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Dwellers Amid Bones Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/16/2015 02:46:28
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collector's edition of Dweller Amid Bones clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page of advice for reading statblocks, 1 page advice for running the module, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of pure content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This being a collector's edition of a previously-released, short module, Dweller Amid Bones receives a massive upgrade herein - from the get-go, detailed sample hooks allow DMs to easily kick off the module and then, much like Gibbous Moon, we get an astonishing, massive section of new content - essentially what boils down to a full-blown village backdrop - and in this case, the village would be Arcwood.



Arcwood as a settlement has its origins steeped in conflict - it is the place where the hero Therald Arcmoor fell, commemorating the final battle between the civilized races and the orcs of the severed ear - 300 ft. away from the feared tuskwood. With a majority population of halflings, the settlement obviously comes with a massive array of supplemental information: We receive information on the village's demographics, whispers and rumors, a settlement statblock, nomenclature and clothing habits as well as local lore and marketplace-information.



As always, the map provided is glorious and represents the privacy the local populace cherishes with the village being relatively dispersed - one can even see where halflings and humans live. The village also provides 3 full-blow statblocks of NPCs one can encounter here. Beyond that, the village, being close to the ancient battlefield, has drawn a less than nice person living in the village, one with a strange agenda. Beyond that, a moaning haunt provides an additional nice piece of dressing.



All right, from the village and the hooks, one can easily send the PCs towards the proper module - which takes place in the cairn devoted to the fallen orcs. Located in the Tuskwood (which also comes with a map), we get an awesome wilderness section, complete with locales, natural hazards and yes, random encounters that provide, among others, sprite swarms. This wilderness trek adds a further dimension to the base module I really enjoy.

From here on out, this review will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! As hinted before, Dwellers Amid Bones has the PCs explore an orcish burial cairn to put an end to the various raids conducted by a mated pair of green draconic beings - only forest drakes, thankfully, but deadly nevertheless! The cairn and its details are up to the standard set in Raging Swan modules - general features and details to add to even unkeyed areas make exploring the cairn interesting and atmospheric.



Now from the very beginning, we get a cool twist: Gork Shattershield, undead orcish wight, manifests behind the PCs to demand they purge the drakes (which have time and time again destroyed the stubborn undead orc, only to see him rejuvenate) - thus the adventure begins with an uncommon social interaction before turning ugly - fast!



The drakes lurk in relative proximity and once roused, both attack with their noxious clouds, fight, and when damaged too hard...retreat via speed surge underwater! FANFARE! GLORY TO WHATEVER DEITY OR FORCE MADE CREIGHTON WRITE THIS! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is finally one of the scarce, rare instances of draconic foes fighting NOT like complete morons! Hallelujah! Take heed, authors, take heed! Of course, we also get details like wall carvings etc. - but the running battle of the drakes through water-filled maze-like tunnels should pump up the adrenaline for your players - and make the satisfaction of finally confronting the pair in their lair much sweeter! Note: These are drakes. I want to see intelligent dragons in future adventures: With layered magical defenses, terrain used properly, breath weapon cheap shots and traps galore. Oh, and an escape route - dragons fighting inside where they can't take to air always strikes me as superbly stupid on the reptile's side. /ramble.



Of course, the defeat of the dragons does not mean it's over - the problem with the undead orc between PCs and exit remains and plunderers better be smart...



It should also be noted that DMs get a massive array of further adventures and an appendix is downright awesome: The appendix is essentially a glorious DM-cheat-sheet for fighting in water etc., with tables and the like providing handy lists of modifiers that make running the module essentially go-play easy and possible after one casual read-through - kudos!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a crisp 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with awesome b/w-artwork and even better maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.



Creighton Broadhurst and Fabian Fehrs deliver a glorious module here - where the original module sported a truly smart, challenging, detailed mini-dungeon crawl, this collector's edition takes things one step beyond, providing a massive array of supplemental content that anchors what was before a tactically-interesting module and provides a backdrop that renders the whole presentation more organic and unique. The supplemental content not only diversifies what is there, the sheer level of detail also can add a whole other dimension to the follow-ups; Complications for the module can be easily added via, for example, one less than scrupulous villagers may be a nice potential additional foil for the PCs.



My final verdict for this intelligent module will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - an awesome, superior take on a great module!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dwellers Amid Bones Collector's Edition
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Mini-Dungeon #015: Torment at Torni Tower
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/16/2015 02:44:47
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



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!



Somervel has not been treated kindly by the seasons - its pale forts, somewhat akin to beaver lodges, earthen mounds on islands in the marshlands, have been isolated for quite a while - most of the complex is below ground, with one tower jutting forth from the mound. Torni's tower has fallen to the seasons and when he PCs are sent to investigate the place, they are greeted by a haggard female - but that's just the beginning of the trouble. Turns out the female is a disguised annis hag who not only single-handedly (or better clawedly) took the fortress and slaughtered its inhabitants, she also makes off to rouse her ogre minions, some of which in states of drunkenness (which is accounted for by the mini-dungeon!) and prepare her detailed and rather awesome tactics - she for example collects stirges in a bag to throw at the PCs. What about speaking tubes? Yeah, smart! So, the presentation provides the roster of inhabitants, the rooms and the tactics of the annis hag - all in all, providing a surprisingly awesome and best of all, organic mini-dungeon against foes with unique tactics and in a distinct backdrop.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf provides a nice piece of full-color artwork.



Stephen Yeardley does it again - this mini-dungeon is inspired, cool and does everything right: From an awesome, unique locale to smart adversaries and a surprising amount of fluff crammed into the scant few pages, this mini-dungeon is concise, logical ad downright awesome - no complaints and one of the high points of the series - well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #015: Torment at Torni Tower
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13th Age Core Book
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2015 04:23:17
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Disclaimer: I received the hardcover for 13th Age for the purposes of writing an unbiased, critical review. This following review reflects my endeavor to do so. The review is based on the hardcover of the 320 page book – I do not own the Pdf, so I can’t comment on that format. In order to review this book, I have playtested this system, though I did so with the expansion 13 True Ways as well – when appropriate, I will comment on that and yes, said book’s review is coming soon as well.



Without further ado – this is a d20-based system and as such, you will see a lot of familiar AND unfamiliar ground. The basics of a character are the 6 attributes we all know and their modifiers are still calculated by subtracting 10 and then dividing the resulting number by 2. The similarities continue with the action types – standard and move actions, free actions – those retain their nomenclature. Quick actions correspond to swift actions and certain classes can use 1 interrupt action per round, even when it’s not their turn – a better nomenclature and more streamlined take for immediate actions, essentially. Action substitution is more transparent than in comparable systems – standard actions can be downgraded to move/quick actions etc. We basically have free downgrading substitution as a design principle regarding action economy. So far, so similar, right? Well, this is about the time the similarities end.



First of all, levels are grouped in 10s, not 20s (or 30s). The levels have a somewhat unnecessary-seeming tier-nomenclature sticking to them as a 4th edition remnant, with champion-tier occupying levels 5-7, epic tier constituting levels 8 -10 and adventurer-tier spanning the lower levels. Tiers are used essentially as a base-line for the upgrading of e.g. feats, racial powers etc. – in higher tiers, the benefits become more pronounced. I wrote “seeming” here, since the tier essentially acts a prerequisite, but more on that later.



Levels are gained as per the requirements of the story, not as per XP, and as a party – whether this is according to your tastes depends on your group, but personally, I enjoy the move away from XP-values – the CR/etc.-systems never worked well in the first place, anyways, so kudos! On the basic mechanics, we receive fixed HP-values, which are modified by con-mod and then multiplied by a fixed value. The base HP-value etc. is governed by the class you belong to. This has two consequences – One, you do not have unlucky (or lucky!) PCs with fewer (or more!) HP than their companions. Two: You pretty much can guess a level and the average toughness of an adversary, since there is no basic variation in the base HP – whether you like or dislike this pretty much boils down to a matter of taste and preference. On the one hand, it does provide a more mathematically secure base-line for balancing, on the other, it makes things a tad more predictable and potentially, a bit more boring.



Races cover the default races we know and expect from a d20-based game, but also provide unconventional races à la aasimar, tiefling, drow, etc. – each race is characterized by a choice of one of 2 attribute bonuses (or more) of +2 and a racial power, which can be used once per battle. The racial powers themselves are pretty unique and drive home the flair of the races. Here, I go on a little tangent – one design decision that is not per se bad, but which I intensely loathe is the concept of ANY power/ability/spell per battle. Since battles constitute a non-defined time-frame, the system demands to be gamed - “Quick, kill the kobold before reinforcements arrive!” I’ve been vocal and ranty about this in the past and I still stand behind this –for me, this breaks immersion in a nasty way, though the issue in 13th Age is less pronounced than in any comparable game, to the point where I consider it tolerable...NOT good - for me as a person, this is a jarring and constant thorn in my side and makes me cringe, but as a reviewer, it's not that bad. Why? Well, for once, the whole system is streamlined more towards constant performance and away from bleeding resources dry. Abilities tend to be grouped in at-will, once/combat and once/day and thus, resource-management à la 3.X or PFRPG is severely de-emphasized.



This is also reflected in two design-decisions – one, there are healing surges, here called recovery. While based on your level and class (thus ranging from d6 to d10), they are limited. You usually begin with 8 recoveries and can execute a so-called rally as a standard action – this allows the character to rally his/her reserves and receive the recovery/healing. On an 11+, the character can rally again in that combat. Oh yeah, haven’t mentioned that before – quite a few limited abilities can be executed more often per battle if luck is on the player’s side. The save required for tasks like this is an unmodified d20. While this makes battles more dynamic, it also provides an avenue for lady luck that is pretty hefty. The strategic decisions and action gained from this should not be underestimated – each recovery can literally be your last. If you’re like me and belong into the camp of people who do NOT consider hit points a representation of fighting spirit, the book does suggest as an alternative to drop recovery/rallies – and yes, this is theoretically possible, but only theoretically. Why? Because healing potions and numerous other mechanics also tap into recoveries as a resource and influence it. In my games, though, experimenting with stripping rally/recoveries away did provide somewhat of an issue – but I’ll get back to that.



Before I went on the recovery-tangent, I mentioned two factors that make the per-battle-mechanics imho work slightly better – the second one would be “healing up” – separated from the traditional 8 hours of rest, recovery of most class-related tricks is no longer tied to a fixed time-frame, but rather to the DM’s judgment. While the suggested array of combats before leveling and healing up respectively felt pretty paltry to me, no one stops the DM from making the game more difficult. I absolutely applaud this countermeasure against the 4.5-encounter/8-minute adventuring-day, but I wished the book had been a tad bit more precise in the base guidelines of when to allow for healing up for groups with different capabilities, if only to avoid conflicting expectations between the DM and players. Not a bad thing, mind you – just a nitpick.



Now where there’s healing, there are defenses – three, in this case. Beyond AC, we also receive MD and PD – mental and physical defense. Each class has a value for these, modified by one value – the AC-modifier, PD modifier and MD modifier, respectively. To determine these, you take a look at 3 of your attributes (Con, Dex and Wis for AC, for example) and ignore the highest and lowest of the three attribute modifiers – the middle one, you add to the value. The values increase by +1 every level. Initiative is still governed only by Dex and also receives further bonuses with the levels gained. I *really* like this concise and easy-to-grasp distinction between different defenses. Especially, since the stacking system is pretty much a no-brainer in its simplicity.



What do I mean by that? Well, essentially, only the highest bonus applies. Same goes for negative conditions. Worst one supersedes other penalties. Ongoing damage stacks – you can burn a little or burn much, be poisoned a little or be poisoned like crazy – these components should elicit grins from every DM who had to witness high-level PCs actually creating full-blown buff-suites (with crazy performance-increases) to speed up game-play – my last 3.X-campaign before switching to PFRPG had one particular insane one that required a spread-sheet. Now while my players love this kind of complexity and engine-tinkering, the simplicity and elegance of the mechanics herein deserve accolades and are absolutely something I wholeheartedly endorse, especially for groups that derive no joy from engine-mastery.



A elegant similar simplicity also can be applied to the damage-types, which cover elemental damage types, negative energy, etc. Resistance and vulnerability also work differently – vulnerability renders the target more prone to being crited, whereas resistance equals half damage, unless the natural d20 roll was higher than e.g. 12+ or even 18+. So yeah, elegant simplicity here as well, not much chances to use tricks and scale up elemental nigh invulnerabilities – which is both a blessing for some and a curse for others. This brings me to the notion of damage as such – weapon damage, for example, has no descriptor – the system does not differentiate between the damage caused by a massive hammer or by an arrow. Whether you like that or not, once again, is up to your personal tastes - I get the rationale, but I really dislike it as a person. Damage calculation is pretty simple and one of the reasons martials and casters are pretty balanced in 13th Age. Damage rolls add an ability modifier and usually see a multiplication – the base weapon damage is multiplied at higher levels. A 1st level fighter wielding a longsword may e.g. deal 1d8 + Str-mod. However, a 4th level fighter would instead deal 4d8+ Str-mod damage with the same weapon. The modifiers are also increased – upon reaching champion-tier, the characters add twice the modifier, thrice upon reaching epic tier. It should be noted that the progression of e.g. weapon-damage is very much class-specific and even weapon damage dice and properties lose some importance – you require less capability/rules-oomph from the weapon if most comes from your PC anyway. The awesome result of this would be a de-emphasis on equipment and a diminished Christmas-tree-syndrome - two thumbs up for that!



Another design-tenet that is reflected and deserves accolades in my book is the notion of “failing forward” – while this is mirrored in how quite a few mechanics are run and in the assumptions regarding the reactions of the DM, one can see it particularly well with melee miss damage. Whereas ranged attacks tend to just miss, melee attacks can deal damage in spite of missing – though considerably less. This can be considered a rather interesting way of balancing the two against another – the increased risk of melee is balanced against a more reliable damage output. Where’s damage, there is bound to be death and indeed, death exists in 13th Age, though only in the most subdued of notions – for one, 7th Sea’s rule of death-only-by-named-NPCs is suggested. (And yes, I uttered an “URGH” while reading that…)



You’re down at 0 Hp, you die upon reaching negative HP equal to half maximum HP. When down, you make death saves (16+) to use recoveries – however, upon the 4th failed death save in a single battle, you die. While the playtest did show that this remains a distinct possibility, it also provides quite a few chances to cheat the reaper. Save-or-suck abilities also offer ONE 16+ save to avoid becoming helpless – upon failing that, a character is restricted to making more of these saves and once again, 4 failed saves mean that whatever unfortunate condition befell you, now hits full force – whether that be paralysis, petrification etc. On the one hand, this does mean that save-or-suck is less of an issue, since statistically, you ought to make one of those saves. On the other hand, this makes abilities like that pretty much less frightening, the game less dangerous. Whether one enjoys this or not, ultimately is up to the respective group, though tinkering with this system is pretty easy and less saves etc. for a more lethal game can easily be implemented. A popular low level save-or-suck-trick, fear, is now based on the hp of the target to be frightened – which makes sense to me. Speaking of “making sense to me” – resurrection and death are things NOT to be trifled with. Each character capable of the feat can resurrect exactly 5 times, with progressively worse repercussions for the caster and the target and final death for the caster looming beyond he last cast. This renders death meaningful and makes casters of that particular miracle a much-sought commodity- story-threads and narrative potential abound. I love it!



Over all, the total impression, which proved to be true, is that combat with this system is somewhat more predictable than with similar d20-based systems – which, of course makes balancing easier. Another rule that rigs the game in favor of the PCs would be the escalation die – in the second round of combat, the die is turned to the 1 – and all PCs receive +1 to attack rolls. This increases by +1 every round, up to +6. Monsters usually do not utilize the escalation die and special attacks and circumstances may decrease the die. Other abilities require a minimum number on the escalation die, while certain spells and effects require an even number on it. Why is the escalation die important? Well, because an attack is executed via d20+level+ability bonus+ magic item. And remember, only 10 levels. This means that either magic item bonuses become exceedingly important, or that AC/PD/MD cap at pretty low levels. And indeed – Balors clock in at AC 29, Red Dragons at 28, with the latter also sporting an MD of 23 and a PD of 27. Notice something? You don’t have to be a genius to realize that hitting these guys is not that hard, even sans the escalation die.



