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Urban Dressing: Mining Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:14:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First: What do I mean by "new" Urban Dressing? Well, the first run of the series had a certain hit-and-miss quality; It endeavored to take components of the city and use the Dressing-formula to depict them. Alas, cities are complex and organic and the success not always guaranteed. Then, with a certain pirate town, the series changed - away from describing a single component (like a park/temple etc. and failing to take some moving bit or another into account), instead focusing on a general theme and the means for the DM to evoke this theme. This, then would be the second of these new Urban Dressings.



We kick off this UD with a massive, 100-entry-strong table of sights and sounds - from taskmaster's whips a-crackin' to prostitutes, desolate picks and wheel marks embedded deep in the mud, to essentially miner gangs/factions or just singing people - there is a lot to see and embellish here.



Now the business-section deserves special mention in this file -a total of 50 different entries can be found herein and range from guild halls to shoemakers and drug dens to even people where you can buy bad luck and curses to get rid of your rivals and foes - and yes, the latter example just screams murder-investigation to me and immediately made me come up with a complex module.



Now if you're like me, there is one thing annoying about designing settlements - the non-story-relevant NPCs. You know, the guys that have a name and look only so that your plot points don't stick out like sore thumbs. Well, this pdf provides a total of 50 short fluffy descriptions of sample characters, with suggested alignment/class/race info in brackets. Why do I consider that awesome? Because, apart from making the world more dynamic and believable, it helps add a sense of momentum to the game - what may just have been a note may resonate with your players, resulting in extensive development of such a sketch and adventures beyond that - and this organic growth is what makes a town come to life. It does help that the characters here run the gamut from bitter, old crones with a slight magical aptitude to philanthropic ladies of the elven aristocracy. Two thumbs up!



The final page, then, covers different complications, which range from eerie green mist rising from the ground to cave-ins, mysterious perpetrators breaking every piece of mining equipment in town to gas explosions and troll/bugbear bouncers/suppression tools - each of these is varied and should at least be able to spark one full session of adventuring, perhaps even more. They also run the gamut from relatively common to weird and span thus a range for various playstyles.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w-stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.



Josh Vogt's Mining Towns are in one word, awesome. The plethora of local color one can add via this pdf to any mining town is impressive, diverse and just smells of grime, dust and hard work - and I love it! This is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval for its creativity and diversity.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Mining Town
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Location Guides: The Pirate Haven of Blackrock
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:12:12
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This location guide clocks n at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So...another pirate town. Blackrock comes with a full-blown settlement statblock -situated at the island of Korte, Blackrock is now ruled by the pirate-queen Cassandra, a pirate haven spawned from necessity and since then, turned into a thriving village - complete with nice cartography, provided as a b/w-version with keys for the DM and in a full-color hand-out version sans keys for the players. It should be noted that the map is isometric, providing some nostalgia for guys like me. The city and its small, walled harbor is encircled by fortifications and thus looks somewhat cramped.



The numerous notable locations provide various hooks for players to pursue - from fortified alehouses to Cassandra's ship to shops, there is quite a lot going on in the town. Fortune-seekers will definitely not lack for employment. and the general break-down of the location into different quarters helps navigate the pdf. There is something that sets the town apart from similar supplements, though - the hooks. The pdf provides, beyond the inspiration that may be drawn from the writing, extremely detailed hooks that go beyond what a hook usually does. The basic concept is presented along-side a skeletal outline of the things to happen - with complications and further adventuring possibilities, the supplement goes above and beyond in that regard. Oh, and the hooks are pretty versatile - from poisoned prostitutes to stolen light-house-powering stones to delivering something important to the bank and have it heisted away, the hooks are surprisingly neat and the level of detail they provide can be considered exemplary.



Beyond crime and punishment, an extensive table of food and prices and hooks for nearby ruins, the pdf provides quite a few nice details for the DM to develop. Aforementioned pirate queen, receives a full-blown, detailed NPC-write-up and beyond that, a total of no less 7 statblocks for more generic, nameless NPCs provides further fodder.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed minor glitches here and there. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' printer-friendly two-column standard in full color and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Cartography is nice as well, though the maps look a bit blurry in my version, as does the cover-artwork, The DM-map is abit too jumbled - the numbers with their white backgrounds obscure the drawing and make making out where the places are supposed to be slightly harder than it ought to be.



I feel like an utter prick. Darren W. Pearce and Gillian M. Pearce, supported by the statblocks by Carlos Ovalle and Mike Welham, have created a compelling, cool pirate town full of hooks and local color, a place that delivers what one expects. And still, I can't find it in me to like this supplement. Perhaps it's due to me having read too many Pirate-themed settlements - between a certain village backdrop, Port Shaw, Freeport, Skull & Shackles etc., I may simply be burned out on pirate towns. Perhaps I'm too jaded and need some unique angle to make me excited. I don't know. This location guide, with its more than fair, low price-point, delivers all you could expect from such a book.



And after some contemplation, I realized something - I've been utterly, completely spoiled by Raging Swan Press' settlement books. In direct comparison, this pdf has no nomenclature, marketplace, rumor-section, events, sights, sounds and smells - the place just lacks the extreme level of detail that helps DMs make a place come alive. A couple of years before, this pdf would have probably blown my mind, but using so many Village Backdrops or glorious towns like Wolverton has utterly spoiled me on a formal level. Make no mistake, Blackrock is a great place and it is NOT lacking in detail - but the little pieces of local color, the extreme attention to detail is just not there - much like many a Paizo-book, this is a potentially inspiring gazetteer full of nice information, yes. But it lacks this additional oomph that makes Raging Swan's settlements come to life and has the unpleasant handicap of covering a topic that has been thoroughly covered by superb, bigger supplements in a level of detail, it can, by virtue of its length, not perfectly compete with. Blackrock is a great settlement and if you don't have Razor Coast or Freeport, or if you need an additional pirate settlement - you probably won't be disappointed.



That being said, I can't explain properly why, but this pdf just didn't click with me - there simply is no leitmotif beyond the pirate-angle that sets this one apart for me. I am aware that this probably is the 13th age/pirate-fan in me talking, but some cultural peculiarity, racial tension, uncommon architecture - anything weird to make this town more distinct and it would leave much more of an impression. Now as a private person, this supplement, in spite of its excellent bang-for-buck-ratio, left me cold. For me as a person, this is a 3 star file. As a reviewer, though, I have to abstract (or at least try it!) said jadedness - and it may very well be that you, dear reader, are not that jaded, that you're looking for an inexpensive, nice pirate town - then this would be just what the doctor ordered. For you, this may even be a 4.5 star file. Hence, my final verdict will clock in between the two - at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars due to in dubio pro reo and me taking my own situation into account.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Location Guides: The Pirate Haven of Blackrock
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Path of War
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2014 04:25:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final version of the first Path of War book clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 160 pages of content, so let's take a look!



A short lesson in history: Back in the 3.X-days, there was one particular book that divided the fans of D&D like few before - the "Tome of Battle", more commonly known as the "Book of 9 Swords", henceforth abbreviated Bo9S. This book took martial characters and provided choices for them - somewhat akin to spellcasting, with the target goal of making them more interesting. And the book at once succeeded and failed spectacularly. Why? Well, first of all, the respective disciplines of martial traditions were not properly balanced among each other. Secondly, the book utilized per-encounter mechanics, which broke in-game immersion and logic in ways most obtrusive. Thirdly, the mechanics, while innovative, utilized a whole array of options that could easily be broken without even trying. It happened by accident once in my game. The mechanic to regain maneuvers of two of the classes was sub-optimal to say the least. So, after some trepidation and a unanimous vote, my group banned the book.



Fast forward to 2013/14 -Dreamscarred Press releases the first supplements of Path of War, the spiritual successor to Bo9S, and after a highly controversial review, actually listens and includes improvements - but how many? Well, let's check this one out!



In case you're not familiar with the basic premise of PoW - the supernatural, extraordinary and spell-like special tricks these classes may execute, their "spells", if you will, would be called maneuvers. Each character has a so-called initiator-level, which, much like a caster-level, influences the power of many of the options herein. Maneuvers are grouped in different categories: Stances offer passive benefits and can be maintained indefinitely - unlike all the other maneuver types, which would be strikes, boosts and counters. The names of these categories are pretty self-explanatory, but for completeness' sake: Boosts provide benefits, buffs if you will. Counters can usually be initiated as immediate actions to react to foes/actions. Strikes would be the active, in your face attacks.



Maneuvers are grouped in different levels, ranging from 1 - 9, and in disciplines, which can be considered schools. Each martial class receives a certain list of available disciplines to choose their maneuvers from and has its own way of replenishing maneuvers.



In my reviews of the constituent pdfs, I have analyzed the respective 3 base classes Stalker, Warlord and Warder in detail, hence I will not go into the finer points here - also to avoid bloating the review further. As short summaries - Stalkers are the maneuver-dual-wield rogue/assassin-style class and quite focused on crit-fishing. Warlords are the fighting commanders that command amidst the troops and Warders would be the dedicated tanks that draw the foe's ire and keep their allies safe while they take the brunt of the foe's wrath.



Stalkers receive ki and have two options for the regaining of maneuvers - 1 maneuver for a standard action, or wis mod, min 2, for a full-round action - neither provokes AoOs, which is good. However, what still irks me on a design point of view - the latter option also allows the stalker to move his base speed AND receive a +4 insight bonus to AC AND add deadly strike as bonus damage to the next attack/maneuver he executes. This would be a significant bonus and imho one that would have been better off as a scaling benefit - i.e. the tying of class level to the AC-bonus granted. Why? Because playtest showed that, especially at low levels, regaining maneuvers can be used to make the stalker a rather great blocker when regaining maneuvers, when a true strategy/decision-making process behind regaining maneuvers could have provided so much more interesting decisions in combat. At higher levels, stalkers may also use ki to exchange readied maneuvers for other maneuvers, but since that one is based on a resource that is finite, I do like it.

