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Midgard Tales (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/16/2014 07:45:02
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive adventure anthology is 198 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page backer-list/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 192 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Midgard Tales...an anthology with the goal of creating adventures to talk about. Not only are these supposed to be exciting, they are supposed to resound with the stuff of mythology, of being iconic in the truest sense of the world. This anthology is one massive book and thus, I will not go into as many details regarding the modules as usual, instead giving you a short heads-up regarding the respective modules. Also: I was a backer of this on kickstarter, but did not contribute in any shape or form to it. Got that?



Awesome! The following thus contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion, mostly because, believe me, you don't want this spoiled.



Tim Connors kicks off with the weirdest, most glorious 1st level module I've read in quite a while: Set upon the infinitely delayed Great Old Ones in eternal struggle, the PCs awake in "Atop the Warring Blasphemies" in essentially a nest...of one weird, semi-cthulhoid dragon-like being. Escaping from their predicament, the PCs have to navigate the gigantic bodies of the old ones and the politics of the weird goblin-tribes that worship and live among them. Worse, there actually are pulpy pieces of technology that keep the aura of bloodlust emitted by the huge creatures in check. Navigating the strange vertical settlements, shooting ballistae at adversaries, climbing, betrayal - this is one damn furious first module for any campaign and should be considered a true gem - it's only downside being that it will be hard to trump this tour-de-force.



Next up would be Morgan Boehringer's "Curse of the Witchkeep". Intended for 2nd level, the PCs are introduced to the village of Loshtadt in the Krakovan hinterlands. Intended as a horror adventure, a sense of desolation suffuses the area. And indeed, a dread curse has fallen upon the xenophobic settlement - biological time is passing exceedingly fast and this amplified ageing process may actually hit the PCs as well. Beyond this curse, not all is well - the village suffers from a powerplay between the lady of the area and the deadly cult of the harbinger, and at night, fear of the "night beast", which is in fact an eidolon, reigns. Undead witchwolves roam the countryside and in order to break the curse, the PCs will have to infiltrate the local keep's dungeon and put an end to the powerplay and deal in a great puzzle-combat with a semi-sentient orrery. Have I mentioned the antipaladin that may actually not be the worst possible ally or the other factions involved in the power-play? This is relatively complex and one of those deceptive modules that don't look that awesome on paper, but running it actually works exceedingly well and remarkable. Again, two thumbs up!



The next module, Ted Reed's "On the Fourth Day, We Kill Them All", for level 3 characters...is downright glorious. You may know that I have a soft spot for stories in the northlands, but all too often, the issue is that the authors don't get the mindset. Well, Ted Reed does. Set against the backdrop of a feud at a Þing, i.e. the kind-of-somewhat-democratic meetings, the PCs not only get to embark in simply superbly fun mini-games that breathe social flair and fluff, in order to persevere, they have to explore a fortress once swallowed by a living glacier and return, triumphantly, with an army of lost ancestors to prevail in a gambit for power. Have I mentioned the diverse political intriguing? Even if you don't like the Northlands, this module remains among the apex-modules in iconic imagery and things to do and should be considered a must-run masterpiece. I bow to the author! If all modules were this good, I'd be out of reviewing.



Chris Lozaga's "Bloodmarked of White Mountain" deals with a village under a strange curse - it seems like the dread ghost folk have bloodmarked a whole village to fall victim to their depredations, sending the whole village into a deep, unnatural slumber. What are the ghost folk? Essentially inbred, white face-painted orcs that ignite in white fire thanks to their strange customs and alchemy upon being slain. In order to lift the curse, the PCs will have to unearth the traumatic history of a hermit, climb a dread idol of the white goddess and finally enter an abandoned mine and defeat the ghost folk in their own environment. Sooo...this is the first module herein I consider good, but simply not that awesome. Yeah, orcs in Midgard are rare and the ignition-upon-death angle is nice...but I can't help but feel I've seen this exact plot before. Feeling more like a post-apocalyptic module, I was reminded of some classics of the genre (brownie-points if you can recall them). Now don't get me wrong - this still is a very good module, but in direct comparison, it somewhat pales.



Module number 5, Michael Lane's "Dawnsong Tragedy" (also for level 3) see the reappearance of a fabled yurt in the Rothenian plane...and the potential for sinister influence. Entering the yurt, the PCs find themselves trapped in a demiplane-style environment, requiring them to defeat a coalition of 3 agents of gods most foul, who, as it turns out, were responsible for the disappearance of the yurt. Each comes with its own, deadly environment and minions, making for a fun romp through uncommon areas. While there is not much going on beyond combat in the respective areas, their iconic layout helps make this module remarkable. Somewhat similar to Legendary Games' "Baleful Coven", this module is great, but not as 100% iconic as I would have liked. Primarily, I think the respective areas of the adversaries could have been a bit more far-out and feature some more unique terrain features. What I do really enjoy is that the respective areas are presented as hexes, though going full-blown hexploration, including random encounter tables, weird weather etc. could have made this very good module into a true legend.



Matt Hewson's "The Tattered Unicorn" (again, for level 3), kicks off with an unicorn ghost herding the PCs toward the village of Astig, where further issues ensue. Delving into the social dynamics of the small place and trysts long gone, the PCs have to find out, what has happened to the unicorn... and during the investigation, also manage the dynamics between a nymph and her forlarren sister as well as prevent a bound demon from being released by the mastermind of the unicorn's demise. All in all...an okay investigation. It's background isn't too special, the means of research not that pronounced, the plot ultimately somewhat simple. It's one of the modules where your PCs are most likely to stumble across the solution without getting all the details. Also: The final ritual, while called incantation in the text, does not get a full incantation treatment, which is somewhat of a pity. Now don't get me wrong, this module isn't bad in any way, but it also could have used more research consequences/pieces to put together. The threat promised by the set-up isn't really followed up on and while timeline etc. help, overall, it is a rather simplistic scenario for an investigation.



Ben McFarland's "To Resurrect the Steigenadler" (intended for level 4) is a whole different beast: When a bone-storm downs the airship the PCs boarded to traverse the wasted west, not only do their actions determine whether NPCs survive the crash, they also find themselves beseiged by mad cultists, terrible beasts born from insanity and in an area that simply is one of the most iconic, deadly ones in Midgard. In order to make the ship once again rise to the skies, brains, brawn and stealth are all required in a tale of survival, madness and consequences. Breathing the flair of the wasted west, this module is superb and ranks among the finest crash-landing scenarios I've seen in quite a while - once again, one of the legends and befitting Ben McFarland's superb resumé.



Erik Freund's level 5 module, "Masquerade", takes a different approach: Two-star-crossed lovers on different sides of a war, a forced marriage looming...realize something? Yes, this module is essentially "Romeo & Juliet"...much like some other modules I've read. But don't skip! Why? Because it is distinctly NOT "Romeo & Juliet" - the player characters first have to brave the seedy underbelly of Capleon for legwork and to acquire an elixir that is supposed to put Seletta, the Baron's daughter into a coma. In order to deliver the elixir, the PCs have to infiltrate a masque ball (complete with a SUPERB mini-game between Exposure and gaining enough clout to approach Seletta) - upon delivering the assassination attempt, a wild chase resumes, the after math of which is depending on the PCs managing exposure versus subtlety. Trying to retrieve her comatose body by breaking into the cemetery, the PCs finally have to flee the city and intrude into a realm in-between of Hellraiser-like madness between pain and insanity to finally face an ending that may be resoundingly triumphant or just as heart-rending bitter-sweet as its literary inspiration. The premise made me groan, the execution is so utterly ultra-glorious, though, that I can simply only slow clap to the ambition of the author. One legendary, smart epic indeed and one of the best modules I've read in ages.



Mike Franke's level 6 module "Whispers in the Dark" is more conservative in the ground it treads by having the PCs explore creepy mines and finally brave the derro-incursion beneath Breccia. Overall, a weird little crawl that, much like the second module, doesn't read as exciting on paper. However, Mike Franke seems to have a gift for fusing encounters and traps into a cohesive whole that works surprisingly well when run, creating an atmosphere beyond the sum of its parts.



Next up would be a module by the master of the macabre, Richard Pett: "Sorrow", for level 7 characters. The module kicks off with the PCs being invited to a "royal" wedding in the backwater town of Twine. As tradition will have it, the King in Rags, a debased Dark fey-lord is out to take the lord's daughter to claim his prize for services rendered in the past and thus, the PCs get to participate in a forced marriage-ceremony, where dancing with baccae, succeeding at fey-tasks and generally breathing the palpable sense of dark fantasy grit is tantamount - even before the lord tries to kill the King in Rags, thus sending his whole county into the fey's domain, where in a race against time, the PCs have to do some hasty hexploration to track down the King in Rags before the entity can consummate his marriage...potentially dealing with former brides and similar fey creatures and only, if they can stop the king's mantle of living crows from stopping their best attacks. The master of horror and dark fantasy at his finest, on par with the legendary "Courts of the Shadow Fey" in delightfully evil dark fey-flair. Another legend!



"Among the red monoliths" by Brian W. Suskind (level 7-9) caters to my preference of shades of grey morality - the city of Bourgund is a radiant place and when the PCs arrive there and have items confiscated, they probably will be rather grumpy, with those white knights mumbling something about primal giant slaying...and they'd better. The order of white knights has fallen victim to the very human sin of hubris and an ally of the most uncommon kind, the dread church of Marena, may all that stands between the city and utter destruction. In order to prevent the immortal primal guardians from escaping the monoliths that litter the city, the PCs have to help the dark cult get their hands on various items and finally, conduct the rite...which adds another issue...it requires human sacrifice. Shades of grey are not for every group, but this module makes a great stance for a module that does require adventuring on the darker sides of morality. As soon as the constantly regenerating giants get free, that ought to be rather clear. Uncommon and a type of module I haven't seen before in commercial publishing and surprisingly in line with how my campaigns tend to run, this one is rather fun, though players who see everything as black and white might disagree.



Thankfully, Brian W. Suskind also gets another module to show off his versatility as an author with the "Five Trials of Pharos", intended for level 10 characters. The premise is as uncommon as they come - Mharot dragon Yiraz invites the adventurers alongside some competing teams to embark on a race to 5 trials, each of which requires the solving of mundane, riddle-like instructions and ultimately is designed to realign ley-lines towards one nexus. The race comes with a vast array of different challenges and the symbolic power of the respective challenges also resounds properly. After a glorious, breathless race, the PCs will even have to save their draconic patron, who has been duped and thus had her body taken over by a grisly, legendary dragon/aboleth hybrid thought long-since perished. Yes. EPIC FINAL BATTLE indeed!



