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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:42:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The premium atlas for the first part of the excessively detailed Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a massive 139 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with132 pages of MAPS.

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of it and due to being chosen as a prioritized review via my patreon.

Yes, you read correctly. 132 pages of maps. Now, first things first - what kind of maps do we get? The book is roughly separated in 4 different chapters: Two featuring maps for Act One of "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte", two representing the changed circumstances that can be found in Act 3 of the massive module.

As you may have deduced, one such chapter each contains the respective GM-maps, one the player-maps. The GM-maps feature keys on them, secret doors and the like - and the player's maps can actually be used as handouts as is: The deceptive numbers and secret door/trap notes have been completely purged from those iterations - which is a COLOSSAL plus as far as I'm concerned. Heck, even crawlspaces, noted on the GM-map, have been redacted - on the player map, a solid wall separates the two connected caverns. That's going above and beyond. Big plus!!

Now, let's talk a bit about the maps within, starting with the least pleasant component. The overview map of Berinncorte is easily the worst and only map in this atlas I'd consider bad. The city is almost quadratic and a bit claustrophobic - it's only an overview and not the most impressive one at that. HOWEVER, that is about as much negative things I have to say about this book. You see, the atlas contains maps for EVERYTHING.

No, that is not a hyperbole. If it's within the walls of Berinncorte, it's mapped. Little militia hut? Mapped. Cryptkeeper's shack? Mapped. Cellars? Mapped. In subterranean environments, you can see the barely visible outlines of buildings above, in case your PCs want to do a bit of digging. In short: The attention to detail is impressive indeed. The full-color maps show benches, columns, barrels, wood - basically, they show every non-dynamic object/creature, providing significantly more detail than what you'd expect. While made with software, they look much better than pretty much all computer-generated maps I've seen before. Heck, you can see the symbols on rugs, the textile shop has differently colored rolls of cloth on the counter - it is rather impressive to see this amount of detail.

Now, something to be aware of regarding the town of Berinncorte, would be an architectural peculiarity that may or may not irk you and may or may not be due to the limitations of the software used to make these maps: The lower residential area and upper residential area do not consist of free-standing houses, but, at least from what I gathered, look like multiple folks live under the same roof in a kind of apartment-like situation. In the case of the upper residential district that could be explained by guest rooms and the map could make for ONE big, nice mansion - but the overview map and the holistic coverage of the rest of the town make it look like this is the totality of the district. Now, granted, that is NOT unheard of - in fact, it was more common than most folks would expect, at least according to the chronicles of cities I've read, but it represents a departure from how most folks picture a fantasy city, so that's certainly something to bear in mind. Personally, I'm good with this decision, mind you. Still, if one such building indeed is all there is, then the beds as opposed to the characters, including militia etc., even when taking barrack beds into account, don't check out. (And yes, this will not come up in 99.9999% of games and should tell you something about how obsessive I can be...thus, it will not influence the final verdict.)

Now, I have already mentioned that there is a cataclysm in Berinncorte at one point - and thus, the Act 3 maps may depict the same environments - but they are radically different from what we've seen before - bloodsplatters, shattered columns, smoke, ash...and worse. Corpses litter the streets and buildings and nary a place has been left intact, with walls incinerated and STRANGE things popping up on the maps - they may depict variants of the maps we already covered, but they do so in the best of ways. Now, on some of the player maps, fixed monsters appear, denoting enemies that constitute living "no trespassing" signs - but since these critters are tied to the respective locales, I'm good with that. Still, personally, I would have preferred these tokens to be omitted - or added on their own token-page for the GM to cut out and move around. Oh well.

Conclusion:

Obsessive level of detail. That's how I'd describe "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte" in a nut-shell. The hand-crafted maps contained in this atlas perfectly encapsulate this philosophy, providing the attention to detail and sheer amount of maps I wanted, all in full-color! The pdf version comes with a second, background-less printer-friendly version and the respective maps sport their own scales, another plus. The electronic version did lack bookmarks, but as per the writing of this review, bookmarked versions have been made available - kudos for the quick response/fix there! The color hardcover is definitely the way to go, if you can afford it.

J. Evans Payne went above and beyond and even redacted crawlspaces, secret doors and the like, adding some serious value to the book at hand. Speaking of value: This massive map-material is also included in a massive (300+ MBs!) archive, which contains all the maps as high-res jpgs for VTT-use. These individual maps are properly named "-GM" or "-Players" and are further organized by Act for your convenience. That's going above and beyond, as far as I'm concerned.

It should be noted that these maps, while obviously intended for use with the adventure, may well be worth the investment if you're looking for a fully mapped fantasy town.

