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Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 2
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:24:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second booklet of essays and thoughts by the eponymous Raven Crowking (aka Daniel J. Bishop) clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 50 pages, though these are made for the a5 (6\'\' by 9\'\'-standard) - you can fit 4 of them on a sheet of paper if you\'re like me and tend to print things out.

We begin this pdf with the basics and, even if one is an experienced judge, it may help to recap the steps: 1) Brainstorm. In the beginning, there was the idea. Simple as that. 2) is a golden rule. I mean it. If every designer followed the rule, my job\'d be much more pleasant: \"Never base the adventure on expectations of what players will do.\" Seriously, you can try to rig the game, manipulate structure, etc. - no pre-written module will survive contact with a table of creative minds intact. It\'s simple as that. If the module requires a thoroughly railroady array of sequential decisions that could go any way, then we have an issue on our hands. 3) is more complex and less obvious: The goal of players in a module is to exert control over the situation. As simple as that may sound, the ramifications of this truth are much harder to control from the perspective of the author - but at the same time, this provides a means of structuring leverage to employ to keep things on track.

4) is not necessarily correct, but true as a design tenet: No group will find everything. Well, I could rattle off instances where my players did find everything sans me cheating or the like, but they are crazy experienced veterans of the toughest caliber...so yeah - from a designer\'s point of view, hiding too much can be bad. 5) is important: Remain true to the setting. The PCs, via smarts and insane luck have managed to accomplish impossible deed xyz? Then they DESERVE the huge reward. Similarly, if they screwed up, they SHOULD get hosed. Beyond these, context, an awareness of possible introduction spots and the dynamics of the table are important - and so is the need to make it clear that another GM/judge/referee can run your module - the latter is more critical than you\'d think: Designer-blindness and established group-behavior paradigms can easily thwart that one.

The basics out of the way, we come to the advanced components - and it is here that the booklet becomes more interesting, as it halts to analyze the things players take for granted at the table: To wit: E.g. unimpeded communications, risk/reward-levels, etc. - as soon as these basic premises are compromised in one way or another, things get interesting. A number of classic (and new) sample modules are used to illustrate the clever use and modifications of such basic premises...yes, beyond the confines of DCC. What if e.g. seating arrangements suddenly matter?

The advanced adventure craft rules are similarly helpful: There should, for example, be multiple clues to unearth a given piece of information. This may sound obvious, but many, many investigation scenarios still get that aspect horribly wrong. Similarly, offstage material and the like need to be considered alongside with player and character proclivities. If your only hook for gold-greedy murder-hobos, but not the fanatics of god xyz, then your module may need diversification in that regard; even more important would be the fallacy of alignment-associated behavior. I have never made a secret out of my conviction that alignments suck, are anathema to the roleplaying of complex characters and should be purged with fire. More important would be the fact that they often act as a lazy shorthand for designers: Good hook, neutral hook, done. Lame. So yeah. Objectives, allies, bosses and the like are given similar, deep consideration - and so is the sudden and dramatic reveal is a tried and true and much cherished experience that resonates with all of us...but at the same time, it is harder than you\'d anticipate to pull off in face of a jaded crew of players. Thus, detailed consideration, including several modules quoted for reference, can guide a Gm to excel at employing this narrative device.

Beyond these, we also take stock on meaningless encounters - when and how to use them, for example. And why they can and should matter. While a given encounter may have no benefit to the story told, we all interact with it nonetheless; as such, the lack of a previously ascribed relevance towards the proceedings of the given plot, ultimately, generates an absence that GM and players alike can fill with speculation, observations, etc. - often enhancing the general immersion of a given setting. I am willing to bet that pretty much every GM worth his or her salt has, at one point, just taken up player-speculation uttered in the aftermath of such an encounter and greatly enhanced the overall flexibility and fungibility of a given module.

Next up would be a component near and dear to my heart: The realm of dreams. With concise observations regarding the nature and significance of dreams, the pdf explores them as a possible setting as well as a narrative device. I am deeply sorry for all groups wherein this amazing means of changing the scenery has not yet been employed - so yeah, two thumbs up here. The next chapter would also be near and dear to my heart: Killing fields. As anyone who\'s been following my reviews for a while knows, I am pretty enamored with the tactical new RPGs, but at the same time a fan of rules-light gaming...but regardless of system ultimately employed, my sensibilities very much dictate that I want a concise world...and this ultimately means that none of my games sport CR-appropriate challenges. Various sub-categories exist, but their use in a given game, apart from establishing goals and the like, is not to be underestimated as far as I\'m concerned.

This leads into the next aspect, namely fairness and entitlement - and, for the designer, the contemplation of when something\'s too much. There ultimately is no easy reply to this complex question, but there are some aspects to consider: Reaping what one has sown and player agenda are important; similarly, \"rocks fall, all die\" is not fun for anyone, unless it has been telegraphed properly. To give you an example: In one of the classic Frog god Games-modules, my players went past all warning signs (6 sarcophagi) to forcefully dig into a room where they anticipated a mother load of treasure. When said room had a lich and mummy-monks came forth from the niches, they were wipes, with only one PC escaping by the skin of his teeth. None complained about it being unfair...though I have seen on boards and tables players grow a sense of entitlement due to the relatively narrow structure of adventures championed since the 3.X-days. The structure of assumed mid-adventure-progression has done some harm to the sense of danger, but also to the freedom the PCs ultimately should have. A good GM can counteract this, but it is still something to be aware of when designing modules.

Similarly, the pdf does mention horror, but here, I\'d like to interject my own observations: Horror follows a different paradigm. Horror assumes a willingness on part of the players and player characters to assume the position of being (relatively) powerless and to be fine with that; similarly, skewed scales of balance are pretty much what the genre thrives on. As such, the biggest obstacles towards good horror-gaming, at least in my opinion, often does not lie within the structure of the modules, but in the mind-set of the players and PCs. You can\'t expect a feisty paladin who usually jumps face first with blades drawn into the maw of demons to suddenly quake in his boots at the sight of a rotten carcass. It is a matter of theme and genre and it is my firm conviction that establishing assumptions, but at the table and, in some instances, in modules, can seriously help retaining a cohesive and rewarding mood and playing experience. Tl;dr: Horror\'s not for everyone. It\'s my favorite mode of gameplay, directly followed by my pretty dark interpretation of fantasy, but some players derive no joy from having their PCs die or become mad in horrible ways. How far is too far? It, ultimately, always depends.

The assumptions and options presented by in-game day-jobs and notes on several ideas to establish a monster-canon can be found here as well - including \"The Following Thing\", a stag-headed beast in a black suit, ending the pdf certainly on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to the relatively printer-friendly 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Daniel J. Bishop\'s second collection of dispatches is better than the first in a variety of ways; for one, the information contained herein is less colored by preaching to the choir; instead, we have helpful and well-reasoned observations regarding the finer details and components of the art of adventure-design. There are, frankly, plenty of books out there that cover the basics, but this pdf deals not primarily with the basic craftsmanship aspect, but rather the artistry of making modules - and this renders it, at least to my sensibilities, significantly more rewarding. Its respective points are illustrated well with a canon of excellent modules as reference-bibliography, if you will, and while I don\'t have all of them, I do have a lot and could ascertain the points being adequately supported by the quoted material.

The accomplishment of this collection of essays lies in the fact that it can be seen as a well-crafted reminder for designers and advanced judges/referees/GMs alike regarding the aspects that can make both an adventure and a whole campaign rise from the mediocrity towards being truly memorable. In short: This does not focus on providing guidelines to making something decent or just \"good\", this is focused on helping the reader go the step beyond, reach for the lofty levels of creativity and excellence. As such, it may not be the best book for novice GMs, authors or judges, but for everyone with a sufficient level of experience, this can well be considered to be one of the better GM/author-advice books, regardless of setting employed. Many pieces of advice given most certainly pertain contexts far beyond the scope of DCC. As such, I consider this is well worth getting and it receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 2
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The Esoterror Summoning Guide
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:21:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion book for The Esoterrorists (which is also useful for other GUMSHOE-games) clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

So, first things first - since I\'m trying to help retain this review\'s usefulness for folks not familiar with esoterrorists: The idea of this horror-game is pretty much brilliant. The PCs are part of a conspiracy, the Ordo Veritatis - and it is actually a benign one. You see, our world sports a membrane that separates us from the Outer Dark, a place of chaotic and infinite possibilities, pretty much all of which are horrific nightmare fuel - think of it as the desert of the real, as the horrific, chthonic truth of reality, where science and the laws of physics break down. Here\'s the thing - the membrane isn\'t a wall - it is elastic, regenerates slowly and can be ripped, torn...and it may be the collective unconscious of our species. For as long as we believe in ordered reality, for as long as we cling to hope, to a sense of the world...well, making sense, the membrane will protect us from the Outer Dark. Conversely, despair, a sense that life\'s surreal and an experience of Entfremdung from existence, the glorification of dark deeds, horrific superstitions that gain traction and similar proceedings ultimately weaken the membrane.

