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Storm Bunny Presents: The Thaumaturge
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/08/2017 09:12:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base-class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The thaumaturge class presented here receives d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as proficiency with all simple weapons and light armor and the weapon championed by their occult order. Thaumaturges radiate the alignment aura of their order, not their own, which is an interesting design decision. They also need to be non-good. All right, so the chassis of the class certainly is interesting, now hat do these occult orders do?

Well, chosen at 1st level, these govern the energy they tap into when blasting, the aura they tap into with black arts (more on those later) and their familiar. Beyond the weapon familiarity already mentioned, orders also modify the respective class skills and the opposed order. Speaking of familiars - these generally net a nicely chosen one at 7th level, with 13th and 19th level providing upgrades to the familiar. Now, as far as the damage types of the respective orders are concerned...well, they aren't really balanced among themselves. There is an order that deals force damage, while another one deals fire damage, for example. This alone will disqualify the class for low magic games, which is a pity as far as I'm concerned, for there are some cool tricks: The aforementioned aura can be activated as a standard action: 1/day at 2nd level, +1/day at 8th and 14th level, respectively. The benefits of the aura range from AoE negative energy or fire bursts to draining spell-levels, which is supremely cool and balanced further via a once-per-24-hour hex-caveat.

As a formatting complaint, the sub-abilities of the orders provided lack the respective ability types and colons. That being said, apart from e.g. an instance of damage type missing, the orders generally are interesting, though e.g. the order of Tiamat Risen's free energy selection is nasty and so is the potential to cause positive energy damage via a chaotic blast - the latter primarily because there are two precedence cases: Dreamscarred Press assumes positive energy damage to affect the living (highly problematic - no one has resistance to it!), while regular positive energy damage as per channel energy leaves living creatures unaffected - I assume the latter is the case here. The governing attribute is, just fyi, Charisma. A total of 6 such orders are provided, one for each alignment the class may have.

The energy blast of the thaumaturge requires a ranged touch attack, has a range of 30 ft. and SR applies, as does energy resistance, with Cha-mod added as a bonus to damage inflicted. Blasts require a free hand, count as weapons for feat purposes, but may not be used in conjunction with Vital Strike. Blasts inflict full damage on swarms and 8th and 15th level net the secondary and tertiary blasts - basically, iterative attacks with blasts. The verbiage here is precise, but slightly confusing upon first reading it. Energy blast base damage increases by +1d6 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

Thaumaturges begin with minor access to black arts, beginning play with up to Cha-mod cantrips taken from the sorc/wiz-spell list, casting them as though their class level was a proper arcane caster. They treat their class levels as arcane caster levels for feat prerequisites. Now the class has a pretty big drawback, but one that really has some serious promise: Defiant hubris.

The thaumaturge cannot be the willing target of divine magic or SUs, forcing them to save and resist even harmless spells, unless they concentrate for 1 minute, whereupon they are treated as willing recipients of all such magic for 10 minutes. This can be really interesting, if played right. 2nd level unlocks storm of blasts, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day: The thaumaturge may fire a single ray at up to class level (max 10) targets within 30 ft., with each requiring a ranged touch attack and inflicting only 1d4 energy damage - here's where things are neat: On a roll of "4", the die "explodes". If you're not familiar with the mechanic: That means you roll the die again and add its damage value to the first roll. The ability caps these by putting a cap equal to twice the thaumaturge's caster level on the maximum - a thaumaturge of 13th level could have up to a total of 26 such exploding dice per storm of blasts, for example. I really like this. It's chaotic and cool and has a proper cap to avoid truly ridiculous blasts and the math is solid. Oh, and since it's an SP, it's also a bit risky. Point for the class!

Now, I have already mentioned black arts - these would be supernatural talents that require somatic components and, as the class is wont to, are governed by Charisma. They are unlocked at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter and a handy table lists them by prerequisite, with the big steps for unlocking new ones being 8th and 11th level: While one black art has a prerequisite level of 17th, it remains the exception. The black arts themselves can usually be employed once per day, with the majority requiring only a swift action to activate. These allow the thaumaturgist basically to add infusion-like modifications to blasts, among other things, though the hard cap of daily uses that lacks a scaling mechanism makes many of these add less versatility than you'd expect the chassis to deliver. It should be noted that black arts may be used for the conjuration of fiendish creatures with the appropriate choices. As a minor nitpick, the summons require only a standard action, which opens up the old question of when the summoned creature may act, how many actions it has left, etc. It is also worth mentioning that most may be taken multiple times per day, with each one granting + 1 daily use and that a feat can be taken to get an additional black art.

The orders of the class go further in determining the respective class abilities, though - at 3rd level, the order's first blessing is gained, with 9th and 17th level providing the second and third blessing, respectively. It is here things, at least partially, become really problematic: If you have chosen the order of high sortiledge, you receive arcane mimicry, the ability to substitute an energy blast's effects for a spell of a level he would be able to cast: While the spell needs to be arcane, may not cause damage and only affect willing targets, it does not have any other restrictions. Sure, it may suppress the ability to use energy blast for 1/2 the spell's level in rounds, but who cares? Infinite utility magic!! Suck on this, witch, wizard etc.!! Ähem, what? Yep. The ability has no cap, can be used an infinite amount of times per day, and considering the number of powerful buff options with long durations, it is one of the best examples of something utterly broken I have ever seen. WTF? How could this have gone past any playtesting?? This invalidates any utility/defense-caster ever. EVEN THE WIZARD. If your class is more powerful than the wizard, you have an issue. Not starting with the issue of different spell levels for different spellcaster classes, but yeah - even if you'd restrict that to the sorc/wiz-list only, this'd be broken as all hell.

Which is puzzling, for other abilities do cool things: Like prohibiting a creature from being the willing recipient of a spell when suffering from your black arts or hexes. Wait, hexes? Yep, several abilities tie into the black art that unlocks witch hexes at full CL, which is a neat and fitting touch as far as I'm concerned. Similarly, decreasing blast potency for self-heals with a daily cap or using magic items sans expending charges is a ncie idea - and comes with an anti-abuse caveat I like. These abilities, as you may have noticed, are active abilities.

The order chosen also affects the passive abilities available for the class: 4th and 16th level, respectively, provide the aspect of the order and greater aspect of the order abilities that culminate in the similarly order-based capstone of the class. These, as a whole, tend to be solid - though e.g. High Sortiledge's deflection bonus lacks the "to AC" usually added to the verbiage...and, much like the energy types of the blasts, the internal balance is a bit...odd? Darkvision 60 ft. versus resistance 5 to fire, cold, electricity and acid, which increase by +5 at 12th and 18th level. Okay, it's nice that darkvision improves if the character already has it and that he may see through magical darkness...but still. As a further nitpick - one of them refers to Intimidation - someone read 5e while writing that section, it seems. This is also reflected in another ability, which references lightning instead of electricity.

Coolest by far - the bounty of bedlam table, which provides one of 8 chaotic blessings/penalties a day.

Once per day at 6th level and plus 1/day every 6 levels thereafter, the thaumaturge may redirect one targeted spell/SP/ray or melee touch attack spell. The second feat herein does offer an option to use this ability to hijack other spells as an immediate action to steal enemy buffs. Cool. Starting at 10th level, as a full-round action usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day, the thaumaturge may channel their blasts through their familiar. 15th level is extremely cool and flavorful, allowing the thaumaturge to move sans moving his legs, levitating constantly above the ground as if affected by defy gravity, including slower, but reliable movement when further away from the ground. Speaking of flavorful - while a few of the aforementioned capstones represent various takes upon the apotheosis-theme, their respective representations certainly are flavorful!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are good - there are a few deviations from the defaults here and there, but the rules-language and formal prose are nice as a whole. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard with greenish highlights and fitting fonts, though starting at black arts, the pdf begins utilizing a 1-column standard. The pdf sports a blend of nice full-color stock art and some seriously amazing pieces I have never seen before - for the price, it certainly is a nice-looking book. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

This class had a turbulent gestation period, and alas, it shows. Originally penned by N. Jolly, then refined by Brian Suskind, Ben McFarland and Jaye Sonia, it was once to be the PFRPG warlock...but then, the kineticist came along....so what did the Storm Bunny crew do? They emphasized the occult aspect, which is a VERY smart thing to do...and flavor-wise, they succeeded. The thaumaturge is a class with several flavorful options and manages to evoke a unique playing experience, which is a big thing for me. It does not feel as restrictive and bland as the original warlock class and very much feels occult in theme...but not in design.

Occult Adventures, as I've written in my review of that book, represents a paradigm shift towards classes with an emphasis on player agenda and roleplaying as baked in aspect of a class. The warlock has a bit of player agenda with his black arts, but that's about it - much like the poor cavalier, you choose the order and then are locked into it, allowing for a limited array of concepts. The concepts themselves are nice, though their internal balance among themselves (or lack thereof) is one of the disappointing aspects of this class.

I am loathe to say it...but the class feels a bit like it could have used some time to further mature: From the lack of energy blast range increases (with the exception of a true strike blast black art that doubles range) to the uneven power of the orders and their abilities, the class feels like it could have used some serious fine-tuning...which is a pity, for, contrary to what I expected to find, there is some serious fun contained in the chassis. I love the exploding dice with their cap, for example. I like the spell-leeching...but that does not change that several aspects herein could have used some nerfing, others upgrading...and a bit more versatility. (With the exception of infinite spellcasting. That needs to die horribly.) Oh, and better power-streamlining between orders, damage types, etc..

In other words - this is almost a cool class; it could have been awesome, even. It has these gleaming highlights of brilliance, but remains a flawed class. It also lacks favored class options, but oh well. I expected to hate this and I don't - so yeah, this would fare better...were it not for the fact that Interjection Games' ethermagic basically does the whole warlock-shtick better balanced, with more soft and hard crowd control choices and unique tricks than this one.

This is not a bad class, but neither is it one that most groups can unanimously and sans tweaks use in their games - in short, it is a mixed bag and as such receives a final verdict of 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Presents: The Thaumaturge
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Strange New Fields
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/08/2017 09:11:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of charts and generators clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page blank, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The first page of this pdf contains name-tables - 10 male names, 10 female names, 10 last names and 11 over the top fantasy names for males and females with the 12th entry of said table denoting "roll twice and combine". From an internal consistency point of view, it's a bit weird to see the regular name table clearly distinguishing between male and female names in two columns, while the fantasy names separate male and female sounding names with an "or" - but that just as an aside.

Page two provides 6 troublesome treasures, which all come with sp/gp/xp values, though the latter are 1:1 the value of gp, which may upset some particularly ardent champions of "their" OSR-ruleset. These also are very powerful - 5K for a mace+4 whose wielder always acts first? SERIOUSLY? 4 unusual reasons to wander are more interesting, ranging from having denied a fey lord hospitality to now be cursed to wander and bring strife to...the very common blood oath of vengeance versus immortal wizard xyz. Somewhat weird - this one capitalizes a lot of words that shouldn't be.

The next page contains 6 unique holy symbols, including decent visual representations: Festering, molded wounds, ropes of twisted hair or the tooth of a dead man...interesting choices here and the first table ended up enjoying, even though capitalization is once again somewhat inconsistent. 8 interesting locales are next and range from a rock, where faeries may mend broken metal objects or a weirdo berates the PCs for not understanding how noble the way of the goblin is...

I also liked the 12-entry "strange payment"-table, where the PCs may be awarded a thief's courage, a father's heartbreak or similar abstract things...or water stolen from a sacred well. Worthwhile contemplating! The next page represents the first true generator herein, one for stronghold events: You roll a d8 and then check a sub-table: 4 plagues/floods can kill off population, there are 4 burglary severities and there would be visitors/raids: d6 determines the descriptor, 4 the typo of visitor. If there was an assassination, it occurred similarly d6 days ago and harvests also come in 4 entries. Decent, if very minimalist fortress event generator - I have seen better. (Plagues, in particular, will potentially quickly wipe out the population with 2 unlucky rolls of the dice.)

