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Village Backdrop: Tigley (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/08/2018 03:26:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of 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 at the settlement

All right, just in case you're not familiar with Raging Swan Press excellent series of villages - here's the deal: Each village backdrop showcases one particular village and so much more: We get information on magic items for sale in the place, key NPC-information, notes on local nomenclature and lore that can be unearthed (depending, as befitting of old-school gaming, on the referee and roleplaying) as well as 6 local rumors and sample events - the latter of which should be considered to be adventure hooks the GM can develop into full-blown adventures or just use to add local color to the supplement. We also get notes on dressing customs as well as nomenclature, providing some local color. Unlike the 5e-version, the system neutral version does not sport the remnant settlement statblock information. Depending on your personal gaming aesthetics, you should be aware of the fact that the marketplace sells a +1 leather armor and a +1 dagger, which may be a bit much, depending on your tastes. Further plus of the system neutral version: We get old-school gaming stats for werebats: Descending AC, HD value, damage, defense and movement rate are noted. Solid, though a unique ability would have been nice – you know, a sonic scream or the like.

The village of Tigley is situated cliffside atop a massive canyon through which a stream flows, jutting from a spire, towering over a massive swamp; the little settlement has only recently managed to recuperate from a massive earthquake. Tigley itself is a peculiar settlement - sporting, for example, a dry well from which swarms of bats emerge in regular intervals or an old codger who asks for a "Lazy Toll" to cross the nearby rope-bridge. The village also features an interesting custom: With the local cemetery falling down during the earthquake, it has become custom to bury the dead in the nearby lake, the sink.

In a smart take on a concise supplement, the significant amount of bats and demands of certain spells like fireball mean that bat guano farming is a pretty industry here alongside paper press and hemp. The local orphanage is a constant reminder of the recent cataclysm the village has endured, in spite of the relatively few kids living there and, surprisingly, there is a werebat herein - one that has sworn off the bloodthirsty ways of his kin. There would also be local troublemakers like a gifted stone-mason who also happens to be a rather nasty bully.

Conclusion:

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

Steve Hood's Tigley is a nice little village - its industry and population feel organic and concise; the local color is superb and the quirks and traditions mentioned conspire to make the village feel organic and alive. There is also an array of rather interesting material the enterprising GM can utilize to craft adventures from - though, ultimately, in that regard, Tigley falls a bit short of the best installments in the series.

While there are several unique and compelling ideas herein, just throwing your PCs into the village will not write adventures in itself; unlike the best of the Village Backdrops, you'll need to prod a bit more, help craft a bit more investment and trouble, for Tigley could have used more pronounced conflicts that tie-in with its great local color - as provided, some minor disputes and a bully are the most prominent issues. In any other series, Tigley would be considered to be absolutely glorious, but considering the superb quality of the series as a whole, it does fall slightly short of the best in the series. The system neutral version is a good conversion, though the werebat stats could be a bit more interesting; I do own more interesting old-school stats for that critter from the AD&D-days of yore. Still, as a whole, this is a solid conversion, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Tigley (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for this review, End. I'm sorry the System Neutral Edition version of Tigley wasn't a total success for you, but I'm jolly grateful for the time you spent on your review.
Village Backdrop: Tigley (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/08/2018 03:24:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of 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 at the settlement

All right, just in case you're not familiar with Raging Swan Press excellent series of villages - here's the deal: Each village backdrop showcases one particular village: We get information on magic items for sale in the place, key NPC-information, notes on local nomenclature and lore that can be unearthed via mental attribute-based skill-checks as well as 6 local rumors and sample events - the latter of which should be considered to be adventure hooks the GM can develop into full-blown adventures or just use to add local color to the supplement. We also get noted on local dressing habits and nomenclature for more local color. In the 5e-version, we have a pretty glaring remnant from the PFRPG-origins of this pdf, though: The settlement statblock notes, which mean nothing in 5e, are still here.

The village of Tigley is situated cliffside atop a massive canyon through which a stream flows, jutting from a spire, towering over a massive swamp; the little settlement has only recently managed to recuperate from a massive earthquake. Tigley itself is a peculiar settlement - sporting, for example, a dry well from which swarms of bats emerge in regular intervals or an old codger who asks for a "Lazy Toll" to cross the nearby rope-bridge. The village also features an interesting custom: With the local cemetery falling down during the earthquake, it has become custom to bury the dead in the nearby lake, the sink.

In a smart take on a concise supplement, the significant amount of bats and demands of certain spells (like fireball) mean that bat guano farming is a pretty industry here alongside paper press and hemp. The local orphanage is a constant reminder of the recent cataclysm the village has endured, in spite of the relatively few kids living there and, surprisingly, there is a werebat herein - one that has sworn off the bloodthirsty ways of his kin. There would also be local troublemakers like a gifted stone-mason who also happens to be a rather nasty bully. The pdf does sports a brief sidebar that provides quick and dirty rules for werebats that left me singularly unimpressed. Other than that, references to 5e-default stats have been concisely implemented.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good for the most part, I didn't notice any glitches apart from the aforementioned PFRPG-relic. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Steve Hood's Tigley is a nice little village - its industry and population feel organic and concise; the local color is superb and the quirks and traditions mentioned conspire to make the village feel organic and alive. There is also an array of rather interesting material the enterprising GM can utilize to craft adventures from - though, ultimately, in that regard, Tigley falls a bit short of the best installments in the series.

While there are several unique and compelling ideas herein, just throwing your PCs into the village will not write adventures in itself; unlike the best of the Village Backdrops, you'll need to prod a bit more, help craft a bit more investment and trouble, for Tigley could have used more pronounced conflicts that tie-in with its great local color - as provided, some minor disputes and a bully are the most prominent issues. In any other series, Tigley would be considered to be absolutely glorious, but considering the superb quality of the series as a whole, it does fall slightly short of the best in the series. Additionally, the werebat rules provided are pretty weak and the conversion relic isn’t impressive either – my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars…and frankly, I don’t feel like I can round up for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Tigley (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for this review, End. I'm sorry the 5e version of Tigley--particularly the crunch--wasn't a total success for you, but I'm jolly grateful for the time you spent on your review.
Deck the Halls: A Christmas Tale
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/08/2018 03:22:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This is an adventure for 3-5 characters of levels 2 – 4. The module does not sport read-aloud text, if you’re looking for the like. Since my readers requested that I point out comfort aspects, you should note that e.g. rules-relevant components are not bolded etc. in the text. As a consequence, I recommend reading the module in its entirety before attempting to run it. Since holiday modules are popular for family-entertainment, it should be noted that I don’t consider this module to be suitable for kids. You’ll see why soon. The adventure sports basic maps, which, while not particularly aesthetically-pleasing, get the job done. One of them has the position of adversaries noted on it and no player-friendly version without them is provided.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, in the snow-swept town of Ivanheim, there exists the legend of the mad elf Santa Claus, who ostensibly watches over kids, nabbing them for his workshop. Then, one year, a couple of kids build a snowman Santa Claus and unfortunately, used the town sage’s magical top hat. The snow-elf disappeared…and soon after, so did kids. First, the town bully…then, progressively more innocent kids, with only a lump of coal remaining as a sort of mocking payment.

For 7 years, this has gone on. Parents have attempted to protect their kids, ending up horribly massacred, guts hanging between holly and mistletoe. The night of this grim harvest is named after the first kid to go missing: Chrismiss. (Clever!) This year, the few remaining kids have all been barricaded in the smokehall, with the town hiring mercenaries to guard them. That would be the PCs. Outside, a blizzard rages, concealing horrors. A single boy drums against the fear and paranoia, lifting the spirits while he lives; as the night progresses, the PCs will hear bells jingling; a knock on the door…and if the PCs have barricaded it, soon after, an explosion: Through the shrapnel, diabolical reindeer rush into the smokehall in waves, with Rudolf and his blinding nose entering last. Minor complaints here: The blinding nose does not specify its area of effect: I assume a radius/burst, but a cone would make sense as well. In a purely aesthetic peculiarity, damage notion deviates in a few, but not all statblocks from the standard: Values are noted as e.g. “d4+2” instead of “1d4+2”, but that is a cosmetic hiccup.

After the PCs have slaughtered the reindeer, a clockwork tin soldier leads nutcrackers into the fray. The latter nauseates male characters on a critical hit. Yes, I consider that to be somewhat funny.

When the PCs vanquish these foes, Santa will retreat through a portal – and the PCs hopefully will follow in hot pursuit. On the other side, they’ll b in a nightmarish workshop of rust and smoke, where undead children (!!) shuffle coal on conveyor belts. The PCs will have to kill the evil fey (who may well pummel the PCs to death with a bag of coal…) and butcher the undead children. Really weird: We get conveyor belts…but they do, RAW, nothing – no terrain features or peculiarities there.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally rather good, though not always perfect. Layout adheres to a 0-frills two-column standard – basically text, headers and statblocks, with headers in green. The artworks are public domain art and the cartography, as mentioned, is functional. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.

Jeff Gomez’ “Deck the Halls”…is surprisingly grim and dark. I did not expect such a horror module here. While a sense of dark humor suffuses the module, the undead kids sans means of saving them, makes this a pretty bleak adventure. In should also be noted that this is pretty convention-module-like; there isn’t much roleplaying, skill-use, etc. – this is a series of combats, and one an experienced group can potentially finish in less than 1 or 2 hours. Now, personally, I would have loved to see more diverse challenges; I would have enjoyed to see the conveyor belts in the final module actually matter.

While this is an inexpensive, brief module, it falls short of e.g. Zzarchov Kowolski’s only seasonally available and pretty modular “Down in Yon Forest” or Everyman Gaming’s epic Christmas mega-adventure “Yuletide Terror”, which in spite of sporting “terror” in its name, is actually family-friendly and significantly less bleak than this one. I can see this module work, but ultimately, I wasn’t too impressed with this one – too one-sided and one-note. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deck the Halls: A Christmas Tale
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Unchained Summoner Codex
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2018 04:27:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a few nice bits of prose, we learn about how summoners work within the patchwork planet of Porphyra: This section may be brief, but it adds a significant amount of flavor to the class. To give you an example: “The “soul companions” that summoners supervise, called ‘eidolons’ in the magica lexica of the Colleges of Magic…“ – there are multiple aspects here that rock: By calling the relationship “supervising”, we establish a hierarchy and all its components; the mention of the magica lexica contextualizes the uncommon word eidolon; there are colleges of magic and by tying eidolons to the soul of the summoner, we can assume a place within the context of planar geography. It’s a small sentence and one that can easily be ignored, but at the same time, it may easily be employed to inspire the GM. As you know by now, a crucial conflict of Porphyra would be the one between the Deists that serve the NewGods and the followers of the elemental lords. As such, we get a new faith trait for +1 to hit (should probably be a trait bonus) against summoners and eidolons of the opposing faction. The trait can obviously be pretty easily extrapolated to instead apply to other organizations, should you choose to go that route.

In case the title wasn’t ample clue, this book is all about a massive array of unchained summoner stats, including the respective eidolons. If you’re like me and just don’t have the time to crunch the numbers of a ton of such characters, well, there you go. But are they any good, or are they just throwaway stats? Well, first of all, the range covered is pretty massive: We gets stats ranging from level 1 to level 20 (CR ½ to CR 19); It should also be noted that the builds employ the diverse and unique races that can be found on Porphyra, but you do not necessarily need access to the respective races – the statblocks are functional without them. It should also be noted that, and this is a plus, the respective characters get brief fluff-texts that range from a brief paragraph to almost a page. So if you need a CHARACTER instead of just a statblock, this book has you covered. If you also enjoy Porphyra, you’ll be happy to note that the statblocks mention the homeland of a character as well as their faith. It’s just a little line and something you can ignore in other settings, but I really enjoyed this component.

All right, let’s begin, shall we? The first character would be Q’kar, a zendiqi (think xenophobic ultra-hardliner servants of the elemental lords…one of my favorite ethnicities available for PFRPG, just as an aside); while his CR is only ½, he is a bit of a romantic, dubbing his eidolon “The Sands of Vengeance”, which may be played for laughs, should the GM choose to do so: The creature is a pile of smoking, sandy dirt…but from humble origins, prophets and leaders may be born…so yeah, nice. Minor complaint: The fluff-text sports a layout remnant: An italicization wasn’t properly closed, with only the (i) open before a term, but that’s a cosmetic hiccup.

Hailing from the war-torn lotus blossom steppes, Xioudhra is next, and the lady doe have a fitting, serpentine eidolon. Why “fitting”?, Well, she is a half-medusa, only recently exiled for dabbling in necromancy, and while she currently is selling her services and that of her demon-worm eidolon, her ambitions do reach much higher. Fheldind the nange is a member of the “Robot Patrol Legion”, an ultra-lawful “more law-abiding than thou” hassle…and, well, in a unique twist, he is actually in love with Parrs, his eidolon – a sentiment that may be mutual. Some interesting roleplaying potential here!