So, how to rate this? Well, I really, really like this map book. It delivers everything I wanted from it, with only minor flaws: Tokens on a precious few maps; the overview map is not nearly on par with the cool maps of the individual buildings/environments. Still, as a whole, I feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars, rounding up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is part of a freshman offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Diabolist
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:40:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The diabolist prestige archetype herein is built with the wizard as a base class, but alternate rules for arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, soceror and witch are included. Diabloists need to be Lawful Evil and get d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and the favored weapon of the patron and 1/2 BAB-progression as well as good Will-save progression. They get full prepared spellcasting, governed by Int, of up to 9th level and receive a cleric's evil aura. Being damned to hell, diabolists are harder to resurrect, requiring a CL check to bring back. At 10th level, the diabolist is potent enough to be exempt from this rule.

The prestige archetype begins play with an infernal, lawful evil familiar and is locked into having that - so not bonded object. The diabloist gains bonus spells, courtesy of his infernal patrons - these, unsurprisingly, would be rather charm/fire-themed.

2nd level yields the ability to channel hellfire when casting fire spells, a number of times per day equal to the highest mental attribute modifier, minimum 1. This is done as a fee action and modifies the standard spell's fire damage to inflict hellfire, which is here defined as 1/2 fire damage and 1/2 damage from an unholy source, which does not affect evil creatures, but doubly affects good targets. Kudos for not falling into the "invent damage type" trap here. Also: creatures affected by protection from evil or law are not affected, which is a cool failsafe, though the pdf forgot to italicize these spell references. Starting at 14th level, this ability may be used in conjunction with all damaging spells. Kudos: Descriptor-changes, if applicable, are covered. Nice catch here!

4th level yields a +2 bonus to Charisma and Charisma-based checks when interacting with devils and fiendish creatures. This bonus is further increased by +2 at 10th and 18th level. 6th level yields free Improved Familiar, but locks the diabolist in the imp choice. 8th level provides a hell-themed 1/day dimension door or plane shift - this is considered to be a lawful and evil act and cannot penetrate areas warded from teleportation. Speaking of which: the diabolist gains an additional daily use at 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with each such increase also unlocking a new SP like teleport or, at 20th level, gate, though these uses consume progressively more daily uses of the ability. Diabolists with obediences may trade in daily uses of the ability for obedience boons for an alternate ability progression - which makes surprising sense, as far as I'm concerned.

As a capstone, the diabolist may use the calling spell of planar binding when calling a named devil as a standard action and bargaina s a move action. Damn (haha!) cool!

As mentioned above, we do get alternate build notes for e.g. psychic etc.-based diabolists. The Prestige archetype also has custom favored class options for anpur, avoodim, dhosari, erkunae, kobolds, tengu and tieflings as well as the core races - these generally are pretty interesting and thematically fitting - humans can e.g. be sooner exempt from the no-resurrection drawback.

The pdf also has a brief appendix depicting the Infernal Obedience feat (guess thrice what that one does) - the boons are btw. unlocked at 12, 16 and 20 HD and two sample, generic archdevil obediences are included: Contracts, Pride, Slavery and Tyranny nets darkness, deeper darkness or burning hands as SPs as the first boon, then perfect sight via ember eyes and a thirdly, a 1/day delayed fireball hellfire blast as an SP. The second generic obedience would be Contracts, Devils, Secrets - boon uno provides unseen servant, detect thoughts or glibness as SPs. Boon deux provides the means to infiltrate clergy and pass as one of theirs. Number 3 is cool: Cha-mod times per day, it lets you revoke the healing a creature received from you at your whim. I totally can see that work as a cool narrative device!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's diabolist is a surprisingly cool prestige archetype - it does not try to reinvent the wheel, but it doesn't have to. The obedience interactions are cool, the rules-language, for the most part, exceedingly precise. In the few cases where it deviates from standard wording, it is only a cosmetic one "level 12" instead of 12th level, for example. So yeah, as a whole, I really liked this one. Granted, I think that e.g. cleric should have its own dedicated diabolist to make better use of the hellfire theme, but for the arcane folks, this constitutes a nice and well-wrought prestige archetype. Well worth 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Diabolist
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Demoniac
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:39:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.75 pages of SRD, leaving us with slightly more than 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

That out of the way, let us take a look at the class herein, with is built on the chassis of wizard and the demoniac, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full spellcasting progression, good Will-saves and 1/2 BAB-progression. Proficiency-wise, they only get simple weapons and their patron's favored weapon. They must be chaotic evil.

Demoniacs begin play with a chaotic evil cleric's aura may spend a demonic favor to gain a wizard bonus feat. These guys may lose a prepared spell to lose a prepared spell in favor of summon monster (not properly italicized), and at 2nd level the demoniac gains an obedience - which can be found in the Demon Lords of Porphyra supplement - color me stoked for obediences, but be aware that as per the writing of this review, these had not yet been released, but if the ones from the Inner Sea Guide are emulated, I'm looking forward to seeing them!