The 10-entry-strong table of "what finds you in the wilderness" would, once again, be a pretty nice ones, with the 7 deadly sins as well as nothingness, fear and beauty making for metaphysical experiences of a rather dream-like nature that are particularly suitable for excursions into the realm of dreams, the fey realms or similarly mutable places where places where shepherds with kingly jewels and the like could make sense, where greed making these riches never quite enough has a tangible draw.

The 20-entry strong table on why a monster wanders has a more universal appeal, but similarly is not as captivating. still, with gone fishin' and monsters currently...ahem...relieving themselves, it can result in some uncommon encounters.

The final table is titles "The Entity requires strange rituals or has inscrutable demands." and represents basically an easy generator - 40% chance for ritual required, 50% for a demand, 10% for both. You take the sentence: "First, yourself the ____" and roll d4s for each blank. Alas, the results can become...awkward, and not in a good way: "First, abstain yourself with the blood..." is for example a valid result here. 6 rituals and 6 demands are provided, to follow after the previous sentence-fragment. These are interesting and include only moving towards one cardinal direction for a week, for example. Similarly, the demands range from the traditional beautiful virgin (The pdf acknowledges the entity to be a traditionalist) to the character's immortal soul. NOW. However, it'll be returned, on credit even! A mixed bag table.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is still okay, considering the PWYW-nature of the pdf. Layout adheres to a 2-column or 1-column color standard, depending on the tables. The pdf doesn't have bookmarks, but does not necessarily require them- Artwork, where present, is either solid for PWYW or stock; still solid for what it is.

Edward Lockhart's table-collection is decent enough, considering that it's PWYW. The metaphyiscal "what finds you"-table is nice and while others are pretty basic and not too exciting, and while there are some hiccups in the details, as a whole, this does contain a couple of gems for idea-scavenging. The pdf is probably not worth printing out, but for a quick idea-scavenging, it may be worthwhile checking out. Now, granted, the title is misleading - this is basically a chaotic miscellanea of tables and that's it...and, for the most part, it's not strange...but as a PWYW-pdf, this is relatively decent.

And...honestly, I don't have more to say about it. If you're not willing to pay for some of the more detailed, focused generators out there, this may be worth checking out and leaving a small tip. If some of what I noted interest you...well, you can download it. Compared to many of the better generators/miscellanea-pdfs I've read, this feels unfocused, and the generators presented...have some minor hiccups. I feel like a jerk for doing so, but considering the quality of these generators and how strictly I tend to go to town on them, I can't rate this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform...in spite of being PWYW.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Strange New Fields
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Cultures of Celmae: Dwarves
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 15:57:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 3rd installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series represents a change of focus; not only does the series move away from the pretty basic explorations of human ethnicities (though we'll return to those), it also provides significantly more material - the pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content - which is 10 more than the Majeed had.

The very first page depicts the Shattered Kingdoms as a whole with a solid full-color map and begins with a brief history of the dwarven people - speaking of shattering: The ingenuity of the dwarves, alas, was responsible for the cataclysmic event that sent half the world into the sky - looking for ever more powerful ore, their cultivation of Deep Metal was responsible for the apocalyptic event. The dwarves, as a whole, do not deny this, with the exodus towards the surface and a pledge to fix the world being crucial components of the dwarven psyche. (Believe me, as a German, I can relate to an instilled experience of guilt for horrible deeds my people have wrought...) Over the years, the dwarven race experienced a schism between those below and on the surface, each deeming the other heretics - and thus we have the explanation for the dwarf/duergar-split in this campaign setting.

Surface dwarves are depicted with full racial stats, though they basically are the core dwarf using the sky sentinel alternate racial trait, including trade-ins. Duergar are also depicted, at +2 Con and Wis, -4 Cha, with slow and steady, superior darkvision, +2 to overcome SR and dispel, +2 to AC and CMB-checks when dealing with aberrations and light sensitivity. - Not complaints re power-level here.

This duality is also represented in the two kingdoms to which we're introduced, the first of them being the Copper Crown Mountains, the latter being the significantly less pleasant Zamcelty, which is lorded over by the duergar. Both nations feature a sample settlement statblock, just fyi. Interesting, btw.: There are no divine spellcasters in Zamcelty and the region is militarizing further, which is never a good sign in the face of racial intolerance. The pdf also provides two deity-write-ups: Adan would be the quintessential LG dwarf-father and benevolent racial deity. The second would be Lawful Evil and significantly less pleasant - the Ashen King, typically manifesting as either dwarf or kobold or cloud of ash with gleaming eyes - this entity, supposedly a king who dug too deep, is the miner's boogeyman - who must be appeased when the flames change color and the air turns rank. He is also worshiped by adheres, kobolds and worse, so yeah.

The pdf does contain a hybrid class, namely the forgepriest, who receives d8 HD, proficiency with simple, martial and dwarven weapons and all armors and shields excluding tower shields. He casts spells as a cleric of up to 6th level, with Wisdom as the governing attribute for their prepared spellcasting. They gain 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and second level nets channel energy, which scales up to +7d6 at 20th level. They can spontaneously cast cure or inflict spells, respectively, gain a bonus skill point each level that must be invested in Craft skills...and fails to state how many skills per level it receives.

3rd level nets endurance and 4th level Weapon Focus (warhammer); if the forgepriest already has that one, he gains Weapon Specialization for it, but only once he has reached a BAB of +4. 6th level nets Scribe Scroll, with 7th level providing the warpriest's sacred armor. Annoying - the spell references are not italicized properly. 8th level nets Craft Magic Arms and Armor as a bonus feat. 10th level negates the fatigued condition for the forge priest and reduced the exhausted condition to fatigued instead.

At 12th level, the character may 1/day attempt a Fort-save to negate damage incurred by an attack - with the DC being based on damage, which makes it a very unlikely endeavor and basically useless. 13th level nets the first of a handful of arcane spells that are added to the forgepriest's repertoire, with each level thereafter providing another one. One such spell may be cast 2/day and does not eat a spell slot, but must be prepared in advance. The ability does not specify which attribute governs this spell - Int would make sense as the default for prepared arcane casting. The ability also fails to specify whether the forgepriest suffers from arcane spell failure when casting these arcane spells.

Starting at 15th level, these can be activated by anyone - 5 targets are designated by the forgepriest, who may then activate the spell, but at the cost of +2 spell levels...which are pretty much irrelevant, considering that RAW, he can only cast one such spell 2/day. Starting at 16th level, these guys may inscribe runes with this confused mechanic permanently at the cost of their own spell slots, which would be interesting, but the wording-changes from plural to singular, editing glitches and lack of spell italicization render the ability pretty obtuse

14th level nets this gem: "The forgepriest gains a bonus on Appraise and Craft checks related to objects made of stone." Okay. How much? No, it is not stated. 18th level nets a bonus feat, 20th a 1-minute lasting DR 10/- form that gets class level as BAB and ignores armor and encumbrance restrictions...which feels weird, considering the dwarven slow and steady trick. Oh, and the capstone fails to specify how often it can be used and how it is activated. This hybrid class is flawed. It does not bring anything compelling to the table, sports several unnecessary hiccups in formatting and rules-language and its unique tricks come too late and are unnecessarily hard to grasp.

The pdf does sport 5 feats. Better crafting, social skill-bonuses when interacting with your clan, +4 vs. Disarm, no penalty while squeezing and its + mount follow-up. Apart from the squeezing-options, I'd not consider these worthwhile. A total of 6 traits, properly codified by trait subtype, are presented and they are solid.

Dwarves are master craftsmen, and as such, new item qualities are next - acid-washed items, for example, get better saves versus rust, disintegration and acid, while weapons with blood-groves reduce weight and increase hardness. Folded metal is harder and ornate items grant social skill bonuses. Skills are not properly capitalized. Osmium, as a material, is a variant of adamantine that does not have the hardness-ignoring properties, while Deep metal is basically adamantine that can ignore up to 25 points of hardness instead...oh, and it is treated as cold iron. It is basically the super-metal f the setting and thus expensive as all hell. The priest's bane special quality, at +1, adds +2 to enhancement bonus and +2d6 damage versus divine spellcasters...which is pretty strong and arguably better than the type-based usual bane. For balance's sake, it should be +2.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level leave something to be desired. There are missing letters, improperly formatted spells and rules-components, switches between plural and singular in the same ability. You name it. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks. The cartography is nice.

This installment of the series does show that it had three authors: Robert Gresham, Ewan Cummings and Angel "ARMR" Miranda; some aspects of the pdf are concisely presented and generally are solid: The brief glimpses of the kingdoms, history and culture make sense and feel interesting. I wished, frankly, they were longer. The forgepriest, no way around it, is lacking and the feats left me unimpressed. The materials and crafting modifications, however, were pretty nice. The pdf is inexpensive for its page-count and there is some value to be found here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Dwarves
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Edgewater's Folly
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:34:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 76 pages (if you take cover/editorial/etc. away) and my review is based on the print version I received at Gencon in exchange for a fair an unbiased review, which is also why you're seeing this review so soon after the module was made available to the public. The review is thus based on the physical copy of the module.

Now, first things first - this module was made to support Gaming Paper's useful and pretty amazing mega-dungeon gaming paper-collection - i.e. the massive map of this module is made up of the respective sheets, allowing for an easy, battle-mat-style exploration of the module and doubling as a gigantic, player-friendly map. If you're not interested in using the accessory (Why?), you're covered, though - the pdf does sport the overview map of the dungeon and can be run without using the mega-dungeon sheets with minimum hassle. I honestly wished all support/tie-in products had this level of service.

Anyway, this does mean that encounter-number/room-numbering is a bit different, with the respective encounters pointing towards the identifying numbers/letters of the gaming paper sheets. If that sounds confusing, rest assured that it's not when you look at the book.

One more thing: While the adventure takes place in the town of edgewater, it remains very much a backdrop and can easily be replaced with any coastal town with a sufficiently developed sewer system and access to a trade-route.

And this is pretty much as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the fortunes of edgewater have turned for a while now: The town, currently led by former adventurers, has managed to use subterfuge and intrigue to generate an economic upswing and hamper their competition...not with the most ethical means, but yeah. Their competition, Deep Salt Bay, has seen a sharp decline, fueled by greed and clever maneuvering...but not everyone in the town was willing to just accept edgewater triumphing...and thus a scheme most dastardly was hatched.

The PCs, while in edgewater (or any town you choose to substitute for it), are confronted via one of MANY, extremely detailed hooks, with the basic premise: Plague has come to town. Not just any plague either - one that makes both bubonic and septicemic plagues look like child's toys...and worse, one that seems to mysteriously resist regular attempts at curing it via magic, going only into remission to resurface later. Yeah, you can go pretty apocalyptic there, if you're going dark fantasy. The plague is called civilization's downfall (theatrical - the pdf acknowledges that!) and was engineered by a cabal of plague druids hired by Deep Salt Bay to wreck edgewater. The druids are spreading the plague with the help of a cadre of wererats through town. WAIT. Wait a second.

I know, I know. The plot as such is pretty old and not too remarkable. In fact, I'd be yawning pretty hard if I heard this set-up. But wait. The module does not feel like any other plague or sewer module and exemplifies that, in adventure crafting, the devil is often in the details...but so is beauty. I mentioned extensive hooks, right? Well, the first act sports a massive array of different vignettes, from the plague victim stumbling into the bar, to muckrakers drawing carts on which the dead are put to being directly hired. All of these hooks feature EXTENSIVE rules and even read-aloud text...and they can be combined at your leisure, with commentary providing guidance regarding the respective tones evoked. Preventing a mob/riot goes so far as to provide guidance for non-violent conflict resolution.

Speaking of extensive guidance: The module deals with a hidden agenda BBEG, obviously. At level 7. I have never in my line of work seen this extensive an array of well-written guidelines for the GM to handle scrying, divination and similar aspects of the game. The pdf discusses A LOT of potential issues and shows an intricate care regarding suspension of disbelief. It is quite evident that the majority of the module is an exploration of edgewater's sewer system. I know, sewer-level. No one like those, right? Well, the details provided are AMAZING and if your players are as smart as mine and pick up on inconsistencies with the fervor of a starved bloodhound, then this module has your back: You see, from discussions of bronze, copper, etc. to the science of sewer gas explosions and their likelihood, the module manages to be incredibly consistent and evoke a sense of realism I have never seen before in a sewer-dungeon.

