented after the class) which while it does offer more than just illusion spells, is still fairly tightly focused; no fireballs or lightning bolts here.

The class also has several features built into it. A big one is the illusory familiar; you literally have a familiar that’s little more than a figment of your imagination. It has some interesting abilities (such as being able to turn solid for a short amount of time) but is otherwise a standard familiar. The remainder of the illusionist’s powers are built around specific bonus feats, as they gain things like Spell Resistance and Enlarge Spell, but only for illusions they cast.

A pair of new feats are introduced following this, which aren’t bad, but aren’t anything to be particularly wowed over either. One increases the percentage of how “real” your illusion (shadow) spells are, which is not bad, but the other simply lets you use faerie fire twice per day due to a fey heritage of yours, which is kind of a dud.

Following this are over two dozen new spells. These range from cantrips to 9th-level spells, all for the illusionist class (though a few make it to some other specialized spell lists). There are some real gems in here, such as Deathhunt, which makes the victim believe that everyone they have ever killed is rising from the dead to hunt them down in revenge, or Dax’s Duplicity, which makes everyone think that a specific item rightfully belongs to you.

On the other hand, there are several spells which don’t seem very worthwhile. Shadow Missile, for example, is Magic Missile save for dealing nonlethal damage. Shadow Gate is a 7th-level version of the Gate spell, just to the Plane of Shadow. Dual Image covers something in two illusions at once, so that the person needs to make two saving throws (the example given is a pit covered with the illusion of a normal floor, and the illusion of a bridge beneath that), but it seems like it’s really just making a person save twice and take the worse save, and of course it won’t fool a True Seeing.

Altogether, Sorcerer Specialist: The Illusionist isn’t a bad class for 3.5, it’s just lacking inspiration. Class features that are little more than illusion-specific feats, alongside a pair of new feats and a set of spells that are a decidedly mixed bag, and this is a product that’s good, but not great. If you’re really looking to expand your repertoire of illusion spells, you’ll find some good ideas here, but besides the illusory familiar, there’s not much to separate the base class from the standard wizard that specializes in illusions (unless you really want a spontaneous spellcaster focused in illusions – but a sorcerer with a tailored spell list should take care of that fine). Ultimately, Sorcerer Specialist: The Illusionist isn’t quite the pleasant image it hopes you’ll see it as.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Sorcerer Specialist: The Illusionist
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Advanced Feats: Visions of the Oracle (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2011 15:20:57
The oracle class is something I was surprised it took so long to see. It fulfills several niches that have been waiting for quite some time now. Mechanically it gives us a spontaneous divine spellcaster, and thematically it gives us a character that’s chosen by the gods, rather than choosing a god of their own. All of which is well and good, especially with some interesting new mechanics based around an oracle’s curse, mystery powers, and revelations…

But it’s nothing that Sigfriend Trent and Open Design can’t make better.

Advanced Feats: Visions of the Oracle is part of Open Design’s Advanced Feats series, each of which introduces 30 new feats as well as a class breakdown and several sample builds. In this book (as in all of them) the majority of the feats are thematically appropriate to the class in question, but only a few of them are specific to that class.

The book begins by examining the various parts of the class, weighing its strengths and weaknesses. We’re told about the class’s spellcasting potential versus its skills versus its multiclassing viability, for example. Each mystery is given a brief look as well, which was a nice bit of insight.

The real meat of the book is its feats, however. Designer Sigfriend Trent has beaucoup experience with feat design, being the editor behind the famous Netbook of Feats, and it shows here. Trent gives a few sentences of commentary on each feat, offering glimpses behind that curtain that make for great easter eggs.

Being that the oracle is a full-progression spellcasting class, many of the feats here deal with magic use in some regard. Magic Sense, for example, lets you automatically sense magic items and spell effects around you, and know exactly what a magical effect would have done if you successfully save against it. Tactical Spellcasting is basically the spellcaster’s equivalent of Spring Attack. Spell Retention lets you retain a spell if you fail a concentration check when trying to cast. These and others like them offer great new options for spellcasters.

