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Seven Sinful Tales
Publisher: Four Dollar Dungeons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2016 02:29:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This adventure clocks in at 106 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 100.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Wait, before we do - in case you are not familiar with 4 Dollar Dungeons: The philosophy of these modules is that you get all the relevant rules-information inside: A Total of 31 pages thus provide animal tricks, spell reference, feat reference, bestiary reference and item references for your perusal. All artwork herein is collected in a total of 7 pages that you can print out, cut up and use as handouts. It should also be noted that no less than 18 high-res jpegs for use with online gaming (or as handouts) are provided; and yes, these include player-friendly iterations.


The pdf also has a great summary of encounters, with associated creatures involved and loot to be gained, including items, total GP values tallied for you and scaling advice. Set in the county of Surrey, weather and travelling distances by foot, horse or coach are similarly collected in one handy table. We also don't just get one paltry random monster encounter table: Based on the specific region, each and every one of the 8 tables provides sensible creatures for the respective environments. Oh, have I mentioned the 9 (!!!) fully statted settlements, all with statblocks and descriptions? The modules released by 4 Dollar Dungeons do their utmost to make running them as easy and comfortable as possible for the GM.


Okay, this is indeed as far as I can get without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players who want to play this module (Hint: You do!) should jump to the conclusion right now.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs left around here? Outside of the circle of Ravenstone in the kingdom of the Bretagne, there lies a circle of stone; a place of legend, where power is supposed to gather, but no one knows for what purpose - not even the wizard Humphrey and his devilish companion Beauregard, who are living nearby. As such places are wont to, it has become a kind of meeting spot to get away, drink and have a good time for the local populace. The circle's supposed power is lending an air of mystique and danger to the environment that most of us will relate to; abandoned factories, rail-yards, playground, special spots in the forest - we all had a spot like that in our childhood.


Anyways, one dingy night in autumn, a group of 7 13-year-olds actually manages to activate the circle - but no creature from the stars manifests; no demon invasion begins - instead, a motley crew of adventurers, picked from their own iteration of reality, is picked and unceremoniously dumped inside the circle: Yes, that would be the PCs, who have just been summoned forth and now look into the awed faces of the following:


Deako, a pale-feathered, nervous tengu; Adriana, a platinum blonde girl in a fine dress and her similarly immaculately dressed cousin Augustus; Paulina, a light-haired and somewhat plain but pretty gnomish girl; Bairn, an honest and polite young man with good looks; Tilvern, timid and dark-haired and somewhat small for his age and Holly, a bright light-haired girl with a wide smile...perhaps a tad bit too wide. The children, though, are confused - Augustus conducted the summons and knows that the book he took it from was...well. Rubbish. The kids, spooked and with obligations in the morn, will undoubtedly leave an array of confused PCs with a distinctly unhelpful book, as school's in the morning. Humphrey and Beauregard, both surprisingly amicable for their vast power (and...well, Beauregard being a devil), have a thesis that the circle granted a wish unconsciously thought by all of the children - and thus, the only way home for the PCs would be to fulfill the wishes of the kids. Each of the respective sub-chapters of the module, just fyi, lists the dramatis personae in a handy list in the beginning, allowing for easy juggling of the casts of characters, should the PCs oscillate between adventures/get stuck.


Thus, the trail should bring them to the nearby town Fordguild - all children attend the same school, while Adriana attends a "Special" school; with scaling successes, the PCs can do some leg-work - and it is here that the module becomes pretty free-form, for the sequence in which the respective tasks are tackled is all up to them - for all intents and purposes, the module acts as the adventure-equivalent of a short story anthology. As such tales are wont, there are leitmotifs here, though: Number one can be easily extrapolated from the title - each of the tales deals with one of the 7 deadly sins. Unlike what you may think, the kids are not the correlation with the respective sins; rather, it's the parents.


It takes a special type of person (i.e. slightly insane, a bit narcissistic and inured to violence) to take up the mantle of the adventurer and as such, it should be not too surprising that beings who wield the power cosmic, cut humanoids to ribbons and make powerful enemies can make for rather problematic parents. Each of the kids has her/his own issues with parents, issues the PCs can help resolve. This whole component can be downplayed by the GM and taken to instead focus on a number of smaller quests, but the roleplaying herein can be rather cathartic, if you do opt to properly depict all of this. My own childhood wasn't perfect, to say the least and I know that a lot of the anger, resentment and frustration I had was resolved by roleplaying; it can provide an angle towards a form of peace, an acceptance of unchangeable facts by resolving the challenges at least within the framework of our favorite make-belief game. Even as an adult, witnessing the like can hit close to home, yes; but it also represents a chance. At least I know the like worked well for me and a couple of my friends.


So, let us begin: 8 weeks ago, the brother of Deako the tengu kid, was tragically killed by a hippopotamus. The unfortunate Seako had been previously injured on a hunting trip with his samurai dad and was subsequently struck down by a single bite. This death has put a serious strain on his parent's relationship and they ever since refuse to communicate or speak to each other, as the edicts of the two lawful good samurai emphasize personal glory for the father, protecting communities for the mother. Deako has formulated a plan to reunite his parents - he wishes to present the head of the troll that almost finished his brother and indirectly did, to his father; to his mother, he plans to bestow the teeth of the hippocampus that slew his brother. Unfortunately, he can't do it alone and needs the PCs to do just that - and thus, the two beings need to be killed...but what happens thereafter is in the hands of the GM.


Adriana's issue is rather different - she is supposed to be subjected to a arranged marriage she doesn't want. Adriana comes from a well-off stock of humans haunted by tragedy - she has lost her father (and more!) to something truly sinister: A blood hag has been using her family as her breeding project for generations and Adriana is pretty close to what she wants...but not perfect. It is hence she has arranged this horrific marriage, keeps Adriana sheltered and locked up...and in fact, has replaced Adriana's mother a long time ago, raising her perfect little angel for the most horrific of purposes. So while the tengu's tale was pretty straightforward, this is one complex little investigation...and a word of warning: the blood hag is BRUTAL. If your players suck at piercing the clues (which, in some cases, drip with a subdued, delightful humor) together, be very careful here...or not. The module does mention the power of the adversary here, so yeah. While the death of the blood hag deprives Ariana of her mother, her further fate isn't actually that grim and the elimination of this horrid thing does cancel the marriage...and fulfill her wish.


Augustus is rich enough to buy anything he wants...but unfortunately for him, money can never buy happiness. Raul and Dahlia, his parents, are unfortunately addicts - the decadent nobles visit a place called "The Hungry Caterpillar" on a daily basis and are disinterested and spaced out; in a secret basement, a rather nasty druid commands a variant basidrond with hallucinogenic spores and makes a pretty dime of those looking for far-out-experiences; in order to fulfill Augustus' wish, the PCs will have to infiltrate the high-class establishment and eliminate the drug-producing creature.


Paulina's dad was a famous "archaeologist" - complete with fedora and whip. Always not the best of fathers, one day, he simply did not return from his quest after the fables Shagreen, which he successfully tracked to the pyramid of Balzac. Paulina's wish is to recover the Shagreen and thus fulfill her dad's final quest and place the artifact in a shrine dedicated to him. The theme here being greed, much like the previous adventures, there are subtle tests associated with the respective sin written into the module itself: Greedy PCs may suffer consequences here...something to bear in mind and perhaps a wake-up call to "not become like Paulina's dad." On a formal level, the tales features a cool and pretty easy puzzle with glyph-plates and a hint...and here, just fyi, greed can kill the PCs hardcore. Being destroyed by a stone golem is the least of their issues, for if the PCs were greedy when securing supplies and interacting with the locals on the journey, they may find themselves sans camels or supplies...but a sphinx can show up, providing yet another well-crafted and simple little puzzle of logic to pose for the group and test their spirit.


In the sleepy village called hook, charming Bairn's father Nik is well-known: The charming, silver-tongued bard just can't keep it in his pants. The beginning of this section focuses on finding out what has happened to Bairn's dad - and the PCs will have to follow the trail of broken hearts Nik has left...with, at least partially rather funny results - from a dryad to a centaur, an ogress (!!), a cecaelia (!!!) and finally a HARPY. Well, what's left - for Nik has been taken prisoner by a medusa, who has petrified the harpy. The medusa's living on an island with constantly shifting mists (concealment and total concealment by roll included - very cool...I'll use that table a LOT beyond this module!) and she is not particularly on good terms with Nick - when he tried to abandon her for a kitsune, she proceeded to petrify and...use him, I guess. While this whole section is, theme-wise, pretty adult, it is kept mostly PG 13 and can easily be stripped of the slightly raunchy bits...or they can be emphasized for adult groups that don't have an issue with a bit more graphic themes. Also: The characteristic foot notes in 4$D's are a highlight here and actually made me laugh once.


Tilvern, timid and a bit of a runt...is actually the son of a paladin, noble Sir Reginald. And he has a serious issue: There is an uneasy truce between the giants of the Plantagenet mountains and the humanoids of Surrey; Sir Reginald's former commander perished due to his own stupidity in an unnecessary, boredom-bred skirmish right in front of Sir Reginald...who has sneaked off to ask the giant king for a fair duel against the giant that killed his commander sans breaking the truce. Tilvern, understandably, doesn't want the duel to commence and his dad to die due to his stupid pride. Unfortunately, Sir Reginald has rolled the maximum pertaining his stubbornness and even the best laid of arguments won't dissuade him; in order to fulfill Tilvern's wish, the duel must be thwarted for once and for all and either giant or paladin must die. In both cases, hostilities may erupt once again in the future and the question is, whether anyone has learned anything here...apart from the players, PCs and Tilvern, that is.


The final tale is perhaps the most creative of the bunch: Holly Willoughsby is a kind and nice girl, vivacious and friendly, in spite of coming from a wealthy family. In a seething satire, her dad, Elder, can't seem to be bothered to do anything, but thanks to his sorcerous talents, he could...well, just animate his dead family members and have them do all the chores. Holly is somewhat horrified by this, but it's the reality of her life and her father, thankfully, doesn't seem to mind adventurers poking around as long as they don't cause too big of a mess. Holly is frightened. Recently, spiders have begun swarming in her room and she wants to move back there - exploring the fully mapped and detailed manor, the PCs will be able to deduce that there is more wrong than just the problem with the spiders - and indeed, both an invisible friend (attic whisperer) and a friggin' deathweb must be defeated to provide some sort of help here. Still, so surreal and suffused with dark humor, this did remind me more than just a bit of good ole' Shirley Jackson's blend of the macabre and dark humor.


Having finished the wishes of the children, the PCs may now finally return home - and the default here is a slightly comedic feel-good ending I appreciate, considering the subject matter. But I'll get back to that below in the...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches or typos. Layout adheres to 4 Dollar Dungeon's two-column standard with a mix of original b/w and full-color artwork. The cartography and numerous handouts contained are absolutely awesome and the high-res maps and player-friendly versions leave nothing to be desired. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the US letterpack paper standard and one for the European A4-standard - kudos!!


Richard Develyn is a living, breathing one-man-refutation of the notion that mainstream RPGs like Pathfinder cannot be creative, cannot be art. If anything, this module truly cements his status as an artist and auteur; as someone who brings a whole new level to the game and steps up what to expect. With the exception of his first module, which is "only" good, every subsequent module he releases has made the Top Ten of the respective year. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Every single module does something truly unique; something creative and smart; he switches styles like a chameleon, writing horror with the same ease as sword and sorcery-esque fantasy, southern gothic or a thoroughly fresh take on the tired, but beloved Ravenloft-aesthetic. Beyond switching genres with ease, a subtle and profound distinctly English humor suffuses his works, making them an actual joy to read. Oh, and there would be the fact that his craft, nay, art, cannot be mistaken for that of another author - there is a distinct voice; a levity tinted slightly by the macabre that is utterly unique. Oh, and the modules leave nothing to be desired regarding running them. I have never, very wished for better organization in them, never had an issue running them from paper after the obligatory first reading.


And he does that not for the bucks. 4 friggin' dollars is a huge steal for such a module. I can rattle of more than 100 modules that cost at least 5 times as much and feel like the phoned-in paint-by-numbers designs of amateur hacks in comparison.


Why am I talking so much about the totality of his work so far? Because even in this extremely impressive canon of works, Seven Sinful tales stands out. What would be an array of bland sidequests in the hands of a lesser author has more heart and soul in the introduction or one of its mini-adventures than most 100-plus-page epics ever achieve. This module has comedy, tragedy, investigation, wilderness survival, smart puzzles, a ton of social challenges and roleplaiyng opportunities, gorgeous adversaries, interesting terrain. It has, in short, everything.


That alone would make it already a must buy module. It's more than that.


I mentioned this before, but this module's subject matter pertaining no-good parents and their very mortal shortcomings can hit close to home for some of us; but the depictions are not mean-spirited. This is not grimdark and neither is it a feel-good fairy-tale, though it can be tweaked in either way. This is an allegory. There is a saying that the parents are gods to the kids and that sooner or later, their mortal shortcomings will result in disappointment, disillusion, rage...and so on. I can relate. I've been there. The problems the kids face herein are significant and every person who wished for superheroes to take them away, to resolve the issues they face will relate to this module's stories at one point or another. The ultimate moral here, is that external persons can help resolve issues and that asking for help in dire circumstances may be required...but also that even a successful intervention does not necessarily fix everything. If your players are good roleplayers, this module can actually provide a catharsis for those of us who suffered from less than perfect parents; it can help mitigate the issues kids can have with their parents and their shortcomings, for even in the most comedic of the stories, the respective parent is not beyond redemption, the future not necessarily bleak, even in the case of the kid left orphaned. There is always light. The world always goes on.


