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Everyman Minis: Mystic Scrivener
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2018 04:43:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

The pdf begins with a sidebar describing the basic understanding of the multiverse the scriveners are supposed to have, elaborating upon the concept of the Language of Creation. After this brief summary, we dive into the proper archetype; the mystic scrivener is an investigator archetype that alters alchemy: Instead of the usual benefits, the mystic scrivener adds the bonus to Linguistics and Profession (scribe). Additionally, the mystic scrivener gains read magic as a constant SP and may cast arcane mark at-will, changing which runes, markings etc. make up his mark whenever casting it. The mark consists of a number of letters or markings equal to 6 + class level; the scrivener uses class level as caster level. Instead of preparing extracts, the scrivener prepares baubles with esoteric phrases; the scrivener must read these aloud (requiring verbal components). The scrivener gains Esoteric Linguistics and Psychic Sensitivity at 1st level, ignoring prerequisites.

The mystic scrivener may choose from an array of additional, archetype-exclusive talents: Esoteric writings nets one spell from cle/oracle, psychic or sorc/wiz-lists, learning the spell as an extract. If the spell can be found on multiple lists, it uses the highest spell list. Alternative, the investigator may choose two spells from any of the lists, but they must be one level lower than the highest level investigator formula available for preparation. Exorcising sigil lets the scrivener use two uses of inspiration to duplicate the second effect of protection from evil for 10 minutes per class level. Promethean scrivener nest prerequisite-less Craft Construct, substituting Linguistics ranks (!! Important – not the cheesable overall skill!) for CL, and Linguistics fro Craft to create constructs. The scrivener may use extracts instead of spells as prerequisites, but does not otherwise ignore spell prerequisites. Golem-maker, anyone? Prophetic dreams is a 1/day option to write something on his forehead before going to sleep, gaining augury after an hour; 9th level upgrades that to divination, 15th to commune (both spell references are not properly italicized). The scrivener may also learn Scribe Scroll, allowing him to scribe scrolls of formulae known, using investigator level as CL. This does not allow spells that don’t qualify to e turned into scrolls. Finally, the scrivener can gain the voice of the grace revelation of the bones mystery, using Intelligence and class level to determine its effects.

At 9th level, the archetype replaces the investigator talent with the occultist’s magic circles, using class level as occultist levels for the purpose of their power, and uses of inspiration instead of mental focus to activate them. Instead of 11th level’s talent, the scrivener gains the occultist’s outsider contact class feature, once again using investigator levels as occultist levels and inspiration as a stand-in for mental focus.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – apart from two missed italicizations, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Matt Morris delivers a cool archetype here: The mystic scrivener as an investigator obsessed with the occult is an interesting angle and I enjoy the execution here. My only true gripe here is that the archetype, conceptually, probably could have carried full-blown class-hack levels of modification. I could easily expand the tricks of the archetype further, adding more unique talents etc. That being said, what is here is nice indeed. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mystic Scrivener
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 Easy Mode
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2018 04:42:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: This review was requested by one of my patreons. The Easy Mode version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 is basically the refined and updated version of Season 1, and as such still contains the original pdf in the downloads. I strongly suggest going with the proper Easy Mode Season 2 upgrade – the rules are significantly more precise.

Now, this pdf is everything you need to play the Vs. Stranger Stuff adventures released for season 1, and indeed, anything in that regard. However, at the same time, even a cursory glance at the page-count in comparison should make clear that the full version sports a LOT more, interesting options, including the other difficulty levels. Let it be known, though, that the supplement, while obviously a teaser of the full Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 experience, is NOT cripple-ware. This is fully functional on its own and the pdf is FREE, the print at-cost at a paltry $3.00, which means that this supplement is great to check out whether you like the basics of the system. As a humble aside from yours truly, I consider the other difficulties presented in the big book to be superior. The different difficulties are briefly explained herein, but this pdf focuses on the basics.

We thus begin with a summary of what’s required for play, which is basically just one or more decks of cards as well as players and paper/pencils. The pdf includes a list of possible inspirations.

Okay, as in Stranger Things, we play kids, who have two attributes: Brains and Muscles. Starting attribute dispersal can be 5 in both or 4 in one, 6 in the other. The numerical values determine how many cards you draw when facing a challenge. There also are Good and Bad Gimmicks. You pick two Good Gimmicks and one Bad Gimmick at character creation: These can include cool, older siblings, further modifications of the attributes, etc. – and on the bad side, we get e.g. broken homes, being a klutz, having overbearing helicopter parents, etc. Every character starts at 10 toughness, which are basically the hit points of the character, though Gimmicks may modify that.

Equipment is handled in a relatively rules-lite manner, potentially requiring that the kids get gear that kids usually wouldn’t have by creative means. Sans roleplaying, it takes a draw to get it successfully: Compare the value of the card to the EV of the item. EV stands for “Equipment Value”, just fyi. You may attempt to get as many such equipment pieces per session as your Brains value dictates. Paired items, like walky-talkies, increase the value by 2 if you want both; this does not apply for items sold in bulk like nails or M&Ms, obviously. Sample values of how hard it is to get items are provided for your convenience. There, done: You can start playing right now – and the pdf has the character-sheet right there.

The next section deals with gamemastery, first explaining the core mechanic: Like the equipment example, you basically draw cards and compare the value of the cards to the TV, target value of the challenge. Actions that are directly opposed are resolved via competetitive drawing, higher card wins. Teamwork uses the character with the highest attribute, +1 card per person helping. Yeah, teamwork is powerful!

Suits mean something: The red suits, hearts and diamonds, are good suits with generally favorable results; the black suits are generally negative, with spades being worse than clubs. This is relevant when e.g. using a simple draw, i.e. drawing a card to get a general notion what happens, and can be really neat to help the GM decide on how an action pans out.

Combat is measured in turns, with turn-length adjusted to suit the needs of the story; player to the GM’s left goes first, in order; after all players acted, the GM’s monsters, NPCs etc. may act. Movement is similarly handled in an abstract, narrative manner, assuming the kids to be able to move a “moderate” distance; anything beyond that may require a test on brains or muscles.

You can perform one attack per round, or one complex action. Small actions like flicking on a light switch, etc., are free. Melee attacks work by comparing Muscles with the target’s DV – Defense Value. Ranged attacks are executed against the higher of DV or RV – RV denotes, bingo, the “Range Value.” The target numbers parallel btw. those of other actions. Damage depends on the weapon used: Fists or improvised weapons cause 1 point of damage, advanced weaponry like power tools 3.

As long as a character has 6 or more Toughness, all is fine; below that, the pain begins hamper them. At 5 toughness, the kid suffers -1 to both attributes, for being in minor pain. Having only 2 Toughness increases this penalty to -2 and 0 Toughness means -3 and extreme pain; -1 toughness means being knocked out, -2 means death. Resting for an hour regains 1 Toughness, 4 hours let you regain 5 and a full night of sleep nets 10 Toughness. First aid and pain killers can help against pain, obviously. And that’s basically the whole combat section as presented herein.

Beyond that, we get stats for 4 different adults, a sample kid and 11 monsters, ranging from greys to werewolves etc….and this is pretty much where the booklet ends. If you want the PCs to have unique stuff (i.e. items)…well, the big book has sentient robot buddies, working x-ray-goggles or spells and supernatural powers like pyrokinesis, parasitic regeneration, etc. A sample NPC with powers, 13, is provided and the pdf continues to provide a list (not comprehensive, btw.!) of further goodies from the big book. Attacking objects, fear, fire and fireworks, hazards, endurance over time, an extended GM-chapter. Rules for games within games, lucky lighters, a nice chapter on world-building and a sample mini-setting all are in the big book.

…yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I very much suggest you get the big book if this setting/system even remotely appeals to you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks, though this version does fall short of the full-color splendor of the big book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari’s expansion of Rick Hershey’s original season 1 pdf is something I applaud. Instead of taking season 1’s pdf down, we get a full-blown improvement in rules-integrity and precision, as well as a more than doubled page-count. Now, it is pretty evident that this version cannot, and doesn’t try to, replace the massive, proper Season 2 book. Instead, it should be considered to be a handy teaser for the vastly expanded Second Season book; a means for new groups to check out the game without any risk, courtesy of the pdf being offered for FREE. Now, in direct comparison, this obviously falls short of the big book; it can’t reach that level of depth and quality in these few pages. At the same time, this is a fully functional game, which is a pretty big plus as far as I’m concerned.

How to rate this, then? Here, things get tricky. You see, this pdf lacks a lot of what made me really, really love Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s full book. It remains a good offering, but unfortunately, I have read the full version before this one, so I can’t help but compare the two, and the big book is my favorite VsM-Engine game released by Fat Goblin Games so far. That being said, this is a perfect way of checking out whether the engine and type of game works for you and yours…and that’s how the pdf is intended. As a whole, I think this is worth checking out if you’re curious about the system. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is FREE.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 Easy Mode
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Everyman Minis: Favored Enemy Focuses
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2018 04:41:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we get the new Focused Favored Enemy Combat-feat, which requires fifth level to take. It nets the character a focused favored enemy option and may be taken multiple times, with every additional time requiring +5 ranger levels for the prerequisites. Alternatively, when gaining 5th level, the ranger may elect to gain a focused favored enemy option instead of choosing a new favored enemy; existing favored enemy progression still happens when such a switch is made and some options sport prerequisites; these options work against all creatures that qualify for the purpose of a favored enemy chosen, and references to the favored enemy bonus refer to the bonus granted against the specific creature. Important: Favored enemy focuses may not be chosen by characters that traded favored enemy for another ability, nor be prestige classes or similar options that granted, unless the option explicitly specifies otherwise – nice angle, since it makes the engine somewhat future proof.

Anyways, we do get quite an extensive array of different options: Unless I have miscounted, we get to choose from a total of 21 such options. One such option would be aimed strikes: When attacking a creature with a manufactured or natural weapon or a ranger spell, DR of the target is reduced by the favored enemy bonus, to a minimum of 0; only DR/adamantine, piercing, bludgeoning or slashing may be thus reduced, tying the ability into skill rather than a supernatural angle. Nice touch there. Another option lets the ranger use a swift action to challenge a favored enemy properly identified as such, increasing favored enemy bonuses to damage by 50%, with ½ the highest favored enemy bonus also governing the number of times per day this can be used. Such challenges impose a -2 penalty to AC, though.

Enemy lore yields additional pieces of information when identifying creatures of the favored enemy type via Knowledge, once more governed by ½ the favored enemy onus pertaining to that critter. Enemy Sense makes the ranger be treated as uncanny dodge versus the creatures; additionally, favored enemy’s bonus is doubled for Perception to notice an ambush. Note, that this doubled bonus is generally RAW always on, not limited to favored enemies being parts of the opposition. Expanded expertise allows the ranger to add the favored enemy bonus to Diplomacy, intimidate, Spellcraft and Stealth versus the chosen favored enemies.

Focused Casting adds favored enemy bonus for ranger spells only to the spell’s CL as well as checks to overcome SR and spell save DCs, if any. Focused defense nets Favored Defense as a bonus feat; with multiple favored enemies, swift action allows for the switching of benefits to another favored enemy. He may use the benefits of this ability ½ highest favored enemy bonus times per day. Wait, what? The feat nets an always-on boost; the favored enemy focus adds no per day component…to what does this limit pertain? Switches of favored enemies that apply the feat’s benefits? Or does the feat require activation when gained by the focus? Honestly not sure here – this should be more precise.

We also get a smattering of combat maneuver specialization focuses, which often require specific feats at prerequisites: Focused bull rush allows the ranger to end his successful bull rush in any space of a favored enemy; Focused dirty trick has the wrong prerequisite – pretty sure, it should not be Improved Bull Rush. The focus extends dirty trick’s inflicted condition duration by ½ favored enemy bonus. Focused disarm requires Greater Disarm and, when successful and having a free hand, the ranger can catch or either wield, stow or drop the disarmed item. Focused drag makes the ranger count as a number of size categories larger than ½ favored enemy bonus; focused overrun and reposition work the same way, but the latter also states the wrong feat – it should be Improved Reposition, not Improved Overrun. This would be as well a place as any to note that the respective focuses using half bonuses should probably specify rounding up or down and/or a minimum. Focused grapple lets the ranger roll weapon/unarmed damage twice when maintaining a grapple versus a favored enemy, adding results together before adding bonuses.

Focused steal is interesting: It lets you steal fastened items sans DC-increase and even closely worn items, though at +5 or greater to CMD. Really cool! I am pretty sure that the “Improved Sunder” focus should be named Focused Sunder, analogue to the usual nomenclature of the other focuses. The focus allows the sundering of unarmed or natural weapons, which are assumed to have 1/10th of the creature’s hit pint total; if a natural attack has half its hit points remaining, the target takes -2 to atk and damage with it and may only threaten a critical hit on a natural 20. Fast healing and DR applies and healing effects add their effects to all natural weapons. Weird here: Unarmed strikes are exempt from the second part of the ability; while their inclusion is obviously intended, it still struck me as odd. Focused trip makes creatures that are tripped by 10 or more require a standard action to stand up, in spite of e.g. kip-up etc.