The final module, "The Stacks Between" is penned by no other than Crystal Frasier and takes place in our favorite clockwork-city of Zobeck, to be precise in the legendary, teleporting library Bibliolethe, last repository of so much lore of the reviled Stross family. Entering the precipice on the trail of a vanished mage, the PCs have a scant few 10 hours to navigate bound azata and their contractual obligations to a bound contract devil, avoid the groundkeeper and golems, navigate a cool puzzle-floor and finally defeat the spirit and madness of the library's former master, split in twain by the dread artifact that is responsible for the Bibliolethe's planehopping - if the shadow fey or former victims turned dread undead don't get the PCs first! Success may actually return the legendary library to Zobeck! Gloriously wicked, dark dungeon, somewhat reminiscent of Frog God Games' super "Black Monastery", but unique enough to exist alongside it.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are one of the unfortunate weaknesses of this book and one reason it did not score even higher on my Top Ten list of the best of 2013 - from bolding errors, wrong page-headers and typos to even map-glitches, one more thorough editing pass wouldn't have hurt this one. Layout adheres to Midgard's two-column full-color standard and is gorgeous. The same holds true for the extremely evocative, cool b/w-artworks throughout the book that convey so much better the darkness and grit of these modules than the deceptively light cover implies. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Speaking of artwork and maps - there is a second pdf that contains look-see-handout versions of the superb artworks and maps and while I'm not a big fan of non-KS-backers paying extra for them, I wouldn't complain, after all the maps are awesome. Or rather, I wouldn't complain, for the second gripe I have is that, once again, we get no player-friendly maps of the places, not even in the extra, for-sale handout-pdf! That's NOT cool - had I paid extra for handouts, I would have at least expected to have the maps sans letters, creature-markers etc. So yeah, that was the second factor that brought this down a notch. On the plus-side, the hardcover I got from the KS is a solid beauty with good paper and solid craftmanship -it certainly looks awesome and production values are top-notch here!



Now don't get me wrong - I've been at my top-notch complaining level throughout the whole review - there is not a single bad module herein. Not one. There isn't even a mediocre one in here. the worst I could say about any given module in this anthology would be that a module is just "good". But how is the ratio? 7 of these modules, on their own, would have me gush, grin and heap superlatives on them. 7.

That's more than 50% A++-modules, of which, I guarantee that much, you won't be disappointed. Add to that that the other modules all occupy slots at the higher echelons, never dipping to mediocrity, and we have an anthology that succeeds at its lofty goal of proving modules that players WILL talk about. That, ladies and gentlemen, is superb density regarding quality and sheer narrative potential. Have I mentioned that most modules herein coincidentally also make simply good reading material? To cut a long ramble short:

This anthology is well worth its place on my Top Ten of last year and 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Tales (Pathfinder RPG)
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Mythic Monsters: Molds, Slimes, and Fungi
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/16/2014 07:42:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' Mythic Monsters-series is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of raw content, so what do we exactly get here?



I like the gritty and dark. My campaigns tend to feature a lot of diseases, poisons and the like. Add to that the fact that I have some serious health issues with regards to fungus spores and a traumatic horror story I read as a child and I'll come right out and say it: Demons? Lovecraftiana? Pfff. If you want me to feel uncomfortable, put me some fungi before me. I just consider them CREEPY and thus, I love using them. They also make players squeal - after all, who wants to be rotted from the inside-out?



As a nice idea, this pdf kicks off by introducing the optional fungus-subtype before providing...yes, 8 mythic fungus hazards. Though regular brown mold was bad? Wait until you fall into a patch of the mythic variant! Seriously, I love hazards and these add nastier variants to a DM's arsenal - so kudos!



Now let's look at the creatures, shall we? At CR 6/MR 2, the mythic ascomoid has not only better control via spore jets (and thus about their charging), it also is a neat fungal overrun machine. Cool! At the same CR/MR, the mythic basidirond not only gets poison blood and the option to entrap foes in ropy tendrils, they may also emit a sympathy-inducing aroma that can even fascinate those witnessing it from close-by. Creepy! At CR 12/MR 5, the Mythic Fungus Queen is a threat to fear indeed - not only can she energy drain, create difficult terrain (connected with her entrap ability!) and fight through her sporepods, she can also create legions of slain spawn. *shudder*



On the less high level/boss-battle style adversaries, we'd get the CR 3/MR 1 Mythic Leshy Fungus with soundburst (that one should probably be italicized) puffballs and yes, we also get full information for the ritual to create these.



Well, though the fungus queen was bad? CR 26/MR 10. MYTHIC MU SPORE. 'Nuff said. Or not - 8 signature abilities versus two of the non-mythic version. One-page glorious full-color artwork. Shudder, tremble and fear, mortals. One glorious beast! At CR 5/MR 2, the mythic myceloid can go one step further and transform those infected by their purple pox into full-blown myceloids - oh, and they may actually taste your emotions, highjacking morale bonuses and ferret out you via emotions. CREEPY. CR 4/MR 1 Mythic Phantom Fungus may spew forth dazzling spores. At CR 5/MR 2, the mythic phycomid can rapid fire their pellets and have them pop up in splash-damage-style bursts.



CR 3/MR 1 mythic slime molds can disgorge green slime and make those hit unwitting carriers. Mythic vegepygmies and their champions (at CR1/MR 1 and CR 2/MR 1) get greensight, can create greenblood oil and chieftains get essentially defensive russet mold.



At CR 4/MR 1, mythic violet fungi get tentacles with barbs, okay, I guess. Finally, we get a lavish one-page illustration in full color of the Fairy Ring, a CR 8/ MR 3 new beast that is a plant swarm with various SLs that can act as a planar crossroads, disenchant magic items, act as a guarded rope trick-style pocket dimension, deals its swarm damage not only selectively, but also non-lethal and can even put you to sleep or pronounce ageing curses! Superb, iconic, awesome and a final capstone offering for the book!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally, rather good - while there aren't any significant glitches that detract from the entries per se, it should be noted that basidirond, leshy, phantom fungus and violet fungus miss the ecology-entries of their statblocks. Not a catastrophe, but also a minor glitch. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the two 1-page full color illustrations are glorious. The pdf comes bookmarked, but not to the respective entries and the bookmarks seem to be taken from the Demon-pdf, another minor gripe there. the pdf comes bookmarked with the good type of hyperlinks that is applied to rules/components where it makes sense.



Jason Nelson has crafted a thoroughly disturbing array of cool creatures (and hazards) here, with just about every critter filling very iconic roles and some monsters actually doing exceedingly cool things. That being said, this level of awesomeness is not continuous - the violet fungus, for example and the vegepygmies feel somewhat less inspired than the otherwise awesome creatures herein. Add to that the aforementioned glitches, and we arrive at a verdict where I can recommend this installment of mythic monsters at a heartfelt 4.5 stars, but will round down by a very small margin to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters: Molds, Slimes, and Fungi
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Pact Magic Unbound, Vol. 2 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Radiance House
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2014 06:14:44
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second Pact Magic-book is a whopping 107 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 blank page, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 100 pages of content - so let's take a look!



So, how do we start? Well, essentially with class options for all non-core classes - from exorcizing bombs to spirits in a bottle (i.e. poor pacts via mutagens), we get two damn cool discoveries for the alchemist as well as the occult chymist archetype - who gets diminished alchemy to pay for access to spirits. As a cool drawback, the alchemist develops an addiction to one chosen constellation, getting penalties when not bound with a spirit of said constellation - it should be noted that slowly, the penalties of this addiction can be overcome. Cavaliers may choose from two new orders - the order of the Occult Eye and the Order of Saelendrios - whereas the former would be dabbler in the occult, teh former are devoted to the eradication of pact magic, following in the footsteps of a particular order from Tome of Magic - only with vastly superior rules and proper benefits! Of course, Cavaliers also get a new archetype, the Pactsworn Knight - essentially a cavalier with binder capabilities - here the synergy between bound spirits and cavalier abilities is formidable, allowing the cavalier to e.g. challenge a foe and treat it as the favored enemy of his bound spirit(s). Occult Avengers are Gunslingers that live only for revenge - and thus use pact magic to hunt down their respective marks - while bound to spirits, their two exclusive deeds allow them to act as superb trackers of adversaries.



No other class is as predisposed fluff-wise to opposing pact magic as the inquisitor and hence the class gets a new anti-spirit inquisition. The occult abolisher is hence also a specialist of combat against pact magic - whereas the occult sadist pays for binding spirits and a painful touch (i.e. an antipaladin's touch of corruption -PLUS cruelty later!) with slightly diminished spellcasting, while the Pact Protector is just the opposite - a protector of spirits and occultists that has a glorious idea - instead of solo tactics, it allows for teamwork-feat synergy between practitioners of pact magic instead of the regular solo tactics! Glorious and elegant! The Magus may now opt for the Sibyl archetype - using essentially a pact magic's equivalent of spell combat, these beings can also use arcane strike to replenish the expended abilities of spirits and later even quickly exchange spirits!



Of course, Occultists also get a new archetype, the Occult Scholar - these scholars get access to a revelation from the lore mystery, but also are barred permanently from one constellation, unlike the other archetypes, which more often than not choose a particular constellation alignment and prohibit the respective binding character from binding opposed spirits. We also are introduced to new binder secrets - for example one that allows you to redirect abilities that have been saved against to other eligible targets! Echoing abilities (for increased cool-down), affecting incorporeal creatures, a spirit alarm-system, particular efficiency against favored foes and even a way to heal oneself by temporarily suppressing spirits. The occultist also gets favored class options - including ones for all those ARG-races! Oracles of the Spirit Realm mystery can learn via a revelation to bend targets into greyish mockeries of themselves, cloak you and your allies from the unwitting eyes of mortals and whisper maddening, confusing whispers, reincarnate those perished by virtue of your connection to the spirit realm and even untether your very soul from your body! The Spirit Medium comes with a custom curse that represents the continuous onslaught of spirits, worrying away the medium's will and subjecting them always to the influence of spirits. Have I mentioned that they may bind spirits (d'unhhhh) and also gets an actually functioning Ouija-board.



Summoners may now add minor granted abilities to their eidolons or have them steal minor abilities! Archetype-wise, summoners may now opt for the Spirit Caller - these beings essentially replace their eidolon with vestigial spirit companions that can easily be suppressed and further enhances said companions - damn cool! The Spirit Drudge Witch has the familiar exhibit/suppress the sign, making for a rather unique situation roleplaying-wise - depending on the constellation chosen, the archetype also gets a neat array of different bonus spells, but also prohibited constellations.



Chapter 2 kicks off with new uses for established skills and new feat: Ability-sharing via teamwork-feats, increasing binding DC for a higher effective level, minor access to low level domain powers, occult spells modified with metamagic that automatically succeed at their concentration-checks for +2 levels, having a reserve spirit, partially ignoring DR of favored foes via the expenditure of grit, more control on monstrous aspects - these feats are surprisingly, all killer, no filler!