The same goes for the demonic boons - the first is gained on 8th level, with 12th and 16th level providing the follow-up second and third boon. These are also governed by the respective demon lord, so not sure yet how they turned out.

4th level yields nets the demoniac a demonic brand that shows his abyssal allegiance while also acting as a divine focus. 1day, this mark may be invoked as part of casting a spell, adding the chaotic and evil descriptors to the spell...and said spell is not expended upon being cast!

At 3rd level, 7th level and every 3 levels after that, the demoniac receives a demonic favor - this ability can provide a bonus feat, a familiar, energy resistance or a saving throw bonus versus one type of effect chosen from a list, allowing for some nice defensive customizations. Starting at 6th level, the demoniac is damned and thus harder to retrieve from the bowels of the abyss, should he perish.

10th level provides the energumen ability, which 1/day, allows a demonic spirit to possess the demoniac for a total number of rounds equal to his class level. This possession yields a +2 profane bonus to an ability score of the demoniac's choice, increasing to +4 at 14th level, while also granting electricity resistance 10 and +4 to saves versus poison, These bonuses further increase to +6 and immunities at 18th level. However, after this burst of demonic power, the demoniac must succeed a Will-save or be confused for a number of rounds...which can end up badly indeed. Kudos: The pdf acknowledges the possession effect as such and properly codifies the rules governing it.

The capstone, how could it be any different, would be a demonic apotheosis; however, even here we get a bit of player agenda, with a component of the form being up to the player to choose from. The pdf also covers demoniacs that stray from their destructive path and their means of atonement.

As per the tradition of this new series, we receive information on using arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror and witch as alternate chassis-bases, so if you wanted to play a demoniac based on one of those classes, you're in luck. The prestige archetype does include a significant array of class-specific favored class options for core races and some of the stars of the Porphyran races.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's demoniac is hard to judge in its general potency due to boons and obediences being not included in this pdf. However, since these would not be part of the pdf anyways, I will judge the prestige archetype for what it is as a chassis and reserve obediences etc. for the file that will contain them. As a class, the demoniac, from what I can see, works pretty well. Now granted, the base PrC could be more interesting as far as I'm concerned, but the pdf does a solid job at translating the class into a proper base class. While it does not reach the universal appeal of some other Prestige Archetypes, it represents a nice installment in the series, well worth a tentative verdict of 4 stars - as mentioned, I still need to pick apart those demon lords, but chassis-wise, I don't see inherent issues in this prestige archetype.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Demoniac
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 11:06:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The biggest collection of pregens ever to come my way clocks in at an impressive 407 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page studio-introduction, 2 pages SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 398 pages of content. Yeah. Ouch. That's a TON of statblocks.

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy and furthermore, it was prioritized by my patreons.

Now, included among these would be the standard pregenerated characters, available as their own separate pdf for PWYW, so consider that file to be an excellent teaser/first look of what to expect from this gigantic tome.

You will notice that there is some overlap between this review and that of its smaller brother, since the principles on which they operate are the same, only the scope is different. This is a colossal pregen book for the Dark Obelisk AP, or, more precisely, its first chapter "Berinncorte" - in my review of the Player's Guide, I briefly talked about the optional reward star character progression mechanic, so let me be brief: You award those for quest completion, defeating key bosses etc. - it's basically an XP-less advancement method. I'm not the biggest fan, but thankfully, easy conversion mechanics are provided.

Since the Player's Guide was system-neutral, I did not comment on another peculiarity of Dark Obelisk that very much becomes relevant here: Quadded statblocks. Instead of one statblock, each statblock in this pdf comes in 4 iterations, color-coded for your convenience: Low-level stats (level 1 - 4, up to CR 4), moderate level stats (levels 5 - 8, CR between 4 and 10), advanced stats (levels 10 - 15, CRs ranging from 10 - 15) and elite stats for levels 15+, with CRs ranging from 12 to 20. Now thankfully, these quadded statblocks retain PFRPG's subsections - i.e. you'll still have CR/XP first, then sex race class, initiative, etc. - in short, they require no getting used to.

The levels for the characters herein would be 1, 6, 10 and 14, respectively and the book does feature a bit of insight into design philosophy - while these characters work, they are not necessarily minmaxed or the like and enjoy like playing against the trope, particularly the archetype'd ones. That is not to say that they are not...ehem...geared towards their pursuits - you'll see serious dump stats, where appropriate. Special abilities are listed for your convenience, meaning you won't have to switch books, which is a nice plus.

Now, as before in the smaller pdf, we have PFU's Artistry skill included in the deal. Much like in the smaller book, we do not get the information which point-buy was used or scaling information for other point-buy standards. Similarly, while you do get generally solid builds, you will find that the spell save DC is universally off by 1 (this book assumes 11 + attribute modifier + spell level) and the magic item and equipment selection will probably not blow you out of the water with its creativity. Particularly at higher levels, you'll find magical armor and weapons to be the default, with only lame plusses - the book does not use much wondrous items, special weapon or armor qualities or the like. That being said, monks etc. do get amulets and bracers...but only the minimum.