Eedrilar, at CR 3, would be a killer-for-hire; the karza-drow is a male and as such, he is not deemed fit for military duty, but his daemon-arachnid eidolon does make for a powerful adversary. Arozarza is a nice example that not all builds here are evil or straightforward: the feykissed lady has the fey caller archetype and is accompanied by the golden-furred fox-lady Serene; with a benevolent trickster-bent, the two make for really neat allies for the PCs. Anydene would be a saurian and her eidolon has been dubbed “green devil”, for the two behave as pretty tyrannical bullies. This is btw. as good a place as any to note that the respective characters do sport extensive noted on behavior before and during combat, as well as on morale. Whle these may be small components, it makes running the NPCs easier and adds further character to them.

Ashub is a very powerful foe: The strix and his eidolon Diassos are the lone guards of a remote pass, but considering their aerial supremacy, they make a formidable pair of assailants. Giram Bazamgun, at CR 7, is an anpur and, mechanics-wise had the unwavering conduit archetype applied. He and his silvery eidolon, which emulates an empyreal lord, are stalwart guardians of their city of tombs – a position that is equally likely to put them into conflict with the PCs or make them a potent ally. Vieletta would be an enigmon, seeking the means to heal her sundered homeland. Her eidolon is usually only called upon in combat. Okay, at CR 9, we have an ogrillon blood god disciple, a potent lady called Ibal, who is btw. not evil: She is a recruiter for the gladiatorial arenas, with her eidolon being serpentine – in fluff, it assumes the shape of a thick, wildly mutable rope (!!), adept at transporting recruits and targets: Whether you want to run this pair as pressganging or as hunters of escaped convicts etc. remains up to your needs as a GM.

Ridis the lizardfolk is the heir of the tradition of island-keeper, tasked with guarding the ecosystem within the Rainbow Islands, and as such, sports the naturalist archetype. His eidolon takes the shape of an electric blue seal with articulated limbs. Yeah, awesome! I mean, come on: The idea of a lizardfolk nature protector isn’t new…but the lizard guy with the fast and deadly, blue seal-thing? Heck yeah, the PCs will remember this fellow! It’s just a few words, but they elevate the statblock and make the difference between fire-and-forget and remarkable.

Buma would be a muse, living in the futuristic ruins of Faldon town, her angelic eidolon guarding her sky-tower. She is also intensely disliked by the muse-leaders of nearby goblin and kobold factions. One paragraph – all it takes for an interesting adventure set-up. Talvius would be an eventual that has the evolutionist archetype. He is also an important guardian: In the oceans of Porphyra, there is a neutral ground, a meeting place for the gods, where even dreaded Mâl (typo here: “M^al”) respects the sanctity of the place. This island, masked from the most potent of magics, is where Talvius roams, with his potent eidolon guarding the place: A perfect, bronze warrior, this being is Talos. Yeah, you would be correct in assuming that this is a deliberate nod towards real-world mythology, one that is, btw., also explained in detail, should you not be familiar with it.

Okay, so, this goes above and beyond – next would be the goblin Milnun,a broodmaster – who comes not with one, but two distinct eidolons: The quadruped Cornerstone and the serpentine Slurry: This fellow comes with a fully depicted folk-lay of the Great Green. To give you an excerpt:

The Elemental Lords are gone,

banished, so is true-

That doesn’t stop the screams of pain

when Milnun comes for you…

His pets are fierce, their eyes they flash,

there’s none like them to view-

When Cornerstone and Slurry call,

they call, my friend, for you…

Come on, that is damn cool! I can actually hear this as a song/creepy ditty to foreshadow his arrival. An agent provocateur of sorts, he definitely makes for a cool and fearsome foe. (As an aside: Kudos for going the high road here: More often than not, archetypes that require more statblocks are not covered at all in such compilations, much less so at the higher levels where the stats require serious work…)

The orca-like humanoids called Orcam are one interesting race; the CR 14 summoner Mogarz sports an aquatic eidolon that is actually an agathion, whom she refers to as Endren, her water-spirit-self, adding a tint of the mystical to her take on her abilities. In a nice bonus, her ability to summon swarms is complemented by the fully statted samuqi swarm (CR 2), which may be called with the spell: A chubby fish that is actually quite tasty and may manifest as a rolling wave of silver and blue scales, teeth a-gleaming. Nice. The erkunae called Grunglei is a powerful CR 15 spirit summoner, who received her gifts as a result of blundering into a facility attempting to split dimensions, artificially bestowing her powers – the Advent Imperiax, the region where that happened, did not take kindly to this and thus, she had to flee home to Erkusaa, where she inherited Yrlyk’s ref ring of paragons, which allows the wielder to apply the elder beast template to summoned creatures (with a limit) and add nature spirits to the list of beings that may be called. Additionally, the powerful ring does allow for the 1/day summoning of a Medium (not capitalized) nature spirit as an SP…and the ring allows for something special: Once, and only once, the wearer can summon a frickin’ animal lord. The entity will demand the ring as payment, but oh boy. I really like this ring, but frankly, I think it is badly underpriced at 16K; I’d strongly suggest to make it a unique item that cannot be crafted or duplicated. Anyway, Grunglei’s eidolon behaves as a psychopomp, as befitting her ties to the spirit world. Once more, an intriguing character.

Thoning is a polkan. A really evil one. She will mess you up. Probably in melee. Wait, what? At AC 29, wielding a frickin’ impact greatsword with Improved Critical, she and her eidolon Crongy worship Ul’Ul, the Mad Maiden; There is a cult (members are known as “oolies” for licking raw Uliun ore) and she is a potent member…and a perfect example for another dimension, in which this pdf goes beyond what you’d require or expect: As you can glean from the uncommon build employed here, the book does a damn fine job of alternating builds and themes. There is no “this guy has the same build, just at a higher level”-case in this book; the respective summoners are all distinct, often radically so. This distinction is represented, in case you haven’t noticed, in both fluff and crunch. The character also comes with the spell uliun spray, which is imho a bit too strong for second level, spraying the drug-like substance, causing the targets to gain 1d4 Charisma while the drug’s effects persist, but also take 1d4 Wisdom damage. That being said, I do like the idea here and considering the flavor of the cult and the presentation, limiting access to the spell is very much intended, which kinda makes it okay.

At mighty CR 17, Irnu is a satyrine shadow caller and one of the most potent beings of her race. The mighty captain of the Shadowmask (whose full vehicle stats are included!!!) would probably be more prestigious, were it not for her worship of Lyvalia, anathema to her race. With a troubled past, her eidolon Yulalon is a manifestation of the kytons and adds a powerful ally to her already formidable capabilities. General Lairona is a level 19 master summoner of the fetchling race. She hails from the nation of Hesteria, which sports the planar anomaly called “The Wall of Sleep”; it is General Lairona that is the chief administrator of the wall, tasked with preventing it from disgorging unimaginable nightmares upon the land. Muted and effacing, one would not consider her to be part of the ruling council – though her potent angelic eidolon, her mirror-image, in a way, should make that very much clear. A true hero of a character and a great patron for the most potent of PCs.

The final character herein would be Guriel, a mighty dragonblooded unchained summoner, whose background speaks of the mighty Red King and other legends that are born on a regular basis; he is assumed to be no less than a cousin of the dreaded Red King, and his eidolon is often mistaken for a demon lord. Taking at look at its stats, I can understand why.

The pdf does come with a bonus file penned by Purple Duck mastermind Mark Gedak. The new creature herein sports one of the cutest artworks ever: Atop the critter, we can see a tiny faerie warrior riding it into battle. We are, of course, talking about the drum roll Cr ½ battle corgi!! And yes, beyond combat training, these cute doggies are particularly resilient against fear and despair, courtesy of their optimism special ability. Minor complaint: I would have loved to see animal companion stats for them.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, can be situated between good and very good. While there are a few instances of minor hiccups, as a whole, this aspect is well-done. Regarding rules-language, the pdf is rather precise. Here and there, I disagree with minor components of the supplemental material, but the statblocks per se are impressive. While I did not attempt to reverse-engineer all of them, the ones I took apart are solid. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I’ll make this short. Buy this book. Now. Okay, you really want to know, in detail, why? All right, all right.

Justin P. Sluder knows his NPC-builds; the man that brought you the amazing stats of many of Rite Publishing’s complex and cool adversaries has a ridiculous talent when it comes to creating truly distinct and cool builds; Perry Fehr knows Porphyra like no other (with the exception of Mark Gedak himself) and is an immensely talented weaver of lore. The synergy between these two authors is inspiring to witness. This pdf goes one step beyond in pretty much every way possible: Not content with simple slapping some stats together, the book is steeped in truly amazing lore that would honestly make this worth getting on its own. This book acts as a formidable pitch of the Porphyra-setting; while the statblocks per se can be used in any game, the respective fluff is utterly inspiring, taking us on a grand tour through the patch-work planet…and, in the tradition of Purple Duck Games, the components can be scavenged really easily. From strange place to wondrous islands, even if you don’t play in Porphyra, you could easily just pick concepts and regions out of this book.

So, that’s how the pdf goes one step beyond in the fluff-department: We get an impressive array of inspiring material here. In the crunch-department, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer diversity of the characters herein: We don’t get sequential builds that obviously are just higher-level continuations of previous stats, instead opting for wholly unique characters and builds. These builds run the gamut from the more classical to the utterly unexpected and often are utterly inspiring and fantastic. The unique races of the setting are employed efficiently and the pdf does not shirk away from more work-intense archetypes either. Heck, we even get a proper ship-statblock for the ship of one of the characters!

This is one of Purple Duck games’ patreon-releases, and it is glorious. It shows care, oozes passion. This is one of the rare NPC Codices that is actually a joy to read. Yes. You heard me. In spite of the massive statblock density, I had a blast reading this book. We all know how much work summoner statblocks can be. This book takes that burden from your shoulders and goes not one, but two extra miles. It provides thoroughly unique and captivating villains and allies, many of which could become recurring characters or even carry whole adventures or even campaigns. Heck, if this does not get your creative juices flowing, I don’t know what will. So, beyond being inspiring, this is also extremely handy and useful to have. Whether you only care about the stats, or only about the lore/character ideas, this pdf is worth getting. Suffice to say, I assume that you’ll care for both…and in such a case, you will beam with glee and wonder. My final verdict, in spite of a few glitches here and there, will be 5 stars + seal of approval. This is amazing.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unchained Summoner Codex
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The Robot Summoner
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2018 04:25:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of explanation of how to use this, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, though it should be noted that, as always with Legendary Games, we get a lot of content per page.

First of all: No, your class does not have the lame “Robot Summoner”-name – that is only for the purpose of, you know, making sure you know what you get. The class is called “Steel Soul”, which sounds damn metal to me. The steel soul is a variant of the unchained summoner and sports ¾ BAB-progresion, good Will-saves d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor. The steel soul does not suffer from arcane spell failure chance when casting spells in light armor. Spellcasting is spontaneous and governed by Charisma, with 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter providing the option to lose a spell in favor of a new one. Spellcasting goes up to 6th level and sports its own spell list: The list is detailed, with more uncommon spells hyperlinked. The list makes use of UM, UC, ACG, and, of course, the Technology Guide.

A key feature that is available to the class from the get-go would be the nanite link, which allows for the robot to apply the steel soul’s Charisma modifier to the save DC of the robot’s abilities. As a standard action (extraordinary, fyi) that does not provoke AoOs, the steel soul may use nanite surge, healing a robot touched by 1d6 points of damage, which increases by +1d6 at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter. The robot summoner may use this ability 3 + Charisma modifier times per day.

Of course, the class does get a robot companion. The robot gains ¾ BAB-progression, 1/4th save-progression and begins play with 2 skills, which increases to up to 30 at 20th level. Robots with high Intelligence modify this accordingly. They per se have no class skills, unless an upgrade explicitly grants them – more on that later. They begin play with one feat and increase that to up to 8. 2nd level yields a Str/Dex-bonus of +1, which increases to up to +8 at 20th level. A first level robot has a maximum number of 3 attacks, which increases to a maximum of 7 at 19th level. At 2nd level, the robot gains +2 to AC, half that amount (+1) to hardness, which scales up to +16/+8, respectively. Robots may not wear armor, so this is a pretty crucial defense component. Robots begin play with low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft. as well as share spells. As robots, they are immune to ability drain and damage, bleed, death effects, disease, energy drain, exhaustion, fatigue, mind-affecting effects, necromancy effects, nonlethal damage, paralysis, poison, sleep effects and stun.