Now I mentioned crit-fishing - that's where deadly strikes come in - each time, stalkers score a crit against a target, they deal bonus damage against said target for a limited array of rounds. Weapons with higher crit multipliers receive more deadly strike bonus damage. Ki can also be expended to activate deadly strikes, which renders especially high crit multiplier weapons powerful for the stalkers using them. The issue of stacking deadly strike durations has thankfully been cleaned up - while I'm never going to like the mechanic, it now works as intended and thus has my blessing.



The same goes for combat insight, which would be a passive tree of abilities that allows him to add wis-mod to a variety of rolls, scaling with the level. It is my joy to report that the broken regaining of expended ki that failed the kitten-test in the original stalker has been eliminated - kudos! Now if you're like me and have had some experience with multiple attributes being applied to the same roll, you'll realize that both combat insight and some stalker talents allow for some significant stacking of powers. The same fine-tuning goes with the option to regain ki via maneuvers - a daily limit with a HD-cap prevents abuse. Alas, melee strikes at range and ignoring all AoOs provoked by movement for wis-mod rounds via ki still are nasty. While I'm still not sold on the Stalker, this marks still a significant improvement over the first iteration of the class.



The Warder's regaining of maneuvers does not feature a bonus like the stalker's. Warder's marking, based on dealing damage to the target and thus forcing it to attack the warder at penalty still feels to me like it could use a saving throw - like the grand challenge, which high-level warders can execute to debuff all opponents within 30 feet as marked. It should be noted for posterity's sake that this one still feels rather strong as a free action to me. The saves of the class become rather broken at fourth level - int-mod to ref-saves, and initiative in lieu of dex-mod for ref-saves - this makes their saves better than those of the monk. That being said, I'm very glad the designers have made the extended defense ability actually work. Now one obvious glitch is still here - high-level warders may deflect blows that would reduce them below 0 hp to armor/shield, wrecking the items instead - I generally love this ability, but the lack of a caveat for indestructible items and artifacts is a bit nasty. Oh well, since the ability is resolved via the broken condition, at least the artifact can't be repaired and maintains its condition...I guess. Still, would have preferred the ability to properly specify what happens in such a case. The capstone of the class still doesn't work - "unable to die from hit point damage" still is pretty opaque - I *assume* this translates to still receiving the damage, but simply not dying, correct? But what once the ability elapses? Is a warder below 0 hp staggered? Or does the capstone grant immunity to hp-damage while in effect? The capstone, alas, still is not anywhere near operative.



The Warlord class is perhaps my favorite from the PoW-classes, mainly because I consider the maneuver-replenishment of the warlord the most interesting - it works via gambits, i.e. actions that provide a bonus upon success alongside the replenishment of maneuvers, while imposing minor penalties on a failure. The problem here with the original warlord still exists - while the gambit-system per se is cool, its fine-tuning is badly broken. A warlord charges a foe - if he hits the target with the first attack after the charge, all allies in range receive warlord's + cha-mod to damage for their next attack. It should be noted that the penalty for failing a gambit is only a -2 penalty to all d20-rolls. Conceivably, a warlord with cha 20 could grant his allies a+5 damage boost at first level - without daily limits. Shooting into melee (not hard with precise shot) can penalize the foe via another gambit by cha-mod to AC etc. Remember, that is the type of action used to regain maneuvers. I still consider the system per se damn cool, but the math and risk/reward-ratio behind the maneuver-regaining is wonky at best. Worse, the warlord can still charge kittens to grant allies damage-bonuses against actual foes or shoot kittens to grant them temporary hit points. On the plus-side, bonus-types have been cleared up and now are actually properly codified.



The warlord's presence, gained at 2nd level, is still the equivalent of a level 15 bardic performance, perhaps better. Yeah. Still broken as all hell. For a detailed comparison, please check my warlord-review. It should also be noted that the ambiguities of their effects still are here.



The new skill to identify martial maneuvers still lacks information which, if any non-PoW-classes should receive it as a class skill. Among the feats, thankfully, the utterly broken Defensive Web has died the fiery death it deserved. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for tactical rush, which allows you to 1/encounter move your movement as a swift action. Victorious Recovery still can be kitten'd as well, though these latter two feats still are within the parameters of what can be considered okay. What is not okay would be extended mark - ONE feat, no prereqs, double the duration of all the warder's armiger marks. Yeah. You'd have to be an idiot to NOT take this - it makes it highly unlikely that ANY enemy ever can stand long enough to see the mark go away.



Now I won't be redundant and blabber on about the feats, instead going ahead to the maneuvers themselves, all right? We kick off the maneuvers after an explanation of terminology etc. with a whole new discipline, the evil-alignment exclusive Black Seraph. Based on intimidate, it is an offensive, deadly discipline - that allows you to intimidate kittens to heal yourself as a supernatural ability. Remember, maneuvers can be regained infinitely. This means FREE INFINITE healing as long as any PC or kitten is around. What about negating attacks with intimidate? Doesn't sound so bad? Well, look for items, spells and class features that net bonuses to intimidate. Yeah. Here I'll go on a tangent - the mechanic to use a skill-check versus an attack roll or another skill-check is a 3.X remnant. It was broken back then, it is worse in Pathfinder - less skills, less expensive skill-boost items translate to easier buffed skills. Add to that the mathematical convention of d20-roll versus fixed value instead of 3.X's d20 vs. d20 and we have an assortment of maneuvers herein that simply do not work smoothly in actual play. It's the square-shaped chicken in a vacuum issue and an unnecessary relic of an older system that is only here as a remnant of the proverbial balance ruins on which PoW was built. I really wish the designers had just shrugged off abilities like this instead of re-introducing what never worked well back into PFRPG. Need an example? Veiled Moon is tied to Stealth, now look at the ways you can buff that through the roof. Yeah. One of the more powerful maneuvers of that one switches positions with the target if the creature fails perception versus your stealth. As an immediate action. No save. This is a nigh-guaranteed insta-kill for just about every character, especially casters, who has not maxed out perception AND is buffed to cope with it. Before breaking the skill check with items.

Back to Black Seraph: What about a level 3 boost that nets you a 10-foot movement sans AoOs and adds +2d6 damage "that ignores damage reduction" - I assume, only the bonus damage ignores ALL DR? Why not tie it to specific types of DR? It should be noted that per se, the discipline offers some nice options that combine strikes with debuffs. However, I do not get why none of the strikes receive the [pain]-descriptor - at least the debuff conditions obviously are pain effects and should not apply to those immune to it. This is especially odd since other disciplines like Veiled Moon take quite some care to apply the proper [teleportation] descriptors. Oddly, this oversight also applies to quite a few other disciplines.



The Broken Blade discipline still features a strike based on a fixed acrobatics DC of 15 that allows the initiator to move 10 ft towards or away from a foe sans provoking AoOs and attacking as well with bonus damage - why not use the existing rules to move in threatened squares with a bonus? DC 15 becomes ridiculous rather fast. Worse, more often than not, these mechanics completely ignore already existing ways to produce an effect , producing redundancy and ambiguity of the results of actions that simply wasn't necessary. Why tie the success of a trip executed by a martial artist to a ref-save instead of CMD? No, seriously. Yes, I am aware that this does not break anything. But the devil's in the details - dwarves, for example, no longer receive their stability bonus to this save, falling just as easy, perhaps easier than less stable foes. This is a harmless example, chosen intentionally to illustrate the point - PFRPG as a system features quite an array of tied mechanics and if you ignore an established way to doing things, you necessarily have to take these into account. PoW, unfortunately, often simply does not do this, instead creating its own context and thus leads to more confusion than necessary. Next time the dwarf gets tripped, he's eligible to ask whether his stability bonus does apply...and if not, WHY? And yes, I am aware of spells doing similar things. But spells are not strikes - I will get on that later on.



For now, let's just say that Path of War does not need these wonky mechanics - there are a vast plethora of examples in this very book that prove that neither the system, nor the respective disciplines needed these relics to work, which renders the maintaining of them all the more puzzling. Golden Lion would be such an example - apart from one single counter (skill vs. atk - see above) the discipline works conspicuously well without these blunders and is generally superior to the White Raven that spawned it. Iron tortoise, which renders shields actually damn cool and useful, utilizes the compared atk-rolls in counters and shield bashes, but that one's at least not as bad as skill vs. atk. The level 6 counter that negates an attack OR nets you DR 20 if you fail your counter-attempt still feels too nasty for me - its bigger brother has been nerfed down to DR 40/ on a failure, but still -even within PoW, that's massive. Where math goes into a corner to cry would be burnished shell - atk + shield bonus versus incoming targeted spell against CASTER-LEVEL Check - if you win, you negate the spell. Weapon Focus (ray)? Pff, wasted that feat, my friend. This one counter neuters all targeted spells utterly. Even within PoW's design paradigm, broken.



Primal Fury can be quoted as an example on how disciplines can work without (many) of the aforementioned relics - only one counter uses the skill-check nonsense. One particular counter deserves special mentioning here as one of my favorites - it allows the initiator to attack a weapon that has hit him - if the weapon is destroyed by the attack, the damage is mitigated. Elegant, cool, works perfectly within the established context of PFRPG-rules - why not utilize mechanics like this one more often?