Next up would be new spirits - 31 of them! Fans of the original "Secrets of Pact Magic" will rejoice here - for not only do we now get full legends for more of the respective spirits! Forash the mule-headed demon and e.g. Marat, who may have been either an intelligent construct with a story that is an interesting twist on the old Pinocchio/Gaining of sentience-trope, the first of the gearforged or a similar case would be two of the old favorites that have been updated here - much like the first Pact Magic Unleashed, the mechanics and their application to Pathfinder are vastly superior to the original D&D 3.X-iteration - Alexander Augunas is having a roll here. Even Milo of Clyde, the cynical detective, originally appeared in Villains of Pact Magic, makes a return here - and awesomely so: You may as an immediate action convert regular damage into non-lethal damage, but only if you're not immune against the former: Awesome to survive uncommon threats and possibly even survive what otherwise would be a TPK! Other favorites like Lord Foxglove IV, the exchequer of the stole purse or Cornelius Button, the dual-minded gardener of dreams or the grisly tale of Ethaniel Midnight, the sadistic torturer that not even hell wanted to accept - all of these and many more can be found herein.

To my delight, the rather complex "spirit" of Circe's 32 runes has also been upgraded - in a rather interesting way: instead o simply gaining access to some spells depending on the runes chosen (in addition to the other benefits), the spirit now makes a distinction between upper case and lower case runes and the spell-like abilities they grant, adding another dimension of tactics to the fray when choosing runes. As a minor fly in the ointment, I would have loved to see the visual depictions of the original runes in this book as well - but that's just me being obsessive about runes and symbols, I guess. The Primordial Titans, Merickel, Hero of False Destiny - many of these have been updated, but it should be noted that unlike most updates from 3.X, these often come with new, revised and thoroughly changed/streamlined abilities, often not even being the same level as their original iterations - so yeah, even if you do own the original books, this one provides so much more than even a diy-conversion in line with PU 1 would offer - and that is what makes a great update, at least for me! Now originally, the spirit known as Overmind was rather broken - it is my utmost pleasure to report that the spirit's power to jump forward through time is still there, though now balanced by a higher level! The tomb of the immortal god-king Septigenius Maximus is featured fully mapped - by the way, this one allows you to gain a gaze attack that can transform adversaries into salt, granite...and even gold!

Not all spirits herein are simply conversions, though - take Al'akra. Also known as the Tall Man. if you're not shuddering at least slightly by now, go watch "marble Hornets" on youtube. I'll be waiting.

....

....

...

Back? Yeah. Want paranoia-inducing powers, terror and spatial blending at your disposal? All possible! Damn cool! Speaking of which: Especially Midgard-aficionados should have a very wide grin upon reading of the option to bind FRIGGIN' JÖRMUNGANDR as a level 7 spirit! Synchronizing wounds with foes, control water, raining poison from the skies - this is incredibly awesome and makes for a damn cool addition to the plethora of spirits available! Now what happens when Alexander Augunas' preference for Kitsune meets with Lovecraftiana? Yith' Anu, a trickster/body-snatcher kitsune/Great race of Yith-hybrid that not only allows you to emulate the mind-swapping gambits of said kitsune and erase the memories of others - instead of vestigial companions, you can get extra bodies into which to swap! What about making a pact in what is essentially Lamashtu in all but name, allowing you to summon deadly, powerful spirit-touched monsters and even heal yourself by drinking the blood of the freshly slain. As an adversary, the wolf-headed, extremely potent Worglord, first of the Hero constellation, is also tied in a rather interesting way to aforementioned mother of monsters.



Next up would be new spells - but first we are introduced to the new [occult]-descriptor as well as the aging-necromancy subschool as well as 3 new cleric subdomains - since this review already is rather lengthy, I'll skim over these and just say: Awesome, cool - no complaints. Among the magical items, we get new qualities, exorcism bells - and thoroughly unique items like lenses that may store and copy information - or what about the orb of soul binding, which is a massive 100 pounds heavy!- oh, and we get gnostic tomes, which include the information to bind spirits - nice to offer them as treasure!



Chapter 5 is titled as esoterica and adds an "occult" background to... *drum-roll* the easy character background generator from ultimate Campaign! Hell yeah! Now that is not only useful, it's awesome! Of course, we thus also require new traits, of which we get 16 and yes, we even get 4 new drawbacks to accompany these! Finally, we get Pact Magic's spellblights, so-called pact maladies - essentially supernatural afflictions that can result from Pact Magic.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I didn't notice significant glitches, only minor ones and few to boot. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard that is both elegant and nice to look at. The b/w-artworks are raw and convey well the unique feeling of pact magic and the respective spirits all come with depictions of their seals, which is something I consider thoroughly awesome - having players draw the seals themselves is a fun means of immersion, by the way. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Pact Magic Unbound 2...is essentially Pact Magic's APG - not only in support of the non-core-classes, but in the vast array of new options, the smart conversions, the quality of the new material - this is a completely non-optional expansion for the awesomeness that is Pact Magic - not only do the respective rules go beyond lame spell-like abilities and instead offer some truly unique things to do that no other class covers, it also irons out many of the glitches old spirits had in their former incarnation and simply adds so much more to the fray. While not all spirits have legends, we get more of them than in PU 1 and the tie-in with Ultimate Campaign's char-generator is a blessing indeed. Mechanically more than solid and creative and expanding the lore of Pact Magic with thoroughly awesome new spirits and options, Pact Magic Unleashed Vol. 2 is a superb book in just about every way, with great production values and awesome content - If you're looking to introduce Pact Magic into your game, get it along Pact Magic Vol. 1 - the two books combine to give you a much richer experience that allows you to make Pact Magic a vital, cool component in your gaming world - so bring a sense of the occult to the table and bind the friggin' Tall Man/Slender Man/Operator! Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval + candidate for my top ten of 2014 since I didn't get review done in 2013!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pact Magic Unbound, Vol. 2 (PFRPG)
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The Fat Lady Sings: 14 Compositions for the Maestro Base Class
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2014 06:10:56
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Interjection Games' maestro is one of the more colorful, unique and awesome base classes out there and this pdf is all about additional fodder for these guys - clocking in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, we get 3 pages of new compositions - but can they hold up to the base classes' tremendous potential?



I'm assuming you're familiar with how the class works; If not, check my review for a break-down of it. Got it? Okay!



So what do we get? Well, there would be for example 4 new intros. The first one would be the Anthem of the dutiful knight, which conjures forth an intangible spectral knight that readies an action to hit people trying to attack while remaining adjacent to you to attack the intrepid interloper. Balance-wise, here is an interesting innovation - using this intro reduces the amount of melody slots by one. Conjuring forth illusory doubles of allies within 30 feet also works rather neat. When invoking a song of friendship, maestros can highjack dominations and similar mind-influencing effects - awesome! Finally, maestros can use an into to annoy enemies with miss-chance inducing (get this!) sugarplums. Yes. Sugarplums. Cool! (I know, bad pun...)



A total of 9 melodies would be next - one lets your allies emit AoE-demoralizing shouts that deal minor sonic damage, while another allows for rerolls for allies, for balance's sake at -2. Yet another defensive melody can prevent flanking (ouch!) and another penalizes any attack on you or your allies within 30 feet with 1 point electricity and 1 point sonic damage. Might look like it's not much, but believe me...these can accumulate. Another melody makes it possible for a maestro to help e.g. other elemental blasters by adding penalties to foes damaged by more than 5 points of elemental damage. A haunting tune to penalize fear-based saves would be more common...but Interjection Games' trademark imaginative ideas are back with a miss-chance granting interposing musical notations (!!). Yes. Awesome. Though don't expect these to catch giant's boulders. Also cool - maestros may offer their will-save to allies, but if said ally fails, both are hit by the effect. Finally, what about a melody that allows you to once per round force opponents in range reroll their roll, but at +2? Rather cool!



Finally, there is one new eponymous outro - the Fat Lady cometh. It is awesome. You conjure forth a slow-moving, ponderous spectral opera singer that you can move around throughout the composition. She arrives with the intro and remains for the whole composition. In the end, she emits a shriek that AoE stuns opponents, but compositions that include her cannot be aborted prior to reaching the outro. Design-wise, this hints at vast untapped potential via other intros/melodies/outros and the imagery...is damn cool.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games elegant 2-column standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



This additional fodder for the great Maestro-class is simply glorious and hints at a lot of design-potential that could be explored here. The ideas are fresh, the wording is concise (in spite of rather complex concepts realized) and the added oomph makes the maestro even cooler - what's not to like? Well, personally, I'm not too big a fan of the spell focus feat that acts as a prereq to many of the compositions. Yeah. That's all the nitpick I've got here. A personal preference. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Fat Lady Sings: 14 Compositions for the Maestro Base Class
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Wilderness Dressing: Deserts
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2014 05:30:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Wilderness Dressing-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This time, we go to the windswept dunes of the desert - where circling vultures, breezes carrying the aroma of exotic spices and strange carpets in the middle of nowhere await discovery by intrepid adventurers, with and without skill-checks, while enigmatic edifices loom half-buried in the sand - in case you haven't noticed - I consider the 100-entry strong first table of the supplement well-crafted and diverse enough to fulfill my by now rather strict criteria and high standards for the line.



In the second table, concerned with dressings, we are no less pampered by unique sights and sounds - sinkholes containing dead dust diggers, half-buried tablets of hieroglyphs, scenes of carnage that bespeak the cruelty of the gnoll instigators behind them - once again, 100 entries in which only scarcely a filler like "Black smoke on the horizon" can be found. Better yet - scorpions taking refuge in boots (including poison!) make for some nice mini-challenges herein - as far as I'm concerned, we could have more of these!



As in the snow & ice-installment, we get 12 sample random encounters, which, while not fully statted, come with rather extensive sidenotes and utilize the young and advanced simple creature templates. That being said, these feel a tad bit more versatile -while they do offer the usual suspects with scorpions and dire hyena and a blue dragon, we also get a lich, a janni, some death worms and yes, even a jackalwere - so enough versatility for me to keep my trap shut - nice diversity in ELs from 1 to 13.



As always, the final page is devoted to the DM-cheat-sheet, this time covering stealth and perception in the desert, rubble and sand dunes and sandstorms. As with the last installment, we get a nice piece of artwork here, though, again, I would have loved to see more environmental rules here: A summary of heat-dangers to avoid skipping books, quicksand- the like. If only because I love RSP's concise way of collecting this data and consider these pages extremely useful.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as usual in offerings of Raging Swan Press, is superb - I did not notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two version, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Both are fully bookmarked for your convenience.