An important balancing tool between robot and steel soul would be that they share magic item slots: If the robot wears a ring, the steel soul may not wear more than one ring, for example. This alone would not suffice to make the robot okay, though: The list of immunities is pretty massive, after all. The Achilles’ heel of the robot would be critical hits: Whenever the robot takes damage from a crit, it must succeed a DC 15 Fort-save (remember: Sucky, sucky saves…) or be stunned for a round; on a success, the robot is still staggered. The robot retains immunity against other sources of the stun condition (nice catch!). Additionally, robots are vulnerable to electricity damage. 2nd level yields evasion and 15th level improved evasion. At 9th level, we either get Multiattack, or, if the robot does not have 3+ natural attacks, a second attack with one natural weapon at -5 to BAB; basically, an iterative attack. Also at 9th level, the robot gains integrated weapon, allowing the robot to treat a technological weapon as a natural weapon, which includes proficiency as well as the option to fire in melee sans incurring AoOs.

Robots may be quadruped, biped or serpentine regarding their base forms, with upgrades, stats and movement rates etc. between them being rather well-balanced. The evolution-equivalent would be upgrades. These may be changed whenever the steel soul gains a new level, and the robot begins with one upgrade point, increasing that up to 15 at 20th level for a ¾ progression analogue to BAB. Weapon upgrades may not be disarmed and a few are base form exclusives or have minimum levels as prerequisites. There are upgrades with a point-value ranging from 1 to 4, presented by point value first and within each category, alphabetically. Among the 1-point upgrades, we can find, for example, advanced programming for a skill for +8 to it; similarly, weapon proficiency can be found, with climb speed, bite, reach, increased damage die for a natural attack, etc. We can also get a tail (and a tail slap), a tentacle or pincers or a dart gun that can deliver poison or acid. Push and pull can also be found and e.g. minor save boosts or increased natural armor may be found as well as an AC-upgrade versus beams and rays. Oh, and yes, the robot, if large enough, can become a mount!

The 2-point upgrades include increased ability scores (with a level cap for multiple uses to prevent abuse) as well as increased skill points or proficiencies. Temporary flight via booster jets, adding electricity damage to attacks or gaining a chainsaw or a laser torch can be found here. Grab and constrict as well as poison and pounce or trample can be found here. Additionally, additional arms can be found and a net-gun is offered as well. There also are wheels, which tie in with the number of legs the robot has. Among the 3-point upgrades, we can find blindsense, energy immunity or the ability to see invisible creatures. Integrated pistols can include arc pistol, laser pistol, sonic pistol and zero pistol. There also is a slow self-healing option here and the upgrade for a charged weapon that can end up stunning targets on crits. The 4-point upgrades include blindsight, chameleon circuitry (Hide in plain sight variant), upgrade to Large size (or Huge for +6 points, yes, with minimum level requirements, obviously), fast healing (with a proper minimum level) and several rifles can be found: Arc, laser, sonic and zero rifles may be equipped. Finally, the robot can have a force field of temporary hit points – while in effect, this also protects against critical hits.

These robots may be summoned by the respective steel soul in 1 minute from a 1-way underground vault and dismissing it is a standard action. I like this tech-y notion of an underground robot factory with gating etc. rather well – the 2nd level summon robot spell presented here also employs this.

2nd level yields Craft Construct for the steel soul, but until 5th level, he may only use this to repair his robot as per the rules to build and modify constructs. At 5th level, constructs created cost half as much, but the steel soul may only create mostly metal constructs, and the constructs thus created are robots, but they lack a proper long-term power-source, only lasting for 1 level per class level, with recharges costing ½ the cost to craft. Nice way to allow for multiple robots without breaking the game. Starting at 4th level, the steel soul gains +2 to AC and saves (bonus types correct – kudos!) while in reach of the robot, but only while the robot is not grappled, etc. 12th level doubles this bonus and makes the benefits also apply to allies. At 18th level, these bonuses further increase by +2 and the robot may also share the benefits of a variety of different, defensive upgrades.

At 6th level, the steel soul can dimension door the robot to his side 1/day, +1/day for every 4 levels thereafter. At 8th level, the steel soul may use two uses of the nanite healing ability to use it at close range instead. 10th level allows for the expenditure of 2 charges to temporarily grant the robot fast healing 2 for 1 minute, which increases by +1 at 12th level, 4 at 16th and 5 at 20th level. This may explicitly e used in conjunction with the robot’s fast healing. At 16th level, the nanite healing ability may be activated as a swift action instead. The capstone is instant restoration, which lets the steel soul 1/day use all nanite healing charges as an immediate action (min 1 required) to instantly restore the robot to full functionality and hit points.

The class does not come with any favored class options, supplemental feats or archetypes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are as tight and good as we’ve come to expect from Legendary Games – the class works smoothly as presented. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the Iron Gods-plug-ins. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. Artworks are full color and nice, though fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee’s steel soul class is a really good take on the trope of the robot summoner. The modified spell list and eidolon chassis make this variant class feel surprisingly distinct and are executed well. The class is 100% functional for the table and should provide no issues. While 14th level at first glance looks like a dead level, we get +1 maximum number of attacks and an upgrade for the robot, so I’m fine with the steel soul only getting new slots. Craftsmanship-wise, I have nothing to complain about regarding what’s here. I do have a bit of an issue with what’s not here, though: The lack of favored class options, archetypes, sample NPC or supplemental feats is a bit sad to see. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that, engine-wise, this fellow could have carried more. As written, the steel soul is pretty much the healing battery for the robot, which, while not bad, undersells the concept a bit. The nanite angle could have yielded something really cool: You know, short-term boosts for the robot that upgrade the upgrades granted. Bursts of plasma; pummeling fields…the flashy stuff. An engine based on such interaction would have felt a tad bit more unique than this fellow.

So yeah, as a whole, I enjoyed the steel soul. It is a distinct class that feels like a variant, but also has its unique identity. While it undersells its premise a bit, as a whole, I consider this to be worth checking out, though it does fall a bit short of the greatness it could have been. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Robot Summoner
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Everyman Minis: Unchained Monk Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2018 04:24:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As per the title, this book provides new options for the unchained monk, focusing primarily on style strikes. As such, the pdf recaps the ability before diving into the nit and grit of the respective options. The pdf provides a total of 5 different style strikes: Arm Wrench and Fake Out allow for free disarm/feint-checks; the former sans AoO. The latter is interesting: The monk gets + Wisdom-bonus to the check, and on a success, may designate an ally threatening the target, who then receives an AoO against the feinted target. The monk may not use this to grant herself an attack. Gut Blow requires 13th level and nauseates the target on a failed Fort-save for 1 round. Head Smash is pretty much the same, but instead uses confusion as the condition inflicted. Finally, outmaneuver allows the monk to make an Acrobatics check to move through the target’s space, ending up in any space adjacent to the target. This movement does not count towards movement totals and on a failed check, the monk may be pummeled by the target, but still – cool ability regarding the dealing with big baddies.

Next up would be style techniques: Whenever a monk would gain a style strike, she may learn a style technique instead, provided she has the Style feat associated with the respective style technique. Style techniques have the same use restrictions as regular style strikes, but also require that the monk is in the respective style. Using a style technique requires that the monk foregoes ALL style strikes to designate the flurry of blows a technique strike. During such a technique strike, you make any bonus attacks based on monk levels first. If the first of these hit, you gain the technique’s first hit ability; each subsequent such hit during a flurry adds another subsequent benefit. As soon as you reach 15th level, the first and second strike of a style technique are further enhanced with the so-called advanced benefit, noted for each style technique. Saving throw DCs, if any, are 10 +1/2 class level + Wisdom-modifier. A total of 8 such techniques are covered.

Crane imposes penalties to AC, with the advanced benefit allowing the monk to knock the target prone; Dragon increases the save bonus and may even grant temporary immunity to sleep, paralysis and stunning at high escalations, with the advanced benefit allowing for the swift action use of Dragon’s Roar for 1 ki point – each target that fails its save is treated as though it had been hit for the purpose of determining the effects of the subsequent hits of this technique. The Mantis technique nets a bonus to attack versus the first target of the hits, with subsequent hits also providing bonus precision damage. The advanced technique can render the target of the first hit flat-footed against the monk until the start of the next round. The Monkey technique lets the monk may move herself or the target by 5 ft. (Will thankfully negates, but still, a bit weird – this is usually tied to CMD); subsequent hits allow for additional movement and the advanced benefit yields flanking benefits, regardless of ally positions.

Panther technique lets the monk forego up to 3 attacks on a successful hit: For each such foregone attack, the monk may use Panther Style for a retaliatory attack as a free action instead; if the monk has Panther Claw, even when it’s not her turn. Unfortunately, this does not work as written. Style techniques require the use of flurry of blows, a full-attack action. Panther Style nets you a retaliatory AoO as a swift action against a target, but only if you provoke an attack of opportunity from the target by moving through a threatened square. Full attacks usually mean that you won’t move through threatened squares, unless via 5-foot-steps, which normally do not provoke AoOs. Now yes, I can create a build-constellation where the benefits become possible to trigger, but that would be a hyper-specialized case. I think something went awry with the action economy here – perhaps the technique was supposed to allow for some other sort of foregoing attacks, but I honestly can’t determine how this was supposed to work. And that is before the complicating factor of Panther Claw. Weird.

Snake technique allows you to forego attacks as well; for each attack thus not executed, you may apply the massive benefits of the activation of Snake Style’s benefits (basically, Skill as AC, which is problematic and pretty min-maxy, but not the issue of the pdf, but the feat) to 1 + the number of attacks foregone. The problem of the technique once more lies in the interaction of technique and Style-feat benefits: The technique reads “For each attack he foregoes…” and then proceeds to note the benefits mentioned above. RAW, if you forewent 3 attacks, you could gain the benefits of Snake Style for 3 (number of attacks foregone) x 4 (1+ number of foregone attacks) attacks; this makes no sense, for Snake Style requires an immediate action for this benefit, and the duration these can be held is only until your next round – the doubled benefit is obviously a relic of former rules-language, resulting in this weird doubling that doesn’t work as presented. This makes sense once the advanced benefit is unlocked, which nets you 1/round free action use of Snake Style even if its not your turn, but yeah…all in all, weird and surprisingly unrefined for the author.

Snapping Turtle technique boosts shield bonus as well as yields bonuses to grapple attempts via Snapping turtle Clutch. The advanced technique just provides further +1. The Tiger technique provides a 19-20 threat range, 17 – 20 with Improved Critical, but only on the first hit. Subsequent hits deal +1 bleed damage to the bleed damage dealt by Tiger Style, i.e. the 1d4 inflicted by the first attack’s critical hit’s bleed damage. Okay, here we have an instance where the ability MUST explicitly note its obviously intended deviation from default rules: RAW, bleed does not stack, much less with itself, unless specifically noted. Here, the subsequent attacks obviously are intended to stack bleed damage not only with themselves, but also with de facto another source of bleed damage. This increase, while not entirely unheard of, needs to be spelled out to make this work. The advanced technique increases bleed duration from 2 to 3 rounds.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good of a formal level; I noticed e.g. a slightly confusing superfluous “that”; more importantly, though, the rules-integrity of quite a few of the more involved and complex techniques herein is compromised, not in presentation, but interaction. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard with nice full-color art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Luis Loza usually does much better. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the concept of style techniques – they are interesting and I can see myself using most of them. As a nice bonus, hardcore WuXia-campaigns may consider to bake them into the style feats, should they choose to grant more flexibility to the unchained monk. I want to love this. However, there are a couple of pretty problematic issues herein, particularly considering the brevity of the pdf. While two of the issues, bad enough, compromise the formal rules-integrity, they can be solved by a competent GM. The same can’t be said about Panther technique, which even left me puzzled as to how it was supposed to work. The concept deserves further exploration and I like it, but as presented, I cannot rate this higher than 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Unchained Monk Options
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D66 Compendium 2
Publisher: Mongoose
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/06/2018 05:17:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of the massive D66-Compendiums clocks in at 89 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 86 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review and moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

So, since someone asked: Yes, the presence of this review means that you’ll see more Traveller-reviews in the future! It should be noted that, much like e.g. Raging Swan Press’ dressing books, this massive compilation of d66-tables is almost system neutral. While the book is obviously intended for the Traveller-system, it can easily provide a lot of flavor to pretty much all scifi/space opera games.

We begin this massive compilation with an easy to grasp summary of how to use the book and the d66-tables; the book explains its organization paradigm rather well and begins with tables relevant for character creation. The first d66-table lets you determine the background: If you’re coming from an alien world, for example, you’ll speak multiple languages, are multicultural and more respectful of others. If you hail from a war zone, you’ll be constantly aware of surroundings, are a light sleeper and have seen death up close. You get the idea – pretty neat! The second table provides background events with a bit of crunch thrown in: “Communicated with aliens” means that you enjoyed tinkering with the radio, talking to anyone who listened. This nets you Electronics 0 or Language 0. Such choices can be found in each of the entries – we basically have a bit of crunch and a bit of fluff. Nice!