Ranger’s initiative is slightly odd: It adds the favored enemy bonus to initiative, provided he is aware of favored enemies among the foes. Okay, does the revelation of such foes in combat increase initiative retroactively? If a group contained more than one eligible group, do these bonuses stack versus a mixed group? Ranger’s Resolve is a bit odd: It adds +1/2 the highest ranger’s favored enemy bonus to Will saves. So, if you have a secondary focus versus another creature, you still get the biggest favored enemy bonus for it. Scent tracker nets tracking by scent versus the favored enemy, with favored enemy bonus +4 or higher doubling the range, tripling it at +8 or higher. Finally, soften blows lets the ranger expend an AoO to make a Reflex save vs. 10 + enemy BAB + the higher of enemy’s Str or Dex-mod. A success halves the damage of an incurred unarmed or natural attack. Not the biggest fan here

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se good, but feel a bit rush – the cut-copy-past glitches are unnecessary and a few of the rules-components could be a bit more precise in the details. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Favored enemy and similar nemesis-type of abilities are notoriously hard to make them work properly; too potent, and you marginalize the threat of the targets; as a situational benefit, it must remains potent, though. Oh, and favored enemy as a base ability, is simply not that interesting. The idea of favored enemy focuses, adding some active abilities and agenda to the chassis, is one I absolutely adore. That being said, the execution feels uncharacteristically rushed for author Luis Loza and Everyman Gaming. The small hiccups accumulate pretty quickly over the course of the brief pdf, in some instances influencing rules-integrity. Since some focuses use the highest bonus and some the specific bonus due to balancing concerns, it’s somewhat harder to determine a proper baseline. As a whole, I love a lot of what’s proposed here, and indeed, the concept is cool and worthwhile. That being said, I have to rate what is RAW here and, well, that aspect leaves a bit to be desired in a couple of instances. Thus, while I maintain that this has serious potential (and most GMs should be capable of making it work properly with minimum work), I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Favored Enemy Focuses
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In The Company of Dragons Expanded (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2018 04:40:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive expansion hardcover of „In the Company of Dragons“ clocks in at a massive 199 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with194 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. It was further expedited by me receiving a print copy.

All right, so we begin with a massive foreword by Bill Slavicsek, original author of the by now classic Council of Wyrms…and then we dive right in. Okay, usually, I assume a degree of familiarity regarding the “In the Company of..:”-series, mainly, because it is by far the best monster-playing option series out there for any d20-based game. Yes, I’ll stand by that. Since this book is a massive hardcover expansion of the original content, it must be considered to be special. Let us be a bit more in-depth.

So the first thing you’ll note upon starting to read this massive tome, particularly if you’re new to the series, is that this does not read like your average splatbook: Rite Publishing employs a cool framing narrative, wherein Qwilion of Questhaven requests members of specific species to talk about their own race; we basically get the inside scoop, and this is amazing for a couple of reasons. In the hands of a talented author, this inadvertently means that we get a glimpse at the psyche, biases and Weltanschauung of the respective races featured, one that goes beyond what we’d otherwise receive from a neutral depiction. As an aside, this also makes paragraphs that many readers are likely to skip in other publications a joy to read – this book is no difference and does not read like a phone-book of stats, but rather like a compelling, intriguing glimpse at draconic psychology.

These write-ups, obviously, also tap into creation myths and an often delightfully positive view of physical descriptions. Qwilion’s draconic correspondent, Thunders in Defiance, for example, wastes no time mentioning how the draconic form is the crest of royal houses, a symbol of destruction and majesty. These are little components that accumulate, enhancing the profile we have of the race: When e.g. the dragons tells us about how a clan of Taninim (that’s the name of the dragon-race herein) consumed a divine clam, losing their wings and becoming compelled to organize the world as a potential origin story for imperial dragons, I couldn’t help but smile at the compelling mythweaving. Now, beyond these components, we also learn, in depth, about the structuring paradigms of the taninim society in the Lost Isles, the backdrop/setting that houses them – more on that later; for now, let it be known that taninim differ in a couple of key aspects from regular dragons, but fret not: This does NOT mean that they are anything short of majestic apex predators. The Lost Isles is what I’d call a tie-in mini-setting; much like the Plane of Dreams or the Shadowplane, it allows for easy plugging into another campaign setting and its presence explains why few folks had heretofore heard of the taninim.

Anyways, the reputation of a taninim is important and the pdf explains the various grand rites of the race – these are relatively rules-lite rituals that account for example for banishment, challenges, changing alignment, etc. The acquisition of names and titles is also a big deal, with additional, grandiose titles gained…and there is a rite that governs basically a mating ritual of the otherwise mostly asexual taninim, who btw. also can change sex. These entries do codify their effects in proper rules-language, just fyi, so yes, while flavorful, they also carry game-mechanics with them that make their success or failure relevant in game-terms.

It should be noted that alignment changes may actually yield a painful process in which the character gets new scales, and the extensive discussion also delves into taninim religion and the psychology of hoards and lairs – territory is important. Now, it should be noted that chromatic/metallic distinctions are not necessarily color-coding All right, I know, I’m waffling – so let’s take a look at the rules-chassis, shall we?

Tanimin are dragons, receive +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, are Small, receive regular movement, can use manufactured weapons et al (at a -2 penalty) with their claws (secondary, base damage 1d3), receive darkvision and low-light vision, are immune to sleep and paralysis, can glide, receive +1 atk and +2 AC versus dragons as well as +2 to saves versus SPs, spells, etc. of such targets and +2 to Knowledge (arcana) to identify dragons. They also get a properly codified natural primary bite of 1d6 +1.5 Str-mod; Their hide yields +2 natural AC, but their form requires special armor. They increase ACP by 2 and suffer the same amount as a penalty to atk when wearing one; oh, and they reduce their maneuverability by one step when wearing armor while flying. They also get a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. Taninim are quadrupeds, receiving modified slots (armor, belt (saddle only), chest, eyes, headband, neck, shoulders and wrist. Armor costs are doubled, but they get a greater carrying capacity, depending on size, as well as the usual +4 to CMD versus trip and overrun.

Alternatively, they can elect, racial ability modifier-wise, for +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, or +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Dex. Among the alternate racial traits. Beyond these, we get alternate racial traits. It should be noted that the alternate ability arrays are not simply that – instead, they are tied to certain types of flavor and additional benefits – the Dex and Cha-boosting option, for example, comes with Tiny size and sports only a 20 ft. base movement rate, but also provides a fly speed from the get-go. Yeah, in case you didn’t know that already, we’re talking DRAGONS right here; I’m not going to complain about the first-level flight here. If you’re reading this book, you’re not going for a gritty low-fantasy game where that would become overly intrusive. There is a trait to use Wisdom instead of Intelligence for Knowledge skills where the character has at least 1 rank. +2 concentration, better giant killing (+1 to atk, +4 to AC), being a Lung dragon, immunity to altitude sickness and no lost Dex-bonus when climbing; better aerial combat, toxic blood and spiny hides complement this array. The alternate racial traits contain meaningful tweaks beyond their mechanics.

The race also receives a couple of favored class options -barbarian, druid, fighter, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, sorcerer, taskshaper and war master are covered. Before I delve into the respective archetypes provided, let's not mince words so far - the taninim are strong. On a cosmetic level, the slight feature-bloat and two alternate attribute-sets that gear the race towards caster/martials are not something I'm overly fond of. Still, generally, the race itself can be considered strong, but manageable. It should be noted that we get tables denoting sizes by category, which is really neat.

Now the racial paragon-class is the draconic exemplar, which covers 20 levels, nets the taninim full BAB-progression, 3 good saves,d12 HD, 4+Int skills per level, no proficiencies apart from natural weapons. The taninim also receives a draconic essence - each of which provides one type of scaling energy resistance, a color, a breath weapon type and a unique compulsion, which always remains hard for the dragon to refrain from doing - which fits in thematically nice with the overall theme of draconic types. How many do we get in the expanded edition? Well, not “just” 20 as before…but rather than that 4+ pages of them!! Twice as many as before! And yes, these include trifling dragons, zealots, primeval ones, etc. Upon taking level 1 in the class, claws are upgraded to primary weapons and 1d4 damage. (The claws and how they work are one of the changes in this expanded version.) And yes, the role of e.g. linnorms in the context of the Lost Isles is covered.

Additionally, at 1st level, 7th, 13th and 19th level, the draconic exemplar can choose draconic weaponry - these can be used 1/2 class level + Con-mod times per day. Rather interesting - if applicable, their save-DC is governed by either Con or Cha, depending on the ability. They include fascination-inducing gazes, bolstering oneself against assaults, blinding gusts of wind, receiving the breath weapon associated with the chosen essence, elemental aura, charging through allies, enemies etc. The iconic whirlpool of bronze dragons, faerie dragon euphoric gas, frightful presence, spellcasting, roars, rampages, channel energy, retributive attacks after crits…and at higher levels, growing additional claws or even a second head can be gained thus – and yes, before you ask, draconic essence requirements prevent combining these two – thankfully! And yes, e.g. death curses by linnorm-y subtype are provided for your edification…if your PC falls, at least the enemy will suffer…There also is a sub-category of draconic weaponry that almost takes up 5 pages on its own, the draconic flair, which allows for the use of draconic weaponry uses to power SPs, with 1st, 7th, 10th and 13th level unlocking new options. Some of these sport unique tweaks to the SPs; zealots get their own unique abilities here; minor hiccup: The 13th level ability states 10th level in its explanation, but it is pretty evident what the intention is.

Additionally, at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the exemplar receives a draconic defense, which is chosen from its own list - rerolls versus sonic/language-dependent spells, evasion while airborne, all-around vision (at higher levels) spell resistance (even reflective one!), 1/day save-rerolls (upgrades at higher levels), scaling resistance to negative energy, an aura of slowed time (class level rounds per day), scales that apply ½ natural AC to touch attacks (does not stack with other such abilities, thankfully) - quite an array of iconic tricks here. High-level swimming through lava can be found alongside fast healing, which thankfully sports a daily maximum cap, preventing abuse. A blinding aura, fortification, nictitating membranes (called “nictating” here), being breath-less – you can basically make very linnorm-y or esoteric-style dragons – the expanded section provides a serious array of unique tricks.

This is not everything, mind you: We receive a third list of special abilities, the draconic gifts. These are chosen at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, they are also governed by Con or Cha, depending on the ability. These gifts usually require a specific draconic essence to pull off - without access to energy (acid) and a corresponding breath weapon, you can't make pools of acid, to give you an example. Most of these provide alternate uses of draconic weaponry and similar tweaks. Here, we can find high-level adamantine claws, the option to use two heads (if you have them) more efficiently, adding an auto-trip on a failed save to the breath weapon…and e.g. lacing the breath can be found.

Now, it is pretty awesome and something I’ll get back to later, but the book makes, courtesy of stretch-goals, use of quite a few amazing supplements: If you’re like me and like the time thief/warden-classes by Rogue Genius Games, for example, you’ll enjoy seeing the option to learn a bit of time-dabbling via aevum here. Blindsense and forming a potent living bottleneck in cramped conditions is another cool trick – after all, you are bound to explore dungeons sooner, rather than later, right? Camouflage, capsizing vessel, various gaseous weapons, poisonous chrome crystals, magnetic pulses, crushing foes, summoning temporary crystal balls, flinging foes…and have I mentioned basically bleed added, clinging napalm-y breath, oozing ice breath, no penalty to Perception while asleep, partial bypassing of energy immunity/resistances, touching spirits with claws, starflight, rending armor asunder, sweeping breath weapons…and yo know you want to unleash a tungsten sandstorm, right? How many of these do we get? Well, I only touched the tip of the iceberg here – more than 15 pages (!!!) of these gifts are included. Yes, you heard me. This is vast. It should also be noted that the array of gifts available often taps into the respective essence and other class options, generating specific progressions based on prerequisites that prevent OP combos…but rest assured, even a moderately capable player will get something rather cool out of this section.

10th level provides spell-trigger/completion items as though a sorcerer/wizard, using class level as caster level.

But we’re Small! That sucks, right? Well, here's where dracomorphosis comes into play - gained at 4th level, this one nets you size increases, secondary wing attacks (or primary gore for Lung-dragons), AC and attribute bonuses - and flight. Dracomorphosis is gained every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the taninim to grow to Gargantuan size at 16th level - the race also reduces Dex during the size-increases and receives tail sweeps, crushes etc. Which is damn cool, granted...but what happens if Dex drops to 0? No, I'm not kidding - with a total reduction of -8 to Dex, this is a real possibility. And yes, I am aware of how this sort of thing is usually handled with monster-advancement, but the point remains that this pdf ought to have tackled this particular issue. I am also a bit disappointed here, for this issue already cropped up in the original version. The capstone is, of course, the final great wyrm apotheosis.

The book also contains no less than 3.5 pages of feats, with the options to swallow snatched foes, changing spell damage a limited amount of times per day to mirror the breath weapon, one that helps capture foes alive and the usual “additional class feature”-feats. More guardians for the lair, high-level appendage serving , etc. – quite a cool, if potent array. The section also contains suggestions for monster feats suitable for the taninim.

Now the archetypes - first would be the draconic hero - an archetype that allows a taninim of any class to gain draconic essence and grow via Dracomorphosis at the cost of some class abilities usually gained - as a massive multiclass-covering archetype, the abilities replaced vary from class to class, including Rite’s taskshaper and RGG’s hellion and war master classes, as well as the ACG-classes among the supported classes. No occult classes support, though. This archetype is very much a required component of the book, for it provides means for various different draconic PCs to further diversify the party’s portfolio without compromising the integrity of the classes and balance.