There is a second conspiracy, but it is not a structured hierarchy; instead, it is a cluster of infinite cells - the esoterrorists. Their end-game is to break down the membrane and welcome the entities of the Outer Dark to our reality - for whatever purposes. Esoterrorists perform horrific deeds and ultimately are enemies of all mankind - with the horrific prospect of their sheer existence being a weapon. If the truth of the Outer Dark existing becomes widely known, said knowledge alone will greatly diminish the membrane, potentially breaking it. Hence, the Ordo Veritatis\' (or OV) goal is to keep the public ignorant of the horrific struggle, the shadow war waged behind the scenes. The esoterrorist\'s main advantage in the struggle against the superb organization of the OV, however, lies in their command of magic...or rather, in their ability to summon the dread entities from the Outer Dark, who have...well, really nasty tricks up their sleeves.

This book, then, would constitute essentially a massive dossier for the agents of the OV - written in-character, as though it was a need-to-know-basis briefing file, this book elucidates upon the various types of summoning at the disposal of the esoterrorists and the current theories pertaining the mechanics of said summoning. In the beginning, the paradigm shift for the OV\'s endgame, from the overly ambitious eradication to containment, is explained in succinct and captivating detail. Similarly, the current theories pertaining the membrane provide a concise picture o the stakes of this conflict - it is against the backdrop of new media and a progressively more daunting task that we are introduced to the different types of summoning techniques the esoterrorists employ.

The first of these would be the Greater Invocative Summoning, and it may be the most hard to pull off, but also the most powerful technique: It requires a significant amount of people (we\'re talking thousands) and the considerable psychic energy these individuals generate; as such, it is easy to spot and anticipate, but actually preventing it while maintaining anonymity and ignorance of the OD (Outer Dark) entities is VERY hard; the danger this type of summing poses, though, is considerable, for it can draw a new OD entity to the world - and after an entity has been clad in our reality\'s nightmares, after it has manifested once, it can be called in a significantly easier manner - less expenditure, less elaborate requirements - basically, it thereafter can be called forth via a lesser invocative summoning. This summoning, in short, can establish a foothold for an entity or type of entities. Following the formula, we get case studies pertaining such summoning rituals as well as suggested countermeasures for the OV agents...always remember, in the end, you need plausible deniability, mundane explanations for the proceedings to enact a proper veil-out.

Ontological summoning is different - it capitalizes on the previously noted power of folk belief; basically, a belief is taken and continuously reinforced by the esoterrorists, who seek to make the folk belief seem plausible, like the surreal, reality eroding truth. That factory, where Freddy Krüger died? Making kids disappear in the vicinity, seeding sightings and fostering fear and angst in the face of the obvious evidence are what allow entities called forth thus to assume appropriate shapes.

Thirdly, constructionist summoning would be the Frankenstein approach - the mad scientist creating a flesh-golem, the programmer seeking to make an evil A.I.-god, the brainwashing cult that seeks to create a monument - basically, here, it is not belief that generates a vessel, but actual construction and belief in the receptacle. Speaking of cults - there is one more and particularly grotesque way of bringing an OD into the world: The total destruction of a personality with impositional summoning. Basically, esoterrorists completely break down a person\'s self and instill a belief in the target that the person was destined to be a vessel or actually IS the Outer Dark entity (ODE)...until it supplants the unfortunate being, overriding everything and becoming, for all intents and purposes, the ODE. It should be noted that this can also generate a means in ingress for new ODEs... and the case studies featured here are particularly brutal. Finally, there would be opportunistic summoning, which is basically grounded in finding cryptid-sightings, LSMs (Low Membrane-Strength places) as well as similar places and establishing contact with ODEs.

Speaking of which - the issue of negotiating with such entities, when and where it is permissible and when it is appropriate, is also depicted in detail: Basically, the agents are given guidelines to deal with the alien psyches and easy tools to evaluate whether it is possible to defeat the entity sans giving in to demands, when and how such strategies are valid and the different demands are indeed covered as well. prolonged negotiation and the potential stability loss that entails.

Now, what to do with all the knowledge this pdf provides for the agents and GM? Well, there would be an interesting sample scenario that takes up the last couple of pages, one called Cell Death.

The following will cover the basics of this investigation, so potential players of the scenario should skip ahead to the conclusion. From here on out reign the SPOILERS.

...

..

.

All right, still here? The agents are sent to Rome, where Lucio Mancini lies dying in a hospice ward, asking for Mr. Verity and the \"pluggers\" - esoterrorist slang for agents of the OV plugging the membrane. Mancini\'s wife died of an inoperable lung condition, caused by toxic smoke, which made him slip into esoterrorism and now he\'s riddled with cancers and has one request from the agents of the OV - find is son, who has gone underground. Introduced to the esoterrorist cell of one Graham park, Mancini does not want his son to pay the ultimate price as well. It is from here that the PCs track the trail of Lucio\'s son to the sleepy backwater town Bluewater in Idaho. Here, different types of potential summoning endeavors can be eliminated, one by one, until impositional summoning is left - and indeed, in a well-guarded farm, the esoterrorists have not only established a security perimeter of concealed cameras and the like - they also have a subterranean bunker complex, where Lucio\'s son\'s personality was systematically broken down: He witnessed, time and again, as radiation and toxic smoke corroded and gruesomely slew people in front him, while he was unaffected - thus nearing the completion of the summoning of a new ODE, the balefire man, a really nasty ODE whose stats btw. are provided herein.

The problems faced by the agents consist of more than just dealing with the armed esoterrorists, though - they have to find the bunker complex and hopefully, via mementos, gain an edge in combat against the dread entity. Similarly, the hazmat suits the PCs can find certainly will be helpful when dealing with the ODE...which brings me to a bit of an issue I have with this scenario. While it is permissible for OV agents to eliminate esoterrorists, the perhaps smartest way of dealing with those in the inner vault would be rigging poison gas to it, flooding the bunker - the pdf very much acknowledges this. The PCs arrive as the remaining esoterrorists give their lives and call forth the ODE - something that cannot, RAW, be prevented, which I get from a dramatic perspective. However, poisoning the unarmed ritual practicing esoterrorists frankly violates the code of ethics and could act as a catalyst to bringing forth the balefire man - after all, it is established that a good man\'s evil deeds weaken the membrane more than that of a conscience-less psychopath. So yeah, that aspect of an otherwise good module would constitute an internal logic issue in my book. On the plus-side for the battered agents if they take down the ODE, the veil-out should be easy thanks to the secluded nature of the farm.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good from both a rules-language and formal perspective. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column b/w-standard that emulates papers and dossiers, with photo-like, amazing b/w-artworks as well as excellent b/w-drawings emulating a \"clipped in/attached\" feeling - the layout conveys well the illusion of reading a proper dossier. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan\'s Esoterror Summoning Guide represents an amazing resource; the fact that you can hand it to your players and just have them read the book(and enjoy the experience) renders this not only a great handout, it also makes the subject matter, which could have been dry and bland, thoroughly exciting. Each of the ample case studies can act as a great adventure hook to build new scenarios from, so that\'s another plus. In fact, the summoning-type categories, obviously also are relevant for Fear Itself and can be employed beyond that game: The general ideas for various types of summoning can conceivably be equally easily used in the context of Trail of Cthulhu or Night\'s Black agents, particularly if you\'re running a genre-spanning game that features elements from multiple GUMSHOE-settings.

I similarly absolutely enjoyed the final scenario attached, which does a great job of showing GMs and players alike how to employ the knowledge they and their PCs have in game; that being said, the denouement and climax of the module, to be, was a bit of a dud, since the potential code of ethics violation and the lack of diversified outcomes made this more railroady than required and slightly less refined to me. let it be known, however, that I am complaining at a very high level here - I still consider this to be an excellent purchase and well worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterror Summoning Guide
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Mythic Minis 95: Clever Combat Feats II
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:19:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial (also contains 2 feats) , 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-Lightning Draw: +2 to atk and damage with the first attack of a Lightning Draw weapon before the end of the turn. Only one weapon gets the benefit, if more are drawn. If you expend one mythic power, it costs no panache and the target is flat-footed versus the attack that receives the bonus. Nice.