Particularly helpful in espionage-themed contexts would be the agent events: These may net you bad intel, bombs, have your cover story blown…or net you, for example, a new language, some martial arts training, etc. Interesting would be that these events can also be used by a GM to generate some scenarios: Roll a couple of times and you’ll have some complications to write your yarn around. These are not the only such events we can find in the book, mind you: We also get such an event table for the army, marines, navy, citizens, drifters, merchants, nobles, prisoners, and entertainers, as well as for psions, rogues, scholars and scouts. In short: We get a HUGE amount of handy events that can be easily combined beyond the intended use as a nice generator for adventures – while not intended as such, I personally really liked that this section is versatile enough to allow for such use.

Beyond these profession/organization-type tables, we also get a table on life events that include children as well as a table for main uses of a contact. Nice!

The next section of the pdf deals with crime and the law: Here, we get biometric security devices – which range from the classic to the hilarious. Want an example? “Nose Hair Pattern Algorithm.” This had me laugh so hard and actually inspired me. I mean, what type of alien would make the like? Scent as the primary sense? There is serious potential here. A table of gambling events includes Zero G-jousting. More detailed would be the sample criminal hideouts. Need to reference a famous battle? We get a table of them. “I served at Daumier III” will come to mean something, and to complement this, we get a table of interstellar war names. We also receive a table of military base names and main purposes you can assign to such bases. Speaking of bases: pirate bases names or those for scout bases can be found; we also receive a table of prison facility names and prison nicknames for characters.

Narcotics and recreational drugs are covered in their own table and we get a neat little table of random things that may be unapproved on a given planet, ranging from synthetic tanning chemicals to scuffed shoes and the like.

The book moves on to deal with environments and the complications there: A table of atmosphere taints and another of corrosive, inflammable and “insdeous[sic!]” (should be insidious) atmospheres can be found before we move on to evocative names for deserts and large bodies of water. Names for strange native fruits and weird diseases are next and provide both joys and hardship for explorers. I know I don’t want my character to catch the Zhodani spots… Reasons for planets being dead complement the section with some pretty cool ideas.

After this, we move on to the ship-chapter, which provides sample names for cargo ships, criminal ships, generational ships, medical ships, personal spacecrafts, pirate ships, warships…and we get two different research ship-tables. A table provides different angles for why a ship has crashed.

The next chapter deals with the traveller life, and sports some truly inspiring components: Escalations of a panicked crowd has, for example, an entry that sees 2D-people run towards the problem or another that has a child spontaneously develop telepathy. There are also some rules-relevant components here. A table of mine names and sample pieces of gossip about an authority figure makes for nice pieces of dressing. Names for planetary bureaucracies and spaceport city names are nice…and while you#re at a spaceport, the event-table for the locale should net you enough inspiration to do all kinds of new adventuring. New a reason for an Amber or Red Travel Zone? You can find a full table for each of them here. Need a reason why the PC’s favorite starport’s closed? Another table provides ample justification in that department.

Speaking of which: Know this? Your PCs have cool contacts, but they’d break your plot? Well, a handy table why an ally can’t help you right now provides some nice excuses for the GM. Need a more permanent solution, probably because the PCs botched something? There is a table that notes why the contact was killed. The section also sports a table of medical equipment and local fashion. Weird things stuck in the water refueling also get their own table. There also is a table on shops in spaceports, though I think that one would have made more sense, organization.wise, next to the other spaceport tables.

The concept of pets gets a table for both common and uncommon pets; dog and cat breeds may be found next to bird breeds and the chapter closes with sample names for sports teams.

The Terra System is up next – here, we get a table of American warships and colony names (Bushtopia, Freedom City, Roanoke…); French colony names and warship names are next and we get a table of Chinese warship names (with pronunciation guide) and a table of luna city names, a table of Mars cities and places and one that notes the names of outer system bases and places.

The final chapter handles dressing for the Imprerium, providing a table of names for Aslans (pronounced, one for male and female), one for Darrians (ditto, though we also note the chosen names for each gender in its own table as wella s last names for a total of 6 tables); Droyne get two tables, as do K’Kree and Vargr. The Vilani get three tables and the same holds true for the Zhodani.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious accumulation of problematic entries. Layout adheres to a 1-/2-/3-column standard, depending on the demands of the tables. The pdf has a white background, making it printer-friendly, with small tech-style borders in full-color. The interior artwork ranges from decent to amazing: The chapter-header-illustrations are really impressive and nice. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks, making orientation rather comfortable. Kudos!

Dale C. McCoy Jr., with additional writing by Albert “GamerDude” Beddow Jr. provides a great compendium of dressing. In contrast to the first such compendium, we get more crunchy options herein without compromising the appeal of the tome beyond the confines of the Traveller-system. The entries remain, as a whole, as brief and concise as possible, but manage to evoke a surprising diversity of themes that should satisfy pretty much any GM out there. The organization of the material deserves special mention: I really enjoyed the sequence of the content, with only precious few tables that, to me, would have made more sense on another page, which also constitutes pretty much my only truly significant gripe with this handy compendium. This book is certain to see some use in scifi-games I run, particularly considering how the massive amount of events basically can be used as an impromptu adventure-structure generator as a nice little bonus. As a whole, I consider this very much worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D66 Compendium 2
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Into the Breach: The Kineticist
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/06/2018 05:12:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the „Into the Breach“-series clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review by my patreons.

All right, as always, we begin with new archetypes, the first of which would be the aetheric marksman, who is locked into aether a first level and gains proficiency with longbow and shortbow. The signature ability of the archetype allows for the use of an arrow as part of a kinetic blast, to be more precise, a modified version of telekinetic blast, which has a base damage of 1d8 +1 + Constitution modifier, which increases by 1d8+1 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, with a range increment of 60 ft., a critical range of 20 and a critical multiplier of x3. Weapon Focus (kinetic blast) and Deadly Aim may be applied to such blasts, but thankfully, multi-attack feats à la Multishot may not be. The modified blast applies the bonuses of enchanted ammunition, if applicable, as are special materials etc. While the available infusions to modify this one are restricted, I am not the biggest fan of the escalation of numbers this entails – it’s not bad, mind you, but as a base modification, I wasn’t blown away. 5th level yields imbuement: As a move action, the character may imbue class level arrows with a variety of ammunition special properties, with 8th level unlocking more. The marksman must accept burn equal to the enhancement value granted and lasts for 1 minute. Only one such property may be granted at a given time. Nice catch: The ammunition does not require a +1 enhancement bonus to qualify for modification. The properties inflict +1 damage per d6 if the property matches the expanded element. Minor complaint: flaming burst reference not properly italicized. This replaces 5th level’s infusion.

At 8th level, we get shrapnel arrow, which is problematic, rules-aesthetics wise: For +1 burn accepted, the arrow can split into lethal shrapnel upon impact, generating a 10-ft.-burst. The primary target gets a Ref-save to halve its damage, which is REALLY weird – that usually is not possible upon being hit – the character has already been hit!! Interaction with evasion et al. becomes really strange. Worse, the targets in the area of the burst take half as much damage and don’t get a save. Yeah. The guy skewered by the arrow could end up sans damage, while everything around him dies. Makes no sense. The way the ability is phrased also makes me think that this was supposed to inflict additional damage or something, but I’m not sure. The ability deviates from how such mechanics are used in PFRPG, and not in a good way. The no-save damage must die. On the plus-side, targeting 5-foot-squares and ammo interaction are noted. This replaces 8th level’s utility wild talent. At 13th level, the marksman may accept +2 burn to inflict additional bleed damage to the primary target, with bleed equal to the number of damage dice of the telekinetic blast, a Fort-save to negate. After that, a second target in the same line of effect, within 30 ft. of the first target, compares AC to the attack’s attack bonus: On a hit, the target takes the telekinetic blast’s damage -2d8, but is not subject to bleed. This replaces 13th level’s infusion.

The 16th level ability, burrowing arrow, allows for the acceptance of +2 points of burn. On a failed Ref-save (weird, why not Fort?), the arrow embeds itself in the target, inflicting minimum blast damage on a subsequent round until it is removed via a successful save or Heal check. This replaces 16th level’s utility wild talent and needs some nerfing/retooling: For a lot of characters and monsters, being hit with a single such arrow may well be a death a sentence.

On a nitpicky level regarding the rules-integrity, e.g. burrowing arrow does not, in contrast to e.g. piercing arrow, note that it can be used as part of another action. I get how this is supposed to work, but as a whole, I wasn’t too excited by the archetype.

The second archetype herein would be the hellfire kineticist, who replaces Knowledge (nature) with Knowledge (religion). The hellfire kineticist is locked into fire as primary element. “All infusions granted by the archetype deal half fire damage and half unholy damage.” sigh There is no such thing as unholy damage in Pathfinder.

Instead of 1st level’s infusion, we get the ability to sicken a target within 30 ft. that takes full damage from the blast, for Con mod rounds, with a Fort-save to negate.. On a critical hit, we’re looking at nausea instead. Minor complaint here: This behaves like an infusion, but isn’t formatted like one. Instead of the elemental defense and the utility wild talents at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, we get the Devil Inside ability at 2nd level. The character is treated as an evil outsider for the purpose of spells and effects and gains +2 bonus to saves versus fire and poison; at 6th level, this upgrades to +4 and fire resistance 5; 12th level upgrades this to +6 and fire resistance 10, while 18th level provides immunity to both. 4th level provides sin sense, which can wreck pretty much a ton of plots: While within 30 ft., the character becomes automatically aware of sinful thoughts targets hold at the moment or committed within 1 hour. Direct contact yields detect thoughts, as though the character had concentrated for 3 rounds. This can wreck a lot on in-game assumptions: If e.g. Cheliax had access to such a potent ability, which can’t be prevented RAW, we’d have a perfect, Orwellian survival state, thoughtcrimes etc..Even if sinful acts are up to GM-interpretation, this ability needs some nerfing/further clarification. This replaces 4th level’s utility wild talent.

8th level yields an imp familiar at full class level instead of the utility wild talent. At 11th level, instead of the infusion, we get Condemnation, which is treated as a 5th level substance infusion that costs 3 points of burn to use: If the character calls out a target’s sins, as detected via detect sins, the target takes double elemental overflow’s damage. I am not 100% positive whether the ability is supposed to require a hit of the target with a blast or not – the infusion would suggest as much, but verbiage makes it seem like there is no attack roll required. The capstone replacing omnikinesis would yield outsider apotheosis as well as 2/day plane shift, but only to Hell and back.

The third archetype would be the wind whistler, who replaces Intimidate with Perform (wind) and is locked into air as primary element. Attacking with air blasts does not add Constitution modifier to damage and instead, the character makes a Perform (wind) check that adds +1 to damage for every “5 points rolled on the skill check”, which isn’t smooth as far as wording is concerned. Okay, Adding skills to atk or damage is usually a HUGE issue: There is no component of the game that is this easy to game. That being said, the significant exchange rate keeps this slightly in check, though, on average, this does represent a damage upgrade in the hands of even a moderately capable player, so balance-conscious GMs may want to eliminate this part of the ability. As a suggestion to retain the flavor of this modification: Make the bonus thus granted to damage cap based on a formula that is based on class level.

Instead of all infusions, the character gains bardic performance, beginning play with countersong and inspire courage, using kineticist levels as bard levels.. Higher levels net dirge of doom, inspire greatness, soothing performance, frightening tune and inspire heroics, but none of the other bardic performances. Performance upgrades of bardic performances work as though the character was a bard. In addition to these, 3rd level yields tune twister, which allows the character to accept 1 burn when initiating the performance. One ally that can see and hear the wind whistler gains enveloping wind’s benefits as well as sonic resistance 1 per 5 points of the Perform check’s result. Contagious tune is gained at 6th level and allows for a multi-target buff versus mind-affecting effects, but in an interesting twist, also penalizes atk and concentration slightly. Metakinesis works differently: 5th level lets the wind whistler accept 1 point of burn to alter kinetic blasts as though affected by Disruptive Spell. Problem: The Feat’s DCs are partially contingent on spell level and the ability fails to specify how the blast is treated for these purposes. 9th level allows for the addition of Thundering Spell for the cost of 2 burn.

At 5th level, the wind whistler may accept 1 point of burn to increase the bard levels for the purpose of determining bardic performances as +4 levels higher for 3 rounds; at 8th level, 2 burn may be accepted for +6 levels for 2 rounds instead. Not a fan here; 11th level allows for the acceptance of 3 burn to add Lingering Performance; if the character has the feat, its benefits are extended to 4 rounds instead – nice. This replaces infusion specialization.