Speaking of hellions, a new archetype herein would be the defiler of lairs, which necessitate that I elaborate on a crucial flavor component of the Lost Isles – you see, there is the Well of Oblivion, an almost cosmic-evil level source of power and corruption that can taint the dragons to become what they call “worms”, undragons; the spiteful corruption of all dragonkind. And you wondered why dragons reacted so picky when not called “wyrm”, as proper…Anyways, the ultimate representation and a sort of satanic adversary for dragonkind would be the White Worm, tapping obviously into the literary tradition of the conqueror worm imagery. The defilers are tainted dragons with a slightly modified patron spell list and 1st level yielding the White Worm’s taint, modifying the basic combat capabilities and form of the defiler of lairs, replacing the bonded object ability. Instead of 8th level’s hellion talent, we get an aura that can suppress luck bonuses as well as better combat capabilities while, bingo, assaulting lairs.

Scaled Juggernauts are essentially taninim fighters specializing in combat with their natural weapons, gaining rake and pounce at higher levels, as well as better defenses. Stormclaw magi are a natural weapon-based tweak of the magus-engine, combining that with draconic essence. Trueblood Sorcerors are locked into the draconic bloodline, but receive a scale-spell-component that replaces material components/divine foci and replace regular bloodline powers with a breath weapon. The wardrake war master archetype replaces consul with better Diplomacy with dragons and may even get a dragon cohort later. Followers may have the drakeling template added.

White Worm Apostates, oracles tainted as undragons, receive degrees of fortification and may disgorge a swarm of consuming, maggot-like worms and later, rise as a twisted phoenix from their corpse 1/day - a very powerful archetype that absolutely requires the immense social stigma associated with the white worm to be added to the campaign. Amazing one, though!

Now here is one aspect of the book that is slightly annoying s far as I’m concerned: The player-facing material is split to a degree: The psionic dragon-chapter penned by Jeremy Smith is basically an appendix at the back of the book, which is, organization-wise, not ideal – we get, for example, psionic class support for use in conjunction with the draconic hero general archetype, requiring page-flipping. Similarly the draconic exemplar racial paragon class sports psionic support here, with 5 psionic essences for dragons, which doe interesting things, like e.g. tying the breath weapon to active energy, or providing cryptic support; we also get a new array of even more draconic flairs based on psionic powers – weird formatting decision: While functional, they are not presented in the same table-style manner. A total of 6 different draconic defenses may be found here, which include a dream shroud, negative energy resistance, astral suits, a buffer versus psychic enervation, a nightmarish mind and the option to attune to attacks after suffering them, gaining DR versus the creature’s weaponry from that source. We also get a massive 20 new draconic gifts that include astral cages, being right at home in astral or shadow plane, gaining cryptic insight, dream surges, bursts of ectoplasm and a scaling, cool mastery of oneiromancy. Beyond these massive expansions to the core features, the chapter also contains 3 new archetypes: Psychic warriors can elect to become black dragon heralds, locking them into the feral path, which is further enhanced. The bonus also applies to acid-damage-causing damage-rolls. Instead of the secondary path power, we get exhalation of the black dragon, which may not be changed out. 12th level yields claws of energy and 15th level breath of the black dragon. The gale dancer would be another psychic warrior archetype, gaining a draconic essence if the character doesn’t have one; the archetype also comes with its own path, which focuses on aerial combat mastery and basically pounce while flying for psionic focus expenditure as soon as 3rd level – OUCH. The archetype also nets better overland flight and 12th level yields all the unique dogfighting techniques we expect – death spiral, hovering…pretty neat. 15th level provides further adaptation to airborne assaults as well as yielding the ability to form shape and solidity of clouds. The third archetype would be the winged horror dread, employing terrors via claws and natural attacks and the tapping into the terrifying draconic weaponry; bonus feats and draconic gifts complement this one. A total of 6 psionic feats complement this section for e.g. temporary fast healing for psionic focus expenditure, with a hard cap. Rerolling Will-saves via psionic focus expenditure, but only versus non-dragons and options to increase the potency of the new options complement this section. We also get 5 favored class options for psionic classes. (Ultimate Psionics can be found here!)

The second player-facing chapter relegated to the back of the book deals with Rogue Genius Games’ Dragon Riders/Dracomancers – Since Taninim are similar, but different from the classic draconic threats, the book provides one archetype for either class: The Spirit-Bonded Rider and the Spirit-Bonded Theurge – these two focus mainly on modifying the base class engines to account for the taninim ally, modifying e.g. bonus spells etc.

Thirdly, there would be a massive chapter penned by none other than Jason Nelson of Legendary Games, and the chapter is glorious: Some dragons once were overcome by the Elder Voices, making the eldest of these titans the cairna drakh, the First Fangs; in recent years, the younger glorven muun have risen, a new generation of mythic heroes. While the default assumption of the Lost Isles is that mythic powers are restricted to NPCs, the material herein is extensive. If you do go the NPC-route, be sure to pick up Legendary Games’ superb Path of Dragons and Path of Villains, but that as an aside. In addition to notes for PCs within the context of the Lost Isles, we also receive notes on mythic hoards and lairs and more than 3 pages of mythic modifications for the racial paragon class, including augments and meaningful changes. Beyond that, we get no less than 18 different mythic feat-upgrades for the material herein and beyond, making these adversaries really, really deadly. I love how this section ties deeply into the captivating lore presented in the book.

All right, now I’ve already mentioned time and again the Lost Isles mini-campaign setting, gorgeously mapped by none other than Tommi Salama in full color. The islands, sheltered behind the mystic barrier, sport an absolutely GORGEOUS map and more detailed looks at the respective islands are covered – this whole section acts as basically a massive gazetteer of different regions: There would be Borealis, land of ice and snow, where the glasslike aurora coral grows; rugged and mountainous Earthspine sports the majestic Windscour Cliffs and the small fireflower islets and the ones known as jetsam promise more adventure still; war-torn Stormhome calls to the brave, in spite of its foreboding skies, the earth lush and rich, maintained by draconic might…and wooded Verdance is home to the feykith, human settlements and may well be refuge if you manage to hassle the powers-that-be…and, of course, there would be the festering wound that is the Well of Oblivion…but I touched on that before. The Lost Isles breathe the spirit of high fantasy in the best of ways, providing glimpses at unique vistas that may well have carried their own book; as far as I’m concerned, I’d love to see this unique tie-in setting developed further.

The role of regular dragons in the setting is btw. also covered, and we get a chapter on the unique magic items that may be found herein – several of which would be barbules, which are implanted in the thick draconic hide, allowing e.g. weapons to be treated as dancing. The downside to these potent implants is that they cause permanent damage while implanted. Really cool for big dragons – with the proper barbules, you can generate a missile-deflecting shield, guarding allies within your space with a powerful 75%, non-stacking miss-chance. Ability-score boosts and spell storing is also included in the deal…and if you’re afraid that the big dragon won’t accompany his allies into dungeons, well, there is a collar that allows for compression. Class ability enhancers can also be found and the eye of elemental focus allows the taninim to form breath weapons into fireball-like blasts. The steelrain war howdah also rocks and yes, there are vambraces to duplicate the standard benefits of unarmed damage escalation. Even better, we actually also get Elder’s Pixane, a legacy item collar. Legacy items are Rite’s scaling magic items, just fyi. What begins with a basic defensive item becomes pretty amazing pretty fast. Now, as noted before briefly, there is a CR +1 drakeling template and we get 2 new critters: At Cr 8 and CR 11, the Screaming and Whispering Entropy, respectively, horrid clouds that can exsanguinate and possess targets, tied into the rich lore of the setting.

Okay, so the book has another chapter that made me smile from ear to ear: This book is, in fact, also a Dragon-NPC-Codex of sorts. Why should you care? Simple. When someone asks me for the best NPCs in the 3pp-circuit, my response is usually to list a whole variety of Rite Publishing books first; the complex and challenging builds are what, a long while back, led me to become a fan of Rite Publishing. So yeah, we don’t just get some standard codex stats, we get fully developed characters…and not any characters either, mind you: We get full stats of the Elder Voices, and they are EPIC. Take e.g. “Darkened and Bloodied”, the mighty draconic hero war master wardrake: This lady clocks in at CR 22/MT 5, and she will mess you up – if not with superb tactical acumen, then her ridiculously potent physical tricks. Beyond here, we get to know the most accomplished spellcaster of the isles, the mighty green sorcerer Gardener; Heart of the Mountain; Infinite (includes an artifact); Winterglide (again, with unique item) – none of these sport less than CR 20 and guess what? They come with stats sans buff-suite as well. Beyond these mighty demigods, we get 10 mighty dragons of note, including the narrator of this missive, Thunders in Defiance – and yes, the stats are pretty complex and diverse. This one is pretty epic. Beyond this aspect, however, we also get the rules to make undragons and an archetype for the jotun (see Rite’s In the Company of Giants) – the race sports a pretty cool tie-in with the tale of the taninim, putting a spin on the classic giants vs. dragons-conflict.

Okay, so this also includes an adventure intended for dragons of level 1, guiding them up to level 6. The adventure is billed as a scripted sandbox and comes with, once more, gorgeous full-color cartography by master Salama. Even better: We get player-friendly versions of the maps in the back AND high-res jpgs of them for VTT-use. Dear publishers, please take note: This is how it’s done. When you have amazing maps, make sure that players get to see them sans secret door markers, keys, etc. Kudos to the Rite team! Oh, I didn’t mention the most important thing, did I? Guess who wrote it? None other than Ben McFarland. If you have any kind of experience with adventures, this alone should be enough t make you grin. Oh, and guess what? The adventure is not some brief 10-page standard supplemental adventure – we’re looking at a proper, full-length module. The adventure takes place on the volcanic island of Pani Ura (explorable via hex-map!) and deals with taninim granted a fiefdom there. Years passed, no sign remained. Sounds familiar? Well, one way to think of the module is to consider it a reclaiming of a Roanoke-like aftermath, through the lens of a brilliant writer and high fantasy.

Want to know more? Well, sure, but for that, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS:

..

.

The taninim PCs are sent to Pani Ura by none other than Raging Tide, to figure out what happened on Pani Ura and to secure the island for the taninim – which is depicted as a hex that contains tribal lands, wilderness, villages – etc. Heck, we even get entries for subaquatic animals noted, for the PCs will need to sustain themselves; the island is inhabited by several tribes: The Maohi, who btw. are the native grippli (yay for frogfolk!); the Otsjanep tengus; the Pu’oku locathah and the Saissut iguana-lizardfolk; all of these tribes come with notes on their settlements, sample statblocks, story seeds and potential threats/developments. Similarly, there are several threats the PCs will have to contend with – like the interaction with the tribes, these threats are tied into the environment and can be used in a pretty freeform manner by the PCs. After establishing contact, it will be up to the PCs to unify the island: Seeds for the dealing/negotiations with the respective tribes are provided and ultimately, the PCs will have to explore the old taninim lair within the dungeon of Pani Ura. The dungeon comes, once more, with a superb full-color map and the locations sport read-aloud text here as well. It is here that the PCs will have t deal with taninim that have been utterly corrupted, as well as a body-jumping menace that was foreshadowed before. Once the PCs have defeated these foes and destroyed their tainted idol, they should have managed to consolidate their rule, right? Well, no. Unfortunately for the PCs, crusaders have found the island; the crusader’s ship is fully mapped and the invaders are hostile, belonging to an order dedicated to the enslavement and eradication of all dragonkind. Usually, those guys would be potential allies for PCs…but this time around, the PCs unfortunately are the dragons. If the PCs are smart, they better prevent the escape of the vessel and defeat these fellows…but this is not the end. The order won’t just take a loss; instead, they send really potent, really nasty folks atop the mighty Drake’s Misery, a fully statted vessel, armed to the teeth…and if the PCs don’t intervene, the crusaders will deal serious damage to the island…let alone the PCs… The literally only thing I didn’t love about this great module is that I have finished it; while the replay-value is huge, I wish this was a full campaign. I mean, seriously, the defending the isle angle is great!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, I noticed a couple of minor, purely aesthetic hiccups, missing blank spaces and the like, but less than you’d expect from a tome of this size; in this category, I’d consider this to be good. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s classic 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a ton of amazing full-color artworks. The cartography is excellent and in full-color, comes with player-friendly versions and even high-res Jpgs for VTT-use. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The massive hardcover is really neat and well worth getting.

Wendall Roy’s original “In the Company of Dragons” was a “squaring the circle”-sort of file; on one hand, he had to capture the power of dragons; on the other, there had to be some sort of balance. He succeeded in a truly impressive manner. This expansion, then, represents a massive evolution and refinement. We add Steven D. Russell’s draconic flairs as basically a whole sub-engine; well-done psionics by Jeremy Smith; kickass mythic support by Jason Nelson and a masterclass adventure by Ben McFarland. Sounds like an all-star team? Yeah, well, it is.

Beyond the mega-impressive chassis and the subtle, unobtrusive balancing that prevents the worst potential combinations, this oozes flavor and flair; the prose is stellar and the mighty NPCs can carry whole campaigns. The added details to taninim culture and Lost Isles is a joy to read and radiates creativity and heart’s blood. The adventure is unconventional, creative and amazing and the supplemental material otherwise never goes the lame route, instead opting for creative and unique solutions.

The Lost Islands are unique enough to carry a campaign by themselves, but please indulge me for a second, for this book made me come up with a pretty cool idea: So, you know how PCs often are supposed to “save the world”? Or, when evil, lose in the finale, à la Way of the Wicked? Well, what if the evil guys don’t lose? What if the PCs get squashed by a certain, unleashed Worm-that-Walks, what happens when the comet-summoning ritual isn’t stopped and the world as we know it ends, nations fall, gods follow? When darkness claims the world, for the PCs have failed and been TPK’d? Here’s an angle: A few mortals managed to escape to the taninim and the Islands remained. In the aftermath of the downfall of deities, divine energy was released. Now, if you take the rules from Purple Duck Games’ Dragon Thanes of Porphyra, you can do something cool: The latter book assumes that dragons, with enough followers, can learn to grant divine spells to followers! The new PCs could thus be a single taninim with his followers, attempting to become a new good deity of sorts, guarded by the other mortals, in a world that has fallen…or all PCs could be taninim, using the universal leadership rules from Everyman Gaming’s Ultimate Charisma; they are basically a new, draconic pantheon in the making, as they venture forth to bring hope to a defeated world! Come on, can you honestly not be excited by this idea?

