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The Reaper; OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Play Everything
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 05:54:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class clocks in at a massive 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that this class was commissioned via the Interjection Games' patreon by Joshua Ikenberry - which is an amazing thing, if you ask me.

Anyway, this class is a bit different than a normal Interjection Games class - you see, usually, Interjection Games classes tend to be meticulously designed to work in both the grittiest and most high-fantasy of campaigns - this one comes with a disclaimer that the weaker classes tend to fall behind its potency...but let's look how this works in detail!

Chassis-wise, the reaper gets d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as 2 + Int skills per level. They also get light armor and shield proficiency, excluding tower shields. The reaper can suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing metal armor. At 1st level, the reaper gains an essence pool equal to 3 times the reaper's class level. At 9th level, one mental attribute is chosen and adds the chosen ability score modifier to the number, with 13th level adding two. The pool replenishes after 8 hours of rest. At 1st level, the character learns the signature ability called reaping.

The idea here is that all soulsown are created around a core, a so-called seed. These cores are known as seeds and the reaper begins play with two of them. The reaper gains an additional one at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. There are different seed subtypes, which sport a pool system and a wide reach, granting abilities. The seeds available are arcane, divine, martial and primal - primal and martial have two different pool systems. Arcane, divine and primal soulsown begin play knowing a single spell from the associated spell-list, learning an additional spell on a level up. The maximum spell level available increases at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, capping at 6th spell level, though the spell-save DC is instead 10 + 1/2 class level +spellcasting ability modifier of the soulsown. Casting is done by expending essence points equal to the spell's level. Spells learned have to adhere to a pyramid rule.

Binding a soulsown is referred to as threshing and requires 1 hour after an 8 hour-rest. At 3rd level, the process called germination allows a reaper to form a temporary secondary bond with a soulsown as a swift action that grants the benefits for 1 minute and while it lasts, it grants the seed's core ability and talents that work while germinating. Only one germination may be in effect at a given time. and it may be used 1/day, plus an additional time per day at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Starting at 5th level, germination also yields 1d4 temporary essence points, which increases to 2d4 and 3d4 at 11th and 17th level, respectively. Threshing and germination are collectively known as "binding". 5th level provides speak with dead to all reapers of the arcane, divine and primal seeds, but it does not count towards the pyramid rule.

Seeds start with a granted talent and gain an additional talent at 2nd level, +another talent at 4th level and every even level thereafter. Martial seeds yield a bonus feat OR summon weapon at 1st level, plus an additional benefit at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. The more often summon weapon is taken, the more powerful is the called weaponry, which may be btw. summoned at a 2 essence cost, lasting for 1 minute. Martial soulsown also yields proficiency with martial weapons, +4 Con for the purpose of calculating hit points. Though this is modified, depending on the soulsown bound - you see, the class can actually have a 1/2, 3/4 or full BAB-progression, depending on the types of soulsown bound.

Soulsown talents govern their save DC as mentioned before; if the reaper has no spellcasting seed, the governing save-DC attribute defaults to Charisma. Basically, the soulsown learns the talents, which the reaper then proceeds to basically channel while bound to the soulsown. This also extends to the wide variety of soulsown pets the reaper can gain access to -they manifest as a conglomerate with the soulsown bound and thus, they only manifest when the respective soulsown is bound - the pet has an effective level of reaper level -3, minimum 1 for the purpose of determining power. Favored class option-wise, we cover the core races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kitsune, kobold, orc, puddling, tiefling, vanara and vishkanya and they are pretty cool

The respective soulsown talents are grouped by seed and level where they may be chosen no prerequisite and after that, every 2 levels unlock new ones and some require other prerequisites. All of these are only unlocked when the reaper has the respective soulsown bound. The talents are extremely diverse and half of the pdf is devoted to listing these. In short, these can be envisioned as a massive array of "choose your own class features" array - and the extent of material available is MASSIVE. I mean it. Cantrips? Check. Bonded objects? Check. Domains. Beyond these gloriana (composition magic), lay on hands or touch of corruption, bloodline powers, rod of wonder effects, potion creation, counterspelling, scent, bag of tricks, phantom alchemy (cannot be sold), a lacing option with its own pool to add effects to the reaper's spellcasting, skills, bonuses - from the active to the passive, there is a true cornucopia of options available here - the more powerful of which, obviously, use the previously mentioned pools granted by the soulsown as resources...and yes, proper combat maneuver use and capstones can be found here - from vastly increased essence pools to a variety of different options, there is A LOT here.

I should also mention totems, which can be pictured as deployable things that can be used to channel effects, allowing for the setting up of AoE-buff stations, an artillery totem, sentries, etc. - and there are means to specialize in this really cool subset of talents with a unique pool. Really cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches and the rules-language is as impressively precise as we've come to expect from Bradley Crouch. Layout adheres to Interjection games' 2-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks to the big sections, but not to the respective sub-abilities.

Sooo...the reaper is an impressively strong class, designed to make altaholic players (you know, players who constantly want to play new characters) stick with one character for once...and guess what? It actually works! More importantly, it clocks imho in at tier 3 (as intended by the design) and actually is better balanced than a TON of options I get to see on a regular basis. Considering the wide open nature and huge foot-print of the class, this is doubly impressive. The class is pretty complex and something for advanced players, obviously - and due to its complexity, the respective pools and the like may take a bit of close reading to properly understand, but the sidebars help there...but the class actually has a use beyond the obvious: Know how an issue with 1-on-1-modules tend to be that you need the right class/character to make the module fun? Well, the reaper is pretty much PERFECT for whole 1-on-1-campaigns. Seriously, the flexibility of choices allow for the creation of extremely diverse challenges, making the class a godsend for such games. Personally, I'll gladly allow this class in my games - while potent, it should not break the game and its massive flexibility is paid for with a relative fragility.

It should also be noted that the class, beyond being a master-scavenger with a ton of modes, also features quite a lot of utterly unique options that manage to codify what would otherwise be options that are too strong in a concise and compelling manner. In short: The reaper is an AMAZING class; it's fun, versatile and something for every player who easily gets bored with a given class. This is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Reaper; OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Play Everything
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Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energy
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 05:52:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first expansion-pdf for Dreamscarred Press' massive Bloodforge-book of races clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword by the authors, 1/2 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, one thing bloodforge did that I should have commented on in my review back in the day, would be that it introduced the notion of certain subtypes that make it possible for a creature, to, via the subtype, count as a second creature type for the purpose of spells and effects, abilities etc. While this does not necessarily yield issues per se, it makes some type-interactions a bit more complex for the GM and, promptly, a rather annoyed reader did comment on this in a private e-mail I am not going to duplicate here. Suffice to say, I do not consider this a problem per se - purists may argue otherwise, and I get the potential issues here, but, as a whole, I don't consider that a strike against the system presented. I mention this since the half page below the ToC is used to recap these subtypes.

All right, the first race featured herein should bring a smile to fans of Full Metal Alchemist - the atstreidi are suits of living armor! They gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, if they choose the aegis class, they form its astral armor over their bodies, losing temporarily their armor shell and any armor absorbed in favor of the astral suit to prevent insane stacking. Wait, what? Okay, the slow route: They are aberrations with the psionic and slimeblood subtypes, Medium, have darkvision 60 ft. and are immune to diseases and poisons, gain all benefits of 8 hours of sleep in 2 hours (no, spellcasters can still only prepare spells once per day...) and they have a base 25% chance to negate crits and precision damage etc., with fortification and similar effects increasing that chance by 10% instead of the usual benefits. They gain a +4 armor bonus to AC from their armored shell, but cannot wear armor -instead, they can, in a 24 hour-process, migrate to a new suit of armor and are helpless while undergoing this rigorous ritual - once transferred, they replace the armored shell's bonus with that of the assimilated armor and are considered to be wearing it. The shell can be enchanted and its enchantments maintained - or those of the armor. The unarmed attacks and slams made are treated as though of the armor regarding DR and properties and yep, the ability takes sleeping in armor into account. The race also gets Wild Talent and may gain a power point as a favored class option. They can speak to deaf creatures, courtesy of their soothing voice, and get a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and to Bluff, but suffer a -2 penalty to Intimidate. It should be noted that teh communication and Diplomacy bonus are contingent on the creature not being immune to mind-affecting effects. They also gain a 1d4 primary slam attack.

As alternate racial traits, we have a +4 bonus to Intimidate and -2 to Diplomacy for those born of a psychic imprint of hate, replacing the soothing communication, obviously. Instead of a slam attack, a chosen weapon proficiency can be taken and there is an alternative for playing Small versions, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int. The pdf provides favored class options that include the option to gain 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes and specialized ones, for alchemist, aegis, barbarian, bard, druid, guru, inquisitor, monk, psychic warrior, soulknife, spiritualist, wilder, stalker and wizard. These are all solid.