-Measure Foe: Increase bonuses granted by base feat by +1, learn about twice as many combat feats. If you expend mythic power and use Sense Motive after only one attack/full-round of watching the target, you suffer no penalty. While I loathe the base feat, this is a valid upgrade to mythic stature.

-My Blade is Yours: Treat your blade as having all applicable special features. Cool: For mythic power, you may add your partnered ally\'s magic weapon property as well, with 1/2 mythic tier acting as cap and limitations to cover the fringe-cases. This one is AMAZING!

-Piercing Grapple: No penalty and Intimidate bonus increases to +4 and also applies to combat maneuver checks to maintain the grapple (but not its initiation). By expending 1 mythic power, you can deal the weapon damage upon initiating the grapple, rather than when the target escapes. Cool!

-Quiet Death: Even after an opponent\'s first action, the DC to hear combat is 0 and if the target doesn\'t yell (or you manage to grapple him before that), it does not automatically prompt Perception checks. Thank you. Thank you so much. I am so going to use that as non-mythic class features/talents, etc. Worth getting the pdf for.

-Starry Grace: Unlocks use with starknife TWFing or flurry of blows or when the other hands occupied. if you have at least 1 panache, you gain +10 ft. movement on a move action after attacking with a starknife or when using charge or Spring Attack. As a move action, you can make the starknife returning for mythic tier rounds. When attacking with it and then moving, you may expend mythic power, you are treated as still in the square where you made the attack for purposes of flanking...or threatening AoOs! You may hurl the starknife as part of that AoO, mind you. This is a BEAUTY. Seriously, I love this feat. It is amazing. Again, one I\'d consider viable for other contexts beyond mythic gameplay.

-Street Style: When you use your swift action to grant yourself bonus damage, it applies to all attacks you make that round. You may also move with opponents when bull rushing them and the movement does not count against your movement for the round. You may also expend mythic power to enter the style in a non-urban environment for up to 1 minute.

-Street Carnage: Critical range of unarmed strikes increases by 1, before applying other feats.

-Street Sweep: Add +1/2 tier to the Fort-save of foes to avoid being knocked prone. They also take +1d6 bludgeoning damage from being smashed to the ground and you gain +2 to atk versus prone foes.

-Swipe and Stash: Plant objects as a move action; as a swift action if you expend mythic power. You may also use Sleight of Hand or the steal combat maneuver to steal and replace an object with a single hand and gain +4 to both. NICE.

Conclusion:

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

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson deliver big time in this mythic mini - there are some truly amazing gems here that should provide some amazing tricks even in non-mythic campaigns. Seriously, there are quite a few options here that beg being introduced to pretty much every game. Inspired. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 95: Clever Combat Feats II
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Mythic Minis 89: Clever Combat Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:17:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

-But a Scratch: You can use the feat with ranged crits and the DC is reduced the farther the attacker is away. Shaken duration increases by +1 round per 2 mythic tier. I assume a minimum of 1, but am not sure here. However, being critically hit thereafter or subject to an ability that deals more than 1/5th of your maximum HP end the effect. 1/5th max HP is a petty inelegant benchmark cap here.

-Cat and Mouse: When not attempting a riposte with the regular feat, the dodge bonuses are doubled. When expending mythic power in conjunction with parry and riposte and successfully parry, you gain these benefits without having to forego the riposte. The feat could be slightly clearer when the mythic power expenditure takes place. I assume upon activation of parry and riposte.

-Circuitous Shot: When using the feat to bounce ranged attacks off objects, you can bounce it off up to mythic tier objects, at -2 per object. If you expend mythic power prior to firing, you can render the target flat-footed, even if the target would be immune to it. Yes, it\'s the Lucky Luke trick-shot feat! Neat!

-Clambering Escape: If you use the feat to reposition a creature, that target suffers a -2 penalty to saves to avoid the respective effect. Via expenditure of mythic power before making a saving throw to which evasion applies, you may use Clambering Escape for a reposition attempt before making the save, potentially allowing you to escape it. Even if you don\'t, you receive +2 to the save if the repositioned creature is in the area of effect. Interesting one!

-Cunning Intuition: Ready an action as a full-round action, but be capable of making the full-round action when the readied action is triggered. Additionally, you can choose whether to have your initiative changed after the action was performed, or whether to retain your old place in the initiative order. This feat\'s mythic upgrade...is frickin\' OP, even for mythic gameplay.

-Fencing Grace: Gain the benefits with any light or one-handed weapon. When wielding a rapier, you retain the benefits even while TWFing or using flurry of blows or have your other hand occupied. You also add 1/2 mythic tier to the bonus provided. When wielding a rapier one-handed and expending a surge while attempting a disarm, reposition, steal or sunder, you may roll twice and take the better result. Odd one - on one hand, it unlocks other weapons; on the other, it retains unique benefits for rapiers. Not sure what to think of that...feels a bit all over the place to me.

-Martial Dominance: +1 creature in range intimidated per 5 BAB. When used in conjunction with a critical hit, the number of rounds is multiplied by the critical multiplier of the weapon. Is a bit overkill in my book.

-Ranged Feint: When ranged feinting, you may choose to have the creature feinted flat-footed versus any creature\'s next attack, not just yours. If you do, the first attack ends the effect, whether or not it hits. Penalties for feinting non-humanoids, animal intelligence, etc. critters are halved. By expending mythic power, you can cause the target to be denied his Dex-bonus to AC versus all attacks made until the beginning of the next turn and may declare the use of mythic power even after feint-results are made known.

-Ready for Anything: Take a full round\'s worth of actions during the surprise round. If a combat would have no surprise round, you may expend mythic power to get a surprise round in which only you may act, unless other creatures have the same feat or a similar ability. Considering mythic gameplay\'s exceedingly high value of high initiative/hitting first, I\'d not allow this in my mythic games.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though on the rules-language level some minor ambiguities have crept in. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs deliver Clever Combat feats that have some gems...but also feats that frankly are too strong, particularly in mythic gameplay. Ironically, the initiative modifying feats in question would be less problematic in non-mythic games. That being said, the pdf still has a fair price-point and some sweet ideas, making it a quintessential mixed bag, slightly on the positive side, and my review thus clock in at 3.5 stars - though I can\'t round up on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 89: Clever Combat Feats
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Places of Power: The Mistfall Refuge
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:14:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Averin Steelhammer and his dwarven clan did not have the best of times - driven from their ancestral lands by a horde of demons (guess they dug too deep), they aimlessly wandered the foreboding Greyspire Mountains - until they found the echoing cliffs of the eponymous mistfall refuge, etched with protective runes and magical obfuscation, the enterprising dwarves figured it would be a perfect place to start anew - turns out they were right. The lore pertaining this fabled place is suitable obscure (read: High DCs) and entry is only gained via invitation and by paying a hefty entrance fee - but once there, whoever had to vanish...is gone, proofed against the magical espionage of the vizier crossed and the vengeance of the king for absconding with his daughter. Yeah, the place with its protections is pretty much the location that a certain barbarian (and pretty much every group of PCs I ever had) would certainly require at least once - after all, PCs have a real knack for stepping on the toes of the completely wrong folks...

The whole application process and being led there, btw., is also covered alongside the obligatory rumors and events...and yes, there is a teleportation hall, a tavern/guest house/theatre-crossover and the pdf does not fail to comment on the particularities of daily life. Beyond the absolutely gorgeous 1-page isometric map (seriously worth the price of admission and a great hand-out), the place obviously has adventuring potential galore, even before introducing the 4 sample \"guests\" who are currently biding their time in this refuge from the worries of the world. Made me really chuckle, btw.: Moog, the awakened bear monk. Yes, that is one of them. Come on, that is cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. Layout adheres to RSP\'s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two iterations, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer - kudos there! The cartography by Simon Butler and Dyson Logos is excellent beyond the usual standard of the series: We actually get a stunning isometric map this time around. Personally, I consider the map alone worth the low asking price. I think by joining Raging Swan Press\' patreon, you can actually get the high-res map for the evocative place, but I am not 100% sure. The map provided is cool, but sports keyed rooms.

