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Hypercorps 2099: Thrillville or Killville?
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:34:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module intended for use with the superhero/cyberpunk-toolkit Hypercorps 2099 clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page front cover sans logos etc., 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This is a module for PCs level 3 - 4, with a hyperscore of 3. The pdf contains a one-page cheat sheet explaining the use of hero points within the context of Hypercorps 2099, though I'd still strongly suggest getting the main book to run this if you're interested in the module. Similarly, the module takes entirely place in the hypernet - the quasi-planar evolution of the internet, whose planar traits have been reproduced here for your convenience as well.

Speaking of convenience: One of the potential issues that adventuring in the hypernet can cause would be its cerebral nature: In the tradition of dreamscapes etc., mental attributes are substituted for physical ones, which means that the players should be pretty mechanically fit for quick modifications. Additionally, certain characters will have a tough time in the hypernet, which is why I'd strongly suggest using the illustrious cadre of 4 pregens provided. They not only feature color-artworks and stats, they also sport some interesting personalities, with one, for example, claiming to be the original Dorian Gray. As a whole, the pregens are generally on par in power-level, particularly in the hypernet - and yes, their stats concern their hypernet iterations.

The cartography of the two maps is presented in full-color and we receive a key-less iteration of the maps, though, much like specimens, they do not sport a grid, only a note on how far 5 feet on the map are...in the case of the smaller map. The overview map has no scale, but considering its nature, I can live with that.

All right, this being an adventure-review, we'll now move into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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..

.

All right, still here? We begin in a tavern on the server of Veranthea, conveniently modeled after the fantasy campaign setting, where a bard (this module's Mr. Gray) briefs the PCs: It looks like the premier theme park-server of the hypernet, Thrillville, has been compromised, with a virus haunting it and sending users into catatonia, depression and worse,. It is up to the PCs to infiltrate the themepark and purge the virus, a task for which they receive proper code-packages and a specific bottle-of-moonshine-shaped code package that can temporarily render the plane of the hypernet static, making hidden creatures show themselves for a scant few rounds.

En route to Thrillville, the PCs may run afoul of overloaded bandwith and have a scuffle with a hacker and unbound proxies. Getting inside is not too hard, though getting inside undetected is another matter - the gigantic virtual theme park is ghostly and bereft of visitors and the PCs will soon notice the virus suddenly start manipulating the code to generate creepy effects and attack the PCs, making for a weird ghostly atmosphere - particularly since the PCs will find remnants of security teams that have been killed...looks like their contact failed to mention how dangerous the assignment would be. Wooops.

Two special and unique rides can be found first - the reaper's stroke, an indoor rollercoaster and the vistradi's paradox, a combination of spinning teacups and plastic hamsterballs that makes unique use of directional gravity. More intriguing here would be the responses of the malignant AI, who, if it has judged the PCs to be hostile, will manipulate these rides to become...let's say, significantly more lethal. Ultimately, whether due to time elapsing or the virus getting to the PCs, they will be drawn towards the fully mapped arcade of Thrillville, where the bossfight versus the thrillvirus looms - and it is one challenging and cool encounter.

The aftermath will be pretty interesting as well - for the security will try to screen the PCs, a procedure to which they may well be opposed after having been lied to...oh, and the individual who scored the killing blow against the virus may actually inadvertently set the virus free on the hypernet. As a minor complaint here, even in the unlikely event that the PCs notice this in time, the pdf does not really provide guidelines to purge it and unanimously "win" the scenario.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard employed for Hypercorps -pdfs and the pregens etc. come with a 1-column standard instead. The pdf sports some decent full-color artworks and serviceable cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler's "Thrillville or Killville?", much like Specimens in Centralia, does feel like a convention circuit module; it has an evocative, high-concept boss battle, wastes no time and has a built-in mechanic of speeding up the proceedings. Unlike Specimens, however, it feels less like a railroad due to a couple of facts: For one, the PCs actually can find more information and use it as leverage in the aftermath. Secondly, while the PCs do have only an absolute minimum of choices herein, at least they do have choices. The respective environments are all interesting and colorful and the changing background ambiance makes for a nice visual representation of the ticking timer. In short: This is well worth checking out, in spite of its obvious convention-game background, even for regular groups. However, when not employed with the pregens, make double sure that all PCs can retain their relevance throughout.

That being said, the module does have a couple of instances that could make players stumble: The hypernet's substitution of mental stats for physical ones means that, if you're planning on using the pregens in a non-hypernet environment, you'll have to reverse-engineer the stats. While the non-hypernet physical stats are provided in brackets, that's still some work I wish the pdf did for the groups. Similarly, if you plan on integrating this in an ongoing campaign, then you'll observe non-Hypernet-specialized characters struggle - this can be a pretty hard module for such groups.

It should also be noted that this module is one of the short but sweet category - you'll be hard-pressed to get more than 4 hours out of this one, unless your players struggle mightily in combat and take long to get accustomed to the hypernet's rules when using non-pregen characters. Anyways, this is a nice, fun module, which, while not perfect, is worth getting if you're looking for a creative excursion to a wild corner of the hypernet. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars if used as intended; for campaigns seeking to use the module as part of the ongoing campaign, detract half a star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099: Thrillville or Killville?
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Hypercorps 2099: Specimens in Centralia
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:30:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page front cover artwork sans all the graphic elements, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, this is a module intended for use with the cyberpunk/superhero-rules in Hypercorps 2099 and as such, it is designed for characters level 3 -4, with a corresponding hyperscore of 3. The basics of hyperscore and hero point-interaction are provided on a 1-page GM-cheat-sheet, though I'd still strongly suggest playing this only with the main book in your hands.

The pdf does come with a total of 4 pregens (all of which gain small full-color artworks) that sport their respective paths and are appropriately powerful. The pregens feature brief story-angles and are generally on par with one another regarding their power-levels, which is nice to see. The pdf sports two maps - a road and a cave complex, both of which come with a second, key-less version that I generally applaud. If you're using battlemaps, though, it should be noted that the pdf's maps sport no grid, just a note which distance equals 5 feet. Personally, I'm good with that, but I figured I should mention it.

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

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..

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All right, still here? Great!

We begin in medias res, with the PCs already having accepted a job by Forsyte Technologies to track down an escaped specimen that has taken up refuge in the abandoned coal mines of Centralia, deep in Giganot territory - and we thus waste no time, as the friendly driver Bill has to slow down the vehicle to navigate an array of debris...and obviously, it is in such an instance that the biker gang makes its move, attacking the van. The PCs better should make sure that none of the gangers escape - and from their bodies, the PCs can find a nice piece of chrome, namely hydraulic springheels. Even if the van's been damaged, thankfully the module's not over, for Bill knows a veterinarian turned bodytech-surgeon in the vicinity, which may see the PCs actually already receive the benefits of the cybertech in the module.

The erstwhile coal mine of Centralia, the next stop, would make for a labyrinthine place to navigate, sporting several fire-themed critters to deal with via random encounter. The thing is, the escaped hyper-firedrake has actually young now, which complicates securing and capturing the deadly creature. In order to pin down the deadly predator, the PCs can use the trusses throughout the mine to collapse sections and trap the being. The more of the drakes the PCs can secure alive, the better...but they take up a lot of room and they still have to be returned.

Yes, this once again means passing through giganot territory and yes, driving with unconcealed drakes around will draw attention...so in order to get properly paid, the PCs will have to be stealthy, otherwise Ms. Grey won't be too pleased. In case the PCs are dumb enough to take up arms against her, stats are provided. The pdf also features stats for Bill as well as the vehicles featured.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language-level. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some nice artworks. The pregens etc. are presented in a 1-column standard instead. Cartography is decent and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler's Specimens in Centralia entertained me and my group when we ran it, even if it, in essence, is a very simplistic set-up. There is not much to be found regarding going off the beaten track and the module, as a whole, is linear and basically consists, if your players are good, of two major encounters. The second of these, the coal mine, is prolonged and can be tension-filled and really interesting. At the same time, this very much feels like a convention-demo-scenario. That does not mean it's bad, mind you - it just means that it is a pretty straight railroad and one we finished in 3 hours. Granted, we're fast and most groups will take longer, but yeah - this is a pretty brief exploration to Centralia that doesn't really take time to develop the cool area of Centralia. The module feels a bit too railroady for my tastes - with a little hexploration or means of tracking down the target, actually catching the adversary would have been significantly more gratifying. If the PCs didn't botch encounter #1, the module also can feel a bit like it peters out - again, fitting the time-constraints often found in convention games.

How to rate this, then? Well, as a non-convention-module, I'd consider this too railroady and brief to really excel, though the second prolonged "encounter" is pretty cool. As a stand-alone, I'd consider this about 2.5 stars. For convention gaming, though, it does work pretty well and should be considered to be a 3.5-star-book instead. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict in the middle, at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099: Specimens in Centralia
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Snow White – Digital Art & Map Pack
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:28:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, I usually don't cover packages like this, but here, I consider it to be justified. This art & map pack consists of an archive containing no less than 1.2 GBs of high-res .tif files.

Upon unpacking the archive, you'll be presented with 3 general folders - one containing Snow White Artwork, one that features the cartography and one for the puzzles.