Why do we instead get strikes that use e.g. sense motive to attack (against AC) AND deal double damage. The issues with Scarlet Throne persist. The second new discipline would be Silver Crane, the good equivalent to the evil Black Seraph. Conversely, Silver Crane's Blessing suffers from the same kitten-test failing infinite healing, with the restriction that practitioners of Silver Crane would require evil infernal kittens with damned souls to maintain their good alignment. If those can be arranged for, they may heal allies as well, though! Yay! Infinite healing for the whole group! -.-



On the plus-side, counters to shed negative conditions, for example, make sense to me - so kudos there! Steel Serpent still suffers from a discrepancy between poison fluff vs. poison rules, but I can live with that. Generally, Steel Serpent, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon exist and what I complained about in previous reviews mostly still holds true. Veiled Moon's counters still make evasion and even mettle go home to cry - stealth in lieu of saves etc.



Now this review is already long, so let's go through those archetypes on fast forward, shall we? The judges ambiguities have been cleared up; Final judgment has been moved to level 15, where it actually works. Divine Abolishment's targeted greater dispel strikes are still quite powerful, too much for me personally, but still: Kudos for cleaning this guy up! The Soul Hunter now has a kitten-caveat of nothing below 1/2 HD...but why not tie it to the soul hunter's level? This way, I'll have to take an advanced kitten with me; Still does not work. The Dervish Defender now need to actually dual-wield to use the two-weapon defense, which is neat. On a flavor-side weird would be that the archetype still does not receive the improved/greater TWF-feats for a massive hidden attribute/feat tax. Granted, this is a cosmetic gripe, but still - if the high-level ability mentions "mastery of TWF", you'd expect the archetype to know the feats. The ranged Hawkguard Warder has been cleaned of a wording issue and both Sworn protector and Zweihänder Sentinel are okay. Bannerman and Steelfist Commando for the Warlord are okay. The defensively-minded Vanguard Commander with his option to break the immediate action-limit a limited amount of times per day still feels a bit too strong for my tastes.



Now as new content, we receive two archetypes that allow psionic characters to wilder in PoW's systems - one for the psychic warrior, one for the soulknife. The Psychic Warrior Pathwalker learns up to 13 maneuvers, 7 readied, 4 stances, of up to 6th level. Each discipline receives its own psychic warrior path and...oh boy. Expend psionic focus for full attack at the end of a charge - yep, that would be free pounce. Urgh. Balancing between the respective paths is...strange, to say the least. The War Soul Soulknife receives the same amount of maneuvers and trades psychic strike and the 10th level blade skill for them. Interestingly, they have a mechanic to regain maneuvers upon the defeat of foes that actually manages, via HD and int-cap, to defeat the bag o' kitten issue - nice. The new blade skills provide the necessary mind blade customization. The option to throw mind blades and combine it with maneuvers, though, needs a heavy whack with the nerf-bat, analogue to the maneuvers that allow you to do this.



We also receive the awakened blade PrC - 10 levels, d10, 4+Int skills per level, full initiator level progression, new maneuvers known at every even level, additional maneuvers readied at 3rd, 6th and 9th level, +1 stance at 3rd and 8th level, 8/10th manifester progression and full BAB-progression, 1/2 will-progression. They also receive an omni-buff-focus, may expend the psionic focus to use an additional counter per round and at 6th level, any semblance of balance that could be achieved via action economy shambles away and whimpers, as psionic focus and maneuver regeneration become tied to another. Worse, by expending a readied action and the focus, these guys may grant themselves standard or move actions to be used as part of the counter, allowing them to add a strike, a cast, movement - you name it - to the game. This is essentially taking the one limitation of counters and throws it out the window. The capstone makes the powerful super-stance of the PrC effectively permanent. Urgh.



Okay, quick run of the PrCs - have they been repaired or are they still on the level of the supplemental content pdf? Battle Templar: Reach of the divine nerfed down to powerful, but okay - kudos!!! The same cannot be said for martial healing, which STILL nets the Battle Templar and his allies INFINITE HEALING. At this point I ragequit this PrC and move on to the next. The bladecaster's bonus damage is still untyped, the stance still broken, though a tad bit less so than before. The Dragon Fury is still nice, still fails the kitten-test. Mage Hunters have been somewhat streamlined, but still receives what boils down to evasion for all 3 saves. The capstone, which eliminates the option to cast defensively, is the other nail in the coffin for this class - Knowledge (Martial) DC 21 to realize it before hand? Nice, only casters don't get the skill as class skill, rendering that one just unfair. At least the infinite heal exploit is gone...it's now only infinite temporary hit points. The Umbral Blade would be my shining light (ironically) at the end of this PrC-tunnel - this one has been salvaged and is the one PrC I can't find it in me to complain about - indeed, the PrC serves as a nice example what can be done with the PoW-system -scaling class-specific NON-BROKEN stances, cool imagery. Two thumbs up -were the whole book like this, I'd be singing a whole different tune!



We close this pdf with 6 organizations, so-called martial traditions, to include in your game and advice for creating and adapting these traditions. I generally liked these, though I would have loved organization/fame-rules for them.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a couple of typo-level/italicization glitches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with an additional, backgroundless, more printer-friendly version. Artwork ranges from original full color to b/w stock and does not adhere to a uniform style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in both versions for your convenience. Production-value-wise, there is nothing to complain here.



Lead designers Chris Bennett and Andreas Rönnqvist with codesigners Jade Ripley and Sabrina Bennett have managed to write the worst emotional roller-coaster ride of my "reviewer-career." Alternation between cheers and resigned face palms to this extent has never been so frequent in a series. But how does the final book fare?



Path of War is better than the Book of 9 Swords. It is more refined, less jumbled together. Alas, it also chooses to inherit some of the worst traits of its predecessor and reintroduces them to PFRPG, when the base system purposefully got rid of them.



The explicit design intention of Path of War is to bring martials up to casters in power-level, to "give fighters nice things." I applaud that. I want that. Only problem is, PoW overshoots the target it set itself. Before you start booing and hissing, let me elaborate. We all have been there - wizards get the fireball and suddenly can clear whole groups of enemies while the fighter diddles his thumbs. DMs have seen this since the beginning of our hobby, through all iterations. When did this become a problem? Well, as soon as player-entitlement started to set in - suddenly, players started whining if they couldn't rest after every 2nd encounter to regain their nova-capacity and in a strange quirk f fate, DMs everywhere didn't tell them to plan better, to conserve their resources, but rather obliged. Thus, the 5-minute adventure day was born and with it, fighters and martials grumbled even louder. Now PoW does bring up the new martial classes up to the damage potential of casters - this is correct and should silence the whining on that front. So everyone's happy, right?

The problem is: Spells are not Maneuvers. Maneuvers are an infinite resource, whereas spells are a finite resource. Spellcasters can be bled of their resources...fast. And then they are the crappy, fragile dudes and ladies that can't do jack. The strategy of resource-conservation falls right of the edge with maneuvers - arcane pool, ki pool, rage rounds - all pales before these tricks, not necessarily by potential, but by the sheer fact that unlike all resources against which I can compare these, maneuvers are infinite. Yes, they have less AoE-oomph than spells, but their power-gain still is not limited in any way. This fundamentally changes the power-dynamics not only between classes, but of the whole game. Non-martial melee classes and their interaction with PoW receive next to no consideration apart from a paltry feat-tree, when especially the introduction of one PoW-class into a regular group quite probably will invalidate them. The high-AC fighter will never, ever even come close to the warder, the rogue (even talented + rogue glory-update) will pale terribly before the stalker and a paladin's smite turn ridiculous fast when compared to the tricks a warlord can pull off.



So is PoW balanced? Not in the traditional sense of PFRPG. If you had issues with psionics or pact magic or similar subsystems - well, this one amps the power-curve up far beyond these. Whereas usually, it requires a degree of system-mastery and tricks to produce strong, very powerful characters, the PoW-classes already have an above-average competence built into their relatively linear frameworks, even before maneuver selection.



Now this sounds awfully negative when it shouldn't - PoW's classes do many things right and offer interesting mechanics and some damn cool ideas. While personally, I don't like the stalker's crit-fishing, the warder and warlord make for interesting options. The maneuvers are stylish and breathe an aesthetic of anime martial arts and over the top fighting styles you may enjoy.



PoW is, to me, more divisive even than even the Book of 9 Swords - on the one hand, I consider the balance within the frame of PoW okay, on the other, I don't think it works well with its casting brethren or any other class. So I went ahead and tested. And know what? All of my above assertions proved to be valid... and my martial PCs had no more to do than before in any situation that was NOT a battle. Granted, their attacks were more diverse, mobility increased, foes melted like butter in the sun - but beyond combat, when spellcasters cranked out the utility and research/investigation tools...they still encountered lulls where twiddled their thumbs and grumbled about limited skills/non-combat tricks.



PoW enforces a certain playstyle that is implicit, but unfortunately, not explicit in the rules - very high fantasy. Rogues, monks, fighters, cavaliers and potentially (depending very much on your take of them, how many resources you allow, etc.) even potentially rangers, paladins and inquisitors have imho no place in a campaign with Path of War. They are utterly outclassed unless the PoW-class is in the hands of a novice and the regular martial class in the hands of an experienced player. If a campaign is on a Dragon Ball level of power (and that is NOT meant as chiding or belittling, so put away the torches and pitchforks!), Path of War will be just what the doctor ordered. Many of the abilities herein just ooze rule of cool and should provide a lot of entertainment and "did you see what I just did"-moments - I absolutely understand why PoW has fans. A part of me belongs to that camp. DMs should take heed to ensure that the casters are not overshadowed completely, though. As a DM, to enjoy PoW, you have to have no issue with the infinite maneuver regaining and the inability to bleed your PCs dry. If you are okay with that and are looking for truly high fantasy, this may just be what you want. If comet-throwing, dragon-solo high fantasy is what you're going for, then Path of War will fit the bill perfectly.