More importantly, the whole dungeon manages to be incredibly ALIVE. Not sterile at all. It makes sense, from the big dynamics to the small: The sewer system features tides (if you need a tide tracker - 4 Dollar Dungeons' superb Horn of Geryon has one); at night, the bats swarm to hunt. Otyughs leave those wearing muckraker uniforms alone. The two antagonist factions behave in a concise and believable manner. How deep do the details go? Well, a wererat alchemist dreams of taking control of her gang - PCs with detect thoughts or similar means could glean that and use it to their advantage. The patrols provided for the enemy factions come with advice on how to make one statblock feel different when used.

The sewer system sports notes on methane-explosions for areas (including real world chemistry explanation!), rules for storm surges, the horrid psychological effects of being drenched by overwhelming humidity and stench - in short, the dungeon uses hazards PERFECTLY. It also uses the adversaries in a similarly concise and evocative manner: The foes behave smart and the living, "realistic" dungeon is very much one of the things that make this stand out. When you find several chests, they all have different traps. When you come to a junction you can't cross, the pdf notes several means, both mundane and magical, to solve the problem. When you come to a combat dealing with multiple foes, the sidebars provide ideas and guidance how to simulate the chaos of such an encounter. When an area would work well as an ambush location, the pdf draws your attention to it.

Oh, and the adversaries: Beyond the aforementioned main factions, hydras and several creatures from the excellent Sewer Bestiary (statblocks included here) provide ample versatility in that account. Speaking of which: The NPC-builds for the foes are versatile and in the end, after exploring the sewer, the PCs may still need to take on the command vessel of the plague druids, anchored in the sewer dock...which makes for a truly furious experience that requires brains as well as brawns for the PCs to survive. Oh, and in the aftermath, there is still the problem of the true culprit being none other than Deep Salt Bay's burgomaster's wife, a powerful bard in her own right...and putting her to justice, in any way, will be a challenge indeed. Have I mentioned that GMs even receive some notes on the limitations of certain spells, where applicable/potentially problematic? This is the most considerate module regarding the vagaries of adventuring I have seen in ages.

Have I mentioned the magical sparring dummy, the giant catfish or the dire raccoon?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed some very minor cosmetic hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to Gaming Paper's elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports several nice b/w-pieces of original art. The dead tree version is saddle-stitched and paper-quality-wise, nice.

Damn, this was hard for me - and I'm pretty sure I failed, but here it goes: This module is AMAZING. It frankly has no right to be this good. The plot-line, the environment, the primary adversary faction choices - none of these excite me on paper. If I had them summed up for me, I'd shrug and move on. I implore you to not do that here. This module manages to provide a level of consideration, detail and internal consistency only VERY rarely seen in any system, much less one as rules-intense as PFRPG. It clicks. It comes together. It feels alive.

Usually, sewers are a designer's lazy way out to generate a dungeon with a certain theme right under a village. They are set-pieces, window-dressing at best. This sewer feels alive. It is a fantastic eco-system that embraces all the things that I always wanted to see in such an environment. In fact, for the very first time in my roleplaying career, I have found a module that is a sewer-crawl where the very dungeon explored has more character, more unique peculiarities, than most non-sewer dungeons. In short, this module represents the rebuttal, delivered with panache aplomb, to all the negative clichés associated with the dungeon type. It also represents a huge step up for author John Ling, who so far provided good, even very good, modules - but this goes a step beyond and reaches the lofty realms of excellence.

The author acknowledges with meticulous care non-dice-roll-dependent problem-solving, magical means and manages to evoke a sense of internal consistency that is very hard to convey in a review, but that should nonetheless be made very explicit: I have rarely seen any module feel this internally consistent, this alive; this is an excellent example of a living dungeon set-up: Considerate, intelligent, well-written, versatile and yes, evocative even, with hazards galore, SCIENCE! and diverse challenges, this is now my reference module for any adventure that features a sewer. This is the best adventure John Ling has penned so far and the best module released by Gaming Paper since the legendary Citadel of Pain. In short: GET THIS. I mean, one of the (optional!) lead-in hooks has a chase...and we get chase card obstacles! It's a perfect example how diligence, cohesion and consistency can conspire to make a module play in an absolutely amazing manner. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, + seal of approval...and this also receives a nomination for my Top Ten of 2016, even though its pdf went live only recently. This is the new reference module for sewers and all excuses for making these areas lame are hereby null and void. Turns out sewer-levels can be fun, after all!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Edgewater's Folly
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Trail of the Apprentice: The King's Curse (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:28:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Legendary Games' Trail of the Apprentice adventure arc clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content. The pdf does come with an art and map folio, which presents no less than 20 pages of artworks that you can print out for handout purposes, with most maps coming in multiple iterations - including grid and grid-less versions. The maps are player-friendly and in neat full-color - the variety provided allowing for easy use in any game. This is AMAZING and honestly, I think it should be industry-standard.

All right, when last we left our heroes in the making, they were en route towards the city of Fairglade, which is fully depicted for the convenience of the GM in the appendix - and yes, a map of the place is included, as is a proper settlement statblock. It should be noted that, if the first installment in this series was GMing 101, then this module begins introducing the finer aspects of the craft. Copious amounts of helping sideboxes and elucidations on the structure behind the environments similarly help new GMs run the best game they can, though this already requires a bit more preparation and improvisational skills than #1 - which is good, for we need to have a learning curve. The module, much like #1, should be appropriate for all but the most squeamish kids of age 8+.

All right, so this is pretty much as far as I can get without SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? When last we left the heroes, they were en route towards Lord Mayor Wolfe with a sealed letter of recommendation, hopefully to thwart the theft of a second serpent statue. Fairglade requires, just so you know, the peace-bonding of weapons (rules and troubleshooting provided) and the module begins with the PCs introducing themselves to Lord Mayor Wolfe and receiving a tour of his fabled, fully mapped museum - veterans will want to take in the sights of the tour and anticipate where this is going...

This type of social encounter does offer some serious roleplaying potential and the pdf sports, in copious details, the respective cultural treasures accumulated by the Lord, including in many cases, proper color artworks to show as handouts. During this tour, the PCs have ample chances to impress the lord with their knowledge, though even if they treat him badly or show no interest, the GM is covered with an alternative hook - the main thing to take apart from the tour and the inspection of the museum thereafter would be that it was secured rather well and that the PCs should find themselves employed to determine the identity of the culprits.

This leads into the first investigation of the campaign - the PCs are off to explore the city and find the thieves - with each quarter having its own modifiers. The detailed explanation of how this interaction between settlement and PCs, this slightly increased abstraction level works, is most certainly welcome and should allow novices to run this section smoothly.

As is the trope with such investigations, running afoul of the city watch (and potentially ending in jail/needing a bailout by the lord) and dealing with thugs (encounter map provided) will set the PCs on their trail. My criticism towards module #1 alas, as is repeated here - the final thug doe throw down his weapons, but PCs are not rewarded for not killing the thugs. The criminal points them towards their first lead, however - word is that the infamous thieves guild Elverin Skulk has been hired for a big job. The PCs can soon find their safe-house, where some junior officers and the gargoyle spike make for a challenging encounter. Spike the gargoyle is also where the PCs and GM learn about DR, how to handle it and how to tweak it, if required - in the aftermath, the PCs will find plans that show a tunnel onto museum grounds.

However, upon their return to the lord, they will realize that their task is not yet finished - the museum was broken into...AGAIN. The lord wants to PCs to explore the tunnels and deal with the threat, preferably sans involving the city guard. It is hence that the next section of the adventure begins, as the PCs explore the sewers and duke it out with hissing giant centipedes and even a wererat - which is where diseases, environmental considerations and handling lycanthropy and its cure are explained to the GM. It is also where undead are first introduced, which seems at odds with the child/young players focus...however, the pdf does provide ample advice on depicting the living dead while mitigating the chance for nightmares...kudos!!!

This would also be a good spot to have the PCs rest - such intermission spots are clearly denoted within the pdf. This is where the climax of the adventure begins, as the PCs enter the museum once again - and if they paid attention to the lord in the beginning, they will have an easier time here: You see, the undead rising are the result of a ruby stolen from the sarcophagus of King Udimmu. Returning the ruby to the dead king, a powerful mummy, after or while dealing with his skeletal retainers will end the king's curse that has taken a hold of the museum and reward them with the mummy showing his gratitude, making the living dead even less creepy and rather relatable. Oh, and PCs that took heed during the initial museum tour will have an edge here, even beyond the solution being more simple.

The curse is lifted, but the theft remains unresolved...and this is where we'll return in module #3.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column, full-color standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the pdf sports a lot of nice full-color cartography and artwork, though fans of LG will recognize the sarcophagus artwork, for example.

Paris Crenshaw's second installment of Trail of the Apprentice is the logical progression of teaching GM skills and does a great job handling and navigating the challenges that running a game for young players sports. Unlike the very atomic roleplaying experience #1 sported, however, this book focuses on teaching the ROLEplaying aspects of the game more so than the ROLLplaying aspects - and it succeeds in that endeavor. The module allows a GM to come to grips with adventuring in a city, longer social encounters and is less of a hand-holding experience than #1. While this makes it slightly harder to GM (particularly, there is less read-aloud text), the progression is natural and required. More importantly, this module is fun for players of all ages. Where module #1's atomic experience will not excite any veterans, this very much can provide an easy, yet fun module for older players as well. Depending on the dressing and your narrative prowess, you could conceivably reskin this module's benevolent tone to be quite grim, should you choose to do so. That being said, this would be at odds with the relatively easy difficulty.

I am rambling, I know. In short - this is superior to #1 and makes for a well-crafted second part of the saga that teaches the skills that made us stick with the game: Changing tactics, roleplaying and making an impact. The fact that doing the right thing resolves the finale also adds a nice touch of morality to the proceedings, even though I still wished that dealing with intelligent foes in a nonlethal manner was properly covered/rewarded - I most certainly suggest to any GM to do exactly that.

How to rate this, then? Well, the module, as a whole, is a fun, if not necessarily perfect experience and as such, it receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice: The King's Curse (Pathfinder)
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Clerics of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:26:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page editorial, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, though these are A5 (6'' by 9'')-sized and thus, you can fit up to 4 of the pages comfortably on one sheet of paper.

All right, we begin this supplement with several new archetypes, the first of which would be the betrothed, sown to celibacy and being wed to the deity's principles. These characters receive just one domain, but receives a bonded ring as a bonded object for divine casting. These guys may also forego a +1d6 progression of channel energy in lieu of receiving a teamwork feat they qualify for, which is a nice rules-operation.

The second archetype would be the cycle thrall, who are prohibited from taking the Death and Healing domains and locked into an elemental domain. These clerics lose all healing and necormancy spells from their spell-list, but may choose up to 2 evocations from the sorc/wiz-list per spell level, which are then treated as divine spells. This power-boost does kill off spontaneous spellcasting, though. Additionally, their channel energy is significantly modified, instead being based on d4s, Ref-saves and it inflicts energy damage as per the element chosen. Nice take on the elemental cleric.

Dominionist clerics get only one domain, but selects 2 powers form the domain's subdomains. Instead of spontaneous spellcasting, they may 1/day as a SU cast any detect divination via their philosophical divine focus substitute. The favored keeper gets only one domain, but receives a familiar, but may channel energy through the familiar, provided it is within 50 ft. - as a swift action. I assume that the swift action is in addition to the usual activation of channel energy, otherwise, this would allow for +1 channel per round, which is pretty nasty. The wording here could be a tad bit more explicit.

The favored tamer, you guessed it, is locked into the animal domain and replaces the animal domain's usual companion with a full-progression animal companion and 5th level providing a DR or resistance based on the patron deity. Personally, I think the loss of one domain may be a bit overvalued here...but then again, clerics don't have Handle Animal and the domain doesn't grant it as a class skill either...so that may either be intended or a balancing mechanism. Personally, I would have added that to the archetype.