Let me elaborate: Inside the artwork folder, you'll find sub-folders for flora, fauna, items, locations and NPCs - including three variations of Catsle Morsain in fall, winter and summer, the stunning rendition of the water fall of Pondy Falls, the plants and weird animals of the haunted forest (including the smoking worm and the minitaur - not a typo, btw.) or the desktop-worthy rendition of a certain character's kidnapping.

Now Snow-White, in case you do not yet own this gem (Why not? Seriously, it is one super-amazing, unconventional and awesome mega-module!!), does feature some of the best cartography you're bound to see in either the 3.X or PFRPG-era - Tommi Salama delivers not only amazing top-down maps, we also get isometric maps of the complexes, from humble cabins to castle Morsain to dungeon-levels. And yes, the player-friendly iterations do not have the annoying keys or big secret door "S"-markers. Once again, all maps are presented in high-res .tifs, with two exceptions - the GM's maps of Morsain with the numbered key are presented as pdfs - and yes, one actually does feature the district map as well.

Finally, the module excelled by not only engaging the hands, but also the mind - there are a couple of simple, but fun puzzles within the pages of the module and if you want the representation of the graphics of both puzzles and solutions, you'll find these in the respective folder, depicted as .jpgs.

How much do you get? Well, over 100 files. Let that sink in. Yes, this book is a gorgeous beauty - and if you're looking for a way to drive that home via playing it online or want the art and maps for VTT purposes...well, this ought to do the trick. Now it should be noted that this is not required to run the module in the traditional manner...but those of us who're using a lot of tech to game will certainly appreciate this pack. It does what it says on the tin and delivers some truly amazing art and cartography. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White – Digital Art & Map Pack
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Winter's Roar: Vikmordere Bestiary
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2017 04:39:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This bestiary, spawned as a stretch-goal to the "Into the Wintery Gale" mega-adventure, clocks in 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Sooo, I've seen A LOT of bestiaries in my years of roleplaying. If you've been following my reviews, you'll by now know that the one thing I bemoan most about the current editions of the game would be that the respective creatures don't have as much room to shine and be developed as they once had. Well, this bestiary does something interesting in that regard - each creature contained herein is depicted in a two-page spread - this means that, if you get the print copy, you can fold the stats to your side and show the artwork, contained on a hand-out-friendly second page to the players. That is a HUGE deal. Particularly when you consider that Mates Laurentiu's art for this book is frankly AMAZING. See that front cover? All those critters? Every artwork within these pages is of that quality. Yes, this is a beautiful book.

Which brings me to the second challenge this faces - I mentioned the lack of space current bestiary-formatting allows for creatures; the sheer size of statblocks means that there is not that much room to develop the flavor of a given adversary, which renders the fluff-writing an exercise in concise writing that is not an easy feat to accomplish. Speaking of statblocks -after more than 5 bestiaries and a vast array of other monster handbooks, it's hard to make creatures stand out. We all remember the point in 3.X when slapping a loosely-draconic theme on critters was en vogue...that reminded me of the time when comic books had monkey on the cover. I digress.

I know I'm rambling, this is going somewhere. Bear with me. So, from a formal point of view, the creatures herein range from CR 7 to CR 16, spanning the reach of the levels the associated mega-adventure deals with. A crucial difference in comparison to similar Norse-themed bestiaries, however, would be that it is crafted to adhere, in style and theme, to the mythology woven for the people of the Vikmordere (hence the title) - in case you are not familiar with this culture, picture them as a thoroughly amazing cultural blend of Vikings and Norse culture with Native Americans. It may sound odd, but it works really well and puts a fresh thematic spin on the subject matter, one that maintains the feeling of being a clear love-letter to both. This is, in some cases, represented by the very nomenclature employed.

Take e.g. the undead revenant-like critter called Aptrgangr, two variants of which are provided (and YES, each of the them has its own statblock and its own full-color art): Lake aptrgangrs not only curse and befoul the bodies of water they're in, they may also release a snake from their bodies, constrict foes...but the interesting component here, to me, would be how they establish relevance: Sure, the fluff text talks about their effect and mythology, which is nice and dandy - but the snake provides a visual cue, a plot-device, if you will and a strong visual metaphor; the befouling of water represents a built-in narrative angle for the GM to use and the rest of the build retains combat-relevance. The land-version of the aptrgangr is more straight-forward, though the dark blades, quick coup-de-graces and familiars they gain ultimately mean that they may be fared more in direct combat - but, by virtue of familiar choices, they also retain a sense of foreboding, of omens, if you will. Oh, and rejuvenation.

Woe to any settlement that attracts one of the dread brunnmigi, grotesque fey that lair in wells, who use mimicry to lure their prey in and then drown the unfortunates, spoiling water with sadistic glee. In an age without ready access to running water, one of these predators can easily depopulate a whole thorp if not put in its place! Into these mythological and very real feeling anxieties are realities of the game skillfully woven in - take the elderfey, as an example: This being once was a druid, but one whose unabashed love of life ultimately corrupted him; not ready to accept the cycle of life and death, these beings are tied to a specific tree (which spells doom for them if it is destroyed) - and in order to retain the balance of life and death, they can implant trees in victims, having them grow in a rapid and disturbing pace from those that are unfortunate enough to cross their paths. You know that I like my fey dark and creepy - this one positively qualifies as nightmare fodder as far as I'm concerned...and I mean that as a complement. It feels like it could have been drawn from mythology.

Or let me talk about the Fafnir dragons - hunted as abominations by their kind, these beings are shapechanging beasts, regal and lethal and have elevated greed and paranoia to a form of art. surrounded by an aura of avarice and capable of teleporting held items to their hoard, these beings are rightfully loathed...but there is more to them. Those that drink the blood of a fafnir may undergo the change into one themselves, somewhat akin to a lycanthrope: As such, they do have a hybrid shape, artfully depicted by Mates Laurentiu. Oh, know what's worse? They don't breed true. Instead, their unions result in the birth of lindworms, another new creature: Think of these as lethal, serpentine predators with 6 clawed legs that are nigh unerring hunters - not even nondetection will save you from these hunters!

If you've been following northern mythology in its various iterations throughout different editions of the game, you may have noticed that, at one point, the lupine threats in the frigid North have become less pronounced; the Fenris (no, not the oomphteenth build of the original Fenris wolf - these are a whole species) should change that. Black as night, Huge and lethal, these supreme predators can smash you to the ground...and woe to any prone before them - with but a twist of their head, they may tear off limbs of such unfortunates! Frost wisps, harsh, but lawful aberrations in service of winter despise flames - beautiful and alien, mortals to them are magma-blooded devils, which adds a unique spin to any encounter with them. What about a snake-like predator that quite literally is the incarnation of frostbite, with an aura that renders items brittle and hypothermia-inducing cold damage? The visual metaphor, once again, is so obvious I don't think I have to explain it.

The horned glacial bear would be another magical beast of ice and snow - and it is, in spite of what I feared at one point, unique - not simply a variant of a bear-like winter-wolf, it can cause avalanches and emit devastating roars. There would also be the høyonde (translates literally to "high/tall/very" and "bad folks/things"), the spawn of traitorous Vikmordere who consorted with giants, these would be scions of death that not only may channel the forces of entropy (read: negative energy), they also have a nasty death aura that hampers the forces of life. The hidden ones, the huldufólk, also have their representation here - in touch with the very earth and rocks, these fey may animate rocks and sing a bolstering song to the very earth itself...but this connection goes both ways and stone may be used to slay them...

Even what should arguably be lame herein...somehow ends up not being that. Take the icy vigil: A medium construct of a frozen warrior. Stifle your yawns, ladies and gentlemen - they not only generate spawn from the slain, they may employ simulacra, wield equipment of ice and reform after destruction...oh, and put away that staff of fireballs - magic immunity. Disregarding the well-crafted prose, the mechanics of this adversary set it apart as not yet another boring guardian critter. The margygur would be aquatic fey that can sense the currents of destiny and fate like the currents that surround them (cue in Ayreon's River of Time) and as such, they may share their prophetic visions with others, making for a cool quest-reward/social interaction...or a deadly foe, should they decide that the PCs will bring doom...

Now the aforementioned vigil would be cool; the treasure golem style Nibelung would be a more straight-forward construct (with cost to create etc., just fyi) - and yes, feeding it treasure will make it grow in potency. You know, I think pretty much all capable dragons in may game have just added a new layer of defenses to their lairs....that aside, the nomenclature-choice is smart here as well, evoking obvious mythological connotations. Now, as is wont to happen, not every creature's statblock in a bestiary of this length is necessarily a stroke of genius. The overseer would be one example where that is the case.

Think of these guys as huge oak trees, with 5 dryad-shapes bound within the branches - for these beings are created when 5 dryads bond with one tree: All lose their sentience and become subsumed in the overseer's body, its personality wholly independent from the animated fey. This may sound weird, but in spite of the conservative statblock, this is one of my favorite creatures in quite a while - its very existence poses several unique conundrums to ponder: Were the dryads tricked? What threat caused them to undertake this drastic measure? The more interesting aspect, however, pertains the nature of free will: Unwilling to give up its existence, the overseer is understandably opposed to the freedom of its constituent dryads. Then again, they do have a right to reclaim their freedom, a right towards an individual existence, in spite of the fact of their status as "parents" of the creature.