I played this module twice and the envy and lust stories may need to be toned down a bit for kids; otherwise, depending on sensitivity, from ages 8 or 10 upwards, this works rather well when used with younger players. (Though they should have some experience with the system - this is not a cakewalk of a module!) Kids in puberty may actually eat this one up. That being said, if you want to emphasize this component, I'd suggest a slightly more somber end: Return the PCs sans a parade of happily ever after families. Then ask the players what they think happened thereafter. What the parents and kids have learned, what the consequences of the PC's actions are and how things will turn out. Engage in dialogue. When handled properly, this module can actually defuse issues.


Well, or you can just run this as one awesome blend of all the virtues of old-school and new-school gaming: Internally consistent, with a great and creative story, memorable NPCs, a diverse variety of challenges and all of that sans railroading. To make that abundantly clear: I consider this to be the 4$D-module that had me slightly choke a bit while reading, yes; frankly, it resonated. At the same time, it is, and that should NOT be understated, FUN, as it should be. This is not l'art pour l'art - this may be the first time I've seen a module fully cognizant in its design as a means to teach about our very human shortcomings as both parents and kids within the medium of gaming; all sans a raised finger and jamming morality down our throats; it shows and doesn't tell; it teaches by experience, not by reading a text.


I'm rambling, I know, but I need to drive this home: This module, when taken only on its merits as a module, as nothing more, nothing less, is excellent. But it transcends what I have seen any author do with the medium. It can leave people better persons for having played it. It can actually deliver the eureka effect usually reserved to novels, philosophy and the most inspiring of movies. This is not rated by my scale, it pushes it. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I was pretty skeptical about the premise. It worked out. Perfectly. This module has just raised my expectations, what I thought possible within the means of our medium. This may well be the first module I have read that truly deserves being called valuable from a humanist point of view and in the hands of the right GM, this can resonate more than all the earth-shattering apocalypses and demon-hordes you can possibly dream of.


My one regret here is that I have to operate within the very tight space of the usual rating system, so bear with me for a second: Picture seeing the star-shaped rating section of the online RPG-vendor of your choice. Now picture me teleporting in, slamming a post-it with one extra star right next to the 5 on the screen and vanishing. Every time you look at this module, mysteriously, the damn post-it phases in and tells you that this module is a one-of-a-kind experience that can make you laugh, make you cry, make you love more and become a better person...or just have a really great time. For 4 bucks. THAT is my rating. Post-it-teleport-in-level of ridiculously good and valuable; not only as a module, but for gaming in general. Since the teleport-thing, alas, only works in one's mind and the artifacts of our civilization demand such, my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval...oh, and this is a very hot contender for my number 1 spot of my Top ten of 2016.


Okay, you've read me gush and rave about this for more than 3500 words...so please...go ahead and buy this. We need authors that take chances, that are not content with games as only mindless entertainment, when they could be entertainment that also improves us in the very strictest sense of the philosophical concept of Bildung.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seven Sinful Tales
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Classes of NeoExodus: Protean Scribe (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2016 02:27:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The protean scribe class clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Chassis-wise, the protean scribe receives d6 HD, 4+Int-mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as proficiency with simple weapons and light armor. A protean scribe wearing heavier armor than light or a shield suffers from arcane spell failure regarding some of the abilities they have...but more on that below.


A protean scribe begins play with a stylus, a special instrument that is hardier than its mundane version. The stylus can be used to erase something the protean scribe has written. Without a stylus, using her abilities requires making a concentration check with a DC of 10 + twice the number of eloquence used. Eloquence? We'll get there in a second.


As the name scribe implies, the protean scribe obviously is all about writing - writing is categorized in three distinct categories: Embellishments represent buffs; phrases are used offensively as debuffs or damage and stories are about creating creatures, objects etc. from thin air. Regardless of the type of writing used, protean scribes may add primordial words to their writing. Adding a primordial word adds at least +1 eloquence to the cost, potentially more depending on the word in question. A protean scribe begins play with 4 + Wisdom modifier points of eloquence and gains +1 eloquence per level. This pool refreshes upon resting. Upon death, effects of writing persist for 24 hours before dissipating.


Now let's take a look at the types of writing: Embellishments have a range of 30 feet and grant the target affected a morale bonus to atk and damage or a morale bonus on all skill checks. The morale bonus is equal to the total number of eloquence used in the embellishment and may not exceed 1/3 of the class level, minimum 1. Embellishments are supernatural and last until erased or when the protean scribe recovers eloquence and are suppressed in antimagic zones etc. or when removed further than 1 mile from the protean scribe. Starting at 7th level, protean scribes can choose to grant the bonuses granted to an additional creature within range per point of eloquence spent.


Phrases allow for the direct assault of enemies - as a standard action, protean scribes may make a ranged attack against a foe within 60 feet, dealing 1d6 of either slashing, piercing or bludgeoning damage, using Wisdom as the governing attribute to determine bonuses to atk and damage. Phrase base damage increases by +1d6 at 8th and 15th level, respectively. If a primordial word was added to a phrase, it affects the target even when the phrase fails to damage the target, with a save DC of 10 + 1/2 class level (min 1) + Wis-mod to negate unless otherwise noted. Starting at 11th level, a single phrase may target an additional creature in range, including the effects of any primordial words added, sans additional costs.


Stories can be distinguished in two categories - storied objects and storied creatures. Both have in common that they emit dim light in a 5 ft-radius and that writing a story is a full-round action that costs 2 eloquence. Upon completion, the respective creature/object manifests within 30 feet of the scribe. Storied objects may be any nonmagical object (or well-defined set of objects - you'd get a set of lockpicks, not just one) and may not exceed 5 ft. in the longest dimension. Storied objects must be composed of relatively common material and those with a certain complexity or moving parts require a Perform (Oratory) skill check against the Crafting DC of the object to be created in a manner that actually is functional. Masterwork objects can similarly be created via Perform (oratory) versus DC 15, though failure by 5 or more provides a broken object instead. Storied Creatures can either be Medium or Small and share an array of base stats, with each additional eloquence spent providing one Hit Die to the storied creature. At 3HD and every 2 HD thereafter, the creature gains a feat of your choice and similarly, skills are covered. Stories remain in effect until they are removed more than 1 mile from the protean scribe, reduced to 0 hit points, willingly erased or the protean scribe regains eloquence.


Beginning at 4th level, the protean scribe may generate magical storied objects - this requires no less than 10 minutes and make Spellcraft check against Dc 10 + the item's caster level + twice the number of spells listed in the item's construction requirements. On a failure, only a mundane version is created. On a success, the scribe spends an additional 2 eloquence, plus additional eloquence depending on the item type and price: Consumable items are more expensive than non-consumables and the break-down is pretty simple.


Beginning at 2nd level, the protean scribe receives her class level as a bonus to Linguistics checks and at 5th level, she may write 60 words per round when writing mundane texts. She may even scribe scrolls for other characters, at the pace of 5 minutes per spell level. At 6th level, the protean scribe learns a so-called spell word, which is an SU duplication of a 1st level spell she may write 1/day sans expending eloquence; any subsequent use costs eloquence equal to the spell level. At 8th level and every 2 levels thereafter, the protean scribe learns an additional spell word for a higher level spell, as noted in the class table. The governing attribute for spell parameters is either Int or Wis, whichever is higher, and CL is equal to class level.


Now I've already mentioned primordial words: The protean scribe begins play with 3 of them and gains additional primordial words as the levels progress, up to a total of 13 known at level 20. Not all primordial words have effects for all types of writing, so there is a chance that a given word only has an effect on embellishments and storied creatures, for example. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 24 such primordial words are provided. With the exception of one word, they do not have prerequisites, since their effectiveness is directly tied to the bonuses e.g. embellishments grant. From adding different types of energy damage to phrases to providing temporary hit points, making storied creatures undead, the effects are wide and diverse and contain unique boons like the ability to seemingly occupy (one or more) contiguous adjacent square for the purpose of flanking, teamwork feats, etc. Disguise self (not properly italicized, as are other spell-references in one of the few glitches herein), adding senses to creatures, growing in size, SR, miss chances - the interesting component here is most certainly the means by which the effects are concisely capped via bonuses and the like.


Starting at 13th level, the protean scribe reduced the eloquence cost of the first primordial word added to a given piece of writing by 1. Starting at 17th level, the protean scribe may 1/day ignore the eloquence cost of a single primordial word and add it to her writing - whether she knows it or not. This ability can be used an additional time per day at 19th level.


Starting at 3rd level, protean scribes may inscribe harmful words directly onto foes: As a standard action she, may use a melee touch attack to affect targets with primordial words, but unlike utilizing phrases to deliver them thus, the target takes a -4 penalty to saves against it. At 9th level, the effect of phrases is also added to this. At 15th level, she may incur a penalty of -2 to such a tattoo combat attack to basically flurry versus all creatures within reach, applying the effects to each. OUCH!


Capstone-wise, protean scribes may select from gaining one permanent embellishing tattoo, Constitution bleed causing phrases or stories that have their eloquence cost reduced by 3..oh, and if the cost is reduced to 0 or below, the creature/object becomes permanent.


The class comes with no less than 5 archetypes: The scrollblade makes stylus and scrollblade a weapon and gains Two-Weapon Fighting at the expense of reduced eloquence and the loss of the Linguistics-enhancer. The worldwriter replaces phrases with the ability to write a demiplane in a book: At first, it is only a sensory experience, but at higher levels, you can enter it and even shove unwilling creatures inside. The Censor flips embellishments on their head, making them debuffs (yes, with proper language). Runewriters replace the creation of magic items via stories with Craft Wondrous Item - no wonder, they replace stories with a limited array of runes that are used as eloquence-powered spells. Orators may prepare writing in advance, though it only takes effect upon being spoken aloud - this does not require a stylus or writing material. Instead of tattoo combat, orators get increasingly powerful taunts that duplicate the effects of phrases, at higher levels even against mindless targets.


The pdf also contains a total of 6 feats: More range for phrases, higher DCs, making stories linger when refreshing eloquence, extra eloquence, recovering a bit of eloquence when erasing a story or adding eidolon evolutions to storied creatures...all possible.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good or very good, depending on how you look at it: On a formal level, there isn't much to complain about, even though the italicization-missing spells annoyed me. On the plus-side, the internal formatting of the class is precise and to the point and I can field no complaints there. The rules-language is similarly rather precise, particularly for the complexity of the subjet matter. Layout adheres to the beautiful two-column full-color standard used for NeoExodus-supplements and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. the artworks featured herein are absolutely gorgeous. The pdf comes with minimalist bookmarks for general sections, but not e.g. individual words, but at this length that's still okay.


So, the protean scribe is a class that you will either love or hate - if raw damage is what you're looking for, then there may be better choices. I won't lie, this is a class that, on paper, didn't look like it would have too much staying power or too fun in play. I was pretty wrong in that regard, as the playtest showed. While it takes a bit to grasp how the system works (presentation here could be a little smoother), Michael McCarthy's class actually played rather well - in a 15-pt.-buy context, I needed no nerfing and at higher point-buys, it still worked rather well, though eloquence is a conservative resource; you will want to take that extra eloquence feat as soon as possible.


Role-wise, we have a support-class here, but one that exceeds in spontaneous modularity just about every class I know and has some serious crazy-prepared tricks written into it. The option to create glowy creatures and objects can offer a TON of fun and roleplaying potential. In a pure hack-and-slash campaign, the protean scribe may be useful, but she shines brightest in an intrigue and roleplaying-heavy campaign where there is a lot of problem-solving beyond "I bash its brains in" - in such scenarios, the flexibility of the class becomes absolutely impressive and extremely rewarding.


As a word of warning - more so than the bard, for example, the protean scribe is a jack-of-all-trades; this does mean that it requires really understanding the class, which could have been made a bit easier from a didactic point of view. (Explaining primordial word use in the primordial word section again, for example.)


Beyond that, though, there is one aspect that will determine whether you enjoy the class: Your own creativity. In an interesting way, the focus on creativity inherent in the act of writing the protean scribe uses, also extends to the player: The more creative the player, the more fun and efficient will the protean scribe be. In short: The class can reward improvisation rather well and does so beyond the confines we usually see in class design. I know a bunch of classes with modular systems; Bradley Crouch delivers them rather often and in crisp precision and detail. However, this class may not reach that level of precision, but it does make up for it in creativity. Younger players that are frustrated by the confinements of most classes in particular, provided they grasp the rules/have them explained, have enunciated that they were more than pleased with the protean scribe class.


In short: This class, even after the literally hundreds of classes for Pathfinder I've reviewed, feels fresh in its playing experience and remains reigned in, in spite of its wide-open focus. Ultimately, beyond didactics, there is but one gripe I do have: We can really use more primordial words for this fellow. Well, that and the TWF-archetype is a horrible trap - melee focus (instead of last-ditch resort) with d6 HD? Not a good idea. If you want to know a quick analogue for the class - to me, it feels like "Read or Die" - the class, with the focus taken away from the medium of paper and geared towards the content itself. But how to rate this? See, that's where things get tricky - I really like the class herein, but, in a rare case, I actually believe it could have used a bit more eloquence per level; plus, it does have a trap option; while the rules are pretty clear, their presentation could be a bit clearer...but at the same time, this was met pretty enthusiastically and does offer a novel playing experience unlike any I've seen in a while. So how to rate this? Well, the engine can be modified pretty easily sans breaking the class, which is a good thing indeed.