So this is author Brian Wiborg Mønster's first offering for Raging Swan Press -let me say without a doubt that I look forward to seeing more: The distinct flair of cinnamon seems to emit from these pages (which is interesting, considering his name points towards a Norwegian, Danish or Faroese ancestry) and speaks of an attention to detail, versatility and modularity - while here and there slightly less intriguing entries can be found, the majority of entries herein actually is fun, well-written and diverse, with all points of criticism I could muster being only me nitpicking an otherwise great supplement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval - looking forward to seeing more from the author!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wilderness Dressing: Deserts
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The Maestro Base Class [PFRPG & D&D 3.5]
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2014 06:46:15
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This new base class is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The Maestro-class gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good will-saves, d6, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and shields (but not tower shields), but not any kind of armor. They also ignore the arcane spell failure chance of said shields. From this, one would presume a full caster class - the notion of which a quick glance at the table dispels: The class starts with maximum spell level 0 and only gets 1st level spells on 3rd level. Yes. Weird. But we've come to expect that from Interjection Games by now, haven't we? So let's see what this class has to offset that.



The Maestro starts game with 2 scores and gets an additional score at 5th level and then another one at 11th level and 17th level for a total of 5 scores. However, each score can be modified by a melody - at st level, only one melody can be applied per score, which increases to 2 at 3rd level and then by +1 at 8th level and every 5 levels after that for a total of 5 melodies. Furthermore, there are so-called refrains, the first of which is gained at 2nd level. At 8th level and every 6th level, the number of refrains available increases by +1 for a total of 4 refrains at 20th level. Finally, at 4th level and every 3 levels after that, the Maestro gains an opus. *takes a breath*



Let's start with the spells, shall we? Maestro-spells ALWAYS have a somatic component and are cast spontaneously via cha. Spellcasting is completely different from any other class - a maestro can cast every spell s/he knows once per day - no more often, no less. They also don't get bonus spells per day, but rather use this value to determine bonus spells KNOWN. They also are limited by not ever being capable of using any type of metamagic, whether by feats, class features or items.



So what about those compositions? Let's start with scores. A Maestro starts the game with 2 scores plus 1/3 int-mod, rounded down, min one score. These consist of an intro, a melody and an outro - at least from the beginning. As mentioned, later levels allow for more melodies to be added to the respective compositions. To prepare a score, the Maestro requires an int-score of 12+amount of melodies used and the DC clocks in at 10+1/2 class level + int-mod. If a maestro's int-mod is higher than his cha-mod, he may use that modifier to supplement his/her perform skill instead of cha.



A Maestro also has a composition book, which is somewhat akin to a spellbook, hut is only required when changing prepared compositions - lacking that, the previous compositions are regained upon rest, meaning a maestro is not left crippled upon losing his/her book, just stuck with their currently prepared compositions. They may also prepare compositions from recorded compositions on folios and get 1/2 class level to all knowledge-checks pertaining music. A maestro starts with 3 of any combination of intro/outro and 1+int-mod melodies, min 1. Each new level, a maestro gains one intro/outro and 1 melody. Beyond these, much like prepared casters, maestros may write compositions via a costly process into their books.

How does the Maestro cast, then? An individual score can be maintained for Perform (conducting) skill ranks + Int-mod rounds per day. Starting a composition is a standard action that provokes AoOs and it then can be maintained as a free action. The intro-effect of said composition begins immediately upon starting conducting, as do all melody effects associated with the performance. Now a maestro can either opt to end a performance as a free action - however, there is another option. By spending a standard action that provokes AoOs, the maestro can instead end the performance with the outro-effect chosen for the composition, which is immediately triggered upon completing the finishing flourish. While conducting cannot be interrupted in the most common ways, killing the maestro or incapacitating the character via paralysis etc. also ends the composition. Only one composition can be in effect per Maestro. Now refrains can be used to further spontaneously modify the compositions - by spending a move action, the maestro can use a refrain for one round, suspending the regular melody benefits of the composition (though the times still counts against the total time limit), while intro/outro remain unchanged.



12 intros, 13 outros and 2 that can act as either provide the basic framework for the melodies, of which we get no less than 40 (unless I've miscounted). Each has certain prerequisites, which can range from none to requiring e.g. spell focus (enchantment) to certain skill ranks and minimum levels. It should be noted that, though one composition requires leadership as a prerequisite, there is an alternate prerequisite for campaigns where that feat is banned. Compositions are considered supernatural abilities unless they contain one component that is a spell-like ability, in which case they count as the latter. Finally, it should be noted that, provided the requirements are met level-wise, most melodies stack with themselves - this way, e.g. the buff to wreathe the Maestro's weaponry in +1d3 fire damage-dealing flames could be stacked with itself, as could the save-enhancing blare within 30 ft. against sonic descriptor-spells and verbal-component dependant bardic performances.



Now if that doesn't look that impressive so far, remember that that's just one of the components - take for example the accelerando-intro, which nets you and all allies within 30 feet +5 ft. movement to their base land speed, + an additional 5 ft. is added every round after that capping at +5 ft. for every two maestro levels. Nice way to create a rules-representation of the rising speed - and it should be noted that the bonus is untyped, thus allowing synergy with your spellcasters...one thing to keep in mind when running from the errupting/volcaano/collapsing dungeon/avalanche next time your PCs are in a shuffle...



Now if you instead want to use perform to gain money, you can also do so with an outro that allows you to instead add the remaining rounds as a bonus to increase the check to earn a living via perform in downtime activities - nice synergy with the underused downtime rules there! Another intro generates a continuous aura of indiscriminate sonic damage around the maestro. What also makes this interesting is the interactivity between the components of compositions - via the melody Deceptive Cadence, the outro-DC is increased by +1 per times the melody is chosen. Or take the outro encore: Requiring 13th level, its effects only work after conducting a composition for 5 rounds or more, but after that, the outro allows you to restart the composition with a bonus of +1d4 rounds that do not count against the composition's daily limit.



The End with a Whimper outro also deserves special mention - a target creature within 30 feet of the maestro must save or die, provided it had less HD than the Maestro and listened to the composition for at least 3 uninterrupted rounds. EDIT: Interjection Games has fixed a minor issue here in record speed. One thing to bear in mind: The outro requires 15 ranks in heal and a maestro level of 13, which means that a maestro can only take this outro at 15th level, try as he might. It should be noted that I assumed a Skill-prereq-relic here, but Bradley Crouch has explained on my site that this is actually intentional, to reward multiclassing. This also extends Elegy for the Living with its prereqs of level 3 and 6 ranks.



Another melody allows maestros to cancel out morale bonuses from just about any source - which should make evil parties with e.g. antipaladins cackle with glee. Synergies that bolster bardic performances as well as maestro compositions also are within the range of possibilities here. There are also options to use an outro to maintain a refrain for 1 round after the respective composition has ended or until a new composition has started.



Via Klangfarbenmelodie, the Maestro can also influence foes that have already successfully saved against a melody, thus being rendered immune against it to require a new, second save. Creating a variant air elemental that can deafen targets also is within the distinct realm of possibilities here. There is also an option via an intro that halves the area of effect, but also makes melodies that can be taken multiple times count as if they've been taken an additional time without counting these against the melody-limit. Conversely, doubling the effect of melodies via an intro for one round also is possible, as would be the AoO-provoking option to create walls of solid, damaging sound - the latter per se works well, with its prior single nitpick taken care of.



Healing via an outro can also be a nice benefit, as can the melody that allows a down on his luck maestro and his allies to make just about any food more palatable.



Now I've mentioned the Opus - where the regular compositions of a maestro are very much customizable, the opus is not (with one exception: Via an intro, aborting a regular composition to start an opus still triggers the outro of the composition) customizable - they are essentially 1/day complete packages of effects. Each Opus can be selected multiple times, adding +1 use per day to said opus. And these offer quite significant benefits - 10th level maestros can resurrect allies at 10th level. Other examples include granting massive physical benefits to one target creature, deal ability damage to ALL scores, a lesser version of irresistible dance... and then there is the option to darken the skies and rain down fiery death or even, yes cannonballs! Yes, bombard adversaries with cannonballs while conducting other melodies (here is an exception to the no-synergy/parallel compositions-rule). Fly speed for multiple allies, sanctuary + SR and calling forth walls of stone - quite a few neat options here. Really cool: Real life masterpieces of classical music, the inspirations for the respective opus-compositions, are provided for each and every one of them, allowing you to get in the mood (or even play the piece at the table!) - awesome!



Now at 20th level, a maestro can choose 1 of 3 capstones - one makes you famous throughout the multiverse (resulting in e.g. demons wanting your autograph) and also making the chosen composition available as a bardic performance to EVERY BARD. A second capstone nets the maestro an infinite amount of royalties for creating a new genre equal to 1d6X 100 GP, while the third option lets the maestro create a new instrument, gain 20 ranks in it and allows the maestro to inspire competence as a bardic performance AND maintain that while also conducting. Very unique, epic and damn cool capstones.



We also get favored class options for the standard races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kobolds, puddlings and tieflings. We also get a spell-list (unfortunately sans denotions where the respective spells can be found - slightly uncomfortable when not allowing laptops at ones table and relying on books, but then again not that bad due to the limited amount of spells available) and also 6 feats to increase the DC of favored scores, +3 compositions, longer durations for favored scores, and +1 round duration for all scores. One feat also allows you to conduct refrain AND melodies at once, but consumes 2 rounds of the composition IN ADDITION to the rounds it already consumes.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any true flaws. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though not excessively so. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with thematically fitting stock art.



The Maestro is an exceedingly awesome class - the base concept of making essentially bardic performances a three-component, highly complex and customizable array of cool unique options is simply great. The amount of tinkering here is mindboggling and the overall playing experience is complex and more intuitive and easier to grasp than any other Interjection Games class I've reviewed so far - so either I'm getting just better at analyzing them or author Bradley Crouch has improved his writing further. The options galore reward careful planning while not stifling creativity, making this class a) unique, b) damn cool to play and c) an all-out success.