At 7th level, the character is locked into expanding air, but does not gain the usual benefits, instead gaining a Performance (wind) based bardic masterpiece sans spell/feat-prerequisites, with 12th and 17th level allowing for the replacement of the masterpiece. At 16th level, the character may accept 2 points of burn to double the skill-check governed bonus damage – as noted before, the base ability is problematic and this exacerbates the issue. The capstone allows for the expenditure of 5 rounds of bardic performance to create a 10-ft.-tall cyclone, a summoned large air elemental that acts as a shadowbard. Interesting final ability.

We also receive two new 5-level prestige classes, the first of which would be the aetheric assailant, who gets d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level (I really wished non-Int-based classes would just get more; 2+Int skills, when Int is likely to be 0 or 1, just isn’t fun for anyone), full BAB-progression and medium Fort-and Ref-save progression. Requirement-wise, we need a couple of hit-hard feats (like Cleave), BAB +5 and Elemental Focus (aether) as well as kinetic blade.

The PrC begins play with Clarity, which allows for the use of kinetic blast while under the effects of rage – which is a bit weird, considering that barbarian levels etc. are not necessarily required. Kinetic wielding lets you use kinetic blade in conjunction with weapons for which you have the Weapon Focus feat, adding weapon damage, enhancement bonuses etc. to the kinetic blade’s damage dealt, but makes any such attack otherwise targeting touch AC instead target regular AC. Here’s the issue: This may be used in conjunction with full attacks, but requires the acceptance of 1 point of burn per iterative attack, which also stacks: The third attack would hence cost 2 points. OUCH. I get the reason for this, but considering the limited usefulness of iterative attacks in the first place, rewarding a replacement of them may have constituted a more elegant trick. The PrC is intended to have its levels be treated as full kineticist levels, as well as class levels for martial classes. Here’s a nitpick: “martial classes” is not official rules-language; while often used as a catch-all term across boards, as far as rules-text is concerned, we really need that spelled out. Do inquisitors qualify? Bloodragers? Soulknives? You get the problem.

2nd level nets aether shrouded shield, which lets you use blasts to temporarily infuse resistances or miss chances into a wielded shield, which scale based on damage dice. This buff lasts 1 round; for 1 accepted burn, instead for Con-mod rounds. I like the idea, but the implementation is pretty weak. Also: “Lightning” is the damage type in 5e; it’s “electricity” in PFRPG. This level also allows for Kinetic Blade/cleave synergy, which later may be used with kinetic whip, though once more, +1 burn per target beyond first will make you hit the hard burn cap really fast.

At 3rd level, the kinetic wielding of weaponry allows for the 30-ft. at-range kinetic blast/weapon-combo attack, but once more costs 1 point of burn per round in which it’s maintained – per weapon, so while you may TWF this, it becomes pretty costly fast and, weirdly, there is not much reason to do so: You can’t deal blast damage when controlling more than one weapon thus. Additionally, reach and the like is somewhat opaque for this ability. At 4th level, the character can infuse the armor with aether blasts, self-granting DR/magic (lol) based on blast damage. At this level, a lot will have DR and, well, while there is burn-based duration-extension, I’m not blown away here. The 5th level ability increases the cap of burn acceptable per round by 1 and yields a free trip after crits with the telekinetically-wielded weaponry. Weird. The PrC,a s a whole, feels unfocused and doesn’t really have anything that makes me excited about it; the uses of burn are not particularly exciting.

The second PrC, the Cerulean Star Disciple must be non-evil, has d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ½ BAb-progression and medium Fort- and Ref-save progression. The prerequisites are easy to meet and have a story-requirement, basically requiring that the target suffered from a nasty undead-effect à la mummy rot, level drain, etc. – I really like such instances. The PrC is obviously tied in to some extent, flavor-wise, with Desna (with serial numbers filed off), gaining starknife-proficiency. The PrC gains the cerulean fire blast, which acts as blue flame blast, but inflicts +1 damage to undead per die and such targets take a -2 penalty to atk and saves for class level rounds on a failed save. Additionally, the PrC gains kinetic healer as a utility wild talent sans requiring aether or water as elemental focus. PrC levels stack with kineticist levels for the purpose of maximum burn per round and infusion + wild talent qualification. 2nd level nets cleansing flames, which allows the character to increase burn cost of the kinetic healer variant by 1 or 2 to remove an array of negative conditions. 3rd level nets ½ holy damage (which does not exist in PFRPG) with cerulean fire blasts. Additionally, targets may be set ablaze, with the continuous damage being holy (again, does not exist). At 5th level, the damage is wholly transformed to the make-belief holy type and is treated as undead bane.

3rd level allows for the line, cone or sphere shaping of cerulean fire, all at the cost of 1 burn per 10 ft. the blast shape takes up, which is pretty restrictive. Thankfully, Ref applies for half damage for such AoE-blasts. 4th level nets a cerulean fire shield variant for 1 point of burn, lasting Con-mod rounds. At 5th level, the PrC also reduces burn cost of cerulean fire-based blasts by 1 to a minimum of 0 and gains +4 to saves versus undead special abilities. (Should be codified.) The character can regain burn when destroying undead, thankfully with a daily cap that prevents abuse.

All righty, after these, we get an array of new elements. All of the elements get their own saturation (Nice!). Since this review is already pretty long, I will not go through each and every wild talent o infusion. The first would be bone, which is different than what I expected: We get dual-physical damage type blasts and the basic tricks allow for the upgrade of unarmed attacks, for example. The tricks this provides often duplicate spells, e.g. ice spears, with damage changed to negative energy. While the majority of tricks here did not blow me away, I enjoyed the corpse explosion and the means to temporarily grant vulnerability to bludgeoning damage or eliminate a target’s skeletal defenses. Not a bad element, but one that could imho have used a couple more tricks that no other element can pull off.

The second element would be chaos…and, well, it’s chaotic: Immediate action rerolls, but on a second failure, the target is staggered for one round. The blast replaces 3d6s with 1d20, 2d6s with 1d12, making the base damage more swingy. Also: Free bane versus lawful targets. This would be less of an issue, but the blast is untyped, which I d not think is a good call here. (Untyped damage must be handled very carefully…) Problematic would, for example, be a barrier that auto-disintegrates missiles and even thrown weapons. Yeah, that plus +5 thing? It’s gone. No save. WTF. Horrid mutation, a 2 burn level 2 substance infusion is also a really versatile potential save or suck and should probably by at least qualified as a polymorph effect. We also have 0 burn utility subjective gravity for free wall walking etc. Note that this element isn’t necessarily bad, but it feels weird in some of its design decisions, as it’s hard to get either the evil or whimsical chaos angle properly here.

Crystal feels a bit like a brother of bone and earth, allowing for some caltrop-ing, a bit of terrain control and otherwise feeling kinda similar to earth; personally, I probably would have made this an extension of earth, as the light/refraction-angle associated with crystals isn’t really represented here. It’s not a bad element, but it could use a couple of more unique tricks.

Dream is very versatile, allowing you to mimic elemental blasts; however, the blasts are only partially real, meaning that a successful Will-save can greatly decrease their efficiency and the blast is mind-affecting to boot. Speaking with the sleeping, tracking in the realm of dreams and a ton of spell-duplicates can be found here. I like the focus of this one, as a whole, though it does require a bit of flexibility from the GM. I wouldn’t allow it in all campaigns, but if you have a dream-theme, it’s really neat- As a secondary element in particular, this one can be neat. As a whole, in spite of the spell-duplicates, one of my favorites herein.

The final new element would be time, and I’m going to spare you the sordid details, but this one is broken as all hell. It thinks that “supernatural aging” is a damage type (it’s not!) and sports options to advance targets on the age category for 2 blasts. Lol, that is fatal very quickly. We have a per-encounter ability (ironic, considering that encounters have nothing to do with time…and yes, insert my “per-encounter abilities make no sense*-rant right here!) Restore youth allows you to cheat age. WTF. Why are there liches? And Stop Time…is a clear case of “What were they thinking???” – it’s a level 9 utility wild talent, 1 burn…that vastly outclasses frickin’ time stop. Yeah, you heard me. Also: 5th level perma-aging. WTF.

We also get notes on spark of life and draining infusion and use with the new elements. There are 3 new utility wild talents: Kinetic blade/fist charge with a trail of energy, an elemental aura and an elemental body SP duplicator. Bolster Kinetic Defense can be pretty potent in some combos: It makes elemental defense be treated as though you had spent 1 burn on it and may be taken multiple times. Elemental Ambassador is weak-sauce: It nets you a bonus on Cha-based skill checks and an elemental language. Kinetic Crafting allows for minor crafting, but oddly does not cover all elements herein. Kinetic Synergy is a spellcasting/kineticist-combo feat that allows you to accept burn for more spell-damage or DCs. Yeah, not a fan. Spells don’t need more power. Kinetic Understanding allows for the limited use of spell-trigger and spell-completion items. Signature Infusion lets you choose an infusion and reduce burn cost by 1. Again, not 100% happy. Then again, Merciful Blast is glorious and, coincidentally, I wrote an analogue ability half a year ago: It allows the kineticist to blast at a lower power-level and for nonlethal blasts.

We also get 6 new magic items: Athame Ignus is a blade for fire specialists; condensed elemental energy is a category of item that is highly problematic: It’s basically a throwaway item that can take burn for you. While it’s priced pretty highly and grouped by level, it’s still something I would not allow. Then again, if you enjoy all-day casting and have no problem with pearl of power abuse in your game, then this won’t bother you either. Focus gauntlets enhance attacks with blasts. Nexus aloe oil is a burn remover, but repeated use causes the sickened condition – should imho have a caveat that it can’t be applied when the character is sickened already. Third eyes of elemental accuracy are yet another item to enhance the chance to hit. Whistling arrows are adamantine, have a slightly wonky rules-verbiage, and are intended for use with the archetype. The pdf closes with an array of mundane items that represent different stones: The proper kineticist-specialist in possession of such an item gains a minor insight bonus. I liked these.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, there are a couple of issues in the details, but as a whole, this is relatively tight, which is impressive considering the difficulty of the kineticist’s rules-chassis. Layout adheres mostly to a two-column full-color standard, with a couple of pages instead using a 1 –column standard. The pdf sports really nice full-color artworks, which, while public domain, are NOT ones I’ve seen time and again. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Hoskins, David S. McCrae and Jeff Harris did not have an easy task here: The kineticist is probably one of Paizo’s most difficult classes to design for: It requires serious understanding of both rules-language and math. Considering that, the pdf, for the most part, does a decent job. While there are issues here and there, particularly regarding the value of damage types, a crucial balancing tool for the kineticist, the pdf gets a lot right. But it has a big issue. You see, almost all kineticist-supplements released by 3rd party publishers have been done by N. Jolly and the members of his team KOP. And…well, they are amazing. The Kineticists of Porphyra-series and Legendary Kineticists (can’t say anything about Part II as per the writing of this review) are amazing; in particular, KOP III’s dimensional ripper is just pure amazing. There also is a kind of aesthetic going on here: As a non-vancian class, kineticists shine most when they don’t require spell-references, when they can do unique things.

The kineticist options in this book, while not bad, did simply not blow me away and left me ambivalent; add to that the minor hiccups and the appeal drops. Another problem I see here pertains that a LOT of the small design parts here add to the min-maxing game; we get escalation of numbers in depth, when the kineticist’s main issue is that it needs more versatility. The craftsmanship of this book is, as a whole, pretty solid, but there are relatively few aspects herein that I’d consider to be really neat. The pdf also sports, here and there, aspects that are frankly broken and should be kept out of the hands of min-maxers. As a whole, I am sorry to say this, but I was pretty underwhelmed by this pdf. If you’re a GM who is confident regarding the refining and scavenging of rules, then this may well be worth checking out, but it should receive careful monitoring. My final verdict cannot exceed 2.5 stars, though I will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Breach: The Kineticist
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vs. Dragons
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:51:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game based on the VsM-engine clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page character sheet, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so this system can be used as a gateway to roleplaying games; the rules-lite chassis of the VsM-Engine is well-positioned to act as a “first” RPG-system, also courtesy of the presentation: We first get a brief explanation of how RPGs work, a very short list of what you need to play (cards, this book, that’s it) and a brief list of Appendix N-like inspirations in both literature and movies. The artworks herein are classic b/w-pieces that capture a sense of old-school aesthetics rather well – it should be noted that the layout here is pretty impressive: How the artworks are integrated into the three-column landscape, tablet-friendly presentation is pretty neat.