Anyways, the fact that I mentioned this angle should tell you how excited this book made me. Yes, I freely admit it. I go review-bot whenever I have to deal with the notion of playable dragons and focus on the crunch, the fluff and turn off my personal biases. As a private person, I don’t even LIKE the notion of playable dragons. I consider it to be a horrible idea in most games. I rated the original version grudgingly, with respect for the design and vision, but no truly pronounced desire to use it, as my games tend to gravitate towards grittier playstyles. This book changed that. Not only did the crunch duly impress me, the whole vision, the setting, the cool NPCs…there is an incredible amount of love poured into this book, and it shows. This is one of the tomes, where the synergy of evocative prose, unique crunch and a daunting vision coalesce and form something greater even than the sum of the parts. In short: This is pretty much the definite option to play dragons. It oozes passion from all of its pages. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and the book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If the notion of playing dragons even remotely intrigues you, then look no further.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Dragons Expanded (PFRPG)
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Dragon Thanes of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2018 04:37:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the „...of Porphyra“-series was sponsored by the Purple Duck Games patreon and clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with a brief summary of a variety of different in-character prose pieces before diving into what exactly dragon thanes are – in short, they are draconic gods or demigods, on a power-level with Porphyra’s elemental lords, psychopomp ushers, archdevils – you get the idea. Before we go into the nit and grit of the pdf, we actually get a handy table that lists the respective thanes with names, alignment, worshipers, domains and subdomains noted; favored weapon and animal are similarly noted in the respective write-ups. The respective thanes all sport 4 domains and subdomains, making them all well-rounded in that regard. It should also be noted that each of the dragon thanes gets his/her own holy symbol, rendered in full color. Each of the respective thanes gets 2 religion traits, though it should be noted that the pdf doesn’t use the trait bonus type, which constitutes a minor downside. However, the traits themselves are fitting and interesting…just internally add the bonus type… All of the thanes come with a nice spell preparation ritual as wella s notes on how the followers etc. behave – this adds some intriguing details to the overall proceedings.

Now, before you turn away, wait a second – we don’t actually get the standard, bland old duality-angle, instead opting for something different, which becomes evident from the get-go, with Dervayî, the Outer Thane. This neutral deity is tied to Porphyra’s first moon, which contains a plethora of craters that lead to…other places. While it is the gatekeeper that keeps these in control, it is Dervayrî, who, in regular intervals and for unknown reasons, seems to guide meteors into the moon, creating strange new gateways…but to what end, no one knows.

Douhaja Zmieja is an intriguing take on the genesis myth of the world serpent: The hoarder of sunken ships ostensibly squeezed the oceans, the blood, if you will, from a young and dry, dead planet…and promises to one day constrict and crush the world. The deity is thus both the origin of life and its promised end, blending those visuals with that of the serpent from the depths. Id Shidiin is a whole other beast: This entity hatched from the dreams of a dying, alien god and now dwells in spirit and flesh in the Cinotiksim Nation, where cryptic puzzle-dreams and nightmares are sent to the populace and the nation meets in congregation while asleep. Pure amazing and something one of my favorite Weird fiction authors could have written.

Magkon, Son of the First Rain, would be the imperial sovereign; his thanedom pertains refined civilization based on academic learning; it was him who ostensibly taught Draconic, who invented the scroll, and to this day, finding fabled Hidden Shei is actually the first test on a journey of lifelong learning…and maybe beyond. Speaking of the First Rain – soon thereafter, there was the first rainbow – but there were no intelligent lifeforms to marvel at its beauty, and thus it waited…for aeons. It became angry, spiteful, twisted. It became the Nameless Hunger when the people saw it and fled, and from its shards arose the twisted chromatic dragons, representations of a force of pure yearning and spite. AMAZING genesis!

The direct opposite would be Olha Pasom, the Mother General, grand lady of the metallic dragonkind and supreme ally of the ancient elven people…even to this day. In a really interesting twist, she champions basically a military dictatorship, in spite of being LG, leading to a rather impressive array of potentially intriguing moral conundrums in interaction with the fallible, but mostly well-meaning representatives of the militaristic church. Among draconic thanes that are so well-known, the strange and unknowable Porpyhrite Wyrm stands alone, a mystery with a strange agenda, partially served by errant Codionic Knights…but as a whole, this force of destruction may well play the long, long game, seeking to subvert both elementalists and deists alike.

Umhlaba, the Primal Thane, is a dragon cheated out of his place in history; or so his followers claim. The elemental lords and their zendiqi followers claim that the lords defeated the mighty titans that lorded over the planet in aeons long past. They lied. Back then, the elementals were undivided, one mind, and it rose as this Thane, as pretty much a Final Fantasy Weapon-level of planetary destruction, an engine of fury, not hate. The thane went, ostensibly, dormant and remains unconquered…woe, should it awaken!

And here is a section that warrants getting this pdf on its own, even if you don’t care about the amazing mythweaving featured in the write-ups of the thanes: Dragon cult rules. You see, this pdf posits that dragons in Porphyra can learn to grant divine spells to their followers…and they should, for they are immortal and don’t age: The number of followers and divine casters praying to the dragon are in direct correlation to the age category the dragon has; regression is not possible, and yes, this also governs the maximum spell level the dragon can provide to followers. The engine is amazing and includes notes on resurrected dragon worshipers, what happens if the dragon dies, etc. The pdf also provides dragon variants in the guise of dragons with limited evolution pools; beyond these, we can find incendiary breath weapons…and PORTAL BREATH. Yes, concisely codified.

The respective dragon thanes are further developed, courtesy to the unique artifact/near-artifact items provided for them. The belt of morphic loins allows for free race/gender switching and yields immunity to hostile polymorphs; Mangkon’s boots of serene steps allow for massive boosts to Acrobatics as well as both air and water walk and also prevents AoOs from moving through threatened squares. Breastplate of Sacred Generals would be Olha Pasom’s item, and it is a super potent breastplate that also provides the means to share teamwork feats, and successful use of such a feat yields temporary access to domain powers. The circlet of waking dream is basically a super Int-booster that also enhances senses and provides full control over waking and sleeping. I’d love to have this IRL…Faithbane is a special wepon quality that applies to targets of specific faiths (D’uhhh), a concept I’ve been using in my game for ages; here, it is based on domains. The gauntlets of endless stars not only are potent weapons, they can fire magic missiles. The kilt of primal endurance is a great puzzle-boss item – the wearer gets a massive boost to physical attributes and may slap the earth to FULLY HEAL…well, at the cost of 1 Intelligence drain. The ring of the all-dragon’s eye takes the concept of the draconic super-deity à la IO and provides knowledge…at a cost, as well as relatively free choice of level 1 domain powers… The sea snake corset is a powerful item that allows for depth-adaption, faster swim speed, better grappling and potent defenses. Finally, the Porphyrite Wyrm’s violet vainblade is a mega-potent weapon…intelligent, and it has the task to eradicate humankind. Yes, the collective gulp is justified.

The pdf also sports a couple of class options: We have a nice dragon miser oracle curse that makes you squirrel away items, but enhances your own item creation; The Faithbreather archetype can be applied to cleric or paladin, replacing channel energy with a breath weapon,a s appropriate for the dragon thane in question. The Heir of the Claw would be a tweak of the warpriest that gains sacred claws, which may be enhanced with increasing benefits. A handy table for damages by level for Small and Medium characters is provided. The sacred snout inquisitor replaces stern gaze and cunning initiative with frightful presence. They can also detect dragons and replace scent with the ability to sniff out treasure. Instead of bane, they learn to add special weapon abilities to their weapon for a limited number of rounds., with 12 th level upgrading their damage.

The final section of the pdf deals with unique spells (yes Occult support included): Ancestral allies allows the servants of the Mother General to call forth non-evil shadows of ancient elves to assist the caster, increasing in potency upon ancient elven cairns, where it may also yield the effects of commune. Yep, adventure-hook baked in. Love it. Bibliomorph is one of the more complex and amazing spells I’ve seen in a while. What do I mean by this? Well, you turn into a library. Yes, this is correctly codified; yes you retain senses. And theoretically, this can be a really cool narrative tool, just picture it: That blackout you had…there is a book missing from you! O.O

Devouring rainbow is a cool, low-level prismatic-style illusion; dragonrage fills the air with grit, as a stream of dust pours from the caster’s eyes; within the cloud, all take damage, but also get a buff…Dreamwalk is another spell that just drips storytelling potential galore, requiring a potion of sleep; the character emerges from the slumbering body as a dreamform…interesting one. Porphyrite detonation causes untyped damage, which I do not generally like…but the spell has a great additional effect: It prevents the crossing of the porphyrite borders. Anyways, while the damage is only 1d4 per caster level, I’m pretty sure the spell should not scale to full level and cap at 10 or 15 damage dice…but then again, the spell is granted by an evil thane and can help villains get away, so I’m kinda good with it. Still should probably be handled with care. Seasurge is amazing – basically a wave that races forth, crashing into creatures and objects, carrying them with the wave…and yes, this spell gets the complex interaction right. Finally, spaceflight…well, does what you’d think it does.

The pdf closes with a couple of suggestions for further, similar pdfs from PDG.

That’s not all, though: We get a bonus pdf penned by Perry Fehr with a deadly critter: The CR 8 Lavalantula! And yes, dear fans of Demon Souls, this lava-breathing spider with its ember hairs is an excellent representation of a certain boss. Pure awesome!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good; on a rules-language level, the pdf is similarly precise and juggles complex and rewarding concepts, with only a few and mostly cosmetic complaints on my part. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The full-color artworks provided are nice and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr and Aaron Hollingsworth both are talented authors that sometimes stumble over rules language; it is my pleasure to report that the team has absolutely excelled in what they bring to the table in this pdf. The dragon thanes are an amazing departure from the endless repetition of the classic draconic deity tropes, one that taps deeply into components of myths and reconfigures them in amazing, innovative ways. There is not one thane herein that I’d consider even mediocre; beyond that, the artifacts are potent, but remain manageable and enhance the themes of their thanes via appropriate tools for their champions. The spells, finally, contain some of the most creative ones I’ve seen in a while. And the bonus pdf is damn cool as well. Purple Duck Games really rocked this one!

Beyond that, it should be noted that the mythology featured herein makes for a great way to diversify the Lost Isles campaign setting in Rite Publising’s In the Company of Dragons Expanded….or, well vice versa. The weirdness of the Lost Isles is a perfect fit for Porphyra…and the material herein is actually all OGL, which means that, theoretically, a crossover/expansion could happen.

But I’m rambling. This is a fantastic little pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon Thanes of Porphyra
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Mythic Monsters #45: Middle East
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2018 04:35:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games‘ Mythic Monster-series (which has revolutionalized how I use bosses in non-mythic games, but that as an aside) clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content – it should be noted, though, that like in all LG-books, there is A TON of text on each page, so the simple page numbers may be misleading.

Anyways, we begin this installment, as all of them, with supplemental material – and this time around, we get awesomeness. Not only do we start with duststorms, sandstorms and flensing sandstorms, with proper rules, we also get three complex hazards: The CR 10 deadly dunes are racing dunes that behave somewhat like swarms –though they are merciless and unfeeling as nature is wont to be; Shadow sand can add a whole new level to the desert sans suffused with dark powers, leeching both light and life from those that traverse it: “And lo! Deep within the fabled dunes of yore, there lies the black wasteland, where the living dead wander freely on grains of black under the dimmed sun, where ruins loom and the master’s black pyramid rises…” Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Beyond those, we have a nice call-back to the classic “Desert of Desolation” boxed set, with the glassy sea as a new terrain that not only causes extreme heat – crystal crevasses and razor-sharp glass make navigating these parts wondrous and deadly. A fantastic lead-in for the subject matter, so let’s see whether this installment’s monsters hold up!

We begin with a classic, the formerly psionic, green unicorn-bunny creature called Almiraj, which in Pathfinder may have lost its psionics…but in its CR 1/MR 1-version, it does hearken closer to the mythology, gaining a petrifying gore as well as the option to devour targets whole. And yes, it has a weakness as well. Amazing rendition of the critter! The juvenile Rukh, at CR 4/MR 1 is slightly less interesting in comparison, but we also get an adult iteration at CR 12/MR 5, which exudes necrotic energy as a desecrate aura – and woe to those that slay these gigantic two-headed vultures…all that energy must go somewhere…

On the lower end of the CR spectrum, we can also find one of the Div, the Doru, at CR 3/MR 1, who can use mythic power to duplicate legend lore and pronounce curses of misfortune, making the pretty bland standard creature rather exciting…we need the information…do we risk the curse? CR 5/MR 2 nets us the second div, the Aghash can bypass protection from evil with mythic power, for a better gaze; they can also AoO-less dimension door through the sandstorms they cause. Oh, and disfiguring touch that also adds potential control over victims. OUCH. The third div herein would be the CR 8/MR 3 Pairaka makes targets affected by plagues or the lustful dreams it inspires more susceptible…and, in a pretty cool detection-avoidance stunt, it can freely adjust its alignment.