The second new race herein would be the eiremian, born of a connection to the negative energy plane, inheriting an inner stillness that can be considered to be quieting and numbing, making them often feel like they're missing out. The pdf has a funny jab here "It could be worse. They could be a dhampir." They are native outsiders with +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Disguise and Stealth, -2 to Diplomacy, +4 to saves versus emotion effects and +4 to the DC to intimidate them (here we have a missing italicization of a spell effect quoted as an example)...and they gain Silent Desolation. Negative energy dealt by them against creatures and objects usually immune to it, still inflicts half damage. ... Yeah, not getting anywhere near my game. Negative energy is already a very strong, rarely resisted energy type. They also gain "The Terrible Peace": As an immediate action, they can force a target within close range to halt, with the Will-save to resist being 10 + 1/2 character level + Wisdom modifier. Full-round actions thus interrupted count as having been a standard action...which becomes all manner of wonky when used in conjunction with full attacks: TWFing ally hits for 4 of his 5 attacks, gets hit and gets a free move. Yes, the ability implies that the immediate action has to be taken BEFORE the effects of a given action, but it does not explicitly state so and RAW, immediate and swift actions may be used during a full attack. Even without this cheese, this would be INCREDIBLY powerful for a racial ability - and it has no daily limit - just a 1-minute cool-down. Oh, and these guys gain character level + Wisdom modifier negative energy resistance.

Instead of terrible peace and the save bonus, there is an option to, up to 3/day as a standard action, designate 1 + 1 creature per 4 character levels within 60 ft. and line of sight - on a failed save, their attitude changes one step towards indifferent and morale bonuses, fear effects, confusion or emotion effects are suppressed for 1 minute. Also a replacement for terrible peace is the powerful inevitability: When subject to hold person or "another effect that would prevent her from acting normally", the save may be rerolled. It has a 1 minute cooldown. Yeah, that is a nonentity of rules-language I don't usually get to see in Dreamscarred Press books. What constitutes this nebulous "acting normally"? Rage? Madness? Dex-reducing poisons? Spells hat generate weight? Entangle? No idea. Finally, we have a subtype that makes them count as human. Favored class option-wise, we have 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes as an option and specific FCOs for alchemist, cleric, fighter, guru, harbinger, hunter, inquisitor, kineticist, mystic, occultist, slayer, spiritualist, soulknife, vitalist and warder.

Ethumions would be the positive energy counterparts with +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wisdom; they are native outsiders with darkvision 60 ft. and gain Quick Draw as a bonus feat and may use it to draw any object. As a standard action they may perform a supernatural version of mage hand as a standard action. They recover hp and eliminate fatigue every hour as though they had rested for 8 hours, making fatigue and derivatives as a balancing check meaningless...particularly since they also regenerate ability damage and burn at twice the normal rate. They also do not gain temporary hit points in excess of their maximum from positive energy-dominant planes. They also receive +2 to Sleight of Hand and Escape Artist, -2 to Bluff and when they heal a creature, they increase the amount healed by +1 hit point, + another hit point at every odd level thereafter. Okay, does this extend to healing in a vitalist's collective redistributed by the character? The ability specifies that it applies to powers etc., but does collective healing qualify?

When inflicting positive energy damage, they also add Constitution modifier to the damage caused. Instead of the healing boost and the telekinesis, they can gain a third, invisible, intangible hand that can wield weapons (though it can't be used as a third weapon attack). The wording here regarding the third attack can be a bit confusing, but ultimately works. Alternatively, they can reduce their darkvision to 30 ft., but gain constant deathwatch in that range (COOL!)...and, once again, mostly human is an option. Beyond the general heritage FCO option, we get specified ones for alchemist, surprisingly, antipaladin, barbarian, bard, daevic, fighter, kineticist, occultist, paladin, rogue, sorceror, soulknife, warder, warlord and wilder. Once again, these are solid and before you ask - yes, we do get an age. height and weight table.

The pdf reprints the mixed blood trait before moving on to a selection of reprints of heritage feats from the big book. Wondered what the weird creature on the cover was? Well, that would be the Ravid, a CR 5 creature that pulses with a flow of positive energy that animates objects and grants it armored shell on speed with on the fly customization and regenerating temporary hit points as well as the option to make the whirl of objects a vortex of shrapnel in bursts or cones...oh, and their attacks are laced with positive energy! An amazing, cool and versatile critter here. Two thumbs up!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - apart from missed italicizations, nothing grievous. For the most part, the rules-language of this pdf is as crisp and precise as we'd expect from the authors and Dreamscarred Press - i.e., top-notch...though, as mentioned above, there are some uncharacteristic hiccups that detract from an otherwise pretty excellent overall performance. The pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports anime-style artworks that fit the theme of the races and the somewhat playful and chaotic nature of the Ravid.

Forrest Heck and Jade Ripley, with additional design by Adam Boucher, Doug Haworth, Jacob Karpel, Katia Oakes, Kevin Ryan and Matthew Ryan Medeiros have created three of the most creative races I've seen in a long, long while. Each of the races features not one, but several unique and amazing angles for roleplaying, flavorful and unique concepts, creative abilities that matter and very cool alternate racial traits. Two out of three also all are VERY, VERY STRONG. The Atstreidi, I'd allow in my regular-powered games - they are amazing, flavorful and their armor-engine is genius; You get a unique playing experience without it breaking the game and the limitations imposed on it and the crisp, pitch-perfect language that codifies them, is amazing. The ereimian and ethumion are also very flavorful, but mop the floor with aasimars, elans and other apex-level races, each of them breaking checks and balances in some way. They need, in my opinion, a hefty, prolonged whacking with a big nerfbat to bring them on par with even the strongest of races I usually get to see. I can't recommend them in any way, shape or form as written, which breaks my heart - You see, in spite of the minor flaws I complained about, I LOVE both races. Sure, they need to be cut down to size, but they are worth doing so and it's not hard to do so. As a reviewer, I have to rate what's here, though.

The Ravid, just fyi, closes this pdf in style as another definite high note for the pdf. But oh boy, how do I rate this? I have severe issues with more than half of the content., but ultimately, I do love even the flawed parts. The material I don't have issues with ranks as the absolute apex of what I've seen in races and frankly would deserve candidate status. Similarly, the ravid is a delightfully brutal monster with a thoroughly creative, compelling build.

...

Times like these, my job's really not easy. On the one hand, I want to scream and rage, on the other, I want to cheer and applaud...and ultimately, the second impulse is the stronger. This is a mixed bag, yes, but one where a capable GM (or a revision) can make the dark spots shine bright like a sun and add to otherwise truly amazing options. If you're planning on using eiremians and ethumions, whack them a bit before you do, unless you're playing in a really high-powered custom-races game, though...and if that irks you, round down instead. Still, ravid and atstreidi and the ideas alone make this worth the asking price and I have always valued imperfect and creative offerings over bland, but perfect ones...which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energy
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5E Mini-Dungeon #019: The Goblin Warren
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 05:50:41

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. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

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

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

I wasn't looking forward to Jonathan Ely's Goblin Warrens, mainly due to hating the exceedingly generic hobgoblin lair. With an interesting shape and set-up, traps thrown in the mix and a background story as well as things to do beyond "kill everything", this one is a proof of an author who is coming into his game - seeing how limited the space allotted is, I was pretty impressed by the level of detail provided and implied and firmly believe that a capable GM can make this warren rather memorable, in spite of the classic themes. Conversion-wise, we actually have a few skills, some nice environments and traps and a nice translation of the quasit's motivation. Kyle Crider's conversion is solid and retains the flavor of the original.

Now, sure, this does not reinvent the wheel, but is has fun ideas and deserves a rating as a good mini-dungeon, scoring a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #019: The Goblin Warren
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Green Devil Face #5
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 05:49:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fifth installment of Green Devil Face clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look! It should be noted that the layout of this pdf makes it possible to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, being generally intended for an A5/ 6'' by 9''-standard.

We begin this pdf with "A Rather Unfair Trap" -a pool of water with a submerged cage containing a ruby. Touching the ruby switches places, potentially drowning the victim. Such a victim then slowly dissolves and the liquid changes the brain into a new ruby.

Next up are two d30-tables - one for effects of a natural 20 and one for effects of a natural 1. Some do feel a bit weird to me: Like the option for your allies to gain all your XP in that session - how is that in any way, shape or form related to fumbles? How does one 1 prevent the whole party from taking offensive actions? These, in short, are simply not good and feel random at best.

The next article depicts a new character advancement technique: 1d6 hit points, +1 attack bonus, +2 AC, 15 in all saves. Press attack nets +1 attack bonus -4 AC, while defensive attacks invert those modifications. On a level-up, you roll d10s twice. A player can alternatively roll one d12 - 11 and 12 net a total of 4 different bonus effects. These can, thus, generate ridiculously high defensive AC options for fighters who emphasize offense, a lack of new spell slots for casters, etc. - as a whole, I do not consider this method rewarding as presented. 8 tables are provided, in case you're interested in the system.

Next up would be an alternate XP-progression: You roll 1d6 after an adventure and add/detract modifiers: If the roll exceeds the current level, the character gains a level. Being reduced to 0 hp, being a sole survivor and the like are positive modifiers, while a lack of PC deaths actually detracts 1 from the tally. lack of gained treasure and not having to roll a saving throw also are detrimental factors, with the latter basically actively penalizing smart players. Not a fan.

The next article is "What's up with that Cult?" - a generator of various small tables to generate the basics for a cult. The generator isn't bad, but painfully generic. One can do better with e.g. Raging Swan Press' offerings or by hand-crafting one. Thankfully, the second generator for being stranded on a shore fares a bit better - while also generic, the respective entries come with more detail and features encounters, events, weather, messages in bottles, strangenesses and the like - I actually really liked this one.

12 different entries that explain the Loch Ness monster provide some nice ideas - giant zombie leech, for example. Just sayin' And yep, this one is nice.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. layout adheres to a 1-column or 2-column standard, depending on the article, is b/w and pretty printer-friendly. The pdf lacks artworks and bookmarks, but at this price-point, that's okay.