Jeff Gomez and Jacob Trier joining forces has delivered nothing but amazing in this Place of Power: Beyond being extremely useful tool for the GM (\"Oh damn, now the city\'s powerful guys will want them dead and I have no logical explanation why they\'re not found...wait, they helped that one dwarf a couple of sessions before...\") to make the PCs escape overwhelming odds, it also makes a glorious place for a subdued investigation into the fugitives...and then there\'d be the question of who actually made and magic-proof\'d this place...a ton of amazing adventure, unique yet easily usable in just about any context, a ton of ideas crammed into a precious few pages: This is glorious and epitomizes what the series should be about. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Mistfall Refuge
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10 Monsters - A Basic Bestiary - V.1
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:12:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little bestiary clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/monsters by type/CR, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

We begin this pdf with the blessed ring at CR 6 - an immobile ring of Large mushrooms that may not move...but it can spray devastating bursts of acid at foes. After entering the ring, it generates a dome to rest in, so yeah, sniping into camp is impeded as well. Sounds like your average adventuring nightmare? Nope, for there is a twist: These plants are actually good, can detect alignments and only assault evil creatures - they represent basically a powerful safe zone to rest and recuperate for the good guys. Creepy? Yup. But also damn cool. Oh...and they don\'t make much difference between things - if one being inside is evil, the digestion routine begins...ouch.

The cadavalier at CR 9 is a pun worthy of yours truly; it is also an undead, quasi-centauric entity with retributive bone spurs, powerful leaping capabilities and serious armor training. While I noticed a minor typo in the flavor text, I was pleasantly surprised to see notes on advanced creatures and creating these undead. At CR 7, cavern giants would actually be pretty kind beings - uncommon for the udnerdark. Beyond their cauliflower ears, their rules also enhance their theme - they absolutely love wrestling, allowing them to inflict nonlethal damage, Dex and Str-damage...you get the idea. On a nitpicky side - their thrown stalactites should probably inflict piercing damage, not untyped damage.

Cavernivores are more straight-forward - at CR 12, they are huge reptiles with bioluminous tendrils. Think of them as basically the reptile equivalent of angler fish. Torturer Devils would be, now that kytons no longer are straight devils, the stand-in - immune to the effects of social skills, they are a brutally efficient build with extended threat ranges and multipliers and a nasty pain-debuff - that should probably be codified as a [pain]-effect.

At CR 25, the gloom is a living nightmare - bald humanoids with no face, exaggerated smiles full of black teeth in funeral clothing, they clock in at a mighty CR 25. They receive exceedingly powerful blades, are absolutely silent and receive both sneak attack and opportunist - basically, they are high-end, nigh-unstoppable supernatural assassins. Deadly. CR 10 brings us Old Man Winter, the oversized axe-wielding corrupted fey that draws life from those slain, who actually, in spite of the type, makes for a deadly adversary. Oh, of course, he has ice-themed SPs as well as the option to conjure forth icy winds for soft crowd control.

The CR 9 Tamazulim is a gigantic, warty toad that emits a truly despicable stench - obviously, it receives a tongue grab...but it may also breathe lightning. That being said, from the flavor-text, I expected the stench quality here. Oh well. The CR 7 Phantom Troll is a damn cool idea: You see, these guys are not only great hunters and beings that heal by inflicting damage and cause Str-damage - they\'re also naturally invisible. I really enjoy this critter, but one ability contains a cut-copy-past remnant referencing the invisible stalker. They still rank as one of the most challenging CR 7 critters you can throw at players.

The final critter herein would be once again one for the higher CRs - 23, to be precise. The Typhoeon has a humanoid torso and head, but the lower body of a colossal snake, with serpent-shaped arms that sport serpent heads where the hands should be. Oh, and wings. It can fly. In a minor discrepancy of fluff and statblock, the fluff notes the creature to have serpent heads, while the respective abilities reference dragon-heads...which btw. can both basically generate flame-thrower style cones each round.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; I noticed a couple of unnecessary hiccups. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games\' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf actually comes bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The pdf has no artworks.

Which brings me to a central aspect - personally, I prefer substance over style and this pdf does feature some cool critters with interesting abilities and evocative concepts - I can envision quite a few of them better than similar creatures, so as far as I\'m concerned, for the low and fair price, this does a nice job. That being said, not all of Derek Blakely\'s critters are amazing and the editing/formatting hiccups make themselves felt in such a small file. At the same time, I will actually use a few of the critters herein, which, considering the amount of critters at my disposal, is a sign of neat design. I should probably round down from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, all things considered, but considering the fair price-point and the gems that are herein, my final verdict will instead round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
10 Monsters - A Basic Bestiary - V.1
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Mythic Minis 88: Feats of Misdirection
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:09:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

-Blustering Bluff: You can use the feat to reduce the penalty of impossible lies by 5. Creatures fooled also do not automatically realize they were fooled, only becoming cognizant of the deception when presented with evidence or contradictory claims. Nice!

-Confabulist: After botching Bluff, you can follow up with Diplomacy to admit to the lie; on a success, you gain +5 to the second Bluff check. Additionally, 1/day, you may expend mythic power to retry an otherwise impossible to retry Bluff check.

-Cutting Humiliation: The penalties of the feat\'s effects are doubled. Additionally, you never become humiliated when failing to use the feat. You may also expend mythic power prior to making the check to deliver a memorable humiliation instead; this one remains in effect for 1 month per tier, as it becomes the gossip. Humiliated individuals may temporarily offset the penalty by concealing their identity, but cannot remove it by composing themselves, but beating you in social combat or intimidating you ends its effects. Now that type of coolness I what I expect from mythic intrigue!

-Intoxicating Flattery: The penalty extends to Bluff and Diplomacy DCs as well as influence and discovery checks made and you no longer suffer penalties from failed flattery.

-Manipulative Agility: +1 Sleight of Hand per 5 ranks of Bluff. Additionally, when delivering secret messages, check both skills and take the better result.

-Misdirection Attack: AoOs made in conjunction with this do not count against AoO-total per round. You also get +1/2 tier to attacks and + tier damage.

-Misdirection Redirection: Target of the redirect is flat-footed for the purpose of the attack. If you expend one use of mythic power, you deal +1d6 per 2 tiers, which is treated as though it were the rogue\'s sneak attack. One question here, since that wording is slightly odd: Does this mean that the damage this feat can inflict is treated as sneak attack for the purpose of prerequisites?

-Misdirection Tactics: You can use this while fighting defensively. You may also use it more often versus a foe, though subsequent uses require the expenditure of mythic power.

-True Deception: Add tier to Bluff to impersonate an individual; use mythic power to correctly guess specific information the target may know with successful Sense Motive checks, with tier as a bonus to the check. Also allows you to expend one use of mythic power to speak in a language the individual you impersonate knows as if you had cast share language. Both can be combined. Damn cool!

Conclusion:

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

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson have a nice selection of mythic feats here; while not all are amazing, there are some really creative ones here that warrant the low asking price. My final verdict clocks in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 88: Feats of Misdirection
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Mythic Minis 87: Feats of Diplomacy
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:07:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

-Call Truce: Add mythic tier to Diplomacy checks made; on a failure, you may not use Diplomacy again with a creature entreated with for 1d4 minutes rather than hours; during the round you are calling a truce, you gain the defense bonuses of total defense as well as +1/2 tier to saves versus mind-affecting effects. For mythic power expenditure, you can use it with creatures with whom you do not share a language as well as gaining + tier to Bluff, Linguistics and Sense Motive to communicate across the language barrier for 1 round. Has a minor, purely aesthetic hiccup, a reference to Diplomacy that is not capitalized.

-Entreating Critical: When you confirm a crit versus a creature, you may choose to deal lethal or nonlethal damage; if you choose nonlethal, you gain crit multiplier to Diplomacy with the creature for 24 hours. Alternatively, instead of rolling the confirmation roll, you may expend mythic power to affect the target with share language as an AoO-less SP. Creative one!

-Ironclad Logic: Bonus is increased to 1/2 Int-score and you may always take 10 on Diplomacy checks. Cool: Doubles as Skill Focus (Mythic) Diplomacy for prereq-purposes; also uses Int as well as Cha in social combat when employing tactics with assigned Int-based skills. Not a big fan of dual attribute-mods to any check.

-Nerve-Wracking Negotiator: Instead of attitude returning to normal, a creature that failed the save increases the attitude by one step for the purpose of making requests. This does only make following requests more likely and does not generally improve the creature\'s attitude towards you.

