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The Northlands Saga Complete Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2017 05:46:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GIGANTIC tome clocks in at 795 pages if you take away editorial, ToC, etc.. No, that is NOT a typo. While I was a backer of the kickstarter that made this book, I was in no way involved in the production of this epic tome.

All right, so the introduction tells us a bit of what this is: A take on Norse adventuring, with a healthy dose of the weird, fantastic and sword & sorcery sprinkled in. It should be noted that the 8 pregens from the Player's Guide, as well as the excellent "Winter's Teeth" stand-alone module from the "Long Night of Winter"-series are included in the back of the tome.

Okay, so this massive AP (and before you complain about the price, compare this tome's content with other APs and you'll notice you're actually getting an excellent deal...) is situated within the Northlands of the Lost Lands, and as mentioned in my reviews of Player's Guide and the stand-alone plug-in-module-series, it gets the flavor of the North, what makes the culture work etc. rather well - but unlike in those previously-mentioned tomes, we begin this tome with a massive, mapped and lavishly-detailed sourcebook section that explains the peculiarities of the region not only on a local, but also on a global scale.

As mentioned, one central fixture, theme-wise, would be the blending of the fantastic and the general aesthetics of the sögur with the fantastic, so one should not expect historic analogues in the traditional sense; however, the book is very strict in its adherence to the sense of authenticity it creates. This level of commitment can be found in the modified nomenclature and the pronunciation guidelines provided within this gigantic tome, to just note once example. I wholeheartedly applaud the decision to maintain a Nordic nomenclature instead of butchering the names; the book explains the Umlauts etc. for native speakers of English and dares to assume gamers that actually are smart and interested, dare I say, intelligent. It is one of the aspects that imho too often falls by the wayside nowadays and lends a sense to the book that its readers actually are interested in portraying a concise feeling. That is a big plus, as far as I'm concerned.

The commitment to generating a sense of a believable world is astonishing in its details: From ring-giving to hacksilver as a currency to a concise list of common kennings (hand those out to players!), the flavor generated by the details so lavishly and passionately collected herein, in the end, manage to create a surprisingly respectful and "real" take on the subject matter, putting this tome into the exalted context of the best of the Lost Lands books and their unique vistas.

This never just stoops to a simple reproduction of historic myths, however, - from modifications of the pantheon to minor changes in nomenclature, the Northlands here are always almost like hours, retaining their fantastic nature. And yes, both a massive time-line in the different chronologies found in the Lost Lands, as well as a full pantheon write-up complement this first part of the book. Beyond the class options (which, alas, share the weaknesses I commented on in the review of the Player's Guide) and items, we also receive a collection of magic items - which brings me to another point: The Northlands are intended for gritty and relatively down-to-earth gameplay (15 pt.-buy preferred): As such, magic items are not for sale and rare (YES!) and, as mentioned in the PG, several classes are banned in favor of options that fit with the aesthetic of the North. Once again, I applaud this commitment to the overall vision. Speaking of vision: In this first par of the book, which covers almost 170 pages, we also get a massive gazetteer of the north, with plenty of settlements with full statblocks, overview maps and the like. Moreover, the section contains a rather massive bestiary that includes some seriously cool, fantastic creatures as well as strange fauna - and the critters all get gorgeous b/w-artworks.

But that is not nearly the main meat of this massive section either. Instead, much like in Bard's Gate and similar epic-length tomes by the Frogs, we get an extremely helpful section to bring pretty much any region to life: With random encounters that cover the regular and the weird, strange phenomena and more. Additionally, it should be noted that, by region and theme, adventure hooks are provided by the dozens to bring the respective sections further to life, should the PCs step off the rails.

All right, I know what you've been waiting for...the adventures. Now those of you who have been following this for a while will recall the 4 brief stand-alone Northlands-modules that predated this one and my reviews for them. The lowest-level module clocked, back in the day, in as intended for PCs level 5 - 6, but this saga is made for a whole campaign: As such, we get modules that start at level 1, leading up to those we already know...and then, things go much further. Already played the classic modules? Flashback is the way to go. Seriously. You want to play these.

And at this point, I have come to the section that contains the main meat of the book, the massive campaign of Northlands adventures. It should be noted that the massive amount of maps and handouts amounts to over 150 pages! No, I am not kidding you. This is EXCESSIVELY mapped and better yet - player-friendly maps included FOR ALL OF THEM. That alone is a colossal plus for me. Now, the PCs are intended to be in the employ of the mighty Jarl Olaf Henrikson, jarl of Halfstead and begins in Silvermeade Hall.

As a discussion of the adventures, the following obviously contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. One more thing: I usually try to go into a lot of details in my discussions of adventures. If I did that here, the review would probably span at least 20 pages, which, even to my rather obsessive mind, would seem like overkill - as such, I will remain relatively brief and sketchy - this should not be taken to mean that the modules are short (or simple) for that matter; it is just a concession to the format of reviewing a single, ridiculously huge tome.

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All right, only GMs/referees around? Great!

Kenneth Spencer's first module "Spears in the Ice", begins harmless enough: The PCs are to escort the Jarl's 3 daughters as they gather flowers in their sacred duty to Freyja for the spring rites - and as such, the beginning is a roleplaying-heavy section that can be used to establish dynamics, characters and yes, even a sense of the idyllic - via a number of small events, the shape of things to come are heralded and actions taken are bound to have serious consequences in the future. When a witch puts everyone to sleep and kidnaps the girls, the characters will have to get back their horses and find the girls in a race against time with various routes to save the girls. While the sleeping spell may look problematic in conjunction with e.g. elves, the module actually handles this minor railroad rather admirably.

Part II of this module, similarly a full-length piece, would be the "Wyrd of the Winter King" - herein, the Jarl sets forth upon his mighty ship, the Long Serpent, towards the farthest North. En route, the PCs discover a floating ice palace. Going ashore and surprised by a blizzard, the PCs explore the place to find it being an abode of the cult of dread Althunak - only by defeating this menace can they return successfully to their ship. This would be a rather grim, environment-driven and evocative piece, including dungeon-exploration.

These massive modules out of the way, we receive a fully updated and modified "Vengeance of the Long Serpent" - and yes, the original, alternate lead-in is still here, but no longer necessarily required. The module presents a free-form exploration of Ulnataland, a North Pole-style region of eternal, unremitting ice - and a storm, as is fated, claims the life of Hallbjorn here, the captain, here, allowing the PCs to step up. The exploration of these icy regions may net the PCs a magical weapon and put them, beyond trekking through the tundra, in conflict with the children of Althunak, breaking the grip of this dread cult over the local population.

From here on out, the PCs venture forth "Beyond the Wailing Mountains" to the city of the lord of winter at the lake of frozen screams. Read that sentence again. All things considered, the book manages to constantly generate an atmosphere so thick and almost palpable that you can almost taste the frigid cold, as the PCs cross these regions into the cold to brave a locale incredibly fantastic. If you're like me and love the theme (and employ, like me, a particularly slower-than-slow XP-progression), you may want to check out LotFP's "Weird New World" for a plethora of arctic threats of the most horrid and gruesome variety - particularly if you're playing the OSR-version of this epic! But that just as an aside.

After this, we're off to one of my favorite among the previously stand-alone adventures in the series, "The Death-Curse of Sven Oakenfist", which assumes that the PCs are wintering with Jarl Anud Cursespear, who once slew the legendary reaver and direct descendant of Odin, the blight upon the world called Sven Oakenfist. Unfortunately, he came to his success and riches by the death-curse of said hero and now, as an old man, the wight of the legend returns and barges into the hall of the Jarl to pronounce a final deadline - on the Feast of Freyja, Sven will kill and destroy everything and everyone who swears fealty to Jarl Arnuld. In order to vanquish the wight, the PCs will have to find a way to unravel his mighty death-curse.

Unfortunately, with essentially a divine bloodline, said death-curse will prove to be rather difficult to find even a HINT to unravel. Thankfully, the three utterly mad daughters of one of the norns might provide the answers - if the PCs manage to best their trials. From defeating a unique dragon to save a beautiful maid, to doing (rather dangerous)chores for a matronly lady and defeating an evil crone in a game (when she's cheating, nonetheless!), the trials are worthy of the legendary daughters - hopefully the PCs don't think they can best the mad demi-goddesses in battle...

If they play along with their mad delusions, they are rewarded with cryptic clues that add up to provide the information to kill the legendary wight - each successful trial also decreases the power of the final boss, unraveling some part of his wyrd, thus providing more than one way of finishing this adventure and rewarding PCs who manage to succeed in all tasks. The final showdown in Sven's cairn sees a furious finale, including a potentially fatal collapse and the heroes receive treasures befitting their actions during the adventure.

The next previously released module, "Blood on the Snow", takes place in Estenfird and could be considered to be the first of the modules that puts, as heralded before, the epic component into focus: Unbeknownst to just about all mighty beings, the beast-cult of the demon god Shibauroth has been gathering its strength: Making its adherents rather stupid, but enhancing them into deadly, primitive, cannibalistic killing machines via twisted runes, the cult has risen and seems to follow a surprisingly organized plan. The PC are to travel to the largest settlement, the town of Three Rivers, where local hero Hengrid Donarsdottir has traveled. On their way, they can recruit essentially a small army of undisciplined followers and hirthmen (alas, no Ultimate Campaign-synergy) to help the beleaguered capital of Estenfird.

On their way to Three Rivers, the PCs will have chances to deal with first encounters against the Beast Cult and, via befriending the Great White Stag, potentially even turn an otherwise lethal ambush upon the bestial cultists. In order to reach the city, they'll also have to sneak past the camps of the unorganized cult. Finally, inside the town, the PCs will have a bit of time to get accustomed to the fully mapped and lavishly detailed town before the horns are sounded and the assault begins - depending on the amount of followers the PCs have recruited, the respective monsters get hurt/decimated. Oh boy - the siege is awesome - standing on doomed ground, the PCs will have to combat elementals, badger-sapper-squads and even keep a war-mammoth from breaking the nigh-impregnable gates - all while ice trolls and drakes ravage the town in one of the most concise, superb depictions of a deadly siege I've ever seen.

As the dust settles, the PCs will be in for a shock - the aasimar warrior-maiden has been kidnapped! Thus, the PCs have to enter a haunted marsh and infiltrate the poison-thorned, hedge-labyrinth of a frozen marsh maze in which the beast cult seeks to sacrifice the daughter of Thor himself in order to bring down their deadly beast-god: The finale sees the Pcs storm the ritual and hopefully free Donar's daughter from her bonds - otherwise, the terror has just begun. Oh, and bravery is required here - essentially the final encounter is insanely hard and requires the PCs to focus on their goal of interrupting the ritual - should they succeed, Thor himself will annihilate the beat cult and scourge it from the lands. And while the treasure is rather weak due to the savage nature of the cult, the Aesir don't forget the PCs, as the module concludes with a feasting held by Thor himself to congratulate the PCs - if they succeeded, that is. If they failed, they'll have a CR 22 Thanatotic Titan on their hands and survival chances that are at best slim...

Oh, and just as an aside: These previously released modules have not simply been copied inside: Details have been streamlined and we actually get Ultimate Campaign-compatible MASS COMBAT RULES!!! EFFFIN' YES!!!

After this truly epic and challenging module, we proceed with "Raven Banners over Gatland", penned by both Kenneth Spencer and master of evocative environments Greg A. Vaughan. Situated against a backdrop of a brutal feud between Gats and Hrolfs, the two jarls have tried to fix burned bridges by marrying their children - but, alas, hostilities are flaring up when the bride-to-be vanishes...and soon after, the groom as well. The PCs and surprisingly pragmatic jarls soon find the hand of the dread Jomsvikings in the abduction - in order to prevent the feud from turning into all out warfare (the jarls have to take the opinions of their folks into account, after all!), the PCs will have to board a ship and survive a horrible marine assault by the Jomsvikings and their supernatural allies...and ultimately, they'll need to capture one of their ships to have a chance to infiltrate the notoriously powerful island of these feared raiders.

Only by securing an alliance with the island's supernatural inhabitants and releasing them from the yoke of a powerful, devilbound witch and her creatures, will the PCs have a chance to infiltrate the nigh-impregnable fortress and rescue the two star-crossed lover...whose wyrd may not be so grim, after all! That is, if the PCs can survive encounters with the unique Jomsbeast and horrid, chthonic creatures - and yes, both of the youngsters may well perish - and all has consequences... This module is PHENOMENAL in all the right ways, managing to blend perfectly the aesthetics of the North and classic Sword and Sorcery literature - no mean feat, mind you!