Now here I had minor complaints, which have all been addressed perfectly. While I'm still not sold 100% on the skill rank/class level prereq-divide, this alone is essentially preference and since there are no other complaints for me to file, my final verdict now clocks in at a triumphant 5 stars + seal of approval! Get this awesome class! Oh...and first candidate for my Top Ten list of 2014.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Maestro Base Class [PFRPG & D&D 3.5]
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Mythic Options: Mythic Rogue Class Features
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2014 06:34:32
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement is 6 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 1/2 a page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 3 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



After a short introduction, written in neat prose, we are introduced to mythic class features for the rogue, 6 to be specific. These work as either a 1st tier universal path ability or can be taken in lieu of a mythic feat. You need to have the non-mythic variant of such a class feature in order to take its mythic equivalent. Got that? All right! So what do we get here? Mythic evasion allows you to expend one use of mythic power to halve damage you receive - ANY damage you receive, but not further ongoing damaging effects. In direct comparison, mythic improved uncanny dodge, which adds half your mythic tier to your rogue levels for being able to be flanked purposes, pales. Mythic Sneak Attack allows you to automatically deal sneak attack damage to non-mythic creatures with each first attack in a given round. You may also extend one use of mythic power to apply sneak attack to a creature usually immune to sneak attack. Where I'm slightly confused here would be - does that mean the rogue could expend one use of mythic power to deal sneak attack to a foe when directly (i.e. non-flanking) attacking a mythic foe? What about mythic creatures usually immune to sneak attack? Some kind of clarification would be in order to make the ability work as precisely as it ought to. Searching as swift action, trapfinding aura... generally, I enjoy the ideas here.



We also are introduced to 15 mythic rogue talents -via mythic combat trick, rogues can easier meet feat prerequisites by adding mythic tier to prerequisite fighter levels for feats Better fast stealth, more bleed damage, dex-mod to damage instead of str-mod, treat narrow surfaces as regular terrain and disable traps VERY fast etc. Have I mentioned the option to deprive foes of AoOs for multiple rounds and even slow those hit by sneak attack? Free standing up for the rogue and adjacent allies also makes for a cool option. We also get 8 mythic advanced rogue talents that include better crippling strikes. Rather cool - +1/2 mythic tier to defensive roll-saves or 2 mythic power uses to use defensive roll in spite of having already used it. Extending dispelling attack to any spell on the target is also a rather fine option to have. However, one particularly irksome glitch has crawled in - the Mythic Opportunist advanced talent confuses opportunist and opportunity, making for an at first glance rather confusing read. On another note, Mythic Skill Mastery is decidedly LAME - when taking 10 with a skill the rogue has skill mastery for, they add their tier. Yawn? Mythic slippery mind is better - it lets you continue to try to slip from enchantments, albeit at increasing DCs.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect. I noticed a minor glitch here and there, though nothing too serious. Layout adheres to RGG's printer-friendly 2-column standard and the artworks are thematically fitting stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience- commendable at such a small size!



Owen K.C. Stephens knows his crunch damn well and it reflects in here. A quick glimpse at mythic evasion would probably send a lot of people up the walls - but keep in mind - we're talking rogues here. Not exactly the most powerful class and especially in Mythic Adventures, a class that can use some amped up potential. So yeah, I do consider this a necessary, nice power-boost for mythic rogues, one that makes them more fun to use. However, balance between the respective abilities feels a bit off (mythic evasion and sneak attack vastly outclassing the other class features, for example -the others could have used a slight power upgrade), and some abilities herein could benefit from a bit of clarification and a slightly tighter wording. This does not make this damn fine little pdf bad, mind you, but it is enough to prevent it from reaching the very highest echelons. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - a good, almost required upgrade for the mythic rogue.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Options: Mythic Rogue Class Features
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B17: Death & Taxes
Publisher: Adventureaweek.com, LLP
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/03/2014 02:31:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 46 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC (plus settlement statblock), 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



Still here? All right! The city of Hordenheim is a dangerous place - situated at crossroads, everything from nasty humanoids to power-mad wizards and pillaging armies makes its way through the area. Maintaining a careful neutrality, the city has been plagued for some time by its often violent guests - oh well, at least the location means the town is profitable - that does account for something, doesn't it? Pollard Varice, burgomaster of Hordenheim has a shrewd sense of business and made an...interesting move. He appointed known upstanding citizen and practicing necromancer Findle Stirr the high sheriff. Now tax season is approaching and the PCs are hired to act as tax collectors since three particular problems have haunted the besieged burgomaster - first of all, whole neighborhoods are in open revolt. Secondly, counterfeit coins have appeared and thirdly, members of the tax assessor's guard tend to turn up dead with a disturbing frequency.



In the streets, the PCs will encounter rats here and there as they investigate the thieves guild - which is easy to find...and innocent, at least regarding the recent crimes. In case you don't want to put the PCs in medias res, an encounter with a necromancer and his zombie guardsmen should also serve as an apt introduction to the uncommon police-force of Hordenheim: Speaking of which - the city comes with a surprising amount of local color - from smoke shops with fine cigars (and potentially pot) to the guild of sweeps, we get some exceedingly awesome ideas here. What is the guild of sweeps you ask? It's a guild of people who have prods with alchemical salts that use these prods to herd slimes and oozes through the streets, thus cleaning them fast and efficiently. Is that awesome or what? But back to the module - the burgomaster deputizes thus the PCs and sends them off with the obviously xenophobic, nasty necromancer-sheriff to the Trots - a blue color neighborhood, where hard-working centaurs, satyrs and even minotaurs await the PCs - their rebellion can be ended by navigating the urban labyrinth and finding the ringleader - hopefully taking the minotaur alive or using their social skills to convince him to come along. The second task, ending the counterfeit ring, has the PCs interrogate an illiterate mute (have fun!) and then investigate the temple of wealth, where, after some snooping, they'll find a group of leprechauns - including the high priest, as culprits of the counterfeiting.



The final issue has the sheriff accompany them to the high assessor - a prissy half-orc with an aururumvorax kit as pet. The man's guard has been decimated at night and hence, guard duty is up next to apprehend the assassin - which turns out to be harder than anticipated. Via red herrings, the help of a pseudo-hag and an uncommon elixir (which should get a range limitation or not be featured beyond the confines of this module), the PCs can track the culprit - which turns out to be the kit#s mother. Whether they return her child or slay the golden-furred creature - the threat is ended. Celebrations are in order!

...

On the next day, the PCs won't be paid. The tax-bloated treasury has been cleared. Completely. In order to get paid, the PCs will have to find the thief - the thing is, who or whatever was the culprit, he/she/it is long gone and was careful - no obvious leads. Just as the PCs start to get frustrated, they'll get a letter from aforementioned Pseudo-hag, who implores them to visit her. Turns out, that the city's rats have been all but exterminated - they are afraid and have just one bastion left. Hopefully, the PCs smell that something's fishy here and investigate - that way, they can defend rats against swarms of undead rats. If the rioting populace doesn't get them first, that is. The swarms of undead rats were created via a ritual that ahs them all point back towards the ritual's origin and astute players should realize that an army of undead rats makes for excellent thieves - thus explaining the complaints of the poorer folk that the thieves went over quota.



The trail leads to the station house, where deputy necromancer properly park their zombies and similar fun hijinxs ensue as the PCs confront the sheriff, who is smelting the gold into his own golden undead monstrosity, designed to purge the non-human inhabitants of Hordenheim once and for all. Defeating him and his beast ends the module, which btw. also includes the simple gold-leafed template that allows you to fortify undead, constructs and outsiders with gold at CR+1.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to AaW's nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artworks are partially full-color stock and partially original, but fit style-wise well together. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with player-friendly versions of the two full-color maps.



Colin Stricklin weaves a yarn that is thoroughly exciting - slightly tongue in cheek, though never to the extent that it would break immersion, full of fun oddities, local color and great ideas, the city of Hordenheim comes to life in these scarce few pages in an extent that speaks of the author's mastery in concise writing. Unique characters abound, non-lethal problem-solving, interesting terrain - this reminded me of the best instances of 0onegames' Great City or Kaer Maga, to the point where I definitely wouldn't object to a massive, full-blown city sourcebook. Yes, that intriguing. The module's prime achievement would then be that it manages to cram the city information AND a compelling, sandboxy investigation into its page-count without losing its appeal. This is a glorious module that has me wanting more of Colin Stricklin's offerings. If you like aforementioned city-settings or have a soft spot for uncommon locales, then don't let this one slip by.



Final verdict? 5 stars +seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B17: Death & Taxes
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Dungeon Dressing: Wells
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/02/2014 03:56:44
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of the Dungeon Dressing-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So this time we're introduced to wells - whether dug or drilled, getting the water or water quality, basic ideas are covered first, before we get 4 wall conditions including climb DCs to scale them. Of course, adventurers are wont to "do the Timmy" and fall into wells - hence a handy table of damage incurred from falling into water (or on ground) is provided for the DM - excellent and handy to have around!



The basic set-up out of the way, we are introduced to the first table, which, unless I've miscounted, has 46 entries of characteristics to add to your wells - from interlocking stone blocks, wells that actually are long slopes, bore holes of purple worms and even wells with stairs in the walls, we get quite a cool array of wells, with some featuring things to glean/learn about them with skills.



The second table spans a whole 100 entries, covering e.g. giant centipede-droppings (including Knowledge DC to identify them), strange stalagmite structures, smeared goblin graffiti to finally walls that have been transformed into OOZING PUTRID FLESH. Yes. Delightfully twisted and versatile, from the common to the uncommon to the far-out, disturbing, this table runs the gamut - two thumbs up!



We also get 3 traps/hazards of Raging Swan Press' trademark complexity, i.e. with multiple rounds of results and multiple skills/things happening: Methane-filled Wells at CR 4, a Gravity Well at CR 8 and finally a well that imparts maddening visions at CR 8 make for cool obstacles. Have I mentioned contaminated and tainted waters?



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Both versions come fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Brian Gregory offers us another glorious installment for Raging Swan's Dungeon Dressing-series, with nifty crunch-tables, cool dressing and versatile hazards/traps - what to complain about? Well, if I were to complain on a very high level, then perhaps that there is no table or the like to cover falling into the wells - slippery floors, crumbling floors, something like that. Precipitation, moss, mold and their modification of how easy to scale a wall are all fall under a flat +5 DC, which is slightly less varied than I would have liked - a couple more entries to modify the base DC would have made this even better. I am complaining at a top-notch level, though - my final verdict will still clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Wells
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Faerie Passions
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/02/2014 03:49:41
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



After a 1-page introduction to the matter at hand, we are introduced to something vital to understand the content herein - the mindset of the fey: We essentially get advice for DMs to portray fey and their interaction with mortals and PCs in particular: The alien nature of fey and their capacity to misinterpret mortals is reflected by optional supplemental rules that govern the interaction of fey and mortals and reflect the anxieties of such a clash of mindsets and cultures. Furthermore, the fey's sense of beauty and how it governs their actions is also described and supplemented - and yes, fey make start developing an obsession to "fix" your own sensibilities...which may be annoying with humans, but in the case of fey, it may become downright cruel and disturbing... Speaking of which - the arrogance and weird logic of fey offers quite an array of storytelling potential and examples via a rusalka and her taboos on drowning victims are3 covered - oh, and it should be noted that trying to influence fey via mundane and magical means can be rather problematic and fire back upon the mortals that attempt it. The aspects of faerie whimsy, potential sheer heartlessness and the time-honored tradition of humbling proud mortals - all of these are covered herein and come with short, easily inserted rules that add a layer of depth to the interaction with fey.