Oh, and it allows for truly astonishing flexibility. This may not be perfect...but I don't often find myself enjoying a class to this extent. If you're looking for a class where creativity and flexibility are the bread and butter, you'll love the protean scribe. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, and while I'd love to round up, the pdf could be slightly more refined in the presentation of its concepts and the class could use favored class options...so I'll have to round down. But since I really, really enjoy some things this guy lets me do, I'll still slap my seal of approval on this guy. Can we have more material for this great class?


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of NeoExodus: Protean Scribe (PFRPG)
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The Wreck of Volund's Glory (13th Age Compatible)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2016 02:25:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module for 13th Age clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The first thing you need to know pertaining this module is the structure: Wade Rockett's excellent icons (first introduced on the Kobold Press blog and in the 13th Age Deep Magic book) have a hand in the action going on in this module - they determine the approach to the item the players are after. And it should be noted that the items actually come with suggested abilities. The module can be played in a 4-hour slot, but can be hastened to a 2-hour high-intensity action-romp, with proper guidelines provided - I actually tried it out and it works!


This being a review of an adventurer-tier module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should steer clear and skip ahead to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! Okay, so I already mentioned that the module obviously has a significantly modular structure, right? Well, the module is all about recovering the aforementioned item of power from a dwarven airship that has crashed in the desolation of the tainted Wasted West, which is now inhabited by the deadly, undead former crew. Depending on the icons the GM chooses, you may choose a rival faction of adversaries - a total of no less than 5 such teams are provided: From Mharoti explorers to shadow fey and minotaurs or derros, the teams come all on their own, handy cheat sheets, including notes on their size depending on PC group-size. Beyond that, befitting of the horribly-mutating nature of the wasted west, the module provides suggestions for reskins of the creatures herein. As a whole, the set-up provided for the GM allows for a significant replay value and the option to easily add in more groups if the players have too easy a time when dealing with the adversaries.


The module's actions begin with the ramshackle town of "Small Comfort", ominously named and the fully mapped, and it is here a portal with blow open and potentially render the small and desolate place a full-blown battle-field between the adventurers and the rival team. Pressing forward and potentially leaving ruins behind, the PCs will descend into the deathless defile, where a village of the notorious ghost goblins rests and allows for either diplomatic or lethal problem-solving. Beyond these, PCs will have a chance to eliminate another group of rivals and, when finally reaching the eponymous, crashed Volund's Glory, the PCs will have to eliminate the dread undead that once were the crew to claim their due.


The copious appendices also include an array of neat adventurer-tier magic items and yes, we get brief icon sketches, enough to run it.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The cover artwork is also represented in this book in a gorgeous full-color page.


Wade Rockett's "Wreck of Volund's Glory" is perfect for quick, fast-paced no-frills convention play; think of this as a kind of highly modular, fast-paced action romp through a kind of post-apocalyptic environment. With speed, evocative backdrops and a high-paced set-up, this module is all about presenting some of the highlights of the evocative Wasted West. The module itself is pretty simple, but, like a good action movie, it works exceedingly well...and turns out different in every time you play it, which is pretty cool indeed. Ultimately, this renders the book a fun, fast-paced action-module well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Wreck of Volund's Glory (13th Age Compatible)
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Bite Me! Werewolves
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2016 02:23:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This Bite Me!-installment clocks in at a 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Ah, the most classic, most iconic of lycanthropes known - the good ole' werewolf, now reimagined as part of the Bite Me!-series gets +2 Dex and Con, -2 Int, the two bloods racial feature (making you count as a parent race as well as a shapeshifter for purposes of being affected by effects), low-light vision, +2 to Perception and Survival. Beast Form works is presented in a rather precise wording construct that takes temporary hit points, equipment and the like into account and the odd formatting discrepancies gone - no complaints. In beats or hybrid form, DR 2/silver is gained and increases by +2 every odd level gained to a maximum of DR 10/silver. The werewolf gains the old wolfsbane vulnerability and silver vulnerability. Regarding beast form and advancement, I do not have significant complaints here.


The werewolves get their own age, height and weight table, which is nice. Now personally, I really hate the fluff provided here with a fiery passion. Werewolf fluff sets them distinctly apart from what we usually call werewolves, making them functional, outspoken, community-minded and relatively loyal beings set distinctly apart from the traditional cursed trope. While that may be closer to the awesomeness that real life wolves are, as a person, I really, really loathe making them good (or even neutral) guys...to me it takes away the whole point of playing a werewolf as opposed to playing an anthropomorphic animal - sans the fury, it doesn't feel like a lycanthrope to me. Oh well, furries out there: This may be the werewolf you wanted.


Oh, and yes, I am not going to penalize the pdf for its fluff, my own taste none withstanding. The werewolves as depicted here may choose from a total of 11 alternate racial traits that generally are well-balanced and e.g. delay DR-increase to offset for their benefits in some creative rules-operations. 3 sample "subtypes" that use these have been prepared for the reader. The pdf provides a smattering of different favored class options (Core, APG, Magus and UC covered) and they generally are pretty creative and nice, though e.g. the magus receiving pretty powerful weapon special abilities for use with the arcane pool imho needs a nerf: One ability per FCO is too strong. The movement related FCOs also lack the caveat that makes them inoperable unless taken in increments of 5, which can lead to some awkwardness at the table.


The pdf provides a total of 2 different racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Pack-bonded Hunter (ranger), who replaces animal empathy with a tactician-like option to grant teamwork feats temporarily to nearby allies. At higher levels, he replaces woodland stride with AoE-granting of such feats a limited amount of times per day. 4th level locks into the companion bond and also lets him grant favored terrain bonuses and 12th level unlocks a lesser version of quarry's bonus granted to allies a limited amount of times per day. The Moon Speaker oracle gets Knowledge (nature) and Survival, bonus spells taken from this book and must take two revelations at the listed levels...but fails to note the listed levels. The revelations allow the oracle to force a lycanthrope into humanoid form - automatically, on a touch; at higher levels, you can cause rage...but thankfully with limited uses. The second revelation lets you emit a half cold/half divine burst of moonfire that is treated as silver. I like this one generally, though the 10th level benefit probably lacks the "save-negates-clause" - otherwise, those affected are auto-confused for a round. The upgrade, at 15th level, which adds stun, does have that clause.


The pdf also contains a total of no less than 14 feats, which generally can be considered to be sound in concept: Using howl to use bardic performance, adding bleed to bite attacks, getting a summon nature's ally II 1d3 pack of wolves...flavor-wise pretty cool, though the latter imho should have a level prerequisite; at 1st level, potentially having +3 wolves is BRUTAL. Harrying, as a teamwork feat, has one damn cool idea: Reducing the movement rate, with allies stacking up on it. I like that...but the feat fails to specify how you harry. Do you need to be adjacent? Is there a range? Line of sight/effect required? No idea. Cool concept, but unfortunately, it does not work as written. Distracting Howl is similarly cool and problematic: You can emit a howl that dazzles foes. Cool! Allies can join in and increase the severity of the condition? Even cooler, now we're talking!! Problem: The feat fails to specify the action to activate it and how allies may join in. Does joining in require an action? Since it is predicated on allies also having the feat, does this count against the hard cap per encounter (insert customary rant on why per encounter abilities suck and make in-game no sense)/day? No idea. You can wing the feat, but RAW, it does not work and needs clarification. Gaining an Int-based tactician ability is pretty powerful for a feat. Other feats allow you to assume a more powerful, primal form, move unimpeded through wintry difficult terrain and the pdf also introduces the new Wolf Style with its follow-up feats that emphasizes mobility...and, well, wolf-like tactics. I really like this feat chain! Really odd: RAW, the Hybrid Shape feat is absent from this installment.


The item section has basically wolf-shoes (we all know the type from horrible people who IRL force their dogs to wear them), a moonrod (variant of sunrods, easier to perceive via low-light vision and a cool idea!), a scent marker kit and a wolf whistle. The magic item section features grit to enhance your bite, a perception-enhancing helm, an armor special ability and rings that provide a minor buff and allow for the switching of positions as well as a wolf-calling totem. Particularly the rings are a thing of beauty. The magic section provides the wolf subdomain, which enhances tracking skills and a total of 7 spells: Call of the Wild creates a mind-affecting howl that may cause targets with low HD to tremble in fear; there is a tracking-enhancer, a powerful buff (also available in mass version) to reroll 1s and 2s rolled with natural melee damage, a wolf guardian spirit and two cool spells, one of which lets you monitor allies, while the other is a more powerful variant of shield other that can affect more creatures.


The pdf concludes with two sample NPCs provided in both beast and human form; a ranger at CR 7 and a bard at CR 5. Both come with schemes and plots to make their inclusion in the game easier.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good; on a formal level, there is nothing to complain and on a rules-level, while there are some minor issues, the pdf retains generally a level of professional precision. Layout adheres to Misfit Studios' two-column full-color standard for the series and features some nice original pieces of color artwork. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - kudos for that! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.


Robert H. Hudson Jr.'s werewolves, to me, live mostly by virtue of the thematically fitting items, options and supplemental material. As mentioned before, as a person, I really dislike the notion of good werewolves as something that is not an exceedingly rare occasion. This is a personal preference, though, and players who always wanted a good werewolf sans the hunger (which imho defines lycanthropy as opposed to anthro-characters, but I digress), this delivers. The archetypes herein are less creative that I like mine and there are some minor hiccups in the feats, though. As a final complaint: On a formal level, i.e. beyond the precise effects of the beast form, werewolves are identical in framework to the weremantises. I believe the race could have used more unique tricks to set them apart, but that may be a conscious decision to represent the unfortunate streamlining lycanthropes were subjected to in PFRPG, so I'm not going to penalize the pdf for that either. If you expected a tad bit more in that regard, though, you may end up disappointed. The pdf still does have quite a few nice pieces of content, though - hence, I arrive at a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bite Me! Werewolves
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LotFP Rules & Magic Full Version
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:17:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive core rule book clocks in at 176 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 167 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review is based on the version of the rule book that does have the artwork.


Wait, before we do, a general disclaimer:


This book has an 18+ mature content warning.


Now personally, I wasn't offended by any imagery here, but your mileage may vary. The artworks contained herein feature copious amounts of gore in both b/w and full-color pieces and the book also sports full frontal nudity. I never got why nudity offended anyone, but then again, I'm perhaps too German in that regard. Suffice to say, little kids, particularly sensitive ones should not get their hands on this. There are kids like yours truly that have always gravitated to horror and the dark stuff, but I'll leave that up to parental discretion.


In order to determine whether you'd be offended by this book's art, there are two simple tests I came up with:


1) When looking at an album cover from a gore-themed death metal band like Cannibal Corpse or Bloodbath, are you offended? No? Great, the artwork herein is tamer, so you'll be fine. Yes? You may be offended.


2) The most risqué artwork (and one of the two most memorable pieces in my opinion) features a medusa performing sexual intercourse with a man she, by the look of his face, has obviously petrified in just this moment.


If one of those two offend you, I'd suggest getting the art-less version for this book instead...but then again, not sure you'd be comfortable with all of the material LotFP has to offer.


Now there are two main points I feel the need to cover in the context of the game as such and the first of these would pertain the rules. The rules herein are OSR-rules: Attributes ranging from 3 - 18, bonuses/penalties based on them from -3 to +3. Hit points are determined by class and non-human races are their own class; while dwarves, elves and halflings aren't necessarily an assumption in the pseudo-historical context many LotFP-books operate in, they are included here for the convenience of the customer. Combat is resolved via an ascending attack bonus: Roll a d20, add modifiers and compare to AC; if it's higher than that, you hit. Nat 20s are always hits. Classes gain +1 to attack at first level and increase that every level; fighters start with +2. Saving throws are included in the class table and depict the target number - roll that or higher and you're good. Paralysis covers movement impediments, poison covers...well, poison, breath weapons are used for area effects, magic device is for magical items and magic covers innate abilities and spells. Alignment-wise, we remain similarly old-school: Lawful, Chaotic, Neutral. That's it.


Unlike many OSR games, the default value for coins is the silver piece and conversion notes are provided. Starting money is 3d6 x 10 sp, plus an equal amount for characters that start at higher levels. The class tables feature, as we've become accustomed to, different XP values for different class level ups and the respective classes do feature entries for apprentice/0-level characters. Clerics gain spellcasting up to 7th level, magic-users and elves up until 9th. Spells gained through level-ups do NOT pop up; they still have to be researched.


Also: This is old-school. Once you hit that 10th level, you will no longer get full Con-mod to hp and a fixed value. A massive modification has been done to the specialist, who is this game's "thief/rogue"-standing - you get to choose your area of expertise in a simple manner: You allocate a few skill points. You have an "X in d6"-chance and for each skill point allocated, you increase that chance. Default start is 1 in 6; sneak attack works a bit differently: for each skill invested, the damage multiplier for such attacks increases by 1. A specialist with 2 points in sneak attack would deal triple damage, for example. This mechanic is also used for the dwarf's architecture, the elf's searching tricks and the halfling's bushcraft.