What does this mean? Well, much like comparable d20-based systems, we have an emphasis on relatively short, burst-like battles – attack capacity usually outclasses defensive capacity. Before I forget that later, I feel obliged to mention another factoid that DMs might want to be aware of – the way monsters work. Much like in the CR-system, we are provided with a mechanic to judge how to balance encounters, but this time around, the monster type influences how that works. No, I’m not talking about their race, but rather a grouping into e.g. mooks etc. - not a fan of that, but again, a personal preference, nothing I’d fault the game for. The damage monsters deal is not a regular throw of the dice – rather than that, they deal fixed values of damage with attacks and abilities. This cruise-control DMing considerably speeds up gameplay, yes. On the other hand, much like in other current systems, I was missing something as a DM. I enjoy the elation of the dice, the dread of players seeing me lift a hand full of dice to represent a dragon’s breath about to hit them. I’m aware that my insistence on rolling for monsters slows the game, but it is also a significant source of joy (and excitement) for me and to a lesser extent, my players. 13th Age streamlines that away and makes running the encounters faster, and in my opinion, significantly less exciting for the DM and also more predictable. And yeah, some monsters receive additional attacks/tricks based on the number you rolled on hits and misses – don't get me wrong, there is excitement to be had here as well. But personally, running the combats on the DM’s side felt less exciting to me. But also significantly faster. Which you prefer, once again, boils down to a matter of taste.



A remnant of 4th edition I particularly LOATHED was the bloodied condition – which now also exists as the staggered condition. However, like many other components I do not enjoy that much from the design elements of 4th edition, it has been improved - it is now subservient to the needs of the story. We no longer have a fixed, semi-arbitrarily defined value, but rather a general recommendation on when to consider a creature staggered. There is one particular notion I did really enjoy and feel I should emphasize– the “nastier” specials. These can be considered optional tricks for the monsters to unleash upon the PCs; they are additional, more lethal signature abilities. They are great. First, they let you easily set elites apart. Secondly, they help setting creatures further apart from another by providing signature tricks. And third, much like applying mythic rules to your bosses, they can be considered a kind of “hard(er) mode” for the monsters, one you can tackle on the fly. Nice! While not all creatures receive nastier-tricks, the very notion is something near and dear to me.



I’ve often mentioned the words “4th edition” in this review and for a reason. My intense dislike for 4th edition is no secret. I hate just about all of its design-decisions. However, surprisingly, I found myself almost unanimously less (or not at all!) annoyed by 13th Age’s adaptations of these concepts, mainly due to the changed focus towards a roleplaying game, away from the miniature focus. This is particularly well-represented in what may be one of things I love most about this book. Combat, distances etc. are no longer tier to a particular grid, a particular range, but rather handled in an abstract relation from one another, which still provides concise terminology for what amounts to AoOs, engagement etc. – essentially, you do not need a battlemap for this game and it dauntingly, courageously ignores the tendency for miniature-style tactical movement etc. While, in the long run, this does reduce the amount of options and tactics one can employ, it is also a step towards a focus that is more centered on the narrative potential of a storyline. Even if you do not like the overall of 13th Age-rules, this particular section can easily be pilfered for just about any d20-game. I know I’ll be prone to use it when I don’t have the time to draw complex arenas spanning multiple battlemaps… So yeah, triumphant and damn cool, especially if you do not like the complex AoO/melee/(dis-) engagement rules of similar d20-based systems.



The skill-system, on the other hand, is the ONE component where I absolutely and positively LOATHE 13th Age and can’t bring myself to saying anything positive about it– you receive 8 points upon character generation and more can be gained by certain classes. You assign these points towards backgrounds (like “Imperial Assassin”, “Cat Burglar”, etc.) and roll d20+attribute+ranks versus the environmental DC required, while explaining how your training in xyz helped you with that. URGH. First, there is not much growth potential here. Secondly, this smells of FATE’s issues. Don’t get me wrong, I *like* highly narrative rules that put an emphasis on collective story-telling, where backgrounds and capabilities aren’t carved in stone – I adore Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, for example. However, whenever an RPG-system essentially tells me that a whole, central mechanic is based on BSing the DM in how a particular, phrased (as ambiguous as possible) background/character trait/whatever applies to a given situation, I’m prone to rage-quitting. This already applies in tighter skill systems – this one is BASED on it. And yes, I know the counter-arguments and the samples make it look enticing. In practice, it sooner or later boils down to “Can I BS the DM?” vs. “Should I let the players BS me like this?” – and that is not good game-design in my book. You are, of course, free to have an opposing opinion, but this is pretty much the reason I don't like FATE and I hate its implementation on a smaller scale herein as well. (As a footnote, the further de-emphasis on languages etc., while still represented in the rules, also kind of rubs me the wrong way, but that pales before aforementioned issue.) So yeah, I really, really dislike the skill-"system". To the point where it is the one component of the whole system I just can't get myself to draw any kind of fun from. The one positive thing I can say about the skill system is that its default assumption is that a failure can have negative repercussions, while still yielding results – nowhere near as sophisticated as in the GUMSHOE-system, of course, but still. Here, the design-tenet of forward failure somewhat works.



Feats have also been streamlined in a rather interesting way – you’ll only find a hand full of general feats – the majority is class-specific. Furthermore, there’s a feat every level…and the prerequisites boil down to class + tier and the d’unh-level pereq that you need to have a particular talent/power to modify it with a feat. Champion tier feats require champion level, epic tier feats epic levels. One feat is gained per level. Simple, concise, no dead levels. A handy table lists the feats and class feats can be found in the entry of the class – simple and elegant…though future expansions should be weary of retaining this ordered structure to avoid the feat-look-up-halt. The feats themselves provide a pretty awesome simplicity that is rather elegant – take reach trick. If you wield a weapon with reach, you can make a reach stunt, with a save of 6+. That’s it. Halberd for pole-jumping? Swiping foes off their feat? Impaling foes? One mechanic, easily modified by the DM. Depending on your own preferences, this design may elicit screams of joy or groans, especially if, as a DM, you’re not confident with complex rules-decisions. While this streamlines the rules required, it also places a burden on the DM to remember past judgments regarding stunts for fairness' sake. As much as I hate the skill-system, the feats per se and how they’re gained feels pretty nice and fluid to me – in game, the constant progression ensured that each level felt sufficiently different.



Now speaking of classes – usually, I’d give you a break-down of how each class works. However, in the case of this particular review, that would bloat it even more, so in order to maintain at least a semblance of cohesion, I’ll only be touching upon certain things. First – yes, all the classes you’d expect can be found herein, with the exception of monk and druid, which can be found in the imho required 13 True Ways-expansion. Speaking of which – said expansion also revises/expands the slightly problematic base animal companion rules provided herein, so rangers in particular should definitely check out the druid-entry in said book. I’d encourage DMs to apply the limitations and clarifications introduced therein for the ranger as well. Retraining class components is an option that is generally pretty easy to accomplish via these rules. Base Hp range from 6 – 8, base AC from 10 -16 and base physical and mental defense range from 10 – 12. Recovery dice, as mentioned before, range from d6 –d10 per level. The classes themselves require different levels of player-skill, mainly since they play radically different, but overall, none of them should overexert any veteran of 3.X, PFRPG or similar, complex systems. It should also be noted that classes also entail attribute bonuses and e.g. selecting whether melee is governed by Str or Dex and similar choices all have been streamlined into the classes themselves.



Now where the classes, much like those of 4th edition, succeed admirably, is with the general balancing among themselves – not only do they play differently, they do sport numerous, different mechanics – rogues, for example, require a resource called momentum, which they build up and expend over the course of combat. Said resource rewards movement, tactical, surgical strikes etc. – and just is fun. Alas, there is a downside to this balancing, namely that the classes, on their own, do not sport that many choices – talents and the like are anything but copious and you’ll soon stumble across yet another member of class xyz that has exactly the same tricks up his/her sleeve. I may be spoiled by PFRPG, but that rubs me the wrong way and is another reason I'd wholeheartedly endorse you getting as many expansions as possible. Still, once again, while this is a flaw for me, for you it could be a feature.



There are some class features I’m not a fan of – the sorcerer, for example, can spend actions to gather power for minor buffs, unleashing the full spell slower, but more powerful later. This feels to MMORPG-y to me. The ability acknowledges that, apart from the situations where you need a quick spell, it almost universally means that gathering power (and being bored) for one round is the smarter decision. The book flat out states this, but tries to mitigate it via aforementioned argument – which is not valid in my book. When essentially doing nothing/ damage on a level that can be neglected to staggered foes only constitutes a smart move for a class, the goal of “doing something cool/useful/etc.” is not reached. My players got immensely frustrated with the mechanic. On the other side, the wizard-class has one damn stroke of sheer genius – Vance’s polysyllabic verbalizations. Step 1: Invent unique, verbose names for your spells. Step 2: Slightly prolong casting time and proudly declare your magic’s name. Step 3: The spell happens with a non-defined, circumstantial, unpredictable new effect determined by you and the DM. This is an utterly awesome narrative idea and perhaps the coolest rendition of the concept of Spell Thematics I’ve seen so far (in any system that’s not Ars Magica) – and I’m SO stealing it for my games! The relatively easy to grasp and concise magic item rules that do not succumb to the Christmas tree syndrome and does sport suggestions and rules for magic item-death/destruction should also be considered one of the definite plusses of the system.



That being said, if you expect hundreds of pages of spells and choices upon choices, I’ll have to disappoint you – the classes and spell-lists are just as restrictive as the choices of talents. Personally, I also am not a big fan of magic’s neutering in the name of balance – for short durations and the export of longer powers to the wibbly-wobbly concept of out-of-combat rituals make magic feel NOT like the force of unbridled creativity, but rather like a narrowly codified field – again, much like one can see in MMORPGs - which is odd, considering how stunts and cool martial arts-tricks have been so widely opened.



Which brings me to the example, where the at times slightly schizoid duality of 13th Age’s rules becomes readily apparent. And no, I’m not talking about the opinionated differences between the authors and the constant addressing of the reader via them. On the one hand, 13th Age very much enforces the idea of story-telling, of creativity trumping rules. Of easier and streamlined gameplay. And it succeeds in that regard. At the same time, though, stunts with weapons and acrobatics and the like remain relatively ill-defined and leave you hanging in the air without much clues. Similarly, it neuters magic down to a power-source, which, in the narrative frame, can do just about anything – unless it’s in the hands of any character/actual gameplay, when it suddenly adheres to the restrictive array provided for the respective classes.



In no other component is this duality as pronounced as in the Icons. The Icons represent both a central mechanic and a unique selling point of the implicit setting. Instead of named divinities or movers and shakers like Tar-Baphon, Strahd or Elminster, we have these titles – the icons represent essentially very dualistic demigod-level movers and shakers, which keep the world in a kind of equilibrium. Liked Dancer from the Malazan Book of the Fallen? Well, there’s The Prince of Shadows for you. There is The Lich-King. The Diabolist. The Dwarf-King. The Queen of Elves. The Priestess. You get the idea. These all but archetypical beings govern pretty much the fate of the world and your PCs receive relationship points with them. These points represent a dice each and are rolled at the beginning of a session or its end, influencing what happens in a positive way on a 6 on a d6, in one that has a downside on a 5. This requires some serious improvisation-skills on parts of the DM, but also ties the players to the world and its powerful beings – perhaps via the one unique thing you chose at character creation that sets you apart. (A good idea, imho, though the examples partially had me cringe…)



So what’s my beef with these archetypes (term used in the traditional, non-3.X/PFRPG-way)? Generally, I love their concepts – the Archmage that tries to domesticate the nature of the WORLD with magic and his weather-control-towers, arcano-science par excellence, versus e.g. the High Druid's rise of the wild and savage - that can make for great narrative twists. The way in which they influence the setting can also be considered genius: How cool is the notion of an entire OCEAN being mad at anything remotely resembling civilization? What about the rather nasty Crusader, who seeks to close hellholes and erect strongholds there – everyone is glad he battles the demonic incursions and prays he doesn’t turn his ambition elsewhere. These icons are firmly tied in with the world – which makes transporting them to another setting problematic. Furthermore, they at once want to facilitate story-telling by being opaque, while also having pretty clear agendas – and I get why. But, even when taking the setting-information( with its partially downright inspired world-building) into account, they, as characters, remain bland cardboard cutouts. They are tropes. The empire, whose health reflects the emperor? Warhammer 40K minus grit, anyone?

As much as I loved the small tidbits interspersed through the setting-information, the icons left me terribly bored. They don’t know whether they want to be story-facilitators or actual characters. No names, no history, no tradition. This, to my knowledge, ought to be the rule-book with a short gazetteer on the implied word, but the interconnections between the fluff and crunch here can provide a significant detriment towards the storytelling should choose to not utilize the default setting. What if I wanted to use 13th Age-rules with Dark Sun? Ravenloft? Midgard? Golarion? I’d have to find substitutes, refurbish them and, bafflingly, there is no advice for that here.



The setting, the world, does sport several glorious tidbits – like dwarven coins being stackable and quadratic and similar absolutely awesome ideas that had me grin from ear to ear. At the same time, box upon box tells me that xyz (for example, issues with language interaction) is not fun or can be neglected. And quite often, at least in the fluff-department, I caught myself thinking “NO, that is NOT something that can be neglected!”. You may not mind, I did. This does not make the book bad, but it also points towards one thing I’ll further elaborate in the conclusion.



The book does feature an excellent glossary and index and a starter module – and said module is by far, no matter where you stand on each individual rules-decision, the weakest part of the book.



SPOILERS

PCs arrive at Archmage’s control tower (not mapped), interact with people (no read-aloud boxes), go forth, kill a bunch of goblins, find a massacre, realize there’s a traitor in the tower, get back and KILL A WOUNDED DRAGON. At level 1. Urgh. I’m aware that this is a personal gripe, but I hate, hate, hate level 1-dragonkilling. Even if the dragon is wounded. It just feels terribly wrong to me and takes away what should be a climactic moment and waters it down. "Oh yeah, dragon killing? Pf, did that at first level..." Traitor may or may not escape. That’s it. Nigh no meaningful choices to be made, no cool twist, interesting combat-influences or fluxes and it contributes to the disposable dragon syndrome. Boring and bland – apart from the backdrop of the tower, nothing good here. My players were terribly bored with this as well.

/SPOILERS



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the book comes on nice, glossy paper with great artworks. Alas, the monsters in the monster-section do not receive fluff or proper visual representations apart from some glyph-like representations and a couple of mugshots for demons. The organization of the rules is pretty concise and the cartography is glorious.



Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet are both talented designers that have created a highly functional game here. 13th Age is imho the game 4th edition tried to be and superior to it. However, at least in my opinion, it is not the end-all super-system it’s hyped up to be. Beyond personal preferences, the system as such suffers from the issues with its adaptability and versatility, at least in direct comparison. In 3.X or PFRPG I can easily rip bits and pieces out of context, scavenge parts. In 13th Age, this is significantly harder and while it generates the impression that it is as customizable, it’s not. The book behaves as if taking away recoveries were a valid choice, when playtest pretty much showed that this is not the case – these is too much highly likely/unavoidable damage to take the component out and the numerous connections make scavenging hard – which becomes problematic with the icons. Yes, they can be extracted, changed, etc., but if you take their impact on the world away, you have to change their agendas and the same goes for the establishment of new icons. And this reflects the rules-aesthetic of a lot of rules herein. Change one part, change a lot.



The icons also have another impact – they, along the shorter level-progression, point you towards a particular playstyle. One with significant consequences from the get-go. While I’m not saying that this is bad, I can’t really picture the rules of 13th Age properly supporting more subdued gameplay, darker and grittier narratives or truly long campaigns or ones that take the PCs from sucker to super-hero. The quicker escalation of character development via relationship rules, fast level-up suggestions etc. all point towards the system being geared primarily for short, intense and distinctly high-magic campaigns. That’s not bad, mind you – the system does its own style of campaign very well. But in other contexts, it is not that smooth.



What do I mean by this? I’m going to say something that contradicts just about every review of 13th Age I’ve read: I think this system is simple.

It is not an “advanced” system – it is very easy to grasp and, had the rule-book included a tighter introduction for new players, more basic explanations for concepts, I’d praise this as a great beginner’s d20-RPG. It is really a pretty simple game, as far as anything d20-based is concerned.