Now if you are an old-school player, enjoy the challenge of 15-point-buy and less over the top fantasy, if you like your fantasy low (or rare magic) and gritty, then avoid this like the plague -this is very much anime-style fantasy, not "A Song of Fire and Ice." or Conan



So far, both playstyles do not help finding a final verdict, though. So on to the mechanical execution - and again, things become difficult for me, though less so than I feared. On the one hand, quite a few of the very worst examples of broken %&/ have been eliminated and fixed - the content herein is superior to the one on the WiP-versions in every way. However, it has not been universally fixed - especially among the interaction with other systems like spellcasting and psionics, the horrible ways to utterly break the system can still be found. While the majority of the content herein is streamlined, aforementioned 3.X-relics taint quite a few maneuvers and if I can enhance particular attack-negating counters with massive bonuses beyond what any buffs to regular attacks would render possible, we have issues. An adept of veiled moon plus invisibility (+20/+40 to stealth...), +5 to perception for 2,5K...the buffing options of skills are simply too much, too easily gained for my tastes. Still, these, I could still chalk up to "increased power-level."

Worse, there are options for infinite healing. Multiple ones. These constitute the ultimate in design sins for me - they render all WBL-assumptions utterly ad absurdum and break in-game logic harder than a dragon crashing into a wall of force midflight. Another, though comparably minor thing the playtest did show would be that the disciplines not necessarily are balanced perfectly among themselves. While not in the realm of "useless vs. imba", damage + condition-dispersal was not always on one power-level.



"So steh' ich hier, ich armer Tor - und bin so klug als wie zuvor." I love PoW, it's ideas, some of its mechanics...more so than many, many pdfs I've read. I also loathe it for what it fails by a margin to deliver. With a tighter balancing, proper advice for non-initiator classes, a little bit of fine-tuning of classes and maneuvers, a cleaning up of relics, utility-options beyond combat and perhaps (sacrilege!) an alternate rule for maneuvers that are expended and remain expended until rest, like spells, this could have been the martial arts book everybody, me included, always wanted.



Only you, dear reader, can decide in which camp you're situated - cool or crap, it's, more than with any other book I've reviewed, a matter of perspective. One half of me want to smash this to pieces as it constitutes the worst power creep I've seen in ages with 1 star, while another parts just loves it to death and wants to slap 5 stars + seal of approval on it. In the end, I do consider multiple infinite healing tricks and options that are way too powerful even within PoW's context 2 strikes against the book, but not enough to condemn it utterly. Had this no issues beyond the relics and outclassing old martial classes, I think I would have gone 4 stars with it.



In the end, I urge fans of high fantasy that want to dive headfirst into this to check it out; I also advise fans of low (or even medium) fantasy to steer clear and avoid this like the plague. I urge any DM to carefully consider allowing this book. Read EVERYTHING very carefully and ban the broken pieces. My final verdict will clock in at a very close, borderline 3 stars - the pieces that are good, are too good to dismiss.



Over 5K words in this review alone...so many hours. I'll put the book aside for now. Unfortunately, it won't make its way into my regular game, but I may one day pick it up again for crazy one-shots, until I have some time on my hand to rebuild this from the ground up to be balanced with barbarians, paladins etc.

Thank you for reading this 10-page monstrosity of a review, whether you agree with me or not, I hope I have given an adequate impression of the series and provided enough information for you to decide whether his is for you or not.

I remain yours truly,

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War
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Village Backdrop: Starspun Hollow
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2014 04:24:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Starspun Hollow may seem like a mirage to the weary traveler - situated in the midst of a rather unpleasant swamp, the village breathes an air of hospitality one would not expect from such a remote location - and indeed, the population, mostly made up of humans and halflings indeed seems to be friendly and surprisingly wealthy - mostly due to an exotic resource of most fantastic and yet easy to integrate into a given campaign.



Not too long ago, a druid observing a rare species of spider noticed the reflective properties of their webs, which not only reflects moonlight, but which subsequently brought wealth to the remote locale - after all, what better way to clad the resplendent beauties at court than in comfortable clothes that shimmer and reflect?



Alas, this influx of demand also brought traders and more humans to the formerly halfling-dominated settlement and with them came demands on a more high-scale production of starsilk, echoing conflicts we can observe in real life - progress and the lure of wealth versus the old ways, with one side accusing the other of being overly cautious and the other smelling the taint of greed behind the looming progress.



Which of these proves to be true and how the village further develops is very much up to the DM, the players and the usual amount of whispers, events and characters help further fleshing out the village. The CR 7 sample character and her animal companion are also neat, though I have to say that I consider one thing a true pity - with such a rich, evocative background, why not make the silk a new magical material and provide tangible benefits for it? While not beyond the capabilities of any Dm, this constitutes the one oversight in an otherwise glorious installment of Village Backdrops.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Nicholas Wasko's first Village Backdrop is a winner - Starspun hollow breathes adventure-potential, subdued, yet tangible fantasy and ideas galore - it is a village most players will love exploring and devising a reason to visit the place is built into it as well - this is a furious, glorious installment and were it not for the obvious oversight with the silk as an alchemical/magical resource, it would be an instant seal of approval candidate. Without it, it misses the seal by a margin - for "only" a highly recommended 5 star final verdict. Two thumbs up for the author - consider me stoked to read more from your pen, Mr. Wasko!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Starspun Hollow
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AL 6 - Playing the Game (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 05:25:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This funnel for 0-level DCC-characters clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? So, how does this adventure begin? Well, each character has met an interesting, strange traveler from a far away land who challenges the PC for a game of Arbakampsi, an easy, tactical board-game first introduced in a Purple Duck Storeroom-installment. Upon agreeing, the unsuspecting heroes to be find themselves trapped upon the board - separated ad forced t play a variant of the very game from within. In order to triumph, they have to understand their own predicament. Now the interesting component here would be that each character voices his/her intended action and then, after all have spoken, the judge tells the results.



The respective rings of the colored board (which is btw. provided in this supplement) feature challenges - beyond combat with serpents of water and windpigs, each ring also sports a puzzle - and these are interesting - like showing a player a circular message for ONE second - the only way out; requiring the PCs to work together.



In the central ring, a series of questions tests the mind of the PCs further - success at these questions may net the PCs elemental lords as patrons and corresponding benefits, whereas failure has them confront deadly, weapon-destroying duplicates.



The elemental princes/princesses Grom, Splaasha and Krakaal are provided alongside rules for spell-burn for them and advice on scaling/adapting the module and properly playing the game can be found herein as well - quite a feat at this brevity!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed n significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks and a colored arbakampsi-board. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Perry Fehr is best when creating odd societies and believable environments or when going utterly bonkers - this module is a fine example of the latter - this uncommon take on the classic trope is dauntingly different: With a focus on player-smarts above PC-luck, this is a surprisingly challenging, thinking man's module and an uncommon, cool introduction to a given campaign, its potential for scaling further making this easily adapted to other systems and levels - since the scenario and the puzzles are the bulk of the module, this is an extremely versatile little gem. Uncommon, creative and fun, this pdf deserves a final rating of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AL 6 - Playing the Game (DCC)
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Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 05:14:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Alternate Dungeon-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As in the first installment of the series, we begin with basic considerations for making the change of scenery to the alternate dungeon interesting - this time emphasizing the importance of mirrors, evil emanations and stuck doors before beginning with advice on running the place - with animated objects, sounds, decrepit structures etc. helping in keeping up the atmosphere. Here, the house fares better than the groves, while in the suggested treasures, things necessarily become a bit more generic.



The suggested function, here more a combination of ambient effects and background story is more versatile than in the first installment. Once again, the pdf comes with advice on "harvesting" dressing, which feels a bit out of place in direct comparison to the groves -how does one harvest e.g. portraits that follow the players with their eyes? How does one harvest echoing footsteps? That being said, the dressing-table this time around does not have the filler roll twice/thrice and generally has quite an array of glorious entries that will especially help novices to the genre of horror make the stay at a haunted house memorable.



Now the haunted house denizens suggested as adversaries are more or less what you'd expect - ye olde' assortment of undead and the same holds true for the 3 haunts - dancing decor, arcane locking doors and the suggested hazards are rather conservative.



The 3 adventure hooks included are solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as flawless as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks as well as fully bookmarked. Additionally, you receive two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one optimized for the printer.



Alexander Augunas' alternate dungeon-suggestions for haunted houses are solid especially for novice DMs looking for inspiration regarding haunted houses. Now if you're a veteran Ravenloft/CoC/etc.-DM, then this one probably won't blow you away - the helpful considerations were okay, yes, but e.g. escape prevention (a default trope in haunted houses!) is glossed over, as is the general location of the house. Harvesting suggestions for dressings feel weird in the context of the haunted house and the supplemental reskins/hazards are old tricks for veterans. Whether this pdf is for you very much depends on your experience with horror modules in old mansions - if you're a veteran, don't expect to find much new herein - unlike the installment on mystic groves, the mansions uniqueness is derived more from story and individual dressing and this pdf, by nature of its scope, is hard-pressed in providing enough on that front. If, on the other hand, you are a novice DM or simply have no experience with these types of set-ups, then this will make for a good step-by-step guideline for you, collecting some of the classic tricks and considerations. My final verdict will hence clock in at a final verdict between "good and useful for novices" and "nothing for veterans" of 3 stars - quintessentially, a solid pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
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Ultimate War
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 04:09:24
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third expansion of the kingdom building/mass combat rules presented in Ultimate Campaign, expanded by the very man who wrote the original rules, clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages on how-to-use/what to expect, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This supplement kick off by eliminating two of my most serious gripes with the base mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign. Number one: Ultimate Campaign does not distinguish between ranged and melee capacity, instead subsuming both under the termino umbrellone of OM, Offense Modifier. This resulted potentially in ridiculous scenarios of elven archer beating orc berserkers in melee. Ultimate War gets rid of OM in favor of separate Melee Value and Ranged Values, abbreviated MV and RV. YES!!! Secondly, the hit points as an abstract measurement to determine an army's deceased is replaced with casualties - which can be tracked individually/separately for sub-units etc., allowing much more detailed and finer tactical nuances. Best of all - both allow for easy downscaling back into Ultimate Campaign's base system, if you prefer the simpler take.