The mythic version of the mighty Dybbuk clocks in at CR 18/MR 7 can become dormant upon possessing a target, evading detection and potent magics to expel it, while camouflaging its presence. It can, while unseen, demoralize targets with whispers and their touch can substitute 2d4 rounds of stun when using mythic power, instead of the usual damage. Malevolence is upgraded as well and mythic dybbuks can spread their essence between multiple objects…oh, and they can control constructs and mindless undead. And their aura can paralyze targets. Really, really nasty power-beyond-throne/infiltrator/killer/-type of monster! The Owb, at CR 7/MR 3, is cloaked in cold that damages those nearby; it can also implant suggestions and provide a boon to an ally with mythic power. The Girtablilu, at CR 10/MR 4 can clairaudience/voyance with a radius of 1 mile, and even share this via mythic power; they can also gate via mythic power. Oh. And there’s this small thing in line with mythology. The gaze. Which causes slay living. Oh yes. Your PCs will suffer.

In the higher CR/MR-echelons, we can find the CR 17/MR 7 Peri…and it actually is in line with the full scope of mythology; imbued by the blood of a dying martyr, they get constant freedom of movement. It may be shared with mythic power or Constitution damage; the peri has taken the breath of a maiden, who willingly succumbed to disease to be with her lover, rendering her immune to disease – once more, this can be shared. As former shepherds of disasters, they can invoke deadly SPs, which may be upgraded to mythic versions. The past still haunts them, making them never count as good, in spite of their alignment. Complaint: The purifying flames ability mentions being half holy – a damage-type that does not exist in Pathfinder. In their quest for redemption, they have taken on the tear of an old man, who saw the error of his ways, gaining constant heroism…All in all, amazing narratives via abilities, but the holy damage-reference annoyed me slightly. At this point in time, every designer out there should know about that one.

Anyways, there are two other really mighty creatures herein: Ar CR 22/MR 9, the Taniniver may expend mythic power to exude a cloud of Strength-draining miasma and crits with claws add massive penalties to resist the deadly disease these carry. They can use mythic power to bypass disease-immunity or substitute regular diseases with deadly taniniveri spoil. And yes, the diseases carried are much more virulent and potent…OUCH. Another mega-potent creature herein would be mighty Humbaba, at CR 23/MR 9, who can use mythic power to reduce damage from a single source to 45, also boosting its DR/epic in the process. They can also generate a veil with a fascination effect; nonmythic creatures suffer from automatically-confirmed crits at maximum damage; for mythic power expenditure, that may also be used versus mythic targets. The gaze of the Humbaba can ground flyers and it gets perfect awareness of its territory…and, the entity can generate flight-less wings for wing attacks. Ouch.

Now, as always, we also get a new creature, the Buraq, which uses Mythic Wind Stance in the build, reproduced for your convenience here. The creature gets CR 11/MR 4 and is actually good – the kind Buraq can ride impossible distances across the night sky with its rider, as if by shadow walk. This lasts until landing or sunrise. The buraq gets powerful trample and silver hooves; buraqs don’t need food and can live on the benevolence of others. Their gorgeous tail can cause fascination and with mythic power, the buraq can use prismatic spray. On the back of buraqs, time holds no meaning – time ceases to flow, allowing the buraq to save those mortally wounded or grant them a respite from certain doom. We get a full, flavorful write-up of these creatures, including ecology etc., and their full-color artwork is really nice. Very flavorful critter!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports 3 neat full-color artworks I haven’t seen before, two of which are full-page artworks that you can use as a handout of sorts. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Loren Sieg, Victoria Jaczko and Jason Nelson deliver big time here; it is obvious that the authors researched the myths and dove deep into the concepts to make the creatures more unique. The peri, apart from the minor holy damage glitch, would be one instance where you frankly can’t emphasize enough how cool this rendition is in comparison to the regular peri. Similarly, the design-paradigms employed make sense – divs focus on their themes; magical beasts are effective; undead more frightening. The design is excellent and makes the critters stand out, tapping into real world myths, the Arabian Nights, and beyond, to enhance creatures in a rather glorious manner. In spite of the smaller hiccup, pretty much everything is amazing in this book; this is an excellent example of why I love this series. My final verdict is 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #45: Middle East
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome Productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2018 11:37:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This rule-set clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, laid out for 6’’ by 9’’ (A5). So, what is this about?

First things first: This was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. My review is primarily based on the premium print version of this book, though I have taken the pdf into account as well.

So, this is Basic/Expert-gaming (for the uninitiated, that’s where the “B/X”comes from); you may know the rules from how they have become an integral part of the old-school renaissance via e.g. Labyrinth Lord. The rules are out there, so why did we need this series of books? Well, as anyone who used the original rules can attest to, the organization wasn’t perfect. Labyrinth Lord improved that significantly and a wide variety of different tweaks, hacks and DIY-changes in various OSR-systems have provided their own spins on the subject matter…so why should you care about this book?

To answer this question, I am going to split this review in two parts. Part I will focus on the old-school gaming veteran and explain what sets this apart. Part II will give those of you who are not familiar with the rules (or those intrigued to see what’s inside) a detailed run-down of the material.

All right, so let’s begin with Part I.

As we can read in the foreword, this book takes a step back from the common modifications to the B/X-rules, instead focusing on a faithful rendition of them. Wait! This does not means that this is exclusively a reprint, though! As with any roleplaying game, there are bound to be some components of the system where the rules-language could have been tighter, where ambiguities creep in. This supplement addresses these instances in a clear and concise manner; In such cases, it explains the respective rationale behind a ruling of how a component is supposed to work – this can for example be found in the encumbrance rules, which are somewhat opaque in the original iterations.

There is another selling point for this pdf that may very well sell quite a few of the OSR-aficionados out there on the book. If you have ever tried to hack together different systems, classes etc. for a specific world or campaign, regardless of system, you will have noticed that there is a hurdle that may not be immediately apparent. Roleplaying systems tend to sport implicit assumptions. D20-based games assume bonuses granted by magic items to make the math come out right; LotFP assumes magic to be dangerous and more of a story tool than a form of artillery, etc. As in these systems. B/X is a very elegant and relatively rules-lite system, but this notion does provide a hurdle: Let’s say you want to play a Carcosa-game, or a modern campaign, or a CoC-style campaign using these rules, for example. You’ll have to sift through the rules and pick out the components you’ll actually use.

This is the primary and surprisingly amazing aspect of this book: You see, this takes all those implicit setting-bits out of the rules, providing a clear and distinct vision of the core rules of the B/X-system, which takes a LOT of work off the shoulders of the referee, allowing you to focus on tailoring and tweaking what really matters to you, instead of playing content-editor for your planned campaign. This is perfectly in line with the OSR’s DIY-aesthetics and should be considered to be the main selling point for veterans. This is extremely hackable and concise, also courtesy to internal references – want to read up on a given rule referenced in the pdf? It’ll sport the page number in bold, making use at the table rather comfortable.

Okay, that out of the way, let’s move on to part II of the review and talk about the rules contained within, shall we?

We begin without much fanfare with defining the 6 attributes: Charisma governs reaction adjustment of NPCs and denotes the maximum number of retainers and retainer morale. On the opposite page of the attribute summaries, we get the Charisma Adjustments table, we have all relevant information at one glance. Same goes for Intelligence, which denotes language ability and the number of bonus languages gained – the table’s right there. Nice here would be that Intelligence also governs language-skill – characters with Intelligence 6 – 8, for example, can write simple words and that’s it. All other attributes get a standard adjustment (again, table right there!) that can range from -3 (3)to +3 (18) – Constitution applies that to hit points gained per level; a new level means always at least 1 hit point gained. Dexterity applies standard adjustment to attack rolls, but not damage, with ranged weapons as well as AC. Additionally, Dexterity has a table that denotes a bonus or penalty to initiative, which ranges from -2 to +2. Strength applies standard adjustment to attack and damage rolls with melee weapons. Wisdom applies standard adjustment to saving throws versus magical effects; this usually excludes breath weapons and other saves, but not necessarily. If a prime attribute is high or low, this may also influence experience gained.

And there we go – basic attribute rules on 2 pages, presented in a truly concise manner. The sequence of play in dungeon as well as in wilderness is presented next, with a step-by-step breakdown. The same page contains the notes for encounter-sequence, which similarly makes perfect sense. Need to look up any rules interacting with that? Bolded references point you exactly where you need to look.

The adventuring rules are next and begin with the optional ability check rules: Roll under ability score; depending on difficulty, you may gain a bonus or penalty between -4 to +4. Rolls of 1 are successes, 20s are failures. This also notes air travel – the more HD an aerial mount has, the more it’ll be able to carry. Chase-rules are next and explains group movement rates (slowest member) and proceeds to explain chase rules in dungeons and wilderness…and on waterborne vessels! Fleeing group size and number of pursuers determine the chances to get away – and yes, the tables and mechanics are as painless as can be. Climbing and the mechanics of doors (including notes of alternate ability checks) are noted next.

Movement out of the way, the pdf proceeds to explain encounters: This provides handy starting distances by environment, monster reactions, etc. – once again, easy to grasp…but more interesting would be the encumbrance rules I mentioned earlier: There are two options presented: One for those of you who prefer simplicity and for those of you who, like me, prefer more simulationalist takes on the subject matter. In the simple option, a character’s speed is determined by the armor worn, but he may carry a maximum of 1600 coins.

Coins? Yep! Encumbrance is measured in coins! This makes all kinds of sense to me and a handy table collates the weight of treasure/items by coins. In the more complex version, it is this abstract unit of measurement that determines your movement rate. It should be noted that RAW, metal armor in this version only accounts for 500 coins and thus does not reduce movement greatly – 90’. That being said, adventurers will carry items and weapons, so yeah, it evens out with the simpler system. Some experimenting with both systems did show that the coin values for equipment, weapon.types etc. has been chosen with care and is pretty smart.

XP is gained by gold gained (1 gold coin = 1 XP) and by defeated monster and at the referee’s discretion. Characters can advance a maximum of 2 levels per adventure/session. This table btw. also provides monster XP-values by HD…and the table notes bonus XP/ability. This out of the way, we get falling rules and cover foraging and hunting. A full day of rest nets 1d3 hp. Light and visibility in dungeon, wilderness and at sea are covered next, and then we move on to losing direction…which, in a nice tweak, is much harder at sea while you remain within sight of land. This makes a lot of sense.

Okay, so movement in tactical situations is assumed to be 120’, though armor and encumbrance modify that. While exploring, slowly, a dungeon, characters move movement in feet in one turn; movement through familiar/cleared areas may be quicker at the referee’s discretion. During encounters, a character can move 1/3 of movement rate in feet per round, or yards in the wilderness A character can run instead, up to full movement – but running too long causes exhaustion. Overland movement and how terrain can increase or decrease it is covered, as is the classic forced march. Resting and failing to do so in dungeon, wilderness and after running are similarly presented in a clear manner right on this page.

The next page deals with retainers and their reactions as well as their morale. Saving throws are explained next and the slow and deliberate searching of environments can also be found here. Rules for starvation and swimming, time, traps, wandering monsters and water travel…notice something? Yep, the components here are presented in alphabetic order, with copious internal references. It’s surprising, but this works better as a presentation paradigm than it should.

These rules out of the way, we get a basic breakdown of combat rounds: Characters wishing to declare a spellcasting or a full retreat must declare so first; Initiative is 1d6, rolled by each side. The winner acts first. Referees may then need to check for monster morale; movements are made; missile attacks next, spells are cast; then, melee and other actions occur; after that, same happens for the other side and we rinse and repeat until the combat ends. Before you ask: Yes, we get notes for tied initiative and optional rules for individual initiative.

Generally, a character can move and perform one action, though full movement is possible as an alternative. The system knows two different retreats – panicked full retreat and the slower, but less dangerous fighting retreat- Attack rolls are d20s + Str/Dex-adjustment, respectively. These are then compared to a chart. Class and level determine whether you hit; 1s are botches, 20s are hits. Rules for standardized 1d6 damage and optional rules for variable weapon damage are provided. If a spellcaster is hit or must make a save before finishing casting a spell, it fails. Yes, spellcasters will want to win initiative as often as possible…they may not move or take other actions when casting a spell! (And yes, young ones – try this. Seriously. There was once a time when getting a spellcaster to survive a single level was a real achievement!)

Anyway, we proceed to the rules for the details of combat – cover, boarding vessels, helpless foes, optional morale rues, nonlethal combat, unstable surfaces and painless rules for underwater combat can be found here as well. Spell casting is next and requires both the ability to move hands and to verbalize the incantations. Some spells are reversible and boosts to a single attribute, or attack rolls e.g. do not stack. The basics of spell books are also noted. Finally, we get an explanation of magic items: Identification, uses, charges, cursed items and magic weaponry and armor and their annotation are covered. Potions are noted and it should be noted that you can only be under the effect of one. Mixing potions makes you sick for 3 rounds and nullifies all effects. Scrolls, rings, and the rod/Staff/Wand-category are also explained. The latter items are btw. distinguished by charges they hold – 1d10, 2d10 or 3d10. The same pages btw. also contain the rules for spell research and magic item creation – for the latter, you btw. need 9th level or higher. If you have ever played an old-school game, you know how much of an achievement that is…

And that’s it! All core rules for B/X-gaming!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column b/w-standard that uses both bolding of page- and rules-references and pastel-green highlights in tables etc. to create an aesthetic presentation. Speaking of aesthetics: This book is chock-full with amazing b/w-artworks I haven’t seen before. Beholder-shepherds, cool items, one-eyed, strange ogre-ish things in caverns, sea serpents…this is a beautiful book. The standard print edition is perfect bound and sports the standard PoD-paper; personally, I’d advise in favor of the stitch-bound premium version, which has better paper and crisper text/colors, etc. The pdf comes with extremely detailed, nested bookmarks, making navigation of that version comfortable. If you#re really strapped for cash, there is even a plain-text version that is FREE!