The rules are easy, the math simple, there is not much to be overwhelmed by. The danger the PCs face is subdued as well – I’ve scarcely seen a d20-game with some many failsafes that ensure a precious PC doesn’t bite the dust, in spite of the limit on resurrection. This is a very player-friendly RPG – if CoC is Dark Souls, 13th Age is more like WoW. This is NOT meant as a barb, but rather as an observation. If impending doom, omnipresent threats, old-school level gameplay, harsh, unrelenting difficulty and overcoming the odds is what you’re looking for, then 13th Age may not be for you – this game is pretty much rigged in favor of your PCs. If you want a vast plethora of selections at your disposal, significant variety within each class and rewards for optimization, then there are better systems out there - though that changes with the addition of more supplements.



13th Age excels in its chosen field, though – for short-burst, combat-centric high-fantasy campaigns in the very much captivating setting with its neat ideas, it provided more fun in my playtests than 4th edition ever accomplished. Research et al. is something better left to GUMSHOE, as are most skill-based interactions, so yes, the central issue of the rules is and remains the implied playstyle the book enforces. The step towards a narrative focus is great, but it is kept from reaching its full realization by aforementioned choices of, paradoxically, not emphasizing the rules required for complex non-combat scenarios.



Now, I feel obliged to mention one more bit – this book is interspersed with designer’s comments and suggestions. More often than not, they oscillate between extremes and I do like the option for every DM to choose from a design philosophy/opinion and adhere to it. However, at least partially, I considered these segments (said, often casual, voice(s) also can be found in the rules-text where they do *not* belong) belittling and sometimes, grating. Most of the time, I didn’t mind, but one of my players was extremely annoyed by this tendency to the point where he (usually one of my rules-savvy guys who truly enjoys reading the rules) told the table to give him the quick run-down, since it annoyed him to the extent where he didn’t want to read on. One man’s bug is another man’s feature, I guess. Personally, I would have enjoyed less opinion, more options here - and especially, less judging. What one person may not consider fun, another does and I honestly was annoyed at some boxes stating that some fixtures in my tables were "not fun."



In the end, 13th Age is a very player-friendly roleplaying game with some hints of greatness and cool ideas, but also one that is bound to polarize. Would I exchange PFRPG’s complexity and class-power-asymmetry for 13th Age’s quick and streamlined cruise-control DMing and balance? No. Because I *like* a lot of the things this book changes and dismisses as “not fun”– I like fragile first level PCs and casters. I like extremely complex high-level encounters. I like rolling monster-dice. I prefer my movers and shakers named and well-defined, my skills set in stone. I love optimization-tricks, a nigh-infinite array of options for each character. The bugs this book eliminates, in one sentence, are, alas, often my features, the things I look for in a roleplaying game. Now, before you loyal 13th Age fans out there get the pitchforks ready – I still consider this a good and more importantly, FUN, game and one that does A LOT right -from the quick engagement rules to the balancing of martials and ranged vs. melee, this has a plethora of cool food for thought for any DM of a d20-based system, whether one elects to use 13th Age as a system or not. While, as a person, it hits many of the notes of game-design I do NOT necessarily look for (I love e.g. Dark Souls, dislike just about every “easy” RPG, including MMORPGs), as a reviewer and aesthete, I really could appreciate the streamlined elegance of a lot of the choices that went into this system and for certain types of games, I will use this.



Furthermore, let me make that very explicit, there are quiet a bunch of rules I love and will scavenge and retool for my own games and as a system; for what it tries to do, 13th Age tends to succeed at. Had this been 4th edition, I probably wouldn’t have looked for PFRPG in the first place. Its elegance, streamlined and fast gameplay, the very undemanding, easy, low-preparation DMing, the concise rules – all that are signs of a good game and you may very well consider that fixed HP-values, less fluctuations in power and no-damage-rolling on the DM’s side glorious and I get why. This game system is a good system. It just isn’t as versatile as I prefer it to be and not 100% made for the playstyle I prefer.



Still, I will, once in a while, crank out this system and use it. But I can’t consider this book, as a stand-alone publication, more than good, can’t bring myself to consider it great. There are too many things I can’t do with the basic rules, there is not enough variety within the base classes and magic to keep my interest long-term without significant expansion. Note that all of this pertains to the Core-book as an isolated entity - I do not compare this to an established system with x books, but only to the variety it offers as a stand-alone book when compared to similar systems.



One more thing some reviewers have observed, would be a so-called HP-bloat. This is bogus. Since the damage PCs inflict scales up quite massively (and more reliably than in 3.X and PFRPG), my own playtest experience was that most combats did not pass the 3rd or 4th round. I only reached the 6th round once in the playtests I ran (with a rigged encounter specifically designed to last long) and my math supports this impression. So in that regard, 13th Age is absolved in my book. Indeed, in my experience, monsters tended to fall pretty swiftly to the PC’s onslaught.



How to rate this, then? As mentioned above, grognards and fans of brutally hard roleplaying and hardcore rules-fetishists and complexity-advocates may want to steer clear; conversely, newcomers with a veteran who can help explain the rules, people fed up with extreme optimization, groups that loathe frequent PC-death, people hoping for a streamlined D&D 4.75, people looking for symmetrical class balancing and 4th edition fans who wish for a return to a more character-story-driven gameplay should definitely consider picking up 13th Age. For you all, this game was made and I think, you will not rue getting it and draw a lot of joy from these pages.



Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – a good roleplaying system for what it tries to do and its target demographic.



P.s.: And yes, the PFRPG Core-rules wouldn’t score higher – invert most of my criticisms of 13th Age and you have what I’d have to say about that book as an isolated entity. ;)

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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The Ironclad - A Tinker Archetype
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2015 04:21:48
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The Ironclad archetype gets 3/4 BAB-progression, invention levels that scale up to 6th and a dual blueprint budget, with primary and secondary blueprints being tracked separately, the former beginning with 1 point and scaling up to 20 budget, the latter beginning with 1 point that scales up to 5, 2 known scaling up to 8.



Primary? Yes, this would be a blueprint with a schematic that contains class level (if you haven't gleaned that from the above) BP. Secondary blueprints are limited in that the number of inventions it can contain is equal to or less than 2, with said limit increasing by +1 at 3rd levels and every 3 levels thereafter. Not that hard, right?



1st level also sees the Suit up ability - essentially, this is the Ironman-archetype for the tinker - suiting up and exiting the suit are full-round actions that provoke AoOs, though only the ironclad can suit up and reentering a suit is not possible. Suiting up nets you 2 x class level temporary hit points. The suit can have any combination of primary and secondary blueprints, which means that the primary blueprints provide the basic array for the suit, with the secondary ones providing modification-suites.



An ironclad may suit up once at 1st level +1/day at 2nd level +1/day every 3 levels thereafter. Since the suit is physical only, skill rank-granting or class skill-granting inventions have no effect. Non-design-inventions that grant untyped bonuses instead grant enhancement bonuses, making synergy with magic items work properly and prevent abuse. Inventions that repair damage instead grant half the benefit as temporary hit points to the ironclad's hit points.



Cockpits and its follow-ups don't work, but saddle can be applied to an Ironclad's suit, allowing other creatures to hitch a ride. Inventions that net proficiencies do not provide weapons - unlike automata, though, the suit allows for the wearing of magical items, though not ones that require line of sight to the target of the magic item to work: Obviously, a ring can't emit a blast of fire, when a sheet of metal is in the way. Conversely, no delicate manipulations can be made to activate the like.



If an ironclad has a feat an invention grants, then the ironclad may prepare suit blueprints as though that invention were already present, thus allowing you to save on BP-cost, with similarly a suit granting such a feat can be considered sufficient for the purposes of feats and similar prereqs, though sans the suit, the ironclad obviously can't utilize a feat based on one the suit grants. Conversely, such a ruling applies to equipment and physiology. Obviously, an ironlcad does not need to give directives to his suit, instead counting as though the invention use were an alpha, with the exception of counting as a tinker for purposes of reloading inventions with compartments. Additional deploy automata-grants instead apply to additional suit-uses. The ironclade pay for this with his regular automata, but not with his alpha.



Innovations and their greater ilk do not modify standard automata or blueprints and instead modify the ironclad while within the suit or the suit blueprints, respectively - but since he needs no directives, an ironclad obviously cannot learn more of them and he obviously cannot learn to deploy new kinds of automata or directives. HD of the suit are not modified by choosing innovations that modify the HD of regular automata, instead gaining twice that many temporary hit points.



*takes a deep breath* So that would be the primary set-up of this archetype; now if you end up slightly confused by the set-up provided here and its interaction with primary/secondary blueprints, you should take a look at the array of new innovations provided - here, we have interactions with the secondary blueprints influencing the capabilities of the ironclad - for example in the guise of extra ammunition. beyond those, boosted reflexes, more HP etc. make sense. On a nitpicky side, the innovation that nets DR 3/- should specify that the DR is only granted when receiving temporary hit points from the suit, not "Whenever you have temporary hit points." The innovations allow for a painful overheating (akin to kamikaze with no save for the ironclad, but no instant-death) and also alternate acid blasts - and you may activate an ejector seat at higher levels. Alas, I'm not sure how much damage a hurled ironclad deals to targets subjected to such an ejected ironclad.



At higher levels, ironclad can include inventions with the Alpha-descriptor in this suit and the greater innovations allow for a means to burn suit uses to refresh suit HP to prevent having to execute suit-changes mid-battle. Retrieval of items when inside the suit, weapon mount attacks as off-hand additions to full attacks with ranged weapons can also be executed - interesting, though quite situational, would be the option o send ray that exactly hit your armor back at the original source of the ray.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not as tight as in most Interjection Games-releases - beyond the above, I noticed a bolding glitch, for example. Layout adheres to IG's crisp two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but does not require them at this length. The pdf does not sport artworks.



Bradley Crouch's Tinker Expansions are a ridiculous amount of work for such short pdfs. No, seriously - it takes me longer to review these cool, complex expansions than to analyze pdfs with 10 times the pages. The concepts are complex, the options unique and awesome - and this is no different. Now, I do think the ironclad can benefit from some streamlining - while the exceedingly complex suit works well in practice and actually manages to completely rewire the tinker's rules-corset (in an exceedingly impressive feat, design-wise!) to work in a completely different way, the presentation could be slightly more concise: beyond the aforementioned hiccups, I think the primary/secondary blueprints and the cap for the suit could have benefited from a more explicit explanation.



Playtest also did show that the HP-increase of the suit could have used some extended defensive capacity to make up for the action economy loss due to no regular automatons and, more importantly, the more focused heat the tinker thus necessarily receives. The HP-increasing should be available for multiple, increasing iterations, be stacking or have some upgrades - remember, the suit is essentially like an automaton and as such, pretty fragile. That being said, this has, at least as far as my tests went, provided a huge bunch of interesting options and the customization of suits is glorious, especially with the massive expansions out there. This is probably as close to being a full-blown, playable ironman you'll get with PFRPG. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at a solid 4 stars - a good, interesting and versatile archetype with some minor rough edges that do not significantly detract from the awesomeness of the concept.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ironclad - A Tinker Archetype
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: Nature Warden
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2015 04:18:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



This time around, we take a look at the Nature Warden, who gets d10, full BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light and medium armor as well as shields. They do have a prohibition against wearing metal armor and non-wooden shields. At 4th level, they receive Wis-based prepared divine spellcasting drawn from the druid or ranger lists. On the nitpicky side, I would have enjoyed a note here that specifies whether a nature warden uses the higher or lower spell-level if a spell is e.g. spell level druid 2/ranger 1 - I'm aware of the convention using the lower, but since there are exceptions, I still would have appreciated a note here.



Nature Wardens, as based on the ranger-chassis, obviously receive full favored enemy progression. 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter receives favored terrain choices. The nature warden receives an animal companion that shares these two from the get-go and at the full potency of the druid, as opposed to the ranger's hunter' bond class feature. At 3rd level, the favored terrain bonus is added to AC as an insight bonus.



Natural empathy is also among the class features the nature warden begins play with. 2nd level nature wardens receive at will speak with animals while in favored terrain, 1/day outside it - here, the rules could have been slightly more elegant, seeing hw favored terrain is only gained at 3rd level, rendering the ability limited to 1/day at 2nd level - but this is a pretty much irrelevant design aesthetic complaint. Speak with Plants is gained at 15th level with a similar mechanic based on terrain. On the plus-side, wild stride, a non-plant-based woodland stride in favored terrain provides a nice option and at 7th level, aptly put into the class's progression.



The animal companion treats attacks as silver at 6th level, a benefit that also extends to all creatures summoned via summon nature's ally-spells. The cold-iron-based variant, Ironpaw, is relegated to 18th level, which is pretty far down the line. Survivalist, which allows for the examination of tools to treat them as masterwork, comes at 9th level alongside evasion. Almost classically by now, we get quarry at 11th level and camouflage at 12th. In an interesting decision, both guarded lands and woodforging come at the same level, 14th to be precise.



The higher levels provide improved evasion, hide in plain sight, improved quarry and companion soul as a capstone.



The class comes with favored class options for the core-races, most of which focus on the animal companion. The pdf also sports sample builds at 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th level - here, a cool layout decision has been implemented -arrows conveniently show when a new statblock begins - relevant, since the sample stats come with animal companions. It should also be mentioned that the pdf's sample NPC comes with excessive prose, which does feature some nice turns of phrases that had me chuckle - "pure-bred half-orc"? Yeah, kind of funny!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and has seen some streamlining - from font use to markers, the layout has been improved, so kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.



Carl Cramér's nature warden can be pretty much considered to be a variant ranger with a focus on the animal as opposed to combat style - more of an animal handler, essentially. Now I consider the base PrC on which this is based pretty much rubbish - the abilities are all over the place and are gained at points where their usefulness is limited and/or gone. The good news, then, would be that this WPA does some things right in the dispersal of abilities over the levels. Now full BAB + full companion means that, at 1st level, nature wardens with their companions will be pretty damn strong, but this levels out at later stages in game - when the class, at least in my opinion, could have used one thing more than anything other - new abilities.



Yes, I am aware that this is not the design-goal of this series, but hear me out: The nature warden as a PrC lacks a distinct identity beyond the terrain-options. The closest it arguably gets to it would be with the DR/silver and cold iron tricks. Now, much like the PrC, the PA oddly seems to value the latter as much more valuable, when both are considered equal for purposes of objective value in monster design. The high-level abilities of the nature warden feel like they come a bit late to the party, when earlier gains would have put player agenda higher on the table. If this PA is an example of one thing, then that would be that this PrC is in desperate need of more unique tricks. Conversely, first level feels a bit cluttered, with lowest levels being where the nature warden shines most - not to the point of being broken, mind you, but still - the nagging feeling never left me that this PA could have easily reached apex-levels, had it dared to add more unique options for the class presented - move the mid/high-level utility tricks down, slightly stretch the numerical escalation and sprinkle in more signature abilities et voilà - excellence.



As crafted, the PA remains solid, true, but also, at least to me, somewhat underwhelming. Still, as a reviewer, I have to take the design-intent into account - which remains the only reason I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: Nature Warden
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Psionics Unleashed Revised
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2015 03:01:45
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Core-psionics-system clocks in at 236 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 232 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First of all: What is this book?

There are multiple answers to this question, the first of which would simply be:

The properly tidied-up, pretty version of the original Psionics Unleashed-book, with some added material.



To be more precise - this book contains the two new races of Forgeborn and Norals introduced in Psionics Augmented Vol. I. It also fully implements the talent-system introduced in Psionics Expanded (think of that book as the APG for psionics - just as good and just as distinct), thus fully integrating the one "patch" of the base rules that wasn't 100% elegant.



This review will be a bit different from my usual in-depth analysis shtick, mainly since I have already tackled the classes and content in detail in previous reviews - and repetition is boring. As a general assessment, the 10 races provided can be considered rather well-balanced and diverse and provide fitting substitutes for the closed-IP-losses of some races from 3.X. It should be noted, though, that the races as provided herein do not sport favored class options, which are present in Ultimate Psionics - personally, I think that including those for the classes herein would have made sense.