Leadership Bonus of a commander is equal to +1 for every full 5 ranks in Profession (Soldier) and high BABs (+6, +11, +16), Wis or Cha modifiers, certain feats etc. can further increase this bonus. The rather rudimentary selection of command boons is also expanded by this supplement - and the boons are great - Battlefield illumination (or making light-conditions worse!), autosupplying itself, con/desecrate battlefields, divine healing or barrages, smoke screens or particular proficiency when deployed against aerial armies - glorious! Have I mentioned the awesome effects of war chants or the option to execute precise, less damaging assaults via surgical strikes? Brilliant!



Speaking of which - combined arms. Where the general army as a base unit type would be the catch-all default, the rules provided herein allow for a finer distinction. Via these rules, armies are made up of units, which in turn can be made up of several divisions. This is analogue to the distinctions between fleet->squadron->ships. The number of soldiers in a unit is the same as the one in the default rules' army. Creating a unit follows, according to these rules, simple steps - you pay and gather them, you assign a commander (with PCs being particularly potent!) - which influences the amount of divisions in a unit a commander can handle - 3+ cha-mod, max 5 divisions can be contained and losing a division penalizes the unit. Each division can take casualties equal to its ACR before being defeated - this concludes that each unit has hit points equal to ACR times 5. Divisions reduced to 0 hp can be healed normally, but additional damage annihilates them. MV and RV are ACR+leadership bonus of the commander, provided the unit is properly equipped. If not all divisions are equipped to execute one type of attack, the overall value suffers - cool!



Morale score is the kingdom's loyalty divided by 20, min 1, max 10 and determines all the psychological components. A default value and advice for using morale sans kingdom building (Kudos!!) can also be found here. Determining overland movement, scouting capacity, camouflage, name and home-base - in 12 easy steps, just about every DM should be able to create an army - on my first try, it took me less than 5 minutes to properly apply these rules and generate a unit - WITH double-checking that I got everything right.

Each army may contain a number of units equal to the general's cha-mod+3, further increased by leadership, certain boons, etc. Battle Phases are influenced by the new distinctions between ranged and melee values - hence, a concise run-down of the phases is provided, thankfully including proper inclusion of not only the new casualties mechanic. It should also be noted that recruiting armies works perfectly in synergy with Ultimate Rulership as well as the base system. Applying simplified combats between aerial and naval ships etc. would also be discussed here. Now I've already mentioned aerial combat and indeed, aerial reconnaissance, altitude levels, visibility, concise effects of different wind strengths - the peculiarities of aerial combat are well addressed in sufficient details - from balloons to flying carpets and floating fortresses, this chapter adds the third dimension to mass combat - war rockets, solar sailors - every companion of the firmaments-using campaign should consider this the way to add mass combat to their arrays - glorious! (Be honest - you always wanted to fight dragons while aboard a war rocket!) And yes, this does provide full DVs, cover, dmg, stall, crash etc. values - and if that doesn't mean anything to you by now, then only because you don't have the pdf before you - the system is ridiculously easy to grasp and concise in its presentation.



Easy to grasp stats for vessels with drift speeds or those being able to climb altitudes, hovering etc. - all here and supplemented further by 12 unique tactics - from soaring sweeps to dogfighting and strafing runs, aerial combat has scarcely been this awesome and tactical! Now, of course this opens a whole new field - i.e. the combat of earthbound units versus airborne assailants - and from options like digging in to using grapnel shots, a whole new dimension, literally, is added to mass combat. Now if that isn't yet enough for you, let's take a look at yet another expansion - the one to the sea. "But wait, EZG," you say "I already have 3 systems for naval combats to choose from and didn't you say that Frog God Games' "Fire as She Bears" was absolutely awesome? Yes, I did, and I still consider the system the best naval combat system available for any d20-iteration. However, we're not talking about skirmishes between a couple of vessels, we're talking about the clash of whole fleets! And for that, well, let's just say that the rules herein apply the same thoroughness to naval warfare as to that in the skies - depth zones (which allow for submarines and magical threats), wind effects and naval units...ask and ye shall find herein. By the way: All you require, once again provided in detail including required buildings to procure them (forgot to mention that regarding aerial units - yes, when used with kingdom-building, required buildings etc. are provided!) alongside massive tables of sample vessels in one handy tome. Want to know the level of detail these rules support - the difficulty of fighting back once your vessel's been sunk may impose a massive penalty, but it doesn't mean that your unit can't take down a hostile ship.

Which also becomes relevant since the system utilizes one unified frame of rules. Why is that important? Let's say a unit of sahuagin on board of a balloon has attacked your galley; You manage to put down the balloon and it crashes into the sea - you can continue playing all levels of combats like that with one single system. Want to play the fantasy-equivalent of the D-Day? Go ahead, these rules have you covered! Now while there is bound to be some overlap with the aerial tactics, I should not fail to mention that naval combat also receives quite an array of unique, naval tactics that add even more options to the fray.



Now sooner or later, assault on fortifications is bound to happen - and if you ever tried to use ultimate combat and campaign in one and the same campaign, you may have noticed some discrepancy there - instead of assuming abstract siege engines to be a part of a given unit, we receive a special, Knowledge (engineering)-and int-based LB to determine how commanders of units of artillery work - which makes MUCH more sense and allows for generals to specifically target these weapons...

Speaking of strategies - the array of ranged and close-quarters siege weaponry and the vast array of associated strategies, from bombardment (e.g. via smoke, plagued corpses, etc...) to infiltration and scatter volleys makes for a superb selection of choices - even before the 7 new magical siege weapons - like apocalypse zombie siege shots, adamantine rams or ooze-siege shots - glorious!



The pdf also comes with a neat index of the tables for quick reference and it should be noted that perfect rules-synergy with Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Rulership and Ultimate Battle is maintained.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games' two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color artworks. The pdf is relatively printer-friendly and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also contains the good type of hyperlink, making the rules presented even easier to grasp.



Jason Nelson took a *long* time making this final piece of the triumvirate of expansions and refinements to Paizo's kingdom building/mass-combat system (which he also wrote, just fyi). It is not a big surprise then, that the resulting books, unfettered from the limitations of page-count and relative simplicity, have been an utter BLAST to read and use. Offering options to get rid of some overly generic simplifications of the base system, the first two books were beyond superb and managed to add so incredibly much to the base systems I never, ever want to play kingdom building and mass combat without their options again.



Now the thing is - Ultimate War was pending and its task was to close the final gaps and cover the true clash of armies, remembering all the small modifications AND refining the base system. I'll make this short:



If you even remotely plan to run mass combat BUY THIS NOW. The additional options, even if you use neither aerial, nor naval or siege combat, are GOLD: The fact that they work perfectly together makes for truly dynamic mass combat. the vast expansion of boons and tactics translate to mass combat that is infinitely more exciting, strategic and ultimately fun. Now it's perhaps due to approximately 15K points of warhammer miniatures in my attic, but I expect some tactical options from a given system and Ultimate War's expansion fits the bill perfectly - indeed, the variance and peculiarities of aerial combat and naval combat allow for a finer gradation in these areas.



The most impressive component of these rules, beyond their modularity and synergy, though, would be the fact that this one system supports not only all those particular special cases, it allows for transparency and overlap between them - ships that can turn aerial? Why not! Cadres of wyrms rising from the waves to take to the skies, then land and wreck havoc among the elven archers?? Go for it, with this book, you can properly portray that - and the dogfight between the draconic assault and the giant eagle riding knights in the air! The assault of the gnomish submersible-riding saboteurs on the siege-weapon bearing frigate. This book is glorious, a must-buy for everyone who considered the base rules of Ultimate Campaign too simple, too rudimentary - with this, you could conceivably play a thoroughly compelling, interesting, strategic CAMPAIGN of warfare - and honestly, I'd probably have a nerdgasm if Legendary Games released a full mass combat-AP using these rules. For now, I have to plot, devise strategies and generate *a lot* of adventure material; I just have resolved to up the emphasis on war in my current campaign!



This book is brilliant, a worthy successor to its stellar companion books, and well worth a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval + nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2014. An absolute must-buy-level tome and one that also receive the endzeitgeist essential-tag as one of the must-have tomes for a campaign!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate War
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Town Backdrop: Wolverton
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 04:02:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at a massive 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page statblocks by CR-index, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First of all, this is a kind of full circle for me - when I started reviewing, Raging Swan Press' free mini-setting The Lonely Coast immediately grabbed my attention and made me buy Retribution, their first module. Now, hundreds of reviews of Raging Swan Press-supplements later, this book provides the fully detailed information on the largest settlement in that remote stretch of land, the town of Wolverton. Hence, it is only appropriate that we begin this book with a proper introduction to the stretch of land, including traveling distances, weather etc.



Now, if you know the village backdrop-series (and you SHOULD!), you'll be familiar with the formula used for this town - we receive a full-blown town statblock, information on what magic items can be bought, town lore, nomenclature, dressing habits, etc. However, as befitting of a larger settlement, Wolverton is more than just a village on steroids.