Kevin Wright's "Plague in Trotheim" brings a completely different doom to the PCs - the dreaded Straw Death has fallen upon the city of Trotheim as the (hopefully!) wedding of the two jarl's children is interrupted by Meg Skulsdottir unleashing this horrid plague upon the unwitting population. A horrid pox is unleashed upon the city and the PCs will deal with the consequences of the horrid outbreak throughout this module, allowing a GM to free-form the encounters - here, godi are taken, lillin roam and fire elemental constructs erupt from funeral pyres for a rather apocalyptic overall theme - and only a mystic tree may provide the means to stop to the outbreak. Thus, the PCs need to hexcrawl through the lethal Andøvan mountains and best the tests of Skrymir...and best underworld dragons at the roots of the world and cure the rot that has befallen the roots of Yggrdasil's sapling - and then, Wotan shows up...and with echoes of Ragnarök's promise, the PCs venture back - provided they live through the hazardous trek back.

Kenneth Spencer and Greg A. Vaughan join forces again in "The Return of Hallbjorn", which resounds with the previous modules: Thought dead, the man returns with tales of Nieuland, mirroring the discovery of the new world and sparking a land and trade rush. Unfortunately, the jomsvikings follow to the new world: And yes, the journey is depicted and the colony and the threats encountered are only exacerbated due to the incursions of the jomsvikings - who also provoke the local skraelings into hostility, as unique threats and a strange prophet escalate the proceedings. This section is literally something I haven't seen before - a colonist tale of the conquest of a new world, with a healthy dose of viking and fantastic aesthetics. And the appendix btw. also allows for one or more PCs to take the mantle of the jarl - and the wilderness exploration of these lands sports a great change of pace in its aesthetics, while still remaining true to the themes. Another glorious winner in my book!

Returning to the Northlands, Kevin Wright & Kenneth Spencer depict a module deeply steeped in the culture and taboos of the North - "The Hallburning" deals with the aftermath of the horrid crime of the mordbrand, a murder-burning where a whole hall and all within have been cowardly burned to death - as depicted in one of the glorious short-stories in the Player's Guide. Gundrik Arison, Jarl of the Vestfelmarken, has been killed, but Runa Gundrikswif survived, against all odds, the horrid ordeal. Some of the perpetrators were caught and the Althing pronounced the criminals free to be slaughtered - and the PCs will probably want to eliminate the cowardly murderers...but there is more to this, namely a horrid conspiracy...the hall-burners are patsies...but there would also be the issue of competing adventuring groups on the hunt...and yes, if the PCs are not wary, they may fall to hall-burners themselves - and beyond exploring tin-mines and testing their mettle, they will also find themselves in dire need of speed - all actions have consequences and, in order to bring true justice, the PCs will have to best the jarl in holmgang...but the deities themselves may actually intervene here! And yes, I abbreviated the structure of this surprisingly brainy module rather excessively - this one is LONG.

Based on material by Kenneth Spencer and written by the dream-team Kevin Wright and Greg A. Vaughan, "Daughter of Thunder and Storm", we rejoin the PCs 3 years after they have taken the mantle of Jarldom. Hengrid Donarsdottir has survived (hopefully) Blood on the Snow, though a stand-in exists. In the wake of Hengrid's devastating raid on the Hall of the Hearth Stone, the PCs are summoned, for the daughter of Donar has stolen Kroenarck, the legendary sword of the High Køenig and most sacred artifact of the Northlands. The PCs are to return this sacred blade, but a godi present, in the fits of prophecy, tells them about Hengrid being possessed and fighting the dread entity, beseeching the PCs to save her. The PCs must venture to the Virlik Cliffs, where their old foe Althunak raises his deific head - the entity is planning to usher in the Fumbulwinter to kickstart Ragnarök. Stakes high enough for you? Yeah, we're talking "epic" indeed, as the PCs follow the deific scion, still seeing signs of her struggle against the Lord of Winter - the PCs have to survive the creatures of the wild, the agents of the Lord of Winter and brave the legendary mountain Helgastervän's volcanic tubes, venturing to the gates of hell itself, opened by the sword - to save Donar's daughter, the PCs will have to venture into the Gunningagap and battle for the soul of the divine maiden - and yes, while combat is a means of solving this, we actually have a roleplaying encounter as an epic finale here: Smart PCs will have a significantly easier time, as no less than 5 iterations of this final fight are provided! Kudos indeed!

And there we are. 6 years later, in the final adventure herein, penned by Greg A. Vaughan and based on Kenneth Spencer's material. Levels 16 - 18. High level as can be. "The Broken Shieldwall" builds upon the consequences of the actions in previous modules and if the PCs have done their jobs right, Jarl Ljot Gatson, asks the PCs to raise an army to save his son and grandson from distant Mulstabha, braving the treacherous North Seas as they gather their forces, returning to Trotheim, Estenfird, speaking to the Althing, dealing with jomsvikings once again...and more, the PCs will amass an unprecedented host to lead into bloody battle. The war is on and the PCs will have to lead their campaign and infiltrate the citadel of Jem karteis, where the mysterious, ancient people of daemon-worshiping Huun and their legions prove to be the masterminds behind the plot. With no time and magic power, the PCs will also have to thwart a deadly assassination attempt on the man fated to become High Køenig of all the North...all while routing the forces of one of the most deadly and dangerous nations ever to spread its vile influence over the Lost Lands! And yes, once again, this truly epic, mind-boggling modules pits gigantic armies against each other in the most epic open warfare module I have ever seen - one that also pits the PCs against a titanic, quasi-deific monstrosity that will test their mettle to the breaking point. I have rarely, if ever seen such a fantastic conclusion to a saga.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, particularly taking the sheer volume of this tome into account, are excellent, particularly considering that builds used herein do employ interesting combinations of creatures and crunch. Kudos to the editors Jeff Harkness, Dawn Fischer and Greg A. Vaughan. Layout by Charles Wright adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. If you can, though, you may want to get the massive hardcover - build to last in the tradition of Frog God Games. The artworks deserve special mention: Artem Shukaev, Rowena Aitken, Colin Chan, Tyler Clark, Felipe Gaona, Chris McFann, MKUltra Studios, Terry Pavlet, Blake Wilkie, Brian LeBlanc, David Day, Talon Dunning, Eric Lofgren, Cara Mitten, Nate Pride, Richard Thomas and Tim Truman have created a book that is gorgeous to look at: Many of these artworks are absolutely stunning and incredibly evocative. A precious few artworks of monsters have been used before (which often represent the weaker pieces), but the vast majority (as in: 90%+) is new, original and glorious. The massive tome comes with exquisite amounts of solid maps in b/w, which, while less staggering, map pretty much EVERYTHING. The inclusion of player-friendly, key-less maps is a huge plus as well. The massive tome also sports a really nice full-color poster map of the Northlands on the inside of the back cover - big plus there as well.

The work of three men: Kenneth Spencer, Greg A. Vaughan and Kevin Wright - and it still feels like this one, amazing, whole, legend. The voices of the authors never clash and all is subservient to a shared vision of epic proportions that encompasses what's best about classic sögur, the fantastic and sword and sorcery. This book has managed to blend these potentially disparate elements into an incredibly concise whole. And, as you know by now, I am EXTREMELY particular about "my" North: Scandinavia and the old myths have a very special place in my heart and I'm extremely picky in what's "right."

The authors get it. They show a keen understanding of what works and what doesn't. Unlike a few of the stand-alone modules, none of the modules in this tome even remotely feels like its Northlands aspects are window-dressing: The themes resonate with a poignancy and internal consistence that is frickin' phenomenal and a pure joy to read. Time and again while reading this tome, I put it away. Why? Because I honestly wanted to savor every page. I didn't want it to end. It was one of the tomes I read when a series of frustrating reviews (writing bad reviews sometimes really does a number on me) had demoralized me. I read it when I had a bad day. For half a year, just reading this book has brought me more joy than you can probably fathom. It's that good.

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While it does not have a linear plot per se, those of you who don't like the sandboxy nature of many Frog God Games books, well, this does deliver the more stringent and sequential sequence you wanted - though frankly, with the epic, multi-year timeframe of the saga, you will very well have a ton of opportunity to run your own material as well or insert other modules.

I am honestly sad to write this review. Why? because it means that the Northlands Saga, at least until I can run its entirety, is over for me. Now, this is not a perfect book: The player-content, as mentioned in my review of the Player's Guide, could be better. And while everything fits perfectly together, while consequences are evident, there could be a bit more repercussions from module to module, as far as I'm concerned.

Yeah, that's about everything I can say that could even be remotely construed to be negative.

The Northlands Saga, even in Frog God Games' canon of exalted adventure books, ranks as one of the best I have read. This gorgeous campaign delivers, with panache and aplomb, on the promise made of a true, Northern campaign, and that without bashing you over the head with Ragnarök. The themes resonate, a zeitgeist of the end-times seems to be slowly gaining traction, but if the PCs excel at their task, they may end this book on a truly heroic note. As an aside: This saga manages to portray high-level adventuring surprisingly well: Will the vast resources, epic armies clashing and ever more global problems, with metaphysical threats etc., the emphasis on roleplaying and the importance of brains is never lost - this is a book for roleplayers indeed. That does not mean, however, that there is not ample, amazing combat to be found herein - quite the contrary! The Northlands Saga manages to perfectly convey the grit and grime of the North, manages to depict, time and again, a harsh land steeped in mythology and horror, yes, but also in tantalizing beauty and wonder. This is not grim, nor is it dark. In a sense, it almost feels like a chronicle of a North that almost was, that could have been in another time, another world.

You know, I was excited for this and afraid at the same time. I am not a wealthy man and supporting a KS like this, for such a big book, is something I can't afford often. I also have a tendency to be very, very skeptical and nitpicky regarding the North. I also am not one of the guys who wants to like every KS I invest in; I am too jaded for that - years of reviewing will do that to you. ;) Supporting the KS for this book was only made possible by pinching pennies left and right for a prolonged period of time. TOTALLY WORTH IT! Worth every single day. I guess it was my wyrd to cave-in and get it -wyrd bið ful aræd.

This is epic and amazing in all the right ways, a thematically incredibly concise, glorious book that, according to my projections, should yield AT LEAST a whole year of gaming, probably multiples. And even if you don't want to run the whole saga, you can easily just extract individual modules - the plus-side of being less driven by an AP-like plot and more by the players and how the PCs interact with their surroundings.

This ranks among the cream of the crop. This book is exalted and a masterpiece that deserves an honored place on my book-shelf. If you're even remotely intrigued by vikings, northern themes, sword and sorcery, gritty gaming or just want a change of pace: You'll be very hard-pressed to find anything better than this magnificent monster.

The Frogs do it again, as far as I'm concerned - this is absolutely phenomenal and worth 5 stars + seal of approval and is a no-brainer candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Heck, who am I kidding here, seriously? It'll score high on that list!

The one thing that really galls me about this book? It's unlikely that we get Northlands Saga II anytime soon and, even after more than 800 pages of Northlands, I still want more. And yes, I am aware that even now, even after all this praise, I can't properly convey how much I love this tome. Apologies, dear readers...but see for yourself. The North beckons.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Saga Complete Pathfinder Edition
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Slippery When Wet
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2017 05:45:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for the Alpha Blue RPG clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

At this point, I expect you're familiar with Alpha Blue - it's a RPG designed in the vein of 70s and 80s scifi-porn-parodies and thus contains copious amounts of sleaze and associated themes. I covered all three big supplements for it, so if you're not familiar with the game or unsure whether this is for you, take a look at the respective reviews. Rules-wise, we have a variant of the VSD6-engine, so if you're familiar with Venger's "The Outer Presence" or "Crimson Dragon Slayer"-games, you'll know how to play the game.

We begin this pdf with a 1-page summary of how to create and use anticipation (particularly in the context of Alpha Blue) before getting a d20-table of spacer-exclamations. Interesting: The pdf also acknowledges the sometimes frustrating lethality of the game and offers a potential way of dealing with that: For only 50K, you can get a device that generates such second chances...but may also generate multiverse malfunctions...which, in Alpha Blue,can have horrific consequences. I mean, who would want to live in a version of reality where Hitler won, Escape from New York's the state of the US and Smash Mouth is the biggest band ever known? Yeah, figured as much.