Now onwards to the birds & bees of fey - examples from true fairy-tale love to forced ravishments of woodcutters by dryads to the stable of lovers held by noble fey, we get some intriguing short summaries of central tropes to the fey's lore and their potentially child-stealing/exchanging ways also merit some further focus by the book and help prospective DMs with advice on properly adding interesting features to the changelings or to create more unique offspring with the ARG. The book also offers a fine array of awesome recommendations for further reading, both obvious and lesser known. having read the majority of these myself, I can attest to the inspiring nature of these recommendations. Now if you're like me, you'll consider the basic fey-bloodline too generic to reflect all possible ancestors and hence, herein, we get an array of alternate bloodlines for sorcerors that reflect the respective parents better -now all of these bloodlines make the respective character counts as fey for the purpose of spells and abilities as well as archetypes - i.e. these are considered variants of the fey bloodline.



First would be the Dryad, which of course gets plant and forest-related abilities and bark-like skin at later levels. Nymph-blooded sorcerors - this one is, of course, rather focused on charm and grace and allows you to temporarily add a significant bonus to AC temporarily and even gain an aura that dazzles those that look directly at you - thankfully suppressible, though. Nereid-blooded sorcerors may hit adversaries with cold water spouts, become invisible and get a nice array of water-related spells. Among the more uncommon bloodlines would be the Norn, who may provide detrimental or beneficial modifications to rolls and even enforce rerolls. Satyr-blooded sorceros gain a touch-attack that has targets laugh uncontrollably and may also substitute the playing of wind instruments for verbal and somatic components - cool idea.



We also get two new archetypes - the Feyfriend Druid who may be of chaotic alignment, has an array of fey-themed spells added to his/her spell-list, becomes immune to mind-influencing effects and may actually turn into giant form or take the form of fey at later levels. The opposite would be teh Fey Hunter Ranger, who gets iron will, can extend saves versus fey to nearby allies, allow them to reroll saves versus mind-influencing effects and even make attacks that can dispel the magic of fey creatures and see past the illusions of the fey.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as we've come to expect from legendary Games, is top-notch. Layout adheres to LG's 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes in two versions, with one being more printer-friendly. The pdf offers two gorgeous one-page illustrations and a smaller picture of also superb quality, all by Mike Lowe. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and hyperlinked for your convenience.



Russ Taylor and Todd Stewart should probably ring some bells name-wise and as such it is no surprise that the superb ecology-style beginning of the romance and interaction between fey and mortals is a joy to read and offers some neat ideas and insights. The bloodlines could easily have drifted into the boring-territory, but thanks to a varied and non-core-rules-using spell-selection as well as some unique abilities, manage to evade that fate. The archetypes are both iconic and fun, with especially the fey hunter being extremely useful to have on your side when challenging the fey. That being said, by now the standard for fey-related supplements is HIGH. Kobold Press' Midgard has delivered perhaps one of the best modules ever as well as copious information in that regard. Adventure-a-week.com's Snow-White-Saga, while not directly and exclusively dealing with fey does indeed breathe the spirit and finally, Rite Publishing's Convergent Paths: Fey Archetypes and In the Company of Fey offer a cool race/racial paragon class and one of the best barbarian archetypes ever crafted. Whereas the Midgard and AaW-supplements are more about the tone, especially Rite's offerings lend themselves well for direct comparison. Convergent Paths: Fey Archetypes especially would spring to mind - and while it has parts I consider not 100% compelling, it feels a bit more...daring. While I'm not a big fan of "The Laughing Man", said archetype feels more innovative, more daring, more alien than those herein.



In fact, I wondered for quite some time and then got it - this supplement is very conservative in its design-choices: It's well-crafted, flawless even in its respective content, but ironically it does not inspire this sense of weirdness, does not reflect the alienness in the crunch. I also consider the lack of alternate racial traits to modify base races according to parent-fey or alternate racial traits an oversight in this - either that or some actual examples of how to court varying fey (with skills or the like), a select set of taboos - either would have improved the book. Think of Catherynne M. Valente's Gaselli and the tale of the errant Taglio (Orphan's Tales Book 2, by the way) on how alien mindsets can completely transform relations between races and challenge our preconceptions. In the end, this pdf feels like a nice offering, but also woefully incomplete and perhaps a tad bit too conservative for the imagination-inciting matter it covers.



In the end, Faerie Passions is not a bad book by any stretch and actually has great content herein, but it also didn't manage to either blow me away or incite its eponymous passion in me to include components of it in my game, apart from the fluff. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Faerie Passions
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ZEITGEIST #4: Always on Time (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2014 05:03:33
An Endzeitgeist.cm review

The fourth installment in EN Publishing's so far simply superb, investigation-driven steampunk-AP clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 68 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



Still here? All right! The intrepid constables of the RHC, i.e. the player characters, find themselves on a reconnaissance mission in this module - they have uncovered the presence of a shadowy conspiracy, but so far know next to nothing about them. Having investigated Caius in Zeitgeist #3, the PC's know he would have been boarding a train in Beaumont at one end of the Avery Coast Railroad and travel its length to the city of Vendrice. Spy Missions are no easy thing, and unlike many a shadowrun mission I've read throughout my DMing career, here we are not left in the dark: By starting the adventure with a planning phase and providing ample options for skill checks to e.g. create false paper trails, establish cover identities and make plans for contingencies. Even risky propositions such as attempting to buy off the spies on their trail, are not off the books and distinct options - though ones that already carry a solid possibility for failure. Better yet: If your players don't like investigations/spywork (then why are you playing this AP, though?), they can jump immediately into the operation, though at least in my opinion, the module looses quite a bit of its charm that way - especially since failures tend to not result in dead-ends, but rather detractions from the degree of the respective success of the PCs.



On the way to Beaumont by ship, the PCs will have their first hostile encounter herein - if you want to go naval combat here, I'd suggest Frog God Games' "Fire as She Bears" instead of the standard "Admiral o' the High Seas"-rules the Zeitgeist AP presumes. Beyond that, enough information is provided for you to run this particular encounter as a more or less straightforward hackfest. Anyways, the PCs should thus have a good reminder that their meddling has made some important people rather giddy. Thus they enter the nation of Danor.



Danor is problematic for especially casters - magic doesn't work well within the wild/dead-magic-zone riddled nation, thus requiring some careful deliberation on behalf of the players regarding their casting prowess. So yes, the PCs will need to be smart when handling this assignment - after all their goal is not engagement with the enemy. hence, they board, among the vast bustle of people, the train - 1st class, of course! The train and its passenger are lavishly detailed and making appropriate observations and conclusion will be hard - even before a stop in Danor's capital Cherage makes tracking the suspects (all of which have something going on the PCs can discover) rather interesting.



On the next day, a passage through the wild lands (including a short safari-break) beckons - as doe new passengers. The city of Orithea, the next stop, will also see complications in the PC's espionage-duties, with interactions between passengers, many a thing to do...and a constantly ticking timer. On the next day, the constables will have a chance to thwart a train heist in a swampy terrain, with aberrations and bandits - and thankfully a nice breakdown of locations, number of spawns and cars for the respective characters, making this encounter complex, but manageable for an experienced DM. Less than an hour after the attack by the gargantuan aberration, the PC's adversaries are notified of them being spied upon, just as the train reaches the lands of Drakr.



Discussing the nature of conflict (and world's end), counter-espionage by the PC's targets, unrelated black market/espionage deals - there is a lot going on beyond the main plot - so much, in fact, that all the characters come vividly to life and can or cannot have serious impact in the future, while remaining optional for the purposes of this investigation. Still, by the end of this part, the PCs ought to know who their primary suspect is, while at the same time having met some characters that will return in future installments of the AP.



Here a massive spoiler is in order - part of the plan of teh Obscurati revolves around magical lanterns, which can draw targets throughout the planes. hence, the villain's goal is to get the PCs in a given isolated locale and draw them into a hostile plane - In Nem, the spirit becomes the body - when no longer close to the approximation of their bodies, the PCs die. Usually, this would be no problem, but the train's movement means that they are on a tight timer. Undead, the ghosts of the murdered - the PCs are stuck in the train's ghost equivalent, fending off the deadly assailants and hopefully finding the lantern, destroying it before their spirits are whisked away. After this supernatural assault, the PCs ought to be VERY paranoid when they reach Sid Minos.



There, a red herring/further assassination attempt, including a cursed island with its own intelligence and copious undead awaits - along-side a chained demoness who offers one last way for the PCs to resume their work, should they have been suckered in. Then, at a private rail station, the mastermind behind aforementioned lanterns is in danger of being recruited by the Obscurati... And said interaction involves someone in the highest echelons of power...



In order to triumph here, though, the PCs will not only have to have drawn the right conclusions, they better also be up to their a-game - if they are, they may have actually gained some important allies.



The appendix depicts in detail (and with maps) the train, provides further filler NPCs and general guidelines for investigation and the tailing of suspects are provided alongside a selection of 8 magic items (one of which is a new quality) as well as a quick-reference sheet of NPCs for the DM, a mission timeline and a nice advertisement-style handout for the scenic railroad route.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed e.g. one instance of part of a DC's number being obscured beneath a relic and I also encountered some very minor typos/wording glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, with artworks ranging from superb full color to comic-style mugshots to thematically fitting b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience and the pdf is layered, allowing you to customize the pdf for printing it out, all according to your needs.



Zeitgeist modules are damn friggin' complex beasts, but gloriously so - they involve a lot of moving parts, NPCs, contingencies and options for DM to get the module, proverbially, back on track. This is no exception and while the module is, quite literally, a railroad, it also is surprisingly player-driven with all the suspects, investigation guidelines, etc. allowing for a lot of outcomes, for a lot of different approaches, while always providing options for the DM to get things back on track. Sorry, I swear that was the final railway-pun. So is this a great module? Yes, yes, indeed - author JAcob Driscoll has delivered a complex, cool investigation against a unique backdrop, one that not as complex as CoC's legendary Orient express-campaign, but one that fits seamlessly in with the overall AP. More so than in previous installments, though, DMs should take heed to impress the investigation-focus of teh whole AP: Players seeking primarily roll-playing will eb frustrated by this triumphantly brains-over-brawns module. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - I applaud the sheer guts of deviating from the mostly combat-driven gameplay of most modules towards a rewarding ROLEplaying experience seldom seen in any d20-based system.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #4: Always on Time (PATHFINDER RPG)
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Lucien's Guide to the Grand Stair (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2014 11:17:22
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 24 pages, so let's take a look!