The very existence of the overseer is inextricably-linked to the question of free will, it represents an escalation of the phenomenon of parentage as an experience that can deprive one of one's self and thus serves as a creature-made warning to retain one's sense of self - after all, that does benefit, at least in real life and a case less pronounced, the offspring. Similarly, its existence could be read as a rousing call towards those that continue to leech off their parents to assume an own identity, separate from the parts that constitute it. Of course, you may just shrug and think of it as a "cool creature with an awesome artwork" - but that's why I adore it. Its straightforward visual metaphor is one that can break abusive and unhealthy relationships by virtue of its impact and puts the creature, at least in my mind, into the rarefied regions where gaming can actually leave people as better persons.

Moving on to less intellectualizing adversaries, the pesta, a horrid monstrous hag armed with a rake, is pretty much a living incarnation of disease, plowing the fields for the reaper - once again, the choice of weapon, while seemingly innocuous, ties in with the visual metaphors we all have consumed, time and again and expands them - by virtue of their arms, they are literally the ones preparing the reaping, much like disease precedes death. If all of that sounded to grim, let me introduce the ratatosk - small fey that love riddles and look a bit like extremely fluffy and cute squirrels with two tails, beings of continuous renewal and destruction...and they're good guys. Their artwork is also so cute that I'd seriously gift one as a plushy to my significant other.

In case you have been disappointed by the potency of sea serpents, the serpent of the depth should change that: At CR 15, these 8-eyed, horned killers not only are majestic - they control the very currents and those caught in their grasp can look forward to being flayed by their lethal, spiky coils. Speaking of disappointment - you know that I'm pretty much enamored with Norse mythology, so take my word for it when I'm saying that this book has the better representation of Sleipnir in it: With fire that burns past immunities and the ability to safeguard souls as well as a whopping 100 ft. movement rate, it is an appropriately powerful steed. Snow screechers may look like somewhat fey yeti at first glance...but only at first glance. Beyond the eponymous screech, they can alternate cold or fire damage and generate unsettling sounds, making them perfect ambush predators stalking the camp grounds.

We return to obvious mythological frames of reference with the stag of the whitewood - an alseid-like (think centaur with deer instead of horse-half) and a stag's head evoke so many tropes from our real world myths, I do not even know where to start: From the white stag to the alseid-ish angle to the hunter, there is a myriad of connotations and implications to add to these...and that from a guy who usually does not like this type. The tundra troll would be more interesting from a mechanical point of view, with fragile, shoddy shields and armor allowing for some nice tactics against theses beings.

Unique: The vaettir, life-draining undead icy corpses have a draining aura and go into a kind of hibernation sans food - but they also generate haunts! Another undead would be the vereri stalker - who casts his spells via the focus of a severed head! (Yep, you do NOT want to be coup-de-grace'd by these folks...)...oh, and with a hair or similar part, they can and will track you! They, like 3 other critters here, are one of the few creatures whose art does not get the full-page treatment. While we're on the topic - what about a frost-themed banshee-like undead spirit with access to hexes?

If you've noticed an absence of amorphous, strange threats - what about the aquatic vatndökk, a slime whose very touch suppresses magic...and who doubles as a magic-dead zone? Yeah...and they may capsize vessels. Considering the frigid climate, these things will put the fear back into the high-level adventurers...and they represent one of the most delightfully deadly adversaries herein. Then, there would be the winter wyrm and winter wyrmling - both represent basically ice worms. Yeah, I know - there are quite a few of those out there already - but bear with me, their respective builds are actually nice, with pit creation, hibernation and fantastic artworks.

The final creature herein can partially be seen on the cover - the wintertide jabberwock, with its one line- and one cross-shaped pupil that can only be slain be severing both of its heads. With eye-rays, head-regeneration and a fear of vorpal weapons (understandable!), the creature represents a great high note to end the book.

Conclusion:

Editing is top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level - in the instances where I took apart a statblock, I noticed no serious hiccups. Formatting-wise, some very minor aesthetic hiccups can be found - there are instances where the first paragraph of the flavor text is formatted like a statblock ability....hey, come on, I'm trying to find something to complain about, all right? Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous two-column full-color standard with borders that employ graphic elements coded as Norse. The artwork by Mates Laurentiu is absolutely stunning and makes this one of the most beautiful bestiaries I have seen any 3pp put out. Each of these critters could, quality-wise, be found in a Paizo/WotC-book - the artwork alone is worth getting this...and yes, I'd advise in favor of the softcover: The fact that you can show the one-page monster-illustrations sans spoiling the statblocks to players means that you'll spare time and effort printing the art as handouts. The fact that they all have one style adds a great unified visual identity to this book. Oh, and yes, the book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Justin Andrew Mason and developer Stephen Rowe are both names that I associate with quality; in this instance, however, they delivered something that exceeded my expectations. You see, I get to see a metric ton of monsters. I'm spoiled beyond belief by Legendary Games' mythic monsters and bestiaries and my expectations at this point are VERY hard to meet. This book surpassed them by the sheer value of consistency. There is something I consider great (not "good", not "very good", "great!") in every single critter within this book.

Let me elaborate: When we boil it down, monster-design is both an art and a craft: You can string together numbers and components like feats; no problem. The artistry is when it comes together, when you add those unique abilities and give the mathematical construct its own sense of identity, its own story. In the best of cases, though, it does not end there. Take Kobold Press - the Midgard-setting they made is pretty much defined by the mythological resonance it evokes. I do not use the excellent setting lightly as a frame of reference.

We, as human beings, have a rich tapestry of myths that are, if you believe anthropology, to a significant part extensions of our conditio humana, our shared experiences. It is thus that you can find parallels between different cultures and their animism, religion and myths - they serve to illustrate facts, concepts and experiences - often in an anthropomorphized form. These tales continue to evolve with our lives; much like the changed experience of the industrial revolution gave rise to fresh incarnations of horror, much like Web 2.0.'s slender man and similar creepypastas, we are defined by our mythweaving, by the incarnations of truths and symbols we inherited, by the complex constructs that generate a shared frame of reference to communicate.

One way to excel at monster design lies in mastering mechanics and artfully making the unique; another, less often seen, lies in tapping into this shared frame of reference, into the mythological sphere, and employing the powerful resonance it evokes within us all. There is a reason for that: It's hard. You see, the very first thing we usually do when running games is to take that frame of reference and apply it. Thus, straight adaptions feel old, stale, been there, done that to us. The genius of this humble bestiary lies in tapping into the shared frame of reference, the cultural resonance shared, and employing it in a creative and new manner that makes it a cohesive, unique entity.

A cynic may accuse me of over-intellectualizing in this review; my response would be that me actually pausing and analyzing to this extent is not something I do lightly or by accident; one creature that manages this feat is a happy accident; two are a tendency - a whole book full of them, however, is intentional, deliberate craftsmanship and artistry. This book represents one of the best bestiaries I have read in quite a while and its creatures will make plenty of appearances in my games. This is a steal, an exercise in excellent, unpretentious (in spite of my analysis - this is very much a bestiary, not a lecture in academia!) design - and oh boy do I love it to bits. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this is furthermore a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Winter's Roar: Vikmordere Bestiary
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Vigilantes of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2017 04:35:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in the Porphyran class option-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pages are A5 (6'' by 9'')-booklet-sized, allowing you to print up to 4 of them on a standard A4/letterpack-page, so let's take a look!

We begin with the dread pirate (somewhat unfortunately named - this is now the 4th class option I know that uses this name), who replaces seamless disguise with a +5 circumstance bonus to maintain his disguise, but does not apply the bonus to using vigilante talents while in social identity. Instead of 1st level's social talent, he gains Sea Legs. Interesting modification: If the character selects the avenger specialization, his Fort-save-progression changes to good, while his Reflex save becomes bad. For the purpose of alcohol imbibing, he treats his Fortitude save as the Will-save granted by vigilante-progression. The archetype also receives access to several unique social talents and vigilante talents - the former would contain, for example hold breath, enhancing a ship's speed for a short duration or tavern reknown, which is basically a micro-reknown in his favorite dives. The vigilante talents include Siege Engineer sans prereqs, later Siege Gunner, better fighting with a hook hand, not losing Dex-bonus while climbing and losing ACP in the lighter armors or bonuses via shouting orders.

At 4th level, drinking grog can provide benefits, depending on vigilante specialization - either rage or bonuses to AC and saves; these are upgraded at 12th level. 7th level nets Drunkard's Recovery, including a better iteration at 13th level, replacing 7th level's social talent. All in all, a better vigilante-ized version of the 3.X PrC of the same name with some drinking-related material mixed in. Solid.

The mustached mauler (someone reads Dr. McNinja, obviously!) gets a decreased array of skills, only 4 + Int mod, and is treated as having brawler levels equal to vigilante level for Improved Unarmed Damage purposes when in vigilante identity. They also gain good Fort-saves. While in the mustache identity form, they do not receive Wisdom to Will-saves and they may not benefit from Int- or Wis-bonuses, but may select talents from both avenger and stalker specialization lists, with the exclusion of effects that are based on hidden strike. The archetype receives a monk-y Cha-bonus to AC (instead of the monk's Wis)and the talents contain the option to execute Awesome Blows, self-granting Charisma modifier DR 1/round (instead of the AC-bonus) and high-level negation of magic weapon enhancement bonuses. Also cool: Another talent can net you the option to ignore special weapon abilities via your ignorance score - 1/4 class level worth of such bonuses may be ignored! (Pretty cool - never saw that one before!) All in all, a rather hilarious archetype that may not be flavor-wise appropriate for all games, but for a gonzo game, it can be pretty cool!