Apropos of that, one-sixth of the feats in question are metamagic, ranging from things such as the general purpose Concentration Spell (increase your spell’s duration via concentration to the highly specific Spiritual Armaments Spell (create ghostly weapons/armor/equipment on undead that you create or summon). Beyond this, several feats deal with metamagic without being metamagic feats themselves. Scroll Metamagic lets you apply a metamagic feat to spells cast from a scroll, for instance.

Following this are three new example builds. Each build specifies a large number of the character variables you should choose to make a character that’s tailored toward a specific area of expertise. The Visionary Healer, for example, tells you what mystery, curse, feats, ability scores, etc. to take to be a powerful healing character. The Phoenix is a combination healer and fire-wielder, being able to blast foes with flame and revitalize allies. Finally, the Savage Seer is focused around the oracle’s battle abilities, being capable of dealing damage with sword or spell.

Overall, Visions of the Oracle provides a great mixture of feats for characters of all stripes, particularly spellcasters, and quite a few for the oracle specifically. If you’re overwhelmed by what to make your oracle character, pick up this book and receive a vision of what he could become.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Feats: Visions of the Oracle (Pathfinder RPG)
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101 9th Level Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2011 20:37:50
I once heard someone say that playing a full-progression spellcaster in Pathfinder is like opening a long-term stock portfolio; you’re taking a number of risks over a period of time in hopes of generating great returns. In this case, those returns are the 9th-level spells you get, allowing you to unleash some of the strongest effects in the game. It’s in that spirit that Rite Publishing brings the conclusion to its 101 Spells series: 101 9th Level Spells.

Forty pages long, the PDF has full nested bookmarks and allows for copy-and-pasting. The pages have very ornate borders on all sides (standard for Rite Publishing) and there are several black and white illustrations scattered throughout, meaning that this may be tough to print.

The book opens immediately to the spell lists. Unfortunately, the APG classes aren’t given lists here (nor are they in the individual spell level listings) which is hopefully something we’ll see in an update. Having said that, the spells themselves are what you’d expect for the top of the line in spellcasting power.

While it’s impossible to review all of the spells in here, most of what I saw impressed me. Spells like Behind the Curtain basically let the GM tell you a major plot point…but if you tell anyone else you’re instantly destroyed and reality changes to make the revelation untrue. Psychic Clone basically inserts a mental avatar of yourself into someone else’s mind, prodding them and guiding them with various effects and powers in accordance with your wishes. Ultimate Insight lets you know virtually all knowledge for a few seconds, and in that time you can accomplish almost anything. It’s like that for one hundred and one spells.

If you’re about to hit that level where you can cast the strongest spells in the game, you owe it to yourself to pick up 101 9th Level Spells and let the rest of the party know just who’s the archmage now.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 9th Level Spells (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
I wanted to thank Shane for taking the time to do a review of our product, 5/5 stars snoopy happy dance of joy! Steve Russell Rite Publishing
Advanced Feats: The Cavalier's Creed (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2011 18:26:06
I never really saw the benefit to mounted combat in Pathfinder; from my perspective, it seemed like an expensive and somewhat dangerous proposition. After all, you had to sink a lot of feats into it, and most mounts seem to have a “kill me” sign around their necks. Even with the advent of the Cavalier class from the Advanced Player’s Guide, it just didn’t seem like something I’d be interested in.

But on a whim, I decided to check out Advanced Feats: The Cavalier’s Creed, since author Sigfried Trent has some serious street cred where feats are concerned. So I checked out the book and, for possibly the first time ever, I’m thinking about how it’d actually be kinda cool to play a mounted warrior.