-Persuasive Bribery: Doubles bonus in Diplomacy and Charisma checks, as the bonuses on the bribes. Via Sense Motive, you can discern whether a creature is susceptible to bribery in general, with various classes concisely defined. If you expend mythic power, you also have a general idea of what type of bribery would work best.

-Play to the Crowd: Add mythic tier to Sense Motive made in conjunction with the feat; surges used with the feat are applied to both Diplomacy and Sense Motive for 1 hour; If engaged in a verbal due, you learn all the target\'s biases, which may be slightly overkill. When using a charm or compulsion effect (excluding fear) after succeeding a Sense Motive DC 25 check used with the feat, you increase the save DC.

-Threatening Negotiator: Renders victims of intimidation helpful when exceeding the Dc by 5 or more; has synergy with Nerve-Wracking Negotiator.

Conclusion:

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

Jason Nelson and Alex Rigg\'s mythic feats of Diplomacy are generally well crafted, but also ultimately represent mostly increased numerical bonuses, which are simply not that amazing for skill-based environments. Personally, I wished this had increased breadth of options more for more breadth, rather than piling on in the already abuse-prone skill-bonus depth-department. It does that, mind you, but not to the maximum extent. In comparison to what the cool subject matter Diplomacy offers, this mythic mini left me not that excited. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 87: Feats of Diplomacy
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Past Lives: Secrets of Reincarnation
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:55:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Reincarnation in d20 and its derivatives, ultimately (and undeservedly so) often boils down in relevance to being a subpar version of returning the dead to live and a plot contrivance. This pdf\'s mission-statement is to change this. Formatting-wise, this is achieved via the introduction of a so-called past-life profile - and no, that is NO chosen by the player. A past life profile conveys a series of bonuses to a respective PC at certain levels - this is represented in certain abilities gained, etc. While the design-goal is that of a net-gain, each past life also has an accompanying disadvantage stemming from the experiences of said existence. The unifying downside of the past life profile is that spells that return the dead from beyond the pale do not work as reliably and require a caster level check to work - one modified by the PC\'s Charisma bonus; the stronger the personality, the easier it\'ll be to return the soul.

Past Life Profiles are pretty extensive: Each begins with a brief summary of the past life in question, proceeding then to denote how that person died. Then, we get a quirk the PC manifests due to the echo of the past life and then the abilities, based on character levels. The respective profile also has a reincarnation feat - the player gets to know the name of the feat...but not its benefits. It can be taken freely for a feat-slot, if the player qualifies. This is a cool way of dealing with the hazy aspect of past life memories. Finally, each past life also has notes on plot-development.

So, what do we get? Well, the first past-life profile would by Kyssalis, the elf-eater, lizardfolk queen of the Dead Water tribe, was captured and summarily executed by her adversaries. A PC with her past-life feels his voice fall an octave while angry and sports an irrational hatred of elves the PC is cognizant of. On the plus-side, the PC begins play speaking draconic and later levels net Swim as a class skill (or a bonus), favored enemy (humanoid[elf]), favored terrain (swamps) and even learns to execute a primary natural attack, qualifying potentially for Multiattack etc. This very much should give you an inkling of what these offer - flavorful bonuses, somewhat akin to roleplaying rewards/abilities sometimes provided by good GMs...and it doubles as an individual plot-line, as a kind of built-in roleplaying catalyst.

The next one would be Vantum H\'Haran, phylactery hunter. Let that sink in. Now that\'s a high-risk job-description if there ever was once! And indeed, the mysterious abilities this one conveys represents well the potency the previous life must have had - flashes of insight, arcane counters - the abilities gained are significant, but the flashes of past potency similarly can be disquieting; one ability, for example, renders you staggered for a whole day the first time you use it. This ties in perfectly with the established narrative tropes associated with the experience - and indeed, allows for a type of storytelling experience that is enhanced by this humble set of rules. A PC who was a legendary smith in a past life may literally learn to speak with swords! Death by fire, on the downside, may actually see certain, defensive magics...just fail to work for the PC.

The past lives presented here are not, at least in my opinion, double-edged swords in the traditional sense; instead, it may well hope to consider them to be character-arcs and roleplaying assists that require exactly 0 work to integrate into a given campaign. Whether it is a paranoid conjurer queen, star-crossed lovers or even a deity, replaced by a doppelganger demon (whose header is oddly formatted differently than that of the other profiles)...or perhaps, you\'ll find out that you once were a renegade aboleth, obsessed with imbuing slaves with a modicum of free will (hey, for aboleths, that\'s ultra-liberal!) - in any of these cases, the potential for roleplaying and the unique quirks that past lives result in can and must be seen as nothing short of amazing.

Now, as mentioned before, the respective profiles allow access to their own unique feats - a total of 7 would be provided. While I could nitpick one for noting caster level in two of the 4 benefits and not in the rest of the two, the intent remains clear - and the benefits are damn cool...cool enough to warrant taking the feat: Said example would allow for immediate action utility spells/healing to get you out of all manner of nasty situations, for example. Another feat lets you designate an intended wielder of powerful magic items you create, enhancing the respective weapon for this individual by perk and quirk. What about being a walking fire extinguisher?

Even cooler: We also get at least one unique magical item per past life, several of which receive their own full-color artworks. These items, once again, allow for unconventional tricks: There would be a grimoire, which provides a chance for you to bypass magical wards with passwords. There would be a powerful weapon that can be enhanced with a metal band (can we please have more thus upgradeable magic items?) and there similarly is a brooch that reacts to negative conditions via helpful spell-based benefits. You\'re blinded? Great, you turn invisible for a brief period of time. Promise rings of aforementioned star-crossed lovers? Check. What about a ring that lets you generate instant, water-filled trenches? Yeah, cool. The pdf concludes with a brief table to randomly determine past lives.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as usual for legendary Games - I noticed a couple, mostly cosmetic hiccups. Layout adheres to the gorgeous two-column full-color standard for Mummy\'s Mask plug-ins and the pdf features several nice full-color pieces, though fans of LG may know some from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

First things first: This book is useful beyond the confines of the Mummy\'s Mask AP. The respective past lives can literally fit within every context due to their nature, though they obviously do echo the themes of the AP. Michael Kortes\' system for past lives herein is a stroke of genius in my book. The abilities gained and the progression of their tricks really help making the PCs more involved in a given story and any player and GM worth their salt can draw bucket loads of inspiring, actual ROLEplaying from this book, while simultaneously reaping the rewards of engaging with the story on a deeper level. The totality of mechanical benefits, viable unique ability-choices (via feats) and well-crafted magical items make this come together as something that exceeds the sum of its parts. At a place in time where we have a vast array of mechanical options, one may easily forget that they ultimately should help carrying the story. As such, this supplement does an amazing job of making exploring the stories of the past lives featured herein rewarding and engaging for players and GMs alike.

I absolutely adore this pdf and while its minor hiccups are there, I can\'t rate this the full 5 stars....but I can rate it 4.5 stars, round up and add my seal of approval.

As far as I\'m concerned, this is absolutely amazing and I certainly hope we\'ll get to see more past lives in the future. For my part, I am certain to expand upon the system presented - the concept is too compelling and neat not to. (As one final note: That unique feat you just stumbled over that no one knows? That unique ability that would change the dynamics of your game\'s world and thus is banned? Tying that to a past life is a great way to say \"yes\" to a player asking for it, while curtailing its implications and maintaining in-game logic: \"Of course none but the PC can do this - it is only due to being the reincarnated XYZ he can break the laws of magic this way!\" Just sayin\'!) Can I have more, please?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Past Lives: Secrets of Reincarnation
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Campaign Backdrop: Marshes & Swamps
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:53:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installation of the helpful environmental toolkit-compilations by Raging Swan Press clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page stat blocks by CR, 2 pages of author bios, 1 page of advice for reading statblocks for novice GMs, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 76 pages of raw content, so let\'s take a look!

Taking a cue from Raging Swan Press\' other, no less intriguing compilation books, this one features a table of all statblocks used herein by CR (spanning the range from CR 1/4 to 10) with accompanying page numbers and, as a nice service to the talented authors involved, we get a page of author bios, which is great to see.

But what is this? Well, the short answer, as already hinted at, is that this is basically a toolbox for a specific type of terrain, namely the swamps and marshes. Where other Raging Swan Press collections for example collected the significant amount of dressing files or village backdrops in a single tome, the goal of these books is to organize the tools for the GM by region he needs - in this case, that would be forests and woodlands, obviously.