Thirdly, we would get the archetype that is considered to be the star herein - the shapeshifter. Instead of the 1st level social talent and the vigilante talents gained at 4th, 8th and 12th levels, they can shapeshift (with the usual +10 Disguise bonus) - this is done via the shapeshifting pool, equal to thrice the class level. This not only powers the archetype abilities, but also, via the duration it has, doubles as the resource to maintain the vigilante identity. The shapeshifted form is represented by a shapeshifting specialization - unless I miscounted, a total of 11 such specializations are provided; each has several SPs that can be paid for via the aforementioned pool. The respective specializations employ different scaling progressions and degrees of choice and they, ultimately, also allow for different degrees of play styles. Whether you go for e.g. natural weapons via the draconic specialization or assumption of angelic aspects, the respective progressions diverge sufficiently to provide a strong leitmotif. The vigilante talents provided for the archetype allow for the taking of an additional specialization starting at 6th level, at -4 vigilante levels and quicker on the fly changing. the capstone nets +2 specializations. I like this archetype; while there are some minor hiccups lower-case attribute, etc., it is per se a nice offering.

The pdf also contains feats: Magical Children can take one at 1st level to instead gain the benefits of the sorc /wiz or druid spell-list; there is one that reduces the 24-hour-cool-down of vigilante class features to 12; a cool charge/Cleave-synergy feat. better benefits after repeat exposure to frightening presence is cool...but e.g. Piercing Charge, which should, wording-wise, build on the previous feat, has some kind of wording hiccups that makes it hard for me to discern its intent.

The social talents provided for the class are intriguing: Better cover when posing as an artist, wide-spread contacts, a social grace/Skill Focus-synergy trick, a high-level wordy wit follow-up, magical craftsmanship, Brilliant Plan as a build-up from Safe House via Safe House Resources, efficient use of improvised weapons... and have I mentioned wordy wit? This one lets you ready actions and conceal them, much like Conceal Spell (which is not properly capitalized)...pretty cool.

The pdf also contains several vigilante talents, some of which are based on Cleave and the new options introduced herein, while another unlocks a race trait the vigilante does not usually possess while in vigilante identity. This once constitutes a bit of a fallacy in that it assumes all race traits to be equal in power when they're clearly not - some sort of scaling mechanism would be appropriate here. 1/day anticipate thoughts (more often at higher levels), gaining a sidekick and modifying contacts to grant the vigilante, for example, temporary access to combat or teamwork feats - which is generally cool. However, RAW, neither contact, nor vigilante must meet the prerequisites for the feats granted, which renders that ability seriously overkill and in need of the usual caveat, in spite of the ability not working under duress.

The pdf also features an extensive list of solid Porphyran-races favored class options for the vigilante as well as a very fun level 5 mustached mauler, including a nice boon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a bit inconsistent in both formal and rules-language departments - in some sections, even complex ability-interactions are done right...while in others, we have nonstandard wording, non-capitalized feats and the like. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has some nice 1-page full-color artworks I haven't seen before and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

When one ignores the contributions of veterans N. Jolly and Perry Fehr, then this would be Blake Morton's first lead-author book, unless I am sorely mistaken. The good news here most definitely is that there is certainly promise here. While I've frankly seen shapeshifting done to death in various iterations, I still consider the archetype dealing with exactly that topic to be among the better representations of the concept. Now, personally, I'm a huge fan of Dr. McNinja, so the mustached mauler pulls right at my heart's strings...and it also has some actually creative rules-tricks I haven't seen done before, which is a big plus to ole' me. That being said, I was pretty underwhelmed by the pirate, who, to me, feels a bit unfocused. There also are some instances herein where the rules-language could have been more precise, lacks an anti-abuse caveat or deviates from the standard.

While not bad on their own, the number of them does rise over the course of the pdf to a level, where I have to penalize the book. Still, considering the gems herein, I believe this to be, as a whole, on the upper side of the rating scale, if only by a margin - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars...and while I'd usually round down, I tend to offer a bit of leeway to lead author freshman offerings, which is why I will round up for the purpose of the usual platforms.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Porphyra
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Ships of Skybourne
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2017 08:08:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 105 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 101 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, know how I smashed the player's guide for the ship-rules feeling incomplete, obtuse and hard to grasp? Yeah, well, that's mainly due to this book being the total guide to that subject matter. But is its presentation didactically better?

Well..yeah. It does. We begin with establishing a terminology pertaining the various iterations of the Craft skill before establishing the nomenclature for the roles on the vessel and the basics. Vehicles behave very much like creatures and have a Pilot, who has to spend a move action per turn steering the vessel; contested steering is covered here; Head engineers oversee the propulsion device of the vessel and makes engineering checks to do various things with the vessel in question - these can run a gamut of different skills, depending on propulsion. Crew is pretty much self-explanatory and was one of the few aspects the Player's Guide got right. To recap, they're pretty much treated as a kind of troop by another name. Vessels have 30 ft.-movement squares and a facing; hardpoints are 10-ft-cubes and constitute the building blocks of a vessel; 9 hardpoints can be organized in a deck and vessels with more than 5 decks also have locations; when one part is destroyed, the other is not necessarily wrecked - another aspect I liked. Vessel AC, CMB/CMD, etc. are easily depicted along the similar basics.

Then, the system pretty much becomes more concise than the PG's mess ever was by going straight to propulsion devices; from muscle to engines and wind, the propulsion devices covered are concisely presented, with the latter featuring a handy table by wind strengths. And this is where the presentation becomes a bit opaque; at this point, we have learned the basics and instead of actually making the ship, we go on to first learn the basics of vehicle combat using this system. We covered the vehicular movement in the PG's review, but to recap, vehicles move at the end of the round, in sequence of the pilot's skill, during a so-called vehicle combat phase. While the pdf still champions group initiative, this is thankfully where the book starts deviating from what we got in the Player's Guide. Ships of Skybourne must account for 3-dimensional combat and as such, it introduces altitude bands, each of which covers about 50 ft. - think of these as height zones and a GM determines which altitude band is 1, which is 20 to codify them numerically. Riding the shadow's mentioned and while the pdf takes basically the information already featured in the PG here, the sequence makes more sense. Both pilot and engineer may perform a significant series of diverse maneuvers, with other crew members being relegated to emergency repairs as a relevant maneuver.

The presentations keeps this increased level of cohesion with the next section, where we establish siege weapon terminology, categories (direct vs. indirect fire), use, etc. and both fire-control methods and water pumping notes supplement this section. As before, we do get notes on vehicle conditions, though "sinking" as a term could have used an expansion, considering skybourne's focus on air ships.

Next up, we...still don't cover actual airship construction; nope, we dive into mediums of travel and the rules presented here are concise. Air travel requires a vessel featuring enough power to overcome its weight and the section notes an interesting twist, namely that altitude bands and the influence of gravity on weapon range, which makes for an elegant, fun modification. Subterranean and underwater travel are also covered here with interesting considerations, and we even touch upon space/planar travel - so yes, fellow Spacejammer-aficionados, the book does not forget you.

A total of 6 vehicle templates are provided next and their rules are generally concise...however, I really don't get why they are introduced before we actually have a vehicle to apply them to; this just causes undue frustration and confusion....which is a pity, for the template rules generally are nice.

All right, we're over 20 pages in and now we finally get to design our vehicle, and it is here, I can applaud the pdf; whereas the PG's presentation of the process was horribly opaque, the section does a significantly better job of using the engine. Engine? Yep, for the pdf does something very, very smart - it uses the single best ship-combat rules-book for Pathfinder, Frog God Games' excellent Fire as She Bears, and tweaks it. The tweaks, as such, will at the same time elicit cheers and frustration, but let me clarify: Fire as She Bears assumed nautical vessels and as such, had certain rules for governing the dispersal of hardpoints. Similarly, it featured a distinction between hardpoints employed for rigging and hull, for example. Ships of Skybourne does away with these, which allows for more flexibility and the creation of smaller vehicles, but at the same time, it loses some aspects that made FaSB so amazing; basically, you lose some distinction between ship sections in favor of a wider, more abstract construction option array. From living steel to bone, the system presents different materials and its default RAW modus operandi is to not infringe upon creativity regarding the precise alignment of hardpoints - you could make thin, serpentine vessels, flying cubes, the whole assortment. I am, ultimately, somewhat torn here.

That being said, skybourne's focus on high fantasy as opposed to a simulaionalist take on vessels and its distinctly fantastic themes does necessitate to a certain degree this amount of abstraction. Yeah, didn't figure I'd be saying that either after the PG...but the book takes a significant turn for the amazing with the engines and customization options presented: From vampiric ships powered by life-force to several engines with Spheres of Power-based drives, the amount of options included here is pretty amazing and evocative - while I personally still will retain zones in ships, depending on their design, the pdf delivers cool options in exchange for details lost in the construction-abstraction. Dirigibles, mechanical arms, automation, full-body cockpits, lights - there is a lot of amazing, fantastic modification material to be found here, and yes, we also get means for subterranean and aquatic environments like burrowers or pressure resistance.