Friars receive +2 class skills and receive 4 + Int-mod skills per level and their proficiency list is cut down to 5 simple weapons, light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Now here is the thing - the archetype chooses a simple weapon to have affinity with at 1st level, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter - with these weapons, the archetype treats class level as BAB, becoming basically a full BAB-warrior. To offset this, these guys diminish their spellcasting by 1 spell each level and they are locked into the Community domain as one of the two domains chosen. Additionally, when channeling energy, they gain +1 to AC for 1 round, which increases by +1 at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter.

Left hand clerics do not gain access to inflict spells, adding Wis-mod when using healing spells or channeling energy and they may choose Healing and Protection as domains, even if they are not usually on the list of their deities - which usually are EVIL, if the name did not tip you off. Oh, and they may only channel positive energy, obviously. Before you're asking - yes, there would be a negative-energy-using Right hand equivalent for good faiths requiring some executioners.

Martyrs add Intimidate to the class skill list and must select the martyr subdomain. They gain a bonus to Intimidate skill checks, more so when they are below half maximum hit points - not the biggest fan of that. Cool: They can only channel when injured by an enemy, but may do so as an immediate action...oh, and there is a scaling percentile chance that they return from the dead as per resurrection.

The mysterious way archetype adds Bluff, Sleight of Hand and Stealth to the class skills and modifies the proficiency lists. They may choose Extra Rogue Talent as a feat, using cleric level as rogue level. Instead of channel energy, they may 3 + Cha-mod times employ Silent Spell sans spell level increase. Penitents replace channel energy with one penance - there are 8 provided and they are unique in that they eliminate magic item slots, but provide flavorful, interesting bonuses and restrictions - burdened clerics can e.g. carry significantly more and are better at resisting Bull Rush, Overrun, etc. Very flavorful and interesting.

Priests of the Covenant gains one domain's spells, but not its powers. They come in 6 variants, one per attribute, with 1st level providing passive benefits that scale and 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter providing SPs and further passive benefits, with the capstone providing significant benefits, like immunity to Con drain...speaking of which: Pretty nice to see is that aforementioned Con-covenant even has an undead-caveat. Good call!

The pdf also contains a hybrid class, the pillar, which is a blend of cleric and cavalier that receives d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, the pillar receives proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as with the deity's favored weapon and all types of armor as well as shields, excluding tower shields. The pillar also receives prepared divine spellcasting governed by Wisdom, drawn from the cleric's list. They chose two domains and only receive the domain powers, but not the respective domain spells.

Once per day, the pillar may engage in a trial-by-combat, which is basically a challenge that only works with the favored weapon, usable +1/day every 3 levels beyond 1st. The pillar adds + class level to damage, but takes a -2 penalty to AC versus attack from other targets and the ability is treated as challenge for the purpose of ability interactions. They also begin play with an animal companion mount, the so-called stalwart mount, which sports several modifications of the basic companion-engine. Starting at 3rd level, the pillar receives a bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate while mounted, which improves at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Of course, level 1 unlocks order, but does not grant the skill bonuses and class skills granted by the order. 5th level lets the pillar perform a ritual that offers a magic weapon to the deity, who then replaces it with an equivalent version of the favored weapon. Neat!

8th level lets him choose up to Cha-mod allies, granting them a +1 bonus to a single save for 24 hours. NO, they cannot be escalated/stacked - only one in effect per character. 11th level allows for the free maximizing of healing spells by increasing casting time to 1 minute, with 14th level makes the attacks during trial by combat aligned, while 17th level provides a single head slot item for the item's cost, rather than the price - cost to create would be more precise, but that is me nitpicking cosmetics. The capstone nets immunity to crits and bull rush, reposition and tripping for the mount. The class also comes with a diverse array of favored class options for regular and Porphyran races. All in all, a decent, if not too amazing hybrid class.

The pdf also sports the new porphyrite domain, which provides minor scaling resistance to all elements and use either positive or negative energy to damage elementals as well as reroll the 1s rolled there. 8th level makes all your weapons be treated as porphyrite, which bypasses an elemental's untyped DR. When choosing the borders subdomain, you replace the latter ability with the option to draw porphyrite borders that require Will-saves to cross for hard terrain control - cool! The second subdomain, geranite, is associated with time, allows you to perform a stuttering strike a limited amount of times per day - if you're not familiar with that ability of the 3.X chronorebel PrC - basically, a foe takes the same damage again next round. Spell-replacements etc. are solid - no complaints.

The pdf also sports a total of 16 feats that include adding anti-pala or pala spells to the pillar's spell-list (which is imho OP for a feat and further blurs the line between pala and pillar), limited access to druid spells, mastering the deity's chosen instrument or weapons, adding cleric spells to the bard spell-list, making daily sanctified bullets (no, can't be sold/cheesed) or use cure spells to repair items - which may be a true boon for all those construct-y races out there. Cool: Making 5 holy symbol shurikens per day from very powerful special materials. That being said, the feat should have scaling - adamantine is worth more than silver, for example, and as such should be unlocked at higher levels. though the feat's prereqs keep the option from being broken - not as elegant as I'd like it to be, but fine. Oh, and the option to use channel energy to make holy water bombs? AMAZING. Where's the cleric/alchemist aspergillum/holy water bomb specialist? I mean, seriously - this feat is inspiring and even gets damage type correct.

The pdf also features alternate rules - one lets 3 divine spellcasters of the same deity declare a divine parish, which nets a minor boon. I also like the idea of allowing a cleric to forego channel energy increase with a channel feat. If the mentioned favored music instrument elicited confusion, rest assured that the pdf does spell these out, making adaptation to other settings easy. Death god? Check Porphyra's version or the psychopomp ushers. And yep, elemental lords etc. included. The pdf closes with a sample pillar, Ceyda Broken-Shield, a hobgoblin...and yes, mount stats included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. I was pretty impressed by the general level of precision employed - many of the deceptively simple things often overlooked are covered here. Layout adheres to the booklet-size 1-column a5 (6'' by 9'')-standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Urgh, ANOTHER cleric book. That was pretty much my first impulse. I've seen so many cleric archetypes and modifications, I am hard to please at this point. Let it be known that I was duly impressed by Aaron Hollingsworth's offering here. As you may know, I do tend to gravitate towards complex, high-concept archetypes and less towards small engine-tweakers, primarily because the latter school of design is often just an excuse for cookie-cutter design.

While this book does feature, as you may have noticed, primarily engine-tweaking options, they have in common that they, for the most part, provide meaningful and interesting customizations, often altering the playing experience significantly. Despite myself, I caught myself contemplating quite a few of these options and while I consider not all of them perfect, they are very well-crafted as a whole. The pillar-class, though, is a somewhat different case - in my book, its niche, the holy knight, is basically served by the pala...and trial by combat is simply not that different from smite, orders not that different from oaths - you get my drift. It is a well-crafted class, but one that lacks a unique niche or mechanics that set it sufficiently apart in the holy knight-routine. It's not bad, but unless you really wanted a knight with orders, it's somewhat superfluous and lacks the strong leitmotif its name (or the superb luminary hybrid class by the same author) promise.

That being said, both feats and alternate rules make up for this once again by helping multiclassing and sporting some gems. How to rate this, then? This book shows a deliberate, precise capability of operating with rules and should provide no significant problems at any table. The craftsmanship, in short, is excellent. And there similarly is artistry in this book - but whether it's the cool penance-idea or the holy water bombs, I frankly wished some aspects had been developed more in these evocative niches. The book feels a bit like it is playing it safe and does not sport this one component that makes you go ballistic. However, as a whole, it does feature a really impressive array of multi-class-themed engine-tweaks and modifications that add some serious versatility to clerics and their playstyles, often genius in their simplicity. Still, the pillar does drag this a bit down for me, which is why I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Clerics of Porphyra
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Mini-Dungeon #044: The Ascent of Tempest Tower
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:25:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. This one does not come with a .tif extra map, just fyi.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

On an open plain, surrounded by a devastating lightning storm stands one single tower - the eponymous structure contains an artifact, the heart of the tempest. To gain access to the tower, you must first deduce that the 4 symbols (represented on the map) hidden on the door correspond to energy types and then inflict said damage types simultaneously to the structure - only then, you can have access to the structure and brave the advanced stone golems, the devastating flame vortex and finally brave a tempest behemoth to reach the artifact - which may be the only way to deal with that powerful evil in your campaign's end-game!

Conclusion:

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

Justin Andrew Mason's high-level mini-dungeon has it all: An artifact, an evocative location, powerful foes, required high-level magic to best it. This would be pretty much an instant recommendation...but it has two issues, one of which is an RAW game breaker. One cube needs to be subjected to "shatter damage", which does not exist. Worse, the tower can only be accessed by inflicting multiple damage types - one of which is holy...which does not exist. RAW, there is no way inside. Granted, both can be handwaved by a competent GM, but still - that should not happen and seriously tarnishes what would be one interesting high-level set-piece. Still, in spite of loving the complex, I can't let these slide. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars and I can't round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #044: The Ascent of Tempest Tower
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Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons of the Mind (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 05:10:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This dragon-bestiary clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving su with 33 pages of content - quite a bunch, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin this pdf with a recap on dragon age categories, general rules and all the different tools you require to make the respective dragons shine - though this section already sports some cool expansions with new dragon abilities that include power resistance as well as a percentile chance to negate targeted spells, powers or rays. Beyond that, powers and psychic magic can be found - yep, this means we'll both get psychic magic support as well as psionics support! The pdf also sports 3 dragon feats - Deflect Ray and its bigger brother Absorb Ray are pretty self-explanatory, while Slashing Pass is basically Flyby Attack on speed for aquatic combat, restricted to fin attacks. All of these supplemental rules are more than solid.

We begin first with new psionic dragons, the first of which would be the bloodstone dragon - it should be noted that each dragon introduced herein comes with an amazing full-color mugshot. Bloodstone dragons can narrow their breath weapon to a line of acidic, blinding sands and they also have a truly phenomenal defensive ability - they may touch objects to take on their defensive characteristics - yes, this includes potential weaknesses (like crystal shattering via sonic damage), but still, this does add some SERIOUS staying power to any halfway competent dragon...oh, and later, they can emulate liquids and gasses, making them fearsome infiltrators! Have I mentioned that their breath extends to the ethereal plane? CR 8, 12 and 17 versions of the dragon are provided for your convenience, just fyi - this extends to all the dragons herein, meaning you'll have ample statblocks at your beck and call.

Second in line would be the amazingly mineral-style, almost scifi-looking quartz dragon, whose breath not only extends to the astral plane, it may also partially negate an aegis' defensive abilities, providing potentially a rude awakening for those overly cocky. Their electric breath can shut down whole groups, staggering those affected, making these guys truly debilitating and fearsome foes - as they damn well should be! Oh, and they gain insight versus those struck and hitting them causes discharges...amazing.

The aquamarine dragon's icy breath can entangle foes or encase those below the waters completely in ice (and yes, this means rising to the surface - nice to see that dragon's breath is not wholly exempt from physics). Oh, and they may, as an immediate action, reroll any d20 a number of times per day determined by age category Fun fact - they also can manifest mind blades. Opal dragons have fire breath that bypasses immunity partially (OUCH!!) and their blazing light is so strong, they may permanently dazzle those affected...and it passes through walls of force. Have I mentioned the dazing aura of light or the prismatic spray? Their ability to exude a wave of debilitating body alterations that WRECKS physical attributes? Oh yeah, this guy seriously made me chuckle my most sadistic, gleeful GM-chuckle.

So, that would be the cadre of psionic dragons - all killer, no filler amazing so far, so how do the psychic dragons fare? Well, we begin with the BRIMSTONE dragon. (at this point, can you guess their theme/leitmotif? It'll become evident by dragon #3, at the very latest...) These guys can sense thoughts and their breath softens the area's ground affected, regardless of composition, as well as decreasing greatly the hardness of unattended objects. Their breath makes return from the dead an unlikely proposition. Oh, but coolest: Their breath features lingering gasses and chemicals that ignite when in contact with fire, allowing for combos. Yeah, this guy feels definitely distinct from the psionic dragons.