The main focus of the book, and where it imho excels, though, would be the presentation of the base system of psionics as a point-based spellcasting system and, more importantly, the way in which this book makes what once (in 3.X) were boring, linear one-trick-pony-classes work properly - whether it is the wilder, soulknife or psychic warrior, the respective individual takes on the base classes greatly increase the diversity of builds available and overall, are easy to understand and execute - if you're read the Paizo CORE-rules and the APG, none of these should provide a daunting task to understand.



Indeed, one can argue that the same holds true for the copious PrCs provided, which, while more linear than the base classes, arguably do mostly not suck - something I wouldn't say about the PrCs provided for the CORE system. If you need advice on what to steer clear off: The Pyrokineticist still is very much unfocused and none-too-awesome and the telepathy-enslavement-specialist thrallherd can be broken by an experienced player; other than those two, the PrCs all have something unique and fun going for them.



Since you're reading this review, I assume you're not particularly familiar with the system, so let me give you a run-down: Psionics work pretty similar to spellcasting. You have your levels, governing attributes etc. Where things are different is with the resource. Psionic characters can be likened to spontaneous casters in that they need not prepare powers (that's the name of the psionic "spells") - unlike spontaneous casters, though, they draw their casts from ONE resource, the power points, which regenerate after resting. This is a numerical value that increases over the levels - to manifest a power ("Manifesting" being the term for psionic "spellcasting"), you need to expend power points. These are streamlined by level - level 1 powers cost 1 PP, level 3 powers cost 5 PP, etc. However, unlike regular spellcasting, quite a few psionic powers do not get automatic scaling - putting player-agenda higher on the radar, there is an augment-option for quite a few powers, allowing you to increase their potency in one way or another. To avoid abuse, a firm cap is placed on the amount of points you can spend on a given power. Know all those rants about psionics and nova-problems? Most of them boil down to not understanding this cap.



Psionic powers do not sport somatic or verbal components, instead providing displays - from odd smells to eerie lights, this component of the system deserves special mention because almost all reviewers tend to overlook it, when it makes imho for a cool, constant and subtle differentiation from regular spellcasting.



Psionics is not just spellcasting with a different flavor, though - it also extends to enabling people to do things beyond the providence of non-psionic creatures. Whether via helping to avoid death by poison via the new autohypnosis-skill or via one of the myriad ways in which one can use the psionic focus. This can be considered an infinite, yet limited resource: Basically, you can expend actions to gain your psionic focus and then expend it at a later time to fuel some thoroughly unique tricks. However, expending it always may not be wise either, for there are quite a few passive abilities that require you being focused. It's simple, concise and fun.



It should be noted that this pdf does an excellent job at explaining the various different concepts in a very concise and easy to grasp manner - basically, if you understand basic PFRPG, you'll get how this works and a handy glossary at the end makes looking up terminology very easy.



One crucial difference from the Ultimate Psionics-book would be the inclusion of a base array of psionic monsters to harass your players with -while obviously not reaching the level of depth the and breadth the Psionic Bestiary does, it does provide a solid first glance and some nice drag-and-drop adversaries. Whether you prefer monsters in a book that will be used by players or whether you prefer them in their own book depends on taste, but I personally prefer them separate and thus consider the Ultimate Psionics/Psionic Bestiary-combo superior.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The copious amounts of gorgeous full-color art render this a beautiful pdf indeed - and a huge step up from the admittedly pretty ugly original Psionics Unleashed.



Andreas Rönnqvist and Jeremy Smith (with additional design by Philip J. Leco II) are considered the fathers of PFRPG psionics - and for a good reason. Not only did they vastly enrich my 3.X games back in the day, their psionics for PFRPG are as close to a cross-publisher industry-standard as one can get with a subsystem. There is a reason for that.



Psionics RULE. I love them. I love the system. I love the flair. I love psionics. There's a reason Ultimate Psionics is on my EZG Essentials-list as one book ALL of my campaigns use. Conversely, Ultimate Psionics, as massive a tome as it is, probably makes for a significant investment and, since it covers Psionics Expanded and the advanced options from that book, can seem overbearing. Think about a book that sports the mechanics of both the CORE-rules and the APG for a fitting analogy of what Ultimate Psionics does - beyond providing a huge amount of material to digest, the complexity of the rules utilized vary between material from Psionics Unleashed and Psionics Expanded - the latter, obviously, imho sporting the more interesting classes and options, but also requiring more system-mastery that can be daunting for players new to psionics.



This is where this book's raison d'être can be discerned: This is essentially the CORE-book sans frills: The fancy, complex material is left for the other books and we get an inexpensive way to take a look at the basic system and material and dip one's toes into psionic waters.



Basically, this is "My first psionics sourcebook," an easy, all-encompassing way of taking a look at psionics and integrating its basic classes, races, items, etc. and ideas into your game with needing to buy the glorious, massive Ultimate Psionics and the Psionic Bestiary. Yes, you don't get the favored class options and the more complex classes from Psionics Expanded, etc. in this book, but you get all you need and the presentation and layout make grasping the rules pretty simple.



While my firm recommendation for players and DM with some experience under their belts would still be to get the combo of Ultimate Psionics + Bestiary, in case you're looking for an easy one-book-and-go way of using psionics, this should make for a great way of judging whether you like the system or not. (Note: If you want more complexity, the other books do provide that!) Especially groups and players with less experience regarding subsystems and the like can consider this book a nice way of getting to know how psionics work. Conversely, groups that already have Ultimate Psionics have no reason apart from the copious artworks to get this book.



How to rate this, then? I consider this to be a good introduction/core book for psionics, one specifically targeted at an audience who is not yet that familiar with psionics - as such a book, it accomplishes its task in a formidable manner and deserves a final verdict of 5 stars. Why no seal of approval? Because I'm a sucker for complexity and still croon over Ultimate Psionics when no one's looking. ;P Kidding aside, I do believe that the aforementioned PrCs could have used the chance at streamlining and inclusion of favored class options would also have made sense to me. Still, consider this a testament to how good Ultimate Psionics is - and if you like this book, you'll love its bigger sister!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Unleashed Revised
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Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2015 02:57:36
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The fifth Demon Cult introduced by Kobold Press' series details what could be considered the most pulpy tale in the series yet - when a disenfranchised aristocrat had to escape into the jungles and stumbled upon a hidden, ruined city, Josef Kortz would have not dreamed that the carnivorous white apes haunting the ruins would one day bow to him - and bow they do, for he is the summoner that commands the Great White Ape, his eidolon being akin to their tribal deity. Over years of study and careful planning, the mad master, now known as the New Father, has commanded the white apes in combat, subjugating all that dare oppose him and his simian slaves. Kortz and his powerful eidolon receive statblocks and so do his simian warriors, but that's not all - the awakened apes spread a dread condition, the spellscourge, which not only renders those infected into primal, degenerate and evil undead savages, but also allows them to devour magic. Yes, this pretty much could have been drawn from the pen of Rider Haggard or similar authors and yes, we get a sample couatl.



Now on the anal-retentive/nitpicky side, the template does sport a minor terminology hiccup, but none that would impede functionality. As always in the series, we do receive copious hooks to organize, potentially, a whole campaign with multiple choices for each general array of APL-groups and, as has become the tradition, the quality of these hooks is superb and diverse, providing narrative potential galore. Midgard-specific sideboxes help fans of the setting use the cult. The two new magic items, the unique staff of the father (okay, could have used some unique abilities...) as well as hides made from the white gorillas both are cool and diverse... the latter also allowing for the spreading of the dread disease.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover..of installment #4, which feels like an odd oversight. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



All right, I'll come right out and say it - I'm biased regarding this pdf. My childhood heroes were Conan and Solomon Kane; where other kids liked He-man, I was a fan of the tales of sunken Lemuria and Red Sonja remains one of my favorite heroines. I adore the pulpy feeling this evokes, the sense of ancient gravitas this evokes, the theme of disease and degeneration spread by the isolated apes - all of that sends my facial muscles smiling in a major way. I can't help it, I'm sorry, but for me, this hits all the right notes - this feels savage, brutal and inspired to me and captures my interest infinitely more than yet another bunch of hooded sops worshiping abyssal prince 386-b. This resounds with the themes I adore in fantasy, with a threat that is not one of a simplified morality, but one that attacks civilization and what we consider the foundation of society itself - and then adds the threat of losing magic for yet another nasty spike, merging themes of classic literature and amplifying them via the collective mythmaking we engage in while partaking in a roleplaying game session.



Now if the above left you cold and sent you shrugging away, I can understand that - I've seen the set-up before as well; however, the execution is significantly better than in most variants of the theme I've seen and personally, I absolutely adore this installment of the series. Yes, the supplemental material is slightly less pronounced than in the previous ones, but I can't help myself - I love this pdf. It showcases well the strengths of Kobold Press as a publisher - the narrative potential, the evocative dressing. Jeff Lee, delivers here and my final verdict, in spite of e.g. the layout-hiccup, clocks in at 5 stars +seal of approval; however, be aware that this is predicated upon my own personal preferences - if the basic idea does not appeal to you, detract a star.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
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Assassins of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2015 02:38:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3/4 of a page SRD, leaving us with 12 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We begin this supplement with something I did not expect to see in here: A surprisingly well-crafted array of small introductions to assassin-traditions -from the Clockwork Society to the Rajuki Sancers and the Fire Splinters, the traditions provided deliver a captivating glimpse at the unique societies of Porphyra and should provide inspiration enough for a capable DM to further develop these tidbits into full-blown societies.



The Assassin as crafted here must be non-good, receives a good ref-save and 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, proficiency with crossbows, blowguns, daggers, darts, rapiers, short bows, saps, short swords and shields and receive a massive 8+ Int skills per level. They also receive sneak attack, progressing up to +10d6. Second level nets poison use and 3rd and every 3 levels thereafter increase the bonus thus granted by +1, up to a maximum of +6. Poison mastery is gained at 16th level.



Now very interesting would be quiet death - if an assassin kills a creature during the surprise round, he can make a Stealth check versus all relevant, present Perception-checks to prevent the other targets from noticing the kill. This ability, gained SOON, is pretty much one of the components that have been missing from the assassin-concept all along. Kudos! Death attack is gained at 4th level, with 12th level reducing the study-time down to 1 round, and 4th level also provides uncanny dodge, which thankfully scales with the ability gained from other classes; at 8th level, the improved version of the latter is gained.



8th level nets a pretty interesting option, namely lingering death, which does not prevent resurrection or the like - nope, it works and then kills the creature again - sans save. Yes, this is gleefully sadistic and yes, the ability has a means of being avoided. The class also receives a dual capstone - for once, souls slain must succeed a will-save to return; otherwise, a planar quest is required. Secondly, all sneak attacks become death attacks. Now, as you may have noticed, this chassis is pretty much a more streamlined version of the Prestige Archetype for the assassin - yes, you would be right, however, I have purposefully omitted the defining characteristic of this whole class: Assassin Secrets.



Essentially, these can be likened to a kind of bloodline-like tradition of killing styles. Each secret is associated with a modified list of class skills and provides a linear progression of thematically-fitting tricks, with arcane and divine spellcasting (magus/inqui-lists) of up to 4th level being the exception to this rule, as spellcasting's high flexibility obviously did not require more power in this regard. Assassin secrets are pretty much exactly what I wanted - a modular way to easily customize an assassin that puts player-agenda high on the priority list. Oh, and know what? They're pretty much awesome. Death Slayers? Can use death attacks and poisons versus undead, get ghost touch and can bypass DR and even immunities...oh, and the class can copy means of escape. Damn cool! Now you're probably familiar with the origin of the assassin-word, which may derive from Arabic Hashshashin - may? Yup, for, as any cultural scientist worth half his salt would tell you, the implied literal meaning of "hashish-consumers" may have been something ultimately brought about by a serious misunderstanding in translation - still, the imagery of Hassan-I-Sabbah's iconic order has become a staple in our collective consciousness and as such, the inclusion of assassins who not only use a drug, but derive some powerful means of coercion via its application. Yes, this can be considered the enchantment-style assassin.



Would you prefer something more far-out? What about the dusk assassins, trained in the shadow of Morah'Silvanath, looking to finally take down the great tree and reclaim their holdings? What's odd about them? They acquire a symbiotic fungus (!!) and can breathe spores. Oh, and they can eat poison to make the spores poisonous. This is awesome imagery right here and had me grinning from ear to ear. Prefer psychos who make a spectacle out of killing? Covered. Elemental assassins? Covered. Glass (!!!)-using assassins? Yup, in here. Soul-binding, anti-resurrection assassin (akin to the vanilla PA: Assassin)? Yup, here. Shadow-stepping master of stealth, including shadow pool and silent images - covered. Prefer rogue talents for a more diverse skill-set? Possible. Two feats allow you to make glass as durable as the materials it mimics (which is a damn cool flavor-feat) and to wilder among other secrets - HOWEVER, not in spellcasting. This feat in itself is a beauty in its perfect alignment of prereq skills and level-relevant secret gained - very elegant and smooth scaling.



The pdf comes with favored class options for the core-races - but does not stop here. We also receive new skill-uses, some of which have been a staple in my game for years: Salvaging poison from creatures via concise and well-written rules? Yes. Crafting glass-weapons? Nice. Using Heal to torture? Nasty - and makes sense. Finally, hiding spellcasting via Sleight of Hand is an interesting option, with concise mechanics, yes, but I have ran with a similar solution for quite a while and since skills scale pretty easily, I think the DC is too low; personally, I have added a concentration-check to stealthy spellcasting. I'm torn on this one - it may work perfectly for you, or it may end up utterly OP when combined with invisibility et al. - so be aware of this option's significant impact on your campaign.



The pdf closes with a level 1 sample character, whose statblock is missing the class + level-line.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are very good - I noticed nothing beyond the nitpick level on both formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Okay, let me ramble a bit: My last main-campaign spanned 7 years and utilized no less than 3 base classes and 5 different PrCs to depict different assassin-traditions. Against a backdrop of conflict between the two dominant religions of the setting, I wove a tapestry of shadow wars. I am pretty much familiar with a significant array of assassin-class builds and takes on the concept. If I had Carl Cramér's Porphyran Assassin back then, things would have been so much simpler: Just add more traditions and there you go! Highly modular, with ample options for customization, a solid framework and player-agenda high on the priority-list, this pdf constitutes the single best take on the concept I've read so far and will replace all those options in my home-game.

This is the best "...of Porphyra"-class book released so far and the, hands down, best design Carl Cramér has pulled off so far. This inexpensive pdf is simply fun and delivers ample awesomeness for a more than fair price and makes me hope for more chances for the author to tinker with concepts beyond prestige archetype-complexity. I absolutely adore this pdf and its iconic imagery - whether you want the odd, the fantastical or the gritty low-fantasy iteration of the assassin, this delivers. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - absolutely awesome and at the low price-point, a must-buy-category-pdf!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Assassins of Porphyra
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AaWBlog Presents: Armory of Adventures
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2015 02:37:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page back cover, 1 3/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

...

No, you haven't misread. This many pages for a buck. And yes, the content herein premiered on the AAWBlog before, but ultimately, I'm a dinosaur when it comes to devices - I ban them at my game since I have had the experience of them being constant sources of distraction.



So what exactly do we get? As an example analysis, take the ashenbone axe: A lavishly-illustrated (btw., like most items herein!) axe that emits a light - so far, so bland. Where things become mechanically interesting is with the caveats: When a character is raging (via barbarian rage, a racial ability or spell), the damage increases by +1d8; conversely, when not raging, the damage-output decreases by 1d4. I really like the sentiment of this weapon, though its execution remains somewhat flawed - as written, this will be the axe the barbarian draws while raging, otherwise leaving it sheathed and thus eliminating pretty much the unique drawback. The axe also should explicitly specify that it only conveys its bonus damage while the wielder is subject to a rage-effect, not just "In the hands of a raging character" - since this could be read as a minor ambiguity. A simple solution would be to make this a cursed axe. A further plus, again, one that extends to all items herein, would be the flavorful description of the axe itself provided, as well as the scaling amount of information one can glean from researching it.



A ranger's hunting axe, poison-spraying locked gauntlets, an evil arcanist's angel-hunting crossbow, a greatsword that lets rangers with swamp as favored terrain breather underwater (alas, sans proper CL for the underwater breathing) - some interesting options here. What about a vicious blade that only reflects damage back upon the wielder 50% the time if he is pure at heart, but also illuminates such beings in radiant, stealth-negating harmless fire? Whips that can be used to entangle (alas, at a very low DC to escape) and nunchaku that make flurries of blows more effective are also among the interesting options provided herein.