James Edward Raggi IV is a talented author and designer, but this one feels like the (bad) B-sides collection of his rules-design scrapbook: The alternate progression-mechanics and crit/fumble systems are just bad ideas that remove any cohesion from the game. I can't see any value in them, apart from "It's random and deadly, yo - and that's totally OSR, right?" My own reply there would be "No", but I bet someone out there will like this. Personally, I loathe how arbitrary they dish out benefits and penalties - they are great ways to simulate playing with a really sucky GM who tells you "You can't act, dude - your wizard buddy rolled a 1!" So yeah, these components are pretty much the epitome of unfun for me. The wreckage generator, trap and Loch Ness table help remedying the file at least a bit, but, as a whole, this is the one Green Devil Face I'd strongly suggest skipping. Even at the low price-point, I don't consider this worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Green Devil Face #5
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Lair of the Lava Queen - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 06:35:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief sidetrek module by Pyromaniac Press, first of the Encounter-series-pdfs, clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin this with a cliff-notes version of the dungeon-specifics - where to best place it regarding terrain, climate, etc., room height, doors and illumination and the pdf also includes hard stats for the doors featured herein. A variety of 3 different hooks provide nice lead-ins for the module. The cartography deserves special mention - rendered in full color, it is really nice to look at and comes, better yet, with a high-res, key-less player-map version. A secret door "S" has been concealed on the map, which generally works well, but keen-eyed players may still see it - still, the effort alone is to be applauded and a very minor black brush-job (literally 20 seconds) takes care of that.

As the PCs approach the complex, they will hear strange, howling sounds, which will hamper communication and perception within several areas, already pointing towards the importance of terrain in the module - as far as I'm concerned, a big plus. Speaking of plusses: The pdf sports well-written prose and read-aloud texts for each of the regions - a relevant boon for GMs who are less versed in maintaining a coherent atmosphere.

...And honestly, that's as far as I can go without getting deep into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, this dungeon is very much a protracted boss fight, if you will: The eponymous lava queen is a variant medusa, infused with the forces of both earth and fire, and as such, she has elementals and mephits under her command - and the PCs probably stumble right into her gallery.

This would be a perfect point in time to quote the pdf, for the prose here is exquisite: "Sure enough a closer examination of the statues reveals them to be roughly shaped humanoids. They appear to be carved from cracked volcanic rock, but rather than being smooth like cooled magma, they have rough surfaces that crumble to sharp chunks and slivers if touched. The rock also leaves behind a fine ash that seems to cling tenaciously to surfaces (and creatures).[...] All of them have expressions of anguish on their faces, and the howling emanates from their open mouths. The largest sources of light are emitted from empty eye sockets, mouths and

ears, while the odd crack in their ‘bodies’ lets out a little illumination." Come on, that is frickin' amazing!

And yes, witnessing this horrific scene can render PCs shaken - nice to see some proper use of conditions there! The tactics of the lava queen are potent indeed and her abode has been constructed with the obvious intent of defending the place! Searing hot air currents and a new creature (think "magma-squid" with fiery rends and a fatiguing aura...and lava jets) await here - and worse yet, the lava queen has an artifact, the Eye of Imix, which can bathe the wielder in flames and heal him - but also renders subjects to its powers helpless. It first fatigues, targets, then exhausts them and if you use its maximum uses, may even kill the wielder. I do have two complaints here: 1) The artifact lacks a suggested means of destruction and 2) and in the revised iteration of this pdf, the previously slightly opaque wording for its offensive use has been cleaned up. Speaking of which: The artifact now comes with a proper destruction method -kudos there! On the plus-side, the healing effect is not cheesable, which is a definite plus...and not sure whether you'd want to carry around an artifact that lets an evil elemental deity know your whereabouts...

The lava queen herself is btw. a unique medusa with a blistering aura, lava-like blood and no, she cannot be petrified via her own gaze...oh, and she can fling balls of lava. Big plus: The previous iteration had some obvious hiccups in the statblock that have been cleaned up. Kudos!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - no complaints there. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf features really impressive full-color artworks for the queen and the critter, with in particular the glorious cover-artwork making this potentially worthwhile for art-aficionados. Cartography leaves nothing to be desired, as far as I'm concerned. The pdf has basic bookmarks to front and back cover and editorial, but at this length, that's still okay.

Micah Watt's Lair of the Lava Queen is an extremely flavorful sidetrek dungeon with impressive production values for the price. I adore the flavor, I love the prose and the revised version takes care of pretty much all my complaints that remained. Russ Brown's critter, the magma-squid, is btw really cool..

And then there's the fact of the bang-for-buck-ratio: This pdf is really, really cheap. As in: Ridiculously cheap for what it offers. 2 bucks. The art and map alone and the critter are pretty much worth investing the time to briefly tinker with the map- if you're like me, that will take 20 seconds, tops, tops....and leaves you with an AMAZING villain in an evocative complex that practically demands being inserted into the game.

My only remaining complaint with this iteration of the sidetrek remains the small, barely perceptible "S" on the map...and that is most certainly no reason to skip this. In short: Now the sidetrek is just as amazing in PFRPG as it is in the 5e-version and thus gets a final verdict of 5 stars, + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lair of the Lava Queen - Pathfinder
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Lair of the Lava Queen - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 06:30:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This brief sidetrek module by Pyromaniac Press, first of the Encounter-series-pdfs, clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin this with a cliff-notes version of the dungeon-specifics - where to best place it regarding terrain, climate, etc., room height, doors and illumination and the pdf also includes hard stats for the doors featured herein. A variety of 3 different hooks provide nice lead-ins for the module. The cartography deserves special mention - rendered in full color, it is really nice to look at and comes, better yet, with a high-res, key-less player-map version. A secret door "S" has been concealed on the map, which generally works well, but keen-eyed players may still see it - still, the effort alone is to be applauded and a very minor black brush-job (literally 20 seconds) takes care of that.

As the PCs approach the complex, they will hear strange, howling sounds, which will hamper communication and impose disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks and lower passive perception (nice catch!) within several areas, already pointing towards the importance of terrain in the module - as far as I'm concerned, a big plus. Speaking of plusses: The pdf sports well-written prose and read-aloud texts for each of the regions - a relevant boon for GMs who are less versed in maintaining a coherent atmosphere.

...And honestly, that's as far as I can go without getting deep into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, this dungeon is very much a protracted boss fight, if you will: The eponymous lava queen is a variant medusa, infused with the forces of both earth and fire, and as such, she has elementals and mephits under her command - and the PCs probably stumble right into her gallery.

This would be a perfect point in time to quote the pdf, for the prose here is exquisite: "Sure enough a closer examination of the statues reveals them to be roughly shaped humanoids. They appear to be carved from cracked volcanic rock, but rather than being smooth like cooled magma, they have rough surfaces that crumble to sharp chunks and slivers if touched. The rock also leaves behind a fine ash that seems to cling tenaciously to surfaces (and creatures).[...] All of them have expressions of anguish on their faces, and the howling emanates from their open mouths. The largest sources of light are emitted from empty eye sockets, mouths and

ears, while the odd crack in their ‘bodies’ lets out a little illumination." Come on, that is frickin' amazing!

And yes, witnessing this horrific scene can render PCs frightened on a failed Charisma save (nice one - 5e tends to tie Charisma to resolve, so this makes sense to me!) - nice to see some proper use of conditions there! The tactics of the lava queen are potent indeed and her abode has been constructed with the obvious intent of defending the place! Searing hot air currents and a new creature (think challenge 9 "magma-squid" with fiery rends and a fatiguing aura...and lava jets) await here. Cool - the creature can stack exhaustion levels on the PCs, but thankfully caps at 3. Also nice: The conversion done here not only mirrors the aesthetic statblock formatting of 5e, it also gets the creature right. No glitches, apart from a single missing blank space...and that's aesthetics.

Worse yet for the PCs, the lava queen has an artifact, the eye of Imix, which can bathe the wielder in flames and heal him - but also renders subjects to its powers incapacitated. It also heaps exhaustion-levels of the user and may even kill the wielder - but the healing as such cannot be cheesed. It should be noted that previous ambiguities in the rules-language of the artifact have been cleaned up and it also sports a proper means of destruction now. On the plus-side, the healing effect is not cheesable, which is a definite plus...and not sure whether you'd want to carry around an artifact that lets an evil elemental deity know your whereabouts...

The lava queen herself is btw. a unique medusa with a blistering aura, lava-like blood and no, she cannot be petrified via her own gaze...oh, and she can fling balls of lava. She is a potent, evocative and deadly boss with smart tactics and some nice staying power.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - no complaints there. On a rules-language level, I have no complaints either. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf features really impressive full-color artworks for the queen and the critter, with in particular the glorious cover-artwork making this potentially worthwhile for art-aficionados. Cartography leaves nothing to be desired, as far as I'm concerned. The pdf has basic bookmarks to front and back cover and editorial, but at this length, that's still okay.

Micah Watt's Lair of the Lava Queen is an extremely flavorful sidetrek dungeon with impressive production values for the price. I adore the flavor, I love the prose and the author has, almost immediately, fixed the issues I had with the artifact: Now that is caring about both products and customers - big plus! In short: This is a truly impressive sidetrek!