Gavin Norman’s depiction of the B/X-core rules is an AMAZING foundation. While I personally prefer attack bonuses instead of charts in tables, that is a personal preference, not something in the B/X-rules and as such, expected. Now, other than that, I very much consider this to be pretty much the ideal, perfect start. The rules herein can be read and understood in less than half an hour if you concentrate…but the true value, at least for me, lies in the organization. The content is presented in such a tight and organic manner that actual use of the book is ridiculously simple. Looking for xyz? The index sets you up. If e.g. you want to know where the wandering monster-rules are while reading the encounter section, rest assured you’ll immediately find it, courtesy of the copious internal references. This makes using the book at the table ridiculously simple and comfortable.

Beyond that, the book is a faithful rendition of the much-beloved system, stripped of the accoutrements that may get in the way of your exact vision…and if you want certain things like classic classes in your game, there are always the other books of the series! This is pretty much a perfect start to make your own hack/setting/etc. and the professional, impressive presentation makes using the book a joy. In short: This is an excellent and inexpensive booklet. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval…and if you’re looking for a start to create your own hack/variant setting with these rules, consider this to be an EZG Essential as well. This is a superb foundation to build on.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Core Rules
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Mythic Minis 105: Halloween Treats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2018 11:34:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the pdf contains 4 detailed magic items, all with prices and construction requirements properly noted. The first would be the Ghostly Gossamer…which is basically…aspooky ghost sheet. You know, the “Ghost costume” most of us will have used at one point…only it actually works as ghostly disguise and its duration per day may be decreases to get miss chances generated by ghostly specters. Mythic characters obviously gain further benefits from it, namely ghost touch armor and the ability to expend mythic power to actually become incorporeal! Really cool!

The goblin mask helps with a ragged, comical illusion that allows for reduce person size decreases. While in effect, this enhances Bluff and steal maneuvers as well as feinting. Additionally, non-evil creatures have a hard time attacking the wearer. The DC to resist this properly codified effect can be increased by mythic wearers with mythic power, using surge die or to bypass immunity to mind-affecting effects. Cool: While reduced in size, the wearer may change the effects of the mask from “adoring” to “OMG, run”-levels of horrific, much in accordance with PFRPG’s delightfully wicked goblins. This also changes the bonuses to focus on Intimidate and dirty tricks and also the effect of the harmless guide. Really cool two-phase item…and mythic wearers get more control over shifting item modes and when the respective boosts are available…and it adds a buff to the wearer when foes fall prey to the mask’s attack-preventing effects. Two thumbs up!!

The sack of gluttony is twisted: It contains sweets that act as beguiling gifts and eating a single sweet from it sends the consumer into a spiral of gorging itself, requiring no less than 3 consecutive, successful saves, with stomach cramps following potentially right after the effect. Mythic users can enhance the DC via surge die (first AND consecutive saves!) and non-mythic targets may suffer from the effect of feast of ashes for days after such a binge. The sack, however, may also be used for beneficial purposes, allowing the wearer to use mythic power to create candy versions of objects placed within, duplicating allfood or alternatively, transform elixirs and potions into candy with the same effects. Cool!

The final item herein would be the legendary witch’s broom, a broom of flying that can be bonded only by a mythic creature being part of a coven or capable of using hexes. It may be ridden by the witch or her familiar and either may not be dismounted from the broom; while not truly sentient, the broom attempts to take paralyzed, stunned, etc. riders into cover/concealment etc. at the rider’s will. Familiars riding the broom with their master gain cover and immunity to non-mythic hexes, curses and fear-effects. The pair also gets greater familiar link, as the archmage ability, while riding the broom. While mounted, the character may roll her surge die twice, taking the better result, when using it to enhance CL casting a witch spell, using spell-trigger/completion items or making saves versus hexes, curses or witch spells. Additionally, when casting a witch spell or using a hex, the witch may use a mythic power to gain a variety of archmage tricks. The broom has two uses of legendary power and 2 active abilities: Evasion or improved evasion while riding the broom or (augmented) mythic fly. It has a hardness of 10, 30 hp and is immune to sundering from non-mythic targets.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson’s supplemental pdf of Halloween-themed mythic tricks is not only amazing during the season: Each of the items herein is strong enough to carry a whole plot/investigation, featuring several cool, complex tricks. The feats are evocative as well…and the pdf gets the fascinating duality of Halloween as something both creepy and enjoyable, mirroring this flavor in the design-paradigm employed. I loved each and every aspect herein, and can see myself using them all, regardless of context. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Very much recommended, even beyond the spooky season!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 105: Halloween Treats
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Rocket's Red Flare: An Independence Day Tale
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2018 11:33:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little module clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so beyond the adventure presented here, we do get pretty extensive rules for fireworks and their scoring; these rules begin with stating the different ways to create fireworks: Magic, alchemical mixture, magic powders or blast powders – all have skills etc. assigned. As for magical fireworks, up to two spells may be cast into a firework powder.

The scoring of a magical firework works as follows: The damage and effects of spells are treated as though they struck a 1 HD target and the target failed all saves. Randomized effects, miss chances, etc. are rolled. Area effects add +1 to the scoring process; if the fireworks cause conditions, these may also provide a bonus…or penalty. No one wants to look at a nauseating firework, right? Well, I’d honestly like to see one, but then again, I’m a weirdo. ;) Damage dealt and/or healed are summed up, then divided by 5 and rounded down to the nearest half – this is a bonus. Certain descriptors can also yield bonuses: Fire, light and sonic are obvious, but e.g. force, mind-affecting etc. are also codified – these range from +2 to +1. Finally, schools and sub-schools and e.g. concealment or cover granting components are taken into account and the highest spell’s level is added. This section is pretty damn cool – it basically breaks down and codifies spells according to their potential to awe. The system is easy to grasp and nice.

The more conventional fireworks are skill-based, though repetition is the bane of a good score: The PCs should alternate between the different types. Don’t have any of the primary skills needed for firework shows? Fret not: The pdf offers a variety of suggestions to use other skills to improve fireworks, making sure it’s a team effort. Accompaniment with music can also help and the pdf even provides a variety of descriptions of fireworks for different scores. A simple selection of entries for crowd reactions complements what boils down to a really nice teamwork-based skill-challenge that may be worth the fair asking price of the supplement on its own.

All right, now let’s proceed to the actual module. It is intended for characters level 5 – 7and takes place in the village of Washingtown on the island of Murca. It has recently seceded from a tyrannical empire (after a poison-laced tea party) and declared independence….which is now celebrated, obviously. If that section did not put a grin on your face, well…it’ll happen. The pdf, unlike previous holiday-modules by Zenith Games, clearly designates read-aloud text as such. While e.g. DCs or names aren’t bolded for your convenience, the fireworks-scoring-rules mean anyways that you’ll have to read the entirety of the module prior to running it.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

Last year, the half-elf Renedict Barnald, nicknamed Rocket, sold his soul to the forces of darkness for the ultimate display of fireworks. Upon completion, rocket was transformed into a fireworks elemental, who slew a lot of people, only to flee the scenery. The PCs are in town, one year later after these events, as the weirdly-dressed town elder Uncle Sam hires them to participate in the contest to ensure safety. The PCs get a proper workshop (Rocket’s former lab), and, as they explore Washingtown, they’ll realize that pretty much everyone carries a crossbow. “Never try to take a crossbow away from a Washingtownian.” The other teams competing would be the half-orcs, led by Samadam and the gnomes under the leadership of Bingimin Frinklin.

In the workshop, the PCs will only have 12 hours to prepare, but they’ll thankfully find a list noting the ingredients of Rocket’s special mixtures, which add to the score of the firework, big time. The first of these would be…Freedom Eagle droppings, which must be harvested in the vicinity of a nest. The magical beasts are fully stated (adults and eaglets) and they are, bingo, affected by a constant freedom of movement. Before you start yelling “Unamerican!”, killing freedom eagles is a bad idea, big time – they have nasty death curse, so non-lethal problem solution is preferred here.

The second ingredient can be found in the ruins of the nearby civilization of Biberty, where the desired moss grows near the feat of the Huge Statue of Biberty (CR 7) – once more, fleeing may well be prudent here. After getting these secret ingredients, the PCs get to prepare their show and compete with the other teams…and after that, the mighty Rocket’s Red Flare (CR 8) will crash down, attempting to steal the magical star-spangled banner. This potent item can be worn as a cape, granting freedom of movement, which may be activated as an immediate action. It also nets a +4 morale bonus to saves vs. fear (home of the brave, after all!) and even sports synergy with the cavalier’s banner-feature…but, well…retreat is never an option when you wear it. Cool item!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard of basically text; italicizations and bolded components have been properly implemented, and headers alternate, fittingly, between red and blue. The pdf has no bookmarks, which may constitute a minor comfort-detriment, though, at this length, I’m good with it. Artworks are public domain b/w-pieces. The module sports no maps, but doesn’t really need them.

Jeff Gomez’ “Rocket’s Red Flare” is by far the strongest of his three holiday-themed adventures. Structurally, we get a surprisingly deep firework-show engine that I will definitely use again; in contrast to the other modules, we have an emphasis on cooperation and tasks that don’t need to be resolved with combat. The boss is amazing and deadly…and the module is genuinely funny. It is a great little satire on American mentalities and peculiarities without being mean-spirited in any way – it is self-conscious in the best, most warm-hearted ways and a great example of self-reflection through the medium of RPGs. Now I can see die-hard Murica-above-else folks consider this module to be insulting, but frankly, it is so funny, enjoyable and, while it does sport satirical jabs here and there, they are in the tradition of Horaz, not Juvenal, attempting to cause reflection instead of tearing down the target. Now, while I am not an American, I know that many of my readers are and, from what I could glean, I am pretty positive that this may well be even funnier for Americans.

Even if you’re not interested in the module at all, the firework rules may well make this module worth getting, considering the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, for a genuinely funny module that lacks the dark cynicism of the previous two adventures.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rocket's Red Flare: An Independence Day Tale
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The Stealth Scale
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2018 05:35:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This optional subsystem clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page company logo, leaving us with 5 pages of content. The screen-version optimized for tablets instead clocks in at 15 pages, laid out in landscape format, and sports the same content.

This review is based on the revised and improved version of the pdf.

All right, so what is the Stealth Scale? If you’re like me and adore infiltration scenarios, you’ll have noted that Stealth can become pretty rolling-intense; The Stealth Scale proposes the following: Each character being stealthy tracks the position of the foes on the Stealth Scale – all of them, at once, with one token.

When using the Stealth Scale, it is assumed that creatures use two dominant senses to track creatures: Sight and hearing. These are the Basic Senses.

Keen Senses include darkvision, greensight, mistsight, low-light vision and see in darkness as well as spells like see invisibility.

Advanced Senses include blindsight, blindsense, lifesense, tremorsense, scent, thoughtsense and x-ray vision.

A huge improvement of the engine is the introduction of the masked conditions –basically, impaired creatures no longer necessarily drag down their groups and instead are treated as masked until the condition has been resolved. More on that later, but it is a game-changer of an improvement. Masks may pertain to either hearing, sight or other senses.

The Stealth Scale knows a total of 5 different states, which are summarized on a handy cheat-sheet that can now be found on the final page – now actually also listing mechanical benefits! This makes the cheat-sheet actually useful to have, so yeah, kudos.

Full awareness of a creature is called “Paying attention”; then comes “Aware”, which increases the Stealth DC by 5. “Alert” creatures are on guard; Cautious creatures decrease the Stealth DC by 5 and do not add Dex-bonus to AC against the Stealth-using character(s). Finally, Off Guard critters decrease Stealth DC by 10 and don’t add Dex-mod to AC or initiative.

With the Stealth Scale, other creatures are situated at a distinct point between Awareness and Stealth, which constitute, like on a scale, opposite sides of the same value. Increasing one decreases the other. A Stealth check is rolled versus 10 + highest Perception modifier from the observing group + number of creatures in the group + 5 per advanced sense in the group; Alternatively, 5 + CR can be used to calculate DCs; once more, significant improvement, as it makes the DC less metagamey.

The pdf proceeds to explain the most common actions and how they interact movement on the Stealth Scale – the rules are tighter and giving signals and creating distractions (and using them!) now actually are covered: Basically, distractions create temporary masks, which is really elegant.

What are masks? Means to prevent detection. They only apply if they can fool all targets in the opposing group; a character may only benefit from one mask per sense; for each mask successfully used, the maximum level of awareness that may be reached on the Stealth Scale decreases by 1. Temporary masks are more fragile: Whenever the character using them would increase Awareness, the character must make a new skill check against the DC or the temporary mask is lost. Cover and concealment grant temporary masks.

Group Stealth is still handled by designating a Point Man – this character makes the Stealth check on behalf of the group. All other characters are designated as operatives and increase the DC of Stealth checks made by the point man by 2. Actions by all characters may increase Awareness, but only the Point Man may increase Stealth. Rejoining groups that temporarily split is btw. covered as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have been significantly improved. Layout adheres to the two-column standard with a few subdued colors. The pdf has no interior artwork, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael McCarthy proves not only that he cares; his improved version of the Stealth Scale now actually succeeds where the previous iteration failed miserably:

The system is elegant, quick and easy to grasp and the introduction of the mask-concept also nets the GM some tight controls and easy customization angles beyond what is contained herein – specialized masks can theoretically be created to suit individual requirements. Big kudos!