This becomes readily apparent from the extremely detailed map to the sheer number of notable places provided. (As always, player friendly maps can be downloaded on raging Swan Press' homepage.) 28 different notable locations at a glance are provided, and for conveniences sake and to help navigation, we also have them grouped by type - see, THAT is considerate! Wolverton is a walled city at the coast, situated atop some cliffs and the castle of the local pseudo-aristocracy, the Lochers, situated on a promontory. The town features a quarter separated from the rest of the town by cliffs (keep the rabble out) and sports a massive river flowing through it, the Arisum. Hence, the town also features several bridges that span the river and the town is fortified with solid walls.



So far, so good - but what is going on in the place? Well, a metric ton of things: let's begin with whispers and rumors - as opposed to just 6 for a village, we receive a FULL PAGE of 50 rumors, each of which has the potential to spark a full-blown adventure! Another example for this pdf going above and beyond would be the inclusion of information for kingdom-building and using Wolverton in conjunction with such a campaign. Festivals and traditions like "Wolf's Night" provide more than just a bit of local color, in the aforementioned example, townsfolk bake wolf-shaped biscuits and children get to eat fang-shaped sweet bread while adults in wolf skin walk the streets to scare children. Now if you can't use this festival to e.g. convert something Halloween/samhain-themed or make a lycanthrope-plot more interesting, I don't know! Weekly markets and a total of no less than 50 entries of sights and sounds (think of them as mini-hooks, dressing, etc.) spanning two-pages further enhance the unique and detailed perspective one gets of the glorious town.



Of course, if you prefer hooks to be less subtle, perhaps the 50-entry strong, two-page spanning table of events might do - from street urchins trying to steal from the PCs to being recruited for the theatre to pouring rain that renders the muddy roads difficult terrain, these events not only are interesting, they are, most of the time, downright inspiring, especially for the brevity with which they have to work. Oh, and if THAT still is not enough, you'll be happy to know that properly and fully developed hooks are interspersed throughout the whole book.



Now the town itself has plenty of truly interesting locales and places to inspire the prospective DM - take an inn, " The Hare and the Ass", which has recently been taken over by a half-orc. Said half-orc was raised by dwarves and thus knows the recipe of the Thunderhammer clan's famous beer, seeing quite a few visitors as a result - in spite of the latent xenophobia exhibited towards the green-skin.



While at no point obtrusive, fans of Raging Swan press will rejoice at e.g. small Easter-eggs and tie-ins with Hosford and other locales in and around the Lonely Coast. What this pdf acts like, can be best described as the massive linchpin that ties the whole of the Lonely Coast and its peculiarities together, rendering the whole picture more concise - while adding flourishes to just about every component of the area.



The various taverns, people controlled by intelligent helmets - we have *a lot* going on here - including strange experiments, no less than 3(!!!) major smuggling gangs (including their own conflicts, moralities, leaders and headquarters), burgeoning sorcerous power among those that should not e able to exhibit it (and some intrigue there...) - we have * A LOT* going on in this town - enough to cover a bunch of PC-levels!



Beyond this extremely detailed town, though, we also receive statblocks of its inhabitants - from merchants and peasants, reeves and high priests, rulers, veteran watchmen and a whole slew of smugglers and low-lives can be found herein - including the signature detailed fluff to supplement all of the named NPC-statblocks - background story, personality, mannerisms, distinguishing features and character-specific hooks - anything you ask for, it's here.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' b/w-two-column standard, is printer-friendly and generally nice to look at. The artworks range from thematically fitting stock art to pieces I haven't seen before and the cartography is awesome - the town makes sense and looks rather neat. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one to be printed out, and both come excessively bookmarked.



I can't comment on the print-edition since I do not own it (yet).



John Bennett delivers the final missing piece of the puzzle that is The Lonely Coast and much like many a puzzle, this one piece makes the whole picture seem all the more enticing. As a hub full of adventuring potential, Wolverton elevates the other pdfs in and around the Lonely Coast by serving as a plausible, cool town full of local color, nice customs and adventuring potential. Even when used on its own, though, the town shines - Wolverton has taken to heart all the little improvements of the "small" series- extremely detailed, with rumors, sights and hooks galore, it also provides a multitude of flavors of adventuring it supports: Wilderness? No problem. Dungeon? Why not. Coastal caves? Covered. Courtly intrigue? Possible. Shadow War? Jup, feasible. You name it, this place has the means to provide an extremely detailed canvas for your brush.



Wolverton is more than just an oversized village backdrop - it is a full-blown, thriving, pulsing town rife with adventure potential, a place filled to the brim with details and local color, expertly crafted to serve as a hub for PCs, to support a plethora of playing styles...and still retain a unique identity. An impressive feat indeed and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval, as well as a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Wolverton
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Animal Races: Clan of the Cat
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 03:52:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick off this pdf with a superbly-written piece of in-character prose, provided by a feline therian, extolling the virtues and peculiarities of cats and their experience - for example the custom to measure time in 12-hour-cycles. The level of detail provided for the feline therians is up to all expectations - age, height and weight-table, relationships, adventuring - all covered.



Rules-wise, we receive two different attribute arrays - medium catfolk receive +2 Dex, -2 Wis, while small catfolk receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Small catfolk receive a base speed of 20 ft., medium catfolk the normal 30 ft. Members of the clan of the cat also receive low-light vision, scent, natural armor +1 (increase to +2 at 10th level), a primary natural bite attack of 1d4/1d3 (M/S) and have these base traits modified by the chosen clan:

Cats receive +2 to Int and may choose Cat Clan Heritage as a rogue talent, cheetahs receive +2 Cha and may use Cha as governing attribute for monk class features and receive the Cat Clan Sprinter-feat as a monk bonus feat. Leopards also receive +2 to Cha, which somewhat conflicts with the fluff, which asserts their toughness and athleticism - was Con intended here? Anyway, they may choose Cat Clan Lurker as a rogue talent. Lion Clan members also receive +2 Cha and may select Cat Clan Heritage as a rage power. Lynx Academy members who left their clan receive +2 to Int and may opt for Cat Clan Heritage as an alchemist discovery. Tiger clan members receive +2 Int and can select Cat Clan Heritage as a witch's hex.



Now the modularity of the race goes beyond that - the three aforementioned feats (Cat Clan Heritage, Cat Clan Lurker and Cat Clan Sprinter) can be taken multiple times and allow for the progressive accumulation of additional racial traits, which include claws, climb speeds, faster movement etc. - the interesting component here would be the fact that e.g. adding the grab quality to bites, increasing bite damage etc. - the available options scale within the feats: Upon taking a feat a certain amount of times, your selection is broadened to include advanced tricks and options Pounce, rake etc. - all possible, but only at the investment of a significant amount of resources -as they should be. I tried hard to break these three feats and balance-wise, they withstood my endeavors -kudos!



Now, as with the Clan of the Dog, proper heraldry is provided for the clan, and we receive a deity-write-up, this time Ishtar, and the folkloristic take on somewhat feline monsters - from the borrowed pugwampis to shiras and silvanshees, we receive a lot of rather damn cool pieces of information that help ground and root the Clan of the Cat within the framework of a campaign. Now, if you haven't read my review of Clan of the Dog, you should be aware that aforementioned heraldic symbols also double as traits to choose from. Relationships among sub-species and with other clans are also covered.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy to read and elegant two-column b/w-standard well complemented by the fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.



Eric Morton's Animal Races-series ranks among the most impressive discoveries that has landed on my virtual desk in quite a while, at least as far as race-pdfs are concerned - so far, I have read two and both provided superb content, extremely modular, balanced races - and much like the pdf on dogs, the feline therians just brim with imagination, style and wonder. Studded to an almost unprecedented brim with grand ideas, this pdf offers a varied and distinct take on catfolk - to the point where, for the very first time, I consider catfolk more than just elves with fur and will allow them in my game. Not only thanks to the rock-solid rules, but mainly due to this pdf generating a distinct, viable identity for these feline fellows. If my gushing wasn't indication enough - this pdf is a true steal and well worth the low asking price - final verdict: 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Clan of the Cat
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Savage Alternate Class
Publisher: Forest Guardian Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2014 04:10:17
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This alternate class clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



No the terminology might be considered a problem from the get-go - the word "Savage" constitutes more than a direct opposition to "civilized men." Hence, the 1st page is devoted to an explanation that acknowledges that this pdf is not based on any real life cultures -I applaud this maturity. If you're interested in the genesis of the development and meanings associated with this particular dichotomy, feel free to drop me a line.



The Savage class is an alternate class for both barbarian and monk, meaning that multiclassing into either is prohibited. The class receives d12, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with axes and generally, stone age-style weapons - a comprehensive guideline for savage weapons and armors would be included here, allowing for further, campaign world specific customizations of proficiencies. When wearing medium or heavy armor, the savage loses both fast movement, furious blows and the AC-bonus. It should also be noted that the savage can add two skills of their choice as tribal lore to their array of class skills.



The class also receives full BAB-progression, good fort and ref-saves, an AC (and CMD!)-bonus scaling up to +5 and increased movement rate scaling up to +60 ft. What are furious blows? Well, at first level, the savage can execute +1 attack, imposing a -2 penalty to all attacks. These scale upwards at 8th and 15th level and these attacks may only be executed with savage weapons. Interestingly, the ability manages to get two-weapon fighting rules-interaction right - there is none this time around and this is good in this case - the ability is rather powerful, though thankfully, certain massive weapons have an additional penalty applied.