Unarmored AC is 12; armored, you gain the armor's AC. Shields provide +1 AC versus melee, +2 versus ranged attacks. Ranged weapons have short, medium and long ranges. Some weapons have a harder time hitting foes with a certain AC threshold. (Good luck whipping that dude in the plate armor...) and a ton of miscellaneous equipment is provided with prices -that are different in rural areas and cities...pretty cool. Italicized items are negligible for encumbrance purposes; bolded items in italics are Oversized.


While old-school, I'm not too happy with the suggestion that avoiding foes or negotiating does not yield XP per default, but that rule is easily ignored enough. Guidelines re XP by monster HD are simple and cleanly presented. The book provides clean and simple rules for getting lost, catching diseases, foraging, etc. Rest usually recovers 1 hp and shifts, unless something happens, do not hamper this recovery. Characters who spend a full day resting with at least 1/2 maximum HP also regain 1d3 hit points for each day spent thus. Characters below 1/2 their maximum hit points don't regenerate any hit points by resting and only 1 via full day's worth of rest. Characters reduced to 0 HP will regain consciousness after 1d6 hours, thereafter they may crawl at 10' rate. Temporary ability score losses are regained at 1 point per day.


Language-acquisition is similarly simple. Now I already mentioned encumbrance, so how does movement work? There are 5 levels of encumbrance and carrying certain objects increases it. movement rate is reduced accordingly. Characters carrying 6 + different objects? +1 encumbrance point. Chain armor? +1. Plate? +2. Movement in combat is 40 ' for the unencumbered, 30 ' for the lightly encumbered, etc. Overland exploration and running follow a similar formula, beginning with 120 ' and decreasing it in increments of 30 ' and a simple miles per day column also is included. I wished that one had kilometer-values as well, since the (feel free to boo) feet, yard, mile, etc. system never made any sense to me. Metric system ftw. Oh well, that's what I get for favoring roleplaying games... ;P


Time is measured as follows: A round is 6 seconds; a turn is ten minutes and a segment is 1 second. Skills and their use are codified in simple and easily understood ways: Characters have a 1/2 swimming speed and characters too encumbered have a referee-determined chance to drown. A ton of different ships with required crew and carrying capacity, hi points etc. are provided and the pdf sports similarly easy ship-to-ship combat rules. Retainers to send into the corridor and die horribly...äh, I meant "valuable assets for adventuring groups" also get a massive table with wages and space requirements to house. Managing finances and property (!!!) is also covered in this book with surprisingly nice and concise rules - this patrician wizard...yeah, the rules support making that guy.


Now, as for combat: Characters may be surprised on a roll of 1-2 on a d6, 1-4 on an ambush, etc. Encounters usually begin at a distance of 3d6 x 10 ' and random NPC reactions can be determined, if required. Initiative is either determined for the whole group, or by players, with 1d6. Dex is used as a tie-breaker. Actions include attacks (with means to emphasize offense or defense), changing weapons, casting spells, holding, parrying, aiming, etc. - oh, and firing into mêlée isn't smart: random chance of who is hit. Aiming can skewer the odds slightly...but yeah. I actually like this; always hated how easily most systems allow you to fire into the chaos of mêlée combat.


Spellcasting also deserves special mention - veterans will note that quite a few modifications have crept in here and this section, perhaps more so than any before, should make clear that LotFP's WFRP has a somewhat different focus. A couple of weeks ago, I posted my take on Frog God Games' excellent "Swords & Wizardry"-rulebook - which is my default OSR-system for traditional fantasy and fantastic roleplaying. This book, in contrast, is what I use when I'm going for the dark, the weird, the strange - this system, while generally usable for a plethora of games, has an undercurrent of the horrific: The dead animated with magic always interpret your commands in the most violent way possible, for example. More interesting and perhaps enlightening would be the fact that Summon is a truly horrific and risky business - the rules of the spell cover multiple pages; if the caster botches it, he may generate blasts of antimatter, different creatures...or may not even be able to control them. Oh, and guess what? If you're really unlucky, effects like an collective unconscious desire for suicide can be found; and if your group switches referees, that is a distinct possibility as well.


Other highlights include being hit by mankind's fear of universal annihilation (yes, ALL of it!)...or all sense breaking down, which is represented in the following gem: "Make have is the to and of them meaning numbers power order no sufficient no. [...] Cleric retain faculties, keeps time slipping, must kill the stalwart stabilist to stabilize. Kill until it is dead. First to next sleep dies as brain flees." - to give you and impression of why I consider this section frightening and inspiring. What if time starts breaking down as the collective spaces between second break into the timestream? Oh...and if you REALLY botch it...there's a chance that the global sea level will rise, by 10' per round, until it's 50 ' higher than the character's location. Yes. This can END THE WORLD.


Btw.: Grognards who are missing the ole' fighter attacks everyone in range-trick...Army of One. Turn Undead's a spell, just fyi. This whole section is intriguing -a somewhat eclectic, yet organic collection of magic that manages to capture old-school aesthetics with a general feeling that magic is something DANGEROUS. Weird Vortex can make the target develop explosive blood that damages those that hit him...and that is just one of the effects...others include degeneration/devolution...so yeah, the theme is different; this is closer to horror, to a framework that works when postulating a pseudo-historic environment. After all, there needs to be a reason for all that hubbub surrounding the slaying of witches, hunting warlocks and the like...Oh, and guess what? Most direct damage magic spells are gone. No lightning bolt. No fireball. Magic-users subsequently feel much more like the characters from Sword & Sorcery books, Howardesque fantasy or horror literature - smart, yes; powerful, yes. But once the mob is coming, they better have planned for it in advance...


The appendices contain a handy glossary, rules for early modern firearms and associated equipment (including detailed pictures of the firing mechanisms) and a break-down of the character sheet - you get a visual representation AND the pages where the information can be found - pretty handy!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch. I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a b/w-two-column standard that is easy to read. Artwork has approximately 3 distinct styles: There are somewhat stylized, comic-like renditions in b/w that tend to depict gore and violence. There are almost photorealistic, glorious b/w-artwork that feature unique environments, characters or e.g. ships that are very evocative...and in the middle of the book, we have a total of 8 full-color pieces that, quality-wise, are certainly on par with the cover - drop-dead gorgeous, they depict witches eviscerating foes by disintegrating them, horrid blood sacrifices, a mummified god floating in space as an iconic character approaches, sheathed in magic from the cold void (my other favorite) or blood-spattered musketeer-style iconics, triumphing over their viscerally slain foes and aforementioned medusa-artwork, to name a few. No matter your stance regarding drawn violence, the quality of the artwork here is impressive and I like quite a few pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with ample of nested bookmarks.


James Edward Raggi IV may be a somewhat controversial character, but honestly, this rule book as such doesn't leave much to be desired. I can see people being somewhat disappointed by the lack of magical items and specialist classes like assassin, druid and the whole associated material - but you can get that in Swords & Wizardry (and mix and match systems easily). I can see people being offended by the art, though I honestly don't think it's that bad. I saw infinitely worse stuff online when I was 13 and the internet was much tamer back then.


So what is exactly the focus? See, this is where it's a bit harder to describe, for if you take a look at some of the things circulating online, you'd think this is just blood, gore and guts. That is patently WRONG. While gore is certainly a part of the aesthetic, shock-value decreases in effectiveness quickly. So yes, while the book features that component, it is NOT the content of it...or the modules available for it.


I've seen this called "Metal" - without any prefixes, I'd disagree: The cheesy 80s-metal/power metal/heavy metal aesthetic is captured better by Kort'thalis Publishing's Crimson Dragon Slayer.


I've seen someone call this the "Death Metal of OSR" and I'd beg to disagree; this is not as in your face as you'd expect it to be; it's not shock for shock value's sake...at least not all of it.


Instead, a closer analogue would probably be the calmer and more introspective black metal or the atmospheric doom metal bands out there; I can see Skepticism or Reverend Bizarre working rather well as a playlist for a session of LotFP. For non-metal-heads: The assumption here is, that while there are horrible and bloody things that happen to characters, and while characters will die (quite a lot), shock value is only a thin coating of something that actually has a worthwhile substance, only an accentuating highlight for a grim panorama.


You can play gonzo happy go-fun adventuring with these rules; but the way the magic and everything in the small details is set-up, I'd call this the go-to low magic and horror iteration of the OSR-systems I know of; the system for the truly strange and outré ideas. I was talking about substance before. Well, a rule-book needs to be easy to use, easy to grasp and precise. This book is all of these. Unless you manage to be offended by the artworks (with the text being crisp and deadpan), the structure and organization of this book will make its use easy and quick. There is less choice than in some rules-variant peppered OSR-systems, but that would be by design. The changes and modernization of the specialist-formerly-known-as-thief is glorious and makes them suck no more, particularly at low levels. The modifications of the spells, particularly when they are radically changed or have these small, uncanny sentences, similarly help generate a basic expectation: Once you realize how dangerous magic can be, it suddenly is something to be slightly weary of...even if your ole' friend over there is casting it.


So, if you're looking for OSR-rules, through a shade darkly, then this book will deliver in spades. The weirdness, though, stems mainly from what you (and LotFP's cadre of authors) do with the framework presented by these rules; there are glimpses and hints of the things to come, there are small tweaks in the system here and there that already show some of what's to expect - but as a stand-alone book, this simply is a retro-D&D-system with dark fantasy/horror-conductive tweaks and great production values. Even if you are not interested in the system or the art, scavenging the concise and simple encumbrance system or some of the other modifications is done easily enough - even for use in a regular fantasy setting/with other OSR-rules. The transparency is there and the operations simple.


How to rate this, then? Well, in the end, this is one of my two favorite OSR rulesets. In my own OSR-games, I mashed this one and S&W together until they became a horrifically gibbering monstrosity. If you eliminate all the controversy and the focus on the excellent art, this book remains a more than solid rulebook - and one whose merits you can ascertain for free if said controversy-inducing art doesn't interest you anyways. For the low price point of the pdf, the art we do get is exceedingly impressive (if you like dark and gory artwork) and the quality and merits of the rule set are pretty evident. You can complain about the aesthetics, they are a matter of taste; but I can't see any true faults with the rules presented herein. Making the specialist not suck and customable is awesome and I love what was done with the spells and the encumbrance system is genius.


So yeah, I will settle on a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, I will cover more of the darker OSR-material now that I've covered LotFP's basic rule book.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
LotFP Rules & Magic Full Version
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10 Barbarian Magic Items (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:09:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rite Publishing's 10-X-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this pdf with two new special qualities: Armor and shields may benefit from the +2 bonus equivalent adversity's bulwark enchantment, which allows for the immediate action-based expenditure of 6 rounds of rage to reroll a save against a debilitating condition (excluding death), affliction, charm or compulsion. The barbarian must take the second result. If the barbarian also has the eater of magic rage power, he gains temporary hit points equal to the originating creature's CR that stack with the rage's temporary hit points. Weapons can be enchanted to gain the felling storm special weapon ability, which allows the barbarian to add a combat maneuver as a swift action 1/round to a successful attack while raging, providing, just fyi, synergy with the maneuvers introduced in Secrets of Adventuring. This enchantment should, for balance's sake, be limited to melee weapons or at last have a price that exceeds +1 for ranged weapons.


So that would be the general enchantments, now let's move on to the items: As has become the tradition with these pdfs, we actually get more than ten items: 5 of the items in this book come in 3 degrees of power: Lesser, standard and greater, and these higher power-levels do not just simply feature a numerical escalation. The Ring of Spiritual Spite allows wearers to expend rage as immediate actions to reduce damage incurred, but only if said damage is drawn from spell, supernatural or spell-like abilities, as well, as the example illustrates, from bonus damage caused by e.g. the flaming special quality. While rules language could have been slightly more precise, the example clears up all gripes I could field here. Higher power levels equal a higher amount of daily activations. Mantles of thorns provide minor natural armor bonuses and reflexive damage for those foolish enough to target the character with unarmed or natural attacks, with higher iterations allowing for more activations per day.


Boots of the Wild Rush would be a better example to illustrate aforementioned differences in power-levels: The lesser variant allows for the expenditure of a swift action to increase base land speed by 10 ft., with each step above that increasing this by a further +10 ft. Standard versions allow for the expenditure of 3 rounds of rage to ignore natural difficult terrain and the greater version allows for rage-powered short range flight!


Bracers of Epic Deeds provide synergy with Surge of Strength and allow for all those fun over-the-top Conan-esque capers via significant Strength-check, CMB or CMD enhancements, but only 1/day. Standard bracers have synergy with the unexpected strike rage power and allow for 1/day AoOs versus foes that move into a threatened square and the greater version allows barbarians to disable temporarily, via a special combat maneuver, special monster abilities like gaze attacks and the like - thankfully with a GM-caveat, but oh boy, how cool is THAT?


Similar to that, the lesser version of gauntlets of the breaker allow a barbarian to temporarily disable natural attacks. The standard version makes the barbarian better at wrecking objects and the greater iteration allows the barbarian to seriously impede armor, even natural armor, for a while and limited amounts of time per day. Unlike the bracers, here the progressively better iterations do increase the daily uses of the lesser versions.


Not all items herein feature such a 3-step-version: The Baldric of Restraint nets Quick Draw and lets the barbarian, as a swift action, expend rounds of rage to heal 1 hp per round expended. The helm of the nomad lets the barbarian expend a swift action to perform a smattering of skills that round reliably, counting as having taken 10. Additionally, 1/day, the item allows the barbarian to treat a skill check of the skills in question as a natural 20. As a nitpick: The helm is erroneously referred to as a belt once. That's a cosmetic glitch, though.