Quicksilver dragons can breathe either bludgeoning damage causing, poisonous metal that may smash you prone, these guys also have a psychic magic hampering emotion aura and may alternative breathe psychoactive gas...and even needles of phrenic metal that allow the dragon to exert absolute control over those unlucky wretches affected. Two thumbs up!

The subdued alchemy-theme continues among the psychic dragons with the aqua regia dragon, whose breath may generate a vortex of acid, combining the water elemental's trick with damage - as aquatic dragons, they lack wings, but more than make up for it with their powerful tails and mouths. Oh, and underwater, their breath weapon may deal less damage, but DOUBLES its AoE. They also sport an aura of mental static, deal all types of physical damage with their natural attacks and have a retributive damage...and their charges are devastating. Obviously, they can also obliterate and capsize vessels...and their breath actually can crush foes. AMAZING.

Last, but certainly not least among the psychic dragons would be the vitriol dragon, who may emit a pulse of homicidal rage inducing rage. Their alkaline breath is particularly effective versus certain creatures and they may change it into permanently blinding blasts of alkaline dust. Oh, and their very blood is poisonous. OH YES.

Speaking of "OH YES" - remember how the first "Dragons of NeoExodus"-book had those AMAZING dragon lords? Well, this one does also feature two of these campaign-end-game-level of threats, both of which come in regular and mythic iterations and feature full-body artwork, with the first being Prism, the corundum dragon at CR 25...or CR 30/MR 10 in her mythic iteration. Prism has superb control over her composite breath weapon's precise elemental and physical composition and the breath also adds a nasty debuff to those affected. She is shielded by an area of telekinetically-charged debris, her scales are fortified and she has a shield that converts regular damage to nonlethal damage...said damage may then be employed for devastating buffs or retributive prismatic ray. I love the words "retributive" and "prismatic ray" adjacent to one another.

The second dragon lord featured herein would be coterie, the dread cabal - a powerful entity of 3 spirits inhabiting the body of a single dragon, whose very breath may bull rush foe...but the by far coolest aspect of this dragon lies in its unique nature: The composite sprits mean that the entity undergoes physical changes, depending on the dominant spirit as well as that it is fortified versus mayn nasty tricks - the aspects, Phrenzy, Fatalis and Rigor also significantly modify not only the look of the dragon, they can make for a truly hardcore battle: A well-played dragon adversary will test the mettle of all but the best of adventurers; one whose powers can change mid--fight, however, becomes even harder to manage. Oh, and the entity eats spells and heals if magic fails to penetrate the SR of the dragon lord. The creature is ridiculously impressive in its regular iteration, more so in its mythic variety, and represents one of the best bosses I've seen in quite a while....particularly since the new tricks gained are...well, devastating.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous hiccups in either the formal or rules-language departments. Layout adheres to LPJ Design's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, there's a smaller version of the file included, for easier use with tablets etc. - only approximately 3 MBs! Kudos!

Jeff Lee's first collection of dragons for NeoExodus was already amazing and felt like lightning caught in a bottle. This, then, would be proof that the installment's quality was no coincidence: The dragons featured within this book are universally killer - as they should be. Each has not only one, but several truly devastating tricks up their draconic sleeves; all have a damage output that should send GMs into BBEG-Muahaha-level plotting immediately. For my part, I certainly am contemplating when and how to integrate these beauties in my campaign. The fact that both psionic and psychic dragons have very distinct identities and themes that set them apart just adds this level of consistency and awesomeness to the table and shows a distinct understanding of what makes both systems tick, what makes them great. This is a superb addition to any game and a worthy candidate of 5 stars + seal of approval. Now get these dragons and start scheming -your players have been complacent for too long and these dragons should end any cockiness or demystification dragons may have undergone in your game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons of the Mind (PFRPG)
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Psychopomp Ushers of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 05:08:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting the deity-level psychopomps found on the patchwork planet of Porphyra clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages, so let's take a look!

But what are these psychopomp ushers exactly? Well, the closest analogue would be empyrian lords, dukes of hell, arch-demons...you know, quasi-divine, extremely powerful outsiders. The concept is so simple and makes sense - subordinates to the Queen of Death, these beings allow for a nice array of customization regarding different types of takes of the concept of the shepherd/usher of souls and agents of death.

The interaction of these powerful entities with both the elemental lords of the setting and the numerous deities of the setting is covered in vivid prose, before we are introduced to 6 new faith traits - properly classified in trait type, which is nice. They all come with a brief sentence, encapsulating their flair and then go on to provide relevant bonuses - like +1 dodge to AC in a mausoleum, graveyard, etc. or an increased benefit from using a hero point. I generally like these traits and they, as a whole, represent some nice tricks. At the same time, the rules-language employed isn't always as precise as it should be - the rules-language may be functional, but something inside me cringes when I read: "...and gain +1 Knowledge (geography).", particularly when just adding in the proper bonus and streamlining it would be so easy.

A total of 8 psychopomp ushers are included, all of which note their target worshipers, favored weapon, 4 domains and 4 subdomains and favored animals. The first of these would be Anguta, Father, He Who Eats No Kin - the respective psychopomp ushers sport detailed and interesting legends, with Anguta offering insight into the myths of the ith'n ya'roo. Each of the respective psychopomp lords also comes with two exclusive traits that are classified as religion traits. Much like the previous traits, they are functional, but diverge in the way they're phrased from the standards.

To a point where it honestly annoys me and is something that really grates on my nerves.

One trait available for Anubis' followers, for example, reads: "You may cast restore corpse as a spell-like power once per day." We all know what's meant, but frankly, even pathfinder novices can spot which part of the rules-language is plain WRONG. And honestly, at this point, I'm somewhat out of patience; Perry Fehr's crunch is always like that: Inspired when he gets it right, but such hiccups litter it when he doesn't take the proper time, sometimes to the point where it's rendered broken. This is not the case here, but still - it's frustrating because it's so easily fixed.

Black Crow, omen giver and god of tengus is pretty cool...and a trait quotes "Last Resort" by Papa Roach, putting a bullet into the barrel of an empty gun with a 50% chance...which is pretty cool, though the combo of the song-reference and the content conjured up a very unfortunate memory for me...but that's not the pdf's fault. Particularly when here, I can't really compalin about any mechanics. Ereshkigal is similarly amazing - this entity is basically the incarnation of the last Material Plane that suffered the entropy death. Similarly cool - the Pattern Discepancy Phenomenon, aka Ghost in the Machine - the usher for constructs and golems, is concept-wise amazing and one for everyone who likes to insert a tinge of transhumanist philosophizing to the game.

The Guedia would then not eb a single entity, but is instead a conglomerate of various deities, with the more classic Hermes and Hekate completing the roster. The brujo class receives two new cabals and the pdf also introduces the neutrality domain, which lets you designate a target as neutral via the help of a sanctuary-ish effect and at later levels convey the neutrality special weapon quality (+2, included herein), which deals only +1d6 bonus damage versus good or evil targets, but may switch between good and evil for purpose of overcoming DRs - and yep, I think the increased flexibility and decreased damage output make this worthwhile. The subdomains lets you Wis-mod times per day touch a being - on a failure, they gain a bonus thereafter, on a success a penalty, making this an interesting, tactical ability...that conveys the make-belief "divine" bonus that does not exist. It's either sacred or profane. Indifference lets you emit an aura a limited number of rounds per day, which penalizes saves, makes the terrain difficult and prevents flanking and aid another. The ability does not sport an activation action and auras, more often than not, can be activated quicker than the standard default.

The pdf also features a 5-level PrC, the transdimensional eliminator, aka Ghost-Sunderer. And jup, it's basically a thinly-veiled Ghostbuster-PrC. It nets a d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. oddly, it requires spellcasting to qualify, but sports no means of upgrading that - no spellcasting progression. Also problematic: The PrC requires Exotic Weapon proficiency (heavy weaponry)...which does not RAW exist. Now, I get what this tries to do...but it just doesn't work that way. The first level nets the signature neutron gun, which similarly ALMOST works. It, pretty verbosely, manages to codify the neutron pack as a weapon in the ability-write-up...something that would have been more easier to work with if presented as a proper weapon. The pack causes untyped damage, which made me cringe a bit and may misfire on a 1.The wording is mostly functional, but deviated significantly from the standard: "...and had no damage reduction statistic." would be just one of several examples herein. The class also gets +2 to Perception and 2nd level nets 60 ft. blindsight for the purpose of noticing undead/spirits and distinguishing the living dead from the living.

An issue here is that the non-standard wording makes this look like regular blindsight and more opaque than it should be. 3rd level adds + class level to DCs to intimidate the character. 5th level nets SP see invisibility, usable 10 minutes per day, in 1-minute increments. 4th level provides +2 AC. Now here is the BIG issue: Know how you use the neutron pack? By expending level 1spell slots. RAW, this severely limits the blasts you can fire. It's not clear whether this activation only covers one attack, all attacks for one round, etc. Granted, 3rd and 5th level net one free use, respectively, but the lack of spellcasting progression makes the PrC a flavorful, but flawed idea that can only use its one defining feature rarely. Worse, all abilities beyond gaining the gun are not worthwhile, making any levels progressed herein beyond 1st pretty ineffective. Oh, and 4th level makes you immune versus the special attacks of "ectoplasmic" creatures - whatever THAT is supposed to be.

The pdf concludes with the CR 5 loa psychopomp.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, I really wished someone had properly rephrased the majority of crunch. The accumulation of non-standadized wordings is frustrating, to say the least. The pdf sports great symbols in full color for the ushers and has a nice artwork for the loa as well. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is pretty printer-friendly.

Blergh. At this point, I'd love to shake Perry Fehr and ask him why he does that to me. You see, I love a lot about this pdf; the ushers are amazing regarding their fluff and the traits are, theme-wise, creative and fun. I just wished this had received either the due care or proper rules-language editing/development. The ghost buster PrC is pretty cool and gets it ALMOST right...which makes this so frustrating for me as a reviewer. If you care primarily about the fluff and don't mind making copious GM-calls, then this can be considered to be as good as 3.5 to 4 stars, while those who want precision in their rules can consider this as bad as 2 to, at best 2.5 stars. In the end, the frustration is what makes me consider this flawed - you see, this pretty much could have been very good, amazing even. As presented, it is at best a mixed bag - which is how I'll rate this: 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform, mainly because it does not deserve the 2-star-slap.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psychopomp Ushers of Porphyra
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Little Devils
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 05:06:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little PWYW-scenario clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages, so let's take a look!

If that stuff is relevant for your interests, the module makes use of ascending AC as well as the silver standard championed by LotFP et al. The pdf begins with a table of 10 male and 10 female names as well as 10 last names and 11 more fantastic names. From an internal consistency point of view, I don't get why the latter table has no separate column for male and female and separates them with an "or" - but that is just me nitpicking.

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

...

..

.

Only referees around? Great. So, 3 kids have gone missing, the friendly neighborhood murderhobos are contacted and the priest suspects the pagan burial site to be the source of the issue. The path to the mound can sport a random encounter (or not) - the creatures featured herein can be found on a total of two pages on cut-out style mini-cards.

The missing boys, btw.? They are a random encounter. They are talking of devils and want home....which may be, at least for mercenary type adventurers, an end for the module before it even began.

The culprits, the devils, would be the eponymous little devils - basically constantly cursing anti-cherubs that can spit with various effects: A 2d4 table lets you customize these fiends, with hair/horns making for a cosmetic variation and spit for a mechanical variation: Their spit can cause hallucinogens, grease, be acidic or be fire, with the stat-cards sporting the precise effects. The burial mound is a brief 4-room exploration and slash-fest versus these anti-cherubs...only to find a desecrated statue whose fingers have been broken off save for middle finger and thumb. It is said vandalism that births 2 of these devils an hour. Yeah...better solve the vandalism...with more vandalism and destroy it utterly.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no significant mistakes. Layout adheres to a basic two-column b/w-standard with VERY bright, red highlights for tables. The (very) small map provided is decent enough and does its job. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Whether you enjoy Edward Lockhart's little devils depends on basically two things: Do you think that an adventure killing goat-legged, horned cherubs with vestigial wings and various spit attacks sounds like fun? You may like this. Do you think it'd be uncomfortable at your table? Well, don't get it. When seen from the perspective of a PWYW-monster-spotlight, this is a decent offering. As a module, it is severely lacking, with the burial mound being horribly opaque, bereft of interesting interaction points or atmosphere building. As written, exploring the place and not running into the kids is very possible, which mirrors a ploy used in a more controversial LotFP-module, though, due to its brevity, it can't really build up to it.