So, that out of the way, let's talk adventure! The following contains SPOILERS. Only SDMs should continue to read; players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, so the mentad would be biological computers that hail from a galaxy where robotic uprisings and the like were all too common - the Sa'rung galaxy. These biological computers maintained the level civilization had achieved...but as such machines, they had no sex, no sleaze, no porn...and then, the parasitic zantians migrated to that galaxy and began infecting mentads, granting these insectoid creatures access to the Network, a kind of extranet/repository of collective knowledge...and within hides the well-hidden last shred of porn, the naked pictures of Felicity Hance...and if the zantians can find those, they'd have the power to dominate the galaxy. Why? How? Well...she's pretty, I guess?

The PCs witness a hyperspace jump close to them, which disables their warp drive...and the ship has initiated its self-destruct protocol, so they better start communications right now. The vessel is piloted by a G'nord carrying evidence of the last piece of Felicity Jace's porn on a data crystal - with the mentad hot on the heels of the alien. The alien thinks that it's life is disposable if the universe continues to have a chance to see Felicity naked...but whether they save the alien or not, they won't be able to access the data-crystal - for that, they'll have to go to Neo Aquarius...which is currently in the throes of all out warfare. The PCs will have to hijack an underwater vessel while war's all around (12 sample events and 6 looting results provided - and then, they'll pilot the underwater vessel "bearded clam" - which is btw. once again lavishly mapped by Glynn Seal and included as a high-res jpg as well) - REALLY cool: For once, we get detailed explanations of the functions of the vessel - can we have those for all Alpha Blue vessels, please? It really helps and adds greatly to the immersion.

Within the depths, The PCs get a chance to have sex with mermaids (potentially being compelled to assassinate a chancellor...), battle/escape a leviathan and finally reach Aqua Vulva - if they lost time due to mermaid sex, the PCs will be late and have to take the porn of Jance from the mentads - otherwise they'll be in time. The aforementioned chancellor is btw. a waste of skin and, for once, a forced assassination could be not necessarily the worst thing the PCs could do. In order to secure the mighty porn, however, the PCs will have to deal with the guy that the chancellor dealt with: A former knight in black satin and zedi with his disciples, none other than dread Darth Facepalm! And yes, he has a nasty trick to get away and is set up as a really despicable and hilarious recurring villain. His b/w-artwork, unlike that of the mermaids, is also really cool!

...and then, the module just stops. I don't mean "And so the PCs have saved the day and gain x" - I mean literally. The module just STOPS. Darth Facepalm's escaped, PCs have the porn...so what now? Nothing's resolved. Why is the porn so powerful? No clue. Sure, that kinda works within the context of Alpha Blue, but it's jarringly abrupt nonetheless.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard in b/w, set against a slightly blue-tinted background with subdued veins. a Printer-friendly version has been included. Artworks are in b/w and range from the usual, high quality to a rather jarring piece for the mermaids. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience (kudos!) and the cartography of the ship is AMAZING and in full-color. Getting the high-res jpg being the icing on the cake.

So, none of the Alpha Blue scenarios contained in any of the sourcebooks really worked well for me - they were basically very barebones sketches presenting ideas and not much rules to supplement them. This is different: From monster/NPC-stats to the details of the vessel to the fitting battle-field mechanics, there is some actual game to supplement the, as always, hilariously over-the-top ideas.

In fact, this is, BY FAR, the best scenario currently available for Alpha Blue - at least when compared with the sketches in the modules. When compared with Venger's other adventures from the Trinity of Awesome +1, it would frankly be, at least for me as a person, better than "A Green Jewel They Must Possess." As a reviewer, though, I do consider the module's end to be too abrupt - I don't know if this is sequel-bait of not, but personally, I think it deserves, no, needs a sequel to tie up all the loose ends. (Haha...sorry, will punch myself later for that...)

All in all, we have a fun scenario and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I don't feel like I can round up for it. If you're enjoying Alpha Blue and have no time to flesh out adventure-sketches, then consider this a must-own, if not perfect, scenario for a fair price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Slippery When Wet
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The Northlands Series 6: One Night in Valhalla Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 05:48:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The series "The Long Night of Winter" was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

This module is intended for levels 12- 14 and is set in Frog God Games' Lost Lands campaign setting. It can be run in another context/setting without any hassle whatsoever, provided Norse deities exist; its raw content clocks in at 14 pages, if you take away the pdf's editorial, cover, etc..

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

...

..

.

So, Freyja has an issue: Guess what happens when immortal warriors and valkyries get horribly drunk each and every night? Bingo, their capacity for investigative reasoning...well, isn't that developed. And lately, there has been strife among the einherjar, strife that can compromise the readiness for Ragnarök. Worse, souls that come to Valhalla are not yet einherjar before they have completed their feasting...and souls have gone missing. This is a troubling development and hence, the PCs are slipped some sacred mead...and as they slumber, ethereal, translucent forms emerge and manifest in FRICKIN' VALHALLA. These spirit forms are immune to the dazed, exhausted, fatigued, nauseated, sickened and stunned conditions...unless they get voluntarily drunk. Yeah, you may notice that this module does undertake some interesting modifications to the standard rules that make the adventure at once REALLY hard and really easy - It's easy because, upon being reduced below 2/3 of maximum hit points,, you're "flung back" a room via an involuntary teleportation and healed of half current damage and half ability score damage. Slain PCs become specters that can contribute via passive skills and thus help their fellows before fading away - and no PC can truly be slain: Detah just equals waking up, guarded by valkyries, back in the mortal realms.

This makes the characters at once feel like immortal einherjar and really fragile and emphasizes another aspect:

This module, in essence, has satirical angles and could be seen as one prolonged puzzle. You see, einherjar drinking songs and dirty jokes are included and the behavior of valkyries is similarly codified in a concise manner...and the feasthalls of Valhalla, these gigantic edifices, are connected in a linear manner, with relatively few terrain-based obstacles - special note would deserve the vomit/excrement slop-buckets and fire pits, which the PCs should learn to use for tactical advantages- after all, they're treading on the holy ground of their gods!

Their briefing is handled by Brunnaharr, the personal shield-maiden of Freyja...and the einherjar are not particularly cooperative: The PCs, in their interactions with them, have to get the mentality; craven behavior or groveling will get them nowhere - diplomatic aggression may actually be the contradictio in adjecto that best summarizes a valid strategy for success here - after all, the spirit-like shape of the PCs makes them suspicious to the mead-addled minds of the revelers!.

Beyond the social tasks that have to be roleplayed for true success, the PCs will have to e.g. pass Geri and Freki. No, I am not kidding you. And yes, they are brutal. And, once again, yes, killing them is a bad, bad idea. Have I mentioned the hall that has been infiltrated by draugr? Or the chance to interact with none other than Mímir and trade riddles? The encounters, in spite of the identical nature of the festhalls per se, are what makes this module in conjunction with its unique rules for mortals in Valhalla - this is very much a roleplayer's module and each combat herein, to some serious extent, has a tactical angle, feels like a little, unobtrusive puzzle. I love that! Ultimately, the PCs will find agents of Hel, Ganglati and ganglöt, shielded from the eyes of deities and if they manage to best these powerful foes, they may in fact leave this module with a powerful favor of the valkyries!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get a b/w-map, we actually also get player-friendly version!! Big plus there!

Ed Greenwood is a legend for a reason. There. I said it. I am torn on quite a few old-school adventures, but this encapsulates perfectly what makes them work: Surprising amount of detail and a bit tongue-in-cheek, this module highlights aspects of Norse myths that usually are buried beneath hero's pathos. The unique spirit rules reward the PCs at once for their bravery AND emphasize the brains over brawn aspect, which renders the plaiyng of this module a rather unforgettable experience. Now yes, I would have very much preferred different maps for the different feasthalls, but that, ultimately remains a minor hiccup. It's uncanny once you stop and think about it: This module features linear rooms of the same size and general layout; it should be boring and unrewarding.

It's quite the opposite. This is incredibly entertaining, challenging and not for the faint of heart: Sure, PC lives are not at stake, but oh boy does the teleport makes things TOUGH. Unless your players are good at non-conventional problem-solving (read: Not bashing everything's brains in), they'll be in for a world of pain. As they should be. This is funny, challenging, awe-inspiring and epic in the right ways. Well worth 5 stars + seal of approval and one of the modules from the series that I consider a must-have, alongside "Winter's Teeth" and "Oath of the Predator".

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Series 6: One Night in Valhalla Pathfinder Edition
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Veiled Illusionist
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 05:47:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The standard base class this prestige archetype is built upon would be the wizard; thus, the class gets d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, Int-based prepared spellcasting of up to 9th level and the wizard's armor and weapon proficiencies as well as 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The class gets Eschew Materials as a bonus feat at first level.

At first level, the prestige archetype gains a veil pool of 1/2 class level + the highest mental attribute modifier. As a standard action, the veiled illusionist may expend 1 point to duplicate disguise self, with an interesting disbelieve mechanic - DC 15 + points remaining in the pool. I really like this and am glad it was retained from the PrC, since it emulates fatigue and rewards resource management. Changing disguises while already under the effect of the ability, btw., does not necessitate further point expenditure. Starting at 3rd level, the veiled illusionist can also modify the audible (sound) properties of his chosen disguise, with 10th level extending this to olfactory and tactile senses. At 18th level, this extends to extraordinary senses. Action economy-wise, 6th level allows alternatively to use this ability as a swift action, with 14th level unlocking the option to use it as an immediate action. REALLLY, really cool! A definite step up, as far as I'm concerned - the finer distinction (scent is not blindsight) and the expanded action economy help render this feature more rewarding than in the base PrC.

At the same time, I really wished that the goddess's veils class feature had been expanded upon - the same races as in the base PrC (human, halfling, elf, gnome, cyclops, naga) are covered. ON the plus-side, the respective veils, while linear, have been assigned to sensible levels and, big plus, the naga veil's stacking illusion trick has received a bit of a clarification regarding shadow-spells, which is rather appreciated by yours truly. True veil remains the capstone of the prestige archetype.

The pdf also comes with alternate build rules for the arcanist, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror and witch classes. The pdf also provides a rather extensive amount of class-specific favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, avodim (wasn't that "Avoodim"?), catfolk, dhampir, drow, kitsune, kobold, samsaran, sylph, tengu, undine and xesa. As a nitpick: The undine's option has an issue: It increases the range of illusion spells by 5 ft., which is very potent. It tries to eliminate "personal" spells by "with a range", but RAW, range "personal" can still be defined as a range; as is "touch." Nitpicking here, since it's pretty easy to figure out what's meant, but still.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's final caster prestige archetype ends the series on a suitable note: The veiled illusionist has all the makings of a superb prestige archetype, retaining the strengths of the PrC, while making neat modifications to the engine. Now personally, I wished it had more veils or some choice there - the linear progression makes sense, sure, but to me, this aspect could have easily carried more. Similarly, the veil pool mechanic could have carried more class features. It should be noted that I'm complaining on a high level here - the pdf delivers what it promises and going one step beyond certainly is not required. Still, more so than with many of these, I wished it went the extra mile.

Oh well, this should not dissuade you from getting this one, though - it certainly is one of the best examples in the series and thus receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, though it misses rounding up by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Veiled Illusionist
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Prodigy Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 05:44:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial (misspelling author names), 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The prodigy class gets d8 HD, 4 +Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, saps, rapiers and light armors, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will- and Ref-saves. Spellcasting-wise, the prodigy gains access to the bard's spell-list, but casts these spells as psychic spells.. She also gets access to all spiritualist spells with somatic components - for a grand total of RAW NONE. Let me quote the base rules of psychic magic: "Therefore, psychic spells never have verbal or somatic components..." This is a big, nasty glitch in the base spellcasting engine of the class - undoubtedly, this was supposed to provide a means to balance the class...but however it was intended to work...it unfortunately doesn't. No go. The prodigy spellcasting is governed by Charisma and spontaneous.

The spellcasting also fails to specify that the class gains the spiritualist's knacks - or is it supposed to get the list of e.g. the psychic? I assume no, but yeah. Second glitch in the base spellcasting engine that should have been caught.

Thematically concise, but problematic and odd would also be the wunderkind ability: If the prodigy is a young creature, her abilities are calculated as though she was 2 levels higher. I get what this tries to do, but it should really be an archetype. Why? Because in games where everyone plays young creatures, that's an advantage no other class offers. In games where PCs are adults, it does not provide the template...making it not really work as intended for any group.