The trade good system from the PG is reprinted here, and it retains its issues - when even I consider a system's benefits not worth the work of generating x modifiers, it does say something about it.

We're at page 53 right now...and there we get to the sample vehicles...and yes, they cover OVER 50 PAGES. From humble canoes to carts and carriages to dwarven TANKS (yes), there is a ton to see here - and many of the vehicles come with b/w-artworks that also show their hardpoints. And yep, the pdf goes all out: Dwarven digger tank-drills; a plethora of mechas and steam giants, steam-powered sleds, sandships, classic ships (and those clad in iron), merfolk underwater tradewagons, longships, steamboats, submersibles, ships of bone, the emperor, lava submarines, gyrocopters, arcane helicopter, war balloons (and their necromantic versions), dragon chariots, flying elder trees (!!!), Red baron-style propeller-machines, flying saucers, gigantic flying fortresses and warships and even air stations, flying landmasses like the elfwood or flying wizard's towers...and yes, even a mountain...and the Tardis, by another name. Yep, extradimensional rooms are supported by the system. And yes, there are hyper-deadly, awe-inspiring gigantic vessels here. The whole section is absolutely amazing, creative and well-presented.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups this time around. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with the artworks featuring a blend of full color stock, amazing new full-color artworks and, as mentioned, a ton of small b/w-artworks for the vessels. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

So, Adam Meyers' Ships of Skybourne's abbreviation would be SOS...and there's the one joke about "sink or swim" we all have heard in conjunction with that. I'll be honest with you: After the Player's Guide, I looked forward to this as to a root-canal. The good news first: This is not even close to the PG in terms of issues. Ships of Skybourne modifies the mightiest vessel-engine we have for Pathfinder, Frog God Games' legendary Fire as She Bears, and tweaks it in an ingenious, interesting manner to account for much, much more. While FaSB remains the best option for age of sailing-type ship-building, ships of skybourne has managed to "unlock" its mighty engine for a vast array of diverging ships and environments and provides a gazillion of amazing tweaks to the system, many of which you can translate back to FaSB. The sheer number of vessels, engines, etc. similarly makes this very much worth its asking price.

At the same time, Ships of Skybourne could have been legendary; a supplement for the ages, and falls short of attaining that honor due to one aspect: Its presentation, organization and structuring of the rules. One aspect that made FaSB so amazing was that I could hand it to relative novices and watch them immediately go to town with it; the presentation of the system is incredibly concise and easy to grasp, whereas Ships of Skybourne's sequence, in which it introduces everything is highly counter-intuitive.

We begin with details that reference aspects of a ship we have not yet constructed and frankly, I don't know if I would have had as much fun here without prior knowledge of Fire as She Bears. From a didactic point of view, the system could be presented significantly more concisely.

The second aspect that deprives Ships of Skybourne of the throne that would otherwise be its unquestionable right (and we're talking about Top Ten candidate here, just to give you a frame of reference!) is the fact that it loses one of the most amazing aspects of Fire as She Bears, the fact that every PC had meaningful options to pursue. The different roles PCs could fit, the ample skill-uses and obstacles were simply more holistic and provided more stuff to do for the PCs. It made them matter. Similarly, the whole gauge/wind mechanics have been taken away, which makes sense from an abstraction point of view, but also takes away some of the cool options available, making the combat more static. I get why this was lost - to account for smaller vessels. I still maintain that this, ultimately, makes piloting larger vessels, in the long run less interesting for groups...unless you happen to be pilot or engineer, who still have ample stuff to do. The good news here is that you can design these yourself...the bad thing is that it takes work.

Rating "Ships of Skybourne" is exceedingly hard for me; without prior knowledge of FaSB, I probably would have been significantly more confused regarding its mechanics...but I also wouldn't have expected as much from the book. Ultimately, it remains my firm belief that the book generally delivers for the abstractions to the system it provides, though it also loses some aspects that it simply shouldn't have lost. Personally, I will take much of the content presented herein and use it...but I will do so in conjunction with FaSB, creating a personal Frankenstein-hybrid.

Can I recommend this? Yeah, I kinda can...but I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with Fire as She Bears before getting it; while the systems differ in several key aspects, Ships of Skybourne's presentation of its rules is significantly harder to grasp than FaSB's. That being said, if you do know/grasp the system, SoS can deliver a campaign's worth of awesomeness, a vast array of options of the most evocative manner...and you'll be in the same privileged position as I am, with the options of blending FaSB's involvement with the high-concept ideas and options presented herein.

For me as a person, this book delivers in spades for the asking price, even though I have to work to make use of it.

As a reviewer, though, I cannot ignore the fact that the structure is counter-intuitive; that the PC's options to influence vehicular combat are reduced in direct comparison; that you have to get that damn, subpar PG to get the crew rules that should have been in here. Frankly, I'd usually smash this further for any of these components...but that would be highly unfair to the excellence, yes excellence, that can be found within this tome. Ships of Skybourne is an exercise in brilliant highlights and darkest shadows.

While I can't unanimously recommend the book, I do suggest checking out both FaSB and this one - combined, they provide all you can ask for. But I can't rate the combo-potential...and while the flaws are annoying, they are nowhere near grating enough to totally sink this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the awesomeness exceeding the flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ships of Skybourne
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Monster Classes: Savage Races II
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2017 08:07:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

The pdf begins with the centaur, who gets +2 Str and Con, is a monstrous humanoid with a base speed of 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft and quadruped. Their 4-level monster class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, simple weapon proficiency as well as proficiency with the longsword, spear and longbow and all armor and shields expect tower shields. They gain full BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. At 1st level, they gain primary hoof attacks (1d4) and at 2nd level, they get +1 natural AC. 3rd level provides +10 ft. movement and 4th level increases their size to Large, but retains the Medium, undersized weapons. As one complaint, the table notes damage increase for the hooves to 1d6 at 4th level, which the ability does not note...so which is it?

Attribute-bonus-wise, centaurs gain +2 Str, +4 Dex, +2 Con, +4 Wis, +2 Cha, which is imho too much for the precious few levels. The centaur write up fails to address magic item slots (barding vs. armor?) and the old ladder conundrum.

The second race/class would be the Minotaur -racial trait-wise, these get +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, are Medium monstrous humanoids with 60 ft. darkvision, +2 to Perception and Survival and +1 natural AC. The 6-level racial class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, greataxe and full BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves. The minotaur class nets gore at 1d4 damage at 1st level, increasing damage to 1d6 at 4th level. Minotaurs, even at 1st level, never become lost and 6th level renders immune to maze spells (not italicized) and makes them never flat-footed, which is insanely powerful and should die. 2nd level provides scent and at the same level, natural armor increases by +2 and by a further +2 at 5th level. 3rd level also increases the racial skill bonuses to +4. AT 4th level, the minotaur grows to Large size and deals +1d6 damage when charging with his gore attack.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the minotaur gets +6 Str, +2 Con and as always in the series, no FCOs or age, height or weight tables are included.

On the same page as the glossary, we get 6 feats, which include gaining hoof attacks, rerolling saves, maze as an SP (minotaur only and lacking italicization for the spell quoted) as well as Mobile Archery (better centaur shooting), using lances as centaur (OUCH) and Running Trample.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has some bookmarks. The artwork is nice this time around.

Jeffrey Swank's second array of savage humanoids suffer from different issues than the other more problematic installments of the series. The centaur suffers from the same friggin' slots-issue and lack of notes regarding world interaction as every single iteration of the race I've seen. The minotaur suffers from a broken 6th level ability...and there is one more issue.

I've seen both centaurs and minotaurs done much better.

Rite Publishing's In the Company of Minotaurs blows this out of the water. And Kobold Press' Advanced Races Compendium sports both centaurs AND minotaurs as relatively strong, but fitting player races that don't have the whole class/attribute-array-requirement. Additionally, all of these options provide a vast amount of cultural information and flavor.

Unlike the dragon installment, this does have some merit, though - you can potentially consider using some of the content herein to tweak your own iteration of the races if you're not happy with Rite Publishing's and Kobold Press' interpretations.

Let me reiterate - this is not bad per se...but it has the unpleasant position of having to compete with some awesome products that are, alas, superior. Hence, my final verdict can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Savage Races II
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Mini-Dungeon #041: Feischkammer
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2017 08:05:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

So, for all non-Germans out there: "Fleischkammer" translates, literally, to Fleshchamber. Does not bode well, now, does it? The complex works best, logic-wise, near a sufficient accumulation of raw material, read: victims, for it is the home of one thoroughly nasty man named Hakkar Wolkennen, also lovingly known by his soubriquet "Soulflayer". The mad wizard is obsessed with the creation of, you guessed it, flesh golems and thus, one of the first obstacles will be for the PCs to dismantle to entry doors to the proper complex, for a flesh golem is holding them barred. The complex itself is sensible and features some nasty traps to further deal with the PCs if the golems and the evil wizard do not suffice. As a minor complaint, the latter is not hyperlinked and making a wizard of this level on the fly can be a bit of a challenge. The complex does reward the PCs appropriately for braving its challenges, though.