In short, as far as 1-page adventures (+supplemental materials) are concerned, I have seen better. Being Pay what you want, you can easily check it out and determine whether you consider it worthwhile. With the weaknesses in setting the locale, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars for this one, and in spite of being PWYW, I can't really round up - the trope with its shock value is represented better in other modules, if that's what you're going for.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Little Devils
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Unlikely Heroes for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:52:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third pdf converting unique Midgard-races to 5e clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a nice and brief introduction to the weird races - and the considerations that adventuring with them entails before diving into the subject matter. It should be noted that each race receives 5e's standard of fluffy introductions, guiding the prospective player towards making well-considered characters. Playing advice and nomenclature are similarly covered, which is nice to see - particularly when playing, for example, an insane derro! Yep, that would be the first race and the guidance is much appreciated. Speaking of dressing and guidance - a series of inter-connected tables helps you come up with endearing "eccentricities" for such characters - whether its irrational fear, taboos or the like, small objects and living creatures, delusions or physical effects like inappropriate weeping or hunchbacks - just a few rolls and there you go. This is the level of "one step beyond" I love to see in racial supplements.

Crunch-wise, derro increase Dex by 2 and Con by 1,a re Small and have a speed of 30 ft. They have superior darkvision and sunlight sensitivity, advantage on Constitution saves versus spells and saves versus the charmed and frightened conditions, courtesy of their insanity. Amazing, evocative, best iteration of the race I've seen so far.

Dhampirs would be up next and icnrease their Cha by 2, Dex by 1 and are Medium. They gain darkvision and have advantage on saving throws versus disease as well as resistance against necrotic damage. As an action, they may beguile a creature within 30 ft., gaining advantage on Charisma checks versus said creature for 1 hour, but thereafter, the creature will turn hostile. immunity to charm proofs against the ability and it requires a short or long rest to recharge. And thankfully, the blood thirst aspect has not fallen by the wayside (seriously, if you play a dhampir sans blood thirst, what's the point??) - the dhampir has a bite that inflicts 1 point of piercing damage, inflicting up to Cha-mod (min 1) necrotic damage while feeding. If the target is damaged thus, you regain a spent hit dice, but these thankfully cap at Con mod hit dice per rest interval, once again, minimum one. Powerful, yes...but not to the point where I'd consider them problematic, considering the stigma they will necessarily suffer from. That being said, I do have one complaint. Dark Thirst should only work on intelligent foes. RAW, you can carry around a snack-bag of kittens to satiate your thirst...which is despicable, but efficient. The rest interval cap does prevent me from going all ranty on it.

The Great Old Ones-worshipping dust goblins would be next - they increase their Dex by 2 and COn by 1, are Small, have a speed of 30 ft., gain darkvision and have advantage on saves versus being charmed or frightened. They have proficiency in Stealth and Survival. When they attack a creature from hiding, they must succeed a Wisdom save or be frightened for 1 round. Solid.

The jinnborn are next, with the name pretty much explaining the concept. They increase their Con yb 2 and gain darkvision 60 ft. as well as proficiency in Persuasion. They also are tied to the desert and every month spent apart from it results in a Charisma save or a madness incurred They also choose a mystic path, called siraati, which is aligned with one of the elements. The race sports two subraces: Speaker jinnborn receive an increase to Wis by 1 while shapers increase their Strength by 1. Speakers may, up to Wisdom modifier times (min 1) per long rest interval either gain advantage on a save or impose disadvantage on an attack made against them and they have advantage on saves versus stunning and extreme environments and on checks to navigate the wild and avoid being lost. Shapers, on the other hand, may up to Constitution modifier times per long rest interval add +1d6 damage corresponding to the siraati's energy to their attack, but only once per turn. They also gain resistance to the energy corresponding with the chosen siraati.

The humanoid plantskijani increase their Wisodm by 2 and another ability score of their choice by 1 and are plants. They gain darkvision and have proficiency in their choice of one of Arcana, History, nature or Religion. They enter a state of dormancy, but are immune to sleep-causing effects and unlock speak with plants at 7th level, cast as a 3rd level spell, with Wisdom as governing attribute. When below 1/2 maximum hit points, a kijani's serenity makes way to their primeval fury and they may once per turn add +1d4 to weapon damage or add +2 to their AC as a reaction to being hit. Nice!

The seductive and serpentine lamia are up next - they increase their Strength by 2, their Charisma by 1 and are monstrosities with a climb and swim speed of 20 ft., respectively. They gain darkvision and are proficient in Deception and Intimidation. Additionally, they gain advantage on attack rolls versus surprised creatures or those charmed by you or your allies as well as saves versus being knocked prone. HOWEVER, due to their serpentine body, they cannot benefit from any items, effects etc. that enhance legs or feet or require them - nice catch!

The Ramag may look like humans at first glance, but the erstwhile servitors of titans are a different breed entirely, with strand-thick hair and generally, an angular and spindly look. They increase their Intelligence by 2 and teir Dexterity by 1 and have proficiency in Arcana as well as advantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws versus spells. oh, and they can ignore class requirements when attuning magic items, which is pretty damn strong...but also cool. And since the other requirements are untouched, I'm cool with the choice.

Next up would be a classic - the sahuagin, who increase their Strength by 2, their Wisdom by 1 and they have a swim speed of an impressive 40 ft. in addition to the default land speed for Medium creatures. They gain superior darkvision, surprisingly sans the usually accompanying light sensitivity or blindness and a natural AC of 12 + Dex-mod. They may telepathically communicate with sharks within 120 ft. and are proficient with both claws and bite, each of which inflict 1d4 damage, slashing and piercing, respectively. As a bonus action, they may enter blood frenzies, which nets advantage on attacks versus creatures that do not have all hit points - weird: I figured this should not work versus constructs. Anyhow, the ability can only be used Con-mod (min 1) times in a long-rest interval. As a major downside, the race needs to be completely submerged once in every 4 hours or they begin suffocating, which is an apt balancing mechanism for the power gained.

All of the races come with an height and weight table and we also receive backgrounds - 4 fully presented ones can be found, including personality traits, goals etc. - not just the feature boil-down! Cannibal Headhunters can use their...unconventional practices to prevent hostilities with humanoids and savage beings, while prophets can generally hope to receive a helping hand from those inclined to believe in their patron. Scavengers can dumpster dive in settlements, scavenging low-cost items from refuse, while seers don't necessarily have divinatory powers...but they sure as hell can draw upon the well-meaning of the relaxation and favor of their patrons...which in itself sports copious amounts of roleplaying potential. All of these backgrounds come with appropriate benefits regarding languages, proficiencies and equipment.

Finally, we receive two variants of other backgrounds, the first of which would be the tinker, who modifies the guild artisan, who can use downtime to jury-rig traps and devices (cool!), while the urchin-variant beggar knows where to get basics and how to get by on less than a shoestring budget and also receives variant skill proficiencies.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous hiccups in either formal or rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with gorgeous full-color artworks for all races. The pdf comes bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

The four horsemen's 5e-specialist Dan Dillon, with additional design by none other than Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur, delivers a thoroughly amazing collection of races herein. The totality of options here is balanced, evocative and flavorful, with roleplaying potential galore and mechanically unique, evocative components. The drawbacks, where present, are not crippling, but rather of the rpg-enhancing variety and the complete collection of critters ultimately can be considered to be better balanced than the PFRPG-iterations of the respective races, all without losing what makes them amazing in the first place. Add to that the cool and evocative backgrounds that do exactly what they should, namely help with the details of the characters in question, and we have a fantastic racial supplement, well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval. Midgard in 5th edition is shaping up to be even cooler than in PFRPG.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unlikely Heroes for 5th Edition
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Mythic Minis 93: Feats of Agility
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:48:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Acrobatic Spellcaster: Replace concentration with Acrobatics when casting defensively. Also allows you to expend mythic power as part of spellcasting to also move. The move, even for mythic power expenditure, is very powerful and takes away one of the few balancing checks spellcasters still have. Also: There is a reason spellcasters don't use a concentration skill in Pathfinder anymore. I can easily cheese Acrobatics very high. This one is not getting into my games, not even into the mythic ones.

-Careful Flyer: When flying at 1/2 speed, you gain a massive bonus vs. being checked or blown away and suffer less penalty due to high wind speeds. Expend mythic power to enhance skill check. Solid.

-Cat's Fall: Take less damage from falls softened by Acrobatics and convert more falling damage into nonlethal damage. Use mythic tier for a bonus on the check. Solid.

-City Sprinter: Increases bonus and allows for mythic power expenditure for quicker movement via skills. Solid.

-Deft Catcher: Use feat as a free action and when used as an immediate action, you can add tier to the check. You may use it even while panicked, stunned, etc. (cool!) and may expend mythic power to avoid falling prone on a failure. Like it!!

-Owl Style: Less Stealth penalty when charging, eve less when flying. When catching a foe unaware thus, you don't take charge's AC-penalty and add the charge's atk bonus to damage as well. Solid.

-Owl Dive: +1/2 tier to Acrobatics to move through enemy spaces. Use mythic power to temporarily get perfect maneuverability and if your charge ends at a lower place than it began, your charge will be more potent. Really cool one!

-Owl Swoop: No Acrobatics penalty while moving quickly. Also has an immediate action, mythic-power-costing parry built in. Okay.

-Sliding Dash: Numerical escalation - less AC-penalty, higher Acrobatics bonus. Nice: If you fail the Acrobatics-check, you may forego the attack to not provoke an AoO. if your Acrobatics-check's really good, the target loses an AoO. Love this one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs deliver some nice feats here - while a couple only are numerical escalations and while I consider one to be OP; even for mythic gameplay, there are also some nice gems herein. In the end, this, to me, is pretty much a decent installment with some serious gems inside. Particularly Owl Style's tree is pretty cool and so is Sliding Dash. Arkham series Batman, anyone? I digress. I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 93: Feats of Agility
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Mythic Minis 92: Intrigue Magic Feats II
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:46:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Extra Contingency: Cast two contingency spells that trigger simultaneously; cast two entirely separate contingency spells with separate triggering conditions or cast 3 contingency spells that use the same triggering condition, happening at 1/round. And we have an amazing must-have feat for pretty much every spellcasting adversary ever. Amazing!

-Fey Spell Lore: You gain the mythic versions of all spells granted by the feat and may prepare them as though you had Piercing Spell. Nice!

-Fey Spell Versatility: Gain all mythic versions of the spells granted by the base feat. You can also expend a number of mythic power equal to the level of a spell from this list you prepared to change it into another spell (and cast said spell's mythic version!), but at the cost of no longer being capable of preparing the spell for which you exchanged it. A Willing fey ally provided, you may switch spells when preparing spells without having to expend mythic power.

-Fool Magic: Add 2x mythic tier to Disguide and UMD-checks to emulate other races and alignments for the purpose of bypassing nasty effects or handling items etc. VERY cool: For one mythic power, your Disguise detects as the new alignment; for 2 mythic power, your Disguise can actually let you count as another alignment for spell etc. purposes. Amazing one!!

-Gaze Reflection: When averting eyes, subtract twice mythic power from the percentile roll to determine whether you're affected or not You may also expend one mesmerist trick to gain mythic tier rounds immunity to gazes. For two expended mesmerist tricks, you gain immunity AND reflect the gaze back at the creature, range 30 ft. Awesome!

-Read Spell Traces: Double the bonuses granted by the base feat; expend mythic power to automatically identify a spell from its aura and gain a rough estimate when it was cast. Nice for magical investigations!