I LOVED Lords of Gossamer and Shadows - its imagery of this vast staircase with doors to infinite worlds resounding well with my tastes and sensibilities - here, then, we have an account of one well-versed in the intricacies of the Grand Stair, the rather powerful Warden Lucien, who guides us in a neatly written in-character prose through some of the weird and wonderful places of the Grand Stair. From the interplanar market place to the unstable (and lavishly rendered) rickety stairs and the starlit stair over to the labyrinth, Lucien provides accounts of his journeys and perils in prose so vivid, it's a joy to read - and inspiring to boot!



But this is no mere travel journal - interspersed are subjective theories on the nature of the stair, its at times maze-like qualities, warnings against migratory flocks of pants emerging from one of the weirder worlds, etiquette regarding how to pass one another sans provoking a fight and even Rhen-codes further paint a picture both titillating and strange. Who are the Rhen? Well, legend has it they were the nomads of the stairs, long vanished to a fate none can ascertain - only their graphic codes remain here and there, relics of an age long gone. Lucien also has sound advice regarding ambushes (and their most likely goals) on the Grand Stair. How (and whether) and by what rules magic works on the Grand Stair is covered as well, with each cantrip coming with an incantation to actually say (AWESOME!) as well as Lucien's notes on how to use them: 3 cantrips and 6 spells (one of which allows you to determine your subjective gravity), complete with lynchpins are provided for the traveler.



We also get a new 5-point power with "Walker of the Grand Stair" and 6 new lesser abilities - these represent components of a greater power, partial understandings etc. General hunches on destinations etc. become distinct possibilities. The pdf also introduces so-called expanses - these are mostly constant areas of the Grand Stair that can be attuned to a warder to varying degrees - either for 1, 2 or 4 points. Here, the pdf could have been slightly more precise - it is not 100% clear whether one needs to take the 1-poin attunement before the 2-point awareness or not, i.e. I don't know whether one can directly go for the 4 point cost or not. I *assume* not, but the pdf does not specify, so that's a minor blunder.



Cartas, the maps of the doors and the worlds they connect to, come also in 3 versions with point-costs, though, again, it is not 100% apparent if the point costs of them are cumulative or not, though here, I assume that's not the case - otherwise you'd get 3 different cartas for the total of 7 points. We also are introduced to an annotated compilation of what Lucien considers the capabilities of teh Wardens of the Great Stair.



We end this book with two sample wardens who come with their own glorious artworks (from LoGaS) - the eponymous Lucien and his bodyguard/second n command Gretchen.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a full-color two-column standard with a purplish border . The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full color artworks, most original, one taken from the LoGaS-book, rank among the best you can find in any publication - yes, they're that beautiful.



Author Rob Donoghue has crafted one fine supplement that could have turned sour VERY easily - LoGaS' appeal lies in its vast possibilities and a guide like this could easily have eliminated tantalizing possibilities in favor of "truths." Instead of falling into that trap, this supplement explains truths, but relative ones, provides guidelines without prescribing things for DMs - this is the only way how such a supplement could have worked for a setting like LoGaS. Mr. Donoghue's prose is vivid and clear and makes reading this supplement a joy, so that's a significant bonus.



On the downside, I'm slightly irked about the point-costs of cartas and expanses. While I think the intent is mostly clear, the fact remains that here the wording could simply have been more concise. This, alongside the none-too-cheap price point are my only, minor complaints - though they are significant enough for me to arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars, I don't consider it enough to round down, thus rounding up.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lucien's Guide to the Grand Stair (Diceless)
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Rawr! - Volume 2: Flame & Wrath
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2014 04:35:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of TPK Games monster-series is 65 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 61 pages of content - quite a bunch, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick off this book with an introduction by Tom Phillips before diving head first into the chapter by Richard Hunt -all about monster psychology, this chapter should especially prove helpful for less experienced DMs, providing sound advice on considering a monster's disposition when crafting encounters - is it happy? Cowardly? Angry? Perhaps it suffers from one form or another of madness - from MPD to schizophrenia and a wide list of phobias, we get quite some nice advice, though for ideas on phobias I'd also wish to point DMs out there to Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu for inspiration in spades. All in all, a useful, nice chapter for beginner-DMs with neat advice, though not a chapter that will wow jaded DM-veterans...



What instead should prove to be useful for just about every DM would be chapter 2 - essentially, herein we get optional rules for dragons: First of which would be dragon barding -and yes, I always considered it stupid that this idea wasn't more common in most worlds - dragons may be arrogant, but they're not stupid, so additional armor makes sense...especially at larger sizes, when dex gets less and less useful/reduced. These bardings come with tables denoting their cost, min amount of humanoids minions needed to put on and yes, also the time frame that is required to don the armor - all by size. Now barding does influence flight - heavy barding makes it impossible, whereas medium barding drops maneuverability by 1 point and halves flight speed. This might come as a surprise, but the solution for medium barding here actually contradicts obscure rules on flight in PFRPG - creatures may not fly with medium or heavy load - and by conjecture, with medium armors; For ME, this is an issue.



That being said, they're DRAGONS - if any creature deserves an exception to the rule, it's them, so I'll stop nitpicking...this particular rule-set. Also rather neat would be an alternate rule that allows dragons to embed treasure in their scales for increased armor bonus as well as a handy table that includes options for dragons dropping huge options on small puny earthbound adversaries - neat! What about the aberrant pigmentation dragon template, which allows you to color-swap dragon scales for nasty surprises? Yeah, rather awesome, especially considering the fact that I always loathed the fact that they're color-coded for dragon slayer's convenience... Nasty!



Chapter 3 sees Brian Berg collaborating with Mike Welham for first an array of new draconic feats - fancy some hooked talons on the wings that net the improved grab special quality? What about a roar that is not only terrifying, but also deals (lethal or nonlethal)sonic damage? Ball-shaped breath weapons? Using the breath weapon to further shield the majestic reptile? VERY nasty would be draconic savagery - even when missing with claw or bite, the target still takes str-mod damage - and we all know that's usually not a dragon's dump-stat - great to represent them slowly chewing apart even the best buffed/armored of dragon slayers... Cold-based breath weapon users may freeze the wings of foes and with a feat, a dragon may count all 1s of a breath weapon as 2s. Vastly improved tail attacks and hitting foes with it while retreating also become options thanks to the feats herein - now where I'm not sold would be Killing Roar: While I can get behind a dragon's scream killing a target, the insta-death feels a bit anachronistic: I would have preferred vast amount of damage in line with most death-effect-spells. Then again...these are dragons. If anything can scream and make foes drop dead from that, it would be dragons... We also get 7 new traits for dragons - universally solid and especially the trait that lets them use embedded weapons as armor spikes is nice. It should be noted, though, that if you're looking for meta-breath feats à la Draconomicon, you won't find any here - the breath weapon feats herein primarily modify the limited breaths of half-breeds and those with bloodlines, offering e.g. additional uses per day (which full-blown dragons don't require). So a bit of a missed chance here.



Now before we delve into further crunchy bits, we get one full-page piece of artwork that is simple gorgeous - Dusan Kostic would be reposible for the majestic spread unless I'm mistaken - just wanted to give kudos where kudos are due.



Now chapter 4 introduces us to draconic bloodlines. No. Not the ones sorcerors get. Rather, the concept is handled via feats for dragons; Major Bloodline feats may only be taken at first level/HD and net you elemental resistance 2 for the dragon's respective element as well as +2 to diplomacy and intimidate against your draconic bloodline's dragons. Additionally, you get +1 to one skill and said skill as a class skill - again, the skill is determined by the color of your ancestor's scales. Unless I've miscounted, a total of 86 feats are thus unlocked - these increase e.g. bite damage with +2d6 acid, grant spell-like abilities to e.g. speak with animals, insect plague, create food or water, fog cloud or locate objects to find gems.



Now as a peculiarity, several of these actually have synergy effect that improve them when combined with the right major draconic bloodline - aforementioned fog can e.g. be made into a cold-based variant of acid fog that coats floors with grease-like effects. While many of these feats have cool unique effects like this, not all do, though. Spouting draconic wings should be particularly interesting for half-breeds and sand-based gusts of wind that have a chance to blind foes could become full-fledged sandstorms. Walking on clouds, auras of slowness -all cool. Less nice: While you can get a draconic tail for attack purposes, and while it attacks at -5, making the mechanical intent clear, it does not explicitly declare the tail as a secondary natural weapon - a slight hick-up in wording here.

Of course, breath weapons may also be further improved/gained and elemental auras are also part of the deal - though I wished these scaled with age category, if applicable. All in all, I really like all these options, since they make dragons more versatile, more diverse, and add some oomph to them. Now whether you like this or not, the respective feats and their prerequisites are based on both bloodlines and HD, making it easy for you to add these feats to monsters for all types of half-breeds - at the same time, though, the reduction of these down to feats mean that they don't scale well with dragons, for whom feats are a rather scarce good - templates would have helped there. Also: The respective auras, as awesome as they are, could require some age category-scaling - otherwise a wyrmling's aura is the same as a great wyrm's - and that feels wrong to me. It's ultimately a nitpicky gripe, but one that I feel prospective DMs should be aware of. To me, this decision/oversight is particularly paradox since TPK Games is currently releasing pdfs on scaling feats with their "Feats Reforged"-series.



If you instead want to go for a less pronounced draconic lineage, there also are minor draconic bloodline traits that net resistance 1 to the appropriate bloodlines's element and +1 to diplomacy and intimidate when interacting with the dragons in question. These traits can also qualify you for at least an array of aforementioned feats. Unfortunately, the pdf fails to specify to which category of traits these are supposed to belong, though I assume racial - it's the only one that makes sense. Now if you'd rather go template, next we're introduced to templates - minor and major templates, for each draconic bloodline at CR +1/+2 respectively. As a nice bonus, each bloodline comes with one sample creature to which one of the two templates (and partially additional ones!) have been applied.



The pdf concludes with 5 new creatures: First would be the wingless, almost serpentine Antboga at CR 17 not only has an aura of destructive gravitational field and a force-damage dealing breath weapon, it also has a gaze attack that may increase your load (which might send fliers tumbling from the sky...). Second would be the Lyukana at CR 12 - with fever-inducing gaze and caustic sweat another cool adversary. The CR 12 Mound Worm can regenerate when managing to frighten foes with its terror-inducing bite and it also is rather poisonous. The CR 10 Ursaor, a bear-like being with a red/green-scaled head may be a cool apex predator and yes, it makes for a cool imagery, but it could have used some signature attack beyond its lethal bite. Still, nice critter. Finally, the CR 2 Winged Viper can be taken as a familiar via improved familiar.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor glitches, non too grievous or significant obstructed my understanding of the content herein. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard - apart for the purpose of statblocks NOT my preferred standard - to me, 1-column files always look a bit cluttered. Also layout-wise a complaint - there are instances where the name of one feat is on one page, the feat's text on the next. Not a fan of those, but again, this is me nitpicking. The pdf comes fully and extensively bookmarked and hyperlinked with the good kind of unobtrusive hyperlinks - those I tried always sent me off to the right location on d20pfsrd, so kudos for the work!