The presentation of the content is exceedingly smart - we move from the non-specific to the specific, from the general to the detailed in this book; Hence, we begin with a 50-entry-strong table depicting an uneventful day\'s journey in each entry before adding 100 minor events and 100 dressings, then move on to random encounters that don\'t suck - a total of 14 such encounters have been collected from the respective Raging Swan Press pdfs, now available for the first time in print - and yes, the bonus enhancement encounters from the web-enhancement have been included. Beyond a fluff-centric table, we also get a nice GM-cheat-sheet for terrain.

After establishing the basics of the swamp, we move on to settlements inside - hence, the urban dressing for marsh towns would be next, providing tables galore to use and enjoy, with businesses, events and hooks - all in. The excellent lace of Power, the Mudded Manse, can similarly be found within these pages as a ready to drop in location and speaking of which - 4 sample villages from the village backdrop-series are included herein: Aldwater, Thornhill, Tigley and Vaagwol. It should be noted that I have reviews the constituent files that make up this compilation, so if you require in-depth guidance regarding one, you\'ll find it in these reviews.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues apart from a cosmetic hiccup of a read-aloud text\'s box looking weird and similar minor things. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press\' two-column b/w-standard with solid pieces of b/w-artwork, The locations have some nice b/w-cartography as well, though in particular Thornhill\'s map has since it was originally featured herein been used for several settlements I encountered; that may be an aspect you need to be aware of. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with excessive bookmarks and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one made for screen-use: Kudos!

This compilation of material by Jesper Andersen, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Denver Edwards Jr., Steve Hood, Greg Marks, David Posener, Jacob Trier, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham provides a great one-stop-shop-experience if you need the tools to make swamps and marshes stand out. Now whether you need this book ultimately depends on how big a Raging Swan Press-fan you are. If you already have all the GM\'s Miscellany-books and the individual pdfs, this mainly will help in the discipline of organization.

Personally, I love having a book in my hands, but considering that I already have the dressing books and the villages, I\'m not sure I\'d get this. If, however, you only have one or two of the files herein and/or none of the GM\'s Miscellany books that overlap with this, then this instantly becomes a must-have book that is extremely useful. In short: Whether to get this or the Miscellany-books depends on which organization paradigm you prefer. My final verdict for this compilation will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Backdrop: Marshes & Swamps
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Ultimate Occult
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:49:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 150 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 145 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

So, what is this? This book basically represents a take on psionics, one that re-envisions it as using the psychic magic system. Basically, it lets you use psionics in a game that doesn\'t, for whatever reasons, allow the use of Dreamscarred Press\' superb Ultimate Psionics. This endeavor is based, in short, on three base classes:

The Mentalist gets d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and Intelligence-governed prepared psychic spellcasting of up to 9th level. Instead of having a preconfigured spell-list, they receive two psychic spheres (the analogues to psionic disciplines), +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter -starting at 2nd level, one spell per spell level that is associated with a chosen sphere may be treated as though on the mentalist spell list; at 10th and 18th level, this increases to two and three spells per spell level, respectively. Each sphere also has a signature spell that is immediately added to the spell-list. This flexibility is further modified by the mental magic ability, which allots a number of Psychic Energy (PE) points depending on level. These points may be expended to cast any spell on the mentalist spell-list.

Starting at 6th level, mentalists may expend PE to use spell trigger and spell completion items sans UMD by expending points; at 14th level, the costs for such activations are decreased if an effect is not on the mentalist spell list, but on that of a chosen psychic sphere. As a capstone, the class may 1/day when preparing spells/regaining PE add all spells of one sphere to her spell list. Additionally, the class has a revelation-like system, so-called mentalist ploys - the first is gained at 1st level and another one is gained every 2 levels thereafter; these need to be chosen from the array of the chosen psychic spheres. At 11th level, the class unlocks master ploys - either allowing for the selection of a new ploy or learning the master benefit of a ploy the class already has. Basically, think of the ploys of two step revelations, where you may spend an advanced talent to learn the mastery benefit.

The ploys, generally, are pretty well-crafted, as we\'ve come to expect from Alexander Augunas - clairsentience specialists may use PE to enhance Knowledge-checks, improve d% rolls, improve initiative or the like; metacreativity specialists can generate ectoplasmic items (alas, lacking a caveat to prevent the creation of keys for locks and the like), enhance their own body or weapons with buffs - you get the idea. Psychokinesis specialists can add damage to a chosen energy type, ignore scaling amounts of resistance, change energy types - basically the blasting array. Psychometabolism allows further control over transmutation effects, enhancing curing, etc., while psychoportation allows for the forced teleport (sans specifying that is it a teleportation effect for the purpose of spell-interaction) other or greatly increase maximum distances of spells. Telepathy allows for harder to identify spells, better and more reliable control of dominated foes and the ignoring of mind-affecting immunity. Finally, the universalist sphere can net phrenic pools and allows for the poaching of psychic discipline (no to be mixed up with psionic disciplines, which are called vocations here) tricks. Basically, this class is a kinda-arcanist-style caster, with all the flexibility and power that entails.

The pdf also offers a take on the psion class, who gets the full-caster chassis and limited weapon proficiencies. They get the same PE-array as the mentalist and spontaneous, Int-based spellcasting. I am not a fan of the new psionic focus stand-in-ability: Gaining focus is loud, visual, and adds +2 to CL when used as a move action, +4 when used as a full-round action and when both a full-round and move action is used, you end up with +6 CL for the purpose of concentration and overcoming SR. Note that to use Dreamscarred Press\' psionic focus this way, you had to select feats...and that the bonus only applied to overcoming SR/PR. And that it capped at +4, +8 when expending psionic focus, which is a pretty big deal in DSP\'s psionics. 11th level decreases the psychic focus action economy further to convey a +4 bonus when used as a move action, +6 when used as a full-round action.

Regaining focus is somewhat less important here, though the mechanic still exists. Starting at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the psion receives a psychic release, which is basically an ability powered by expenditure of the psychic focus -these include kineticist-like accepting of burn to restore PE, a shorter cooldown after failed concentration checks to maintain psychic focus. Cooldown? Yeah, that would be one aspect I tend to like in this take on the focus mechanic - if you fail concentration to maintain it, you\'re sans focus for a time. Temporary negation of negative conditions, splitting rays - you\'ll see some familiar faces here.

Now I already mentioned that psionic disciplines are now called vocations and they net class skills, a signature spell and a list of vocation powers to choose from. These are aligned with the associated ability scores of the vocation/discipline and each has a respective spell list. To avoid nomenclature confusion, the Dex-specialist has been renamed kindler, just fyi. The vocations also determine the respective capstone abilities of the class.

The third base class herein would be the psychic warrior, who, in this iteration, receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, spontaneous Int-based psychic spellcasting of up to 6th level drawn from its own list (with a nice overlap/spell-level caveat!), 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. I am not a friend of moving the casting attribute to Intelligence, as it makes the class more MAD (multiple attribute dependent) than it already is and more vulnerable to Will-saves. Battle trances may be entered at will, with a similar cooldown as psychic focus if you fail a concentration check. They also gain PE, though less than 1/2 what the psion and mentalist gain -and that is good, for they may cast spells with a casting duration of 1 round or less as a swift action via PE expenditure. The warrior path chosen at 1st level determines further benefits of the battle trance, with 7th and 15th level unlocking the benefits of a secondary and tertiary path to her list of choices when entering battle trances. Alternatively, the psychic warrior can focus on one path, gaining first the greater, then the true trance and their benefits.

Additionally, these choices determine which warrior\'s path-exclusive path abilities the class can take; while a couple of the talents of the class are generic and available to all paths, each path also features an array of techniques exclusive to it. Each of the warrior paths chosen nets class skills to aforementioned trance abilities and path techniques and the marksman is now completely rolled into the warrior path formula.

The pdf also contains archetypes - mentalists may replace mentalism ploys with mesmerist stares and mental scions focus on one sphere, but may learn psychic releases. The latter is a bit strong for my tastes, but yeah. Occultists may use the Bizarrist archetype that loses circles and the 1st level implement school, but does gain spells and bardic masterpieces. The vitalist is now a psion archetype and receives the collective instead of psychic focus. Transfer wounds replaces the 3rd level psychic release and further psychic releases are replaces with a choice of vitalist methods. The wilder similarly is now a psion archetype, replacing psychic focus with wild surge. Similarly, psychic releases are replaced with a selection of wild releases - the respective specialist surges now are part of this selection.