In fact, the high-level builds are pretty squishy and under-equipped. There are a few examples, where the statblock doesn't list the precise armor type in the AC-line and only the AC-bonus it conveys, while in others, it lists the magical armor. So yes, unfortunately the weaknesses of the smaller pdf have found their way into the big book as well. The difference is the vast scope of this book: Whereas the standard PWYW-book covered only the core classes and one barbarian archetype, this one also covers the whole APG-roster + Antipaladin, Magus, Gunslinger, Samurai and Ninja - and yes, summoner and witch get quadded eidolon/familiar statblocks and the samurai comes with mount - cool here: A camel, of all things! Unfortunately, the ranged touch attack of the spitting lacks its bonus in the statblock, but on a plus-side, animal tricks are noted.

Beyond these "standard" classes from the APG, we get so much more: Barbarians get a sample build for the armored hulk, breaker, brutal pugilist, drunken brute, drunken rager, elemental kin, hurler, invulnerable rager, jungle rager, mounted fury, raging cannibal, savage barbarian, scarred rager, sea reaver and superstitious archetypes. Weird: On page 162 of my pdf, the icons of the quadded statblock seem to have a glitch...but that's cosmetic.

Bards are also covered - namely the animal speaker, arcane duelist, arcane healer, archaeologist, archivist, buccaneer, celebrity, court bard, daredevil and demagogue. This is as good a place as any, btw., to mention that each section on a class is headed by a brief general breakdown of competences and a designer's soapbox that talks about the classes - which is a nice segue into the respective sections. Cleric-wise, the cloistered cleric, crusader, divine strategist and evangelist are included in the deal. I am still annoyed by the statblocks for clerics not specifying the domain chosen. A weird peculiarity in that regard: Builds tend to use inquisitions, rather than domains, which is generally, considering spells and powers, not the smartest idea for clerics.

We do get 3 druids - ape shaman, aquatic druid and arctic druid. None of them use companions and, bingo, when a domain was chosen via nature's bond, it was not specified. Also odd: The spellcasting mentions (+1 domain per)[sic!] under the spells per day. It's clear what's meant, but...well. You get it, right? Fighter-wise, the archer, armor master, brawler and cad are included. The archer would be a nice way to showcase what I meant with the builds not necessarily being very lethal at higher levels. At 14th level, the archer here has a base damage of 1d8 +6 with a +3 longbow. Not bad, sure...but neither is it impressive.

Monks may select the drunken master, flowing monk, hamatulatsu master, hungry ghost. ki mystic,. maneuver master, martial artist or master of many styles. Which would be yet another chance for me to nitpick: The ACs partially note "+X misc" in their specific bonus-lists. That does not exist. The proper formatting is "+X monk." The ki mystic build is...interesting...or a joke, depending on your definition .At low levels, she is fragile, but at level 14, the poor sod has AC 24 and a whopping 28 hit points. Con as a dumpstat. No, her damage output does not make up for that and so, there is no amazing item/ability combo that makes the character nigh impossible to hit. She wouldn't have lived through melee with a single mook in my game. Another sad victim of a build would be the Master of Many Styles presented here. Yay, he a has a ton of style feats! And none of the follow-up feats that are the reason you take crappy style feats in the first place. Sorry, there's an exception: Monkey Moves. On the plus-side, the monk builds do take maneuver training etc. into account, so CMB etc. is correct and it's been a while since I saw a tiger fork as a preferred weapon. Still, equipment is not nearly up to par for the levels. +3 amulet of natural armor is all the poor level 14 build gets. I consider myself to be stingy regarding magic items, but herein, the high-level builds suffer big time, coming not even close to the WBL suggested. The maneuver master also is...really wrong. A halfling monk with movement rate 15 ft. (no idea from gear etc. how that happened) and a wrong AC in all builds. Not the only character with such glitches, mind you.

We get the combat healer squire paladin and the battle scout, beast master, deep walker, dungeon rover and falconer ranger next, and yes, the beats master gets a boar companion, the deep walker a dire rat. A slight peculiarity I should mention here: The races use names like "dusk elf" or "dwarf (deep delver)" in brackets - these denote alternate racial abilities, not unique races...just in case you don't have the same array of useless PFRPG trivia lodged in your brain that I do. ;P That being said, I do welcome the use of alternate racial traits. And yes, the falconer gets an...OWL companion.