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. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Jonathan Ely's Fleischkammer is a generally well-crafted module that, much like the primary antagonists herein, can be summed up as brawn over brains; the nature of the opposition does mean that magic-users won't have much to do herein, which is perhaps the one weakness of an otherwise nice mini-dungeon. Having something for these guys to do in the respective combats would have been helpful. That being said, apart from these minor complaints, one can still consider this to be a nice module, particularly to "reward" the group's melee-characters. As such, this sidetrek receives a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #041: Feischkammer
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Mini-Dungeon #040: The Kabandha's Request
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2017 08:03:05

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing

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!

In the middle of the wilderness, the PCs come upon a kabandha - badly wounded, he relays the tale of his tribe being subject to the attack of an evil cyclops and his retinue of ogres. Thus, it falls to the PCs to find the home of the reclusive kabandhas and stop the desecration of this place. From a vine-tangled circle of standing stone on the surface, the PCs will have to open heavy portals towards the small complex and deal with the adversaries within, while gaining some nice insights into kabandha culture: A marut hero depicted, a hall devoted to truth-finding and the eggs (and future) of these beings can be found within - provided the PCs survive the ogres and the deadly cyclops, that is.

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. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Jonathan Ely's exploration of this complex takes a cool, often-neglected critter and adds a bit of cultural dimension to it; for that, I do like the pdf. Similarly, the flavor of the complex is nice and clever PCs can employ the stone circle outside to level the playing field a bit. At the same time, the module does not have that much going on for it beyond the flavorful tidbits and combat - no social skills, no traps or the like. This does not make the module bad, mind you...but compared to other mini-dungeons, it does render it more straight-forward and less versatile. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #040: The Kabandha's Request
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Mini-Dungeon #039: We All Start Somewhere
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2017 07:59:08

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing

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!

Let's face it - if most of us were to embark upon the life of an adventurer, we'd not look for Rappan Athuk, the Darkest Dungeon or a similar hell-hole to start off our career. We'd start looking for something that feels like we can actually survive it, right? Well, the complex near Raakayras is exactly one such place - relatively peaceful, yet manageable...and other adventurers will probably have taken care of all those really nasty threats...right?

Well, things aren't always as they seem: The complex depicted still sports some nasty traps and is the result of an aftermath of the deeds of a particularly nasty wererat, who poisoned wyrmling eggs contained in protective vats of acid...well, all but one, who since then proceeded to eliminate said scoundrel as well as the most dire of threats from the vicinity. Relaxing in an acid bath, slaying the remaining wyrmling will be a challenging endeavor...and actually one that may destabilize the region, beginning the campaign already with an emphasis on consequences I tend to enjoy.

Trap and hazard-wise, modifications of effects and unique obstacles are pretty damn cool, though one instance of the word "damage" missing constitutes a minor hiccup...or something that got left behind due to word-count-restrictions.

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. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley's introductory complex presented here is challenging and the final boss can be downright brutal...but then again, it can also be a great kickstart of a new campaign, already featuring the potential for Diplomacy, for reaping what one has sown and for a contextualization of the mini-dungeon within one's preferred campaign world. Considering the limitations of the series, that is pretty impressive.

Overall, this represents a fun first module to throw at players in a new campaign and thus receives 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #039: We All Start Somewhere
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People of Pembrooktonshire
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2017 07:52:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 44 pages, with about 1/2 page being devoted to the editorial, leaving us with 43 1/2 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf is made with the assumption of A5 (6'' by9'') booklet-size. I printed out 4 pages on a given A4-sized page. While this is possible, I only recommend this option to people with good eyesight - the pdf is crammed to the brim with text and thus, my dead tree iteration became somewhat strenuous to read. If in doubt, print it out regularly.

While intended as the companion book to the "No Dignity in Death"-adventures, the content herein is useful beyond the confines of OSR-publications and frankly, can fit into pretty much any game, from GUMSHOE to Castle Falkenstein to traditional fantasy.

So, in order to talk about the content of this pdf, we have to talk about Pembrooktonshire. The eponymous location is a settlement, isolated between labyrinthine hills, noted for being remote and the source of absolutely superb craftsmanship. It is also pretty advanced, compared to most fantasy settlements, with printing press and the like existing in it. Conversely, it is not haunted by evil monsters or the like, nor is it routinely ravaged by dragons, tarrasques and similar critters, thanks to the secret (nope, not gonna spoil that here - it's cosmetic and easily replaced anyways) of the surrounding environs.

It is still my contention that it represents perhaps the most succinctly depicted hell-hole I have read, settlement-wise, in all my years of GMing, perhaps because the satire this represents is cutting, precise and delightfully dark. Let me elaborate: Pembrooktonshire is not a bad place to be for adventurers per se, but the eponymous people that live here render it horrific to me in a most palpable manner: This pdf depicts the most camp, hilarious and at the same time nightmarish depiction of tradition and "proper" behavior I have seen in any roleplaiyng book ever.

Pembrooktonshire is governed by a complex set of social rules from which the PCs, being outsiders, will always be excluded; laws and pretty much name and everything else are, somewhat like a dark comedy of manners meeting a dystopian suppression apparatus, exist to benefit those with the proper name, family tree and status - i.e. not you and me. This level of codification of behavior extends to nomenclature, public face, religion and commerce. If you've grown up in a status-conscious environment or ever felt ostracized by a clique of your peers - this is that, the quintessential high-school clique you are NOT part of, blown to the n-th-degree, coated with the lacquer of a pseudo-Victorian obsession with etiquette and doing things comme il faut.

Sounds horrifying? Well, yeah, it is - not in a blood-and-guts-way, but rather in a subdued manner that slowly grows and grows, as the PCs inevitably wait for the fall-out...which may never come. If this sounds grimdark to you - it's actually not. Why and how? Well, at the same time, pretty much EVERYONE (and I mean EVERYONE) in this supplement is a ridiculous caricature of camp, often hilarious adventuring potential.

Let me give you an example: It would obviously be improper to purchase fur abroad, so what's a good Pembrooktonshire lady to do in light of the absence of the dangerous animals that would yield such goods in the vicinity of the town? Well, Anthony Alford, the furrier of the town's answer is simple: Rats. Squirrels. Chipmunks. Stray kittens and dogs. Yes, the ladies will parade these around town, claiming their value as exotic pelts. No, he has no idea how to work with actually valuable fur. There would also be the bored corn farmer, who has built a gallows in his field, reasoning that, as soon as it's there, it'll be sued sooner or later.

There is a nod towards Delicatessen in here; there is a prodigy-level sculptor here...though all his works look like him to non-Pembrooktonshireans. There is a delusional child who thinks he's invisible. Some members of the great families have a standing bet on driving a local trull insane. There is a butcher whose wife at least provides 4 kids...and his funds are running out...and there would be a lamplighter, whose sarcasm is constantly interpreted as truth, granting him the reputation of a sage.

In the absence of proper sources of oil, troll blubber is used by one enterprising businessman...but if it is, against advice, stockpiled, it spells a recipe for regenerating disaster...Basically, each and every of the NPCs featured herein has his or her own angle that often manages to blend the surreal and camp with the darkly hilarious. Think of the cadre of NPCs herein as this NPC your PCs have developed a fondness or dislike for due to an almost surreal quirk of personality or some way in which you present the guy; the NPC that suddenly becomes more important in your game than it should be from the default book. Each of the NPCs herein has the potential to be just that guy or gal - laden with adventure-potential galore.

One more thing: While never explicit and generally PG 13, this does skirt some dark topics and probably should be used with care when playing with sensitive kids.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills, art-less 1-column b/w-standard - this is basically text sans graphic elements or the like, with names and occupations bolded for your convenience. The file comes with a b/w-cover artwork that doubles as a back cover, so yeah - printing it out and using it as an envelope works. The pdfs, both cover and actual pdf, come in two iterations - one for the standard US-letterpack paper-size and one optimized for European A4-paper. Nice! Not so nice would be the fact that the pdf has no bookmarks. If you want to use this, you better print it out.

It's hard to properly contextualize the dark humor that suffuses this collection. Delicatessen would be one frame of reference, obviously; but more fitting would be some of the non-protagonist characters from the classic Brazil...or, if you're familiar with the British series "Little Britain" (early seasons) and "League of Gentlemen" (not, not the extraordinary ones) - that would hit the nail on the head. Perhaps it's the environment I grew up with, but this rural nightmare, this anti-villanelle and the snide look at the characters of Pembrooktonshire feels, in spite of its almost surreal accumulation of horrific things that could happen, as one of the most amazing collections of NPCs I have ever seen. Basically, just adding one of these surreal characters as an adventure hook to any settlement should keep your PCs busy for a while. As such, the pdf has maximum scavenging potential and makes good use of its system-neutral presentation.

If you combine all of these grotesque characters and use them in one town...well, then you'll probably have the at times most disturbing, but also most hilarious collection of weirdo-NPCs you can think of. The pdf can also be pretty educational in the hands of the right GM. If a player has never suffered through an environment of rigid etiquette and exclusionary practices (or was always on the other side of the fence), then this may well present a superb, satirically overcharged insight into how it works. My own experience of the book was basically that of a collection of NPCs that conveyed the same notion as the camp British series or Osamu Dazai's Ningen Shikkaku, though in the latter case in an infinitely less depressing manner.