The dread class, in this book, instead acts as an archetype for the psychic warrior with its own, one path - which was a bit puzzling to me, considering what you can do with the base class. Somewhat problematic - the immunity to fear negating ability must now be specifically chosen. The telekinetic warrior would be an aether-using psychic warrior/kineticist-crossover. The pdf also offers Unchained variant multiclassing options for the 3 classes. Really cool: We receive favored class options not only for the core races, but also for the less commonly used races - the featured and uncommon races from the ARG et al. including the esoteric races like the orang-pendak etc. are covered. Kudos! The pdf also contains 7 feats - one for use of battle trance in conjunction with rages and the others basically are the +x formula. The pdf also rewrites the Autohypnosis as an occult skill unlock...oddly for Intimidate, but I can see where that comes from.

Then, the largest chapter of the book apart from the classes begins - a massive collection of psionic powers converted to psychic spells, with undercasting mechanics and spell variants etc. covered. I can\'t really go through all of them piece by piece, but the translations generally, as befitting of Alexander Augunas\' reputation, are precise. The final page of the book contains a conversion of the dorje magic item class, which allow for limited uses per day supply of PE for activation of PE-requiring tricks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games\' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has several full-color artworks in a combination of original ones and older ones. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas has usually a knack for making me love themes and topics I expected to hate; he is a talented designer and his translation of Dreamscarred Press\' psionic rules to psychic magic contexts is well-crafted. There is not much to complain about in a formal regard.

The target audience, people who allow 3pp-content, but disallow Ultimate Psionics for some reason, most certainly will like this book.

...

I\'m sorry.

I really tried.

I\'m so not the target audience for this. I feel like I\'ve failed this book.

I\'ve been playing with Dreamscarred Press\' psionics for such a long time, in both 3.X (yeah, there were amazing DSP books in that era!) and PFRPG. Literally no other sub-set of 3pp-rules has had this much playtesting in my games...and it works meticulously. Some of the new Psionics Augmented material requires GM-oversight in my book, but yeah - the core-book gets a unanimous pass in all my games and I have never, ever encountered issues with it. I don\'t really get the raison d\'être of this book. Now that being said, I did try the system herein and I\'m slightly weary of the mentalist, courtesy of the pseudo-arcanist casting. At least in my games, the class outperformed the psychic psion but a bit. I don\'t really consider the psychic focus take here to be superior to the psionic focus mechanics and the absence of cryptic, tactician, aegis and full soulknife ability array were felt.

Now granted, Ultimate Psionics requires more system-mastery than this does. But this book isn\'t so simple that I could recommend it as \"psionics lite.\" There are no psionic crystals and the feat-customization is severely lacking compared to Ultimate Psionics; the focus mechanic doesn\'t offer this complex or rewarding an action-economy juggling, granted - that may be a bug or a feature for you. But ultimately...as a person, I miss it.

I also was surprised to see a point-based casting-enhancer mechanic, since one of the selling points I could see would be that people who dislike juggling pools, the diehard vancian fans, don\'t have to handle points. Granted, the points don\'t directly pay for spells...but for abilities and upgrades. I really try to wrap my head around this. And many of my criticisms in this list, ultimately, aren\'t fair - this is a 150-page book that competes with an over 400-page tome that doubles as one of the best crunch books published by any 3pp ever.

I did kind of hope that we\'d see more of the kineticist/implement/etc. overlaps with Occult Adventures...and I somewhat hoped to see more of this type of material - perhaps some cool overlaps with psychic focus and mental focus? Personally, I also experienced a flavor-disjoint; to me, psionics always had this \"draw from the inside\"-flavor, whereas psychic magic felt like it was a personal channeling of external forces via the personality of the caster.

What I\'m trying to convey here is this:

The system presented herein achieves its goal with the full compatibility with psychic magic. It achieves this goal and is, design-work-wise, well-made. This book is good.

At the same time, it absolutely does nothing for me and I\'ll never touch it again. Something in its takes on the concepts rubs me the wrong way in a manner that is pretty subtle; perhaps it\'s the comparative decreased array of options. Perhaps it\'s that, for me, several of the translations take away some of the cool gambits I expect the system to juggle. Perhaps it\'s that the classes herein, to me, don\'t have a sufficiently unique identity that sets them apart from Dreamscarred Press\' iterations. Making them more deeply ingrained within Occult Adventures\' cool tricks would have made this conversion into a full-blown re-imagination and thus completely changed the focus of this book...but it, to me, would have made the book more appealing. Perhaps some novel fluff would have helped; maybe that would have made the mentalist feel less like a collection of rules and numbers. Perhaps it\'s that, with some very small \"get a bit of kineticist, get a bit of stares\" options as exceptions, the pdf doesn\'t employ that many previously impossible tricks.

This is a good book, but the emotional response it elicited from me was less than stellar. As a person, I really disliked this - not, as usual when I experience the like, on a basis of flaws in the rules etc., but due to a pretty strong, emotional, response - which is rather uncharacteristic for me. As a reviewer, I can appreciate the expert craftsmanship that went into its design, I can try to deduce reasons why one likes this and it is my duty to rate this according to its merits, not based on an irrational emotional response and a matter of taste. Hence, I will rate this for what it is - a good conversion of psionics to employ psychic magic instead. The system could have gone one step further and really dive into the nit and grit, though - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

That being said, if you loathe, for whatever reason, Dreamscarred Press\' psionics and still have a craving to see their material adapted to psychic magic rules, then this is exactly what you wanted and should be considered to be exactly what you wanted.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Occult
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Mini-Dungeon #043: Thelamos
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:47:26

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!

The complex herein would best be situated under a major settlement, where the existence and new occupancy of such a place would make most sense. By means of a winding staircase, the PCs can enter a place that, ultimately, is woefully disgusting - so pervasive is the stench, that from the get-go, we have a chance to be sickened....and yes, there are traps, for this place is the new base of the Sons of Arratoi, a notorious band of thieves - which, coincidentally, also consists of wererats! Exploring the complex is btw. less of a cakewalk than you\'d assume - while it is very much possible that capable PCs can catch the perpetrators unaware and asleep, they will need to be good: Beyond traps and a rat swarm, dungeon hazards and the like, a well-hidden true treasury, accompanied by a \"proper\" boss can be found.

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! If you\'re using hyperlinks, you should be aware that, strangely, in this one they don\'t seem to be working.

Jonathan Ely\'s Thelamos is a generally challenging, fun little sidetrek. The obstacles are diverse enough to render it an interesting sidetrek and the pdf employs challenging terrain, fun foes and a reward for particularly diligent PCs. It is, as a whole, a nice, easily inserted and challenging module for anyone looking for a somewhat icky little sub-dungeon. Barring serious complaints, this receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #043: Thelamos
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Mini-Dungeon #042: The Dreamer's Shrine
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:45:57

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!

Hidden away under a place of learning, the cultist hideout was crafted from a previously used tomb and has since been used in different ways and expanded. The complex presented makes sense from an game-world internal point of view: Perceptive PCs can e.g. find a way to not sumble into traps and the like, making the complex feel sensible as something that is frequented by the living. Beyond having the chance to find a ghost who demands that evil be evicted from his resting place, these rooms now basically contain the shrine evicted to Cthulhu, including doom prophets. Their magical equipment does receive proper names (nice touch!) and a cursed array of gibberish may put the sanity of PCs foolish enough to read it in peril...

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 \"Shrine of the Dreamer\" is a perfect example for a sensible, unpretentious mini-dungeon. The structure of the place makes sense; the module offers a bit of combat, a bit of exploration, a chance for social interaction, rewards being smart, etc. - there\'s not much more you could ask for. Easily inserted (and adapted to other evil deities, should you require that or prefer another evil deity), this very much is a neat example for a useful and consistent sidetrek. My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #042: The Dreamer's Shrine
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Xcrawl: Louisiana Crawl (DCC RPG Edition)
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:36:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Xcrawl-module clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content. It should be noted that both editorial and SRD are actually not the respective penultimate pages - relevant if you\'re like me and tend to print out modules.

All right, before we dive into the nit and grit of this module for 3rd level characters, it should be noted that 100% of the sales go towards helping the flooded areas of Louisiana. While the shocking images of Katrina still are vivid in our memory, you may not necessarily know that the nameless, less catchy and media-marketable storms dropped thrice this amount...so yeah, it\'s a module for a good cause.