Rogues are covered as acrobats, bandits, burglars. Cavaliers represented by the beats rider and gunslingers by buccaneer ad gunner squire. I was a bit surprised by the lumping of the cavalier in with these two chapter- and discussion-wise - typically, these guys are armored and fulfill a radically different role than slingers and rogues. Similarly, gunslingers and rogues play nothing alike and gunslingers DON'T have a lot of options, contrary to what the discussion claims. They, much like the cavalier, are not a class with a wide feat array, many meaningful choices or a pronounced player agenda. Regarding the builds: I do cringe a bit when a rogue wastes a precious feat on Acrobatic. The beast rider does not have the correct mount for its archetype. Plus: Buccaneer gets familiar stats and Cha-mod-governed grit right.

The final section covers the following: A crossblooded sorceror, a primalist transmuter, 5 alchemists (beastmorph, chirurgeon, clone master, crypt breaker, internal alchemist), 2 inquisitors (cold iron warden, exorcist), 2 magi (bladebound, greensting slayer), one oracle (black-blooded oracle), one summoner (blood summoner) and a beast-bonded witch. At this point, however, you have a good idea of what to expect here.

The book concludes with an alphabetical index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are at the same time impressively good and problematic; when there's a glitch, it's consistent; if not, then we get, formally a rather impressive book, with stuff bolded that should be bolded and only very few italicization hiccups. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard for text, or the quadded statblock, as applicable. The background is yellow-ish parchment-like and the pdf does not feature any artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version, which is a big plus. The massive hardcover in full color is, well, massive and makes for a hefty tome at the table that is comparatively inexpensive for its massive page-count. A bookmarked version of the pdfs has been uploaded to my knowledge.

J. Evans Payne has crafted the single biggest book of pregens I have ever seen for any gaming system. And at first level, these guys and gals can be pretty solid. The higher level builds, however, are severely under-equipped, to the point where they are basically impotent and don't even measure up to NPC WBL-guidelines. So that's a pretty nasty downside for GMs. On the plus-side, if you're concerned about too many PC deaths and an inflation of magic items, well, these guys most certainly won't present you with that problem.

The sheer amount of statblocks in this book is impressive, yes, but, to put it bluntly, the sheer volume is paid for with the detail and quality of the statblocks in question, particularly when it comes to the strategies of the builds, the feat-selection and the extremely subpar magic item array. Don't get me started on combat gear etc. Now don't get that wrong: I am actually pretty surprised by the relative precision of the builds herein. This is not sloppy in the craftsmanship in the traditional way and probably powered by some piece of software. For the most part, the numbers check out with surprising frequency. Still, they don't always check out and often feel very rough and not necessarily founded on the principle of making a character with a decent chance of survival.

At first level, the level of potency and relatively barebones item array the characters exhibit is okay, but the higher level versions show painfully the lack of the required gear and their deviation from the suggested WBL for NPCs, and don't get me started on PCs. I tried to find a way to sugar-coat it, to see the positive about this, but failed miserably, so there it goes: I wouldn't use the high-level versions as a PC.

That is not to say that there is no value herein; quite the contrary. By definition, the book, while certainly not perfect, does offer quite a lot of stats that can make for a ton of easily dispatched mooks for the GM to throw at players. (Never mind the hiccups - mooks are there to die anyways...) Similarly, at first level, for the most part, if you ignore minor hiccups, you get a metric TON of characters. Finally, as a base to build upon, this may have some serious value for the time-starved, but crunch-savvy GM: Replace some feats and select magic items on the fly and modify the base-chassis and there we go.

That being said, I consider this book to be worthwhile for the comparatively fair price, yes, but also very flawed - and unlike the adventure itself and its companion tome's NPCs, the crunch for PCs MUST be on point and it has no other virtues by which I could judge it.

So, for who is this book? GMs looking for base-lines to build on; players who want 1st level pregens. (With a bit of oversight by someone rules-savvy...) It also depends on how neurotic you are regarding statblocks - if you're like me, you may get a bad twitch. If general functionality is what you're looking for, if you don't have the same level of perfectionism I do, then this could be a treasure trove for you.

The fact, however, remains that this massive book falls short of what it could, and, more importantly should, be.

For me, personally, this did not deliver what I wanted. While I can see some groups deriving a lot of mileage and fun from this, and while I understand that, system-immanently, this cannot present the same precision as significantly smaller books, I still expected more from this. I did not expect inspired builds à la Faces of the Tarnished Souk, but I expected precision and functionality and that is, alas, not always there. While I don't count myself among the folks who can ignore such shortcomings, my final verdict will respect this distinct possibility. Hence, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo and its sheer size as well as the fact that it is part of a freshman offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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The Northlands Saga Complete Player's Guide
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 11:01:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Player's guide for the massive Northlands Saga Player's Guide clocks in at 50 pages if you ignore SRD, advertisement, editorial, etc. My review is based on the dead tree version, which comes as a nice softcover. I was a backer of the Northlands Saga kickstarter, but other than that not involved in any way with this project.