The key class feature of the prodigy would be the muse, which shares alignment (why? -Come on, LG prodigy with CE muse could be amazing!) and languages with the prodigy. A muse can either be harbored in the prodigy's consciousness or partially manifested. It may also be manifested fully and is then treated as a summoned creature. Full manifestation takes 1 minute and it retains hit points, unless slain, in which case it regains 1/2 maximum hit points. The little word "can" regarding refusal to manifest in the presence of other pets should probably be eliminated. More on the details of the muse later.

At 1st level, the muse, while within the prodigy's consciousness (and I assume, when it's partially manifested, since that is not explicitly mentioned in a needless oversight) Skill Focus in a Knowledge and Perform skill, as determined by the muse's artistic focus. At 14th level, the muse's artistic focus' benefits are constantly maintained.

The 3rd level ability has not been properly bolded and nets bonded manifestation, though a muse may only manifest in incorporeal form. 4th level nets either Deceitful or Persuasive as bonus feats.

Starting at 6th level, the prodigy gets an ability I generally applaud: Masterpiece Adept. This ability seeks to unchain, if you will, bardic masterpieces, which are an amazing, but problematic piece of crunch - the big issues of the masterpieces would be that they have exceedingly steep costs and are not that flexible. The prodigy may use these during incorporeal bonded manifestation and uses her class level as her bard level and spend prodigy spells known to meet the prerequisites. So, what about other costs? Well, at 12th level, the prodigy may perform a bardic masterpiece without spending the associated cost to learn it and at 20th level, the prodigy may use any Perform skills to meet the prerequisites of the masterpieces. Wait, what? Okay, so, there are a couple of issues: For one, the text contradicts itself - once, the ability is gained at 5th level, while another sentence quotes 6th. Secondly, since we use the muse's bardic performance to fuel bardic masterpieces, who takes the actions to activate it? The prodigy? The muse? The precise way in which the masterpiece is activated is opaque - RAW, neither prodigy, nor muse can meet the activation prerequisites, since the prodigy knows the masterpiece, but does not have the resource used to power it. Also: Does the muse have to maintain the performance? The action economy here needs clarification. That being said, considering that this is a freshman offering, the rules-language is better than I expected!

7th level yields a bonus spell determined by the muse: Magic circle against good/evil or remove curse, depending on alignment. The spells have not been properly italicized. At 11th level, the prodigy can 1/day generate a variant of secure shelter (correctly italicized!) and at 12th level, up to 8 creatures that spend 8 hours there, can add a +1 enhancement bonus to their melee weapons - for a total of prodigy class level rounds. Activation is a swift action. 17th level adds a special weapon quality, determined by the prodigy's alignment. These qualities have not been italicized. As a further nitpick: The ability RAW allows generating an enhancement bonus beyond +5 - this should cap.

At 17th level, the muse's emblem spell is unlocked as a 5/day SP. As a final complaint: 2nd, 5th, 10th and 19th level yield no ability. 10th at least nets a new spell level, but the others are dead levels.

Okay, let's look at those muses! Muses get d10, are incorporeal creatures and thus use Dex for atk and CMD. Muses get 2 + Int mod skills per HD, 3/4 BAB-progression and Red- and Will-saves are good saves, Fort the bad save, capping at +5 and +9, respectively, similar to the phantom. Muses begin play with 1 feat and increase that to a total of 8. Analogue to that, starting at +8, the muse increases her Charisma and Wisdom scores by up to +8 over her 20-level-progression. This should be noted, since the muse, being incorporeal, receives her Cha-mod as a Deflection bonus to AC. They begin play with 2 natural slam attacks (imho should specify primary/secondary) with a base damage of 1d4, increasing that to up to 2d6. Muses have the spiritualist's phantom link and share spells at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, excluding 20th, they increase an ability score by 1. Muses can duplicate countersong, fascinate and inspire courage (scales up to +4, according to the table). At 12th level, inspire greatness is unlocked and such performances only work while fully manifested. Per se a cool idea: A muse's bardic performance, while based on a bard, is influenced by her prodigy's Perform check, which is made upon resting: Failure to meet DC 10 equals the loss of 1 round and meeting DC 20 and 30 nets 2 and 5 bonus rounds, respectively - which is rather potent, considering how easy to cheese skills are. The muse gets the 30 ft. delivering of touch spells of the phantom, with the corresponding upgrade at 12th level to 50 feet. Table and text contradict each other regarding emblem spell, which ostensibly can be cast 1/day as a SP by the muse. 6th level nets the muse always-on fly speed of 50 ft. with good maneuverability, which is rather soon when compared to other pets. At 7th level, the muse's attacks become magic for the purpose of overcoming DR.

Base stat-wise, muses get the make-believe muse-subtype (why invent a subtype?) 30 ft. movement, +2 dodge to AC, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 15. Bluff, Diplomacy, Fly, Knowledge (planes) (lacks the bracketed "int"), Sense Motive and Stealth are class skills, +1 freely chosen at 1st level. Additionally, the muse gains a Knowledge and Perform skill based on artistic focus chosen - unnecessary: The muse gains auto-ranks in these bonus skills, which means she's always capped for them. Sooo, why not give the muse a mechanical reason why she'll WANT the skills at max potency? Just sayin'.

A total of 9 different artistic focuses are presented, ranging from Callie (epic poetry) to Ula (astronomy). I like the choices here, but the impact on the overall class should be expanded - beyond the skills the respective choice grants, the focus only influences the emblem spells and grants a single ability, which is gained at 9th level. These are interesting, in general, and include a 30 ft.-aura of heroism (not properly italicized - like all spells in this section...) - do the allies lose the effect when they leave the aura? I assume so as per similar abilities. What's the CL for dispelling purposes? Taking 20 for a Knowledge (history) check as a standard action in conjunction with lore master, comparatively, seems weaker. Another muse nets a 4d6 channel energy that improves to 5d6 at 17th level, using Wisdom as governing attribute and another one nets improved evasion - sooner than the rogue, but on par with the monk. A concentration-hampering field of hilarity is a cool idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting...are not up to par. There are a bunch of instances where formatting is flawed and the rules-lingo could have used some adjustments here and there. Heck, the editorial gets the author's names wrong. Layout adheres to an aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard with nice artworks. The pdf comes with very basic bookmarks - I would have expected a bit more here. Annoying comfort-detriment: Copying text is disabled. If you want play these folks, you'll have to print this out. So, that's a minus.

Beth Breitmaier and Dave Breitmaier have not taken the easy route here. The prodigy hybrid class tries to take some exceedingly complex concepts and blend them into one class. When I saw that this was a freshman offering, I expected a train-wreck...and I did not get one. Now, mechanically, the action economy needs a bit of fine-tuning and so do other aspects of the class - the prodigy can be very potent (seriously - two strong spell-lists, plus a phantom with bardic abilities...ouch!), but it's not a class whose strength is immediately apparent. Perhaps also since it, time and again, references its parent classes and demands that you read up their abilities and puzzle them together with the prodigy's...which is a no go. Nobody should have to flip between 3 classes to get how one class works.

So, as you've seen above, beyond my formal complaints, I have to call this a flawed class - I wouldn't allow this as written and it needs some serious fine-tuning. At the same time, it actually fulfills several expectations I have for hybrid classes: The prodigy plays different than its parents, which is a big plus. Furthermore, it feels completely different. It does feel like it has its own concept and niche. Which brings me to the artistic focus component: It's what sets the muse apart and should have been more pronounced. By talking away power from the base chassis and making this choice matter more, the class could have gained a massive boost of diversity between different prodigies. So, as a note for the future, dare to be distinct and further develop the unique aspects of the identity of the class! The basics are here already! :D

What does that leave us with? Concept-wise, the prodigy is cool, but it would have required a good rules-editor/dev to polish it into shape. I am positive that this has the potential to be a 5-star offering with some retooling and tweaking. The imagination, the ideas, the distinct identity and soul are there - the class feels distinct and not just like a Frankenstein-hybrid of stitched together parts. So yeah, it is a promising start for the author duo, but also highlights the inexperience with some of the finer rules-aspects. I'd bash this more, but I do tend to give freshman offerings some leeway...and if you're willing to invest a bit of time, a bit of nerfing and a bit of tweaking/expanding, you can make this a pretty cool addition to the game without having to rewrite everything. And it actually feels like an original class, not just two smashed together. While the editing and formatting is jarring, I can see this class have value for some rounds, in spite of its flaws. Taking the freshman bonus into account, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars - if you invest time in it. If you want something to whip out and play, steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Prodigy Hybrid Class
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Legendary Vigilantes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2017 07:23:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' series of class-centric pdfs clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my queue as an informal request via my patreon.

All right, we'll begin with new archetypes, the first of which would be the arsenal summoner, who gains proficiency with heavy armors and replaces vigilante specialization with anima union: The archetype begins play with a sentient weapon called "anima" (not the biggest fan of the nomenclature there), which must be a weapon properly sized for the character, acting as a magus' black blade, though it is not required to be a one-handed slashing weapon, rapier or swordcane. As such, the anima basics diverge from those of the black blade, with every odd level after 1st providing improvements. Anima weapons begin play at Int 10, Wis/Cha 6 and an ego-score of 3 and increase that up to Int 19, 15 Wis/Cha and 24 ego at 19th level. Anima weapons begin play knowing common and learn additional bonus languages later. Sense-wise, they act as though they had sight and hearing and may thus be affected by blindness and deafness. The anima uses the character's saving throws. In order to balance ranged weapons, two-handed weapons and the like, an anima's damage is overwritten: The weapon begins with 1d6 base damage and increases that up to 2d8 for Medium characters. Tables for Small and Large arsenal summoners have been included as well. Wielders gain the benefits of Alertness while wielding the anima weapon and wielders can telepathically communicate with the weapon. The weapon is immune t the broken condition and, starting at 1st level, the anima can 1/day as a full-round action teleport the anima weapon to them, usable +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, but only while in vigilante identity.

At 3rd level, an anima not currently in use can take on the look of a mundane object, though transformation into its normal form can still risk exposure for the vigilante. As a capstone, the anima may 1/week cast a maximized breath of life, potentially saving its wielder, but not when it's not within 5 ft. of the wielder. 2nd level yields the bonded armor ability - an armor that the character can instant summon to himself, though it is marked by an arcane mark, potentially allowing identification. The armor may be called Cha-mod times per day. Additionally, the armor receives a +1 enhancement bonus, which increases by +1 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter up to a maximum of +5 at 14th level. Such armor does not work for other creatures, btw., though destruction, mark-removal and similar stratagems exist to hamper the class feature. The arsenal summoner may also choose some exclusive vigilante talents, for an additional bonded armor, the weapon master handbook's advanced armor or weapon training, regular armor training and you can go iron man and fuse anima and bonded armor with one vigilante talent. Control over the exact form of a blade called forth via the anima's teleportation, bonded shields, calling a copy of the called weapon, exchange of enhancement bonus for special weapon qualities (with higher levels increasing the selection available) - nice. Using glamered versions in social identity and the like also are included here.

Instead of unshakeable and frightening appearance, the arsenal summoner gains an anima pool with Cha-mod, minimum 1, points These points can be expended as a swift action to provide a +1 bonus to weapon damage and atk, which increases by +1 for every 4 levels after 1st. The bonus lasts 1 minute and at 5th level, it can be used to grant the weapon temporarily a rather extensive selection of weapon special abilities. At 5th level, finally, the archetype replaces startling and stunning appearance with a pocket dimension to stash anima and bonded armor. The capstone allows the character to choose between armor or weapon mastery. Basically, this is a magus/fighter/vigilante-crossover-archetype with "god-weapon"-style gameplay. This hybrid-like theme is btw. something you'll notice in the other archetypes as well.