Those familiar with a certain Hrólfr Kraki may be rather pleasantly surprised to find the almost-artifact level Skofnung herein. And yes, I freely admit to having a little "Heck yeah!"-moment here. There would also be a shield that allows for the substitute of hypnotism as an alternative to shield bash damage. There also is a very powerful, nasty ring that makes a character potentially a quasi-vampire. An enchanted spyglass, a dance-compelling gel, enchanted golden dentures (!!!) that fly out to attack foes, puzzle-boxes of holding - there are quite a few downright fun items to be found herein - all for a single buck!



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not necessarily perfect. Layout adheres to a beautiful, yet printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a surprising amount of pieces of original artwork as well as some stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort-detriment. The pdf does sport hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com, though they are not provided for every spell in a list and thus sometimes are a bit inconsequent in what's linked and what isn't.



Mike Myler, Jonathan Ely, Brian Wiborg Mønster, Jacob Michaels, Joshua Taylor and Eric Madsen have delivered perhaps one of the most inexpensive pdfs I've seen in a while - the artworks and lore-sections alone render many of the items worthwhile. Now granted, there are some magical items to be found herein that are plot-items pure and simple, but that is not in itself a bad thing -I'd rather have an interesting plot item than a boring +1 flaming thundering keen rapier... Ultimately, this collection is an inexpensive, convenient collection with some downright nice ideas. Now yes, there are a few examples like the one in my picking apart of the ashenbone axe, where one can arguably complain about the wording not being 100% tight. Still, at such a fair price-point, I still consider this a worthwhile purchase. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
AaWBlog Presents: Armory of Adventures
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ZEITGEIST #8: Diaspora (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2015 03:51:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 8th installment of the (so far!) legendary Zeitgeist-saga clocks in at 99 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 94 pages of content, so let's take a look at whether this installment can keep up the stunning momentum of the saga!



This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS, including some minor ones for previous modules in the saga. Potential players of this massive AP should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here?

"Memory is identity, identity is memory." - Julian Barnes.

No words would fit better the premise of this module, wherein Zeitgeist changes paces once more - after infiltrating the great conclave of the Obscurati in Zeitgeist #7, dining and talking to the masterminds behind the vast conspiracy and shaping the very ideology of their opponents, the constables of the RHC may have actually changes sides - but after the culling of the ranks that unified the conspiracy, the Obscurati are now more dangerous than ever before. For the first time, however, the PCs may actually be in the loop regarding the dread masterplan of their adversaries - still, the Ob machinery is grinding on, but there may be a grain of sand that can bring the gears of revolution to a halt: This proverbial grain would be Kasvarina Varal, one of the founders of the Obscurati - separated from her memories, the eladrin woman may be the one thing that can put a stop to the plans of the conspiracy - thankfully, the PCs will have probably deduced ways to find Kasvarina and if they don't, their leadership may have an idea - so off they go towards Elfaivar - provided they can best the fleet combat waiting. *sigh* Yes, this is the time where I once again can ramble about the default naval combat rules of this AP sucking hard. I recommend you get Frog God Games' Fire as She Bears instead.



Tracking the vast colossus towards Kasvarina - via prestige and connections, their trek through the jungles will still be less than pleasant, and worse - the Ob are up to their game and have sent competing teams out and the trail leads onwards - into artillerist fire and ambushes, before the PCs have to face a lethal 10-headed lion-creature crafted from the stuff of dreams itself - and yes, the heads have powers conspicuously in line with certain IP-protected eye-themed creatures. ;)



Beyond these trials, the PCs may meet Asrabey again and finally make contact with Kasvarina, who then fills the PCs in regarding her memories of her experience of the eladrin diaspora -alas, Kasvarina is not the woman she once was. bereft of the traumatic experiences of her life, she is not a tabula rasa, but rather a story half-written. If will be up to the PCs to accompany her and put the triggers of recurring memories into perspective and influence how her personality evolves this time around - will she become the woman she once was, something better or even something worse? The theme of diaspora extends from the external to the internal of Kasvarina in a clever use of the concepts. Getting acceptance in Sentosa is just the prelude to the quest to reclaim the artifact, in which Kasvarina's memories are stored - only to walk right into the conflict between weretigers (non-evil, btw.) and clergy. While the general set-up here is great, I was kind of miffed by the John Smith/Pocahontas-reference (describing the lack of an easy solution) in one sentence of DM-advice-text. I'm aware of the myth, but having had plenty of academic experience with the topic, the cultural bridging proved to be less harmonious than popularized by Disney. That, however, remains one pet-peeve of mine and does not impede the quality of the module.



On a more awesome side, the PCs will have to brave various challenges aligned with various times, seeing the shape of the distant past and the things to come. The artifact then allows for access to the meat of the module - using it, the PCs can physically enter the memories of others, potentially even retrieving objects from inside - oh, and they can reap the benefits of their investigations and experience more of Kasvarina's past - alas, the triggers are spread around and a return to the Crypta Hereticarum is in order - which also doubles as an option to strike an uneasy alliance with Pemberton via his deadly bots. Worse than potentially being indebted to the demoness in the crypta, the party will have to find a way to infiltrate the capital of Danoran - which coincidentally lies in a zone of absolute dead magic spawned by the death of a goddess. Yes, not even supernatural abilities. Now watch your high-level PCs squirm. Or you would, did this follow the established rules for dead magic/antimagic zones.

Even worse, any roll caps at 30. Yes, this is nasty...and for once, I am not a fan of this cap - it feels a like cheating to me, potentially penalizing PCs that would have a chance to shine in this environment. I also would have liked specification on how summoned creatures, familiars, eidolons etc. interact with this zone - the pdf remains silent apart from "1 negative level for every magical creature, even when usually immune to it." This is not enough in my book and woefully imprecise. Furthermore, the cap literally BREAKS the rules - Take a look at how CMD/Feinting etc. work and do some quick checks for PCs - being immune to feints and bluffs is not hard here and the cap makes the whole system come apart when it comes to opposing rolls...or several other basic rules-options. My advice is to ignore this utterly bizarre and ill-conceived notion in favor of a better take more in line with the system.



On a more positive side, the D-day-style infiltration of Danor, including potential combat with a tank, is pretty challenging and interesting and an ascent accompanied by continuous barrages of memories does not help either. Finally, things become rather heated - the colossus Borne arrives to get his "mother", while Nicodemus himself shows up to abduct Kasvarina (or kill her) and interrupt the final memory, wherein a goddess was killed. The final battle against Nicodemus is not only extremely climactic, it also is exceedingly difficult - and may have the PCs stranded in the Dreaming, as the dread plans of the obscurati grind ahead....



The pdf provides a massive appendix of memories (optional ones), stats for NPCs and adversaries (including troops - nice!) and a short gazetteer of Methia.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Zeitgeist's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is a blend of stock-art and glorious full-color original pieces. The pdf's lavish full color maps benefit just as much as the pdf from the layered pdf, which makes it easy to customize the amount of ink/toner you're willing to expend. It also allows you to make the maps player-friendly.



I am a huge proponent of the concept of this adventure - the concept of helping shape a personality, of going from the global to the personal perspective and actually providing a believable person is awesome. I adore this pdf's premise and its execution by Thurston Hillman is superb and well-written, as I've come to expect from Zeitgeist.



Now at the same time, I did feel like this installment did a bit of "cheating" - at this point, I can shrug off the lame naval combat rules the series uses. Yes, it's a bit of work to make conversions, but the play-experience is worth it.

Conversely, I have never complained about Zeitgeist breaking some of the default rules-assumptions of the Pathfinder-rules - why? Because the campaign guide and player's guide provide ample justification for the changes in how flight, teleportation etc. work and ultimately are enablers for the story, not restrictions. The changes are organic and part of the world's setting and as such, valid in my book. Where I get grumpy, though, would be the antimagic premise herein - in PFRPG, there are two canon, established and well-codified types of antimagic zones and this pdf just ignores them in favor of a rather ill-defined sidebox that not only leaves questions open, it also feels like a cheat. I know that my players did not take kindly to the arbitrary restrictions imposed on them, especially seeing how they deviate from how things usually work.

As a recommendation for a more interesting solution, Interjection Games has released a FREE pdf of incremental antimagic a DM may enjoy as an alternative.



Now like other Zeitgeist installments, this pdf still is one awesome read and provides thoroughly unique and awesome challenges all around - Diaspora is a great module, though one that has its second half slightly tarnished by the unnecessary antimagic cop-out: In fact, in spite of my complaining above, Diaspora's innovative take on a personal and global tragedy, the memory-delving as a great substitution of time travel without the massive time travel logic glitches - all of these make Diaspora a worthwhile and great adventure - but one that is slightly more rough around the edges than the previous installments. Yes, it only has this issue in a small part of the overall book, but here, the impact was jarring. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4. Note that if you are willing to properly iron out the non-sense restrictions introduced in the second half of the module, this still should be considered a top-notch buy.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #8: Diaspora (PATHFINDER RPG)
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[PFRPG] Fantastic Fighting Styles
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2015 03:49:55
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial,1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This supplement, obviously, provides fighting styles inspired by fantastic creatures, with each style sporting a nice, short fluff-paragraph that anchors the style in a kind of background you may scavenge. The first of these styles would be the cockatrice style, which increases teh DC of both Gorgon Fist and Scorpion Style, while also adding wis-mod to damage versus foes with reduced speed or in the staggered condition. Wait, I hear you say - Scorpion Style? But one can only be in one style at a given time unless one uses archetypes etc. - you would be right, but Paizo botched nomenclature - Scorpion Style is NOT a (style)-feat - just a combat-feat. ;) The follow-up feats allow for added Dex-damage when using Gorgon's Fist and Scorpion Style and the option to add an unarmed Gorgon Strike as a swift action against a target failing to save versus your Scorpion Style. Interesting blend of the two concepts.



The Couatl Style adds wis to damage versus foes denied their dex-bonus to AC versus your attacks and also adds wis to Bluff skill checks - not a fan of dual attributes to a skill. Additionally, feinting dazzles foes for one round. The follow-up feats allow for an immediate action feint that eliminates opponents as counting for flanking or whether you provoke AoOs, whereas the final feat allows for a 10-foot AoO feint when using a standard action to feint foes while in Couatl style. Additionally, foes feinted this way treat foes other than yourself as having concealment. Interesting!



Doppelgänger Style (sorry, can't write it with an "a" sans cringing) nets you a dodge bonus versus foes using style-feats and allows you to use swift actions to emulate a style employed by a foe who missed you for 1 round, while also netting you a minor buff. This one is pretty much brilliant - nuff said. The follow-up feats allow for the emulation of the feat-chain of said style, while the final feat allows for an AoO that allows you to disrupt another style, hence denying the target temporary access to the style's feat-chain. Sick...and awesome.



Manticore Style allows you to draw light thrown weapons as a free action and do no longer treat ammunition or darts as improvised weapons. The follow-up feats allow for a flurry with two additional attacks at -2 atk - but does that stack with flurry of blows/stars? The second one allows you to move full speed and execute a full attack's attacks at any point while doing so, but requires you to use unarmed attacks, light thrown weapons or ammunition to do so. This one feels too strong for my tastes - indeed, this is the first style that imho can benefit from a bit of streamlining - one feat needs ability-stack clarification, the other should be limited to a subpar weapon group - full attack plus movement with unarmed strikes is NASTY.



Peryton Style allows you to deal bludgeoning or piercing damage with your unarmed attacks, with piercing having a crit of x3. Additionally, you can choose to render a foe to cower instead of being frightened or panicked instead, but only for 1 round. Per se cool, but cower as one of the most powerful conditions is nasty - still, average duration shortened to 1 round balances that. The follow-up feat-chain allows for better charges and a scaling save-based selection of additional detrimental effects to impose on foes of your charge. The final feat allows you to coup-de-grâce cowering or stunned foes, and add an AoE-demoralize as a swift action when executing a foe like this. I like this style, but it is very prone to being cheesed: Coup-de-grâces are almost guaranteed kills and the relatively easy set-up for this finisher means that the style in itself is deadly - when combined with another character that deals in fear (Nightblades or Dreads come to mind...), this style can become broken pretty fast. However, at the same time, it is just glorious in the hands of assassin-style NPCs.



Phoenix Style nets you +2 CMD and unarmed strike damage when facing opponents with a higher Str-score or larger size. The bonus is doubled if a foe power attacks you. The follow-up feats allow you to increase your reach when only executing a single melee strike versus foes, alos netting you a dodge bonus to AC versus foes not adjacent to you. Finally, the third feat allows you to add a second attack to a charge and also allows you to use Acrobatics to move past the foe sans AoO. The feat also allows for a reflexive means to avoid grapples at the cost of movement in the next round.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-.color standard and the pdf sports numerous nice full-color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.



Wendall Roy delivers an interesting pdf here - I was honestly surprised to see the styles herein not shirk from the most complex of concepts and executing the rules-language required with laudable precision - with minor hiccups here and there, this pdf tackles top-difficulty concepts and executes them rather well - to the point where I will most definitely use this pdf's content in my campaign. So kudos for aiming for the top! Alas, I am not sold on the balancing of a couple of the styles herein -namely the Manticore Style and the Peryton Style imho require some streamlining - the former due to number of attacks stacking, the latter due to its extremely lethality with a pretty basic combo. These blemishes, though, do not drag down what is undoubtedly a cool pdf that should bring a grin to all aficionados of WuXia. While not perfect, I will hence settle on a verdict of 4.5 stars, just short of utter awesomeness. Since the issues mentioned impact balance, I will round down for what can be considered a quintessentially good pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Fantastic Fighting Styles
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Mini-Dungeon #013: The Case of the Scrupulous Pawnbroker
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2015 03:43:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



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!



This mini-dungeon begins with the PCs having either a business relationship or wanting to establish one with a hard, but fair pawnbroker - now his store's door is open and suspiciously empty, while an iron door in the basement leads towards a gruesome scene - the assistants have been slain and reanimated as zombies, though the PCs may save the owner's dog as further support. If the PCs do not tarry, they may save the pawn-broker from the hostile assault of a really nasty gang of thugs under the command of a sorceror - they're trying to break into his treasure vault, after all... Oddly, the thugs encountered in the final encounter have proper hyperlinks to their stats, whereas the first group of thugs lacks these, putting undue work on the DM. Beyond that, solid defenses for the treasure vault and a nice aftermath help make this module feel somewhat round.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf and it does sport a nice full-color artwork, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.



This mini-dungeon has me torn - on the one hand, the story Stefanos Patelis weaves is a nice one that can easily fit in any urban environment and it does sport the small details and level of believability I enjoy. on the other hand, it could have benefitted from a short tactics-section for the adversaries if the PCs e.g. call the watch- a couple of lines would be there to warrant it and this may very well turn into a kind of hostage situation - bartering is a quite possible notion for the PCs and since the foes use the pawnbroker's traps to their advantage, one can see the potential of the writing here. While the hyperlink glitch is a bit annoying and the social dimension a tad neglected, for its limiting format, this one still fares above average - my final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #013: The Case of the Scrupulous Pawnbroker
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Way of the Wicked Book Seven: Tales of Talingarde
Publisher: Fire Mountain Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2015 03:47:07
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is the bonus book for the critically-acclaimed Way of the Wicked AP - and yes, I am aware of the delay of the sequel AP and yes, I am a KS-backer of it, waiting for my print copies of both this book and Throne of Night, but that does not influence my review of this book.



So, what does this book provide? well, for one, it's 102 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 97 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, what do we get? Well, first of all, we receive allcaps HANDOUTS. Massive arrays of papers, including a very important contract, now receive lavish, beautiful renditions - Michael Clarke is definitely a gifted graphic artist and the numerous mugshots for secondary characters for the AP (spanning multiple pages!) are downright gorgeous. Extremely helpful would also be the handouts of common knowledge about Talingarde, provided for the players and the excessively better-detailed introduction on how the PCs got caught and what they saw on the way to the predicament, with which the AP kicks off. Beyond those, advice on making key props can be considered welcome. Everyone's favorite pet ogre NPC/cohort receives his fair share of love - with various, hilarious and well-written pieces of read-aloud text to be inserted throughout the campaign. This section can be considered pretty awesome indeed.