Gone are the hiccups in interaction with Occult Adventures and the cheat-sheet is actually useful as presented. To add a further bonus, the system is less metagamey without compromising the ease with which it can be used. Like day and night, a vast improvement over the original iteration!

I consider this an excellent alternative for the use of Stealth, easy to grasp, less rolling intense…what’s not to like? All things you can still complain about theoretically are direct results of the system-immanent complexity-decrease, and would as such not be fair.

Add to that the low and fair price point and we have a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval for the revised version of the Stealth Scale. Kudos indeed!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Stealth Scale
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Everyman Minis: Cleric Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2018 05:33:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

In a sidebar on the introductory page, we are introduced to the feat Domain Flexibility (minor complain: Benefits and Prerequisites sub-headers are not bolded properly). This feat allows you to choose to gain the powers of a subdomain of your chosen domain, or the domain powers associated with your chosen subdomain when preparing spells: You can basically switch them, depending on your needs, but only within one domain/subdomain micro-tree – so no switching between subdomains granted by different domains. Similarly, the feat has a caveat that prevents the switching out of locked domain powers. Kudos. A bit of flexibility, but not so much that it’d become problematic. Also: Kudos for not stumbling in the rules-language here!

The main meat of the supplement is devoted to a total of three new cleric archetypes, the first of which would be the Bloodseeker. These fellows are locked into the War domain or Blood subdomain and deities worshiped must grant access to the War domain. They get diminished spellcasting for non-domain spells and may use the War domain’s battle rage on herself; this nets the bloodseeker a +2 untyped bonus on atk-rolls and +1/2 cleric level, minimum 1, as a bonus to weapon damage rolls, but only with the deity’s favored weapon. Bonuses are properly classified as sacred/profane, depending on alignment. This rage lasts for 1 + Cha-mod rounds and replaces the first channel energy.

At 3rd level, 5th level and every 2 levels thereafter, the bloodseeker gains a rage power, which may only be used while under the effects of the battle rage. Before you ask: No, you can’t cheese this: Barbarian rage powers and those granted by the archetype may not be used interchangeably. Totem rage powers must correspond thematically to the domains available to the deity, which provides a helpful thematic consistency. This ability replaces later channel energy gains. At 4th level, the archetype can Quick Draw the deity’s favored weapon and gains a +2 bonus to critical hit confirmation rolls with it. Additionally, the archetype is treated as fighter levels for the purpose of feat-prerequisites. At 8th level, when dealing damage to a target with the deity’s favored weapon, the character may, as a swift action, sacrifice a prepared cleric spell of 1st level or higher, choosing one so-called injury, which lasts for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level. These injuries basically represent debuffs: Penalty to AC or atk that are more severe versus the bloodseeker, bleed damage based on spell level, etc. Cool: Interaction with mundane and magical healing is properly covered.

The second archetype herein would be the Flame Warden, who gains proficiency with light armor and simple weapons and the deity’s favored weapon instead of the standard list. They also only get one domain, which must be the Fire domain, not its subdomains. These fellows channel fire via Elemental Channel (fire) and may only heal creatures of the fire subtype; channeling to harm may actually be used to either deal fire damage to all creatures without the subtype, or harm creatures with it. At 4th level, the archetype can shape the channeled energy into 30 ft.-cones or 120 ft.-lines. Cool: Ability mentions the effects of holy vindicator’s versatile channel and the synergy of abilities. At 8th level, the flame warden may expend 2 uses to make half that damage directly divine damage (analogue to e.g. flame strike); the ability may be used in conjunction with Quick Channel for 3 uses of the ability instead.

Additionally, first level nets the fire bolt ability, which may be used in melee as a touch attack or as a ranged attack with a range of 30 ft. It inflicts 1d6 + Cha-mod fire damage, +1 1 for every 4 cleric levels you possess. They are treated as one-handed, light weapons and may be dual wielded. Weapon Focus (ray) doesn’t apply, but fire bolts qualify on their own as a candidate for Weapon Focus, applying the benefits of the feat to both melee and ranged use. Basically, we have a massive tweak of the default ability here. Additionally, flame wardens may choose to lose prepared spells to spontaneously cast fire elementalist spells as divine spells.

The third archetype would be the Spellkeeper, who is proficient with simple weapons and light armor as well as the deity’s favored weapon. The archetype suffers from arcane spell failure when wearing armor or shields not covered by these proficiencies. The spellkeeper is locked into the Magic domain and gains arcane bond at 1st level, though she may not choose familiar as an option and, if weapon is chosen, must choose the favored weapon of her deity. The archetype gains the arcanist’s arcane reservoir, with levels stacking with other arcane reservoir-granting classes, if any. The archetype may lose prepared spells other than orisons to cast spontaneously any spell both on sorcerer/wizard list and cleric list (which may require a bit of list-making); this includes domain spells and replaces spontaneous casting.

At 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the spellkeeper gains an arcane gift, which can be arcanist exploits, prerequisite-less Arcane Strike for use in conjunction with her spells, the option to also spontaneously convert prepared spells into spells on sorc/wiz-list, but NOT on the cleric list (which eliminates the one restriction there) – but thankfully, the spell must at least be one level lower than the lost spell and requires Spell Focus with the spell’s chosen school, preventing full-blown abuse there. Mystic recall and spellstrike may also be found here. This archetype is really potent - basically a graft of magus and arcanist atop the cleric-chassis…and it does work, even though it probably is only suitable for the more high-powered campaigns, courtesy of the extreme flexibility granted by the wildcard-y spell-selection.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no rules-relevant problems in spite of the complexity of the material offered. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ cleric options are executed with the precision we have come to expect from him; the focus here lies on the tweaking of the cleric’s engine to account for options reminiscent of hybrids, but without full-blown escalation. The three archetypes are per se well-crafted and fit pretty precise niches, with the bloodseeker perhaps having the most universal appeal; the flame warden is pretty specific and the spellkeeper is rather strong for my tastes, courtesy of its massive flexibility. That being said, the material is well-executed and worth taking a look at. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Cleric Options
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The Manor, Issue #3
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2018 05:32:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the OSR-zine „The Manor“ clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover/advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages, which are laid out for an A5 (6’’ by 9’’)-standard, which means you may be able to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this one out.

The pdf is an evolution in comparison to the previous installments of the magazine, in that it subscribes to specific systems.

First of all, the pdf does contain a new class for Blood and Treasure, the Monster Hunter devoted to Adzeer, God of the Hunt. The class has requirements of Strength and Wisdom of 13 or higher and use the multi-class experience table. The class is allowed to use both all weapons and armor. Skill-wise, we get Climb, Hide, Move Silently, Survival, Tracking, Riding, Decipher Script, and the class gets d8 HD (11th and 12th level yield +3 hp instead) as well as ¾ atk-progression; Fort and Will-saves scale from 13 to 7 and Ref-saves from 15 to 10. The class gets spellcasting progression of up to 7th level, gaining access to BOTH magic-user and cleric spell-lists. The class is a prepared spellcaster until reaching 10th level, at which point the class may cast spells spontaneously. We get a proper spell-list for our convenience.

The class must complete 3 trials: Trial number 1 must be undertaken at 3rd level to progress to 4th: The character’s Perceptor designates a hunting target; upon slaying the beast, the monster hunter must spend 250 gp to enter the 2nd circle. Completion nets a unique armor or weapon that will increase in strength as the character does. Okay, how?

In order to reach 7th level, the monster hunter must choose a target creature and then collect a hunting party (do adventuring companions qualify? How much does it have to be?) and hunt a creature – this is not further defined, which is a bit weird. Also weird: The hunter gets to choose the target creature. The second boon is that the character gets to choose a ranger’s sworn enemy, inflicting double damage against the chosen creature type as well as gaining +3 to atk.

The third trial must be undertaken at the end of 9th level: The character must convert 3d4 targets to Adzeer’s worship (do adventuring companions qualify?) and establish a new temple at 10K sp cost – the benefit here is that the character gets to either become a teacher or continue adventuring…which is kinda lame.

The final ability of the class would be stun monster: A stunning attempt can be made instead of an attack or casting a spell and works akin to turn undead etc. – we get a table. However, all creatures within line of sight of the holy symbol are stunned. The stun lasts a whopping 3d6 rounds and targets drop items or weaponry held and the hunter gains tactical advantage against the targets. Stun Monster works against aberrations, dragons, giants, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, outsiders and undead. The monster hunter may use this 1/day per level attained. Soooo, potentially really long-range AoE stun. That is really potent, and yes, auto-succeed and destruction are possible at higher levels.

All in all, the class is pretty damn potent in comparison with similar old-school classes; the stun-locking can be rather nova-like and I’m not the biggest fan of the execution here.

Beyond this class, we also are introduced to another installment of the vendor-depicting series of the e-zine, and this time around, we get to know Pog-Nog the goblin, and his cart. The goblin is the survivor/exile of his tribe, one known for omens…and when he pronounced doom for his fellows, he was exiled, becoming a sort of peddling Cassandra – after all, who’d listen to a goblin? The fact that he’s a goblin makes him a good candidate for an in-dungeon vendor, and his foresight as well as the fact that he attempts to prevent some catastrophes can make him for a great ally/recurring character. The entry is system-agnostic and doesn’t provide stats, but we do get some nice adventure-hooks.

The lion’s share of the magazine, though, is taken up by the module “Mine of Rot and Disease”, intended for low level (level 1 -3) characters. The adventure employs the Swords & Wizardry rules and takes place in the village of Aberton. The map for the primary adventure locale, the eponymous mines, is provided in nice b/w, though we do not get a player-friendly version of the map. A huge improvement over the previous installments of the magazine would be that the characters herein come with REALLY detailed write-ups: You see, the local NPCs, with their own dynamics, come as basically one-page characters with everything notes, including spells and items, though formatting of both deviates from the conventions. The characters range in levels from 1 to 3 and they can act as stand-in pregens, should you choose to run the module as a one-shot.

The pdf does include a Black Dragon-themed Haiku. Nice!

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around. Things turned sour when the villagers of Aberton noticed straggling figures – defeating them, they noticed that undead had risen…and when they tracked the living dead to their source, that was the old coal mine. Opting for the ole’ “Rocks fall”-trick, Obadiah, the village elder decided to collapse the mine. A few days later, Dowser Creek started to turn icky; it turned yellow and any exposed to it were struck by the Sickness. Folks had sent for help from Ambrose Abbey, but neither it, nor the messengers returned – thus, it’ll be up to the PCs to venture into the mine and fix the tainted river…if they don’t, the village will lose the harvest and face starvation.

An array of adventure hooks have been provided and so are random encounter-suggestions. In order to enter the mine, the PCs will have to survive the nearby undead – and then dig free the entrance. It is then that the weirdest design-decision can be found, one that can wrack the fun of the otherwise nice module. You see, the mine REEKS. As in save or barf, reeking and penalty. EW. However, on a really botched save, at failure of 5 or more, means that the PC can’t enter the mine. I’m totally in favor of degrees of success or failure as a design paradigm, but locking out a character of entry? That just sucks. Statistically, it’s likely that one of the PCs is locked out of the mine for a day before getting the chance to retry – and the module has a timer, with harvest impending, so it’d make sense for the PCs to enter with the character who failed the save sitting outside, twiddling his/her thumbs. That is not cool.

The mine itself is pretty interesting, providing flavorful locations, undead and a desperate goblin tribe, dwindled in numbers from being caught inside the mine with the undead….and they actually are potentially (if no PC is a dwarf or gnome) willing to negotiate their release. Beyond that, the PCs will soon find the culprit, a priest to a dark god who stuffed an otyugh carcass into the water. In order to save the village, the PCs will have to best the undead, the dark cleric (whoc comes with an evil, magic lantern), and then clear the disgusting filth from the disease-ridden spring. The pdf sports, btw., nice b/w-artworks, hand-drawn.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are significantly improved: The proofreaders did a good job on a formal level. Rules-formatting could be a bit tighter. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column standard and the pdf comes with hand-drawn artworks in the same style as the cover, which catches the old-school vibe. The map is surprisingly nice, but we don’t get a player-friendly version. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Tim Shorts knows how to write great characters and he gets the old-school vibe; I very much welcome the focus on actually adhering to proper rules-sets, as this renders the material more precise. The presentation of the villagers in detail is really neat and the hooks are similarly pretty fun. That being said, the new class did not blow me away and the puzzling decision in the module that may see the PCs stalled before the dungeon for days on end if one of the PCs is unlucky….really sucks. It’s not enough to sink the detailed and fun set-up, but it is a detriment to the strongest aspect of the pdf. That being said, the low price does make this worth checking out if you’re looking for an unpretentious old-school module/sidetrek. If a well-executed take on the classic low-level undead-themed dungeon does not seem interesting to you, you may want to skip this one, but if that’s what you’re looking for, then take a look. When all’s said and done, I consider this to be a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side. While the editing and formatting re a definite improvement and while the quality is more consistent herein than in #2, the module is slightly less amazing than Hugo’s in #2. Hence, while overall a stronger issue, I still feel I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars for this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #3
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Village Backdrop: Needlebriar
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:24:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Needlebriar is an isolated community, situated in a remote region of a duchy; it is also, in a nice change of pace, a Halfling community. The village takes its name from the rows upon rows of thorny hedgerows that can be found in and around the place, providing a natural series of borders. The red flowers of the hedgerow, as some claim, bloom in this vibrant a color due to the local custom of folks burying their dead beneath them. This rumor, though, is incorrect – like a full half of the rumors circulating around, for a veil of secrecy suffuses the place: The climate is warm and humid, with most Halflings walking through the settlement in heavy cloaks, which may raise a few eyebrows.