And then there's the fact of the bang-for-buck-ratio: This pdf is really, really cheap. As in: Ridiculously cheap for what it offers. 2 bucks. The art and map alone and the critter are pretty much worth investing the time to briefly tinker with the map.

The 5e-version, even further streamlined by now, is at this point a ridiculous steal for the low price-point and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lair of the Lava Queen - 5th Edition
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Mythic Monsters #42: Halloween
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 05:36:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!

The supplemental material of this installment has a really cool array of two mythic feats, one of which can be used to basically become a faux-headless horseman (AMAZING), while the other, aptly-named Ghost Rider, lets you replace your missing head with a grisly image...like, say a burning skull...oh, and you can become transparent and the like. Amazing, really cool high-concept feats there...and they may also be used by certain mythic paths as path abilities. Beyond these, we also get 4 complex mythic items, the first of which would be ghostly gossamer that makes the wearer look translucent...oh, and its duration can be shortened in favor of generating miss chances and a chill touch...and, suffice to say, mythic power upgrades included. The goblin mask reduces person the wearer and makes him seem less threatening, enhancing Bluffing and Steal CMB, while also making it less likely to be targeted...and its activation-duration may be decreased in favor of a more horrific form with alternate benefits. Really cool! The sack of gluttony employs beguiling gift and illusory sweets that make the target succumb to the desire to consume these "sweets", while mythic users can duplicate allfoods and make the effect harder to resist via surge die interaction. Cool! Coolest, though - the witch's broom - a legendary item version of the broom of flying, enhancing the witch's spells and hexes, her bond with her familiar and, at higher tiers, we get some seriously cool aerial agility there: Don't let the witches atop their brooms! Really cool items this time around!

All right, I know - you're here for the monsters, right? Well, let's dive in! We begin with the Cr 5/MR 2 attic whisperer - and we're in for something cool right off the start: These critters gain an aura that resonates with the abandonment theme, negating morale bonuses and they can also negate flanking and the like...oh, and when encountered within dusty environments full of debris, they start healing, as they incorporate the debris in their forms. Amazing! If you're a self-respecting vampire you probably never want to leave home without a trusty mythic bat swarm: These critters, at CR 3/MR 1 can extinguish light sources and block the nasty sun! Yeah, damn cool. While we're at the topic of low-level threats: The mythic beheaded (CR 1/MR 1) can use mythic power to split into two, draw sustenance from fear and may render targets fatigued. At the same CR/MR, the crawling claw's mythic upgrade can instill panic, is better at grappling and may be sent for a specific quarry, adding some seriously nice, flavorful abilities to the evocative classic.

At CR 6/MR 2, the giant version of a crawling hand receives the option to constrict targets and a similar quarry-style ability...oh, and you don't want to be hit by the pus seeping from its wounds. Did I mention tomb rot? Ever since #3 of the PFRPG installments (unless I am sorely mistaken), I have enjoyed the deathweb - it's just a great concept. The mythic iteration, at CR 7/MR 3 is a beauty to behold: It gets basically "modes", wherein the infestation aura may be suppressed in favor of defense...oh, and they may shed parts of their exoskleton, are much harder to destroy, courtesy of rapid repair, and their nets can spawn swarms! Their towering stature also makes them faster and thus harder to evade. A true gem of a build!

Supplemented by the feat Self-Repairing Construct, reproduced here for your convenience, the CR 5/MR 2 carrion golem inflicts attribute damage with its horrid attacks and may employ mythic power to tear off limbs...and the onset of their plagues is immediate...ouch.

At CR 8/MR 3, the hangman tree may use creatures grappled to enhance its defenses and worse, the cratures trapped may be used to fascinate foes and draw them in...and these dread predators also are better at camouflage than their mundane brethren. Once again, a feat, this time Inescapable Grasp, supplements the critter. Speaking of feats from the big mythic books by LG - Feel Footfall is one of the talents the mythic jack-o'-lantern, at CR 2/MR 1, can pull off some nasty tricks: Beyond generating fear, they actually heal within the presence of the frightened and, when killed, can plant a psychic seed that plagues foes after its demise...and from which it may respawn. Two thumbs up!!

At CR 1/MR 1, the gourd leshy can spawn a phantom pumpkin that duplicates zone of truth and that may fascinate foes...oh, and they may take their seeds and make them curative treats, which is pretty damn cool! All in all, an excellent example of what you can do with low-CR mythic creature design. On the high end of the scale, the CR 17/MR 7 nightwing can use mythic power to add three saves to crits, escalating the threat and gaining various benefits of its magic-draining. Worse: They are not that impressed by bight light either, may attack with their wings, benefit from Mythic Snatch and is particularly adept at wrecking items...

The CR 10/MR 4 shadow collector uses Mythic Quick Steal in its build and may use its shadow points and mythic power to create vortices of darkness, put stolen shadows in an extradimensional sheathe and employ them as a variant of spiritual ally for an overall rather compelling and nice upgrade of the base creature. The soulbound doll, at CR 3/MR 1, gains creepy abilities to mimic and project sound, which may even be used for a quasi-performance and it gains an improved version of Hide in Plain Sight that also uses teleportation over short ranges...yeah, creepy!

We close the pdf not with one, but two versions of a central trope of the game - the torch-wielding mob, once as CR 4/MR 1 and once at CR 13/MR 5 - and both get completely different ability-arrays, from incendiaries to seizing foes and burning them to smithereens, the base version is already cool; the fanatic iteration, however, is cooler still: Its hatred can take the forms of SPs, they can gain dual initiative when subject to mind-affecting effects and oh boy, you don't want to end on the business-end of those pitchforks...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant problems. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the artworks included are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Kudos!

Jason Nelson and Steven T. Helt of the four horsemen joined forces for this supplement and the two designers complement each other really well regarding design aesthetics and narrative voice. We have some glorious supplemental material and A LOT of those really hard to design low VR/MR mythic foes. Why "hard to design"? Well, you want to go mythic, obviously, but at the same time, you need to capture the essence of the respective critters in a pretty simple manner...and this pdf does just that. Particularly Ravenloft games, low-level horror-scenarios and the like will greatly benefit from this file, as its builds make the critters work better as story-monsters, emphasize their unique natures and reward clever players. In short: This is an excellent installment of the impressive series, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #42: Halloween
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Village Backdrop: Woodridge
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 05:34:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Situated at the Eastern border of the duchy of Ashlar, the little backwater woodridge is ruled by the Lorsch family; people in this insular town ply their trade at their leisure and all seems idyllic; indeed, even the dressing and nomenclature of the local populace seems to indicate that this place indeed is a peaceful place. One look at the settlement stats confirms this and the pastoral idyll is similarly emphasized by the marketplace section and the magic items available here.

Even PCs who meet the lore-section's requisites have a hard time discerning anything wrong with the place: Sure, sometimes mists are said to roil forth from the woods and sometimes, travelers go missing...but that happens everywhere, right? (Double kudos if you make that a Ravenloft-reference in your game...) Well, not exactly. If you're familiar with the settlement of Longbridge, well, the good Hilduin Lorsch actually wants control over the settlement, which allows for a nice way of tying these together. Oh, and the ruler of nearby Dulwich also wants that gem and the wealth its control would bring...so you have a nice political angle f you own these as well...and that aspect is easy enough to replace.

As always, there are 6 rumors to add some depth and dimension to the settlement and the pdf further offers a total of 4 events to jumpstart adventuring, should you require it. While all seems to be well here, the local priest is a connoisseur of the fine things in life, a fact that makes him resented among his acolytes. Moreover, political rivals of the Lorsch-family have inserted spies in the village and then there would be the BBEG of the settlement, a cleric of the dark deity Braal, who slowly seeks to worm her way into a position of power. The place may seem idyllic, yes - but below the surface, struggles are boiling - a leitmotif of decrepitude, of good times ending, is slowly, but steadily enforced throughout the pdf, from an old advisor/wizard who's always cold to an inn that's empty more often than not. A sense of melancholy and thwarted ambition suffuses this pdf, just waiting to boil over into all out conflict.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map by Tommi Salama, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst's woodridge is a subtle pdf. It does not feature a big boom, a one-sentence selling-point. It is hard to convey the fascination evoked by the settlement in the absence of the lack of such an elevator-pitch-style leitmotif, but I'll try: This is a deceptive pastoral idyll, a swansong for a backwater, rural village that has a festering wound near its heart, one fed by covert agents and one that may well prove to be fatal for the little settlement. At the same time, it is not hard to like this place, to actually want to save it. Woodridge, in short, is a compelling place and perfectly suited to start adventuring careers. It is mundane enough at first glance, but provides ample chances for the PCs to get involved with forces beyond the confines of the village, to become involved in both local politics and supernatural forces. My one criticism here would be that this settlement does require a bit more work from the GM who does not have access to Dulwich and Longbridge...but that's a system-immanent issue in such a set-up. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Woodridge
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End! I'm delighted you liked Woodridge so much!
Village Backdrop: Woodridge System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 05:33:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Situated at the Eastern border of the duchy of Ashlar, the little backwater woodridge is ruled by the Lorsch family; people in this insular town ply their trade at their leisure and all seems idyllic; indeed, even the dressing and nomenclature of the local populace seems to indicate that this place indeed is a peaceful place. One look at the settlement's demographics confirms this, though the system-neutral version obviously does not sport the PFRPG-version's folksy low-key-only magic item marketplace.