A gazetteer of the town of Aldencross, including an interesting creature the PCs may unleash upon the unsuspecting populace of the fully statted town and its inhabitants (including stats, again) and a certain naval-based journey in #1 also gets an optional, nasty encounter.



Thereafter begins the section of Minionquest - three interlude modules, wherein one may play the misadventures of the minions of the big bad PCs for a hopefully humorous change of pace. From here on reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? Minionquest I happens in Farholde, MQ II in Farholde and MQ III in the capital of Talingarde. And yes, the minions are sent on pretty brutal, suicidal quests for their merciless, dark masters. Oh, and yes, they get grumblejack assigned - who promptly tries to bully them into submission, steal their money, begin barfights - you know the deal. With no proper capabilities, taking on a fanatic street preacher and his acolyte may seem hard - just wait until they realize the guy is a werewolf. Yeah. They better be smart. Same goes for the follow-up quest of MQ I, where they are tasked to capture a hydra (the beauty on the cover!) alive - a task which Grumblejack btw. will happily push on the PCs alone.



MQ II can be considered an utterly hilarious scavenger hunt of liquors (provided in a handout with art!) for the hiding place of the Duke Daeveryn - from exploding alchemist's shops to cheating goblinoids also in the race (of COURSE Grumblejack has a vested interest in the matter - and all the subtlety of a blood-coating, thundering sledgehammer...) for a magical sword, the second task is no less deadly than the first, but imho not as curvebally as the first. Still, a fun diversion from all things truly evil and important.



MQ III then deals with this one luxury manor that has not yet been pillaged...and oddly, no minions have returned from it. Strange, right? Well, turns out that a) the place is crawling with traps, b) haunted by the ghost of the place's last owner and c) is patrolled by an old stone golem who receives commands from the ghost. Have I mentioned that minions have 3 levels of an NPC-class? Yes, these quests are deadly, and hilariously so.



Beyond that, further options are provided - take Eiramanthus' library - well, now the kingdom of Talingarde (Asmodean edition) may go for advanced artillery, handguns, arcane theorie, clockwork soldiers - whatever your diabolical villains may research! Speaking of research - if technology isn't to your liking, rules for establishing Talingarde's first Wizard collegium and the research that can be done there (including the research of clockwork dragons!) should fit your tastes. If you were going for the vampiric version of WotW, the modified information for plunging Talingarde into eternal darkness, including builds for Adrastus and Sir Richard, all modified to reflect the change in emphasis.



Speaking of supplemental material - what if your PCs are as powerful and smart as mine? If they win the final battle? (Or are fanatics?) - Well, there is an alternate ending, wherein the PCs doom all of Talingarde, fusing it and everyone on it with the 9 hells. And yes, the massive ritual has an incredibly steep price to pay for in the final moments. Which one? I won't spoil THAT for you, only that one of the maps in the book provides for a nice visual representation here as well.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to WotW's beautiful full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with copious artworks by the exceedingly talented Michale Clarke. The number of handouts and artworks provided herein make this book a massive increasing factor in the overall aesthetic department for all of WotW. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with a printer-friendly version and a handy 16-page pdf that collates bookmarks and maps, the latter in full-color glory as well, of course - and rendered player-friendly. Two thumbs up!



Reading this book has been an excellent reminder why I love Gary MCBride's writing - this campaign is a stroke of genius, beautiful and is aptly enriched in every form by this pdf. Gaps are closed, fun is added and overall, this can be considered what one needs to get the Director's Cut of the AP -as such, I consider it non-optional, should you choose to run WotW.

At the same time, however, this supplement is not truly required. What do I mean by this? The new art and Minionquest-modules are fun, yes, but they in no way are required for the AP and the reward-ratio for the Minionquest-interludes is rather conservative. While they do have benefits that are tangible, in the end, they do not really reflect the challenge they pose. This may be intentional, yes, but it may result in a bit of disappointment by the players. Conversely, the Minionquest modules aren't conventional modules - they very much could be considered more akin to old Sierra adventures or the Quest for Glory-series in that they are exceedingly lethal and at times, by design, unfair even. For some groups, this may be a welcome change of pace; for others, it will annoy them like crazy. While *personally*, I love this type of challenge, one of my players was exceedingly annoyed by this type of design. What also remains is the simple fact that this very much is the director's cut of WotW - not everyone will enjoy the fact that the crisp story has been embellished; much like the Lord of the Rings director's cuts are not everyone's cup of tea. On the one hand, this brings more detail, options etc. - on the other hand, it does add in quite a bunch of material that is not crucial by any means, which may result in impatient players.



That being said, at the same time, this pdf is probably not enough to warrant running the AP again, should you have already finished it. Still, we have a stellar expansion to the AP IF you like the notion of the uncommon adventure design. If you do, this is well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars. If not, you may wish to detract a star. My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Way of the Wicked Book Seven: Tales of Talingarde
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Village Backdrop: Aldwater
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2015 03:44:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page 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



Aldwater is immediately set apart by the map it sports - you see immediately an uncommon village on raised platforms, situated where the Blackraven Creek runs off into the Deepmire Marshes, with one bridge connecting the platforms with an island containing a labyrinth, which doubles as a final resting place for the village's ancestors. navigating the labyrinth has been the providence of the spiritspeaker of the town since time immemorial.



Against this backdrop of old, pagan customs, the village has certainly seen its fishing grounds become less fertile, with the spirits being goaded to provide information for strangers - on, for example, strange ruins in the swamp. Alas, what the ultimate consequences of outsider meddling turn out to be, none knows at this point, rendering this a nice potential set-up for either nasty Wicker-man-like scenarios and progress vs. tradition narratives..

Two sample characters/villagers complement this set-up, rife with adventuring potential. As always, this village comes with the full array of marketplace, village statblocks, demographics and yes, information on names, garb etc. worn by the villagers. Rumors provide more hooks and local color and yes, there are 6 sample events, as always.



The strange practice of the town and the magic item facilitating it are provided as a bonus in the pdf and both make sense, though I wished the ritual itself to have a slightly more complex depiction.



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 nice map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs on RSP's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Jacob Trier's Aldwater is very much one of the more subtle village backdrops - it doesn't bash you over the head with its premise and very much puts how it will work in your campaign in your hands - from acting as a traveling station/waypoint on a journey to horror or benevolent interpretations, this place has all the potential for untapping right at your fingertips without forcing your hand via a written-in basic conflict. Whether you go for benevolent mysticism or full-blown horror, Aldwater supports your choice and thus can be considered a great installment in the series - granted, one I had to read more than once to make it "click", but when it did, the results were beautiful. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Aldwater
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Liber Influxus Communis (PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2015 03:25:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 184 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-thanks-list, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 177 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Disclaimer: I was a backer of the kickstarter for this project, but was in no other way involved with the creation of this book.



After a brief introduction and one pages summing up the starting gold, we dive into the massive array of classes herein - the reason why this review took forever to get done. So expect one epic-length monster of a review here!



The first class would be Michael Sayre's Battle Lord, who gets d10, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, shields and light and medium armor as well as full BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. The battle lord receives a 10-ft aura that scales up by +5 ft at 3rd level, +5 every other level thereafter. Drills can be envisioned as such auras, only not centered on the Battle Lord himself; instead, they can originate anywhere within line of sight and require audible or visual components to execute; however, since the drills themselves are pretty easy to understand, even language-barriers can be overcome with some time and training (properly codified), thus rendering this kind-of, but not really a language-dependant extraordinary ability. A battle lord begins play with 2 drills and adds +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, which conversely is also when the skill-bonuses conferred by drills, if any, scale up by +1. Initiating a drill is a move action, switching them is a swift action - neither of which provoke AoOs, so yes, front-line commander-style here.

Drills can be, in their benefits, be summed up as teamwork feats that do not suck - essentially, some of the most useful teamwork feats (like Stealth Synergy) are granted to the targets for as long as the drill persists, while also granting additional bonuses to skills, damage rolls or minor enhancements to movement speed. The array of drills is expanded at 12th level, when the Battle Lord may choose to learn greater combat drills for mass bonus-fire damage to attacks, for example. Healing allies via fast healing up to 50% of their health, but with a daily cap, also works rather well. It should be noted that Int governs, if applicable, the Battle Lord's drills. At 8th and 16th level, a battle lord may maintain up to two (or three) auras and drills at the same time, changing all in one fell swoop, should he elect to do so.



At 3rd level, the Battle Lord receives a Noble Aura - this can be considered a non-combat exclusive buff that helps with investigations, social interaction, etc., depending on which auras are chosen - interestingly, this achieves what no other class of this type had managed to this point - render the Battle Lord relevant in contexts that are NOT fighting. At 15th level, these auras are expanded by an array of Imperial Auras, which can also be used in combat and have some SPs mixed in - the wording is solid here. At 20th level, one of some exclusive auras also doubles as a capstone. A battle lord also has a specialty, which can be considered a bloodline-like progression of abilities that modifies the class skill list. At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the specialty unlocks a new part of a linear ability-progression. A total of 4 such specialties are provided - from artillerist to mundane healing via the medic and to the more stealthy scout, the options here are nice. The class also sports 3 archetypes - the aquatic marine, the sword and pistol mounted specialist cavalryman and the eldritch chevalier, who gets a very limited selection of spells. All are okay. It should be noted that the Battle Lord also receives Bravery, which would be unremarkable, were it not for Michael Sayre's glorious Bravery Feats, released by Rogue Genius Games, for which the Battle Lord coincidentally qualifies...



The second class herein would be the Conduit, written by Mike Myler. The class gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves. The conduit can be envisioned as a magical battery - they have a conduct pool that begins at 3 and scales up to 35 - each point of said pool representing a spell-level the conduit can absorb. Conduits may also absorb spell-like abilities, but they need to be the targets of said spells and execute an immediate action, with the pool's max size and 1/2 class level as restrictions, the latter denoting the maximum amount of points he can expend per ability. On the nitpicky side, the latter should specify a minimum of 1, otherwise the conduit can't absorb anything but cantrips and orisons at first level - said spells do btw. NOT grant conduct pool points; instead, the conduit has SR against them equal to 11+ class level. Nice catch here! A conduit can only absorb a spell if its level does not surpass the level-dependant cap and when she has enough conduct pool points available - no excess point.

The conduit may unleash said energy as a standard action as a ranged touch attack with a range of 25 ft. that deals 2d6 points of FORCE damage, +1 per additional point spent. The range increases by +5 feet per conduit level at 2nd level. Now, you may have guessed it -I am NOT a fan of force damage here; I have bashed classes in the past for warlocky blasting via force and Interjection Games' ethermagic wisely handled that differently. However, the conduit's blasts must be envisioned as a limited resource and thus, be compared to spells - and indeed, in practice, this provided no issues. Kudos. Now nothing sucks more than being stranded sans resources and thus, the conduit receives options over the levels to inflict damage (and attribute damage etc.) on herself to generate a limited amount of points - thankfully, both with a daily limit and sans means to cheese the regain abilities.



At 3rd level, the conduit may select one of several conduit powers, +1 every 3 levels thereafter. Conduit powers provoke AoOs and are SUs with DCs, if applicable, scaling via the 10 + 1/2 class level + cha-mod formula. The activation of these powers tends to also be powered by conduit points and as such, vary in the precise effects - from bonuses to skill-checks to passive abilities that allow the conduit to deliver mystic bolts as melee touch attacks to invisibility that scales up to its improved version, we have a significant array of choices, including duplicating low level spells, 1 1st level spell per power taken. The pool may also be used to generate weapons and shields with enhancement bonuses and movement can also be powered by the resource. Higher levels net SR and potential for AoE-spell absorption via will-save versus spellcaster level-check. At 11th level, the conduit receives a +2 enhancement bonus to an attribute whenever she expends points, lasting 1 hour per point expended and scaling up to +6 at 19th level. It should be noted that this is not bonus times points expended, as I first read the ability, but that the per-point-caveat only extends to duration. Here, the wording could have been slightly clearer. High level abilities also include leeching spell levels from foes, redirecting spells and forcing rerolls and the capstone is a magic-immune apotheosis.



The class also sports two archetypes. The Arrhythmic conduit bleeds points over time and, once empty, has a harder time regaining them and deals sonic damage instead of force damage. However, the archetype receives superior action economy, allowing for some nasty combos that allow for multiple abilities to be activated as once, or to have them interact in fluid ways - dismiss mystical protection for a free mystical bolt, for example. I really liked this archetype since it actually plays pretty much different! The cyclic channeler is brilliant - it adds a cooldown period for abilities, but increases their potency and as a bonus, we also get a nice alchemical item - however, the price of said item is high - it costs 50 Gp and can be created by a conduit with a spellcaster ad infinitum; selling it could break an economy, so DM-discretion is advised here.



The third class featured herein would be Will McCardell and Linda Zayas-Palmer's Demiurge had me, conceptually, grin from here to ear - it's essentially Plato's Theory of Forms, the class. And yes, I'm aware that being excited about this pretty much makes me a total nerd. The class receives d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves. This class is complex, so bear with me as I try to explain it to you - and no, once you get it, it's not that bad. First of all, the demiurge chooses an enlightenment. Enlightenments can be likened to bloodlines or mysteries in that they provide a conceptual focus as well as a linear progression of abilities - these change the basic means of facsimile creation and provide beyond their base abilities, new ones at 2nd, 8th and 15th level - think of them akin to how a cavalier's order modifies challenge and the options of the class. I will return to this concept later with examples.



Among the "small" abilities, social and perception-focused abilities can be found in the progression of the class. The true signature ability of the class, though, would be the facsimile. A facsimile is a creature born from the ideals of the world of perfect, ideal forms - despite their autonomy, much like tinker automata, facsimiles are dependent on a demiurge's commands - he may issue a number of commands equal to his Charisma modifier as a move action, though not all need to be issued to the same facsimile. The creation of one facsimile (which manifests within 30 ft.)is a full-round action that can be hastened by additional quintessence expenditure (+0.5 total cost) to a standard action. Cost is not equal to cost, though - establishing a basic facsimile entails a maintenance cost, which becomes relevant upon facsimile destruction or dismissal (which can be executed as a standard action) - an array of said points, usually half, can be regained. The aforementioned additional cost thus is not refunded. Facsimiles have no duration and a demiurge can have up to half his class level (min 1) in facsimiles at a given time.



In order to create facsimiles, a demiurge has to expend quintessence points, a minimum of 6 are required for each facsimile. A demiurge has quintessence equal to Int-mod times two plus a fixed array of bonus points determined by the class level - this begins at +15 at 1st level and scales up to +155 at 20th level. Quintessence regaining requires 1 hour of contemplation and at least 4 hours of sleep - it should be noted that increases of Int-mod do not increase the quintessence pool. If a demiurge wishes to keep facsimiles around, he must pay the maintenance cost and deduct it from the total of his quintessence pool.



Facsimiles are based on one of two base forms - jack or brute. They have fixed ability scores that are either good or poor and the same holds true for saves. Attributes and saves scale up each level, with handy tables listing them. The different base-forms have different base size categories and skills available that you can assign. Their sizes can be enhanced by the expenditure of additional quintessence. They receive default magic slam attacks and a deflection bonus equal to the demiurge's Int-mod, but do not gain feats or magic items and they count as having HD equal to the demiurge's class level. A facsimile is treated as a construct for the purposes of spells and effects, but not for the purposes of base qualities. Now as ideas, facsimiles are somewhat more ephemeral than your average summoned creature - every time the facsimile receives damage, it has to make a dissipation check, with d20 +1/3 demiurge class level + facsimile's Cha-mod versus DC 10 + 1 per 2 points of damage taken, with natural 20s and 1s constituting automatic successes and failures, respectively. Some ideals and class abilities allow a facsimile to ignore some chances of dissipation and at 9th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the demiurge's facsimiles receive +1 chance to ignore dissipation. Upon destruction that is not an intended dismissal, a demiurge only receives 1/4 of a facsimile's maintenance cost back, as opposed to 1/2 of it. And yes, facsimiles, as ideal, do not have hit points.



Now each facsimile has 5 ideals that are drawn from 4 categories: Locomotion, Manipulative, Sensorial and Special. Each facsimile has one slot per category, 2 in the special category. However, each ideal's quintessence cost (or augmentation) can be doubled so it instead can be applied to occupy another category's slot. Facsimiles can thus be enhanced to have a massive array of different abilities and shapes, from humanoid ones that disrupt the terrain to those that can grant senses - want to make a tripedal moving facsimile that can share senses and dissipate itself to heal adjacent creatures? Possible.