-Sabotage Magic Items: When exceeding an item's DC by 5 or more, you can render it cursed instead of magic it cause a mishap; UMD can be used o negate the curse. Via mythic power, you may roll thrice on the common curse table, choosing which you'll take. Damn cool!

-Superior Scryer: Perception bonus by the base feat is increased and the save DC is similarly increased; however, it also lets you use a slew of spells through the sensor, which is pretty cool! As a minor and purely aesthetic hiccup - an "OA" that should be superscript isn't.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs' second array of intrigue magic feats is absolutely amazing - creative, evocative, with some seriously cool options, this once again transcends the use for mythic gameplay, offering scavenging potential galore beyond that. Well-crafted, creative and diverse, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 92: Intrigue Magic Feats II
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5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:38:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of NPCs clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (including challenge ratings), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

The pdf covers a total of 18 characters, ready to be inserted into your game, which range from CR 1/2 to CR 18. Fans of the Tangible Taverns/Tavern Tales product-lines will notice some overlap regarding the NPCs, as for example Pie-Eating Pete or Tuffy Brokehaft make a reappearance herein - which can be considered to be a slight detriment for some - personally, I would have preferred an all-new cast, but considering that the vast majority of NPCs is new, I can live with that.

Speaking of which - in case you are not familiar with Dire Rugrat's 5e-character design philosophy: Instead of making just numbers and replicating pre-existing abilities, one of the charming peculiarities in their books would be that characters do actually receive special, unique abilities. Beyond these, the characters each come not only with a statblock, but also with their own artwork - these either are hand-drawn or stock. Most, but not all characters herein also feature a word of advice in a small box on how to best use them.

Now, what type of characters can we find herein? Well, for one, e.g. Pie-eating Pete or Jaiblik Nibork would represent two characters best describes as, bingo, bullies - Pete's signature ability, for example, lets him consume insane amounts of food, while Mr. Nibork is known for his incessant cursing and rambling, which can be pretty distracting for assailants.

These guys and a particularly cantankerous lady would be more on the semi-social side of things, but they are not the only characters herein - if you're looking for an instant-villain, you'll find the like herein. Take Lockjaw, the half-orc cannibal who can initiate grapples with his bite and who receives temporary hit points for biting foes. More ambiguous in use would be Butcher Bill, the dwarven headhunter, whose prickly spiked armor and expertise at shoving foes deserves mention.

Need a slaver? Hesssk Ta'Vaoren and his two worgs deliver just that -and there is more to the trio than meets the eye, for Hesssk not only is a master of the whip, he maintains also quasi-telepathic contact with them, making surprising them pretty hard. There would be a half-orc, wondering of what may have been and his fellow she-devil with a sword. There also is an enchantress-information broker with a mega-powerful way of maintaining control over dominated foes. There is also a corrupt guard captain (ironically named "shill") and a half-elven, humans hating eco-terrorist ready to shed blood.

There would be a halfling enforcer with a fear-inducing reaction stare, who may not only break legs - her cold fury is something to witness. That being said, the ability diverges a bit from how 5e usually handles the like, providing a 3/day hard cap, instead of tying it to long rests, analogue to the barbarian's rage feature. The powerful drow evoker Vreix Azztelle may pinpoint AoE spells to instead affect single targets and is pretty cool - however, if you're very picky about this kind of thing, the character is missing the drow magic feature the race usually has. Aforementioned half-orc cad also does not have the usual relentless endurance feature. Now, it is pretty evident that such features were exchanged for others that fit the characters better, but depending on your stance on NPCs and racial features, it still is worth mentioning. In dubio pro reo - I will not hold that against the pdf.

However, where things become ever so slightly annoying from a reviewer's perspective would be with the per se pretty cool Kel, the Blessed - a tiefling underboss with several nice, luck-themed abilities, whose hellish rebuke is noted as innate spellcasting, which does not include the note at what spell-level the spell is cast - a mostly cosmetic hiccup, but a blemish in one of the coolest characters herein. Seriously a nice character, though -and yes, I am nitpicking hard here.

Speaking of cool characters: Urden Shalespear, the dwarven herald of entropy, pretty much looks like the NPC-version of a class/archetype I have recently written and gets some cool tricks: Beyond an aura that brings desiccation and destruction, he is reborn in a bleak phoenix-like burst when slain---but pays a hafty price for this power. Oh, and he can tear open a devastating gate into nothingness, duplicating a new 9th-level spell featured herein. Slight complaint: The spell does not note for which classes it is appropriate. A suggestion would have been nice to see.

The final character herein, Lady Davia Belcouer, would be a powerful champion of the hells: With a sword of wounding, a powerful magical armor and the ability to behead foes with discernible heads, she also has no less than 3 legendary actions to negate crits or use Charisma-saves instead of others, making her a viable campaign-endgame adversary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant hiccups in the rules-language and the pdf is similarly well put together in the formal department. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a solid piece of full-color artwork for each NPC - some are stock, but most are actual pieces drawn by the authors. The older pieces here do show that they have refined their crafted compared to the newer ones. Still, nice to see. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kelly and Ken Pawlik's collection of 5e adversaries is a pdf worth getting, let's get that right out of the way. The price-point is pretty fair and the characters feel like actual characters. The lengths to which I needed to go to nitpick some aspects here should tell you something about this pdf, namely that it is a neat, well-made collection. The only truly relevant gripe I can field against this economically-priced, inexpensive collection would be the inclusion of previously-featured characters. Even if you take these away, the bang to buck ratio is still pretty neat, though - which is why my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes
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Bloodforge
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:33:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This massive book clocks in at 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 93 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, the first race herein receives +... Wait. Wait a second. My usual in-depth analysis, piece-by-piece approach doesn't work here. This is literally a huge book of races and if I go into that level of detail, we'll be here come next Christmas-season. So, I'll paint a picture in broader strokes than usual, all right? First, if you're not 100% sure what this book is - this is essentially PFRPG's update of 3.0's Bastards and Bloodlines - a book much lauded for its creative race, but also somewhat notorious as one of the many, many ones in the 3.X era that had no idea whatsoever what this "Bahlenz"-thing is.

Speaking of this dreaded concept - the pdf does one thing right from the get-go: It ignores the flawed RP-guidelines established in the ARG in favor of an individual balancing, which I applaud. Each race comes with a short guideline as per name, appearance, demeanor, background and their relations to adventurers, with a handy table explaining the crossbreed-relationships. A massive age table and its corresponding height & weight-table also can be found herein, satisfying that pet-peeve of mine. The pdf begins by establishing the respective crossbreed subtypes featured within its pages, which is similarly helpful.

Another component of the racial design I generally can applaud would be the equilibrium of racial bonuses/penalties - most, though, alas, not all races herein receive a bonus to a physical and a mental attribute and one penalty, resulting in races that are not by their design geared towards specific career paths. It should also be noted that the pd thankfully avoids attribute-bonuses of more than +2 per the base racial traits. Another pet-peeve of mine (and many a DM out there), races that can fly at first level, also are thankfully absent here - instead, a two feat-chain that begins with slow-falling via vestigial wings and ends with proper flight, tied to HD when applicable and thus circumvents this issue. Excellent work there. I do have something I'd like to mention - the pdf always uses the phrase "X can see in the dark out to 60 feet." for Darkvision. Something in me cringes when I read this sentence. It's usually "up to" as a wording convention. Personal nitpick, though, and will not influence the final verdict.

Bastards and Bloodlines also did not have to deal with favored class options - which this massive book thankfully provides for quite a few of the classes, notably often also for Psionic classes, Akashic classes or Path of War classes. The minor hiccups in formatting previously present have been dealt with.

The races generally sport a couple of alternate racial traits for further customization (with e.g. the elf/unicorn-hybrid alicorn also coming with alternate racial traits for evil brethren...)and each race comes with full-color art - which represents one of the most poignant and immediate changes the revised edition featured: The previously at times needlessly cheese-cake artwork (and the couple of truly horror-inducing ones) have been replaced. While not all artworks adhere to the level of awesomeness featured on the cover, the majority of them actually now are amazing, high-quality pieces.

Movement rate-wise, we run the gamut from slow land speed 20 ft. to 45 ft. The respective races now all have their respective speed values for their movement rates properly codified and presented.

Before I go into the races: Please, read the whole review, don't just abort after a few lines. Why? Because I went very nitpicky on this one, showcasing some of the issues the races sport and you might construe that as problematic - however, there are concepts herein that warrant close scrutiny beyond the races and the flaws I'm about to point out. So, please - at least read the conclusion. Thank you.

So let's take a look at the races, shall we? These would be the elitist and proud hybrids of elves and giant eagles, the winged aellar - here, an interesting choice can be observed: Instead of providing Fly as a class skill via a racial trait, the race can opt into it via favored class options, many of which add the skill to the list alongside a bonus - though one that does feel a slight bit odd in the wording: "Gain Fly as a class skill and a +1/2 bonus." is okay wording-wise, but could have been slightly more elegant. On the plus-side, skill-starved fighters instead receive a full +1 bonus per FCO - I applaud that!

Where I get grumpy is with the option to use the fly-skill in lieu of their Reflex save when flying. Skills can easily be buffed through the roof. On the less nitpicky side, I do love how the previously slightly opaque ability to deal additional damage when charging while airborne has been made more precise. Similarly, the cool option to decrease miss-chances due to sight-based obstacles etc. now is as crisp and precise as it should be - kudos for improving it.

Instead of vestigial wings, some aellar receive claws, which, I assume, follow the default damage values for the type and scale up to d6 later - why "assume"? Because the ability does not specify the base damage value, nor whether they are treated as primary or secondary natural weapons - yes, one can assume the default, but from a customer's point of view the information still ought to be here, at one glance. This issue with natural weapons can be extended throughout the pdf, btw. The short fluffy write-up is inspiring and the revised edition, while still not perfect, is significantly improved.

So let's move on to the aforementioned alicorn, the first of quite a lot of fey-themed crossbreed races herein - the signature ability here being that the alicorn can transfer damage, diseases and poisons and ability damage to herself. The ability was a horrific clusterf*** before and has been significantly improved. However, it still has no daily cap, just begging an alicorn player to come up with a way to cheese it. I do believe that this may be an oversight, though, for the similarly fixed evil variant that can instead push these upon others now does have a daily cap.

Blinklings, the blink dog/halfling hybrids, on the other hand, are awesome all-around- 3/day reactive concealment as an immediate action? Yes, please! Extending their sight to the ethereal? Utterly unique and cool - and has some neat narrative potential. Seriously, I love this race and its write-up!

The ability that nets a blurring effect while moving has been reigned in and now is balanced versus the core ability - as a nitpick, its referred spell is not italicized, but oh well.

Decataurs, Elf/Centaur-hybrids sport a base speed of 45 ft., which seemed odd to me and they ignore movement and skill-check penalties caused by difficult terrain - which seems excessive to me - why not provide a scaling mechanic here instead of downright immunity? though, to be fair, the provided caveat versus damage-causing terrain helps. On the plus-side, the rest of the race is pretty much the best centaur-like race I've seen in quite a while. I feel obliged to mention that as per the writing of this review, the errata has not been incorporated into this book. Yup, this unfortunately means that the revised edition of this book does not contain the errata's information on hooves vs. feet. Oh, and as pretty much always (with ONE exception) when I review a centaur-ish race, I found myself shaking my head at the lack of notes regarding the handling of ladders and similar obstacles. On the plus-side, going for the 2-legged satyrkin alternate racial traits does alleviate this, so this kinda gets a pass.

The freedom-loving Dreigi, half-giants with an ancient grudge (against fey and chaotic outsiders) are flavor-wise one awesome piece of work, with an inspiring artwork etc. - but their massive scaling bonuses versus aforementioned creatures (+2 to saves, damage and atk, +1 more for every 4 levels), is too much in my book - though that one is easily scaled down, and it should be. Why? Because these guys get two damn awesome signature abilities: For one, their attacks count as cold iron; they may also create 1/day difficult cold-iron caltrop-y terrain. Secondly, they ignore the hardness of magical barriers and add their character level to damage versus them. Yes, this means they have a fighting chance versus walls of force and the like. I love this race and really would enjoy it more, had it not this one critical flaw that otherwise mars a superb example of race design - it's also unnecessary, mind you, since the theme of pro-freedom/anti-enslavement also is reflected in quite a few other racial abilities.