The next one would be the Beast Born, who loses vigilante specialization as well as dual identity. However, in place of that, the archetype gains a full strength animal companion - identity changing cannot be hastened by the archetype as a balancing measure, though, since yes, this companion may, at a touch, be changed into a harmless Tiny version of its self as a standard action- tiger to housecat, you get the idea. Reversal of this change can be done as a swift action, which means that the companion may be used to net the vigilante the required time to change to prevent exposure. Slightly confusing: The beast born, in the middle of the second paragraph of the ability, suddenly talks about "When transformed into an animal..." in the context of the vigilante identity. This ties in with the second ability - at 1st level, the beast born can change into a harmless form as a standard action at will, with 4th level yielding wild shape, with additional daily uses at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Strong? Yes, however, the archetype also loses the 4th level vigilante talent...and those gained every 4 levels thereafter. As a capstone, the beast born gets free animal growth when going into animal form. I had two associations here: Manimal and He-Man. Make of that what you will. ;)

Next up would be the dynamic striker, who replaces martial weapon proficiency with Improved Unarmed Strike. Instead of the regular vigilante specialization, they choose to either be a brawler or a technician dynamic striker. Brawlers are treated as avenger vigilantes for BAB and talent purposes, while technicians gain studied combat, governed by Wis, but only in conjunction with gauntlets, unarmed strikes, etc. Dynamic strikers may choose from a selection of specialized martial arts talents and use their Wisdom modifier as key ability modifier for the purpose of determining saves, atks, etc. These include cross guard counter attacks, while others build upon the vicious impact ability - basically, the archetype contains two generally schools of fighting and the aforementioned two abilities, granted at 3rd level, respectively, represent the foundation of these fighting styles. Vicious impact nets a monk's unarmed damage progression, while cross guard nets a limited use, AoO-resource-based opposing roll counter mechanic, which, akin grit or panache, is recharged upon scoring critical hits. In short: One of the specializations focuses on a somewhat monk-y style, whereas the other represents a martial artist/investigator - the brainy fighter trope we know from anime et al. 5th level progresses this, featuring flurry and knockout blows, respectively. This sequence of abilities eliminates the whole appearance ability tree as well as unshakeable and also is represented in the archetype's capstone selection, which includes ignoring all DR and hardness or maximized damage for knockout blows, but of which are extremely potent.

The exposed vigilante does not receive dual identity, instead gaining +1 skill point per level and an additional social talent at 1st level, which also locks the vigilante out of a selection of social talents. Cool: The archetype does come with an engine-tweak that allows the vigilante to take it after being exposed, akin to what had befallen e.g. the Green Arrow in the comics. This may be a small engine tweaking archetype, but it's actually one of my favorites in the book. The Focused Hunter replaces 5th level's startling appearance with familiar terrain, basically a variant of favored terrain, of which an additional one is gained every 5 levels thereafter. 11th level yields HiPS (Hide in Plain Sight) in requiring no dim light in these terrains (which is very cheesable and borderline OP) and 17th level yields terrain master; these replace frightening, startling and stunning appearance.

The masked grappler would be the grappling specialist vigilante, losing proficiency with medium armor and martial weapons and beginning play with Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple, using class level as BAB -substitute when grappling, but losing the vigilante specialization. The archetype provides a pretty extensive selection of exclusive talents and using such a technique inflicts damage as per a grapple. What are submissions? Well, they are special such talents that impose a cumulative penalty on the foe in question, making them...well. Submit. They are locked into one such talent at first level and use Con as a governing key attribute instead of Charisma. It is a bit evident that editing here is a bit less precise than in the rest of the pdf: We have the archetype referred to as "masked wrestler" in a missed substitution, a lower caps "reflex" save etc. That being said, the options provided cover what you probably wanted from such an archetype: Anklelock? Check. Chokehold? Check. Death from Above via the VERY potent Frog Splash (double damage, grapple as swift action that pins AND bonus damage per 10 ft. fallen). That being said, I was a huge Undertaker fanboy as a child (and here in Germany, wrestling is VERY niche - none of my friends had even heard of those folks!) and I'm happy to see a sufficiently deadly piledriver, thankfully locked behind a high minimum level prerequisite. Also: Running dropkick is viable. 5th level yields a signature move specialization for a submission or technique, 11th level an iterative grapple for increased damage mechanic and 17th level the option to generate a finishing move, making one such technique/submission more potent. The capstone upgrades all moves to signature moves and also yields a second submission.

I like this archetype...but I think it doesn't have much to do with the vigilante. This is complaining at a high level, for sure, but the archetype feels like pretty much its own entity, which has been smashed on the vigilante chassis. With a bit of tweaking, it could have worked for pretty much every class out there...and the "masked" aspect falls a bit flat. Don't get me wrong, I really like the implementation of most aspects here (though I'll nerf some slightly), but the dual identity, which is particularly important in the luchador tradition, is pretty lost here. And Drop Dead Studios has a pretty impressive luchador base class that does offer a slightly more dynamic playstyle. So yeah, not bad, but I feel it could have used more significant ties to the base class.

Continuing the theme of hybrid-themed archetypes, the noble soul must be good and have both identities within one alignment step of one another. Much like the dynamic striker, this is an archetype that encapsulates two different iterations/traditions, though this time around, both are drawn from the paladin's bag of tricks: Those choosing the crusader specialization gain smite evil (1/day, +1/day at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter), while those that walk the path of the healer instead receive the lay on hands class feature (usable 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day). Here, we do have better tie ins to the vigilante, btw. - aura of good is only active while in vigilante identity. The archetype does get an extensive selection of exclusive talents, though the interaction of the talents here can be a bit wonky: Unbound Smite makes all neutral foes count as evil for the purposes of smite. So far, so good. Focused smite, however, treats all evil foes as evil outsiders for the purpose of smite - does that mean that, with both talents, all neutral creatures can be targets of smite as though they were evil outsiders? I assume that's the basic combo here, but something in the back of my head, when comparing this combo to the other talents afforded to the archetype, tells me that it's slightly OP in comparison, even when locked behind level 10. Not to the point of being broken, but yeah. The talents also provide a divine bond mount and mercies and, starting at 4th level, paladin's spellcasting at the expense of that level (and all multiples of 4's) vigilante talents. The capstone provides an upgrade for lay on hands to act as a combo breath of life + heal or auto-confirming criticals when smiting. Ouch.

The outrageous lyricist loses medium armor proficiency and gains a bard's spellcasting in exchange for the vigilante talents gained at 4th level and every 4 levels after that. Instead of vigilante specialization, they gain bardic performance (countersong, fascinate, distraction and inspire courage), while 3rd level yields quick change with a 1-minute fascination effect for those watching that fail their Will-save. So that's how Sailor Moon etc. did it. ;) The talents include masterpieces and e.g. dirge of doom is codified as such a talent "black metal medley." (I'd have expected that to be doom metal medley, but yeah... ;P) An emo scream that ignores fear immunity (but immune creatures get a bonus to saves) is nice, but my engine-favorite would be the battle rap "lyrical duel"-style ability for demoralized foes to try to rebuttal the lyricist. Increased damage when flanking with allies is called mosh pit and the archetype can convert weapon damage into sonic damage. The capstone nets immunity for fear, fatigue, exhaustion and negative levels for all allies benefiting from the performance. Once again, a cool archetype, but one that could have used a tighter connection with the base class, as far as I'm concerned.

The sentai soldier archetype replaces vigilante specialization with burn, elemental focus and kinetic blast, but they can only accept up to Con-mod burn and don't take non-lethal damage from accepting burn. The archetype gets a transformation device that mirrors a magical child transformation in 5 rounds, potentially reduced to a standard action with quick change, immediate action via immediate change. Beyond this modification, we get the option to take an utility or infusion wild talent instead of a vigilante talent and the archetype also contains a variety of different talents: Battle Charge allows the character to spend a swift action to reduce the burn cost of the kinetic blade or fist infusion by 1, but not below 0. This can be further improved and the archetype can use these talents to gain composite blasts, elemental defense or metakinesis. 3rd level nets a fascination-inducing quick transformation and 4th level sentai soldiers that have accepted 1 burn or more gains an equal bonus to atk and damage with kinetic blasts, with the very necessary cap based on the class level. The archetype does lose 3 vigilante talents for that and at 5th level, the vigilante gains gather power - and yes, the archetype loses the appearance tree. 20th level yields access to metakinesis (twice).

All right so far, so good, but we get more than archetypes herein. A total of 8 social talents can be found, which includes the overdue Master Craftsman granting and modifying option to make the vigilante capable of creating gadgets, fixing a crucial hole in the rules. Improving attributes towards groups of creatures, discrediting those that seek to unmask the vigilantes via Bluff (not properly capitalized -like many skills in this section) and even some synergy with the superb Legendary Rogue's skill specializations can be found here. Unless I have miscounted, we get a total of 27 vigilante talents here as well - though not all of them are without issues. Adamantine Fist, for example, nets you the ability to ignore up to class level hardness with unarmed strikes, but at 11th level, they count as adamantine for the purposes of bypassing DR, which is frankly too soon when compared to other classes. Defy Pain lacks an important anti-abuse caveat: It converts damage to nonlethal damage for Cha-rounds (+1 daily use at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter). In the hands of a build that's immune to nonlethal damage, that RAW translates to invulnerability. Broken and needs to die/be nerfed big time. On the plus-side, talent-based TWFing is a cool idea...but it's ONE talent for 3 feats - three potent feats, mind you. Regular, Improved and Greater TWF, unlocked at viable levels, with the higher ups automatically gained at higher levels. That is comparatively too much in my book.

Other talents net one Equipment Trick, +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, which, while also granting more than one benefit, make sense; as does gaining Toughness and Great Fortitude in one package. Gaining a grit-pool, oddly governed by Charisma in a design-aesthetic deviation from the standard and deeds can also be done. Martially inclined vigilantes are the biggest winners here, though, as a whole tree of abilities focuses on both Whirlwind Attack and Vital Strike and making them both relevant for the purpose of the class. I like those, even though, depending on the type of game you're playing/your GM style, they may end up being rather strong. Iterative attacks with Spring Attack would be something I'd personally ban, mainly because the talent fails to specify whether the attack has to hit the same target or can be freely spread around - in combo with some other options, that can be nasty, particularly due to the explicitly stated synergy with the TWF-tree. All in all, a surprisingly mixed bag I am not as fond of as I expected.

The pdf also provides an array of feats that partially net upgrades to archetype specific abilities like bonded armor, the option to cross-specialize at lower potency (-4 levels) and thus gain internal talents you're usually locked out of - which is pretty cool. Identity specialization and, really amazing, Shared Identity as a teamwork effort, make sense and are big winners in my book. Similarly, gaining dual identity via a feat can be rather helpful for certain characters and the feat manages to prevent abuse. All in all, a nice feat-section.

The magic item section contains gloves that pair weapon enhancement bonuses, wraps to add special properties to unarmed attacks, Superman glasses that make you look mundane and a powerful combat scabbard.

The pdf also contains a 10-level PrC, the scion of the city (cue countless Arrow/Spirit-references) that needs 4 ranks in 2 skills, the renown social talent and a BAB of 3+. The PrC gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression. The PrC chooses a Scion City at first level, wherein all Knowledge checks are enhanced and they gain great renown in the city. Levels stack with those of the vigilante, though spellcasters must choose to retain either spellcasting progression or gaining vigilante talents at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. 2nd level yields favored terrain as well as increased damage output with improvised weapons. 4th level yields incredible renown and 5th level HiPS in the city, which can be a bit early. 6th level yields loyal aid and followers as though via Leadership. 7th level yields gossip collector, while at 8th level the scion may gain renown in a community up to 50K folks instead of gaining a social talent. Additionally, celebrity discount is increased. 9th level nets Shared Identity for the scion's crew and, at 10th level, which is REALLY cool, they may modify a settlements properties - you know, corruption, crime, etc. and he may even generate advantages and disadvantages. I kinda wished the archetype got that one sooner, perhaps a scaling variant - fights between two scions for the properties of the city could have been pretty amazing. Still, overall a flavorful, really cool PrC.

The pdf concludes with Rashid Zill/Dark Star, a sentai soldier vigilante 10 of the tiefling race - once a selfish man, he had his love taken from him by a notorious serial killer he is now hunting down. All in all, a pretty cool character, complete with a detailed background story and even a boon for allied PCs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as tight as usual for Legendary Games - I noticed a couple of formatting hiccups and the like. Layout adheres to the series' two-column full-color standard and the artworks are a mix of previously used ones and a couple of new pieces, all in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

N. Jolly delivers basically the "unlock" vigilante book here that provides all the hybrid-y unlocks you wanted. Druid-vigilante? Check. Pala-vigilante? Check. Monk-vigilante? Check. The execution of these archetypes is generally as precise as we've come to expect from the author and quite a few of them have some seriously evocative tricks. Now, at the same time, compared to Legendary Kineticists, they feel a bit less awe-inspiring. The arsenal summoner being the one archetype that really clicked with me. That being said, the exposed vigilante is gold. Still, in some of these hybrids, I felt like they could have used more unique features. Then again, both feat and social talents are pretty damn cool. The vigilante talent section, though, has been one I am not comfortable with and in my game, I'll probably disallow a lot here. Why? Well, from what I've heard, a lot of games tend to feature relatively static front-lines, where monsters and PCs trade full attacks. My home game is nothing like that and we have a lot of shifting front lines, movement, dynamic terrain and the like, which makes Spring Attack and Vital Strike significantly more powerful than in a game where trade full attacks is the default. I am cognizant that that is a peculiarity not shared among all tables, though I felt the need to mention that in such a context, the options here should get some careful GM oversight. Beyond these situationally slightly problematic ones, we also have a couple of options I consider too strong/power creep when compared to the options other classes receive.