If you've been following the series, you'll know the star of the pdf is still coming: Made out of the new material Primal Iron, which counts as cold iron: The Fell Hammer, a massive earth breaker forged by legendary Kahrvass Fleymbrow (see Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series) that begins as a +1 primal iron earth breaker that provides a serious Intimidate bonus. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the massive weapon may be enhanced, gaining first a bonus while the wielder is raging, then an upgrade to +2 (and bonus damage while raging!), shaken added to crits (with a 24-hour-caveat to avoid shaken-locks), teleportation-hampering (missing an italicization for a spell) and finally, the option, via Hammerfall (puts good ole' "Templars of Steel" in the playlist) to generate a frickin' storm blast that deals serious damage (damage type would have been nice) and blows foes away, extinguishes flames, etc. EPIC.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are the pdf's weak spot: While the rules-language is exceedingly precise and manages to deal with even complex concepts, there are a couple of minor formatting glitches and punctuation hiccups, though none of them impede the rules themselves to a significant degree. The one missing damage type is the only one of the glitches that is rules-relevant, and it is a minor one. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf has gorgeous full color artwork I haven't seen before - particularly impressive, considering the low asking price. In spite of its brevity, the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - kudos!


Steven D. Russell, may he rest in peace, has written barbarian items here that exemplify exceedingly well what made me a Rite Publishing fan back in the day; there is not a single cookie cutter, bland item in this pdf. Each piece of content you get is evocative, fun and has a serious justification for existing...in fact, reading the pdf will probably make any barbarian player salivate over at least one item; quite frankly, a lot of them. With the equipment herein, the feats of Strength and daring we came to love from the Conan comics become possible. And unlike in some of Steve's previous installments in the series, I have no complaints pertaining balance and pricing this time around.


...


Indulge me for a second, will you? This was hard for me to write. I was literally afraid of the pdf, since it was the last stand-alone pdf Steven wrote that he published. I really didn't want to bash the pdf, knowing how recently, I had to criticize some of his writing. I shouldn't have worried. As always, when someone observed valid gripes, Steven didn't grumble (for long) - he fixed it. He improved. In short - this pdf is bereft of anything I'd consider problematic. Furthermore, it has this signature quality, this design-voice I will sorely miss; the voice that speaks with flavor and has the crunch to back it up, that lets you do the cinematic, iconic things you wanted to do; that makes roleplaying supplements, even when they're just accumulations of crunchy items, fun to read.


Oh, and that they are mechanically innovative. Did you know that Steve was the first designer to use barbarian rage or bardic performance as a resource to power unrelated effects, feats, etc.? That I encountered magic items with scaling save DCs first in his writing? These are so normal right now, it seems odd...but yeah. So yes, we have significantly more than the promised 10 items on the cover; we have items that directly interact with class abilities and resources of the class. And they do all that while being items you really want to have. This is the antithesis of slapping just a plus and some qualities together. This is fun, evocative and innovative. And I, personally, am grateful for this pdf and what it brings to my table. The hiccups in editing pale before this creativity and with the low price, I can still rate this 5 stars + seal of approval, even when I turn off my emotions and just become review-bot 9000. This is a must-have for barbarian-fans.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Barbarian Magic Items (PFRPG)
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Bite Me! Weremantises
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:05:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Bite Me!-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I won't lie, I really am excited about weremantises - there is something utterly cool and alien-esque inherent in the concept...so what is the mechanical frame-work like? Racial-stat-wise, weremantises receive +2 Dex and Con, -2 Int, making them lopsided and geared towards the more physical pursuits. They are treated as both shapechanger and a chosen humanoid race for all effects and purposes of vulnerabilities to type-specific effects. They are medium and gain lycanthropic empathy when interacting with mantis-like beings, +2 to Perception and Survival and gain a beast form transformation into a giant mantis; this alternate form can be maintained for Constitution modifier + character level hours a day, minimum 1. On a nitpicky side, the rules-text does uncharacteristically refer to abbreviations instead of the full attributes and isn't consistent in that regard, using allcaps once and just "Con" in another. This is purely aesthetical, as far as glitches are concerned, though. They gain DR 2/silver that scales with level progression up to DR 10/silver when in hybrid or beats form and are vulnerable to wolfsbane and take extra damage from silver, also losing any DR to it.


While I'm not a fan of the lopsided component, I actually really like the weremantis here; beast form's basics and 7th level-progression are accounted for, just fyi...and it is here that I consider it to be pretty brutal, with base lunge from the get-go. Also: Grab added to claws. Somewhat odd: The beast form/companion-stats provided here have no header, which looks a bit abrupt. Depending on the game's relative power-level, that may cause problems, but as a whole, the weremantis as presented here would be allowed in most of my games. As a minor nitpick, I do think that it would have behooved the weremantis to have some unique tricks to set them apart beyond those gained by the beast shapes...wolfsbane vulnerability feels weird to me. No specific age, height or weight-table is provided.


A rather cool component of this pdf would most certainly be the fact that, in flavor it also takes a step beyond the well-tread concepts of lycanthropy, with society being matriarchal (obviously) and an empress ruling over the weremantises. Thus, typically race traits are a more complex component than usual, with males and females getting different race traits (and yes - traits for both genders are included and you may disregard that divide) - from being lethal seducers and growing up as privileged to being revolutionaries, the traits use the correct bonuses, are balanced and fun. No complaints.


The gender-divide resulting from their societal structure also extends to the archetypes - females can become alchemical lycanthropes (or were-alchemists, as the actual, non-header text calls the archetype...odd discrepancy...), which replaces bombs with gaining class level evolution points while in hybrid or beast shape. A discovery grants an extra evolution point and 11th level adds transmogrify as a bonus extract. The Mantis Exile rogue male adds Fly to his class skills and 6 + Int skills per level. This slight decrease in versatility is explained quickly by the power of the ability granted instead of trapfinding: You get +1/2 to initiative and may always act in a surprise round, though you remain flat-footed until you act. Instead of trap sense, the archetype gets +5 feet movement, +5 every 3 levels thereafter. Never combine that archetype with rocket launcher tag high-tier mythic games; apart from that, you should be fine! Both genders may become mantis monks, who also gain Fly as a class skill and gains Feral Combat Training (claws) instead of 1st level's bonus feat, explicitly allowing for the use of claws in conjunction with flurry of blows. 2nd level provides a monk's unarmed attack progression for the claws instead of that level's bonus feat and 4th level and 8th each increases maneuverability while flying.


The pdf also features a subdomain of destruction, consumption nets 8th level and higher characters the benefits of death knell after consuming sentient creatures. The pdf provides favored class bonuses for the Core, APG and UC classes as well as magus - no complaints here, apart from the cosmetic deviation of italicizing class names instead of bolding them. The pdf also features a total of 8 feats - on a nitpicky side regarding formatting, a couple of them have the (hands) or (wings)-subtype I have never seen a feat have. Stealth-enhancing coloration that can be upgraded to apply to more terrains apart from forests, skill bonuses, an upgrade to Mantis Style...the feats are solid, I guess, but don't expect to be blown away here...mostly, they're pretty cookie-cutter.


The same can thankfully not be said about the equipment: Drugs made from powdered beetles, mantis robes, functional roped darts with barbed hooks to keep slaves in check...the items are winners and pretty cool. 5 magic items accompany their more mundane brethren and range from temporary paralysis-inducing gloves (actually balanced via low DC and duration), vermin shaping amulets, thrall collars and an emotions-calming ring that may well keep the over-enthused mantis-bride from eating you. Emphasis on the "may". Artifact-wise, the mask of perhaps the first weremantis, powerful, yet inducing cannibal urges, can be found and interacted with - and I like its potential. A total of 4 spells complement the rules-section here: Adding scaling bleed damage to natural attacks, generating a body-dissolving mist, causing creatures to prostrate themselves or calling forth mantis swarms - all are pretty evocative in the visuals used.


The pdf concludes with 2 sample weremantises, both of which feature statblocks for all their forms - Yelok is a fighter/rogue (mantis exile) at CR 9, while Ziang is a nitojutsu sensei samurai at CR 12. Both come with extensive background information as well as neat schemes and plots to use them in your game.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are okay, but not as tight as usual for Misfit Studios - there are some internal inconsistencies here and there in formatting, which, while mostly cosmetic, are a tad bit annoying. Layout adheres to the full-color two-column standard used for the Bite Me!-series and the pdf features several really nice original pieces of weremantises, with only one of them being one that I have seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. One note - as per the writing of this, the usual, more printer-friendly version of the pdf is not included in this one's deal.


Adam Meyers and Robert H. Hudson Jr. deliver a pdf that has left me torn; on the one hand, I absolutely love what was done here regarding culture and visuals - there is some seriously cool adventuring potential to be gained from consulting this pdf. At the same time, I was pretty underwhelmed by several of the mechanical components, which felt like filler to me - particularly back to back with the cool items and intriguing culture. In the end, this pdf felt weird to me: You have this inspired, cool concept, a great culture/race and then, those oversights. As a whole, this installment feels rushed and less precise than usual for the series. Beyond that, the pdf oscillates between "awesome and cool" and cookie cutter designs. There are some true gems in here and concept-wise, this most certainly is my favorite in the series (at least among those I've covered), but quite a bunch of minor hiccups do accumulate. My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 3 stars, though I really wished I could give this the 5 stars that the concept deserves.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Bite Me! Weremantises
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Village Backdrop: Longbridge (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:04:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Longbridge, so let's take a look!


Longbridge is, much like famous Riverrun, crucial to the crossing of a particular river - only that a) it's smaller and b) its leadership is divided - claimed by both Wido Gall and Hilduin Lorsch, two sets of taxes, laws and regulations have made Longbridge a hotbed of intrigue and a powder keg whose fuse has been lit - it's just a matter of time before it blows - especially with Einhard Kochel, leader of the free merchants seeking to claim control for himself...


Following the tradition of the series, longbridge gets a beautiful b/w-map as well as village demographics, a lore-section and 6 different whispers and rumors as well as notes on the type of folk that can be found in the settlement and their nomenclature. As before, it remains my firm belief that some backgrounds or classes should gain bonuses regarding the unearthing of village lore.


9 notable locations have been provided for the town alongside a stunning b/w-rendition of it and,as before, we don't get statblocks in the 5e-iteration of the village backdrop in question, instead using the freed space for extended discussions on local legends, environs or extended notes on the back story of characters. Longbride was a particularly statblock-heavy installment in PFRPG, though, and so, we expand the sample event table to 10 and also get a 10-entry strong, fluff-only table that depicts sample travelers crossing this nexus...so, depending on what you're looking for, this one may be significantly superior for you.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard with gorgeous b/w-art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. As always, RSP's patreons get the high-res maps as well.


Creighton Broadhurst, mastermind of Raging Swan Press, publishes not nearly enough of his own designs - this village is yet another stellar example of why I stand by this statement: Creighton GETS relatively realistic, gritty fantasy. Almost all Raging Swan Press offerings are suffused by a sense of historicity often lost in the more fantastic offerings and this village is no exception - oozing a sense of authenticity, this settlement comes alive on its pages. In spite of the relative brevity of the supplement. Add to that the great artwork, the awesome map and the sheer potential of the volatile situation and we have a place suited for violent insurrection as well as politics on a locale scale - and everything in between. My only gripe would be that I would have loved this to be a full-blown 32-page town-supplement rather than "just" a village. This loses none of its appeal in 5e and may even work better due to more space for the descriptive elements. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Longbridge (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Wellswood (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:01:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Wellswood, so let's take a look!


In this installment of Raging Swan Press' critically acclaimed series, we travel to the village of Wellswood - which is aptly-named: Situated in the midst of a gorgeous forest, the settlement sports numerous wells - both natural ones and those crafted by dwarven hands, for the settlement sports a significant dwarven population, who faithfully serves the local dour and somewhat greedy, but none too unpleasant lord Ilmari Issakainen.


The uncommon occurrence of a forest-bound dwarven clan also results in a surprising amount of fortified stone buildings jutting forth from the massive forest. While secure, the rather significant taxes imposed are not to be trifled with, though merchants and travelers won't have too much of a problem paying them. No less than three inns (all coming with information on accommodation-prices and food) are detailed within these pages, as befitting of a village under the auspice of a church of travelers - which btw. includes a brief deity-write-up. And yes, the domains actually point towards proper 5e-domains. Industry-wise, the local lake with its fishing (requiring permission of the lord...which is, again, taxed) is based mostly on the massive influx of travelers passing through.


Oh, but I've failed to mention the interesting component here: You see, aforementioned lake, much like the hold of the dwarven clan, is subterranean and heavily regulated - though that does not mean that there are no means of getting down there sans the lord knowing...if you know whom to ask. Yes, the subterranean lake actually writes adventures of itself, considering the plethora of potential dangers there and the mere presence of it makes a potentially cataclysmic earthquake all the more dangerous. Plenty of development options are provided here, from the local color (the village sports notes on nomenclature, clothing, etc.) to more massive storylines - after all, there is a reason the dwarves are here - but to know that, you'll have to travel to Wellswood yourself! As a minor complaint, I think tying the unearthing of village lore to an Intelligence check not that elegant; Why not go history, or perhaps allow for the proficiency bonus to be added for dwarves or certain backgrounds? But I am nitpicking at a very high level here.