The artwork ranges from phenomenal original to ok stock - no complaints here either - apart from one: I'm usually not a stickler for art, but new monsters usually benefit greatly from good artwork - I wish we had gotten art for the new creatures.



Brian Berg, Richard Hunt, James Olchak, Tom Phillips and Mike Welham have created a neat supplement...though one that suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. I'm honestly not sure whether this is supposed to be for DMs, players or both - and hence how to rate it. Why? Because I'm a firm supporter of the "F*** Balance, it's a DRAGON! It CAN do that!"-school of DMs: My dragons have minions, custom abilities and fight with ever single dirty trick in my considerable book of nasty DM-tricks. My players have learned that taking on a dragon amounts to suicide more often than not sans army...and possibly even with one. Now for that, this toolbox, let me phrase that precisely and explicitly, is AWESOME.



Unfortunately, as a reviewer I have to take other campaigns into account - and to an extent the same holds true there. If you for example play in such a high-powered game that your DM allowed you to play a dragon, then this makes for a superb toolbox to increase your arsenal, though admittedly additional daily-use feats for breath weapons won't inspire any dragon...they already have thos infinite times per day. Now where I'm seeing problems is with less high-powered campaigns featuring dragons - e.g. via RGG's Dragon Rider-class. In such a context, the content herein may prove to be unbalancing and should be carefully scrutinized by the DM before allowing it in the game - perhaps on a case by case basis.

How to rate this, then?

...

As a mean DM's toolbox - superb; For high-powered games: Nice. For more conservative games...potentially problematic. Is this pdf perfect? No, but it honors the TPK in TPK Games - and in the end, I'll rate it as a monster-book/DM-Kit - one that could require age-category scaling for auras and has some rough edges, but still is a VERY nasty kit. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rawr! - Volume 2: Flame & Wrath
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Racial Ecologies: The Canids
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2014 04:31:35
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Racial Ecology-series is 17 pages long, 1 page editorial/front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Canids are, surprise, canine humanoids that usually, much like man's best friend, accompany other races - their communities usually exist in a kind of symbiosis with specific other humanoid cultures. Hard racial-trait-wise, they get +2 to Str and Cha, -2 to Int, low-light vision, scent, a 1d4 bite attack as primary weapon (or secondary weapon when wielding arms), get +1 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive with their associated race (I assume a racial bonus, but the pdf doesn't say), +2 to perception and survival, can run on all 4s when carrying nothing in their hands. This would net a +10 foot bonus to movement for run, charge or withdraw actions. They can only do so while having medium load or less - and I assume they don't get a quadruped's usual bonus to encumbrance. To reflect their racial diversity, they can pick one alternate racial trait or a racial trait of 2RP or less and they do thankfully have some limitations applied to the selection. Still, I'm not 100% comfortable with this variety - why? Because the race is well-balanced on the upper echelon of the power-scale sans these and the ARG's system is notoriously broken.



On the alternate racial trait-front, we get to choose from 3 different ones - Bully build nest you the slow but steady racial trait and replaces the quadruped sprinting, whereas aforementioned diversity can be offset with a whopping +4 to CDM versus bull rush, trip, pull and drag. Finally, there are small canids that get, apart from their size-modifiers, +4 to stealth. We also get 5 race traits that allow you to run longer, drag something better (not the maneuver, the feat of strength), improved disguising, 1/day +2 to flanking and adaption to cold climates make for compelling race traits that manage to be useful without being overpowered and also offer a nice bit of fluff each - kudos for getting these right!



On the favored class option-front, all of the Paizo-classes (minus variants like ninja/samurai, but including the gunslinger) are covered with sensible options. Oh, and thankfully we get FULL AGE, HEIGHT & WEIGHT-tables, 6 entries for various physiques - neato! Also cool - a short lore-table is included!



We also get 6 new feats - improving bite attacks by one step and later, vicious bite allows you to chose to make your canid benefit from improved grapple when biting or gain the trip option. Finally, the third feat in the bite-chain allows you to inflict bleed damage or thrash bitten adversaries - the latter has a hick-up in the rules-vocabulary, when it allows you to either deal bonus damage or inflict the "shaken effect" - which should be "condition". Also, the pdf fails to specify for how long the shaken condition lasts. Improved overland hustling is also a neat idea, as does the idea fit that canids may follow tracks at normal speed. The feat does have a hick-up, when it specifies that it allows them to follow tracks at twice their normal speed at -20 - one can already do that sans the feat. I assume, the penalty was supposed to decrease, but whatever the correct new number, it's not in here. "Scent the Impossible" on the other hand is rather awesome - not only does it improve the option to track by scent, it allows the Canid to be particularly familiar with specific scents - these can then be picked up even in olfactory nightmares and overpopulated places - a great idea, also regarding storytelling.



We also get 5 new mundane pieces of equipment - from dog whistles to muzzles, extra teeth, a weight harness and even a neck barrel. Among the two new magical items, we get a silence-inducing, damaging dog-whistle and a breath weapon granting hell hound tooth that may enhance a canid's bite.



Now Canids are diversified and hence we get no less than 13 different variants, all with their own racial qualities:, ancestry, suggested starting languages and fluff

Ratters get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int, +1 to CMD/CMB (+2 when surprised, flatfooted or prone) and while small, they still get a movement rate of 30 feet. Wardens get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, +2 to resist fear and demoralize effects and aforementioned grounded racial trait. Hunters get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, Hunt on the Run as a bonus feat and +2 to perception related to smell/scent. Dwarven Bullys get +2 Str and Wis, -2 to Dex, must take the bully-build racial trait and replace low-light vision with darkvision. I assume the default 60 ft. range for darkvision, but the pdf does not specify. Elven Hounds get -2 to STr, +2 to Dex and Int get a flat-out ovement-rate of 40 feet (and don't get faster when going on all 4s - which is weird) and +1 to reflex saves and initiative. Goblin Curs get +2 to Dex and Wis, -2 to Str, are small, cause allergic reactions in non-goblinoids and get +1 to atk and damage versus other canids and dogs. Gnomish ratters get +2 to Dex and Cha, - 2 to Int, are small and get hatred versus reptilian and goblinoid adversaries. Hafling Borzoi get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, Hunt on the Run as a bonus feat, exchange scent for 40 foot movement rate and +4 to see through nonmagical disguises.

Drow Demon Dogs get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, darkvision and replace their quadruped ability with a base-speed of 40 feet - again, somewhat weird that the offshoot is not faster on all fours. They also get +1 to intimidate and +2 to saves versus disease, though they do pay the relative power with losing more basic canid racial traits. Kobold Warren Dogs get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Str, are small and still have a movement rate of 30 ft and replace low-light vision with darkvision (again not specifying the range). Orc War Mastiffs get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, replace low-light vision with darkvision (this time the 60 foot range is included) and they also get ferocity, but pay for that with losing access to racial diversity and light sensitivity. Painted dogs get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, hatred versus Gnolls and hyena-like creatures and +4 AC versus Gnolls. Finally, the small Xolo get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha and these hairless dogs are under a constant endure elements spell-like ability (that does not specify an effective level and is not properly italicized) and may woodland stride in familiar jungles.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - there are a couple of formatting glitches, which partially make the respective crunch slightly less clear than they ought to be. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the original pieces of full color artwork are simply awesome. This is one beautiful pdf. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf lacks bookmarks, which is an unpleasant comfort-detriment.



Author Nick Esposito has created an interesting race, slightly on the upper end of the power-scale, but not by much. While the racial diversity utilizing the broken ARG can be potentially problematic, per se the variants feel well-balanced and diverse, if admittedly not all of them are brilliant - more weird breeds with unique abilities like the Xolo or the Goblin Cur's allergies would have elevated this pdf further. Per se we get a solid race that has a lot, but in practice is haunted by quite an array of typos and minor glitches. The rules-language, while for the most part non-ambiguous, features several flubs like lacking durations for conditions, calling conditions effects etc. - nothing big per se, but they do accumulate over time to a point where they stand out and show that a tighter editing would have helped this pdf. Beyond that and the missing bookmarks, there is not much to complain about - as presented, this pdf's Canids are definitely useable and per se a relatively nice, if not always inspired race. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Racial Ecologies: The Canids
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Village Backdrop: Vulgruph's Hollow
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/28/2014 04:50:54
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



As has become the tradition with Village Backdrops, the town herein is fully depicted with a list of notable folk, demographics and village statblock, a market place, information on the populace and local nomenclature as well as dressing customs alongside 6 rumors, some of which may or may not be 100% true...



So what is going on in Vulgruph's Hollow? Well, first of all, the village, once prosperous, is dived along racial lines - from the ingenious dwarven founders and their descendants, not much hospitality has ever been extended towards the humans, gnomes and halflings that constitute minorities here - whether due to sheer gruffness or racist tendencies would be up to the DM to decide. Beyond that, though, the village has now, for about a year, been plagued by animal mutilations that have since escalated into downright disappearances of folk - tensions run high and in a climate of suspicion, the culprit(s) thrives.



Nestled on a river, connected by bridges to both sides, Vulgruph's Hollow may seem easy to defend, its nearby dwarven monument pittoresk even - against this backdrop of mistrust and tension, a pair of star-crossed lovers may serve as a Romeo and Juliet-style subplot, while moderately capable (semi-) retired adventures (like a half-orc arcane duelist bard 5 or a dwarven swashbuckler rogue 7) and a lot of good folk may be only inches away from shedding blood, while the vile culprit of the crimes moves unrecognized among the populace, truly a wolf in sheep's clothing. (And upon reading this supplement, what I mean by this will be so much clearer to you...) Said culprit also comes with full stats, btw.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. The cartography is superb and as always, player-friendly high-res versions of the maps can be downloaded on Raging Swan Press' homepage.



Alexander Augunas, known mostly for his mastery in crunch as evidenced by his superb improvement and conversion of Pact Magic to Pathfinder, here delivers a splendid little town, concisely depicted with peculiarities galore, problems to solve and essentially multiple adventure plots that almost write themselves, showcasing a distinct ability to actually also write excellent and captivating fluff. Vulgruph's Hollow, more so even than many other Village Backdrops, has your work cut out for you and even though the basic tropes of the threats may have been covered already, the ease and level of detail with which the narratives flow together make this an excellent buy and a fun place for the PCs to visit - provided they can solve the issues. Otherwise, they may be stranded in a settlement imploding upon itself as paranoia escalates into bitter violence. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Vulgruph's Hollow
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