Even PCs who can discern the lore-section's information have a hard time finding anything wrong with the place: Sure, sometimes mists are said to roil forth from the woods and sometimes, travelers go missing...but that happens everywhere, right? (Double kudos if you make that a Ravenloft-reference in your game...) Well, not exactly. If you're familiar with the settlement of Longbridge, well, the good Hilduin Lorsch actually wants control over the settlement, which allows for a nice way of tying these together. Oh, and the ruler of nearby Dulwich also wants that gem and the wealth its control would bring...so you have a nice political angle f you own these as well...and that aspect is easy enough to replace.

As always, there are 6 rumors to add some depth and dimension to the settlement and the pdf further offers a total of 4 events to jumpstart adventuring, should you require it. While all seems to be well here, the local priest is a connoisseur of the fine things in life, a fact that makes him resented among his acolytes. Moreover, political rivals of the Lorsch-family have inserted spies in the village and then there would be the BBEG of the settlement, a cleric of the dark deity Braal, who slowly seeks to worm her way into a position of power. The place may seem idyllic, yes - but below the surface, struggles are boiling - a leitmotif of decrepitude, of good times ending, is slowly, but steadily enforced throughout the pdf, from an old advisor/wizard who's always cold to an inn that's empty more often than not. As a nitpick - most OSR-systems refer to the arcane casters as magic-users, whereas this pdf uses the term wizard instead - but that is just me being a prick. A sense of melancholy and thwarted ambition suffuses this pdf, just waiting to boil over into all out conflict.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any serious glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map by Tommi Salama, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst's woodridge is a subtle pdf. It does not feature a big boom, a one-sentence selling-point. It is hard to convey the fascination evoked by the settlement in the absence of the lack of such an elevator-pitch-style leitmotif, but I'll try: This is a deceptive pastoral idyll, a swansong for a backwater, rural village that has a festering wound near its heart, one fed by covert agents and one that may well prove to be fatal for the little settlement. At the same time, it is not hard to like this place, to actually want to save it. Woodridge, in short, is a compelling place and perfectly suited to start adventuring careers. It is mundane enough at first glance, but provides ample chances for the PCs to get involved with forces beyond the confines of the village, to become involved in both local politics and supernatural forces. My one criticism here would be that this settlement does require a bit more work from the GM who does not have access to Dulwich and Longbridge...but that's a system-immanent issue in such a set-up. The system-neutral version does an excellent job of bringing the settlement to the crowd inclined against hard rules. Lacking significant complaints, I will also settle on a 5 star + seal of approval rating for the system-neutral iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Woodridge System Neutral Edition
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End! I'm delighted you liked Woodridge so much!
Village Backdrop: Woodridge (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 05:31:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Situated at the Eastern border of the duchy of Ashlar, the little backwater woodridge is ruled by the Lorsch family; people in this insular town ply their trade at their leisure and all seems idyllic; indeed, even the dressing and nomenclature of the local populace seems to indicate that this place indeed is a peaceful place. One look at the settlement demographics confirms this, though the magic item marketplace has been cut for the 5e-version, considering the different value placed upon such items in 5e. (In the PFRPG-version, only very low-key, folksy magic items could be purchased.)

Even PCs who meet the lore-section's prerequisites in Intelligence-checks have a hard time discerning anything wrong with the place: Sure, sometimes mists are said to roil forth from the woods and sometimes, travelers go missing...but that happens everywhere, right? (Double kudos if you make that a Ravenloft-reference in your game...) Well, not exactly. If you're familiar with the settlement of Longbridge, well, the good Hilduin Lorsch actually wants control over the settlement, which allows for a nice way of tying these together. Oh, and the ruler of nearby Dulwich also wants that gem and the wealth its control would bring...so you have a nice political angle f you own these as well...and that aspect is easy enough to replace. As a nitpicky complaint, one of the notable NPCs has not been allocated a proper MM-NPC-statblock in a minor oversight. This inconsistency also extends to the main antagonist, who is once referred to by the PFRPG-version's stat-line in the text instead of the 5e-version's priest declaration. This also extends to the wizards/advisors of the Lorsch-family, which makes that aspect feel a bit rushed.

As always, there are 6 rumors to add some depth and dimension to the settlement and the pdf further offers a total of 4 events to jumpstart adventuring, should you require it. While all seems to be well here, the local priest is a connoisseur of the fine things in life, a fact that makes him resented. Moreover, political rivals of the Lorsch-family have inserted spies in the village and then there would be the BBEG of the settlement, a cleric of the dark deity Braal, who slowly seeks to worm her way into a position of power. The place may seem idyllic, yes - but below the surface, struggles are boiling - a leitmotif of decrepitude, of good times ending, is slowly, but steadily enforced throughout the pdf, from an old advisor/wizard who's always cold to an inn that's empty more often than not. A sense of melancholy and thwarted ambition suffuses this pdf, just waiting to boil over into all out conflict.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a couple of inconsistencies in the 5e-conversion of the short one-sentence NPC-lines. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map by Tommi Salama, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst's woodridge is a subtle pdf. It does not feature a big boom, a one-sentence selling-point. It is hard to convey the fascination evoked by the settlement in the absence of the lack of such an elevator-pitch-style leitmotif, but I'll try: This is a deceptive pastoral idyll, a swansong for a backwater, rural village that has a festering wound near its heart, one fed by covert agents and one that may well prove to be fatal for the little settlement. At the same time, it is not hard to like this place, to actually want to save it. Woodridge, in short, is a compelling place and perfectly suited to start adventuring careers. It is mundane enough at first glance, but provides ample chances for the PCs to get involved with forces beyond the confines of the village, to become involved in both local politics and supernatural forces. My one criticism here would be that this settlement does require a bit more work from the GM who does not have access to Dulwich and Longbridge...but that's a system-immanent issue in such a set-up.

At the same time, the 5e-version of this pdf feels a tad bit rushed when compared to the PFRPG-iteration. While this does not hamper the usefulness of the material, it does make the version feel slightly less refined. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform - if you have the luxury of choice, go for the PFRPG-version.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Woodridge (5e)
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Green Devil Face #4
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 05:29:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of LotFP's Green Devil face e-zine clocks in at a massive 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 68 (!!!) pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf adheres to roughly an A5-layout (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit about 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this, provided your eyes are good enough.

We begin with a brief class, the Knight of Science (as featured in No Dignity in Death/The People of Pembrooktonshire), who gains d8 HD (d10 in advanced edition games). They are immune to charm, sleep, hold or cold spells (hold or cold? Or do you choose one of that list?) and immune to all fear effects. They can hit creatures only vulnerable to magic (no problem) and those only vulnerable to special materials (which CAN be a problem). They gain a minimum of 6 hit points per level and only gain XP from slaying foes and burning their equipment. Knights are treated as Fighters, but at 5th level, the squire becomes a proper knight and gains a squire or 4 levels lower, as well as a cleric of at least level 5 (though never higher than the knight) and 10 0-level men-at-arms. The knight's abilities hinge on unwavering belief and thus, he loses his abilities if he ever changes his mind on ANYTHING - unless their previous opinion was founded on a lie. This makes them basically the ultimate hard-headed a-hole order. The equipment of the entourage is btw. included in the write-up.

James Edward Raggi IV's second article herein would be "The Tower" - which takes the quest of the classic fairy tale suitor for a princess, including besting guardians and finding her in the tower and puts a delightfully twisted LotFP-twist to the subject matter - nasty traps...and a rather unexpected inversion, that is. It should be noted that a detailed "Here's how it can work"-explanation makes this rather easy t run. No map is included, but the sidetrek doesn't necessarily need one. The next article by his pen introduces us to variants of animate dead for higher levels, an old-school attack-all-in-range spell, aptly named army of one, a spell to disguise as good beings, one to animate toys as killers, spewing forth noxious gas, blood oaths - there is quite an array of different options here! Have I mentioned the spell-stealing options and the mass-impregnating level 9 storm of fertility? Ouch. Now that we have taken a look at the dread magics of the loathsome Duvan'Ku cabal, we move on to their magic items, which include bags that hold spirits, cursed cornucopia-baskets, the Book of Faust, maddening grimoires, undead-enhancing caskets, the horrid dead signs, elixirs of fleeting love, undead pacifying flutes, cannibalism-inducing rings and worse.

A random inn generator, which includes names, visitors, staff and all, with special details given to the folks, is up next before we get a variant of the rod of wonder, the wand of the weird - which includes fingers turning to gold, growing third eyes or hostile hair...rather cool one.

A mini-adventure/dungeon with 19 rooms is up next, the House of Snails (map provided, hand-drawn) - cultists, baby snails and a big snail made of mother-of-pearl can be found here...made me remember a lesser known Conan-comic. Solid. After this one, the next such mini-adventure would be the Frog Cult - 27 sketched rooms (mapped once again), with a couple of named adversaries etc. and fights versus e.g. giant dung beetles.

The first article not penned by the master of LotFP would be the Room of Four Pits, an easy-to-insert encounter that features a classic riddle, potentially bringing the PCs in conflict with some rather nasty creatures. James Brian Murphy takes us to "The Sneaky Book Room" for another easily inserted encounter-room, where a mutating book beckons...

Zak Sabbath's up next, first with "The Child" - and it poses an uncommon conundrum: The PCs happen upon a child. It is honest, polite and innocent...and if the child dies, it'll turn into a horrid monstrosity...but if the PCs take care of the child for a long time, they'll be rewarded. "The chamber and the box" contains basically a tutorial mode for new players, while keeping the veterans busy as well - per se a nice idea.