Okay, if you’re familiar with other VsM-games, you probably won’t be surprised by the basic set-up: The game knows two attributes, namely Brains and Muscles. There are 3 basic configurations for attributes: Smart heroes have 5 brains and 3 muscles, strong heroes have 3 brains and 5 muscles and well-balanced heroes have 4 brains and muscles. This value determines the amount of cards you draw when the hero faces a challenge.

Unlike e.g. Vs. Stranger Things, this game also knows a total of 3 different classes: Fighters get to choose either ranged or melee weapons: When making an attack with the chosen weapon type, they draw an additional card. Magic-users get to cast magic – more on that later. Thieves get to draw an additional card when using Brains or Muscles to pick locks, pockets, moving silently, hiding, performing sleight of hand, contortions, tumbling, etc. Now, after deciding on the class, the player gets to pick a Good and a Bad Gimmick: These can include the raising of an attribute by one point, having connections to powerful NPCs, a danger sense, etc. on the good side, while on the bad side, we have addictions, allergies, being klutzy, etc. – so yeah, within the framework of the game, you could end up with an attribute ratio of 2 to 6, should you choose. A character has 10 Toughness – these are basically the hit points of the character. Good and Bad Gimmicks can modify this value to 8 and 12, respectively.

As far as starting equipment goes, you start play with an adventurer’s kit, but otherwise, the game isn’t really about gear, so if micro-managing the like annoys you, that’s a plus; on the other hand, if you enjoy the simulationalist aspects, then this will be less fun for you. In order to get an item beyond the standard, you consult the GM and may draw a card: If the card exceeds the EV (Equipment Value), you get it. You may only procure up to Brains items per session – basically, this is a minor crazy-prepared trope: You realize you had purchased the item. Getting matching items not usually sold in sets is covered as well. Failure to meet the EV means that you can’t secure the item in this game session…better improvise! The money system allows for another way to deal with this: When drawing for equipment, you can send the difference between the value of the drawn card and EV to purchase the item. The hero is assumed to be perfectly capable of using items, which means that there is no proficiency-system or the like to worry about.

Living amenities are codified. Clothing and armor is similarly codified: Armor reduces damage incurred: Light armor by 1, medium by 2 and heavy armor by 4. After a session, regardless of whether it was hit, etc., the armor needs to be repaired – which may or may not require the aid of a blacksmith. I am not 100% happy with the mechanics here: It is RAW possible to not be hit and still requires that the PC has the armor repaired. Similarly, armor breaking mid-dungeon-exploration for now reason is weird. Here, less would probably have been more: The GM already pretty much controls the variables here, so why not grant full control of when it requires repairs? Armor btw. reduces your movement.

Shields take hits in your stead: For each hit, make a simple draw (that is drawing one card): Hearts deflects the blow completely; Diamonds and clubs reduce damage by 1 for a small shield, 2 for a large shield. On a spade draw, the damage is reduced, but the shield is damaged…if it was a melee attack. Ranged attacks only damage the shield if the spade card was a face card. Damaged shields break on the next successful strike against it, or upon making the next attack with it. In short: Shields are pretty damn good. That is, as a whole, a plus – I really dislike how sucky shields are in most fantasy RPGs.

Weaponry is classified in 4 categories: Basic attacks inflict 1 damage, simple weapons 2, improved weapons 3 and advanced weapons 4 damage. A brief table classifies weapon types and is mostly concerned about the group, like “staffs”; Weapons may be 2-handed, have a chance to break, be concealable or have a reach, which may, however, also hamper their use in cramped conditions. Ranged weaponry is similarly codified. Ranged weapons with penetration reduce an armor’s damage reduction. Weapons like bastard swords that can be handled in one or two hands are covered as well. That out the way, a brief table that lists other equipment can also be found and then, we just have to determine the traits – basically, the fluff of the hero, the non-mechanical aspects.

An extensive appendix lets you btw. determine components by chance, should you so choose: The appendix lets you determine place of birth and childhood environment. The latter btw. assumes a couple of less nice environments – after all, well-adjusted folks usually don’t become heroes, right? Thus, we get really detailed 1-page tables for the respective environments: Runaway, bastard and orphan are covered…oh, and there is the “worse” table…which, you know…is worse. After these, we get to determine an adolescence event, a family history, the background of the caretaker, the misfortune that has beset the caretaker, the status of siblings and how they relate to you. You also get to determine a curse you may be suffering from, draw twice on the friends and enemies table and your relationship status can similarly be determined by the luck of the draw. In short: All details you probably require to create a unique hero. This section is helpful, and, of course, you can ignore components of it…or everything.

All in all, character creation is quick, simple and painless.

Conflict resolution is similarly simple: You draw your Brains or Muscles value of cards and compare it to the TV (Target Value) of the task at hand; as long as one card can beat the TV. Opposed challenges are just that: Compare draws, higher wins. Teamwork is potent – the character with the highest attribute draws, plus one card per assisting character. Simple. Characters can always draw at least one card, unless a task is deemed impossible by the GM or unless the reduction is due to Pain.

As in other VsM-games, suits have general associations: The red suites are generally positive, the black suites generally negative. Hearts are better than diamonds, spades are worse than clubs.

Okay, so how does combat work? Initiative is based on player seating, starting left to the GM. Combats are measured in turns, whose length are determined by the GM on a fluid basis. Movement is either handled via abstract categories OR allow you to track the movement: 1 square per Muscles-value movement. Brains may also be used to e.g. determine the correct spot to walk to, etc. – basically, this is pretty. In order to hit a target, the PC has to exceed the target’s DV – Defense Value. That works pretty much like a TV. Ranged attacks are compared to the RV – Range Value. A target uses the higher of the two values chosen from DV and RV.

As long as a character has 6+ toughness, he is fine; at toughness 5, the character is in minor pain, which translates to -1 to both attributes. 2 is the threshold for moderate pain, equal to -2 to both attributes. 0 toughness means extreme pain, i.e. -3 to the two attributes. Dropping below 0 toughness knocks the character out; -2 equals death. The threshold values for monsters are quick and easy to determine. Resting an hour regains 1 toughness; full 8 hours of sleep net you 10 toughness. Resting for 10 minutes reduces the current pain level by one step. Quick aid has a TV of 10, and drawing a spade means you used up all healing supplies. There is also an optional rule for fantasy logic and instantaneous healing, should you prefer the like.

The book also covers rules for attacking objects and structures, fire, and general hazards. There are no hard rules for determining falling damage, but e.g. water as a hazard is covered. A GM can also rely on a variety of monsters, readily statted for you: We get undead apparitions, boggles (frog folk), cockatrices, a general stat for cosmic horrors, stats for crossroads demons, warmonger demons or demon lords. Weird eyelings, the eponymous dragons, faeries, giants, goblins – basically, we get a selection of the classics of fantasy.

Now, magic. How does magic work? Well, there are basically holy symbols (talismans of true faith), spellbooks, grimoires – you get the idea for these basic items. Unbreakable shields/armor, penetrating weapons – we have a couple of basic magic modifications regarding items. Magic wands and staves can hold magic and act as basically magical batteries, but can potentially explode if overcharged.

Okay, so how does spellcasting work? The character must spend a turn and channel the power of the location; the GM draws a card, which represents the value available to the hero; the hero only knows this value if the GM draws a heart-suite card. 2- 8 mean “little power was gathered”, while 9+ means that a decent amount could be gathered – and this is usually what the PC knows. Once the pool is depleted, the character can attempt to draw power again, but this halves the values. Magic of a location replenishes after 24 hours. When a hero attempts to cast a spell, he must expend spell points, even if the target value is not met. If the hero doesn’t have enough power, it automatically fails. This system makes magic feel pretty chaotic and unreliable. Magic is categorized in 4 types: Folk Magic is assigned to Hearts, Divine Magic to Diamonds, Witchcraft to Clubs and Black magic to Spade. Healing via e.g. black magic is possible, but may take a less savory form – you get the idea. Sample TVs are provided for the GM, with e.g. wish-granting requiring King, resurrections and gateways assigned to Jack, etc. A smattering of sample spells are included for the GM’s convenience, including some ideas for e.g. damage spells etc. Unsurprisingly, Brains determines the number of cards drawn for spellcasting.

The next chapter provides basic advice for GMs – the structuring of adventures, possible rewards (and how to gain both Bad and Good Gimmicks. We also get a couple of brief summaries of a couple of settlements (each about 2 – 3 short sentences long) and 6 sample adventure locations that might act as hooks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a really nice 3-column standard (11’’ by 8.5’’) and is pretty impressive: The use of b/w-artworks and public domain art to generate a concise, old-school aesthetics is pretty neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but only with bookmarks for the chapter-headers. Two bookmarks seem to be superfluous and point towards somewhat weird places, but this is an aesthetic complaint.

Rick Hershey, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, has created an interesting modification of the VsM-engine, one that is based on extensive modifications of the rather impressive Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. The modifications are smooth and interesting and switching games is pretty simple; if you know how to run Vs. Stranger Stuff, you’ll know how to run this. The game is interesting and play smoothly; it is easy to grasp and, potentially, run. That being said, I kinda found myself wishing there was more in the class and magic section: While detailed enough to not qualify as fully freeform, I personally prefer particularly the magic component to be more concisely defined. That being said, since even the most potent magics can theoretically be accomplished from the get-go, this may not necessarily be feasible. Still, the magic items and classes introduced here represent perhaps the one lost chance of the system. You see, while the games based on the VsM-engine allow for quick and smooth one-shot scenarios or shorter campaigns, the weakness of the system pertains to longer campaigns; there is simply not that much going on regarding character progression and advancement. Both magic and classes could have easily added, perhaps as optional components, means of advancing the characters in a concise manner; they can act as such as presented here, but ultimately, we could have gone one step further here, truly evolving the game.

In short: This is a well-made fantasy game based on cards; it is particularly suitable for those looking for an easy way to introduce players to RPGs or for quick, rules-lite gaming. It is not as detailed as Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 in its supplemental material, but still, the system does that aspect rather well. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons
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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:49:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first adventure for Vs. Dragons clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content. It should be noted that, much like the main-book for the system, the layout is a 3-column-standard in kinda-landscape, with 8.5’’ by 11’’ as the size; this means that there is quite a lot of text per page.

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

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! About a month ago, strange things began to happen in the quiet village of Hazelmoure, beginning with a three-beaked chicken and escalating to iridescent clouds, etc. The strange happening have the townsfolk concerned, seeking shelter in the temple by day, the tavern by night. The tavern is operated by the elf Eldwind (full stats provided) and may act as a start of the adventure – though just finding weird occurrences will do the trick as well: A full page of strange occurrences, governed by simple draw, can be used to establish a sense of weird magic. Drawing a Spade is suggested as a means of scene progression, though personally, I’d suggest only employing this after a threshold of a certain number of such occurrences. The effects include spontaneous out-of-season blizzards, reverse gravity, or the whole town being reduced to 1 toughness AND extreme pain – ouch! (Minor complaint: “is reduce” should probably read “is reduced.” – unfortunately not the only such glitch; we e.g. have missing “as” and similar minor hiccups accumulate throughout the pdf.)

Now, the village is obviously the focus of a strange font of magic and the pdf provides rules for this, allowing for a fluctuating amount of magic. The rules here are nice, though I was a bit puzzled by the chance of taking points of pain when tapping into the font – RAW, pain is not tracked in points in Vs. Dragons, but in steps. Just as the PCs are investigating the strange phenomena, a “hero” comes into town: Dracom pretty much immediately ends the weird phenomena, stealing the PC’s thunder, big time. He is, unsurprisingly, hailed as the savior of Hazelmoure, immediately instated into power, outlawing magic and non-authorized weapons. Yes, the PCs will not be happy, but hey, they may be hired as village guards.

Dracom then proceeds to call for taxes and the PCs will have their hands full, as a random creature table suddenly sports an influx of strange and dangerous new creatures the PCs will have to handle. Things will become personal at the very latest when Dracom sends villagers to collect the vanquished monsters and, worse for most players, the loot! The PCs, at one point, will have to confront Dracom – who is actually a magic eater dragon in disguise – and the PCs should take care, for collateral damage is very real, considering the power of the dragon. The pdf provides suggestions for Good of Bad outcomes of the adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not bad, but sport a couple of unnecessary glitches, some of which influence the rules-integrity of the chaotic magic rules in minor ways. As mentioned before, the 3-column layout is elegant and the pdf sports thematically-fitting b/w-public domain-artworks. The pdf comes with bookmarks.