Advanced Feats: The Cavalier’s Creed starts by talking about the cavalier class’s strong points before it heads into the thirty new feats based around them. Note that these are based around the class only in a loose sense, as something like three-fourths of the feats don’t require that you have cavalier levels to use. This is a good thing, as the book presents feats that deliver things I’ve seen players wanting for a long time. Near and Far, for example, lets you attack adjacent enemies with reach weapons, while Shaft and Shield lets you use two-handed polearm weapons in one hand. Several feats here are written expressly for animals, such as Clever Critter, which effectively grants a creature an extra 2 points of Intelligence (for that Lassie-level intellect).

What really made these feats stand out for me, however, was how (like other books in this series) the author includes a personal commentary with each feat, giving us a few sentences about why they were written the way they were. I’ve always loved these “behind the curtain” peeks and this is no exception. Sigfried Trent not only has great feat design experience, but he shows that experience off here.

The book closes with three example cavalier builds. These are the green knight (attract enemies’ attention and protect the party), the tawny knight (a small-sized hard charger), and the black knight (heavy damage-dealer). These list all of the various options that cavaliers should take at each level, including class features, feats, and ability score increases. Helpfully, they also list how to level the mount as well.

Needless to say, this book is an absolute must-have for anyone playing a cavalier, and extremely useful if you’re interested in a character that fights on a mount, uses polearms, commands followers, or fights with teamwork. There’s a lot of great options here, so mount up and check out The Cavalier’s Creed.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Feats: The Cavalier's Creed (Pathfinder RPG)
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Cthentacle: At the Mountings of Madness
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/26/2011 19:56:20
Cthentacle, I’ve learned from experience, is one of those games where everybody looks at you funny when you suggest a game of it. After all, most people would think it odd that you’d want to play (and want them to play) a card game based around tentacle-rape. This is only compounded if you mention that you’ve also got the expansion sets for the game. But you know what? If you’re going to pull out something this nasty and perverted, you might as well go all the way (innuendos intended). It’s with that thought that we turn to the second Cthentacle expansion: At the Mountings of Madness.

Like the previous expansion (The Dunbitch Horror), At the Mountings of Madness introduces two new characters and twenty new cards, along with the generic card-backs. There’s even a scenario behind this expansion to the game, though it’s little more than “an explorer and her sailor companion set out for the Antarctic to see what they can find.” Of course, what they find are some ancient and horny Mythos monsters.

The cards have a fairly even distribution of number cards (which range from 1 to 5) along with some new ! and SP cards. However, I’m still frowning over the uneven distribution of cards. It was perhaps inevitable, given that there are seven card types (note that I’m not counting character cards) and twenty cards in the set. Still, the staggered number of card types means that playing some number cards will be more difficult since you must play them sequentially and there’s less of some numbers than others.

One interesting tidbit to the game is a variation on normal Cthentacle play called Investigation. In this version, there are six “locations” (which the game says you should just lay out some sort of markers to represent) and your goal is to have your character advance through them to the final destination, which is the lost city of O RLYEH. The method of advancement requires you to give up a card, but otherwise this plays much like normal Cthentacle, with numbered cards played on your character until your “spooged,” though this doesn’t disqualify you but rather sends you back to the starting location.

I was a bit disappointed to see that this expansion pack didn’t take into account the cards from the previous expansion that required some explanation. Some of the cards in The Dunbitch Horror required explanation for ambiguous powers like “works on humanoid-looking cards.” That expansion listed explicitly what cards in it and the base game phrases like that referred to – a further listing should have been provided for this set so that things stayed clear.