The vast array of customizations here are impressive indeed, though not all augmentations feel like they are perfectly balanced, something that especially comes to mind when thinking about the ray ideal: This is an SP untyped ray that deals 1d4 + Cha-mod damage, with a base cost of 2. For +4 quintessence, the facsimile receives +1 ray attack and per 1 point of quintessence spent on this augmentation, the damage dice increases by +1d4, to a maximum of half the demiurge's class level. Now, if you're taking notes, you'll realize how this can be used to make one devastating laser battery at higher levels - if you ever wanted to make a final fantasy-summon style kill-all laser battery, well, there you go. Do the math. Even with *only* Int 18, one would get163 quintessence. Then take minimum cost for all ideals apart from rays, for 4 points beyond the base costs, one would be left with 151 points, which would translate to more than 30 ray attacks (37.75) à 10d4+Cha-mod damage. With Dex = 29 and full BAB, this laser battery can evaporate just about anything. This one component of the facsimile-building system is what doesn't work and honestly, I would have been somewhat confused, but I'm not the only one reading it this way. I believe the ability has undergone a layout glitch or oversight, since the rays also lack a range. My advice, at least for now, is to simply apply the cap on the augmentation that also applies to damage dice increase - 3 rays à 10d4+Cha-mod for a total of 10 quintessence seems like the more reasonable and probably, intended, cap - a minor rephrasing of the ideal would work here. Now do NOT let this one hiccup in this impressive class get in the way of appreciation of this glorious class, for that's not where things end!



The demiurge also sports a linear sequence of abilities, from 4th level on, which is called rhetoric. When using these abilities, one determines one facsimile designated as an argument facsimile and one as an arguer facsimile. The argument facsimile is considered the origin, the arguer the beneficiary. The argument facsimile's maintenance cost must be equal to or exceed that of the arguer. Performing the like is a full-round action and unless otherwise noted, the facsimiles need to be adjacent to one another. Rhetorics have a duration of 1 round per 2 demiurge levels and some may cause the argument facsimile to become disoriented, allowing them to only perform either a move action or a standard action and may still perform swift, immediate or free actions. A demiurge begins with 3 rhetorics and learns more as the levels progress. These rhetorics are what renders the facsimiles EVEN MORE interesting - they allow, for example, for the addition of the argument's locomotion ideals to the arguer while the rhetoric persists. Other options include making the facsimiles a wall and combining reaches of the facsimiles involved. It should be noted that the abilities themselves also sport some nice easter-eggs in the nomenclature.



The 7th level also nets the demiurge the option to create a thesis facsimile, a facsimile with a limited free will and a buffing aura and yes, they may heal allies via reclaimed quintessence.



Now to get back to the enlightenments I mentioned in the beginning? Take Agathon - this enlightenment has the final quintessence cost of facsimiles reduced by 1/4 class level and get a 6th slot, which costs half as much. At 2nd level, one can have one free facsimile with only 4 slots and a significantly-reduced effective level of class level -3, while also allowing for some on the fly modification. Artifice demiurges can create objects, while befuddlement allows for the creation of shadow facsimiles - in case you haven't noticed - each of the 6 enlightenments provided radically changes the way in which the class plays. The capstone is an interesting apotheosis, at least as far as that type of capstone goes. The bonus content covers 11 sample facsimiles. I adore the demiurge class - it is a thing of mechanical beauty, vast options and is utterly, completely unique. With all those pet-classes out there, it still is more unique and interesting and while it only belongs into the hands of experienced players, it is GLORIOUS. Any fan of classes with customization options and complex tricks needs to take a good luck at this class - a piece of advice: Just make a sample character. It makes *getting* the class rather easy and seriously, I don't get what the hassle is regarding the complexity of this class. It's not simple, sure, but it is damn rewarding and I can't bring myself to bash it for one ability with a wonky exploit due to a wording ambiguity. I adore this class and playtest showed it works in awesome ways - though, as a piece of advice, much like summoners et al., one should make sure the player can run it quickly and doesn't hog the spotlight. Still, probably my favorite class in ages and one that will be very hard to top!



After this complexity beast, the medium is rather simple: At d8, 2+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, good will-saves and 3/4 BAB-progression, the class looks a bit bare-bones. As a full-round action, the medium may channel spirits and let herself be possessed by her spirit companion as a full-round action, the duration clocking in at 4 hours, starting at 5th level instead for 1 hours per medium level. Interaction with being killed etc. is covered aptly by the wording, including memories etc. A medium can channel spirits equal to Cha-mod timer per day and the effect cannot be blocked by regular possession-preventing magic. The medium can use a standard action to provide minor bonuses and she may use séances to duplicate augury. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class receives a revelation chosen from a limited list, interacting with their ability to channel spirits and utilize séances - here, an alternate nomenclature to make them deviate from the oracle's revelations would probably have been in order. So, the spirit companion...this is the defining class feature of the medium and shares your ability modifiers and hit points; however, the spirit does have class levels - yes, this class can be essentially summed up as gestalt, the character - you can essentially shift between forms and from leadership to spellcasting and psionic powers and feats, the spirit companion is handled pretty neatly - and the capstone allows for a true fusion of the two. Btw.: Yes, the revelations interact with the class choices you make for the spirit companion.



Archetype-wise, there would be one with less powerful spirits, but who receives more spirit companions, one that can be considered an oracle-crossover as well as one that specializes in revelations that interact with the physical world. And yes, there would also be one psionic medium archetype. Eric Morton's Medium is a solid, fun class that especially will be a boon to tables with less players that need to cover more roles. Two thumbs up!



The Metamorph-class with d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and natural attacks, but no armor, good 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves and begin play with a maximum number of 3 attacks and an evolution pool of 3 that scales up to 26 at 20th level. Metamorphs also have a built-in natural armor bonus that increases over the levels and ability-increases dispersed over the levels. 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter see bonus feats. 1st level metamorphs may choose their genesis, determining the key-ability modifier for the class and modifying the class skill list. Now unlike some other takes on the evolution-based class framework, a list of phenotypes, which determine ultimately the evolutions that become available for the class - a total of 8 phenotypes are provided and a massive table helps the player determine which evolutions are eligible for the phenotype chosen. Only fey and undying may for example choose the basic magic evolution, whereas only bestial, monstrous or reconstructed metamorphs may learn the trample evolution. A metamorph has 2+class level evolution points, +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Evolutions can be reassigned upon gaining a level. The class also sports 3 archetypes - one that wilders amid sorceror bloodlines/eldritch heritages, while metamorphic abominations may wilder in racial heritages. Finally, the Transmogrifist may wilder in the alchemist's toolbox. We also get a sample level 13 character here.



I honestly was NOT looking forward to yet another evolution-based class - after masquerade reveler, underterror and iron titan, I was simply burned out on them. However, Wojciech Gruchala's metamorph ultimately may be one of the most user-friendly and easy to balance takes on the concept - while I prefer the fluff of the masquerade reveler still, the metamorph may be the most user-friendly take on the concept - with the handy table and restrictions that prevent abuse as well as thanks to the cap of maximum attack and the lack of flexible changes of the basic evolutions chosen. All in all, a solid take on the concept I can't really complain about.



The Mnemonic gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and one weapon of choice, full unarmed strike progression as a monk, 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. Menomincs may execute a standard action to identify one or more feats a target creature possesses by making an Int-check versus 10 + CR, with creatures of a CR greater than the mnemonic's HD further increasing the DC by +3, revealing a scaling amount of feats a target has - the better the check, the more feats are revealed. Why would he waste an action like this beyond the tactical information? Thought Strikes. A mnemonic may execute class level + Int-mod of those per day and they can be executed as part of an attack action - somewhat akin to stunning fist, the targets receive a save, which may see them impeded by escalating negative conditions. Instead, a mnemonic may forego said detrimental conditions and execute a memory theft, to steal a skill bonus or feat for class level rounds.



A mnemonic still has to fulfill the prerequisites of a stolen feat to make use of it and stolen feats only lock down feats that build on the original feat, not those that only have it as a prerequisite. The amount of skill bonuses, feats, etc. a mnemonic can steal at a given time is handled via a nifty table and starting at 5th level, the mnemonic may eliminate spells as well, though without being able to cast them himself. Finally, it should be noted that mnemonics may expend thought strike uses to retain a given stolen feat for 24 hours, though future maintenance of this stolen knowledge progressively erodes the mnemonic's thought theft capacity further, preventing the infinite storing of a stolen feat. now granted, this can be cheesed simply by passing the feat from mnemonic to mnemonic, but in that case, I'd consider it a somewhat interesting plot-point/narrative device and, more importantly, not something that would in itself break the game - so yeah.



Beyond this theft component, a mnemonic of 3rd level may also copy extraordinary abilities and combat feats he has seen in the last 24 hours, with an effective class level decreased by -4, though, thankfully, only for 4+Int-mod rounds per day. High levels allow for the recalling of abilities and even sharing of them, thanks to the nice addition of telepathy-style abilities to the fray. It should also be noted that they may imprint part of their mind into objects, making them essentially intelligent with all the consequences - which is a kind of awesome additional twist for the class. Essentially, this is the brainy monk we know from Anime and WuXia who copies your moves and uses your own tricks against you - and it is more efficient than the woefully underpowered base class thanks to its tricks. Speaking of which - the amnesiac archetype, with its battle trance, hearkens also back to these media and provides a pretty cool alternative to the base concept. Hungry Minds would be evil mnemonics that may heal themselves via thought strikes (limited resource, so kitten-proof), while thought rippers replace the detrimental conditions of regular thought strikes with scaling non-lethal damage. Solid and nice- overall, a fun class - designer Mike Myler did a neat job here!



Next up would be the momenta, pitched by Erik Ottosen and written by the Amor Game-staff, and I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I haven't seen a class like this before. We all have seen the trope in literature - the faithful, loyal companion that makes the heroes excel, the squire that does the grunt-work - that is the momenta. The class gets 6+Int skills per level (with 2 to be freely chosen as class skills), d, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armor plus shields, 1/2 BAB-progression and good will-saves as well as prepared arcane casting via Int of up to 4th level, from their own spell-list, with the caveat that they can ignore "somatic components of up to 50 gold in value" while holding the book in their hands- I assume that should be material components. Additionally, as written, the momenta incurs spell failure chance for casting in light armor, which she probably shouldn't, seeing how she can only cast spells outside of combat in the first place (but only has a 6 hour required rest for spell memorization). It should be noted that limited spellcasting in combat can be achieved via the class's talents. Momenta of 4th level may cast cure light wounds as an arcane spell by either spending a motivation point or by spontaneously converting one of her spells. And these would be the momenta's central resource: A momenta receives Cha-mod motivation points in the beginning of a battle, +1 per ally that acts before an opponent.



Alas, this mechanic is utterly broken. First of all, it utilizes the nonsense per-encounter mechanic, which makes in-game no sense whatsoever. I've been VERY vocal about that not working, so I'll spare you my usual rant regarding this topic and just point you towards them. Tl; DR: Makes no sense since it is based on a fluid measurement of time rather than a concrete one. Secondly, the system can be gamed due to a lack of definition as to what constitutes an ally - master summoner conjures a lot of creatures with good initiative, momenta doesn't know what to do with this huge amount of points. A clearer definition is definitely in order here. A similar complaint can be fielded about how motivation is used - as a free action, the momenta can add 1d6 to the result of any one of her checks or that of an ally. One, there is some ongoing disparity which type of free action we're talking about - while some free actions can be used out of turn, this does not apply to all free actions - so yes, we have an issue with the base system here the class fails to address. Secondly, shouldn't the ability have some kind of range, audible or visual component? As written, it does not require the like, which feels odd to me. 2 Motivation points can also be used to reroll saving throws or attack rolls as an immediate action - no action-economy complaints here on my part.



A momenta also can utilize motivation via so-called stimuli, essentially the talents of the class, which are either extraordinary or spell-like abilities. These include being able to pay for metamagic with motivation, spell recall and the like - most importantly, though, the stimuli allow for the switching of initiative orders and allows the momenta to let allies act out of turn - an ability that can also be used offensively, by the way. So yes, the momenta per se is very powerful - even before non-stimulus abilities that include tactician and the like. However, the infinite resource of motivations also radiates into the stimuli - with an infinite capacity for encounters (versus infernal kittens, for example), the momenta can use infinite healing by utilizing motivation. So yes, this frame needs a daily cap for healing and a proper, codified time-frame instead of per-encounter.

Now all of this sounds pretty negative and it ultimately, alas, is. However, the basic premise of the class is awesome and while the framework looks weak, a momenta can provide a significant power-boost to a group -even as a cohort, the class excels pretty much. So let me emphasize this: I absolutely adore the concept and the unique tricks the momenta has, but I wished the Amora staff had slightly polished it more; as written, it can easily be fixed, but without fixes, I wouldn't use it. Still - the concept is so unique, so awesome that it is actually one of my favorite classes herein! Yeah, who would have thought? The pdf also provides 2 archetypes, one with less spellcasting and an option to knock out foes a limited amount of times per day and a second one that has limited bardic performances. Solid.



Next up would be the Mystic, who receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and either improved unarmed strikes or weapon focus at 1st level; proficiencies are determined by the elemental path chosen and the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as all good saves. They also receive a ki-powered elemental strike (class level + wis-mod) and while they have at least one point of ki, they add wis-mod to AC. Elemental Strikes use the class level as BAB and damage scales up over the levels from 1d6 to 2d8. Ki can also be used for skill-boosts, adding additional attacks to full attacks. The class also receives a mystic talent at 2nd level, +1 every even level thereafter. There would be a higher-level option to make elemental strikes not cost ki anymore, evasions, finesse and the like - a solid kind-of-monkish array, with 10th level expanding the list by advanced talents. The capstone also sports choices, which is nice to see.



Now I mentioned elemental paths - these do not only influence class skills and proficiencies, they also net a basic ability associated with the element. Furthermore, each path provides a significant array of unique talents and 3rd level and every odd level thereafter nets an elemental technique from a list determined by the path, granting either a feat or a ki-powered spell, with DCs, if applicable, being governed by Wis. A total of 4 elemental paths plus the force path are provided, with each of them feeling utterly distinct.



While the force path has a force-blast and ranged combat maneuver-option, the limited range makes that one steer clear of my rant regarding that. The book also sports 3 archetypes - the ancient gets a reflexive reincarnate and sooner access to elemental techniques, but pays more for elemental strikes. Crossroads Mystics receive decreased damage dice for elemental strikes, but gets more ki and can select elemental techniques from all paths, but at higher costs. The final archetype, the kenjin, has more expensive elemental strikes, but gains access to ninja tricks. Alexander Augunas' Mystic has a bit of a flavor-issue with me - I'm utterly burned out on anything elemental-themed and this class is essentially the elemental bender-style character...or the Jedi. I don't like Star Wars. That being said, mechanically, the class is honestly beautiful - I prefer it over qinggong monk and the like and it executes its concept admirably well, with Alex's zen-like ease. At the same time, it has a cool idea - a sidebox talks about retooling the flavor to correspond to the alchemical humors - and the fluff I pretty much adore, which leaves me without any valid gripes to field - making me like a class whose concepts left me with disdain is a huge feat - congratulations!



Sasha Hall pitched the Pauper class, which was then developed by the Amora staff. The pauper gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves. Paupers are defined by their two pools - hope and despair. Hope begins play with a maximum of 1 and scales up to 11, with despair beginning play with3 points, scaling up to 13. A pauper can execute a full-round action to turn despair points into hope points. Despair is gained whenever the pauper witnesses an act of strife or desperation, seeing an ally suffer a lethal wound and when witnessing cruel acts. Hope is conversely gained when seeing an enemy fall, acts of kindness etc. When one pool contains more points than the other, the pauper benefits from a unique effect. Paupers may execute nonlethal attacks versus allies to grant the ally a morale bonus. Pretty odd - the pauper can get all "morale, sacred and profane" penalties of allies and draw them upon herself. Only thing is - penalties are untyped, so the ability does not work as intended. Fr each penalty chosen to take upon himself, the pauper gains wis-mod temporary despair points.