Kiel Howell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, weaves an interesting, brief yarn here: The module can easily be expanded to the desired length: Due to all important aspects being pretty modular (occurrences/combats), this can work equally well in the context of a convention slot or for a longer game at the table. The strange occurrences in the village are nice, though the Ace-effect can be pretty lethal; similarly, the monsters are not easy – there is a definite chance of death here. The adventure is fun and delivers, considering its limited page-count. All in all, this is a pretty nice scenario. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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Everyman Minis: More Unchained Fighter Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:47:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief recap of the class features expanded herein, we begin with one new advanced armor training option, namely effortless shielding: You can carry items while wielding shields (excluding tower shields), but at either -2 to atk or a decrease of shield bonus by 1. You choose the penalty at the start of any action with a weapon carried in shield hand. If you have Weapon Finesse, you don’t add the armor check penalty to atk rolls when using it. Nice one and great rules-hole fix!

Next up would be a total of 8 different advanced weapon trainings: Focused Freehand lets the fighter use 1.5 times Str-mod on damage-rolls with one-handed melee weapons from the chosen weapon group. No, does not work with TWF, thankfully. Grenadier lets the fighter treat thrown splash weapons as thrown weapons for the purpose of whether he gets an atk bonus. He also adds twice the weapon training bonus to damage for direct hits. This does not stack with other such options, thankfully, but does also explicitly allow the fighter, if he has Quick Draw, to use them at the normal rate of attacks. Javelin master allows for penalty-less melee-use of javelins. Lasso expert increases the concentration check required to cast spells while lasso’d as well as the DC to escape. Break DC and AC of the lasso is also enhanced. Nice. Precision over power is cool for weak archers: The fighter does not apply the negative Strength modifier to damage with bows, and when wielding a longbow or shortbow, the fighter gets to add twice the weapon training group bonus twice to damage. Rapid refilling lets the fighter refill e.g. battle aspergillums as a free action with splash weapons. Cool! Rapid retrieval lets the fighter improve the retrieval of weaponry that usually requires a move action possible as a swift action as well. Singelton sniper reduces penalties for TWF-crossbow use.

The pdf also sports two new fighter trainings: Assess combat prowess lets the fighter identify foes via Profession (soldier) (something I also use in my home game, but only for warriors etc., not weird critters) and the training sports synergy with the size up training option. The second fighter training would be defensive mastery, which halves fighting defensively penalties to AC (does not stack with other options) – but it also makes you count as Intelligence 13 for the purpose of combat feat prerequisites.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s 2-column b/w-standard; the full-color art is nice. The pdf comes without bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ expansions for the superb Unchained Fighter cover a lot of cool, unique tricks this time around, focusing on enhancing less common tricks, enabling distinct and intriguing tricks. It’s less flashy than the first Everyman Mini-expansion, but it is in no way less excellent, providing some truly cool tricks. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: More Unchained Fighter Options
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Everyman Minis: Unchained Fighter Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:45:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 3 .5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, there are basically three types of class features contained herein for the Unchained Fighter-class.

The first ones would be advanced armor training options: We get a total of 3 of them: Armored Dash is glorious: It lets fighters wearing medium or heavy armor ignore a number of 5-ft.-squares of difficult terrain per movement equal to Strength-bonus. This does not stack with Nimble Moves or abilities based on it. Guarded action lets the fighter, 1/round, use a shield to automatically deflect an attack of opportunity, but only while aware of the attack and not flat-footed. This costs 2 stamina and expends an AoO-use, and after using the attack, the fighter loses the shield bonus to AC unless he has Improved Shield Bash. It may be taken multiple times for multiple uses, with escalating stamina costs. I LOVE this. It makes shields matter more and retains balance. Huge kudos! The third option would be Two-Shield-Specialist, allowing the character to stack shield bonuses, but not their enhancement bonuses or effects that increase the off-hand shield’s bonus to AC. Nice fill of a rules-hole.

We also get 3 new advanced weapon training options: Knockback blow lets the fighter use bull rushes instead of melee attacks during full attacks or AoOs. The ability gets AoO-interaction right. Success also deals damage to the target and it may be used with ranged weapons, but at a penalty. Spell parry lets the fighter targeted by spells or SPs that allow for SRs expend 2 stamina points and an AoO to attempt to parry the spell, rolling 1d20 + BAB, weapon enhancement bonus and weapon training bonus with the chosen weapon. The fighter is treated as having SR equal to this amount; 1s are failures, 20s return the spell to sender as per spell turning; touch range spells cannot be sent back. This is powerful, but I really like it. If you need a customization suggestion, I’d suggest eliminating the bonuses granted by weapon enhancement and weapon training for less high-powered games. Thirdly, throwing mastery lets the character draw unhidden weaponry as part of the attack roll and may have the weapon return to his hand after the attack, making, in conjunction, thrown weapons behave analogue to bows. The ability may not be used with ammunition or items destroyed upon impact and improvised weapons don’t return, unless you have Throw Anything. Inspired!

Finally, we get 9 different fighter training options: Battle Medic nets Heal as class skill, lets the fighter substitute BAB for skill bonus and increases HP healed via treat deadly wounds. Master Climber/Swim are follow-ups for heightened climbing/swimming, respectively; Master Perception lets the fighter pinpoint unseen creatures and comes with proper synergy with senses. Master Senses allows the fighter to further increase the senses, building on heightened senses. Master Acrobat allows the unchained fighter to go full-blown WuXia Wire-Fu, employing Fly etc. Nice.

Hack apart is basically a coup-de-grace versus objects: Provokes AoOs, but can sunder objects etc. effectively, ignoring class level hardness. Adamantine weaponry interaction is included. Additionally, 5 stamina may be used as a swift action for a sunder effect added to a successfully attack. Recuperate builds on treat deadly wounds, allowing the fighter to use it on himself; he does not regain stamina points while treating his wounds thus. Minor complaint: The rules here get it the wrong way around: The ability states that the fighter may use Heal instead of fighter level and Wisdom modifier instead of Constitution when making the check – it should be the other way round, considering how Heal works. For 5 stamina, the fighter can add a bonus to the check. On a success, the fighter heals +2 hit points per class level; higher successes also add the highest physical ability modifier (positive only) to the hit points healed. This may be used Con-mod times per day. Finally, shrug it off lets the unchained fighter spend ½ class level stamina points as a swift action to gain fast healing equal to stamina spent for 1 minute. It can be used 3 + Con-mod times per day.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting per se are top-notch, with the one switcheroo-glitch being my only complaint. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard with a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s options are GLORIOUS. They are mechanically-complex and center all around dealing with holes in rules, are balanced, yet potent and actually manage to make e.g. shields matter. It is baffling how much coolness can be found herein. In spite of the minor glitch, I will settle on 5 stars + seal of approval. A must-own purchase for the excellent unchained fighter.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Unchained Fighter Options
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The Manor, Issue #2
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:41:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the OSR-zine The Manor clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 23 pages of content. Front cover and advertisement/back cover are its own pdf; additionally, we get an alternate layout to print this out in booklet form: You know, first and last page on the same page, etc. – that is pretty damn cool!

Now, it should be noted that this pdf does assume a silver standard and does not subscribe to a particular OSR rules-set. AC is provided both for ascending and descending paradigms and HD and HP are noted, melee damage types are generally not differentiated. Similarly, it is not defined which type of saving throw to employ, which can be a bit inconvenient.

Now, as in #1 of the magazine, we do get a nice 12-entry-strong dressing/treasure table by Jason Sholtis, this time things that may be found left behind under the cot in the second location depicted herein. It should be noted that this is the only part of the pdf where magic items are properly formatted.

The second location sports a total of 8 magic items that can potentially be found; rules-wise, they are problematic: The second locale can’t seem to decide whether “cold damage” or “frost damage” (misspelled as “front damage”) would be the proper term; formatting doesn’t adhere to the standards and there are big problems here: The dirk of healing is a sucky weapon, but can be heated and pressed to a wound to heal 1d6 damage. There is no limit. This item provided, RAW, infinite healing. The shield of entanglement notes this: “…acts as a +3 medium shield and once per day the it can entangle one hex/square. The vines from the shield reach out and wrap around its target.” I did not modify this sentence. So…what size of hex are we talking about? Hexcrawl hex?? What effect does “wrap around the target” have? Like entangle?

The artifact killer presumes the existence of a global order of potent beings (more on them in my upcoming review of Knowledge Illuminates): The item is basically a scorpion statuette that can destroy any item, including artifacts. While the GM retains control over the duration, this can wreck many a plot and contradicts pretty much how artifacts work in every setting I know. Not a fan. Leather armor or regeneration sports another infinite healing issue: The armor grants infinite healing. Worse, it fails to understand how regeneration works, rules-wise. You see, the current owner of the armor is in a situation where he regains HP, then immediately dies, again and again. I like the nightmarish nature of this fate, mind you, but the matter of fact remains that this is not how regeneration works in any OSR-game I am familiar with, not even starting with chances to be raised…

So yeah, the magic items herein fail pretty much across the board, which may also be due to the fact that they are part of the second half of the magazine…but to elaborate that, I need to go into SPOILERS pertaining the two set-pieces herein.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the first location herein is really, really cool: We are introduced to Hugo’s Potion Shop, owned by the grumpy, nasty mage-school/guild drop-out, the place has a pawn-shop-like atmosphere, with an angry dwarven bouncer and a nasty attitude. How can he stay in business? He sells healing potions by the bulk, at half price. Sure, a precious few of them don’t work properly, but who cares when the vast majority does work, at this price? After all, chances are pretty high that customers that stumble over one such potion may not be able to return anyway. So yeah, Hugo is not a nice man; his shop also sports a workshop, where three similarly interesting characters toil away at the behalf of their nasty master: We have Clanton, a man with a sweet-tooth who doesn’t mind the monotony of churning out healing potions day after day. There would be a lady with a nasty temper with a facial tattoo that marks her as a convicted criminal and indentured servant…and there is a goblin who actually is the only true professional in outlook and work ethics. 3 of the characters here get really cool, unique b/w-artworks that surprised me in a positive way. The map of the potion shop and quarters here is also really detailed, b/w and nice, noting a scale etc. It would have been nice to get a player-friendly map, but oh well.

After the detailed notes on the NPCs (sans stats), we get detailed entries on all rooms of the location. Better yet, we get extensive notes on 20 random customers/encounters, all of which can act as either encounters or be developed into full-blown adventures: Between tragically poor people trying to keep their girl pain-free, a noble patron, unhappy customers and ties to the thieves’ guild, there is a lot of adventure potential here…even before the 7 rather detailed “proper” adventure hooks. This location can most certainly yield weeks of adventure and is a perfect example of my claim that tim Shorts gets old-school aesthetics and mood. Really nice.

…and then, the issue suddenly exhibits a baffling drop in formal writing quality. The second location has potential ties with Hugo’s, is hard to find and interesting: Smuggler’s Inn is a subterranean hideout (fully mapped – sans grid, sans scale): At a dock, you can use a lantern to attract a blind ferryman; the ice-cold Ten Killer Lake houses a massive, nasty and timorous fish called Lord John…and beyond the lake, there is the fully mapped Inn kept by Halla – who is a disguised night hag, with her own larder of Larvae. Bad people that rest here are liable to never wake up again. The Inn gets its own map (no player-friendly version) and exploration of the ice-cold lake (with help of the hag’s potions) could yield aforementioned, problematic items.

Sounds not too bad, right? You’d be right. The location, like the ones in #1 and Hugo’s, does offer some nice visuals; it sports this neat old-school aesthetic I enjoy…and it is littered with glitches. Sentences with words missing, typos, homophone errors (devise vs. device, etc.), malapropisms – even a cursory proofreading check should have gotten rid of at least a couple of them. #1’s editing wasn’t particularly tight and I noticed glitches in Hugo’s as well, but this one? There are so many in this entry that it utterly sinks the location for me. It wrecks any atmosphere created as you stumble, time and again, over a glitch.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are weird: In the first section of the magazine, I’d call them passable; the second location, though, is an utter mess, both formally and rules-wise, sinking what would otherwise be a cool location. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks are really nice for the low price point. The cartography is similarly solid, though Hugo’s is far better than the one employed for the second location. The pdf comes without any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. Kudos for the make-your-own-booklet-version, though.

Tim Shorts’ prose has a weird fascination for me: There is an elegance to the crisp and relatively brief, almost minimalist sentence structure he employs – the style appeals t me more than it should. He gets his old-school vibe right, big time, and Hugo’s is a truly inspiring place with surprisingly well-rounded characters. I loved this place; the first half of the pdf is really, really cool and worth the fair asking price.

…as a reviewer, though, I do have to rate this in its entirety. And the rules-issues and inconsistencies as well as the really bad accumulation of glitches in the second half managed to utterly sink the second location for me. If you don’t mind rules-issues and glitches galore, you amy well enjoy this section as well, but frankly, it looked to me almost like another person wrote it, so massive is the difference in quality.