One more thing, since I wager not all of my readers will be familiar with Xcrawl. First of all, you may know that I like playing DCC; while I don\'t receive a lot of copies for review purposes for the system, I enjoy it immensely. Xcrawl would be a radically different type of setting/premise published by Goodman Games in cooperation with Pandahead Productions...and is one I really like - basically, the PCs are thrillseekers and super-athletes that participate in a Running man-style, hyper-lethal live-on-pay-per-view game show. The GM (here called DJ - dungeon judge) may actually use the moderator and the unique set-up for hilarious effect. The delightfully different set-up of dungeon-crawling as a very lethal competitive sport lets you generate a completely different atmosphere. That being said, you do not need the Xcrawl rule-book to play this module; DCC rules suffice.

There are some peculiarities the module explains, the first of which would be Mojo Pool. Mojo represents the unconscious power of teamwork and may never sink below 0 or rise (usually) above 12. These points are added on a 1: 1-basis to action dice for combat or spellcasting, skill checks or ability score checks. They usually cannot be added to saves, critical or fumble checks or corruption/deity disapproval checks and a PC needs to be at least 1st level; 0-level noobs don\'t get mojo. Sounds common, right? Well, here\'s the catch - you can\'t spend them for yourself. You can only give mojo points to allied creatures or fellow PCs...and you may NOT ask for them - if you do, you are blocked from receiving mojo for the remainder of the scenario. This, as a whole, enhances teamwork and makes the group come together better in the long run, as fellow players learn to trust one another and the capabilities of the PCs.

Mojo is rolled at the beginning of an Xcrawl event by rolling 1d12; each player makes a luck roll as well - on a success, you add +1 mojo, on a failure, you deduce 1 mojo. Halflings double the bonus on successful checks. 12 is still the cap for the pool. If a mojo point is added to a roll and the roll\'s a crit, the mojo points are added, but not actually expended from the pool - this is referred to as Destiny. Conversely, on a mojo-enhanced roll that results in a fumble, the group loses one additional mojo point - this is known as Choke, analogue to the disaster every Battle Rapper dreads.

Xcrawl, as an entertaining sport, also has rules for grandstanding - working the crowd, if you will. A grandstanding check is 1d20 + Cha bonus + character level, with crowds determining the DC and a default being DC 21. A character may grandstand up to twice per combat encounter as a move action; on a success, the character can gain 1 fame. Additionally, in the round immediately after a combat, the character may similarly grandstand, for the same benefit. That being said, feel free to insert my old and tired \"per encounter is no reliable time-frame\"-rant - not the biggest fan there.

But what does the fame-score denote? It is, basically, the percentile chance the character has to be recognized in a crowd. The higher the fame score, the more the character can ask for standard appearance fees in media, events, etc. - this money is out of crawl money and can thus not be used to cheese the artificially-created monetary balance of Xcrawls. A table of standard appearance fees and fame buy table is included...and if you don\'t want to, you can pretty much ignore the whole section. Ahem, so that would be the rule-peculiarities!

Flavor-wise, it should be noted that several items are banned in Xcrawls; Safe rooms are called break rooms. Charmed adversaries are treated as defeated and yes, you may be disqualified if you, for example go through a NoGo door or attack a being with a NonCom (non-combatant) badge.

Anyways, ladies and gentlemen, please strap yourselves in and get ready! These basics out of the way, you want to know about the show, right? You want to see the struggle the athletes are about to face! Well, as always, from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion or risk a fate worse than that featured in our show!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Sure you\'re the properly authorized DJ? Great!

The crowd DC for this module is a cuddly DC 13 and unless otherwise noted, hallways are 12\', doors requiring a DC 16 Strength check to break. It should also be noted that the PCs, if they mirror the out-game charity with in-game charity, will be rewarded. During the module, the PCs will have the chance to take charity shots of chartreuse - after the first drink, Fortitude saves are in order and a total of 4 stages of drunkenness, including rules-relevant effects. If you and your buddies are responsible adults, the module can double as a neat drinking game...ahem. Not that I\'d endorse that or anything. insert usual rapid-fire speech disclaimer about responsibility etc. But I digress.

We begin with an extensive array of read-aloud text that sets the unique stage perfectly, even for groups unfamiliar with Xcrawl, including an introduction of the DJ - indeed, DJs usually not comfortable with improvising a lot of text will enjoy the well-written, extensive flavor text. The first room already establishes well the extreme game-show nature of the set-up: You have a winding corridor...of the bayou! Everything wants to eat the PCs and they only have 24 rounds to navigate air boats through its winding stretch; if they\'re too slow, they\'ll forfeit the treasure of the room! Oh, and beyond the buzzing swarms of mosquitoes, dire gars, animated Spanish Moss (that stringy, cool ropy moss you know from pretty much all the pictures), the PCs will also have a chance to down charity shots poured from a lizardman bartender and have I mentioned the water moccasin swarm? Yeah, a pretty furious beginning!

After that, we\'re participating in a battle of the bands - the PC\'s band (featuring Lizardman Henry, Johnny Sketch, et al.) jams it out against undead musicians rising from the bayou - and the competing bands actually influence the proceedings: The loser reduces the die on the dice chain. The opposition to the PCs would be a cadre of deadly were-nutria - the goal: Take out the enemy band, for each musician gone represents a decreased bonus for the checks to see who prevails. In the aftermath of this room, the DJ will open a water-chute the PCs have to take...and end 15-ft deep in gumbo; the lid of the titanic pot they ended up in is 15 ft. above them, as gigantic giant chefs loom (though tehse are illusions) - the PCs will have to balance on gigantic vegetables and fight the giant crawfish to the death...falling into the rapidly heating gumbo is detrimental to one\'s health, just fyi.

After a brief hallway and break-room interlude (again, featuring chances to take shots - there are a ton of these!), the PCs will be introduced to a hilariously lethal piece of satire - the red tape golem, that can generate explosions of red tape to keep characters stuck, has an obscene reach and yep, trying to attack it may get your weapon stuck. A formidable foe indeed! After that, it\'s not over - it\'s NEVER over with bureaucracy - so the exit door here\'s trapped: Razor sharp paper. One more form...argh....

After this, the PCs get to meet a celebrity: Pierre, the awakened turtle: Ancient and the only awakened animal to be accepted into university. He\'ll pose riddles to the players - solve three and you\'re good to go. Problem: he only speaks French. Okay, that would be no problem whatsoever at my table. However, if it is a problem at yours, be happy, for perceptive PCs can find a shroom to help them overcome the language barrier....but beware what you eat...Anyways, the PCs can attempt one answer per combat round, for they\'re beset by variant Louisiana troglodytes while being quizzed by Pierre. As a minor nitpick - the sample riddles are in English. While I didn\'t have an issue getting French riddles, having those as well would be nice for groups that want to flex their language-skill-muscles.

And after this one...it\'s time to face the very incarnation of destruction Louisiana constantly faces - the big boss battle pits the PCs against nothing short of the storm - there is a reason a benign genius loci is here for them - they will need all the help they can get, for the fury elemental is not only unique and lethal - it can actually generate so-called storm assassins, made from rain, wind and lightning for a furious (Get it, fury elemental? Sorry, will punch myself for that later...) finale!

The module ends with the aftermath and a list of reliable charities that devote themselves to helping the affected areas and people.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the module sports several neat original b/w-pieces of art - kudos!! The cartography is nice as well, though no player-friendly, key-less map was included. Considering the nature of the scenario, such a map would have made no sense anyways and is not required, though. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Written by Brendan LaSalle and George \"Loki\" Williams, this charity module was a blast to run. Beyond the cool idea of a charity product that you purchase depicting a charity Xcrawl, it is a fast-paced, versatile scenario: There is not a single boring or even just \"good\" encounter herein - each and every room, each challenge has something unique going for it, making great use of the special tricks the DCC-rule-set supports. Beyond that, it is a module that oozes charm and heart\'s blood - from the novel and far-out encounters to the well-written prose, this module is an amazing experience.

Even beyond the confines of DCC and Xcrawl, this can make for an amazing scavenging ground if you need encounter ideas for planar material, a weird wizard\'s past-time or similar gauntlets; pretty much each encounter could be scavenged as a form of highlight, capstone or unique set-piece. And it\'s a charity product as well - one of the best I have seen, mind you, and one that would receive the self-same verdict if it was a regular offering - namely 5 stars + seal of approval. If you\'re looking for something out of the ordinary and want to do a good deed in the process, then this is absolutely perfect. Get it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Xcrawl: Louisiana Crawl (DCC RPG Edition)
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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.

...

..

.

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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