The supplement, as always, does sport the classic components we’ve come to expect from Village Backdrops – i.e., we get notes on the nomenclature of the locals, their dressing habits, etc. As always, we get rewards for PCs that do the legwork: Village lore may be unearthed and, as noted before, we do get a couple of whispers and rumors. However, in this pdf, we can see the fruits of Raging Swan Press’ patreon support in a rather impressive manner: For one, we do get write-ups for no less than 6 different NPCs. The write-ups do contain e.g. notes on gender and the suggested class levels for the characters; the write-ups are fluff-centric and as well-crafted as we’d expect from John Bennett.

Now, the PFRPG-version of the village obviously comes with notes for a settlement statblock, but a glimpse at where usually we’d expect the marketplace-section, we instead get an evolution of the formula: We still have the general marketplace section, but move one step beyond. You see, while it’s not new to see sample notes for costs of taverns and food/etc. to be included in village backdrops, we now have the individual locations sport the notes for specific services and items. This is surprisingly convenient: Instead of a more or less abstract marketplace, the services and goods are allocated to the places where they can actually be purchased. However, there is more going on: John Bennett, back in the day, introduced a serious array of dressing to a couple of his older settlements, vastly increasing the flavor or the places. Needlebriar does sport a pretty impressive list: A table of no less than 20 entries can be used by the GM to really amp up the tension and unique flavor of the place.

Unusually humid days may see dogs panting loudly…and some of these dressing/entry-sections can be used as events to jumpstart the action…there is, for example, one entry where a badly mauled, bloodied man is running down the streets…so yeah, there is a sinister angle to the village, but I am NOT going to spoil it…or the reason for the strange twitches that seem to plague a lot of folks from the local population. Beyond these, we get a great b/w-picture of the settlement and notes on the surrounding area, allowing the GM to better situate the village within the individual campaign setting. Another improvement over the classic formula of the Village Backdrop formula would pertain the respective entries for the locations of interest: Instead of having a single 6-entry event table, we have individualized event tables for the respective locations (under the “What’s going on?”-headers), which adds a further level of customization to the settlement. Beyond these specialized events, there is a further level of convenience added to the pdf. The respective entries have adventure/sub-quest-hooks added: For example, on Thorn Island, we have a druidic lore angle that may be very important if you choose it to be – for the strange proceedings in the place have something to do with Hunger Devours Moon. What is that? What is truly going on in Needlebriar and its weird Halflings? Well, I could spoil the angle, but frankly, that’d be a disservice to the great supplement. It was actually a hard decision on whether or not to mention the name, but frankly, it is too good an example for the quality of the inspiring prose herein. And better yet, the respective events can actually sport rules-relevant components.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard. The original b/w-artworks are impressive and the cartography of the place is excellent and in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As always, we get the pdf in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is an impressive author. I have yet to be disappointed by his supplements, and Needblebriar is no different: The changes to the formula of the Village Backdrop-series are great and actually further improve it, enhancing the immediate usefulness for the GM. Beyond the excellent prose, the village excels at immediate usability: Simply dropping the PCs into the village will be enough to provide adventuring opportunities for at least a session or two.

The individualized events and dressing-tables allow you to use this village as a go-play supplement. This works perfect without any kind of preparation: You can conceivably just whip this out and read the read-aloud text for the individual locations and the pdf itself as you go and have a great time. The central angle of the village is interesting and the extensive dressing, events and hooks make this basically a free-form sandbox in disguise.

Yes, you can use this as a backdrop, but it is strong enough to work as an adventure on its own as well. While the leitmotif is not necessarily new, the prose elevates it in its evocative execution; the added convenience and focus on usefulness at the table further add to the value of this pdf. Needlebriar is a phenomenal supplement, even in the context of the Village Backdrop-series and the insane quality-level the series has established. A fantastic village, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval – if you’re looking for a great environment to explore, this delivers in spades.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Needlebriar
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Creator Reply:
Thank you, End! I'm delighted you enjoyed Needlebriar so much!
Village Backdrop: Needlebriar (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:22:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Needlebriar is an isolated community, situated in a remote region of a duchy; it is also, in a nice change of pace, a Halfling community. The village takes its name from the rows upon rows of thorny hedgerows that can be found in and around the place, providing a natural series of borders. The red flowers of the hedgerow, as some claim, bloom in this vibrant a color due to the local custom of folks burying their dead beneath them. This rumor, though, is incorrect – like a full half of the rumors circulating around, for a veil of secrecy suffuses the place: The climate is warm and humid, with most Halflings walking through the settlement in heavy cloaks, which may raise a few eyebrows.

The supplement, as always, does sport the classic components we’ve come to expect from Village Backdrops – i.e., we get notes on the nomenclature of the locals, their dressing habits, etc. As always, we get rewards for PCs that do the legwork: Village lore may be unearthed and, as noted before, we do get a couple of whispers and rumors. However, in this pdf, we can see the fruits of Raging Swan Press’ patreon support in a rather impressive manner: For one, we do get write-ups for no less than 6 different NPCs. The write-ups do contain e.g. notes on gender and the suggested class levels for the characters; the write-ups are fluff-centric and as well-crafted as we’d expect from John Bennett.

Now, the system neutral version of the village obviously puts much of the research in the hands of the referee, but a glimpse at where usually we’d expect the marketplace-section, we instead get an evolution of the formula: You see, while it’s not new to see sample notes for costs of taverns and food/etc. to be included in village backdrops, we now have the individual locations sport the notes for specific services and items. This is surprisingly convenient: Instead of a more or less abstract marketplace, the services and goods are allocated to the places where they can actually be purchased. The items have been properly adjusted to refer to old-school classics. References to classes note thieves, but, since some of my readers want to know the like, the pdf refers to wizards and druids, not magic-users.

However, there is more going on: John Bennett, back in the day, introduced a serious array of dressing to a couple of his older settlements, vastly increasing the flavor or the places. Needlebriar does sport a pretty impressive list: A table of no less than 20 entries can be used by the GM to really amp up the tension and unique flavor of the place.

Unusually humid days may see dogs panting loudly…and some of these dressing/entry-sections can be used as events to jumpstart the action…there is, for example, one entry where a badly mauled, bloodied man is running down the streets…so yeah, there is a sinister angle to the village, but I am NOT going to spoil it…or the reason for the strange twitches that seem to plague a lot of folks from the local population. Beyond these, we get a great b/w-picture of the settlement and notes on the surrounding area, allowing the GM to better situate the village within the individual campaign setting. Another improvement over the classic formula of the Village Backdrop formula would pertain the respective entries for the locations of interest: Instead of having a single 6-entry event table, we have individualized event tables for the respective locations (under the “What’s going on?”-headers), which adds a further level of customization to the settlement. Like the 5e-version, the system neutral version unfortunately sports a minor conversion-relic from PFRPG in one of the entries, where the save and condition should be modified.

Beyond these specialized events, there is a further level of convenience added to the pdf. The respective entries have adventure/sub-quest-hooks added: For example, on Thorn Island, we have a druidic lore angle that may be very important if you choose it to be – for the strange proceedings in the place have something to do with Hunger Devours Moon. What is that? What is truly going on in Needlebriar and its weird Halflings? Well, I could spoil the angle, but frankly, that’d be a disservice to the great supplement. It was actually a hard decision on whether or not to mention the name, but frankly, it is too good an example for the quality of the inspiring prose herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups apart from the conversion relic. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard. The original b/w-artworks are impressive and the cartography of the place is excellent and in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As always, we get the pdf in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is an impressive author. I have yet to be disappointed by his supplements, and Needblebriar is no different: The changes to the formula of the Village Backdrop-series are great and actually further improve it, enhancing the immediate usefulness for the referee. Beyond the excellent prose, the village excels at immediate usability: Simply dropping the PCs into the village will be enough to provide adventuring opportunities for at least a session or two.

The individualized events and dressing-tables allow you to use this village as a go-play supplement. This works perfect without any kind of preparation: You can conceivably just whip this out and read the read-aloud text for the individual locations and the pdf itself as you go and have a great time. The central angle of the village is interesting and the extensive dressing, events and hooks make this basically a free-form sandbox in disguise.

Yes, you can use this as a backdrop, but it is strong enough to work as an adventure on its own as well. While the leitmotif is not necessarily new, the prose elevates it in its evocative execution; the added convenience and focus on usefulness at the table further add to the value of this pdf. Needlebriar is a phenomenal supplement, even in the context of the Village Backdrop-series and the insane quality-level the series has established. In spite of the minor conversion relic, this is simply a fantastic village, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval – if you’re looking for a great environment to explore, this delivers in spades.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Needlebriar (SNE)
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Village Backdrop: Needlebriar (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:19:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Needlebriar is an isolated community, situated in a remote region of a duchy; it is also, in a nice change of pace, a Halfling community. The village takes its name from the rows upon rows of thorny hedgerows that can be found in and around the place, providing a natural series of borders. The red flowers of the hedgerow, as some claim, bloom in this vibrant a color due to the local custom of folks burying their dead beneath them. This rumor, though, is incorrect – like a full half of the rumors circulating around, for a veil of secrecy suffuses the place: The climate is warm and humid, with most Halflings walking through the settlement in heavy cloaks, which may raise a few eyebrows.

The supplement, as always, does sport the classic components we’ve come to expect from Village Backdrops – i.e., we get notes on the nomenclature of the locals, their dressing habits, etc. As always, we get rewards for PCs that do the legwork: Village lore may be unearthed and, as noted before, we do get a couple of whispers and rumors. However, in this pdf, we can see the fruits of Raging Swan Press’ patreon support in a rather impressive manner: For one, we do get write-ups for no less than 6 different NPCs, which have btw. been properly assigned 5e-stats from the default NPC-roster, where applicable. The write-ups do contain e.g. notes on gender and the suggested class levels for the characters; the write-ups are fluff-centric and as well-crafted as we’d expect from John Bennett.

Now, where we’d expect the marketplace-section, we instead get an evolution of the formula: We still have the general marketplace section, but move one step beyond. You see, while it’s not new to see sample notes for costs of taverns and food/etc. to be included in village backdrops, we now have the individual locations sport the notes for specific services and items, which have been properly converted to 5e. This is surprisingly convenient: Instead of a more or less abstract marketplace, the services and goods are allocated to the places where they can actually be purchased. However, there is more going on: John Bennett, back in the day, introduced a serious array of dressing to a couple of his older settlements, vastly increasing the flavor or the places. Needlebriar does sport a pretty impressive list: A table of no less than 20 entries can be used by the GM to really amp up the tension and unique flavor of the place.

Unusually humid days may see dogs panting loudly…and some of these dressing/entry-sections can be used as events to jumpstart the action…there is, for example, one entry where a badly mauled, bloodied man is running down the streets…so yeah, there is a sinister angle to the village, but I am NOT going to spoil it…or the reason for the strange twitches that seem to plague a lot of folks from the local population. Beyond these, we get a great b/w-picture of the settlement and notes on the surrounding area, allowing the GM to better situate the village within the individual campaign setting. Another improvement over the classic formula of the Village Backdrop formula would pertain the respective entries for the locations of interest: Instead of having a single 6-entry event table, we have individualized event tables for the respective locations (under the “What’s going on?”-headers), which adds a further level of customization to the settlement. As a minor note of complaint: One of the entries for local events still refers to the PFRPG-save – that should be Constitution and the condition should have been changed. So yeah, the respective events can actually sport rules-relevant components.

Beyond these specialized events, there is a further level of convenience added to the pdf. The respective entries have adventure/sub-quest-hooks added: For example, on Thorn Island, we have a druidic lore angle that may be very important if you choose it to be – for the strange proceedings in the place have something to do with Hunger Devours Moon. What is that? What is truly going on in Needlebriar and its weird Halflings? Well, I could spoil the angle, but frankly, that’d be a disservice to the great supplement. It was actually a hard decision on whether or not to mention the name, but frankly, it is too good an example for the quality of the inspiring prose herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups apart from the save-conversion-relic. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard. The original b/w-artworks are impressive and the cartography of the place is excellent and in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As always, we get the pdf in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is an impressive author. I have yet to be disappointed by his supplements, and Needblebriar is no different: The changes to the formula of the Village Backdrop-series are great and actually further improve it, enhancing the immediate usefulness for the GM. Beyond the excellent prose, the village excels at immediate usability: Simply dropping the PCs into the village will be enough to provide adventuring opportunities for at least a session or two.

The individualized events and dressing-tables allow you to use this village as a go-play supplement. This works perfect without any kind of preparation: You can conceivably just whip this out and read the read-aloud text for the individual locations and the pdf itself as you go and have a great time. The central angle of the village is interesting and the extensive dressing, events and hooks make this basically a free-form sandbox in disguise.

Yes, you can use this as a backdrop, but it is strong enough to work as an adventure on its own as well. While the leitmotif is not necessarily new, the prose elevates it in its evocative execution; the added convenience and focus on usefulness at the table further add to the value of this pdf. Needlebriar is a phenomenal supplement, even in the context of the Village Backdrop-series and the insane quality-level the series has established. While the conversion relic is slightly annoying, it is not enough to drag down what must be considered to be a great supplement. All in all, this is fantastic village, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval – if you’re looking for a great environment to explore, this delivers in spades.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thank you, End! I'm delighted you enjoyed Needlebriar so much!
Thank you, End! I'm delighted you enjoyed Needlebriar so much!
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