Now the savage may also enter a primal state as a full-round action that provokes AoOs. Said state can be maintained up to 24 hours and provides +2 to Intimidate, Handle Animals and Sense Motive skill checks and Improved Unarmed Strike as a feat, which also works for the purposes of feat-prerequisites - nice catch! Additionally, the state can be expended to power abilities and feats, somewhat akin to how psionic foci work - the lists of feats/powers contain the necessary information for which needs the expenditure. Instead of a rage, savages may enter so-called rampages for up to 4+con-mod rounds per day, +2 per additional class level. While in a rampage, savages receive +2 to will-saves, acrobatics, climb and swim-checks. Now rampage also offers temporary hit points equal to foe's HD for every enemy reduced to 0 hit points or below - surprisingly, the ability comes absolutely kitten-proof - no way to abuse this! Gloriously done!



Now the next thing would be a bit complex, so bear with me - savages of 2nd level (and every even level thereafter) may select a monk's bonus feat or a barbarian rage power as a savage power, though the latter only work while rampaging. Evasion and improved evasion may be chosen as well, the latter thankfully with a level-cap. A massive list of rage powers from core, APG and UC are provided and yes, the pdf is smart enough to prevent combinations of different totem rage powers. The class also receives uncanny dodge at 2nd level (improved at 5th) and a scaling danger sense that translates to a bonus to initiative and a bonus to AC when being attacked by ranged weapons in the surprise round - nice spider-sense! Savages also receive scaling bonuses versus diseases and poisons that turn to immunity at very high levels.



Also rather nice - savages may learn to receive bonuses versus particular spell schools (including psionic ones!), but this is not where we stop:



At 4th level, the savage receives a pool of feral points equal to 1/2 class level +con-mod. As long as the pool contains at least 1 point, rampaging savages may have weapons count as magic for DR-purposes and at 9th level, also as cold iron/silver. When in primal state, a savage may expend 1 point from the feral pool as a swift action to increase movement by 20 ft for 1 round, +2 natural AC for 1 round, +20 (!!!) acrobatics for jumping purposes only or +1 to critical confirmation rolls for con-mod rounds. Additionally, 4th level savages may expend feral points to quickly heal non-lethal damage or diminish the duration of some negative conditions.



At 7th level, savages heal even without resting at an increased natural rate and increases the amount of conditions they can diminish. Where math became complex for me would be the option to expend 2 feral points for +1 round of rampage - think of all the combinations possible...



At 11th level, savages receive ferocity and the truly high-level savages may enter blood rages. The capstone makes the savage tougher and makes criting them very hard - but this is not where we stop; This pdf also provides quite a few archetypes, first of which would be the Dread Savage. Instead of entering a primal state, these guys may enter a kind of death-like trance that has them count as undead, but still allows them to be healed by positive energy - provided they succeed a concentration-check. Their rampage allows them to render targets hit by their wight strikes shaken, allowing the dread savage to expend rounds of rage for additional slam attacks (no synergy with furious blows, though) and the archetype also receives a debuff aura , increased saves versus level-drain etc. The dread pool the archetype has, also allows for wholly unique benefits and 3 new rage powers complement the package.



The second archetype would be the Noble Savage - noble savages receive an unleashed presence in lieu of rampaging, use their cha-mod to determine their pool and may expend said points to grant themselves cha-mod as bonus to saves for 1 round. It should be mentioned that the presence has the bonuses applied to completely social skills and that it's governed by cha as well. Almost perfect negotiators, they can grant themselves massive bonuses to bluff, but thankfully not for feinting purposes.



Next up would be a special treat with the phrenic savage alternate class, a psionic alternative to the base savage - these guys receive changed save-progressions, a limited array of power points (scaling from 1 to 70), governed by wisdom. The phrenic savage also receives unlocked talent and a pretty limited array of psionic tricks thus, later learning to use wis to govern it instead of cha. Phrenic savages may expend power points to temporarily grant them rapid metabolism and similar feats, including a kind of DR versus ability score reduction (somewhat unfortunately named "ability", making it slightly more opaque than it should be). The improved fiery discorporation capstone at 20th level is also rather nice, though the phrenic savage pays for the psionic tricks with both the flurry-like trick and the rampages. Still, would have loved the class to mention for what it is an alternate class - I *assume* full multiclassing potential, but I'm pretty sure the class probably ought to have some limit. The 4 psionic feats used by the alternate class and the two psionic powers are provided in here as well.



We also receive a final page of primitive weapons, courtesy of Little Red Goblin Games, ranging from the great macuahuitl to the gunstock club - these are all solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while, in some instances, wording is slightly less precise than I would have wanted it to be, over all, the pdf manages to handle the complex content rather well. Minor issues like the "st/nd/rd/th" missing behind the numbers in the class level table of the Phrenic Savage can be considered generally cosmetic. The pdf comes with glorious, original full-color pieces of art and the 2-column b/w-standard generally is printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Morgan Boehringer (lead developer), with Jim Wettstein (and additional content by Keil Hubert and Christos Gurd), just delivers. There's no way around it, the savage may be the most interesting melee-base-class I've seen in quite a while - it is powerful and I was honestly surprised that it fared so well in playtest and turned out to be rather well-balanced. This is honestly the level of awesomeness I would have expected from each and every ACG-class. The savage has more options than either monk or barbarian, without invalidating the parent classes. The additional content just represents the icing on the cake. The psionic variant class is also solid, though it feels slightly less inspired - mainly because the class does not have that many tricks up its sleeve - the unlocked talent route does not necessarily provide a selection of powers to use, which the pdf seems to imply. Unlocked Talents nets the phrenic savage exactly ONE power, which is prescribed by the pdf. Why not provide at least a slight array of e.g. psychometabolism choices?



The psionic savage is simply not half as interesting and flexible as the base class and thus, would be one of my minor complaints. Another minor issue would be the 19th level of the savage class, which is a dead level. Now are these minor issues? Yes. Is the overall class AWESOME? HECK YEAH! The savage constitutes a damn cool addition to any kind of group, is fluff-wise easily implemented, complex, yet easy to grasp and would be 5 stars + seal of approval were it not for aforementioned minor glitches. With the slight imperfections, which in no way spoil this otherwise damn cool class, I will instead settle "only" for a final verdict of 5 stars. Consider this the monk/barbarian-class the ACG should have delivered, but didn't.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Alternate Class
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Lucien's Guide: The Black Files (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2014 04:07:25
An Endzeitgeist.com review

If you read this review, one of the following is true:



1. You're me. Hello, handsome devil!

2. I have shared this information with you - don't screw this up!

3.You have stolen this homepage - I have been notified of your identity and location.

4. You have killed me. Good for you, but you have eliminated the ward that left a whole bunch of nastiness in check.

5. I have died and you took up my mantle - good for you, but I hope I've had the chance to provide the keys, because I wasn't joking in 4.

...

This intro mirrors (in less vivid prose) how this guide begins - to give you an inkling of the level of quality of the writing. The pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 12 pages of raw content, so what is contained in these pages?



This pdf blasts off with a rant that actually had me laugh - on the nature of scholarship and misidentifying artifact and relics as Typhonian - only to provide what can only be called a cornucopia of diverse theories regarding the nature of Typhonians - as in the best of LoGaS-supplements, the content herein is all about potential - the theories are provided with cues to what is or may be true, but no universal monolithic truth is prescribed - we receive ideas: How the Typhonians and the grand stair interact, for example. What actually constitutes a Typhonian as to opposed what makes one an Echidnan - the added diversity makes for a truly compelling addition to the lore.



The second file contains information on a civilization kind of lost - the Ildari. A vast star-spanning empire that has been subject to a cataclysm, much like Warhammer 40 K's empire, it still looms strong, if not as powerful as before - having mastered space travel, the Ildari may make for a cool addition to one's world, especially since the Grand Stair as an alternative (including the opposition that uses it) may very well see a massive conflict brewing...awesome! Especially since proper mechanics for Ildari supplement the information provided -secret realms, arrays and cosmos make for great additions for the DM to weave stories around!



The third file kicks off with an amusing rant on the cliché of an evil overlord who called himself "Harbinger" - alas, the irreverent tone of the narrator is only half justified - unlike many similar pseudo-villains that think they're big shots until a Gossamer Lord/Lady puts them in their place, this guy actually had a very powerful patron - an entity called Matekai. This entity gobbles up world. Yes. And the irreverent tone might be justified, but on the other hand, this creature may be a Typhonian...or something completely different.



Speaking of different (and to me, profoundly frightening) - Basta. A plant that controls the biome of its whole world, the size of a town, which must have consumed an entity of significant power, receiving impossible knowledge. Worse, its strange psychology makes for a difficult decision on whether it is benign or simply amoral...and it's rooting on other planets.... *shudders*



The modification Basta-controlled for worlds and attributes for lesser and greater basta are provided.



A total of 4 diverse mini-hooks of outstanding Black Files are also provided before we're introduced to the Black Office -and the caretaker of the files, one lady Kitabu, fully portrayed in all her glory as an NPC servant of Lucien.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes studded with GLORIOUS full-color artwork of the highest quality. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



It is, in one word, ASTOUNDING how many awesome ideas Rob Donoghue has managed to cram into these pages - the content herein is universally inspiring, top-notch, and each and every Black File quoted herein can fuel an adventure, perhaps even a campaign. This book is one brilliant, superb supplement full of awesome ideas and should be considered not only a great buy for LoGaS-fans, but also for any DMs looking for inspiration (or simply a good read!) beyond what one usually receives in pdfs.



Final verdict? A must-buy LoGaS-pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lucien's Guide: The Black Files (Diceless)
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Flaws II
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2014 04:05:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so what do we get?