Sooo, is this worth getting? Thanks t the low price, I’d reply in the affirmative, but with the caveat that you should be very careful with the problematic second location. And yes, in case you’re wondering, later issues of the e-zine improve regarding the rules aspect and the glaringly inconsistent formatting of rules-components, but I’m getting ahead of myself. How to rate this, then? Well, while I really enjoyed the first location, the glitches really sink a large part of this pdf for me, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a tiny margin due to in dubio pro reo, the low asking price and the fact that this pdf does manage to convey the author’s passion for the respective places depicted.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #2
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Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2018 04:03:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, this adventure takes place in the city of Carnassat (full statblock provided), though it can be slotted relatively easily into pretty much any world, just replace it with another city and you should be relatively good to go, provided there are enough folks to hold the city without trivializing the actions of the PCs. Carnassat, while lawful per se, is obsessed with gambling, so that would be a pretty good excuse for the PCs to be in town; otherwise, the city is not mapped per se and acts as a backdrop for the first act of the module. Relevant for the GMs that are less confident in their ability to improvise flavorful descriptions: The pdf does feature read-aloud text and DCs in the text etc. are bolded for your convenience, making that aspect pretty comfortable.

Now, there is one more thing that you should be aware of: This first act of this adventure can be easily expanded, pretty much like a type of event book of sorts; if you have books that deal with volcanoes and the like, this is very much the time to pull them out. It should also be noted that there is a distinct chance that the PCs will end up with a potent, artifact-strength magic item, the molten mantle, which may also act as a catalyst for future adventures, planes- and world-hopping. They will also probably end the module with a powerful, magical apparatus. It’s easy enough to deprive the players of these prizes, but depending on your plans for your campaign, the items might either be considered to be intrusive…or an awesome plot-device. Either way, the items are definitely worth pondering prior to running the adventure; the apparatus can easily be locked in, the mantle taken by the potent entity that made it. The pdf does contain a new monster (with a rather cool full-color artwork, the CR 8 pyroclastic wight: These things can generate nasty terrain, fir lava bombs and have a nice means to deal with them. All in all, a cool critter.

All right, this is pretty much as far as I can go without serious SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still around? Just as the PCs were enjoying a fine evening in the Pot and Kettle, things immediately become horrid. Basically, building falls, lower level characters die: An earthquake rocks the tavern, crashing down on the PC’s heads. There are survivors to be saved beyond the PCs, but things won’t let up: In a haze of dust ad eerie glow, raging fire elementals scour the city…and once the PCs have dealt with these huge, berserking brutes, they will have had their fill for the day; but in the dusk, they’ll notice a sight that is sure to be disquieting: On the horizon, a mountain now looms where none was before!

The PCs are invited to an emergency meeting with the local guildmaster; after all, who else could deal with…well, such a strange and potentially deadly situation? The guildmaster can actually identify the volcano: It’s Mount Ymawaah, sacred engine of destruction of the Elemental Queen of Fire. In case this sequence of words wasn’t ample clue for you: This is really bad news, for the volcano is notorious for appearing…and then erupting, within 3 days, killing everything is a huge radius. Hard time limit – smart!

Seems like it’s up to the PCs to placate an angry elemental quasi-deity…right? Well, things are not that simple. First of all, the PCs will have to navigate the outer crust of the volcano; here, a planned encounter with fire drakes is waiting for the PCs. Unfortunate: The text references a random encounter table that seems to have been cut from the module. The entryway to the outer caves is guarded by fire giants – it should be noted that their leader is a modification of the Strngarm from the Monster Codex. Beyond the giants, though, an easy riddle in a shrine can yield a hint to an issue later that level and a custom haunt, a scream of obsidian shards, can be encountered and a forge of magma houses salamander smiths, fully statted, The theme of fire is progressed with nice ideas – we don’t just get magma oozes, we get magma oozes infused with poison and even a massive, 13-headed pyrohydra! Okay, so far, we have a fire-themed dungeon, just as we expected.

This, however, is where the module becomes MUCH more interesting: After defeating the hydra, the PCs will get the thoqqua apparatus – which they can pilot through magma to the heart of the volcano! This is amazing…and it comes with full stats and all. I really loved this…but ultimately, the module doesn’t do too much with it; it just remains a means of transportation, when the journey through the molten flows could have been one amazing section; if you run this in your home-game, do me a favor and employ this to its amazing potential. I mean, come on: Magma-diving, magical tank? You have to have some epic encounters there! The PCs thus arrive at the second level of the dungeon, the sanctum of pure fire, where the molten variants of iron golems, nessian hell hounds and other infernal threats (like an ice devil – the encounter has the fun title “Not a snow-ball’s chance…”) loom…oh, and the PCs get a taste of the pyroclastic wights, the things that will rise from those slain by the sacred volcano if the PCs fail.

It is also here that the PCs can find the fully-statted efreeti inquisitor (CR 10) Siad Barkan, held as a prisoner…and he is an agent of fire. The inquisitor can easily fill the PCs in regarding the true plot here: The protean Ecarnamish has taken over the mountain, and the entity has effortlessly bested Sian, who proposes an alliance…though the inquisitor isn’t that big of a help. Another shrine allows the PCs to gain a one-time boon…if they survive drinking sacred flames that bypass all resistance and immunities…but if they do, they have a potent tool at their hands. Ultimately, though, the PCs will have to once more navigate the thoqqua apparatus even deeper into the burning heart of the volcano, reaching the final level of the dungeon, where the infusion of chaos matter into the lava (hence, chaosfire…) takes place: The protean’s plane-splicing has tainted the lava here, and appropriate guardians await: Like acid-infused dire crocodiles, lightning elementals and a frost worm – all potent foes, with energy-type-changed pools awaiting…and finally, the PCs will encounter the protean mastermind, who is btw. a pretty brutal imentesh protean arcanist 10 with potent spellcasting, nasty melee tricks and a pretty detailed tactics/during combat section – most assuredly a fine BBEG. If the PCs don’t want to give up the mantle that allows them control of a planes-hopping volcano/weapon of mass destruction, then they will also have to best Siad…which, after the boss, will be one tough cookie… The pdf does provide notes on concluding and continuing the adventure, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally really good on a formal and rules-language level; I did some reverse-engineering with the statblocks and noticed no obvious hiccups. Layout adheres toa nice two-column full-color standard that fits a lot of text on each page – this module is surprisingly long for its page-count. The borders of the pages look a bit like molten rock, which is a nice flourish. The interior artworks are full-color, original and nice. The cartography is also full-color and comes with an extra-pdf of player-friendly versions of the maps. The maps aren’t particularly aesthetically-pleasing or detailed, though.

Joel Flank’s “Chaosfire Incursion” is a module that starts off with a great bang: The first act is cool and makes clear that the stakes are high; the first dungeon level is a deliberate feint, making it look like a themed dungeon, which is partially true; once the PCs have found the apparatus, things become amazing, though: The idea is glorious. That being said, there are a couple of minor hiccups I need to mention: The random encounter table missing from the file is one down-side, though not my biggest complaint; so, the PCs have basically a magma-tank, right? Where are the sequences where they have to navigate streams of magma, avoid lavafalls, etc.? Where the engine gets stuck and the PCs have to defend the vessel against endless, burning hordes while it’s rocking on a literal sea of flame? I mean, come on! We get the stats for the vehicle!

And yes, any GM even half worth his/her salt can add that, but the absence of any such sequence is still utterly puzzling to me. It’s the coolest idea in the whole adventure! That being said, this still sports some seriously nice scenes: The monsters are often modified in unique ways; the module is challenging and the final boss appropriately brutal. Moreover, we a) don’t get many modules in the high-level range and b), the artifacts that can be gained, while potentially problematic, can make for absolutely fantastic ways to transition the PCs from regular adventuring to the wonders of the planes.

This module, in short, is certainly well worth running; perhaps even more so for what may follow in its wake. How to rate this, then? Well, while this is almost excellence, it does fall short of e.g. the truly excellent Gilded Gauntlet, but it still remains a neat adventure. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars…though I have to round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion (PFRPG)
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2018 04:01:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, it should be noted that this module was originally released for season 1 of Vs. Stranger Stuff; I will look at it within the context of season 2’s significantly expanded and refined rules, which means that you should consider this to be retroactively designated as an easy mode adventure. It should be noted that it’s very easy to integrate recurring characters from other Vs. Stranger Stuff modules within this adventure as NPCs – they accompany the PCs at their task and could, depending on how you wish to run this, meet unfortunate fates…or, for a more family-friendly interpretation, just add to the scare factor.

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

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, local philanthropist Travis Hart has purchased a picturesque location and the PCs have scored a sweet deal: School’s out and they can earn some serious bucks for fixing up Camp Hope! Yeah, well, sure, that place saw a couple of grisly murders in the 60s, but that’s in the past, right? I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, for one, school bully Chad Helms is also working the site, potentially making the PC’s life miserable. Chad is picking on Jessica, one of the recurring class mate characters, and the PCs may well want to intervene. This would be a good place to note that we get stats for Travis, Chad and Jessica, with Chad getting the pretty potent headlock ability. It should be noted that this Good Gimmick has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 as far as rules-language is concerned; I strongly suggest using the rules of the new edition. (Something that btw. holds true for, well, pretty much any such rules-component; Season 2 is a vastly superior game.)

Anyways, before the PCs can knock out Chad, they’ll see strange lights in the distance, which the bully will use to skulk away. Now personally, I am not a big fan of this type of railroading; it should be up to the PCs or at least, offer a chance, to let him get a proper comeuppance. But that may be me.

Travis, in a nice play against the conventions, has seen the lights as well and suggests scouring the campgrounds, which is, coincidentally a good way to split the party and make some PCs share the company of Jessica and Chad. Nice: The mini-investigation yields results based on the suite of the card drawn: At the entrance, dime-sized scorch-marks and a destroyed entry gate loom; bright lights and a faint siren make the water treatment plant easy to spot and the bathhouses contain a family of raccoons. If the PCs investigate Chad, they’ll find a stash of nudey mags…which may well change dynamics here.

Smart PCs attempting to sneak around will be found by Travis, unerringly…and some might say, creepily. Over the next couple of days, the weird lights will reappear; electronics are found dismantled and tools go missing; if the players don’t put it all together, an Ace Mental (use Brains in Season 2) challenge can yield the solution, with every day decreasing the required target.

Beyond the obviously hilarious speculation your players may engage in, the module provides a variety of entertaining false leads: Ghosts from previous campers! Devil worshipers! Merpeople in the lake! Chad is a psychopath! Travis is the original serial killer! Te creepy counselor is an undead maniac! Rabid, mutant raccoons run the fields! All of these have in common that they are more detailed in the book…and that they’re wrong.

Ultimately, the PCs will find the truth…a dog-sized spider-shaped robot! Badly damaged, trying to rebuild itself. The thing is, surprisingly, non-hostile and seems to be hiding from another robot, which seeks to destroy it. It can barely communicate with broken voice module and charades, making it an interesting NPC to interact with. And yes, the module mentions the reactions of NPCs to being shown this secret camper. Suffice to say, the PCs will probably want to keep it hidden from Travis and Chad…and after a few days of hijinx (come on, we all have seen enough secret friend movies for inspiration…) of trying to keep the robot hidden, the hunter will appear – basically the evil version of the PC’s new robot friend. While this potent machine can’t kill humans, it can hurt them…and its directive is to destroy the friendly DSR (damaged spider robot) – something the PCs should definitely want to avoid!

If they best the brutal hunter, they may well wave their new DSR-friend good-bye, as it scampers off into the woods just before the inevitable military clean-up crew in hazmat suits arrives to make the debris vanish. The PCs are in no danger, but the presence of these folks is still concerning. In the end, the PCs may have a ton of money from the job…but whether DSR lives or is destroyed ultimately decides whether they’ll leave this module with a new Bad or Good Stuff –seeing your robot friend being killed by a robot can be traumatic, after all. If DSR lives, they’ll have an ally for life, though!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice artworks in color. The pdf has no maps of camp hope, which is a slight comfort detriment. The pdf also sports no bookmarks, which is another minor comfort detriment.

Ben Dowell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, delivers in this book – pretty big time, I might add. If you’re like me and always had a fascination with see SPOILER-section, if you recall all those classic movies, you’ll smile more often than not while running this. The ally the PCs can gain here is nice and the module is, as a whole, a warm-hearted and nice adventure with a bit of tension, a bit of investigation, detailed false leads…you get the idea. While the module could be a bit meatier regarding the false leads and investigation itself, while I would have loved to see a couple of fully fleshed out scenes pertaining the kids trying to cover for the new friend, this most assuredly is a worthwhile offering that can work for both adults and kids equally well. While use with season 2 requires a couple of minor modifications, this remains a very much worthwhile adventure to check out. Considering the low and fair price-point, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
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