R. Lawrence Blake's "The Tomb to die for/in" is a highly lethal 10-room mini-dungeon and by far my favorite so far herein: Halls of randomly biting faces, armor golems and a really nasty skeleton (20 HD fireball) make for a chellenging meat-grinder of a dungeon. Jonathan Becker introduces us to the culinary (and slightly disturbing) wonders of shrieker stew next, while his pool of testing encounter will reward only the brave...and penalize the greedy...What about a dog that speaks the common tongue and is actually rather helpful!

James Edward Raggi IV picks up the pen once more with a massive and helpful random treasure generator as well as a brief, one-page spell-point theory for use with old-school games. Solid, but not mind-boggling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no formal hiccups, though rules-language isn't always as crisp as I've come to expect from LotFP. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks. The cartography ranges from solid to hand-drawn to pixelated and pretty rudimentary. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Kudos there!

James Edward Raggi IV, Zak Sabbath, R. Lawrence Blake, James Brian Murphy, Ramsey Dow and Jonathan Becker provide an excellent bang-for-buck-ratio here - the magazine is pretty inexpensive and considering that, the amount of material herein is impressive indeed. Surprisingly, I ended up enjoying the options provided by the less notorious/famous designers more in this one. Still, having e.g. the dead sign codified is cool and the encounters often do interesting things...though a couple are pretty standard. My favorite herein was definitely "The Tomb to Die For/In", but, as a whole, this offers some serious scavenging potential. In short: This is a good offering, though one that, to me, doesn't quite reach the level of awesomeness, Hence. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Green Devil Face #4
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5E Mini-Dungeon #018: Neotomas' Paradise
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2017 05:26:32

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. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

So, beggars have been vanishing and thus, it falls to the PCs to venture forth into the sewers to find them - and yes, they may contract sewer plague here - which is a nice deviation from the tired. Exploring the dark tunnels, the PCs not only have to brave rat swarms, they will also encounter a ghost of a slain beggar before finding the culprit of the disappearances - a nasty wererat slaver on a recruiting spree and by now transformed were-rat beggars...oh, and yes, the PCs can walk into a gelatinous cube.

On the downside, the ghost is once again not an encounter supplemented by social skills or interaction in that way...and the wererat boss uses the same stats as the wererat beggars...which feels a bit lazy. Which not provide some statblock modification shorthands here?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups, though there are two hyperlinks that are not functioning properly. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

Michael Smith's good sewer level in the original had it all - environmental hazards, lighting, social interaction...and apart from the lighting issue, all are lost in translation. Social interaction? Not really covered - the ghost is just window-dressing. The boss uses the same stats as his servants (which sucks) and any skill information is curiously absent as well - fallen into sewage? Well, no idea how hard it is to get out again. Not impressed. The conversion, in short, gets rid of what made this fun, at least to me. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #018: Neotomas' Paradise
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In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2017 13:35:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing's "In the Company of..."-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

All right, we begin this pdf with a heart-warming dedication to the founder of Rite Publishing, Steven D. Russell, who has left us too soon. After this, though, it is similarly heart-warming to see that the traditions of master Russell live on - we begin with an in-character letter of a member of the race, sent to Qwilion of Questhaven, the scribe that is responsible for collecting these pieces of information in the context of the great meta-narratives that suffuse these books.

Thus, as has become the tradition, the flavor-text presented to us would be written from the point of view of the species "We are the hollowed" - indeed! Intelligent, sentient wights spawned from strong souls, these beings sport a glowing gaze and retain the previous race's racial characteristics like height and they, obviously, stop aging -as such, this time around, we actually don't need an age, height or weight table and the racial traits replace those of the base race, but more on that later. The pdf elaborates on society...or rather, about how to fit in with the living and dead...and there is the Urge - the wights herein do crave the essence of the living and there are those that have succumbed to the Urge, while others resist it - the scenario is, roleplay-wise, not unlike that of the World of Darkness.

Now, regarding racial traits, we begin by acknowledging the first issue -as quasi-undead, the wights depicted herein (who call themselves the hollowed) have no Constitution, which would render them OP via most character creation methods - hence, ways to use them in a balanced context with point-buy etc. are included. The hollowed get +2 to an ability score of their choice and retain their former humanoid's race influences speed and size - either Small or Medium. As a minor nitpick: Size-categories are capitalized in PFRPG. As modified undead, the hollowed gain darkvision 60 ft., are immune to bleed and death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep and stunning and are immune to Fort-save resisted effects, unless these can affect objects.

They may not be raised from the dead (spell references not italicized) but may be returned to become living beings. They get +1/2 their HD as a racial bonus to resist mind-affecting effects. They are healed by negative energy, harmed by positive energy (this wording is a bit non-standard, but works). Hollowed are also immune to nonlethal damage, ability drain or energy drain and they are immune to damage to physical attributes as well as to exhaustion and fatigue, but are also immediately destroyed upon being reduced to 0 hp. Sooo...this is ALMOST full undead immunities. Beyond that, they gain a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate...so what does the Urge bring to the table, balance-wise? Well, death's stigma imposes a grant total -1 per level to Diplomacy (not properly capitalized) when dealing with the living and a similar penalty to Disguise (also not properly capitalized) when trying to pass as a living creature.

When "violence is enacted in the presence of a hollowed", the hollowed has to succeed a Will-save versus 15 + 1/2 current HD (is 1 rounded down? I assume no...) or attack the closest creature. On a successful save, they are immune to the Urge. Succumbing to the Urge allows for rerolls of Perception checks to determine the undead nature of the hollowed. At 1st level, hollowed succumbing to the urge get +2 to hit and damage and HEAL BY THE AMOUNT OF THE DAMAGE CAUSED. Okay, let's play, shall we? What's the range of "violence caused" that may trigger the Urge? Does "attacking closest creature" include spells and abilities? What's the bonus type the Urge is supposed to grant? The wording there is wonky. After the first attack, the hollowed can attempt a fixed DC 15 Will-save to stop, but otherwise, their frenzy continues for 1d3 rounds. The bonuses increase by +2 every six levels. Does that mean 1->7->13->19 or 1->6->12->18? No idea. Wanna hear a joke? If that sounds like a hassle (WHY?? FREE INFINITE HEALING WITH JUST A KITTEN!!!), you can suppress the urge at the start of a day...and boohoo, you do take devastating -2 to Wisdom-based skill checks. This is a non-entity of a balance-mechanism. It allows for infinite healing "Quick, throw kittens to our half dead undead compadre!", fails to specify crucial ability interactions...and simply is not precise enough.

Beyond that, undead PC races tend to be problematic due to their gazillion immunities - hence why Rite Publishing's own, chassis-wise vastly superior restless souls tweaked that for even gritty game compatibility. If you're shooting for powerful, but balanced undead races, both Kobold Press' amazing darakhul and AAW Games' dødelig do a better job at making the race as a whole not break the game - this race needs a whack with the nerfbat for undead immunities and drawbacks that matter. RAW they only have the undead fragility-thing going for them and that is the least favorite part of playing undead of pretty much every player I know. Similarly, the reassigning of points for characters turned hollowed in play is okay...but imho still pales before the restless souls.

The race gets 3 alternate racial traits: Clung to Life "eliminate the effects of constant decay" - which should refer to the Death's Stigma drawback by name - the hollowed lose the Disguise penalty, but also loses immunity to bleed, death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep and stunning "but instead gains a resistance of 1 + 1/2 their Hit Dice" - WTF is that supposed to mean? A bonus to saves versus such effects? Resistance =/= save bonuses in PFRPG. That is a non-entity, rules-language-wise. Also, the language mentions one losing the Disguise drawback (but not the Diplomacy) and then mentions replacing the proper drawback by name. Instead of darkvision, these guys can get crypt sense, which works only in crypts or simialr places filled with the dead and duplicates low-light vision...which is weird, considering that most such places will be...well. Dark. Oh, and they can detect bodies within 90 ft, even buried underground...and that is an issue. Do bodies need to be whole? Does lead block it? Do body-parts qualify? Animated bodyparts? The body-based immunities can be replaced with positive energy healing and being hurt by negative energy as though living.

The pdf features 5 favored class options - barbarian, bard, cavalier, rogue and true wight. They are okay, though the rogue's bonus is pretty weak: +1/2 to Stealth checks in dim light or darkness? sign me up. Not.

The pdf also features 3 racial archetypes. The night strider rogue replaces trapfinding with something utterly OP. "When not moving...in dim light and darkness, they gain total concealment. In full light, they gain a +40 on Disguise checks to appear completely dead." Total concealment??? WTF??? KILL IT WITH FIRE. Oh, and the option to " choose to instead do 1d3 points of sneak attack damage and cause their target to become shaken for 1 round." So, is one sneak attack damage die thus reduced? All of them? Is sneak attack total damage reduced to 1d3? This is NON-OPERATIONAL. As a rules-aesthetic aside, the ability should mention that it modifies sneak attack, not just that it replaces trap sense.

The pale rider cavalier gets an undead steed. And instead of banner, he gets an aura of despair, 60 ft., - 2 to saves vs. fear, -1 to attack. At 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter, these penalties increase by -1. This replaces banner. This...generates a dead level at 14th level with greater banner falling by the wayside. It's also...BORING. The definition of a cookie-cutter archetype. I can literally point you to several better undead-rider tropes and heck, full classes. Next.