Conclusion:


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


Creighton Broadhurst's Wellswood is a compelling settlement that manages to strike a precarious balance: On the one hand, it is a pretty pleasant place that, in itself, is not yet an adventure and the lack of a central conflict means that you don't have a streamlined narrative cut out for you. However, unlike many a supplement with such a broad focus, Wellswood still manages to retain a sense of holistic integrity, a feeling of concise options, ready to be explored at any time. From politics to potential threats, whether as just a waystation or as a new home for the PCs, the village manages to support and accommodate threats both significant and trivial. While the supplement does not achieve the highest echelons of the series, it remains an excellent book that does offer a significant, tight array of interesting options for GMs and players to explore and, more importantly, a tight and unique place to visit that loses none of its draw in 5e- hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Wellswood (5e)
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Ultimate Runesmithing
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2016 04:06:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 40 pages of content, provided as a birthday present/commission via Interjection games' patreon for Preston Mitchell...so let's take a look!


The runesmith class, chassis-wise, receives d8 HD, 4+Int mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, all good saves and proficiency with simple weapons as well as light and medium armor. Runesmiths wearing shields increase their inscription costs of all rune activations by +1 inscription point. Furthermore, the methodology employed by the runesmith, chosen at 1st level, influences proficiencies. Calligraphy-users get whip and switchblade knife, runesmiths opting for chiseling gain hammer, warhammer, lucerne hammer and maul; Fingerpainters get Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat; gougers get light and heavy picks and the pickaxe and painters get the starknife and the syringe spear.


In case you haven't got that - yes, we get a new spellcasting system here - runes. These are magical glyphs that need to be charged before each use. A runesmith begins play knowing 3 runes and learns an additional rune at each new runesmith level. Runes fall in one of two categories - equipment or projection. Furthermore, there are generally 4 categories (or levels) of runes: Least, Lesser, Greater, Grandmaster. The first lesser rune known is unlocked at 5th level, the first greater at 11th level and the first grandmaster rune at 17th level.


Equipment runes are inscribed upon gear, indicating the type of gear it applies to. A given piece of gear may carry one such equipment rune and they usually grant a passive bonus. However, when within close range (25 ft + 5 ft./2 levels) of the rune, the runesmith that made it may activate it, granting a short-lived burst of power. Only least equipment runes may be inscribed upon magical items, with more powerful runes interfering with magical objects; equipment inscribed with the like does not gain benefits from spells or SPs or weapon special abilities.


Projection runes work regardless of the object on which they're inscribed and usually are carried around on stones, sketchbooks and the like; they are unusable by anyone other than the runesmith. They have no passive bonus, but may be activated when presented in one hand. The radii of two projections with the same name cannot overlap. Additionally, their activation cost when used the first time each day is 0.


Inscribing runes is somewhat akin to preparing spells - once the allotment of runes available is inscribed, previously potent runes exceeding the limit cease to function. Characters need to be proficient with equipment to gain the benefit of runes inscribed upon it. Runes have an activation time and an activation cost; activation cost is paid with inscription points Activation times vary and runes that can be activated as free, swift or immediate actions do not provoke AoOs. The save DC to resist rune-effects is 10 + 1/2 runesmith levels + Int-mod.


Equipment runes count as magic items for the purpose of interacting with effects that hinder magic, potentially suppressing it and ongoing effects continue to have the duration elapse. Effective caster level is equal to runesmith level and runesmith levels double as CL for the purpose of feat and PrC-qualification. Projection runes are treated as arcane spells, but do not incur arcane spell failure. They may be used defensively and have a school associated counting as spells of 1st, 3rd, 6th and 8th level spells for the purpose of counterspelling/interaction.


The runesmith begins play with an inscription pool equal to class level + Int-mod, which replenishes after 8 hours of consecutive rest. 2nd level provides a bonus equal to half class level to Linguistics and Profession (scribe)-checks. Starting at 3rd level, the runesmith may apply lesser, greater and grandmaster runes to magic items and armors with a +1 enhancement modifier, but all effects on the weapon are suppressed while the rune is applied to it. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, these runes can be attached to progressively better magic items; at 11th level, for example, the runesmith may add these runes to +3 weapons and armor.


Interesting: At 4th level, the runesmith may transform one of his inscribed runes within 30 feet into another rune of the same power level and type he knows as a full-round action that provokes AoOs - this may not sound like much, but it provides some interesting tactical flexibility. At 6th level, the runesmith learns to generate and inscribe a compound rune - two least runes can be inscribed as a lesser rune, with a single activation triggering both. One such rune per day can be made, +1 at 10th and 18th level. Starting at 14th level, the runesmith may combine two lesser runes into a greater rune, but may only have one such rune per day. Finally, as a capstone, the runesmith may combine a least, lesser and greater rune into the equivalent of a grandmaster rune. For these combined rune-tricks, activation cost and time is always equal to the highest of the activation costs and time of the runes involved in generating the compound structure.


9th level provides a luck bonus to saves versus writing-related spells or effects that further increases at 13th level and the class comes with favored class bonuses for the core races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kitsune, kobold, orc, puddling, tiefling, vanara and vishkanya - and these should nt be discounted: Some allow for the stacking of identical runes on equipment or temporary hit points when activating runes as a kind of buffer shield. So yeah, mechanically relevant and creative.


Beyond these, the pdf also features 3 archetypes, the first of which would be the campaigner. The campaigner must take the sigil of the campaigning soldier at first level and always inscribe it in its highest level possible iteration; if objects are drawn from the cloak it is inscribed upon, the campaigner may roll twice. This sigil generates pockets, from which useful things may be drawn - including armor, weapons, medicine, weapons...and no, they can't be sold. At 2nd level, the campaign replaces the skill-bonuses usually gained with The Adventuring Soldier feat. This feat expands aforementioned rune to include a dungeoneering pocket and features 2 temporary inscription points for activation of this rune only. At 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter, the temporary inscriptions thus gained are increased by +1. 6th level provides the follow-up feats The Devout Soldier and The Inquisitive Soldier, which provide access to divine and arcane 1st level spells respectively and increase activation cost of the sigil of the campaigning soldier thus modified by +1. Starting at 10th level, the archetype treats the scrolls thus drawn as though they had the campaigner's full CL and the increased activation cost is eliminated. At 14th level, class ability only upgrades for the pockets containing arcane and divine spells are providing, allowing access to 2nd level spells at 1/2 class level CL and at +1 activation cost. At 18th level, metamagic with a spell-level increase of +1 may be spontaneously applied to scrolls drawn from these pockets for spell level inscription points and an action extended to a full-round action. As a capstone, an oblivion pocket is gained, which may contain multiple powerful random spells.


The Forgemaster archetype gets Knowledge (local) as a class skill and at 2nd level, for every rune class (least, lesser, etc.) he knows, he may inscribe one rune on two items, declaring one a rental, which works just like a regular rune, but may not be activated...until 4th level, when a forgemaster may activate a least rune inscribed and at the same time trigger a single rented rune within 30 ft. of the same type at double activation cost and as a full round action. This ability is unlocked for lesser runes at 8th level, greater runes at 12th level and grandmaster runes at 18th level.


The third archetype would be the projectionist, who only gains projection runes, but gains the Metaprojection Study feat at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. This feat unlocks metamagic feats for which you meet the prerequisites and grants you its benefits to apply them to projection runes, increasing activation action to full-round, but without increasing the rune's level; instead, activation cost increases by a number of points equal to the level increase of the metamagic feat that particular iteration of Metaprojection Study mimics. At 16th level, activation time is no longer extended. Starting at 4th level, the projectionist may forego learning a rune and instead choose a known projection rune with a least variant; when inscribed as a least rune, said rune may thereafter be activated two times for free, not just once. 12th level, lesser runes qualify as well. At 8th level, the projectionist may inscribe a rune and activate it as a lesser type of the same rune, allowing for some flexibility; only the actually inscribed rune qualifies for purposes of the daily free activation(s).


The pdf also features an extensive selection of feats and includes notes on the interaction with arcane spell-modifying feats and the respective runes. A total of 11 feats are covered and I already mentioned a couple of them in the archetype section, since they directly pertain the functionality of the archetypes in question. The feats allow for the DC-increase of runes used in a certain slot, double-inscribe a single item, get more modify runes, learn a least rune or gain two temporary inscription pool points to use in conjunction with a chosen rune. Finally, you may inscribe trickster's calling card as a grandmaster rune - the rune, as a passive benefit, usually allows for the use of a cantrip, an orison and a 1st level spell, with activation replenishing the uses. The feat increases the scope of this sigil.


Equipment runes are compatible with the armor, feet, hands, head, shoulder and weapon item slots. When a rune mentions "all" slots, it refers to these. The runes, in organization, are formatted by rune level and type - we get alphabetic lists for the equipment and projection runes. Beyond that, we also gain a very handy list of runes alphabetically by function; since runes may be inscribed as multiple levels, the respecive write ups denote these with Lt, Lr, Gr and Gm for Least, Lesser, Greater and Grandmaster, respectively. P denotes the passive ability summary, A the activation summary and S for Special any special ability summary. The list also collates the respective slots and the runic lists, once again, distinguish between equipment and projection runes - these only have an E-entry for effect in the list. Now this may sound a bit confusing when I break it down like this, but rest assured, it's not.


Now if the runic system, so far has not evoked this impression from you, rest assured that you will not mistake them for spells; there are, for example, runes that increase your inscription pool. To provide an analogue - this is a bit like a spell increasing your spell slots...and yes, this is actually balanced. The gamut of the effects and their internal scaling is similarly intriguing - higher levels of runes not only escalate numerical benefits, they provide whole new, thematically linked options. When you e.g. activate an inscribed duelist's insignia, a +4 dagger and rapier manifest in your hands. And yes, if you have not gleaned that by now - while passive benefits have a basically infinite duration, active benefits do have an activation duration. And yes, the runes take a lot of cool concepts and don't operate in a vacuum: With the right rune, you can make people capable of operating siege engines as though they had the Siege Engineer feat, for example and via activation, a single character can count as a full crew for reloading purposes. Evader's Deletion provides means to counteract scrying for progressively more powerful items.


Hangman's Assistant also deserves special mention - it makes your cloak capable of being used as a primary natural attack that adds progressively better monster quality abilities pertaining combat maneuvers like trip and constrict as activation benefits. Of course, the usual suspects like skill-enhancers can be found, but, as a huge plus, the pdf takes a cue from the Master of Forms in terms of elemental creativity; you will not find boring cut-copy-paste element-themed options herein; instead, elemental themes, when featured, come with unique benefits, with Hoarfrost Emblem inscribed weapons reducing the movement speed of creatures struck by the weapon it is inscribed upon. This should not be taken as an indicator that resistances or elemental bonus damage cannot be found, mind you; but it does mean that, upon activation, an electricity-enhanced weapon generates arcs of lightning upon striking a foe for the first time each round. Using the Exodus Rune to teleport unattended objects as a lesser effect from an entry to an exit area may be nice; at higher rune levels, you can do the portal trick instead, though! If you've been thinking that the quasi-Norse theme often associated with runes seems to be missing, let me counter that with the assertion that AoE-designation of areas as halls wherein speaking lies is prohibited or that structures may be erected from the very ground - yes, potentially with permanency option.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports copious amounts of thematically fitting stock art. The pdf features bookmarks for the chapters and tables (for e.g. the robe of many-things-like runes), but not to the individual runes.


It is pretty hard to convey the fascination this system has provided for me; you see, the runesmith, make no mistake, is a caster; yes; but at the same time, the class obviously has a completely different feeling than just about all casters I know. Similarly, it is easy to see the appeal regarding an utility/tools character, but that would not take the magical capabilities into account. The appeal it has also does not lie within the engine, for while it like the mechanical framework underlying these guys, it is not my favorite of Brad's engines.


The best picture to exemplify what these guys do I can come up with is that of the rune-savvy skald (not the PFRPG class) in literature; the rune-casting Pict banishing the giant golden slug-thing in Conan (kudos if you know that one!), the soldier who knows some magical runes in a magical quartermaster-style way; the wise and mystical philosopher-calligrapher in a WuXia-setting or the primitive runecaster in a savage culture - runesmithing represents all of these and does a better job at that task. Better yet, the framework and how it works is really simple. The system itself is complex and allows for great tricks, but as for difficulty to play and build, the runesmithing options here are easy to grasp and implement, easier to grasp than e.g. the kineticist, if you need a direct comparison. Runesmithing makes sense in a traditional fantasy context as well as in a more savage or sword and sorcery-esque scenario.


That still does not properly enunciate what I love about this class: Runesmiths are a trickster's option; an utility (or blasting) option...and they have a very unique feeling. After digesting and testing the options herein, this pdf did not only leave me with the wish to implement the content in my notoriously hard to get in main campaign; it actually made me come up with campaign ideas that focused on it as the primarily available means of performing magic for the PCs. Whether it's one set in a medieval/stone-age period of our own world, a savage trip through hyperborean realms of ice or early Malazan-like struggles of elite units in a war in a fantastic world - runesmithing, as a system, feels like it could carry a setting. The expansion potential for new runes and tweaks of the system is huge and I do believe that crossovers with e.g. truenamers or similar more caster-y spellcasters would actually work...but for now, I'm content. This book seems to be pretty successful and Bradley Crouch has been consistent in his class support for the classes that have an extended audience. In this case, this is excellent news, for the whole concept of runesmithing as present here has nigh infinite expansion options on its own. Similarly, no or rare magic (items) campaigns could easily use the framework posited here and modify/scavenge it to replace magic items in a world that simply doesn't have as much and somewhat mitigate the issue of PFRPG's math falling apart without them.