Of course, for all these minor flaws, this expansion pack stays eminently true to the dark eros of Cthentacle. Artist Darkzel continues to draw full-color artwork for all of the cards, showing the lovely ladies (and oftentimes other things) in situations ranging from bending over provocatively to being bound and violated by tentacled horrors. It’s great stuff, in other words, and almost distracts from the awful card names; if you’re a Lovecraft fan, you’ll roll your eyes at titles like “Pnacocktic Manuscripts” and other bad jokes. It all just goes to show that Cthentacle has still got it, so whip our your deck and get to the Mountings of Madness!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cthentacle: At the Mountings of Madness
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The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2011 13:40:43
There’s a certain appeal in playing characters that haven’t quite come into their own yet. That’s because these are the stories that lay down the foundations for who those characters will become, and because playing low-power characters means that your victories are harder-earned and thus much sweeter, plus you’re more likely to get them due to luck and clever thinking rather than having suites of “kewl” powers.

In Pathfinder, there isn’t much opportunity to do that, however, as characters are assumed to be fully-fledged adventurers, albeit beginning ones, at 1st level. There’s no mechanism for going below that point. Until the Genius Guide to Apprentice–Level Characters was released by Super Genius Games.

This seven-page PDF describes its take on apprentice-level characters as being – what I call – half-level characters. That is, it spends about a page walking you through the process of making a character that’s one-half of a first-level character. It mentions that as an alternate process, you could have a character that has multiclassed into two half-level classes (being the equivalent of a 1st-level character, and then leveling up into a second-level character with a full level in each class).

The rest of the book then presents us with half-level stat blocks for the core classes, the APG classes, and all of the Genius Guide classes that had been released at this time (everything but the templar, as of the time of this review).

Looking back over this book, I can’t deny that this system is a good one. It quickly and effectively creates a character that’s below 1st-level. But at the same time the method by which an existing class is simply halved in terms of power seems to lack a certain sense of innovation that I’d thought would be there. By itself, this book gives you the tools to make an apprentice-level character, but doesn’t tell you what to do with them.

I can’t hold this too much against the book, since it accomplishes exactly what it set out to do; I just wish it had given us more about apprentice-level adventures. What’s a good scope for them? Is a CR 1 monster too high for them? What if we want the character races to be younger, does that alter their stats? There’s more that could have been done here, but wasn’t.

Still, the book does present class options that are de-powered from level 1 for all of the major Pathfinder classes, and the guidelines for this can be easily applied to other base classes as well. That’s the center of making apprentice-level characters, so the rest can be extrapolated from there.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters
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A Necromancer's Grimoire: Marchen der Daemonwulf
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2011 11:41:29
I really don’t know where the current zeitgeist of “werewolves vs. vampires” came from, but lately it’s been everywhere. From the Underworld movies to Twilight, the two somehow seem to have become natural enemies, or at least counterparts. Given that, it’s somewhat appropriate that Necromancers of the Northwest – whose Liber Vampyr sourcebook made vampires into playable characters in Pathfinder – should release A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Marchen der Daemonwulf, which makes werewolves into a PC choice in your Pathfinder game.

Looking at this book’s technical merits, it does rather well for itself. The product has full, nested bookmarks, and the text is selectable. However, copy and paste has been turned off, which is a rather unpleasant surprise. Hopefully this will be addressed in an update.

The book’s visual design plays into the title’s theme. All of the pages are set against a cream-color background, as though written on old parchment. There are only three illustrations in the book, but they’re done in a very evocative style and contain hyperlinks to the page of the artists, which I found to be a great way of acknowledging the people who helped illustrate the book.

But what does this book actually offer for people who want to play a werewolf character? First, it should be made absolutely clear that this book is for would-be wolves only; other lycanthropes need not apply. Now, you could certainly reskin this book to deal with other sorts of were-creatures, but as written it’s all about the lupines.

The book opens with a foreword discussing where the idea came from and its evolution to fit the Necromancers of the Northwest’s style of smaller releases. This was rather telling, since the book does narrow its focus considerably from its vampiric counterpart. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since unlike that book this one is a pay-for-download product, but still, it’s something else to know that they could have added more but chose not to.