I don't want to come off as overly negative and misrepresent this pdf, mind you. The matter of the fact remains that this has a great PrC and fills A LOT of rules-holes and allows for some seriously cool options. Vigilante players will certainly have a cool field day with this book and if you're looking for a way to play an all-vigilante group, this may very much deliver just that. (!!!) That alone will make this probably a must-own for many groups. Still, it feels a bit less mind-blowing and refined in some sections than what I've come to expect from N. Jolly's amazing offerings, which, ultimately, makes me settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Vigilantes
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The Northlands Series 5: The Hidden Huscarl Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2017 07:20:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The series "The Long Night of Winter" was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

This module is intended for levels 8- 10 and is set in Frog God Games' Lost Lands campaign setting. It can be run in another context, but I'd honestly wouldn't recommend it this time around.

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

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So, the first thing you have to know is that this module does not take place in the Northlands - instead, it takes place in Frog God Games' epic and amazing hub-city Bard's Gate. Not long ago, the longship Sea Bear, captained by Tjorvi Thurgorson, nephew to legendary Hallbjorn Bolverkson (that name made me cringe a bit - son of the bolverk?) arrived - his boisterous nature got him in trouble with none other than Duloth, basically a mover and shaker/Kingpin-style figure in Bard's Gate - untouchable and exceedingly potent. Well, Duloth is not one to let an embarrassment slide...much less being pushed into the canals.

The consequences arrive swiftly: Tjorvi disappears and Rölnut, his second in command, demands him being found in 3 days...or else we'll have a bad, bad escalation on our hands. Whether the PCs are members of Tjorvi's crew or living in Bard's Gate (or both) - they have to find the missing captain. Fast. Even if it means crossing Duloth. Thus, the first part of the adventure is an investigation at the docks of Bard's Gate - which can slowly yield the proper rumors and, provided the PCs don't run afoul of an untimely death at Duloth's men's blades, it'll bring them in contact with what may be considered to be a conspiracy nut..only this time, he's right.

Justin Greenwood guides the PCs towards the entrance to the catacombs in the Old Temple District - and here, the dungeon-crawl begins, for the man who has taken Tjorvi is none other than a vampiric mobile fighter/assassin with horrific skin-masks, a nasty agent named Entrade with ties to the notorious Underguild of vampiric killers first featured in "Liches & Vampires" and updated in "Quests of Doom." Beyond ossuary golems and deadly traps, the berserking temperament of Torvi and trauma he has undergone at the hands of the vampiric torturer represents other challenges the PCs will need to overcome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get a b/w-map, we actually also get player-friendly version!! Big plus there!

Casey W. Christofferson delivers a solid little module and I, as a person, really enjoyed it. As a person.

As a reviewer, I am more torn on it. You see, more so than any other module or supplement by Frog God Games, this completely relies on the setting to carry it - in a way, it is fanservice for those who, like me, love the lost lands campaign setting.

The tie-in to the epic Bard's Gate tome is really cool. I loved the tie-in to the Underguild, all the connections with the metropolis...but if you take these away, you arrive at a pretty standard rescue mission with a small dungeon crawl...hat ultimately isn't that remarkable. When run as intended, in the Lost lands, with the HUGE Bard's Gate tome as support, this is amazing.

On its own, however, divorced from the flavor, nods and external local color and detail...it becomes significantly less impressive. Neither the investigation nor the dungeon are really remarkable, both are rather linear and since this was released before the Bard's Gate book, it doesn't make use of the book's great status-mechanics either.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for such nods, tie-ins, for means of making a world fill "whole", concise, real - I love that. But here, it's doesn't sport that much amazing aspects beyond that. What remains is still good, but simply not as remarkable as I've come to expect from Frog God Games and their amazing modules. Try as I might, I can't rate this higher than 3.5 stars. If you're a fan of the Lost Lands, round up. If you don't care for Bard's Gate/don't have it/don't want to run this in the Lost lands, then round down instead. My final verdict will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Series 5: The Hidden Huscarl Pathfinder Edition
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Staff of the Last Hill Chief
Publisher: MonkeyBlood Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2017 07:19:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief system-neutral module clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, how does the module achieve its system-neutral approach? Via symbols. The pdf utilizes several symbols to denote ceiling height, depth below surface of a given room, lighting, sounds, smells. The respective entries offer a first and second glance entry of information and combats are rated via sword-icons - one is easy, 5 is very hard. Loot is represented by gem-symbols. Skills, tasks and the like are represented by hand-symbols - again, one symbol indicates a very easy task, 5 a very hard one.

The basic presentation and inclusion of way to surface etc. adds a nice level of detail to the module and collates information for a region pretty smoothly, so kudos there. The map of the complex presented here (a cairn) is provided as a front- and a side-view version in b/w and is pretty detailed and rather well-made, considering the low price-point. However, if you're like me and a GM who wants key-less versions redacted for player use, then you'll be disappointed - none are provided.

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

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All right, only GMs around? Great! The staff known as Wyreaus was a symbol of leadership and he who holds it would also hold sway over the people - strife blossomed regarding the staff's ownership until a wise chief, one Skaeus Blackwyr, claimed the staff. When he died, the people buried the staff with him. The hill folk have since moved on, but now orcs are staging raids from this tomb, which is probably how the PCs are led to this place. As the PCs approach the cairn, they will have to deal with a Bear Owl and then with orcs, giant rats and finally, more orcs and an ogre. As the PCs explore the crude caverns, they will probably stumble over the entrance to the ancient chief's tomb, where a silty well is guarded by living statues. The spirit of Skaeus, tormented by the theft of the staff, still roams these halls, begs the PCs to take the staff with them...and summons his last ounce of strength to dislodge the staff from its hiding place in an adjacent room - swimming to the staff (underground river) will attract the attention of a giant crab, which acts as the boss. The pdf assumes that the PCs hand over the staff to gain their proper reward.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - apart from affect/effect-level glitches, I noticed nothing glaring. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks. The cartography is excellent, as mentioned, but sports no player-friendly map versions. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length, that's still kinda okay.

Glynn Seal's little system-neutral module excels in the level of detail: I really like the emphasis on senses and first/second look differences in what can be perceived. The cartography is excellent, considering the PWYW-nature. The module itself is a painfully vanilla mini-crawl, though. It does not have much branching or choice or consequence to offer. I have seen pretty much all aspects here done better, even in briefer modules, so if you expect anything out of the ordinary, then look elsewhere. I you just need a classic scenario and can't be bothered to make one, then this certainly has appeal. That being said...you can actually find better ones out there that do have system-relevant information, sparing you that additional work-load...which leaves me in a bit of a pickle, for I can't fathom a scenario where I'd seriously get some use out of this. This is not bad, but even for PWYW, it is not the best of options out there. My final verdict can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 - it's a harmless, inoffensive standard scenario with a nice level of detail.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Staff of the Last Hill Chief
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Publisher Reply:
Many thanks for taking the time to review, I appreciate it! Some very useful feedback and I've learned a lot since releasing this adventure a few years ago. I'm tempted to release a revised version in the future which would address some of the shortcomings :)
Into the Pale Tower
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2017 04:54:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for the amazing Rhûne campaign setting clocks in at 67 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 62 pages of adventure, so let's take a look!

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

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All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin this adventure with the PCs attending the public viewing of Clan Hammerfall's fabled hanging gardens -and they are gorgeously, lavishly mapped - see that drawing on the cover? It's actually part of an overview map featured in this module. It should also be noted that there are faction missions herein, which may require subtlety to pull off - you can discard or implement them as you see fit, though, without losing much. Finally, before we get into the nit and grit of the plot, it should be noted that the module features "Making it Mythic"-sidebars - i.e., you can run this as a module for characters gaining their tier etc. Now personally, I'm a fan of really hardcore modules, so I did not elect to go that route, but I figured I may as well mention it.

One more thing: Whereas The Ælven Agenda provided a 1st level module for Rhûne's anti-tech fractions, this one puts the characters within the context of the city-states of Vallinor, on the side of the technology advocates.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, hanging gardens. They're lavishly mapped...like pretty much EVERYTHING herein. The amount of maps is really, really impressive...but annoyingly, you won't find player-friendly versions of the gorgeous cartography - so while you do have the cool maps for everything, you, alas, also have the trap-icons on the maps...which meant that I had to, once again, draw maps. And my drawing skills suck. The absence of player-maps in a this thoroughly mapped module is baffling to me.

I know, the module...sorry. So, the PCs are gazing in amazement at the gorgeous hanging gardens (including alchemically potent berries!), when thugs disguised as anti-tech terrorists burst in...but those guys are just the distraction, as scuttlebombs try to drill into the superstructure, which means PCs will only have a brief window wherein they can herd innocents out of harm's way and disarm the constructs -10 rounds. And yep, that's the first encounter here! Now that is how you pull off a furious start! Oh, and guess what? Things don't really slow down: When Vitkarr Kellak shows up, he is immediately targeted by a deadly assassination attempt by Grey Navash - and the chase (complete with isometric map and DETAILED tactics) makes for a great continuation of the module. At the same time (see page X for map references makes for a jarring and pretty obvious, if not crippling, formal blunder - one that is repeated multiple times throughout the module, alas) - whether by stopping the mythic killer or failing to do so, the PCs will secure documents, this ends Act I - which so far has been a nonstop-accumulation of pure awesomeness.

Now having quite possibly a rather good relationship with Clan Hammerfell, the PCs are invited to meet Narfin, a representation of the clan: Again, a jarring glitch in the read-aloud text omits the blank spaces in the first sentence for "Securityintheaftermath" -cosmetic yes, but in such a module, it sticks out. Similarly annoying: The letters that supposedly should be on the chase map...aren't, even though the pdf says so. It is such hiccups that make this feel rushed.

After this debriefing (which is handled in exquisite detail), the PCs, either on their own or at the night-commander's request, will find themselves at the northern side of Union City, in the Festung (German for fortress, just fyi) Nar - here, the PCs are hired to follow the trail of the mysterious assailants and deduce their agenda - onwards to Northgard it is - and here would also be the place to introduce faction missions, should you choose to do so. The journey via the White Jarl to the place may btw. be spiced up with a nice, fully detailed, mapped and depicted travel encounter...and at northgard, we have a rather intriguing settlement and a lot amiss: Here, the cast of important characters offers a variety of side-quests: There would be a mine with runebound miners, vermin and a potentially powerful witch in the making awaiting the PC's ministrations. There would be a hill, where echoes of dread battles long past remain, attracting elemental spirits. Oh, and then there'd be the question of Hodur Blackshield, who has gone missing - the loner has become increasingly paranoid and littered the approach to his cabin with traps.

After reaching 2nd level and completing at least two of those side.missions, the PCs can finally meet Commander Drothgar, who is missing a rider from Fort Blitzkrieg (of course...sigh), aka Fort Bliss - the wilderness encounters (with read-aloud text and all) don't foreshadow anything pleasant and indeed, the Fort has been abandoned and only traps and a crazed Black Hand agent remain - and all trails lead, sooner or later, to the eponymous Pale Tower: Even approaching this dread place can generate hallucinations, paranoia or worse...and beyond the traps and lethal foes, the PCs will find a rift between world, directly to Niflæheim, can be found...and the lost soldiers, now fel bloodragers and Malgrith, servant of the Lord of Long Winter, make for the final fight - but even if the PCs triumph here, Malgrith's plans have brought a large host of barbarians here - when the PCs return, they find Northgard besieged and Commander Drothgar infected with the dread rage fever...and while the place still stands, the situation is dire...so the PCs return on board of the White Jarl...and further adventure looms on the horizon...

The pdf provides the stats for all new creatures featured herein, well-written hand-outs (though one is missing the GM-instruction section below) and a brief recap of the honor system.