So, how do we start? We start by contextualizing the Northlands and their myths - inspired by real life mythology from Scandinavia, a central leitmotif and proposition of the series was to get the feeling of the Northlands right - and, indeed, flavor-wise, the pdf begins pretty much from the get-go to do just that, presenting us with an angle that is certainly inspired by the traditional myths from our very own world, but which, at the same time, takes a different approach, putting the cultural implications and ramifications into a fantastic context, namely that of the Lost Lands, Frog God Games' evocative own setting.

This process is achieved by first discussing mentality and races, or rather, ethnicities: There are two basic human ethnicities within these realms, the Northlanders and the Seagestrelanders. Beyond these, a quasi-Inuit theme is transported via the race of the Nûklanders, the elves of the frigid tundra, who also have their own traditions and culture - from religion to daily life, the realities of the life for people in these harsh climates are explained to the players, their stances towards adventuring, religion, etc. generating a sense of familiarity while at the same time estranging the reader from them. It should be noted that the strong emphasis on theme and culture, on the roleplaying aspects of the game, is very much crucial for the enjoyment of the series. In the case of e.g. Nûklanders, we have minor variations of the racial abilities the race would otherwise receive.

Once we take a look a the new races, this aspect becomes immediately non-optional. The first would be the giant-blooded, who gets +4 Str, +2 Con, -2 Dex and Cha, is Large, has a movement rate of 40 ft., low-light vision, +1 natural armor AND a reach of 10 feet. This makes them, in particularly in the gritty playstyle championed by the environment, utterly OP. The troll-born share a similar fate, gaining +2 Str, +4 Con, -2 Cha, gain ferocity, 2 1d4 claws and the ability to eat anything, which can be rather potent in sch an environment. Sure, they take +1 fire damage per die, but yeah. Compared to the standard races, they share the fate of being lopsided, geared towards martial traditions and exceeding the power-level of the base races by quite a bit.

Now, don't get me wrong - I understand it. Our very own lore is saturated with beings, ostensibly of these bloodlines, committing great deeds and their themes are deeply ingrained in the cultural context. Similarly, it is made very clear that they pay for this power by simply not being accepted by regular folks; by being ostracized and stigmatized. And that can work to reign them in. At the same time, what would usually balance these guys is simply less pronounced in the frigid north, namely a prevalence of casters. You see, this PG does an amazing job of establishing a cultural context and as such, does not shy away from banning some options, from telling groups what its intended feeling was supposed to be. Paradoxically, these limitations actually help reassert the potence of these two racial options.

That being said, if you're playing the saga via Swords & Wizardry-rules, that won't be a problem. Why? Because the pdf does not provide OSR-stats for them, which is a somewhat unfortunate oversight in my book.

Where races are that important for the flavor, the same holds true for character options, and thus, we get 5 new archetypes, two of which are intended for the barbarian class. The first of these would be the bearsarker - on an aside here: Nomenclature is following the lead of our own world as well, but, once again, spins it slightly, creating a sense of familiarity and estrangement at the same time, breeding the same sense of the fantastic. The common language of the north, for example, would be "Nørsk" - one umlaut away from Norwegin, or "norsk", as we know it. In fact, that is perhaps how I'd sum up the whole feeling of the culture and lands - very close to our own, but distinct - an umlaut away, if you will.

But I digress, back to the class options: The Bearsarker and Ulfhander barbarian archetypes, the skald bard, the huscarl fighter and the spear maiden paladin, as well as the cunning woman sorceror bloodline have three things in common: 1) They represent the social and cultural norms of the respective environments, representing the default variations of the professions in question. 2) They thematically provide perfect fits for the respective campaign environments and 3), froma pure crunch-analysis point of view, you should not expect too much from them. While not bad per se, they do not radically change the playstyle of any of the classes they modify...and could even be considered to be somewhat subpar in some instances: The skald archetype, for example, loses spellcasting in favor of some bonus combat feats and the very limited ability to grant allies affected by bardic performance some feats instead of inspire competence. Similarly, the spear maiden loses spells and mercies in favor of better spear-fighting. From a min-maxing point of view, you probably won't consider any of these archetypes worthwhile, but to an extent, that's their goal - if anything, these class options are in service of the theme and aesthetics the saga tries to evoke, which kinda makes this okay for me. Kinda. I still wished the options were a bit more mechanically interesting.

I am significantly less divided on the subject matter presented where it comes to the variety of traits presented - these include more votes at the Thing, latent taints in the bloodline, local tricks by region, etc. - their potency and benefits generally make sense and add a nice narrative angle in most cases. The book also features 7 feats and sports some interesting modifications of spear fighting, allowing for the 1-handing of longspears, breaking Shield Walls and the like. While not necessarily mind-blowing, these feats add some combat options to the campaign that make sense, even if their ruleslanguage is not always pitch-perfect. The book also sports the greathammer weapon, the sunstone recently popularized by the TV-series Vikings and rules for trodnheim ponies.