So yes, runesmithing works impressively smooth, is pretty easy to grasp and has a ton of potential... and I'll put a campaign using these instead of more traditional types up magic up for a vote when we decide on the next main campaign to run. That's a pretty huge deal. This is a truly inspiring little book and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval as well as being nominated as a candidate for my top ten of 2016.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Runesmithing
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Addendum: Shape Shifting (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2016 04:04:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Addendum-series for DICELESS roleplaying clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Shape shifting is contextualized as a power that is neither wholly of the Eidolon, nor of the Umbra; instead, it is an oscillating power of change in between and for this reason, mastery of either and shape shifting are a volatile combination, but more on that later.


Structure-wise, shape shifting is tiered in 4 levels: Lesser Shape Shifting (15 pts.), Shape Shifting (35 pts.), Advanced Shape Shifting (65 pts.) and Exalted Shape Shifting (85 pts.). Generally, shape shifting has limits - characters must assume shapes of at least animal intelligence - no rocks, grass or the like and the form needs to be substantial for all but exalted shape shifters - no ethereal, smoky, cloudy or the like forms for all but the masters of this ability. One crucial point pertaining shapeshifting would be the respective limits imposed by the Gossamer Reality: A dragon's form in one world may easily be airborne and breathe fire, whereas in another, dragons would be unable to fly and perhaps emit acid. External anatomy like wings, generally can be reproduced via shapeshifting sans hassle, but internal structures like poison sacks, levitation organs or the like may well pose insurmountable tasks for the shape shifter. Similarly, the abilities potentially gained may well turn out to be rather taxing on Endurance of Psyche. Clothes and items worn when shifting are usually dropped or destroyed, though artifacts may be designed to accommodate shape shifter. Speaking of items - the pdf does cover the interaction of items with the respective shape shifting power.


Lesser changes can be done quickly in a few seconds, while musculoskeletal rearrangement and profound physiological or psychological changes may require a couple of minutes. One form is designated as the favored form - reversal to this form takes less than a minute.


Shape shifting, as mentioned, is exhausting - an endurance rank of average means that one change is exhausting, while paragons can shape change sans limits. A shape changer also usually keeps a distinguishing mark that sets the creature apart as the shape changer - basically a tell like a streak of white hair, a birthmark or the like. The more powerful a creature whose shape is assumed, the more risky the process becomes, for shape shifting always may affect the core identity of the character - turning into a Mythos-monstrosity, for example, may change the psychology so radically, that the new assumed identity tries to subvert the dominant personality of the shape shifter. Similarly, intense physical trauma may lock a character in a given shape and require tools like the True Name or similar tricks to allow the character to regain his form...and abilities. Finally, overuse may result, particularly when combined with the forces of Eidolon and Umbra in power rejection, which can have rather unpleasant consequences.


Now, what type of shape shifting do the respective tiers of the power convey? Well, more precise timeframes and ramifications for the respective concepts mentioned are depicted in the respective entries for the shape shifting powers and the pdf does mention the limits - lesser shape shifters already may assume hybrid forms, though generally, they are locked into one alternate form; real shape shifters may instead learn a plethora of forms, disguising and impromptu shape shifting, providing a significant upgrade in flexibility - think of that step up a akin to the comparison between a werewolf and a full-blown doppelgänger, including limited control over healing, instinctual shape shifting.


Advanced shape shifters may use their power to become something more than they were; a quasi-avatar of Eidolon or Umbra...or a living icon of themselves, becoming a kind of avatar of the idealized self. It should be noted that brief suggestions for the potential of use with blessings/curses and similar variant powers are provided and deemed appropriate at this power-level. Aura change, internal reconfiguration and size-change are cool, but beyond that, blood may be formed into tiny creatures to be commanded like spiders or birds and severed limbs may move autonomously from the shape shifter.


At the level of the exalted shape shifter, endurance and psyche retain their dominance, but the other attributes become more important as well - this level of mastery allows for the transformation in whole flocks of beings, regeneration, assuming a composition of an element or state of matter (like fluids or gasses) and better shape change as well as permanent transformation is very much possible here.


The pdf does mention the interaction of shape shifting with other powers like being a warden of the grand stair, wrighting or invocations and does note 4 canonical characters that are assumed to have shapeshifting when these rules are used.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed an odd line-break and minor hiccups, nothing grievous in the glitch section. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard used for LoGaS-supplements and the pdf has several pieces of absolutely gorgeous artworks - the cover artwork, just fyi, is weaker than several pieces of interior artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Jason Durall's addendum on shape shifting takes one of the big blank spots in Amber's old array and fills it in with a concisely codified take on shape shifting that thankfully does not enter the territory of being restrictive. Instead, this pdf can be imagined as a kind of enabler, as it should be for the context of the high-imagination LoGaS framework. If there is anything to complain about, then that would be that the shape shifting herein does not necessarily explain the slightly related abilities Umbra practitioners could use and should be considered to supersede those fringe-cases. Still, this is just me grasping for straws to critique something. Overall, this expansion is precise, lacks any glaring glitches or holes I could find and represents a neat expansion for the LoGaS-multiverse. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Addendum: Shape Shifting (Diceless)
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Legendary Classes: Eternal Mage
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2016 04:00:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is this eternal mage guy? The class gets d6 HD, 2+Int mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing armor (and gain no proficiencies there). They also get 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves - so, we have the classic full caster chassis, right?


Kind of. Spellcasting is radically different. Eternal mages draw their spells from the wizard spell list and are spontaneous casters - as such, Charisma is their governing attribute for spellcasting. An eternal mage begins play knowing 4 0-level spells and 2 1st level spells. Additional spells are exclusively gained via level progression and caps at 5 1st and 2nd level spells, 4 3rd, 4th and 5th level spells and 3 spells of the remaining levels. Unlike other spellcasters, high attributes do NOT provide bonus spells known. At 4th level and every even level thereafter, an eternal mage may replace a spell known with another of equal level, imposing a hard cap on retraining as well.


Now here's the thing: No spell slots, no spells prepared - eternal mages instead have a balancing mechanic called eldritch burnout: When using a spell or spell-like ability of 1st level from ANY class they possess (yes, ANY class!), they gain a number of eldritch burnout points equal to the spell's level. For every such point they possess, eternal mages take a cumulative -1 to their caster level for ALL spellcasting abilities they may possess, including SPs. For every 2 points of eldritch burnout, the DCs of all spells and SPs decreases by 1. At the end of each round an eternal mage suffers from eldritch burnout, he recovers 1 point of eldritch burnout. Eternal mages reduced to 0 caster level via eldritch burnout can't cast spells or SPs, but they still can cast cantrips.


Additionally, an eternal mage has a harsh further limit imposed on spellcasting: They may only maintain one non-instantaneous or permanent spell at any given time, with new castings potentially immediately ending the previous effect. At 7th and 14th level, this limit is improved by +1 effect in place at a given time. At 1st level, the eternal mage also chooses 3 schools: Abjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation - they may only learn spells of the universal school or the three schools thus chosen. So, that would be the limits imposed on the basic framework of infinite casting. An additional school is unlocked at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.


Starting at 2nd level, the class gets arcane overdrive points equal to Charisma modifier + 1/2 level. (I am pretty confident that this should be eternal mage level and not general class level.) As a free action, the eternal mage may spend up to 1/2 class level of these points to ignore an equal amount of eldritch burnout incurred and when this reduces eldritch burnout to 0, the class instead regains 1 point of eldritch burnout. At 13th level, the eternal mage may mitigate 2 points of eldritch burnout per overdrive point expended. At 19th level, whenever such a point if used to reduce the amount of eldritch burn incurred, the eternal mage may freely add the "empowered, extended or persistent metamagic feat to it", which is a slight formatting/rules-language hiccup.


This pool refreshes after resting and also acts as the resource for eternal secrets, the first of which is gained at 3rd level. Unless otherwise noted, an eternal secret's activation is a free action and save DCs, where applicable, are equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod. As a minor formal nitpick: New eldritch secrets are gained every 3 levels thereafter, a sentence absent from the text, but evident from the table. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 40 such eternal secrets are provided. They range from gaining a familiar to being capable of spending overdrive points to increase the reality of a given spell...and if you want to go metamagic, you will need to do so via eternal secrets as well. Some overlap with an arcanist's counterspelling prowess can also be found herein and the secrets also allow blasting specialists to ignore certain amounts of energy resistance. t should also be noted that the class features a pseudo warlock blast tree, with progressively more potent shapes, allowing for the expenditure of overdrive points to generate unytped arcane energy blasts. The secrets also contain means to reduce eldritch burnout gained by 1. There also is a means to cause foes nearby to gain eldritch burnout as a standard action, recovering 1/2 the target's HD worth of eldritch burnout - smart, since that renders the ability scaling, kitten-proof and while I am not 100% comfortable with the 9th level move action variety, I can see why it's there.


Starting at 4th level and again at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the eldritch burnout is decreased by 1; in the case of a reduction to 0, the character recovers from 1 eldritch burnout at the end of his round


To sum it up - with eternal secrets, the spellcasting utilizes a cooldown period that can be modified/mitigated by a static, non-replenishing resource as a balance-mechanism. Starting at 6th level, the class gets an experimental spell -basically a spell wild card of any level except the highest level they can cast, which can be changed upon resting. Said spell increases burnout by 1, though- At 11th level the spell may belong to the highest level they can cast, but burnout increases by a further 1 in such a case. 17th level unlocks a second experimental spell.


As a capstone, the class may ignore the effects of eldritch burnout of up to 20 points, basically delimiting the caster level and DC decay of the class.


The pdf also features archetypes, the first of which would be the artillery expert, who would be the specialist for the untyped blasts I mentioned before. Instead of requiring the secret, they gain a modified version for free, with higher levels focusing the modifications of overdrive to instead enhance the respective blasting capacity. The second archetype is the dead eternal, who must choose necromancy and may select witch hexes as eternal secrets and with aracen artillery, the class can gain a specialized combo-secret that adds lesser artillery damage to the effects of hexes and the capstone providing not 1, but 2 grand hexes. The master specialist gains only 2 schools instead of 3, but gains +1 spell from the specialty schools at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 6th level providing the arcane school secret instead of the eternal secret at that level. Imho, this one may be slightly too powerful, considering that the archetype still learns additional schools at higher levels.


As has become the tradition with Purple Duck Games, the book contains a TON of favored class options, not only for the core races and the planar ones, but also for the variable and diverse cast that populates Porphyra. It should also be noted that these generally don't consist of the cookie-cutter variety...so yeah, kudos.


The pdf concludes with Alain Marcus, a sample 1st level eternal mage.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed some very minor hiccups here and tehre, though they do not influence the tight rules-language employed. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover. It should be noted that the pages are A5-sized (6'' by 9''), making this the briefest Legendary Classes installment so far. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Let me come clear from the get-go: The very concept of N. Jolly's eternal mage is something I loathe as a person. NOT because I am against infinite casters; far from it; but because the very framework of using spells in an infinite capacity is not something the system was built for; spells vary greatly in power and from AoE-damage to hard terrain control and debuffs, the game-changer effects in battles are usually this powerful because they are restricted. Beyond that, a world in which any type of infinite casting is possible radically changes dynamics; whether it's teleport-couriers, whole battalions of unerring magic missile firing mages or endless summoners who just replace their squashed minions. I don't want to play in such a game world; I don't want to GM it. It's quite literally one of the things that made me settle on Pathfinder as opposed to other systems. It doesn't fit with my personal aesthetics and it is the reason all the infinite or nigh-infinite casters I use are severely restricted regarding hard crowd control and the like.


THAT BEING SAID, I also really admire this framework. The talent of the designer is clearly evident in this class, with the restrictions and cool-down mechanic in game working surprisingly smoothly; while you can spam the same spell over and over if you make the build that way, it is regulated and discouraged, at least at low levels. If anything, I was surprised to see how well the class works at low levels, how smooth the cooldown-engine runs and how exceedingly important that reservoir becomes very quickly. I was also positively surprised to see the class not coming out as something broken in the classic definition of the word. While many of its drawbacks can somewhat be mitigated by sufficient spells in a can, it is nevertheless really impressive from a design-aesthetic point of view to see the class take a system designed as a limited resource and generating a complex framework that is basically infinite. I thought long and hard, and it is my fervent belief that this is probably as close to how you can make spells infinite as you can without breaking the game; this does not change the fact that the class is, system-immanently, built upon a wobbly foundation regarding spells and their power-curve. This does not change the fact that the introduction of these guys in a given world represents a paradigm-shift that modifies completely how the world works.


And this is where the pdf laves me torn like crazy; on the one hand, I, as a person, absolutely LOATHE the repercussions of this class; I'm into the nit and grit, believable worlds, internal logic, that sort of thing. On the other hand, I consider the engine of the class, even when I disagree in quite a few instances regarding the power of options (untyped damage, too much eldritch burnout reduction for my tastes, too many schools gained...) a thing of beauty; you see, if I wanted a less powerful eternal mage in my game, I could easily tinker with the engine and make a less powerful version of it. If the notion of casting infinite spells and the repercussions for the game world would intrigue me, I'd do just that. It's honestly no rocket science and dead simple...which bespeaks the quality of the engine employed.