Oh, and if you enjoyed this module - the arc continues in "The Rune of Hope"!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - in an adventure this well-made, the numerous "see page X"-remnants felt jarring to me, as did the glitches here and there. Layout adheres to a crisp and aesthetically-pleasing b/w-style standard with a sepia tint that extends to the copious GORGEOUS original artworks and maps. Oh, the maps. I have rarely wished for a module to have proper player maps this much. We get these amazing, detailed maps, with height-differences and everything on them...and then never get to use them because all frickin' traps are on them! Because the assassin's hiding place is noted in big, fat letters. URGH. Worse and just as glaring: This pdf actually has NO BOOKMARKS. None. I kid you not. It's a HUGE comfort detriment and there, as per the writing of this, isn't even a print version I could refer you to instead.

Will Cooper, Jaye Sonia and Joshua Kitchens have crafted a PHENOMENAL adventure. I absolutely adore this module. It is glorious, evocative and FUN. Fast-paced, laced in mythology, with a significant array of terrain-features, themes, diverse challenges - this is, if you just look at the module, masterclass and very, very cool. It does a great job showcasing Rhûne's amazing aspects.

At the same time, this was an exercise in frustration for me - because I want to applaud the module, to praise it to the heavens...but can't. The lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps are two big, big strikes against it and if you add the editing hiccups, we arrive at a package that still is a great module...but one with wholly unnecessary flaws. And mind you, all of them can easily and quickly be resolved, which I honestly hope will happen. For plot, encounter, diversity, etc.-wise, this deserves my highest praises. If you can look past the formal imperfections, you are guaranteed to be exquisitely entertained by this massive adventure. If you can look past its blemishes, then this is 5-star + seal-level awesomeness par excellence. Now, I did already give The Ælven Agenda some leeway, so I can't well do it again - and, in direct contrast, the lack of player-friendly maps hurts this module more than The Ælven Agenda.

I love this and it breaks my heart to do so, but considering all, I can't rate this higher than 4 stars. Note, though, that this is still very much a highly recommended, amazing module - it's just not nearly as GM-friendly as it's supposed to be.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Pale Tower
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No Escape from New York
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2017 04:50:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/supplement from the Crimson Dragon Slayer-game clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page Kort'thalis glyph, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin with a page of advice on how to structure a CDS game and/or how to run this. The pdf does include conversion notes for traditional ACs and attack bonuses, making this more hackable than it would otherwise be. The pdf does include 3 tables that let you generate a dark secret for an ally, 12 prior events and a means to include a variety of nicknames to the character.

The scenario does begin on the standard CDS-homeworld Thule, with the PCs finding a hunk of scrap and a laser-toting skydrone - and a portal that brings the PCs to New York city - not any New York, mind you, but to a place that amounts to a retro-apocalypse, 80s style - a post-bomb, prior clean-up version reminiscent of Snake Plisskin's adventures, but with a healthy infusion of the weird. So yes, if you belong to the folks who enjoyed A-, B- and C-movies of that genre, you'll be in for a nostalgia-marathon. Similarly, if pop-culture references and the like annoy you, then, surprise, this may not be for you.

Now, this New York is dangerous - and it is perpetually shrouded in neon-based twilight, courtesy of the cataclysm and yes, you may be subject to neon light allergy if you're unlucky. 6 sample gangs. The themes and tropes are all represented: A robotic cabbie, a femme fatale (dubbed Hard Candy...which reminds me of a rather grisly torture-porn movie) and subterranean travel with 6 sample events, all included. Reptile aliens (out-of-towners), sub-human cannibals and a d8-table of sample prostitutes help generate the grimy, desolate feel of the post-apocalyptic metropolis. Bat-men riding giant bats and Steak-Sauce Sinatra, the big boss of the town, also come with full stats. or become the hired killers of the vampire prince of the city.

A little chart for randomly-generated opinions of dudes on the street can be found and the PCs may eat hot-dogs at Old Snake's, meet Blade-reference vampires in trenchcoats, receive an invitation from slasher-mimes, witness demon-zombies erupting from one of the worst movies of all time. Seedy bars and sudden eruptions of Lovecraftiana and yes, a crimson dragon, complement these sketches.

The pdf concludes with 3 new spells: Power Word: Anal Violation by Plague of Rats is just as puerile as you'd think it'd be. It's also very potent for second level and pretty opaque in how it's supposed to work - conversion to more rules-conscious OSR-games will be a mess here. Right from the Joker's arsenal, we have a homage on the one German song probably 80% of Americans know by hard - 99 Crimson Balloons generates the eponymous balloons, makes them float up and then erupt, dousing those below in demonic blood. Those doused take on demonic characteristics, gaining an additional attack and killing those nearby. The spell has a lot of issues: It does not specify whether the affected retain control over whom they attack; the spell specifies no range for the blood either. Reverse Curse lets you either offset a curse or add a minor curse to an object - cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a lot really nice b/w-full-page artworks, all original! The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort-detriment.

Venger As'Nas Satanis' take on a retro-post-apocalyptic NYC is glorious if you're looking for a trip down nostalgia lane. This is a gleeful, unrepentant, somewhat sleazy stroll down memory lane that is amazing if you're inclined for the like. The references of classic tropes and twists on them are fun and based on a true appreciation of the source material, an honest, conscious appreciation of it. If you share it, this will be amazing for you. That being said, one might also criticize this pdf - not for its adhere to tropes and its twists on them, but for the presentation and lack of structure this pdf sports. I know next to nothing about this alternate New York City's power-structures, layout or the like - this very much represents more of a toolkit than an adventure, with hooks left and right, yes - but they remain just that. The individual components never really come together as a concise and holistic hole, never explain how this city's dystopia still, even remotely, works.

In short, to me, this worked for as long as I turned off my brain and didn't start questioning everything; as soon as I did, I felt like I had seen the man behind the curtain. In short, as much as the individual hooks are cool, as much as each aspect of this book is pretty neat, the totality does not really offer that much for me - this is an instance, where the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, unlike in e.g. a similar scenario, Venger's Revelry in Torth. If the nostalgia and reference don't do it for you, you may find yourself feeling a similar way about this and be somewhat disappointed by the pdf. As a whole, this is a nice first step, a fun first look at a retro-post-apocalyptic campaign setting, but not more than that. If you're expecting a fully-fleshed out module or setting, this will not deliver.

How to rate this, then? Well, for me, personally, this didn't do much. As much as I love these retro-apocalypse movies and references, I lack the capacity for full-blown nostalgia and as such, the main draw of this pdf...is lost on me. For me, personally, this is a 3 star-file - decent, but frankly not that amazing. However, as a reviewer, I have to take into account that many of you will absolutely adore this pdf, courtesy of the nostalgia I don't really get - hence, my official final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars...and since I have an in dubio pro reo policy, my final verdict will be rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
No Escape from New York
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Feats of Legend: 30 Fey Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2017 04:47:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look at these feats!

It should be noted that many of these feats can be taken via Eldritch Heritage and fey bloodline as an alternate qualification means.

After a massive table summing up feats and prerequisites in alphabetical order, we dive right in, so, in bullet-points, here's what the feats do:

-Augmented Illusions: +2 CL for illusions

-Arrow Charm: Use Cha-mod instead of Dex-mod on ranged attack with bows and crossbows. Personally, I hate attribute substitution feats like this. They never made sense for me.

-Blood-Soaked Cap: 3/day as a standard action, soak a woolen cap in blood of a foe you brought below 0 hit points. If you do, you gain +2 to damage and fast healing 1 for one minute. You lose these bonuses if the cap is stolen. So, do you have to wear the cap? RAW you don't. Also, can someone hand me a kitten, please? (And yes, since that use may be intended for once, I won't take this into account re the final verdict.)

-Capricious Luck: As an immediate action, add +1d4-2 as a luck bonus to AC. Yes, this may yield a penalty. Interesting!

-Changelingraised: +2 to Disguise and Stealth, +4 if you have 10 ranks or more. Boring.

-Dreaming Jaunt: 1/day as an immediate action, move 1d10 x 10 feet in one direction. If you'd end up in a solid object, you instead show up in the nearest suitable square. Take the feat additional times for more daily uses. Using the feat does not provoke AoOs, but it probably should be codified as a conjuration [teleportation] effect.

-Erlking's Blessing: +4 to wild empathy, +1 step starting attitude for animals.

-Fae Sight: Darkvision works in magical darkness as well. Simple and nice.

-Faerie Godfather: 1/day summon faerie godfather as per planar binding - the fey may have a maximum of 12 HD. Cool one, balanced by minimum level.

-Faun's Fancy Tune: 3/day, as a swift action, use masterwork panpipes to increase the DC of the next bardic performance by +2. I assume this only works with wind instruments.

-Feyborn: Treats you as both normal type and fey, two types at once does not work RAW. +1 to Ref and Will-saves and 1/day dancing lights - which should specify it works as an SP.

-Feybane Fist: Unarmed strikes and natural attacks are treated as cold iron. Cool.

-First-World Blood: +1 to the DCs of illusions, +2 to Will-saves to resist illusions. If gnome, add +3/day uses of SPs instead.

-Flesh of the First World: Gain DR equal to character level /cold iron. Potent, but cool.

-Gift of the Tooth Fairy: Bite attack at +1 size, add full Str-mod to it.

-Gremlin's Luck: Has 4 variants: 2/day immediate action d20 reroll, take the lower roll; 2/day make an item within 60 feet have a 20% failure chance for 1 minute; 2/day decrease complexity of devices sabotaged with Disable Device one step for the purpose of duration; finally, +4 to CMB to trip attempts.

-Grig's Compulsion: +2 to the DC of compulsions, +2 to one Performance skill (Performance should be capitalized). Weird: if you have 10+ ranks in Diplomacy, you get +4 "instead" - pretty sure, that should apply to performance...or both bonuses should apply to Diplomacy.

-Jack's Grin: +2 to Intimidate checks to demoralize and when a target is shaken for 4+ rounds, you may instead frighten the target for 1 round.

-Knowledge of the Old Ways: +2 to Diplomacy with fey and their starting attitude is one step better. 10+ ranks in Diplomacy increase that to +4 instead and reduces the DC of requests made by a further 2.

-Mercurial Mind: Add Cha-mod to Will-saves versus enchantments and mind-affecting effects. Not a big fan of dual attributes to anything.

-Polluted Blood: +4 to Fort-saves to resist poison and diseases.

-Seelie Presence: Targets of your enchantment spells must make 2 successful saves to avoid their effects. OMG. OP and broken as hell. Also needs clarification: When getting saves to negate spells in effect, do the targets have to save twice as well?

-Speak with Nature: Suffer two points Charisma damage to gain the effects of commune with nature, limited to 100 feet per HD. I assume that's an SP.

-Strength of the Oaken Lords: As a swift action, gain +2 Strength and +1 natural AC, but also vulnerability to fire. Can be used Cha-mod times per day and lasts for 1 minute. Nitpick: Doesn't have the minimum 1 use caveat.

-Strong-Willed Charmer: +1 to the DC of charm spells, +2 to the Will-saves to resist charms and compulsions.

-Supernatural Metabolism: When receiving healing from ex, alchemical, extraordinary or supernatural sources, you may treat it as magical for Fey Foundling or Fast Healer.

-Tricky Shifter: +2 Dex and +4 Stealth when assuming animal form via wild shape.

-Unearthly Fortune: Suffer two points of Cha damage for +1d4 luck bonus to atk and skill checks for 1 minute. Lacks activation action.

-Unseelie Power: +1 to the DC and spell-level of spells versus non-chaotic targets.

-Unseelie Side: +2 to Intimidate and to the DC to intimidate you. Bonuses increase to +4 regarding fey. If you have 10 ranks in Intimidate, you increase that to +4 and +8, respectively.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while a few feats could be a tad more precise and while there are a few hiccups in here, as a whole, this is rather solid. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks for each feat: Kudos for going the extra mile there!

Brian Berg, Neal Litherland and Simon Muñoz deliver a generally solid book of feats. There are quite a few filler feats in here, yes, and some are not really that interesting, but there are also some gems in this pdf that help even out the overall offering. While not impressive per se, it also does not deserve being called bad - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 30 Fey Feats
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The Northlands Series 4: Oath of the Predator Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2017 04:04:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The series "The Long Night of Winter" was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

This module is intended for levels 6- 8 and is set in Frog God Games' Lost Lands campaign setting. It can be run in another context/setting without any hassle and its raw content clocks in at 21 pages, if you take away the pdf's editorial, cover, etc..