The book begins by introducing us to the lycaonite base class. This class is not only heavily invested in offering bonus werewolf feats (see below) to help flesh out your werewolf character concept, it also presents an escalating series of mechanics based around offering bonuses or penalties to various stats depending on the phases of the moon. I suspect that some players and GM’s will be put off by the idea that a PCs bonuses can fluctuate (heavily so as the class levels up) due to events beyond the character’s control, but this is addressed in sidebars and a surprisingly frank discussion about using the class in the game. If nothing else, the book is very open about the challenges of using this class, and offering some alternative ways of utilizing it.

One thing I would have liked to have seen more of, though I can’t hold this against the book considering the attention given to keeping it on the lean side, was new options matching what was in the Advanced Player’s Guide. Werewolf traits, for example, or class archetypes for the lycaonite (perhaps that would have been a good way to work in alternate lycanthropes?) would have been welcome.

The bulk of Marchen der Daemonwulf, however, is devoted to its werewolf feats. Weighing in at fifty-five feats, the design philosophy here is told to us outright: that you can take whatever combination of feats lets you build the werewolf you want. And make no mistake, there are a lot of options. Several feat “trees” are presented, such as an escalating series of feats around gaining power from devouring corpses (you gain extra power if it’s the corpse of a sentient creature) or around becoming a leader of wolves. Others are stand-alone feats, such as improving your ability to transform, or gaining fast healing at night.

A half-dozen new magic items round out the book. Two are magic weapon properties, while the other four are wondrous items. I was a little surprised by this section, as it seemed rather anemic and thus against the philosophy of keeping the book narrowly focused; only here are things that can be used against werewolves, as opposed to playing one (though there are some beneficial magic items here too).

Overall, Marchen der Daemonwulf does a superb job of making werewolves an option for PCs. By using feats to grant werewolf powers, along with a class that maximizes not only how many feats you can gain but also introduces lunar abilities, playing a shapeshifting lycanthrope is made into a viable and interesting choice for players. Though the book has some issues, such as the uncopyable text or the sparse magic items, none of these are enough to hurt its focus. If you’ve always wanted to play a werewolf character, then you have cause to howl in joy with the release of Marchen der Daemonwulf.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Necromancer's Grimoire: Marchen der Daemonwulf
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The Genius Guide to Rune Staves and Wyrd Wands
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/29/2011 14:44:29
One of the oddities of Pathfinder is that arcane spellcasters can’t use most of the magic weapons they make. Now, they can multiclass or just buy the requisite feats, to be sure, but for the most part an enchanted bastard sword isn’t going to be swung by the wizard that enchanted it. Wizards, sorcerers, and their ilk just don’t have anything equivalent to the “plussed” weapons that fighters regularly use.

That is, until the Genius Guide to Rune Staves and Wyrd Wands came along.

This book deals with a new sub-category of magic item; magic implements. Magic implements (in the form of the rune staves and wyrd wands) are like magic weapons in that they have enhancement bonuses and magic properties. But unlike weapons, these bonuses and properties are applied to spells cast with them in hand. For example, you +5 fiery wyrd wand will, when you cast a fire spell – add another 1d6 points of damage (for the fiery property) with an additional +5 points of damage (for the +5 enhancement bonus). The enhancement bonus also applies to things like overcoming spell resistance, dispelling, etc.

It’s a surprisingly elegant system of adding new, functional magic “weapons” for spellcasters. Having almost two dozen new magic implement properties, and several sidebars on how to price new properties or integrating this system with traditional wands and staves, the book makes sure to cover all of the bases. In fact, the only thing the book doesn’t cover is whether or not you can treat a rune staff (being a large piece of wood) as a magic weapon like a quarterstaff, since it has an enhancement bonus.

Overall, if you’re tired of having your spellcaster miss out on the magic weapons that are so ubiquitous for fighters, have them make a rune staff or wyrd wand for themselves instead. After all, shouldn’t your wizard’s staff be more than just a backup weapon?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Rune Staves and Wyrd Wands
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