Now, as far as rating this, I picture this as one of the instance where I can't possibly encompass all of my audience: On the one hand, conservative and simulationalist gamers will loathe the living hell out of this class. I do. On the other hand, I am absolutely positive that there is a significant amount of people who don't care about the minor peculiarities of in-game logic or just want to go full-blown high fantasy..or simply wanted an exhaustion-style caster. These folks will probably love the eternal mage to bits and consider me a spoil-sport of epic proportions for harping on "unimportant" details when the class works surprisingly well.


Usually, I'd thus settle on the middle ground considering an oscillation of these proportions; however, considering that the very notion, if its consequences appall you as much as they do me, you already know to steer clear of this guy. Which leaves the "like the idea"-crowd...and for you ladies and gentlemen, this class will be fun indeed; while pretty strong in its default iteration, a halfway competent GM can potentially nerf it without any hassle by restricting schools, decreasing burnout mitigation options or simply adding a damage-type to the blasts. As a reviewer, I have to take that into account...as well as the fact that, while built on a foundation on sand called spells, the class remains surprisingly stable; as long as the GM takes close stock on how unlimited (with a cooldown) availability of a spell will change his game, I can see this class delivering fun moments in games that enjoy the concept. While it will never ever get even close to my home-game, the class thus deserves a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Classes: Eternal Mage
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Village Backdrop: White Moon Cove (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2016 03:59:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of White Moon Cove, so let's take a look!


White Moon Cove is essentially a moderately wealthy coastal town governed by a council and features a list of 9 notable NPCs, settlement stats and a list of 8 notable locations. The town features an ex-paladin drunkard knowledgeable about Sahuagin, a brothel hidden behind a fishmonger (imagine the smell - ew!) and information on general villager-dress and mannerisms. The whispers and rumors-section this time around is a bit on the short side, with only 4 entries -these can be unearthed, as always, with a DC 10 Charisma check. Similarly, lore can be unearthed via Intelligence checks, though the highest DC at 20 is pretty steep for my tastes - it nets the information pertaining the fishmonger/brothel and could imho benefit from being lower for certain classes or backgrounds.


The pdf features 2 pages of notable locations, though, and they are going into exquisite details on e.g. the amorous advances of a local trader to a notorious female captain - who might make for a good candidate for a lesbian relationship, which is implied in the subtext via her first mate. Tavern, chapel and fishmonger/brothel make for more places to check out, as does the local lighthouse.


The final page covers trade, law & order, 4 sample events, stats for fishermen and more information on another interesting local character.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the cartography is excellent. Artworks are nice b/w-pieces. The pdf is fully and extensively bookmarked and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.


This village is interesting - in contrast to other installments, White Moon Cove is not interesting due to some cultural peculiarities, but due to something different: Author Marc Radle has crafted a village that is captivating not via its location or culture - for there's honestly not that much here - but via its inhabitants, via its set-up. As a fisher village with some nice potential for adventures and further support coming up, I can easily recommend this pdf for its low price at a final verdict of 5 stars. One more thing: Raging Swan Press has this criminally underrated aquatic module wherein the PCs embark from White Moon Cove to explore a Sunken Pyramid, infested with sahuagin and their unique culture. This module ranks as the best take on them since the Monstrous Arcana trilogy in the AD&D days of old - if this sells well, we might actually get the module for 5e...so yeah, another good reason to get this.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: White Moon Cove (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Thornhill (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2016 03:57:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Thornhill, so let's take a look!


The village of Thornhill is situated at the border of a vast marsh, to be more precise on an island encircled by deep, sluggish waters and surrounded by an ancient, yet formidable stockade of old timbers - the only access point to the village being one bridge. At least without access to boats!


We get 8 short entries of notable folks, describing the dramatis personae of the village before we're introduced to 10 notable locations in the village. It should be noted that a lizardfolk shaman living at a nearby island is considered to be a part of the village as well as a guardian of what the lizardfolk consider to be a holy site. On a nitpicky side, village lore DCs span 10, 15 and 20 and are based on Intelligence checks, which renders the highest DC pretty high - tying that to a proper Int-based skill may have been prudent re proficiency.


To add further color to the dreary place, we also get a table of 6 rumors, which PCs can unearth via Charisma checks. The pdf includes a general primer on how the people look like (including nomenclature) and some pieces of local lore on the village before we are introduced to more detailed descriptions of the 10 notable locations of the village.


Unlike in the PFRPG-version, we get no sample statblocks herein - instead, the pdf has been fitted with additional information pertaining a curious local paste, events for the aforementioned isle and its surroundings, etc.. Beyond these, we get short entries on trade & industry and law & order as well as 6 different events.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed that the classes tend to be bolded, but there are exceptions to this rule to be found herein. Layout adheres to the crisp b/w-2-column presentation we're by now accustomed to and the pdf comes with two versions - one for printing and one for screen-use. Both pdfs are fully bookmarked.


All right, first of all, I feel obliged to note that this is a perfect example of concise writing - with just a couple of sentences, the village's descriptions manage to evoke a sense of backwardness, desolation, decrepitude and forlornness. Thornhill is a harsh place and one that may erode the minds of those unwilling or incapable of bearing the hard life there. The subtle winks and nods towards the ever-present threats of the nearby swamp, via lizardfolk etc., could be easily used by a halfway-decent GM to create an Innsmouth-type of scenario and I think that is exactly what I'll do.


A (very) minor issue the pdf may potentially have at your table is, that if you have already used a lot of 3pp-material, you may have encountered the map of the place before...but that's about it regarding my gripes with this one. Creighton Broadhurst's Thornhill remains a great, if not pleasant place you will want to inflict on your players. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Thornhill (5e)
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Call to Arms: Javelins and Throwing Spears
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2016 04:53:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a fluffy introduction, we dive right into a brief history of the javelin and similar throwing spears and their use throughout history, acting as complimentary means of softening up the foe or for skirmish tactics; following these observations, we distinguish between light and heavy javelins, with light javelins being designated as the standard as depicted in PFRPG; and just because javelins were auxiliary weapons in real life does not mean they have to be that in PFRPG - thus, we begin with new special weapon qualities to apply to the weapons and make them more desirable; durable weapons are, for example, not destroyed when an effect of their use would annihilate them (like a successful attack with a pilum) and have more hit points. The weapons thus don't break and make, in spite of doubled costs, more sense from an adventuring point of view and brings the weapon type closer to the ammunition-based weapons in terms of upkeep costs.


On the other side and mutually exclusive to that, pliant weapons are destroyed and thus can't be thrown back at the user...and they cost less. Lightweight weapons increase their range increments by a factor of 1.5, but at the cost of -1 damage, while weighted weapons can be pictured as the javelin-answer to composite bows, with specific Strength-ratings in mind; the higher these are set, the more damage the spear causes...but the shorter its range becomes. Strength rating also doubles as a Strength modifier prerequisite, in case that was a bit opaque. These two, obviously, are also mutually exclusive. EDIT: As one of my readers had this question: weighted javelins and their Strength-rating add up to the rating beyond the usual bonus added; think of it as a composite bow-like effect added atop thrown weapons, simulating their greater penetrative power. Finally, weapons can be modified to be standardized, which means that qualities like pliant or durable are negated and weapons that usually break on impact no longer do so.


Now one crucial problem for the javelin lies in its enchantment - either go returning or the one-use option - both have issues and the pdf seeks to handle these via weapon special abilities - a total of 5 such abilities are provided and they include a ricochet enchantment at +3 and the pretty crucial recursive ability that teleports the weapon in question back into the user's hand, allowing for iterative attacks...but at a cost of +2, as opposed to returning's +1. Routing weapons can cause the targets to become shaken and, fret not, staggering weapons do not cause the condition of the same name; instead, they are effective versus charges and can force targets hit to move. Still, why call it like a condition that is an established rules-term? Odd. Unbalancing weapons, finally, penalize AC and CMD temporarily - and all in all, I like this section. It emphasizes the skirmishing aspects and while it does not perfectly solve the issues with javelins, it at least makes them more viable and in tune with their themes.


The pdf also features specific weapons that range from 166 gp for +1 dragon bane pliant javelins to 128K in price range. The weapons featured include falarica and yes, weapon table wise, the book collates and expands types of weapons to include soliferrums, foe-piercing angons, shatterlances you can use to deliver poisons or incendiary material - and concept-wise, these are cool: There would be, for example, the immovable angon, adamantine-barbed, that keeps bleeding the target unless it removed; however, the rules-language becomes a bit odd, mentioning "anchored" and "transfixed" but sans specifying how that is supposed to work; the base angon mentions "brutally pierced", but neither of the two key-words...so no idea how exactly that one's supposed to work. Is this supposed to require the new feat to transfix foes? Pretty unique: There are javelins that sap movement speed and convey it to the wielder. Also really cool: Phalanx End Pilums can negate shields and ricochet to deny more creatures the bonus conveyed by their shields. A hellish falarica is nice...but the weapon players will HATE is rustfang: Upon impact, it generates a cloud of rusty dust that quickly corrodes metal. VERY cool. Crystalline spears that can burst asunder to hit nearby targets also are pretty cool.


As has become the tradition with the series, we also get cursed items (which I won't spoil here) as well as a powerful intelligent item that may drain its victims of situational awareness, confusing the target and it also can call forth a powerful ally when the wielder commands an army/force. Otherwise, the weapon is a decent commander...though I wished it actually also had notes for use with Ultimate Campaign's mass combat rules...but I'm nitpicking here. The mythic godlance quiver can be compelled to create powerful javelins by feeding it with mythic power and the artifact starpierce...has no range increment. Trailing a comet's fire, it can LITERALLY be thrown from planet to plant, across continents...awesome. Oh, and the wielder may join the spear on its flight. Now this may well be my favorite artifact in the whole line so far: I can definitely see someone consulting an astronomer to find the exact angle to throw the spear to get to the moon/other planet. Or what about a powerful invader, coming down with the weapon? So damn cool!


The pdf also provides 8 new feats for use in conjunction with javelins: Better defenses when foes try to sunder your shield, better throwing of weighed javelins, use in melee sans penalty...pretty nice. I'm weary of Priming Volley: Rendering a foe hit by a ranged weapon flat-footed for your follow-up melee attack is pretty strong...but not to the point where the feat on its own is problematic. Ranged weapon sunder attempts at twice the range penalty make sense to me and a great way to make these thrown weapons more feasible. Transfixing shots that entangle foes hit with a quasi-maneuver can be found here as well alongside two-handed throwing. The pdf also features the throwing spears weapon group and a new ranger and skirmisher style for the javelins - both interesting and with their own leitmotifs and themes...kudos for not just duplicating the styles for the classes.


The pdf also features 3 archetypes: The Peltast fighter would be first and...surprisingly, I have nothing to complain here - with low level Shot on the Run access, an emphasis on skirmishing and movement and some soft target control, it's a viable, nice archetype. The Jinete cavalier replaces cavalier's charge melee focus with an emphasis on throwing and the means to hamper enemy movement as well as high-level circle charges sans approaching the enemy for the quintessential old-school version of run and gun. Overall, a solid javelin specialist. Finally, the almogavar ranger gets no animals, but he becomes the ranged/melee-combo guerrilla fighter. That is the least complex of the archetypes and perhaps the one that could have used some additional unique tricks.


Now some of the best things that came of the Call to Arms-series are optional rules, so how does that chapter fare here? Well, for one, the pdf introduces bracing for javelins, which makes sense to me- Sold, will use.In campaigns with plenty of flying creatures, the optional rule to use javelins to severely restrict their flight capacity is welcome and provides some cinematic moments...oh, and the look on a player's face is priceless, when their cool pegasus mount's shot out of the air...while they're still on it. Sure, I will user a finer-grained mechanic that assumes that creatures of a certain size require siege weapons to have a chance to be shot down...but yeah. The pdf acknowledges and encourages tweaking like this. The final rule is based on a tactic of my Frankish ancestors - throwing a weapon at a shield and then crashing into it to displace it (or cripple foes). Kudos for actually knowing that one.


The pdf goes one step further, though: Two new army resources and 4 new tactics are presented for use with mass combat (YAY!!) and we also get 6 premade armies for our perusal - NICE!!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good and representative of Fat Goblin Games "new" era - i.e. both formal and rules-criteria are sufficiently detailed. While here and there I would have liked a bonus to by typed instead of untyped and the aforementioned glitch in an item persists, there is not much to complain. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard established for the series and the pdf features some solid, mostly stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.


Unless I am sorely mistaken, this is the first pdf penned by Matt Roth I have had the pleasure to review; and it indeed was a pleasure. I am not sure how much of this is due to the capable dev hands of Lucus Palosaari, but I do know that the result is impressive. While the book is not perfect, it is an excellent addition to the game and elevates from being a thoroughly poor choice to working as a flavorful option, particularly when used in conjunction with the optional rules mentioned.


How to rate this, then? You see, here it becomes a bit more difficult. The pdf, as well made as it is, imho could have done a bit more to make the use of disposable throwing weapons more viable - a couple of enhancing quivers or the like could have gone a long way. That being said, this is still a very good file and deserves a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Javelins and Throwing Spears
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