The final archetype would be the void singers. Bards, in case you haven't figured that . They replace inspire courage with a song that inflicts -1 to attack and Will-saves, which is not language-dependant. Instead of bardic knowledge, they treat the Knowledge skills for Religion, Planes and Dungeoneering as class skills, get +1/2 level as a bonus and a reroll in these checks. The rules-language requires you to infer that this reroll is only available 1/day, courtesy of the scaling of daily uses. Bad. Instead of 6th level's suggestion, they can instill the Urge within a creature! PFFF...BEST ABILITY EVER? Better buffs that a barb's rage plus infinite healing via damage? Ugh, this whole section needs to die in a fiery blaze.

Okay, after this...let's hope that the racial paragon class holds up at least! The True Wight paragon gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor. The class abilities are not provided in sequence, but oh well. True Wights gain the option to use the urge sans external stimulus as a free action 1/day. (The ability should note its level, but you can see that in the table.) Also at first level, the true wight gains a death mastery, + an additional one at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter. A total of 13 are provided, which means that there'll be not too much variation here. We have increased speed and this gem: "The true wight gains a swim speed of 30 feet for 1 minute per level." That an (Ex), fyi. This is not how things are done in PFRPG and RAW, this does not work. It has a duration, is hence active and thus needs an activation action.

Internal balance is also off here: Locate a corpse of ANYONE they knew for 24 hours or longer? Come again? Wight police state? Oh, and perfect identification of corpses, no matter the state of decay or mutilation? This wrecks so many plots, it's not even funny. Detaching limbs is a cool concept, but the complex rules-language required to make it work is nowhere near represented here. A particular gem regarding two detached limbs is the following: "If both limbs are together, they can perform trip attacks using the true wight's CMB -1." What's "together"? Do they provoke AoOs? What size are they?

Well, you get the idea. 4th level nets a claw attack that does not specify whether it's primary or secondary, does not take true wight size into account and has the wrong dice size. 10th level nets "Damage Reduction 1", which increases by 1 for every two levels thereafter. Spot the extremely obvious style deviation... 10th level and 15th level allow for burst-like control of undead nearby. Rules-language isn't perfect, but functional. At 10th level, creatures they slay can be made into spawn and one such spawn may be controlled at any given time. The creature must be 2 or more levels below the wight...unless a PC, which makes no sense. Why not base this off Leadership? At 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the class gets to choose from its second talent array, the living weapon-subsection of talents.

Here, we have 8 gazes and they fail to mention that the scaling DC should be based on CLASS levels, not levels, and the gaze's effects similarly sport that omission in the duration. These gazes are btw. pretty powerful and mention the antagonized condition sans explanation ( It does exist and I love it, see Ultimate Charisma by Everyman Gaming, but considering the glitch-density, I am not sure if that's intended). 5th level lets the wight choose daze for save-or-suck (too soon) and, stupidly, the stunned condition, worse than dazed, does not have a level prerequisite. Also: prerequisite formatting is not done like this "Prerequisite: True wight 8" - it's "A true wight must be at least 8th level to select this living weapon." - but that as an educational, aesthetic aside. Also: Spell-reference not italicized for the level 8 prereq-gaze that causes insanity. Compare that to the mesmerist. Yeah... Okay, one saving grace - the gazes behave as hexes -one save and you're immune for 24 hours against that specific gaze. Oh, and action economy? No idea. Can a wight maintain multiple gazes at once? What's the action?

Alternative abilities in this talent-suite net a bite (not properly codified, but at least the damage-die size is correct- for Medium wights... 1/day, 15th+ level wights may cause death with their natural attacks against creatures with lower HD. Save or suck, does it require a hit? Is it a touch attack? No idea. Ridiculous: "The true wight's natural attack gains the ability to cause 1d6 cold damage. Creatures that take damage roll a Fortitude save, DC 10 + Wis modifier or become staggered for 1d3 rounds." Do I even have to pick that apart? I'll ignore formatting deviations for now. Is this cold damage INSTEAD of the regular damage? Oh, and it provides INFINITE STAGGERLOCKS at 3rd level. That sound? That's my head. And a desk. The same lack of clarity pertains, just fyi, also the talent that adds Str AND Dex damage to attacks...though that at least only can be used 3/day. As a capstone, creatures hit can become spawn, he can break the HD-limit to control weak undead and gets immunity against "mind effect spells and abilities." I'll let that stand here.

We close the pdf with 3 feats: +1 DC for gazes. Whoopdiedoo. The second feat gets rid of the "obviously dead trait" - guess what? THAT RACIAL TRAIT DOES NOT EXIST. It's called "Death's Stigma, for cryin' out loud. There also is a "Team Work Feat"[sic!], improperly formatted, which nets blindsense (sans range! Full strength!) as well as "+1 AC dodge bonus, +1 to hit and damage, +3 to hit when flanking and you cannot be flat-footed" while within 60 feet of another hallowed. Bonus types. Wording. Power. Urgh.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good. On a rules-language levels, they're BAD and even inconsistent with themselves. Formatting is all over the place, wording conventions are flaunted left and right and abilities become more opaque than they have any right to be, considering analogue precedence cases. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports nice full-color artworks.

Aaron Phelps' pdf started out so well. The prose in the beginning was glorious and the dedication to Steve pulled at my heart's strings. The flavor was great and when the race started taking character creation into account, I was pretty optimistic.

...

Yeah, that did not last long. This is gonna be harsh and I apologize to the author for it, but there is no way around it: The race is overpowered, has an utterly broken, defining feature and needs a complete rewrite. There are issues in the nomenclature, even in the internal one. There are copious rules-syntax and rules-semantics violations here. The archetypes are universally boring, cookie-cutter and ill-conceived and would have received a thrashing from me back in 2010; 2017? Just NO. Unfortunately, the racial paragon class is flawed as well, violating finer details of the rules, lacking crucial information for several components and promoting utterly cheesy and bad exploits. Rules-language is all over the place and nowhere near the level of precision required by PFRPG, and I'm not even going to bother explaining how neither balance with other options, nor within the options available, is anywhere near the required standards.

This is not on par with the 3pp-quality standards we have all fought so hard for and needs a complete rewrite of EVERYTHING rules-related. If I had to dev this, I'd scrap it and rewrite it from scratch.

This is in particularly BAFFLING, when gazes have been done by the mesmerist and when there are not one, but THREE vastly superior, excellent undead PC options, my favorite of which, Steven D. Russell's Restless Souls, does btw. everything this tries to do better - and it is several years old. And released by Rite publishing as well. And if you really want the hunger aspect, get Ben McFarland's Darakhul. And if you want to play Small undead, get AAW Games' dødelig.

I tried very hard to find anything positive to say about this - and apart from "The lore is cool (but also kinda redundant with Steve's restless souls around...)..." I drew a blank and came up with nothing. If you want to go for the lore, great...but as a reviewer, I can't. Aaron Phelps contributed to the Martial Arts Guidebook back in the day, if I recall correctly, so no idea what happened here. My final verdict cannot exceed 1.5 stars...with the lore making me round up. Barely.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
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Deep Magic: Ley Lines
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2017 13:23:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deep Magic-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages, so let's take a look!

There are few magical concepts as established in popular culture and fiction as ley lines - these lines of power surging through the world, chaotic, changing and tied to the concept of an anima mundi, have always been a staple in fantastic literature, as it hearkens back to shamanistic traditions from which our more organized religions and conceptions arose.

In a fact, the concept rings true to us due to the anthropomorphization of the world - the ley lines and their parallels to our own blood circuitry lends a sense of the understandable to the proceedings that ring true to us - perhaps it is this synergy of the shamanistic and the quasi-scientific exemplified by arcane spellcasting (learned from book, mastered only by geniuses and prodigies...) that makes this concept so captivating.

The issue ley lines pose from a design perspective is more pronounced than this concept would lend one to believe; it is a common adage that arcane casters are the strongest class-choices in the game, directly followed by the divine ones...but the harsh limits on their magics ultimately serve as a means of keeping them fragile, at least in the hands of a capable GM. Now, if you add a gigantic external power-source to the fray, you risk the chance of utterly blowing the balance of the character...and the fun/believability of the world. If you need a good visualization of this process - think about Dresden Files, I series a worshiped until "Changes", which, to me, jumped an atomic shark riding a fridge atop the blast-wave of a nuclear explosion...I continued reading it, but it never felt right after that...but I digress.

In the context of 5E, ley line magic, as depicted within this pdf, is not a magic available to just anyone - per default, a feat or an arcane tradition are required to gain proper access to its power, with groups prohibiting feats getting support as well - tutoring by a prospective character acts as a prerequisite for such groups, keeping the GM firmly in control regarding the availability of this magic, which is the first exceedingly smart choice in this pdf.

Speaking of feats - two are provided: Ley Initiate is the unlocking feat, increasing Int or Wis by 1 to a maximum of 20, allowing the character to sense ley lines within one mile...and when finishing a short rest, you can regain an expended spell slot of a level equal to or less than you Int or Wis-modifier...and before you howl: You can only do so once before requiring a long rest. Cool! The Ley-Bound feat increases your Wisdom by 1 to a maximum of 20, yields advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to forage food and water, nets you inspiration when resting within 1 mile of a ley line and allows the character to infuse ley energy in a token. While in the possession fo said taken, you may use your reaction to add +d4 to your saving throw, which needs to be done before success or failure are announced, but may be done after the d20 is rolled. This may only be used once per long-rest-interval. In short - one unlocks ley line magic, the other one represents a tapping into its power that is more rewarding for non-spellcasters.