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

...

..

.

One generation has passed since the final journey of Thorvald the Wanderer, since the fateful day, when he, alongside his long-term companion Ivar, ventured into the deep woods to eliminate the otherworldly darkness that was terrorizing the area. He did not make it out of the woods, though his friend Ivar did - Ivar became the jarl of the village that he named for his friend's sacrifice, Thorvald's Gift. A generation has passed and Ivar's son Bóthvarr has taken the mantle of the jarl - but the horrid darkness has returned. Blood-thirsty beasts are assaulting the settlement once again, the dread sceadugenga are back and have even dragged Ivar from his place - unless the PCs interfere, the hamlet is doomed.

Crafty PCs will smell that there is more afoot here and thus, we get a proper rumor table as well as a rather detailed summary for the hamlet, including NPCs, settlement statblock and copious amounts of read-aloud text - and if the PCs are really good, they may actually find a secret journal of Ivar (represented as a cool one-page handout!), in which he explains the truth: You see, he had been cursed, a lycanthrope seeking a cure - and when he went inside the wood, the dark influence at its heart, the Black oak, took hold of his senses and made him slay his companion. Wracked with guilt, he swore an oath to whatever deity would listen - and a trickster god did...but now, alas, the oath's catch has been triggered and the Black Oak once again grows in power.

Thus, in order to stop the influx of deadly creatures, the PCs will have to embark into the wilds...provided they can repel the assault that is bound to happen at night. The journey into the forest, while not particularly detailed, features random encounters and manages to evoke a rather dire atmosphere, as terrain is more dense, flight not an option and a seemingly immortal beast, Ivar, is tailing them. Here, resource-conservation is already a crucial strategy, for within the dark woods, there lies the tainted, gigantic oak, from which a blood-red sap is flowing. Thorvald's erstwhile companions (and himself) have been perverted in horrible ways and provide lethal foes for the PCs, as they wade into the red liquid to make their way from the roots into the heart of the gigantic tree - where a unique golem and the black heart of the place make for an evocative and dangerous puzzle boss fight in a truly glorious environment.

On their way back, there is only one thing left to do: Slay Ivar, who, full of sorrow, expects to find a warrior's death at the hands of the PCs (and represents yet another way beyond the hostiles) to explain the plot if the PCs botched the investigation - ending the module on a somber note resonating with the morality and pragmatism, but also the heroism of the northlands.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get a b/w-map, we actually also get player-friendly version!! Big plus there!

James M. Spahn delivers big time here: While easily transported to other environments, this module breathes the spirit and atmosphere of the north. Direct and indirect storytelling weave a narrative of woe and loss, betrayal and redemption against the backdrop of a very challenging and incredibly evocative backdrop. The creatures encountered demand different strategies, reward smart PCs and the immortal hunter stalking the trail of the PCs can generate a sense of horror and allow the GM to challenge even the best of groups and adjust the difficulty of the module. This gets what makes the north tick and its visuals are glorious. It also never feels like it tries to do too much: The evocative environments are all depicted in lavish detail, never falling prey to trying to do too much within the page-count allotted, making this feel very well-rounded. In short, this is a glorious module, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Series 4: Oath of the Predator Pathfinder Edition
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Tattooed Mystic
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2017 04:03:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.75 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 5.25 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The prestige archetype this time around uses the wizard as a basis and thus, the prestige archetype receives d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, full spellcasting progression of prepared spellcasting governed by Int and a 1/2 BAB-progression alongside good Will-save progression. However, unlike a regular wizard, the tattooed mystic puts his spells not in a spellbook, but within the drawings on his skin, necessitating a Spellcraft check to identify the like - and yes, rules for removing them are provided. The familiar can similarly become a tattoo to be carried by the mystic. 4th level yields Inscribe Mystic Tattoo (erroneously, but harmlessly incorrectly formatted as (Feat) and 8th level lets the mystic use his own ability score modifier etc. to set the DC of spell tattoos. 12th level halves the time for Craft (tattoos). 16th level increases the CL for spell tattoos by +1 and as a capstone, he may expend a spell slot or prepared spell of the same level or lower to prevent a used spell tattoo from being expended.

Now, the angle where player agenda comes into the fray would be the mystic tattoos, the first of which is gained at 2nd level, with additional ones gained every 4 levels thereafter - these pretty much represent what we know from the prestige class. I kinda wished that the prestige archetype provided more choice to represent the variety that a full class should offer.

The prestige archetype comes with notes for the use of the arcanist, druid, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror, witch classes. Beyond specific favored class bonuses for the core races, catfolk, dhampir, dragonblooded, erkunae, polkan and tieflings are covered regarding class-specific FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's tattooed mystic is a solid prestige archetype - it translates the prestige class well to the context of a full class, is precise and delivers exactly what it says on the tin. I wished it expanded the tattoo choices with new option, but you can't have everything, I guess. In the end, we get a well-made prestige archetype here - well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Tattooed Mystic
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Mini-Dungeon #060: The Unquenched Thirst
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2017 04:00:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

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 is a wilderness sidetrek on an island known for stranding folks, where orc watering parties have turned undead, deadly rapids drag towards the cascade that hides a cave; enchanted water, a kawa akago,, the very rocks thirsting for blood - from leshies to all terrain features, the misery and death that has haunted this place is evident, sharply contrasting its dangerous nature with the per se pretty idyllic map for a relatively dark and interesting, if slightly unfocused cursed region.

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. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side, particularly considering how good this map is.

Michael Allen provides a region the PCs can happen upon that should be considered to be pretty fun, unconventional wilderness set-piece. The theme of nature as mystic, hostile, makes for a cool change of pace and I like very much how this works. personally, I think the leitmotif could be slightly stronger and focused, but I'm complaining at a high level here. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform, but only by a tiny margin.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #060: The Unquenched Thirst
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: The Household Magic Catalog
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2017 08:13:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This letter from the planes-hopping vessel UCS Flaming Crab, faithfully transcribed by J Gray, clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with...35 pages of content? Woa, that is A LOT for the low asking price...so let's take a closer look at this pdf...

...and once we do, we'll realize that the title was not kidding: In the tradition of Aurora's (At this point, if you get this reference, you're part of the old guard...) or, more fittingly, the Sears catalog - for those of you not in the know (and my German readers), picture this like a Quelle or Neckermann catalog that peddles wares that can help in the household. However, here, this concept is framed by the alternate-earth "Ladies Paradise and Company of New York" company.

And from the get-go, you notice something that immediately sets this apart: J Gray's layout for this humble pdf sets it apart as one of the most concise and mighty layouts I have seen in ages; his passion for Castle Falkenstein and extensive historical knowledge immediately show upon opening this pdf: From art déco-style fonts to the artworks, which blend historic pictures with a knight-style variant of the classic "I want you" Uncle Sam poster, the aesthetic integrity of the pdf transcends the text itself. Speaking of the latter: Yes, this picture is on a page encouraging the purchase of war stamps!

In fact, the items presented actually go one step beyond: We have visual representations, a sales-pitch-like summary of the item's benefits and the proper rules-material required for the respective item, creating a thoroughly holistic illusion of a magical catalog. Furthermore, the choice of these items does help render this pdf a thoroughly unique experience, from the first to the last of them.

(As an aside, in case you're wondering - this review is based on V. 2.0 of the pdf.)

The armoire of elegance, for example, auto-prestidigitates and mends clothing put inside it! I'd SO get this one! Tired of bad food while adventuring? The breadboard of instant breakfast will conjure up new and exciting dishes each day and may even help cancel poisons! Alchemical tonics that increase Int and Wis when imbibed before sleeping, mirroring the often cocaine- or laudanum-laden potions of the age, can also be found! What about a magical alarm clock? Extending ladders? Or a wagon that faithfully follows the user to the destination in question? (And yes, its movement is affected by difficult terrain.) Perhaps your lawn is just not fancy - with the right and proper fluid, you can return vibrancy and life to your green (and plant creatures can benefit from a bit of healing). Similarly, quicker plant-growth! What about self-completing mowers, automatic brooms or the like?

Notice something? Yep, these items, just like in a catalog, are organized by area of application - and fret not, an extensive index has also been included, with prices intact for your convenience. Regarding kitchen-appliances, magic scent-negating candles, cloths that negate allergens (I'd so need those IRL...) poisons and diseases can also be found...and the allergen-angle actually provides some rather interesting narrative tricks an enterprising GM can use! The freshen spell can restore spoiled food to proper shape, while scales of recipes can destroy food...but also net you the ingredient list, which, once again, just begs to be used for an investigative game!

A lazing lounger can help with power naps and fortification versus fear and emotion aspects and the mantle of pride can be used to make sure that your guests appreciate your trophies...and you. Need music? The spirit ministrel may take care of that need while entertaining. Throwing pillows inflict no damage, but can render the target asleep on a failed save and the spell update decor makes sure you'll never again be left behind by a trend in the fancy salon-culture!

This, as you may have noticed, is incredibly concise and includes sweeteners to help end the nauseated condition, ever-warm bottles for the offspring (or those enjoying Glühwein/mulled wine with spices) - an automated puppet show, an enchanted nanny's latch, a toy chest that expels living creatures and allows for instant and precise access, toy soldiers (as a nitpick: The set is once called "Spielmann" and once "Spilemann" - the former is correct), pain-relieving ice that's hot provides relief from arthritis and pain-based effects. Jefferson-style desk chairs increase the Int of those sitting inside and helps keep one's privacy by making others leave the working mind alone. Quick-retrieving desks, spell-organization, cleansing feather tokens, conjuring forth birds to fetch objects, sun-sensitive curtains open automatically...and the whammy rug lets you generate static electricity you can fire in short-range jolts...and it's kid-proof to boot!

In a perfect consequence of the style of the pdf, we actually also get a fully detailed order blank as an amazing hand-out! As mentioned before, the index with items by category is really helpful: Spells list classes, alchemical items weight, Craft DC and price and magical items list their prices and auras, adding this perfect final flourish to the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both formal and rules-language levels - I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout is, as mentioned, absolutely inspired, creating a perfect illusion of a fantastic catalog. The artworks chosen, both classic and original, seamlessly fit in with this aesthetic, making the vision represented in this pdf absolutely inspirational. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks to the individual items and spells.

Alex Shanks-Abel, J Gray, Phoebe Harris, Kelly Pawlik and Kendra Leigh Speedling have created an inspiring tome here, but beyond the deserved praise for the authors and the layout herein, the editors/playtesters Alex Shanks-Abel, J Gray (who also acted as the dev), Jeffrey Swank and Lucus Palosaari deserve special acknowledgement. Why? Because, in spite of the different authors with varying levels of experience, the book actually has a unified narrative voice - it does not read or feel like a book written by x different folks - it reads like a delightfully fantastic catalog and has this distinct and hard to achieve aesthetic unity of visuals, text, tone and theme. In short, this is a perfect example of how to create a holistic, thoroughly inspired book that can act as a colossal hand-out if you want it to! Beyond the confines of Pathfinder-rules, allotopias of alternate earths, whether they be Castle Falkenstein or similar settings, can also benefit vastly from getting this book. The logic behind the objects, behind what you'd be able to make in a magical world, is impeccable, the illusion practically perfect. Oh, and you get A LOT of material for the more than fair price-point.

If utility magic and everyday magic, a magical society or the like are even remotely close to what you want, then this is a no-brainer. Granted, you won't find mind-blowing items here, but oh boy, they are COOL. They feel like actual magic to me. However, I maintain that this book also serves as excellent material for low or rare magic games! It makes sense that e.g. some wizards studying all day in their towers, some decadent civilization, would have such objects; in fact, if you've completely abolished vanilla magic in favor of a more fairy-tale-esque aesthetic, then these objects, focusing on utility, would work perfectly as well. Finally, if you need furnishing for the realms of fey or magical schools/academies, then this delivers in spades, bringing a sense of heart-warming wonder to the game, one that transcends what you'd usually expect. This pdf made me happy while reviewing it - because its execution is on par with the fantastic concept, because it has a vast array of uses and because its content will show up in other games of mine as well, regardless of rules-systems. Abuse-proof, hilarious, nigh-perfect, this is a prime example of a pdf that deserves 5 stars + seal of approval as well as being considered as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016.

This shows passion, dedication and soul - it's a pdf where the creators obviously poured their heart's blood in it. Get this pdf. I guarantee you will not regret it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: The Household Magic Catalog
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