Well, if the title wasn't clue enough - more flaws. What are they? They can be summed up as anti-feats. They can be taken at 1st level and every character can only have two flaws Each flaw grants 3 skill points or one bonus feat, but if a character takes 2 flaws, he may choose each benefit only once. Flaws can only be taken at first level as written, though DMs may elect to grant them later - at their own peril.



Now each flaw has a specific type of penalty associated with it and a cost to buy it off. Unless I've miscounted, a total number of 30 new flaws are contained within these pages. So what do flaws do? well, take the one that makes you an orthodox druid who may not use metal, tools as well as a -3 penalty to all cha-based interactions with civilized folk, with violations potentially increasing this penalty even up to -5. At 5th level (and no sooner), Skill Focus (Diplomacy) as a feat accompanied by atonement may buy off the flaw.



Now if you've read the original pdf on flaws, you'll notice something - the minimum level requirements to pay them off. This is perhaps my favorite piece to be added to the concept herein - in the original pdf, some flaws could immediately be paid off. This, while easily handled in a mature group, somewhat opened the system towards being gamed, while the new flaws do not have that...flaw. Yeah, sorry, I'll put a buck in the bad pun jar.



Now back to the concepts - being in debt, cursed, addicted (with scaling benefits/penalties!), being too flirtatious or frail or being a monk with an inner turmoil - the flaws herein are generally not only superior to the first book, they are better balanced among themselves and the selection of class-specific flaws is glorious! Being lovelorn, an honor-bound paladin - several of the flaws herein just ooze style and enhance a character's personality. Phobias, kleptomania, suffering from tribal taboos - the respective array of options is diverse, unique and fun.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity - nice!



Robert W. Thomson's Flaws are damn cool - I've been playing with the original ones for some time and my only gripe with them was that they could be gamed sans gentlemen's agreements. The new flaws do not suffer from this drawback...at least to this extent, which brings me to the *one* thing I do not like about this pdf - Paizo has since introduced minor and major drawbacks in Ultimate Campaign and a short note for each flaw on whether this would be more in line with either for a tighter synergy of systems would be awesome to have. That being said, I am of the firm conviction that the flaws herein can make for more interesting characters and concepts, with plenty of hooks enhancing them, while providing tangible benefits for the players to take them. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to the low price.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Flaws II
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Subterranean Enclave: Severed Umbra
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2014 06:29:33
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This first installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What is this series about? Well, in one sentence: "Village Backdrops for the Underworld." That's the truth in theory - i.e. you'll find a settlement statblock, a market place, a couple of notable folk and places, lore and rumors, sample events - by now you know the formula that works so extremely well. In practice, this is rather different beyond the formal criteria. Once, when the slums of the city of Fairhaven plummeted into the underdark, squashing an enclave of dark folk and subsequently cutting off the survivors from both the upper world and the realms below, people were forced to work together - the result being a most unlikely constellation:



In Severed Umbra, now once again opened and a vibrant trading spot with the realms below, regular folk coexist with the enigmatic dark folk, having adopted their mannerisms and habit of dressing. Surrounding a lake that is the home to weird phosphorescent fish makes for a cool general location and the village is also sporting a place where lizards are cultivated for their meat as well as a dark rag outfitter, psychotropic shroom addicts, a psychotic halfling evoker ( level 9, fully statted) and a fully statted dark stalker co-leader of the town. Beyond these obvious hooks, acclimatization to the dark and actually kind dark stalker healers (!!!) make for further odd, yet pleasant peculiarities.



Better yet, aforementioned sample events prove to be pretty helpful in driving home the special considerations a place like this requires.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.



I couldn't have imagined a more suitable writer to kick off the new series - Mike Welham's Severed Umbra is delightfully unconventional and distinct, with more hooks than you'd imagine to find in the pages of such a supplement - possibly even enough to base a whole campaign on this camp of former outcasts, forged together into an unlikely unity. The one problem I see with this pdf is that it sets a very high standard for the whole series and the pdfs to come - I hope other authors can match this cool locale. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for a great place indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Severed Umbra
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The Genius Guide to More Ranger Talents
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2014 06:27:26
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



A total of 7 new edges are provided - which sounds like not much. Well, they cover pages 2 -5: What I'm trying to say is - they are LONG. A total of 16 companion tricks, from trample to grab etc. - all those NASTY monster qualities, are for example part of the tricks! Or what about more hunter's tricks like one that prevents AoOs from spells or spell-like abilities? What about upgrading movement to flying, but with the caveat that you have to end your movement on solid ground or fall - WuXia-rangers, anyone? Oh, and fighter feats. Yeah.



A total of 13 new talents are also provided - including unnatural auras, a revenge smite for killing animal companions, fast stealth in the right terrain, etc. 5 new advanced talents, allow you to make overland chases hard for your enemies (Yeah!), see through plant matter and even using level-checks to temporarily disable abilities of favored enemies.



We also receive a massive 8 new Grand Talents - restoring favored allies from the dead, adding the advanced template to animal companions, free withdraws after hitting foes for ultimate skirmishing... the options are deadly and nasty indeed! Or want to make your spells supernatural? There you go!



The final page groups the talents by theme and does something awesome - it provides advice for using Rogue Genius Games Ranger's Knacks and the talents of Kobold Press' Spell-less Ranger. Nice shout-out and cool to see!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.



The options provided in this expansion of the talented ranger are powerful - some of the animal tricks, especially when taken out of context, can result in really nasty tricks and the same goes for some of the other options herein - so yes, imho this is a power-level upgrade for the Talented Ranger. Owen K.C. Stephens has obviously left the more experimental pieces for this expansion, nut unlike the book on the barbarian, the talents herein feel more inspired, more unique and more streamlined than the expansion for the barbarian. While I do think that the edges and talents herein can be used to craft deadly rangers indeed, I failed to make anything truly broken - and e.g. the ability-disable strike requiring prior knowledge of a monster's capability rewards the good ole' "The more you know..."-G.I. Joe trope and is something I really like.



Overall, that's the gist - the options are powerful, but damn cool and often just...interesting and uncommon. Hence, my final verdict for this expansion will clock in at "only" 4.5 stars, still rounded up to 5, mainly because the options herein may need a bit of scrutiny from DMs, but are too neat to leave by the wayside.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to More Ranger Talents
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Sorcerer Bloodlines
Publisher: Tripod Machine
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2014 06:24:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clock in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, this book introduces us to an array of more bloodlines for sorcerors...so how do they hold up?



The ancient bloodline is all about the spirits of the past, but more in a "tapping into the ancestor's knowledge"-way. More interesting would be the crystal bloodline - fire rays and shards, refract illusions - nice one!



The lycanthropy bloodline nets you beast shape and claws/bites - the former do not explicitly specify whether they are considered primary or secondary natural attacks, though the bite's caveat it can be used as secondary makes me think that they are primary weapons. This slightly opaque wording here, explicitly stating how many attacks you can execute with them, which, while precise, deviates somewhat from how one would expect such an ability to be delivered - it's more in line with a spell in its wording than a granted natural attack. While this is not perfect in my book, I get the rationale behind it and thus, this will not influence my final verdict. On the plus side, the scaling of them is awesome - increasing damage type and even netting bleed damage at higher levels.



The martial bloodline allows you to have a kind of arcane shield and store spells in your weapon - generally, a surprisingly cool bloodline! Inspired by the planar merchants, the mercane bloodline is about displacement, invisibility and the like - neat! The musical bloodline allows you to countersing, erect walls of sound etc. The phantasmal bloodline makes it possible to use mirror image-like decoys, daze foes or unleash phantasmal killers on foes. Particularly regal, even among sorcerors, the royal bloodline is all about glory and comes with a touch buff and an arcane bond.



The sand bloodline nets burrow speed and sand blasts...but I've seen this concept done better before. The same cannot be said for the swarm bloodline-squeezing into spaces, distracting foes with pseudo-swarm-like particles - damn cool! (And yes, assuming swarm form and apotheosis are high-level options for this one!)



The Time bloodline may have a bit of a killer ability at first level - at a touch phase an enemy from the time-stream for 1 round. While not that impressive on paper, in combat, this can be very powerful. Thankfully, the 1/24 hours/target-caveat prevents abuse, but I would have loved to have information on what happens if the space of the creature phasing back is occupied. The Toymaker bloodline can entangle foes with strings, summon toys etc. - nice, though not as cool as Dreadfox Games' Puppetmaster. The Xill bloodline receives claws (same ramble as with the claws granted by the lycanthropic bloodline), paralytic bites etc.



We also receive 2 archetypes - the cunning sorceror who exchanges bloodline powers and arcana for more skills and feats and the Battle Sorceror. The latter receives d8 HD, some weapon and armor proficiency sans spell failure, but pays for that with less spells. Additionally, they may select combat feats instead of bloodline feats. Solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the artworks are solid b/w stock. The pdf comes with minimum bookmarks, but a few are better than none.



RJ Grady's Sorceror Bloodlines are more than solid - in spite of having seen MANY of these, this pdf has managed to provide a couple of cool options I haven't seen before and utilizes solid crunch and wording to deliver its concepts. That being said, for my own tastes, the capstones result a bit too often in apotheosis-style transformations and immunities - while in line with the tradition, this also means that the capstones not always can be considered as awesome as one would like it to be - not all bloodlines reach the awesomeness-level of e.g. the swarm-bloodline.



HOWEVER, over all, this is a nice pdf for a more than fair price-point and the mini-archetypes, while not too uncommon, make for solid micro-toolkits to add to the sorceror. My final verdict hence will treat this pdf as a good pdf on the verge of, but not completely, in the territory of greatness. Thus, my final verdict is 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sorcerer Bloodlines
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