So, how do ley lines work? Well, for one, they are categorized in locked and unlocked ley lines - this distinction is subjective, however, and depends on the ley line in question - a GM has total control of these qualities: Locked ley lines always generate the same effect, whereas unlocked ley lines are less predictable. In order to tap into a ley line's power, you need to be within 30 feet of the ley line and make a spellcasting attribute check sans proficiency bonus, with a DC equal to 10 + the spell being cast. If you botch the check within 4 of the DC, you just cast the regular spell; if you botch it by more than that, however, you suffer from ley line backlash. Ley lines may change over time, and fans of Midgard can see a map highlighting prominent ley lines, which is a nice flavor bonus, though a full-page version would have been appreciated.

Anyway, ley lines come in three strengths: Weak, strong and titanic, with progressively better effects - each of the ley line strengths comes with a d10-table of effects that range from casting a spell sans verbal components in the weak one to truly potent effects: Those tapping into titanic ley lines can cause half damage to targets immune versus their damage...or the ability that concentration cannot be broken. Of course, negative conditions as a bonus effect are also included. And yes, these benefits are potent, but considering their cost and the fact that they will be unreliable in most cases, GMs still retain the control they should have over this powerful form of magic. Oh, and the d10 ley line backlash table of effects will make pretty sure that players won't want to constantly spam ley line casts either - they very much are highlight spells, where the risk justifies the reward. Big fan there, though I wished we had separate backlash tables for different ley line strength and different DCs for different ley line strengths - to me, tapping into a titanic ley line feels like it should be harder than tapping into a weak one. Then again, that component is easily modified.

Okay, let's talk about the geomancy arcane tradition mentioned before: At 2nd level, they halve time and gold required to copy ley line spells into their spellbook and one of the two spells gained thereafter upon gaining a level may be a ley line spell. They also can sense the presence of ley lines within a mile and, as an action, may discern their intensity. At 2nd level, they also learn to tap into ley lines for the unique effects granted by the magic and may bind themselves during a short or long rest to a ley line - the character may only be bound to one weak ley line and may, Int-mod times, use its power even when not nearby; these uses recharge on a long rest and subsequent new bonding cancels out older bonds.

6th level yields the ability to reroll ley line or backlash,. but if you do, you may not use a reaction until the end of your next turn. 10th level unlocks strong ley lines as bonding candidates and also yields proficiency bonus to the ability check to tap into them. AT 14th level, titanic ley lines may be bonded with and also provides the option to, as an action lock or unlock a ley line within 30 feet - but if you do, you may actually require several long rests before being able to use the feature again, depending on ley line intensity. All in all a well-crafted and really rewarding tradition that, by virtue of its strong, yet relatively unpredictable base system, makes for a rewarding playing experience.

All right, as always in the series, we do receive new spells that are aligned with the spellcasting tradition - this time around, that would be 15 spells. Amplify Ley Field allows you to increase ley line intensity in a select field (cool and at 5th level, appropriate...though, as a purely cosmetic nitpick, evocation doesn't make too much sense as a school for me); Disruptive Aura is awesome, potentially suppressing spells and magic items in a limited area. Energy Absorption is interesting - it can yield resistance to the classic elemental damage types or force, but the target affected is also hampered: When casting a spell using the listed damage, the character must save with his spellcasting attribute or lose the spell, as it's harmlessly siphoned away. Cool buff/debuff and well-placed regarding its level. Land Bond is very potent for a 1st-level buff: 1 hour duration, willing touched creature gains advantage on saves and checks to avoid being moved or rendered prone while standing on the earth and the creature may also ignore nonmagical difficult terrain and extreme environment effects from heat, cold and altitude. While this does not prevent damage, it is a pretty potent all-rounder spell...and I'd complain about it, but considering its locked nature and requirement for investment, I consider it to be within the bounds.

Ley Disruption is an interesting 2nd-level terrain control spell that may knock creatures prone and generate difficult terrain...and it particularly effects geomancers bound to ley lines, as its effects are increase in such areas - this is interesting and makes the concept feel less like a one-sided road, but rather like a dynamic system - I really like that and hope to see more! Ley Sense nets you short-range tremorsense. Ley Energy Bolt is an interesting alternative to the classic 3rd-level damage spells: It's a 5-ft.-wide and 100 feet long line of potent force damage that is balanced by its damage (5d8, less than comparable spells) - but beyond its shape, it also passes through the first cover, which adds a really cool tactical dimension to its use. Sniping through walls...just sayin' - I can see a dungeon using that as hazards, an investigation using a ley bolt killer...cool! Ley Leech, at 5th level, is a potent touch-based necromancy that inflict damage and debuff - okay, but not too exciting. In fact, I consider the 4th-level ray of life suppression MUCH more scary: 60 ft. ranged spell attack, 6d8 necrotic damage...and you reduce your maximum hit points by that amount until your next rest or until getting a greater restoration. OUCH! This is...really potent and, depending on your group, may be a spell that GMs may want to keep out of player hands..or at least halve the reduction.

Lesser (5th-level) and Greater Ley Pulse interact with 5E's rock-paper-scissors aesthetics: These spells allow you to negate a named resistance (or immunity, in the greater version) on a failed save (two if cast as a 7th-level spell)/9th-level spell, respectively). Ley Whip is particularly potent for the geomancer with a bound ley line and generates a whip that inflicts force damage and may move targets closer or further away as a bonus action. Again, this begs to be used as a highlight in a combat/environment: "The ley line is getting out of control, it seeks to purge us!" Come on, that's cool!

Volley Shield is a powerful 7th-level buff that nets a massive AC bonus, resistance to the physical damage types an grants a chance to rebound spells at their originator. Cool!...and there also are two apex-level spells: Ley Surge is a potent force-damage-based AoE-explosion that can stun targets and is freely available to geomancers with bound ley lines, regardless of ley line proximity. The same cannot be said of Ley Storm. Sounds badass? It is. Think Storm of Vengeance on ley-infused speed, with different effects depending on the rounds and a massive range...oh, and geomancers casting it regain hit points. Cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' absolutely stunning two-column full-color standard and the pdf features amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Dan Dillon has yet to disappoint me, even in the slightest. I mean it. The 5E-specialist of the Four Horsemen takes an incredibly complex concept prone to being utterly broken and handles it with panache and grace. I can literally rattle off several iterations of ley line magic, from 3.X to 5E, and they all had in common that they either were too location-locked to make much sense or too powerful...all but this one. This is a truly impressive, potent system that does not take away the GM's control; there are even damage spells herein that actually made me come up with new ideas. Damage spells. The most profane and standardized category that magic has to offer.

This is absolutely glorious. I mean it. The one reason this does not get status as a candidate for my Top Ten would be that I'd have enjoyed separate backlash tables for ley line intensities and separate tapping DCs for different ley line strength...but that is an issue that a capable GM can easily remedy.

In short: This is a truly phenomenal supplement; it is, in fact, my favorite Deep Magic installment so far; it is inspired, glorious and leaves me craving MORE. It's an absolute steal and should be considered to be a must-own supplement for 5E-groups. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation, "buts" and "howevers."

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Ley Lines
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Everyman Minis: Leyline Qualities
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2017 13:20:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini-installment clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In case you were wondering - this book expands upon Occult Adventures' ley lines rules and thus presents the Ley Line Adept feat, which nets a Spellcraft-bonus as well as a Dowsing skill unlock means of 1/day finding ley lines, making them more accessible. The process of "findings"[sic!] ley lines via such rods is covered and concisely presented with DCs and all- no complaints there.

The pdf then goes on to present 9 different types of ley line: Alignment-ley lines tap into the corresponding plane's planar traits (really elegant solution there!), while corrupted ley lines can spawn hazards, once again tapping into the general mechanics and codify these threats concisely via CR. Elemental ley lines increase spell save DC and CL accordingly, while manifest ley lines can be found with the naked eye. Restricted ley lines would be the first to really blow me away - you see, these can only be accessed via certain criteria - items, classes, being born under a special sign...and while UMD may be used to circumvent this, it's not an easy task and remains rather flavorful. Specialized ley lines enhance certain schools or subschools, increasing the CL.

Sylvan ley lines make magic harder to resist for animals and plants, while wild ley lines have their caster level modified by 1d4-2, potentially wasting spells...oh, and for fans of the phenomenal Microsized Handbook will love microsizing ley lines - which may affect some, all...or only specific beings in their vicinity...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good (with the typo-exception mentioned) on both a formal and a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's nice 2-column standard, is printer-friendly, and I appreciate the full-color artwork for the supplement. The pdf comes without bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I like Matt Morris' expansion of ley lines as a system, I really do - but at the same time, to me, it feels pretty basic. Yes, I know. It's a niche offering. But I couldn't help but feel like the ley line engine offers more. I expected a bit weirder material and while this brings ley lines as a system up to the level that I wanted from the base engine, it does not go beyond that. If you're like me, you have probably seen a bunch of ley line engines at this point and I am glad that Everyman gaming released this and expanded Occult Adventure's take on the concept. At the same time, I do feel like another page or two with stranger qualities would have helped this pdf.

That being said, if you're like me and were left wanting more from Occult Adventure's ley line-engine, then consider this a must-own offering. This is good, well-made and fun - and as such, deserves a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Leyline Qualities
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