But perhaps I'm over-intellectualizing this book. What you have to know is this: This little pdf contains a treasure-trove of absolutely amazing, weird, sometimes disturbing, sometimes tragic, sometimes comic characters that often are all of these things at the same time. How a few lines of text manage to evoke this level of concise oddity stands testament to James Edward Raggi IV's talent.

It is my firm conviction that, even when not using the modules, this remains a handy book to add spice and peculiarity to any drab settlement. I adore this book, more so than the minimalist presentation and annoying lack of bookmarks made me deem possible. This is excellent and if you have a stomach for twisted, dark humor and scathing satire, this will deliver in spades. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
People of Pembrooktonshire
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No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2017 07:49:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of 3 loosely-linked modules clocks in at 38 pages, front and back cover are contained in a separate pdf and so are the 4 pages of maps and the 2-page handout (more on that below). It should be noted that the page-size assumed would be a5 (6'' by 9'') and that you can, provided you have good eyesight, jam 4 pages on one A4-page when printing this out.

All right, so, the 3 modules herein are set in the capital letter ODD town of Pembrooktonshire; while the companion-book depicting a gazillion of weird and strange characters is not required to run these, it does add to the general experience...but also, by virtue of the strength of the NPCs, can put the PCs of trail - so an experienced referee is required in such a case. Speaking of which: The pdf is very much a pretty sandboxy affair, which means no read-aloud texts or the like. This is obviously intended not only for experienced referees, but also for experienced groups. Indeed, one could argue that novices will not get what makes these modules unusual.

Situated in the backwater Pembrooktonshire, mired in the ostracizing behavior towards anyone not "proper" (Read: Anyone not from a long line of distinguished local families.)common here, PCs are wont to be subjected to in the xenophobic place, the PCs will begin their exploits in the Last Stop Inn and already notice that the townsfolk consider e.g. running around armed and armored to be problematic. Oh, and if the town's guard is not enough to reign the PCs in, a wandering Knight of Science is in town, including his entourage. these guys are basically monster hunters with a self-importance that will make most paladins blush. While hardliners, they nonetheless represent kinda-good guys.

Yeah, and that is pretty much as far as I can go sans diving headfirst into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, it is my contention that these are pretty much post-modern adventures in that they subvert and systematically negate assumptions and preconceptions of players, with entertaining results, fulfilling thus the aspect of 4th-wall-engagement. This is not yours truly over-intellectualizing these, mind you: The introduction pretty much already states as much.

As the PCs enter the fray, the daughter of the prestigious local bookbindery, known primarily for the Bumblebee Bandit romance-novels (a complete list of which are provided -and the handout sports a hilarious drawing and excerpt from one), has been found murdered in the aftermath of her wedding -and the local travelling folk have been summarily rounded up for execution. Thing is: While a romanticizing lot and not "proper" according to the asinine views of Pembrooktonshire, while deliberately depicted as suspicious, the module proceeds to undermine this stereotyping process: For one, the characters depicted, including the fine Pembrooktonshire quasi-nobility and the knight's retinue, as just as suspect on closer inspection...and indeed, when engaging in this bit of brief and none-too-complex free-form investigation, the PCs will, if they play their cards right, unearth the Bumblebee Bandit obsessed squire of the Knight of Science as the true culprit for the murder. More than the relatively simple plot and its ticking clock, the module serves as a nice way of establishing the Janus-facedness of the local population.

Module #2 further builds on the previously established sense of estrangement the players and PCs should by now be experiencing. Titles "The Great Games", it is centered on a rather strange local tradition: The most esteemed families have young couples chosen to compete in a series of weirdling competitions and while being chosen to participate is pretty much tantamount to retaining one's family's high standing in local society, winning is not something people look forward to. You see, there is a threat of death in each of the games and only the males participate. The first male to die (which can, should the referee require it, be determined randomly) is deemed to be the winner - and his bride is moved up to the nearby mountain-range, as a tribute to the local dragon. The increasingly ridiculous and lethal games are depicted herein, yes - but PCs will probably not participate in them, considering their lack of social status. Indeed, sabotage will probably be on the mind of quite a few groups to stop this barbaric practice...but ultimately, a bride will be chosen for the dragon, be brought into the windswept mountain range, where a massive blast of flame heralds the dragon's presence...only, it's been dead for ages.

Investigating the cavern, the PCs will find a makeshift alchemical, stationary flamethrower. All those sacrifices...have been made to a dead dragon, incapable of claiming them. Instead, the hidden overlords of the mountains ( a nation of isolationalist, xenophobic dwarves) has maintained the ruse to keep the locals out of their territory. The brides, so far, died from exposure or the dangers of the mountains...not the hungry teeth of a dragon. Now here's the thing: The PCs can actually save the bride, but must tread lightly: Pronouncing the truth to Pembrooktonshire will result in war between the dwarves and the locals...so yeah, the actual "meat" of this module happens in its aftermath and the depiction of the strange festivities. Granted, this may make the proceedings feel a bit like a prolonged cut-scene and stymie players...but again, this is by intent, cultivating basically a notion and awareness of having to wait for the right time to do the right thing.

Adventure #3 would be the first where PC-death is actually likely: "A Lonely House Upon a Lonely Hill" has an organic lead-in via the strange proceedings of module #2; if the PCs seek to find the truth of the mountains and dig hard in Pembrooktonshire, they will hear about one Konstantin Kuznetsova: Adventurer and agent, he supposedly found riches, namely a diamond in the hills, only to vanish due to the anger of the spirits (of whose existence the PCs will be, after module #2, not be convinced) - he was last seen exploring the haunted O'Shaunessy manor - and arriving there will put an intriguing conundrum before the PCs: Supposedly, the region is geologically stable, but there is plenty of steam arising from the crags of the house and itself - enough, in fact, to render communication inside impossible. Inside, it's hot, steamy and the house is a wrecked ruin...though inside, the PCs can find a picture of Del Murrow O'Shaunnessy and his elven bride. Del Murrow has since moved away, but after the sudden death of his elven bride, the area was supposed to be haunted. Guess what? It is.

If you have some sort of experience with REALLY nasty critters, you'll know what to expect and gulp. Confined within the grounds, the spirit of Shelagh Cori O'Shaunnessy still roams - and she's a friggin' banshee. Yeah, at that level. Turns out that shutting off those REALLY loud valves throughout the mansion may NOT be a good idea. In fact, finding and returning her wedding ring from the ill-fated spelunkers in the caverns below the complex only has a 33% chance of fixing the banshee-haunting...and may even strengthen the dread entity, depending on the roll of the dice and the cruelty-level of the referee/desire for further adventures - in any ways, the exploration of the grounds very much feels like a REALLY nasty survival horror experience. Oh, and guess what - that steam? It comes from the dwarven city below's primary forge...these guys are who broke the deal with Del Murrow and poisoned the elven lady...or, well, you could make that an entry to hell or any other strange place - the module focuses on the experience of getting through the experience alive and potentially ending the grisly haunting.

No matter what happens, chances are that inquisitive PCs, provided they survived the death trap that is module #3, will either want to leave the place asap...or really unearth what's going on...so a referee has his/her work cut out.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills, 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports several nice, atmospheric pencil-drawings. The cartography for locations where it becomes relevant is serviceable, though no key-less versions are provided. The pdf (and its cover-file, map-file and handout-file) come in versions optimized for both US-letterpack and A4-paper-standards, which is nice to see. Unfortunately, the pdfs have no bookmarks, which renders electronic navigation annoying. Print these out.

James Edward Raggi IV's trilogy here can either be an absolutely phenomenal experience...or a total dud. More so than many comparative modules, this trilogy requires a deft referee with some experience. It's not that the modules are hard to run, mind you - quite the contrary. It's that the little peculiarities require some serious GM-panache to pull off: Number 1 requires the flexing of one's acting muscles - it works perfectly, but only if you manage to depict all factions in the same, high-strung manner. #2 requires the referee to engage the PCs over a couple of days wherein they are basically witnesses to proceedings as grim as those in the classic Wicker Man. Finally, #3 is just EVIL.

Which brings me to the next component: These modules are intended for veterans. They deliberately take tropes of the art of adventure-crafting and flip them on their head in various ways. In short, the enjoyment of these modules stems in part from knowing the meta-conventions of adventure-structure and being surprised by how they are twisted here. Adventure #3 can, and probably will, kill at least one character, possibly more - but at the same time, it is clever in doing so and may see jaded veterans actually applauding the demise of their characters. Hint: If you can't take a character-loss, then this is not for you. If you can, though...and if you're jaded, cynical and bored by many of the narrative conventions employed again, and again, and again...then this will be a breath of fresh air, particularly when combined with the absolutely brilliant "People of Pembrooktonshire"-sourcebook and the horrible and strange folks therein.

What I'm trying to say is that gamers and referees that only know "new school", who want CR-appropriate challenges, who want a clear three-act-structure, will probably not find this to their liking.

Then again, if you're looking for something different, a change of pace, a series of modules that requires flexing of your GM/referee-muscles, if you're looking for something that's actually hard to survive and complete successfully...then this may well be worth looking into. More so than most modules, though, I can see these going horribly wrong in the hands of referees not up to the task...or for groups that just aren't used to something as evil as adventure #3.