The pauper's abilities, alas, at least to me, feel somewhat unfocused - they establish an empathic bond with a limited array of people (somewhat akin to how Dreamscarred Press' psionic networks work). The class also allows for minor healing as well as an aura that can either act as a buffer or a debuffer, depending on which pool is dominant. High-level paupers may transfer abilities from one ally to another, but thankfully with numerical and limited resources being subject to relatively stringent limitations. Strangely, supernatural abilities are not covered by the ability transference. All in all, the pauper has many makings of an interesting class, but it ultimately feels odd in many of its choices - aid another as a move/swift action for points may sound okay...but at 11th level, that's pretty late. The class also is completely linear - there is NO choice to be made here - not even the cavalier has such a small array of player agenda - the abilities, all unique ones, no groups, fall in line as a linear progression, making all paupers essentially the same. Beyond that, the class is dependent on two resources, which, in spite of a side-box, ultimately are highly circumstantial ad thus can only hardly be quantified - and thus, as feared by yours truly, the result will be a lot of arguments about hope and despair. Some tighter definitions would have imho helped here. The pauper gets an archetype with only one pool. Overall, the first class I really didn't like - conceptually, it feels not focused enough and mechanically, I've seen the interaction of fluid pool done better in some Interjection Games-releases. The class is not necessarily bad, mind you, but it's not up to the others.



The commander in chief of Little Red Goblin Games, Scott Gladstein, provides us with the Survivor, who gets d12, 6+Int skills per level, simple and martial weapon as well as light and medium armor proficiency, full BAB-progression and good fort-saves. Survivors not only can live off the land and can provide some of his class features with allies via the safe passage class feature, which provides a bonus to allies, usable Con-mod + 1/2 class level times per day. Bonus feats at 2nd level and 6th and every 4 levels thereafter are also there Beyond uncanny dodge, evasion et al., 3rd level, 7th and every 4 thereafter allow for DR, natural armor or elemental resistance, with each quality being selectable more than once. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provides a survival tactic, a unique, mostly defensive trick that can be considered the talent-array of the class - many of which can also be granted to allies. Level 13 nets essentially mettle (evasion for will- and fort-saves), called stalwart here, and at that level, this is okay.

The survivor has been my absolute surprise here - while not particularly complex on paper, this class works superbly in play -straightforward, fun and ultimately, it does just what you want: A ranger-y class sans all the mystic mumbo-jumbo, but who can make his allies so much better and harder to kill. This class is a great example why playtests of the complex classes herein was required - it fared much better in actual gameplay than I expected - the survivor is exceedingly fun to play, so kudos! 4 Archetypes are provided for the class - the feralist with simple weapon-exclusive vital strikes and modified feat/tactics-list, the seething survivor (with full barbarian synergy), the parkour specialist thrill seeker and the kind-of-rogueish urban survivor. A Synergist/survivor level 20 multiclass makes for a cool NPC.



Morgan Boehringer, the mastermind of Forest Guardian Press, presents the Synergist, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor and shields and gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good fort- and will-saves. Synergists establish a kind of network akin to psionic networks equal to Cha-mod allies, with her being required to be part of the so-called "cast." The more creatures in the cast, the higher the shield bonus granted to the synergist. Via swift actions, members of the cast can coordinate, making firing into melee easier and teamwork feat granting is obviously part of the deal as well. Better aid another among the cast is also part of the scaling progression. At 1st level, synergists may create a synergy 1+Cha-mod times per day, +1 per 3 class levels. A synergist gets "+1 bonus synergy counters" for each successful attack, save or skill check, +2 for confirmed crits or nat 20s on non-attack-rolls. A synergist may store class level + Cha-mod counters. Synergy counters may be bestowed upon members of the cast, with a duration of Cha-mod+ 1/4 class level rounds. The counters can be used to enhance skill checks, temporary hit points, concentration, CMD, AC, etc. - this ability is glorious and fun.



At 1st level, the synergist may select a technique from a selection of 3, with 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter providing an additional array of new techniques, continuously expending the pool of options to choose from - NICE! Now where things become even more interesting is with the gaining of passive abilities and the collective bestowing of Lunge - a synergist can also negate critical hits and even enhance at higher levels the action tax required by a given action - the synergist pretty much, when played right, can radically change the way in which a unit of adventurers works - and it is awesome. Ultimately, the synergist can literally be the glue that holds a group together in combat and plays surprisingly efficient and different from classes with a similar concept - when to see something ridiculously flexible? Synergist plus Battle Lord. Add in a Tactician and cackle with glee. The archetype for the class falls somewhat behind the main class in coolness, with minor debuffs being just not that interesting - especially seeing the direlock by Morgan, I would have expected something a tad bit more special, but don't let that detract from the coolness of the class.



The Umbra (unfortunately named in my book - it has nothing to do with shadows...) would be a class by Interjection Games' mastermind Bradley Crouch and as such, it is complex: As a basic frame, it gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in light armor and shields and weapon proficiency according to the primary embrace chosen. In heavier armor, planar powers suffers from arcane spell failure chance. The umbra gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves.



So what are those embraces? Well, they signify the heritage of the Umbra, with the primary being the dominant one and chosen at 1st level, the secondary embrace being unlocked at 5th level. Each embrace is assigned a pool of points - the primary embrace has primary points (PP), the secondary embrace secondary points (SP) - collectively, both are called embrace points (EP). Ep scale up from 2 PP to 12 and 1 SP (at 5th level) to 8. Umbra gain resistance to the energy of the primary plane equal to their class level, 1/2 class level for the secondary embrace and each plane has an assigned skill, which receives minor bonuses. At 6th level, the umbra may, as a swift action, generate a temporary EP to assign to a planar power or trait, which lasts for Cha-mod rounds, +1 point granted at 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter. This can be used Cha-mod times per day. There is an unfortunate error in one of the abilities, which specified that an ubiquitous power is gained at 3rd level, +1 at 5th and then +1 at every 4 levels thereafter, when the tables puts that at second level instead. Either that, or quickswap needs to be moved to second level. What does quickswap do? it allows for the reassignment of planar powers 1/day, scaling up by +1/day every 4 levels thereafter, making me belief that the first ubiquitous power ought to be gained at 2nd level.



Ubiquitous powers can be considered the "general" talents of the class, whereas the embraces cover the specialist tricks - the basic elemental planes and both positive and negative energy planes are available for the umbra to choose from, with each having assigned proficiencies. But the choice is more relevant than that - each plane has powers and traits associated. traits require an investiture of 1 point to use and then are static and passive. Powers, on the other hand, allow for more customization - the more points you invest in a given power, the longer you can activate it/the bigger its potency. Now, as you might expect, the benefits are pretty unique - what about a weak reflexive shield that can be dismissed to execute a smite? Yes, the benefits tend towards the unique side of things and some abilities utilize a cooldown mechanic I pretty much enjoy.



Now I'm an old-school Planescape fanboy, and thus, the further tricks of the class brought a smile to my face - yup, at 10th level, the umbra becomes a kind of embodied demiplane-intersection of his primary and secondary embrace. When assigning EP, an umbra can elect to convert either PP or SP into demiplance emergence points (abbreviated DE), but her SP pool must remain larger than the DE pool. Now the interesting part here would be that each demiplane's powers tend to work differently - some reward stockpiling DE-points. Some require their expenditure. Some ignore them mostly in favor of other counters, which are gained in means pertaining to the elemental condition in question and instead make for the resource of the demiplane: Cinders nets, for example, 1 "sputtering charge" whenever the umbra utilizes a power, but does not bypass the cooldown - this charge can be used as an additional invested point in an ability for a short while or expelled as a blast of negative energy and flame, with DE governing the damage output of the sputtering charge-powered blast. Have I mentioned the capstone that lets you make your own plane? Yeah.

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Damn, LIC, what are you doing here? Here I am rambling about how bored I am by elemental classes and themes and now I have a second class with such a theme I actually like. Damn. Kidding aside, the umbra is an interesting class with essentially a highly customizable array of tricks that makes it surpass the one-trick pony component inherent in most elemental-themed classes. I generally like it, though I still don't get where the name comes from.



The penultimate class herein would be Wayne Canepa's Warloghe, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, custom weapon proficiency and no armor or shield proficiencies. The class is built on a 3/4 BAB-progression good fort- and will-save chassis and their bond with a twisted spirit provides prepared arcane spellcasting from a custom list of up to 6th level, based on Wis -uncommon. However, alternatively, instead of spellcasting, a warloghe may select a binding pact with a spirit, gaining a linear, bloodline-like array of abilities, but more on those later. 2nd level warloghes get an essence pool equal to 4 + 1/2 class level + wis-mod, with a passive benefit and the option to expend points to inflict negative-energy based touch attacks, with higher levels allowing for AoE emanations and debuff conditions. At second level and every two levels thereafter, the warloghe selects a taboo - essentially the talents of the class, governed by Wis, with some being exclusive to certain twisted spirits chosen. These include SPs, upgrades to the vortex, dabbling in necromancy, familiars at -5 class levels - quite an array. The 5th level class feature, though, would be one of my favorites - warloghes may leave their soul behind as haunts, moving forward as a soulless shell! Damn cool! However I really wished the pdf sported a kind of instant-haunt-generator for warloghes that does not require handing GM-books to players. Taboos are expanded at 10th level to include more powerful choices. The taboos, when active, more often than not require the expenditure of essence points, which also powers a linear array of spell-like abilities granted over the class's level-progression.



A total of 5 twisted spirits, each with a custom spell-list and custom binding abilities, are provided - it should be noted, though, that each of them also results in a tainted soul, which translates to a continuous, negative effect on the warloghe that denotes his sinister dealings - however, they also provide a unique base benefit. The individual benefits are pretty unique and include stacking bleed damage, placing marks of vengeance, etc. The warloghe class gets an okay capstone, but 3 archetypes: One gets binding pact and spellcasting, but no taboos, while another can craft totem-constructs instead of getting the haunted ability. the final one may channel spirit strikes through his weapon and not waste points on misses, but loses the vortex AoE-control. Unremarkable, as far as archetypes go. The warloghe is pretty much a sinister glass cannon that feels a bit like a more damage-focused take on the witch-fluffed gish - now the class isn't bad and its damage output is balanced by being VERY squishy (more so than the magus) and I like the fluff, but I really think it would have benefited from significantly more spirits - those that are here are solid, though ultimately, the class suffers from me having years upon years of Pact Magic as a frame of reference and the latter just feels more versatile to me.



The final class is a new iteration of an old acquaintance of mine, the Warsmith, written by the Amora crew - at d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, hammer, picks and pilums, light armors and shields as well as 3/4 BAB-progression and good fort-saves, the warsmith is a retool of Amora Game's tinker - can it hold up? Well, first of all, beyond the craftsman bonuses and the significant bonuses to sundering via edifice recognition, the warsmith now may grant bonuses to armors and weapons, even duplicating special abilities at higher levels. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the warsmith receives a talent, here called design, which allows him to modify class features, expand crafting capabilities and even poach in alchemist/rogue territory with bombs or rogue talents. While not particularly complex, that ultimately is the strength of the class- it is a straightforward craft/sunder-specialist who is really good at what he does. Now personally, I'm not a big fan of e.g. a prone-knocking fissure having a fixed save-DC instead of a scaling one, but still, this remains the best iteration of the concept so far.



Since I have already covered the class options and archetypes above, I will only glance over the feats provided, all right? All in all, many of the feats here have a teamwork aspect and +x uses/+ longer uses of abilities for classes are provided alongside some interesting teamwork feats (since they don't suck for many classes herein) - unarmed fighting for non-monks, a style that makes combat maneuvers work sans improved-feats (and that while remaining balanced!) and some unique tricks, like playing switcheroo with magic item abilities, overall, this section can be considered well-crafted. In the cases where one may be familiar with some feats from previous publications of Amora Game, they tend to have undergone a streamlining of their wording - so yeah, while not 100% perfect, the vast majority of this chapter proved to be a fun read! Kudos!



Okay, so only one chapter to go - Adapt, Overcome, Survive - and it is GLORIOUS. Evocative haunts with nice flavor text ranging from CR 1 to 9 are complemented by environmental hazards... like exploding rats. Yes. You read it. Awesome! Two quick templates for magically-contaminated/infused creatures can also be found herein before we get rules for magical pollution of varying severity - think of them as the magical equivalent of radioactivity (and yes, just as deadly) - but with the nice added benefit of also coming with a ton of spellblights, of which we also get a quite significant array.



The pdf closes with a handy facsimile-sheet.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not perfect, but still pretty good - in a book of this size, with so much crunch, it is testament to the quality of the authors and editors/developers that almost no significant errors have crept into the complex matrixes of the class-crunch. Layout adheres to a crisp two-column full-color standard with a blending of stock and original artworks. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print-copy, which I urge you to get, is well worth the price - I got mine from being a supporter of the KS and it sports a solid frame and high quality., glossy paper. This book has seen quite some use and it does not show. As a note for 3pps: Amora Game sent me the best-packaged book I have to date received from any 3pp - with significant amounts of bubble-wrap and a big package, the book has made it past the transition across the ocean and the careless hands of the postal service without even a dent. Kudos for gong the extra mile - a creaseless book is a definitely nice change of pace to receive!



The Liber Influxus Communis grew from the PFRPG-community, the community of which I consider myself a part of and for which I ultimately write my reviews. While Amora Game took a beating from me in the past, they never gave up and when their KS ran, I *think* I may have been the first backer - I wanted to believe in them. This was the reason I decided to make this my 2000th review - and I was hoping that my hopes would not be unjustified.



Now what Greg LaRose did was smart - he got essentially all 3pp top crunch-designers not too involved with their own projects: Alexander Augunas, Bradley Crouch, Daron Woodson, Eric Morton, Mike Myler, Scott Gladstein, Wayne Canepa, Will McCardell, Wojciech Gruchala, Kevin Bond, Linda Zayas-Palmer, Michael Sayre, Morgan Boehringer. Realize something? This is pretty much an all-stars-list and the content of this book shows it - each designer herein has brought his/her strengths to the table - from relatively simple to exceedingly complex, the classes provided herein all breathe a spirit of cooperation, of being unique and run the gamut of providing simple plug and play as well as highly complex tinkering classes that require significant planning to get right. The classes herein have one thing in common that transcends the differences in design: They are not boring. I consider no single class herein bland, no single concept to be redundant. In fact, I loved most of the classes, and I mean *loved* - when a book makes me enjoy two classes that sport a theme I loathe, you'll know you have something awesome at your fingertips.



Now this book is not perfect - I wasn't blown away by all archetypes; the momenta, which I love to death as one of my favorite classes herein, imho requires a second editing pass/a capable DM to streamline and take the rough edges off. The Demiurge's laser battery needs a nerf-whack. And the pauper left me singularly unimpressed, having seen the interacting pools done more in a precise and organic way. Heck, I even made a class with two fluid pools interacting with one another. That aside, the pauper also feels oddly linear and as if it were part of another book. Similarly, not all feats blew me away, but if I broke that down for you, the review would go on for even longer. And I honestly am not sure whether anyone will read this monstrosity as it stands.



Ultimately, though, none of the gripes I could muster, whether they be typos or the above, can stand before a superb appendix and no less than 13 classes I will definitely use in my games - this is pretty much the highest density of classes I have ever allowed a single book to contribute to any game of mine and that is a significant achievement. Now as you all know, I'm a stickler for the more complex classes, but even the simple ones herein have something unique going for them, a playing experience that deviates from what other classes can offer - and what more can you expect from a new base class? In the end, the Liber Influxus Communis may not be a perfect book, but it is still an excellent and inexpensive way to add a vast array of pure innovation to your game - a smörgåsbord of unique mechanics and things no other class can do. And I love it for exactly that. This book exemplifies the work of some of the finest designers in the field and I have, ultimately, always valued innovation and slight rough edges higher than bland mechanical perfection - and, as such, the few mechanical bumps that are herein could in no way stand in relation to the awesomeness that this book brings to the table, they simply pale and fade when seen in relation with the vast array of cool tricks the content herein makes possible. My final verdict thus will be 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this book as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.



And if you're still reading that, let me extend my heartfelt thank-you to you for sticking with my ramblings and reading my 2000th review. I write them for you and remain yours,

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Liber Influxus Communis (PFRPG)
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