Beyond these, we also are introduced to concise rules for death speeches...and fate. The latter can only be invoked ONCE PER CAMPAIGN by a player, but it basically guarantees an epic blaze of glory, including final death - not even the gods can prevent that! These variant rules fit the tropes and theme perfectly and receive a big thumbs up from yours truly.

Now, the player's guide also sports a selection of pregens, all of which come with nice b/w-artworks and complete stats for both OSR and PFRPG-gameplay. A total of 8 such pregens are included in the deal and their character angles and general build strength once again fit the vision of the campaign rather well. In case you were wondering, 1 pt.-buy is the way to go here, and I personally welcome the characters following this more down to earth fantasy approach.

This, however, is not where the book ends - quite the contrary. Instead, we begin what you could consider an absolutely awesome way of introducing players to the themes of the north: That mordbrand is not something to be tolerated, that good and evil, valor and foolishness are not always clearly separated, and that fate is...you get the idea. We basically receive short stories set in the campaign world, which further elucidate the respective aspects - the background story of certain characters, world-building - you name it. Each story is prefaced with a GM warning that allows the respective GM to determine whether or not to hand it out to the players, with potential spoilers being clearly depicted as such.

Now that being said, even in the one story that is somewhat spoiler-heavy, it does not wreck the module per se, just provides the exposition of the tragedy that kicks it off - using it after the introductory scenes is very much something I'd encourage. But what are the stories about? In Jeff Provine's "Harsh Wyrds", we can witness a mortal challenging Donar, taking his first step upon a path determined by will and wyrd to power. Kenneth Spencer's "The Brothers of jarl Skur Skulisdottir" helps highloght the prejudice towards the giant-born and also mentions the slåtten, a horrid beast bred from the madness of a bearsarker. Kevin Wright's "Fadr" deals with a humble man's quest to save his kith and kin...a humble man who once was a great hero, who also happened to have several quasi-mythological and extremely powerful females at his side. The aforementioned spoiler-heavy story would be "Ten Cowards" by John Bennett, depicting the horrid impact of a mordbrand, a vindictive hall-burning. Nathan Shank's "Endless Ice" is an amazing tale of one of the Nûk, delving into the tradition of shamanistic visuals and symbols and arctic horror, whereas the final tale, Kevin Wright's "The Sword of Kings", depicts a well-known legend, of how the sword of kings, Kroenarck, was won, adding a subdued fisher-king resonance to the whole proceedings.

These stories have multiple things in common: They are expertly written, compelling reading material, highlight and further emphasize mentality and mythology, should make fans of low fantasy and sword and sorcery grin and do an amazing job of further showcasing the wonder and splendor of the north. Those wishing for crunch in a player guide may dismiss them, but personally, I adore their inclusion in the book - they are inspiring from both a GM and a player-perspective.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - while both sport minor hiccups here and there, the material, as a whole, is professionally presented. The b/w-artworks deserve special mention: Chris McFann, Terry Pavlet and Artem Shukaev did an amazing job visualizing the harsh beauty and majestic nature of these realms. In fact, I was pretty surprised to see three artists credited, for while there are variations in individual artstyles once you look for them, the book still manages to evoke a concise visual identity. As mentioned, the softcover is of the usual high quality we expect from Frog God Games.

A look at the authors shows us why this book is worth getting: With Kenneth Spencer, Jeff Provine, John Bennett, Nathan Shank, Kevin Wright and none other than Greg A. Vaughan, we have assembled a number of authors that are great story-tellers here. Whether you'll enjoy this player's guide, then, hinges on your personal priorities. If you expect a series of specific, crunchy tidbits that drastically change the playing style, then this will probably leave you underwhelmed. If, however, you're looking for a book that takes the exposition aspects, the explanations of mentality and the like off your back, that establishes a firm cultural and thematic baseline and ensures everyone's on the same page, then this is pretty much what you want. The stories are fantastic and worth the asking price, as far as I'm concerned, at least.

That being said, I can't really rationalize away the fact that the new races only work with copious social penalizing by the GM, particularly considering the otherwise low power-level of the 15-pt.-PCs. Similarly, OSR gamers get a bit less out of this book, sometimes unnecessarily so, so that may be a downside for some of my readers as well.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore this booklet. I love its flavor and how it "gets" what makes Northlands tick; I like its defiant, old-school style, its courage to say "NO!" to totally inappropriate characters. I like that it says: "This is supposed to be gritty!" In short, I like that it emphasizes a believable component and doesn't try to depict "superheroes with a viking coating" - sure, you can play that way, I don't judge. Personally, I very much adore that plausible, more subdued fantasy this presents. How to rate this, then? See, here is where I encounter the big issue as a reviewer. The crunch, frankly, left me less than impressed and...I don't know, thing-mechanics for players, a reputation system (cough Bard's Gate cough Rhûne/cough) and the like would have added some serious oomph here. In fact, I'll be scavenging from both of these sources.