Personally, though, I had a total and absolute blast playing these 3 modules. Call me RPG-hipster, but oh boy was it rewarding to see the WTFs on player-faces once again, on hearing the laughter during module #1 turn slowly into a growing sense of unease over the course of subsequent sessions. Ultimately, the module all are one-trick ponies; they all have this one twist - it's an excellent one every time, but that means they can be hit and miss, depending mostly on referee-prowess to deliver their punchline, if you will...which is why I'll settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars. Only you referees out there may decide where the modules fall for you and your groups...and while personally, for me as a private guy, I'd round up, the lack of bookmarks does hurt this a bit, which is why my official reviewer's verdict will round down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: Tea House Caper (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2017 07:46:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure, intended for use in conjunction with the Delectable Dragonfly-installment of the Tangible Taverns-series, clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? GREAT!

Edwin Scrumple has turned his life around - gone are his days of gambling and overindulgence in alcohol...but this does not change the fact that he has lost his mother's ring while gambling. Said ring now graces the ring of the draconian wife of his erstwhile drinking buddy, one Eva Lurancree, who not only constantly complains, but also has an uncanny ability to hit others with her barbed, snide comments where it hurts most. In short: She is a wholly unpleasant woman.

Unfortunately for the PCs, she also does not entertain much, is pretty keen-eyed and rarely leaves her mansion - which means that their best chance to actually get the ring would be infiltrating the delectable dragonfly, which Mme Lurancree visits twice a week - once for a massage and once per pedicure. Entering the place, though, is not that simple: Prim, the place's mistress, is keen-eyed and hard to fool and she runs a tight ship - oh, and since her build is radically different from PFRPG, even her racial references have been retooled...and her lair actions similarly have been reproduced. for your convenience. Unfortunately, the inspiration-wording glitch I noticed in the Tangible Tavern-pdf has also been reproduced in her statblock.

Similarly, Eva Lurancree's build can sap the will of those it is directed against - once again noting points of inspiration, when it probably should be dice.

That being said, the free-form infiltration does allow for various avenues for success. Both Eva and Prim come with stats, though it should be noted that this very much requires the Dragonfly-pdf to pull off: Not only for the dressing, but also for some avenues like impersonating other staff-members. The benefits of actually going the whole way with the charade and coming up with a good plan is more pronounced in 5e, which renders the task slightly less difficult.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from the inspiration wording guffaws. Layout adheres to the no-frills printer-friendly b/w-standard of the series and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The map of the place is provided for your convenience.

Kelly Pawlik's tea house caper is an enjoyable little heist scenario for character levels 2nd - 3rd, though it can be used for higher or lower levels by modifying the alertness of the characters featured herein. It is an unpretentious, fun little module, though one that suffers slightly from wording hiccups in the unique abilities of the characters. As a PWYW-companion piece to the delectable dragonfly, this most certainly is worth leaving a tip for. While it is a bit free-form for my tastes and could use a bit more guidance for novice GMs, I ultimately am stretching here. In the end, this is well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars - and I'll round up due to this being PWYW and my policy of in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: Tea House Caper (5e)
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: Tea House Caper (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2017 07:43:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure, intended for use in conjunction with the Delectable Dragonfly-installment of the Tangible Taverns-series, clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? GREAT!

Edwin Scrumple has turned his life around - gone are his days of gambling and overindulgence in alcohol...but this does not change the fact that he has lost his mother's ring while gambling. Said ring now graces the ring of the draconian wife of his erstwhile drinking buddy, one Eva Lurancree, who not only constantly complains, but also has an uncanny ability to hit others with her barbed, snide comments where it hurts most. In short: She is a wholly unpleasant woman.

Unfortunately for the PCs, she also does not entertain much, is pretty keen-eyed and rarely leaves her mansion - which means that their best chance to actually get the ring would be infiltrating the delectable dragonfly, which Mme Lurancree visits twice a week - once for a massage and once per pedicure. Entering the place, though, is not that simple: Prim, the place's mistress, is keen-eyed and hard to fool and she runs a tight ship.

That being said, the free-form infiltration does allow for various avenues for success. Both Eva and Prim come with stats, though it should be noted that this very much requires the Dragonfly-pdf to pull off: Not only for the dressing, but also for some avenues like impersonating other staff-members.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the no-frills printer-friendly b/w-standard of the series and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The map of the place is provided for your convenience.

Kelly Pawlik's tea house caper is an enjoyable little heist scenario for characters level 3 - 4, though it can be used for higher or lower levels by modifying the alertness of the characters featured herein. It is an unpretentious, fun little module. As a PWYW-companion piece to the delectable dragonfly, this most certainly is worth leaving a tip for. While it is a bit free-form for my tastes and could use a bit more guidance for novice GMs, I ultimately am stretching here. In the end, this is well worth getting. My final verdict, due to quality, concept and PWYW-status, will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: Tea House Caper (PFRPG)
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By Flame, Storm, and Thorn (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2017 08:37:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little expansion-pdf for the ranger class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief page of introduction to the matter at hand, we get a total of 3 different ranger archetypes, the first of which would be the Lantern-bearer. At 3rd level, these guys get a weaponized brass lantern, which inflicts 1d4 bludgeoning damage and acts as a finesse weapon. As a purely cosmetic gripe, while by now finesse weapons are unanimously 1-handed, for future-proofing purposes I would have specified that. The lantern-bearer may expend ranger spell slots to inflict bonus fire damage when attacking, starting at 2d6 for a 1st level spell, +1d6 for every spell slot beyond that, to a maximum of 5d6. The fire inflicts +1d6 damage versus beasts, monstrosities or undead. Additionally, the character can place the lantern on the ground or put it on a hook and expend spell slots to enhance the healing capabilities of those resting within its glow, grant resistance to necrotic and cold damage and advantage on saves versus the frightened and charmed condition. And no, the two abilities do not allow for cheesing.

At 7th level, the archetype gains Shadowed Paths, which can be used only once per rest-interval - two benefits can be chosen: Dispelling obscuring effects of targets hit or bonus action teleport to the lantern's bright light radius' edge while in an obscured area both make for cool effects. 11th level increases base damage of the lantern to 1d8 for both fire and mundane damage. Additionally, creatures of aforementioned types now take damage while within the glow of a placed lantern. 15th level lets allies with channel divinity or healing spells ignore the range limitations of the healing effects while within the placed lantern's light and yes, it does take care of AoE-healing as well. Okay, I'll admit it - as a Ravenloft/Dark Souls/Darkest Dungeon/etc.-fanboy, this had me pretty soon. I love this archetype.

Archetype number 2 would be the stormcloak and at 3rd level, this one has a similar ability like the lantern-bearer - spell-slot expenditure for bonus damage, this time around your choice of either lightning or thunder damage. 7th level provides resistance to both lightning and thunder and when you suffer either damage type, you may use your reaction to absorb part of the damage for 1 round, adding +2d6 damage of the type absorbed to damage; +1d6 if used in conjunction with aforementioned spell-slot expenditure ability. 11th level is a bit weird - when you inflict damage with two weapons in a single round, you add +3d6 thunder damage to one target damaged. 15th level increases the potency of the weapon-imbuing trick, adding 10 temporary hit points (or those suffered, whichever is less) that last for 1 minute. While these persist, you may spend the bonus action to fly up to your speed, but you do fall if you don't end the movement on solid ground.

The third archetype herein would be the Thornguard, who begins third level with snare mastery, which allows you to create a deployable trap during a long rest (only one may be in effect at a given time) - these can inflict the blinded, poisoned, pushed, restrained, stunned conditions and may be deployed as a bonus action. The Wisdom (Perception)-DC to notice it is equal to your save DC, and conversely, said DC is what's required to disable it via thieves' tools. Traps can be sprung as a reaction to an enemy standing in them and deal a basic 2d6 piercing damage, with spell-slot expenditure being possible to increase the damage inflicted. Interesting: Thus magically laced traps can inflict other damage types (lightning, poison, thunder) and disarming not triggered traps is covered as well.

7th level increases the area of effect your snares affect, though the magic enhancements aren't as potent here and, oddly, RAW, does not allow for a similar damage type choosing; the bonus damage is not perfectly codified this time around. The ability also nets your resistance versus damage incurred by traps or glyphs of warding. 11th level rewards dealing damage to one foe per round twice in a single turn, moving hostile creatures and imposing disadvantage on saves versus traps on the target. The base damage of the traps is also increased. 15th level lets you store a second snare when completing a long rest and allows you to reassemble them after 1 minute after combat. This may be a bit late - snares being the unique selling point here, I do think that at least the +1 snare being moved down to 7th level may be sensible.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though the italicized sections of sub-feature lists are, formatting-wise, not smart. While we have no spell-formatting confusion this time around, as a whole, that could happen. Still, no issue. Layout adheres to Tribality's nice 2-column full-color standard, with fitting full-color photography as artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this low length, I can live with that.

Brandes Stoddard's ranger archetypes are generally solid - with one very minor hiccup, the rules-language remains precise and we get one damn amazing archetype with the lantern-bearer. The other archetypes fall slightly short of that one's awesomeness, but as a whole, they're not bad either and make for nice options. The stormcloak would have benefited from an ability that is more than a more flexible tweak of a part of the lantern-mechanic, but that's just me being a spoiled SOB. As a whole, this is worth the fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up by a margin due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
By Flame, Storm, and Thorn (5E)
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