You may have noticed something - no Tanis-syndrome race so far. And indeed, you will not find mopey, angsty half-breeds herein. Take the Grendle, combining the best of parent race and troll, these guys are hardy and charismatic - and heal as if they had rested every hour. Apart from an unnecessary and imho rather OP ability to demoralize foes at +2 as an immediate action after being hit (or first level AoE-demoralize), the grendle is stylish and works very well. Strange, considering the revisions made to the book: The alternate racial traits still feel confused: One mentions "increasing a morale bonus to Str to +4" - a morale bonus thankfully cut in this iteration of the book, thus leading me to believe that we have a remnant of a previous iteration here. The ability the trait references simply does not exist. On the plus-side, gaining swim speed, but requiring 1 hour submersion in water to benefit from their healing each day is a pretty cool alternate racial trait, as is gaining a climb speed, but also fire vulnerability.

Half-Gnolls are glorious - powerful, but lacking any issues (apart from once being called "It", to which some gnoll-aficionados will vehemently object) - scent and claws plus pack hunting - exactly what you'd want and expect! Hunting down fleeing foes is also neat, though an ability that automatically deals bonus damage versus foes suffering from "a condition" should a) be more limited and restricted to the half-gnoll and b) once again, specify the damage type as belonging to the weapon used to execute the attack. Finally, since ranged builds already are pretty adept at the whole damage-dealing, I'd restrict the ability to melee - it's called Born Predator, not "I shoot you from behind my allies." ;) Still, all in all, a great race, though the alternate traits can use some finetuning.

Speaking of finetuning - the half-goblinoids, while melee-centric, all can generally considered pretty cool - though again, the alternate racial traits and what they replace does not always match power-wise: What would you take: A +2 bonus to Perception and taking 20 for 30 ft x 30 ft as a full-round action or +8 (!!!) to Stealth and +4 (!!!) to Escape Artist plus the option to squeeze through tiny-sized areas? Yeah, the fast search is awesome - I like it. But I don't see these two line up - the bonuses of the latter are too pronounced in my book; I'd cut them in half AT LEAST.

Half-hobgoblins still see better in the dark than their parent race (90 feet that pretty sure should be 60 instead...), but apart from that, both they and the half bugbears are pretty damn glorious! Also on the strong, but cool side, half-sahuagin may be slightly too well off on the winner's end-side regarding bonuses, at least for my tastes, but in groups that sport powerful races, the will fit in perfectly. Thankfully, the previously rather ill-conceived 4-arjm option has been purged.

The Hexbreather, heirs to the dreaded hags, have some nice hex-related abilities in the base form and yep, the revised book does fix some minor hiccups, making me generally more than okay with the result. One alternate racial trait also refers to the cursed condition, now properly defined (reference to Path of War Expanded, fyi).

The half-nymph Houri are a gorgeous example (literally) of this book's tricks - no issues, functional, versatile and unique signature abilities (debuff-beauty 1/day or friend to all animals...) -oh, and the new artwork rocks. The same can be said about the Kestrel - good, positive halfling/harpy-hybrids that use their powers for good- generally speaking, at least. The Kijin are the elf/oni crossbreeds and hit two rough spots for me - one, they have a per-encounter ability. You all know how much I love those. Secondly, they essentially cover the same niche as Rite Publishing's wyrd - and the wyrd benefit from a much more detailed and for me, compelling, cultural background courtesy of the expanded room within they can operate - full pdf versus couple of pages. I don't consider them perfect either, but in direct comparison, the wyrd are superior by a long shot. The same applies for the direct comparison of Rite's take on the lurker versus the one herein, though again, I consider both to fall slightly short of what they could be.

Nevertheless, this pdf does manage an utterly admirable job at rendering the respective halfbreeds distinct and culturally unique - to the point where some of the brief fluff-write-ups actually captivated me enough to make me consider playing the half-breeds - and that coming from a guy who went out of 3.X with a distinct oversaturation regarding fiendish/celestial creatures and half-dragons as well as a distinct dislike for mopey halfbreeds. So yeah, this pdf can be considered inspired in that regard - from the roper/dwarf bio-weapons created by the phrenic hegemony to the love-conquers-all children of merfolk and men to the inspired and monstrous ornibus, suffused with the essences of howlers, the halfbreeds manage to avoid thematic redundancy.

And, if the above exercises in racial nitpickery were not ample clue for you - over all, they tend to be almost awesome - during my analysis, I regularly found myself enjoying myself and getting ready to write a recommendation for a race, only to have some ability overextend what I consider viable. It should be noted, however, that the revised version does eliminate a couple of the big issues.

Generally, about 1 ability among the racial traits, more often among the alternate racial traits, can be considered too strong and in need of nerfing - or its balancing versus its replacement feels like it is wonky, but there are similarly races that work well. To give you an example - both the ornibus and the half-satyr pipers can be considered generally well-crafted. Similarly, the ophidian halfbreeds rana now have a scaling trick that lets them expend their psionic focus for better disarming...and they increase their AC in each round where they manifested something, providing a nice, built-in flux. And yes, if that and the examples above were not clue enough for you - there is yet another thing I need to address regarding the races - and it's a HUGE plus!

Know how the ARG-races tend to feel somewhat sameish? How many races are just a recombination of the same tools, again and again? Not so here - every race herein has at least one unique trick that sets it apart - a racial signature ability, if you wish. I love this general idea, if not always the execution of them. - the half-gargoyles may e.g. use their wings to take 1/2 damage of an adjacent ally - think of it as a limited, immediate action-based shield other and yes, the wording has been improved in the revised edition. It is an ability like this that really sets the race apart and makes it feel distinct - also in a mechanical way.

I have mentioned the tentacle-faced obvious heir to the half-illithids, haven't I? Yeah. The woodborn, which are just the race for anyone who ever wanted to tackle playing Pinocchio? Yeah, awesome. Even better - an alternate racial trait that nets you an assassin vine symbiote that deals more damage on a grapple just oozes style and its wording has been similarly improved.

Winterwolf/Hellhound/Worg/humanoid half-breeds also deserve two thumbs up regarding their ability-suites.

Now this pdf does have more to offer than just a metric ton of half-breed races - namely templates - for bi/quadruped creatures, half-doppelgängers/medusas, half-elementals (!!!), half-rakshasas and also so-called titanblooded creatures - the templates are pretty solid all-around, with ample cool ideas and tools for mad scientists/transmuters to play with - nothing grievous to complain about here.

The book furthermore offers a distinct array of feats, most of which have the [heritage]-descriptor. The feats run a wide gamut: We have for example one that substitutes a mental attribute (Wis or Cha) for Con - which would make me yell - however, it is restricted to bonus hp, not all the saves - which does, surprisingly, work for me. The presence of the Feral Fighter-feat feels a bit odd - it nets you claws or a bite as appropriate for your creature type. Why don't some of these races use this instead of the at times redundant or unnecessary-seeming amounts of natural weapons some receive? That would also put players agenda higher on the list. Bloodsong adept has thankfulyl been nerfed to now feature a cap -the feat allows you to use bardic performance only affecting your type/subtype, basically providing+1/2 your bardic performances additional performances as bloodsong performances that only affect your race. On the okay-side, there are multiple SP-granting feats and some that e.g. net grab to add to bites and tentacle attacks - not a fan of the latter, but that is personal taste.

Now on the other side, there is Mixed Blood, previously a feat, now a trait, which covers almost two pages and presents a wide variety of odd bloodlines/unlocked types. The re-evaluation here was well-made indeed, considering the ease by which it now can work in conjunction with various builds.

There also are 4 racially-themed PrCs - the brief run-down of them would be as follows:

The Bloodsong Heritor is the herald of his people - a solid, good bardic PrC with neat mechanics and not much to complain about - previously, its main issue did lie in the broken feat upon which it was built - now, it works and represents a nice PrC with unique performances that also include the expenditure of multiple rounds for interrupt-style effects while still maintaining the performance. Think of it as a less complex, much more limited and racially-themed take on what Interjection Games' Composition magic does.

The Kith Hunter is an okay slayer-type 5-level PrC. Seen better, seen worse. The Kithlord can be considered a solid racial champion PrC with commander-style tricks/auras and even teleports at higher levels - okay, though I'd be wary of this PrC in a uni-race group - mostly great for NPC-adversaries. Also has per-encounter tricks, if that bugs you. The 5-level mongrel has the most choices among the PrCs, offering quite an ability-array to choose from and some rather unique bonuses - including ways of getting rid of ability damage by leeching off magic - nice one.

The book also sports a small selection of new spells, which can generally be considered among the more powerful examples available - they are not bad, mind you, but the option to e.g. have earthskin and stoneskin overlap may not fit well with some groups. That being said, spells that provide minor bonuses versus e.g. kobolds and goblins will not break anyone's game. The spells are solid.

Finally, the book provides new magical items, including 4 new special abilities, one of which nets you a standard action in a surprise round for just the equivalent of +1...though you remain flat-footed. A +1 enhancement that bypasses the DRs of elementals and constructs essentially renders golems utterly useless at +1 enchantment - ridiculously OP and should be torn to smithereens. On the plus-side, conjuring forth a red blade of flame via bracers is pretty cool and the traveler's backpack will be a favorite for most wilderness adventures. So, all in all, solid section with some winners and some that obviously require significant nerfing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting in the revised iteration of this book have improved and taken care of the most glaring of issues. There are some minor deviations still here, but nothing too glaring. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has copious full-color artworks - the revised edition's artworks are pretty amazing for the most part and render this a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the file comes witha second, more printer-friendly iteration.

You may have gotten a wrong impression from this review - I actually like this book.

No, really. I was honestly positively surprised by this pdf.

The signature abilities provided for the races, the unique, non-redundant fluff and the overall balancing of the races is great. No, really, I mean it. Alas, even in the revised iteration, this book is also the very definition of flawed - almost every race had either a wording hiccup or one ability that just went beyond what would be considered balanced in all but high-powered tables. Essentially, I could play "look for the bit that's too strong" with a huge array of races I otherwise loved - races that feel more organic and viable than they have any right to, provided the limited room they each have. So let me state this again:

This is a good book; in the revised version, it is a good to very good book.

The thing is, it could have easily been an OMG-HOW-AWESOME-IS-THAT-book. Perhaps I expected too much from the revised version of this tome. Matt Medeiros, Jade Ripley and Andreas Rönnqvist have ultimately crafted a massive racial book that has been streamlined and improved SIGNIFICATLY since its previous iteration. It is, as a whole, vastly superior to the previous version of bloodforge (still available as per the writing of this review as a .zip included among the downloads).

I can see people hating and loving this book. The rules-language of the revised version has significantly improved, and similarly the big, really bad hiccups are all cleared up; the issues that remain are the small ones. I'd still only recommend it unsupervised for high-powered games, but the chance that a GM can say "yes" to this book as a whole has increased by approximately +40%, at least as far as I'm concerned. The races do feel iconic, they can be cleaned of the problematic bits and a capable DM can adjust them with relative ease to a lower power-level, if such is required. Oh, and they, and that cannot be under-emphasized, do not suffer from the sucky bloat of skill-enhancer racial traits (Get +2 to Skill A and B) that hound so many races since the ARG, instead providing something unique.

How to rate this, then? See, this is where I was frankly disappointed on a high level: When I saw the new cover, heard about the changes made, I was stoked and downright excited to see the final book, hoping I'd be able to praise it to the high heavens. I hereby do praise it - it represents a SIGNIFICANT improvement in both balance and aesthetic quality as well as rules-language precision. This does net the book +1 star, rating-wise. There still are some hiccups in the details here, though - and some aspects still need nerfing as far as I'm concerned. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for the revised edition. Whether you round up or down is contingent on how picky you are regarding wording and, more importantly, the power-level of your game: High-powered groups will want to definitely round up, while gritty groups may want to round down. As a person, I will round down, but as a reviewer, I do have my in dubio pro reo policy, which means my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge
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