At the same time, the short stories have entertained me significantly better than the last 4 sword & sorcery anthologies I've read, drawing me perfectly into this harsh and majestic realm. As a person, I'd say "Substitute the crunch you don't like, scavenge and enjoy the amazing prose!" As a reviewer though, as much as I LOVE the flavor, culture and stories, I have to take into account that the book comparatively falls slightly short of its own promise. Rhûne handled tying the Norse flavor/reputation to rules better in my book - don't get me wrong, that setting's crunch (Rhûnes class options aren't all that amazing...) isn't perfect either, but honor, runes etc.? Heck yes, I consider them to be better.

Thus, even though I love this as a person, I can't go higher than 4 stars here; if you're looking primarily for crunch, you may have to detract one more star. Similarly, OSR-groups may be disappointed that they don't get giant/troll-blooded characters or variations of the base classes/kits and should detract half a star. At the same time, I try to rate books for their intent, and the intention of this book clearly is to establish the region, the culture - to provide the lore to the players. And here it excels, which is why the 4-star-rating remains my final verdict, in spite of the book's flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Saga Complete Player's Guide
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CLASSifieds: The Technopath
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 10:58:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

So, the first thing you should know is that this class builds on the Technology Guide's rules for science-fantasy tech. The book thus should be fully compatible with Call to Arms: Fantastic Technology...and the hinted at, but per the writing of this still unreleased sequel book.

The technopath receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per levels and begins play with proficiency with simple weapons and laser torches as well as light armor. Technopath spells may be cast in light armor sans spell failure. Technopaths have their own spell-list and cast spells of up to 6th level drawn from it. The class does not need to prepare it in advance, but uses Intelligence as governing spellcasting attribute - if you're particular about the Int/Cha prepared/spontaneous-divide, that's something to bear in mind. Rules-wise, I have no complaints in that regard, though. Chassis-wise, we have 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves, though it should be noted that 20th level's 6th level spells per day-column is missing its numerical value.

The technopath begins play with a special cybernetic brain implant called spirit core (yes, spirit core and laser torch both are presented as items herein, in case you were wondering), which powers all but the spells regarding class abilities. This is also the place where the technogeist lives (Geist = German for "ghost", in case you did not know...yeah, we're pretty much in Ghost in the Shell territory here...). The technogeist may be hosted in either the technopath's consciousness or wirelessly connect it to computers, cybertech or similar features via root access or control a robot drone. All of these are distinct class features, so let's take a look at them in order:

Skill memory, the ability that hosts the geist in the technopath's consciousness, is gained at 4th level. For any two skills for which the technogeist has more skill ranks than the technopath, the AI grants Skill Focus' effects. problems here: Does that apply to ALL skills or one of them? One skill per two the technogeist exceeds the ranks of the technopath? I assume that only one skill is affected since 8th and 16th level yield an additional skill. I'm not 100% clear on how this works. Secondly, the benefits stack with Skill Focus, which they frankly shouldn't - skills are easy to cheese as is; potentially doubling Skull Focus benefits is ridiculous. At 12th level, the ability yields the weapon proficiencies of the technogeist as well. These benefits are suspended when using root access or planar networking.

What's planar networking? It's a 1st level ability, which lets the technopath, via one minute of uninterrupted transmission of a signal through an adjancent plane like the astral, target a robot within 50 ft, whose CR is less than the technopath's level - should probably be class level here. The target must be unconscious or currently non-operational and may then be controlled by the technopath, but must remain in the vicinity. While thus affected, the robot receives the aggregate template, representing that it's inhabited by the technogeist.

This would be a CR +1 template, using Int instead of Dex for initiative, adjusting Will-save to account for the AI's Wisdom score and the robot retains the AI's Int, Wis, and Cha-scores. The robot retains its feats, adding the AI's feats as well, which can be pretty potent. If such an aggregate (or another piece of equipment possessed by the technogeist) is destroyed, the AI spends 1 minute rebooting in the spirit core. The AI is not affected by mind-affecting effects, but since it is a technological entity that employs magic, its abilities are hampered in zones of dead magic and the like. A technogeist's three base scores may be assigend at character creation (14, 12 and 10) in any order and the AI increases one attribute by +1 every 5 levels. The technogeist receives 6 + Int-mod skills per every 2 levels and begins play with 1 feat, gaining another feat at 3rd, 6th, etc. level. The technogeist begins play with share spells and all Craft skills as class skills, with a +4 insight bonus to Knowledge (engineering) as well as Technologist as a bonus feat. OP: It can repair 2d6 points of damage to any robot as a standard action. No daily cap, nothing - if you have a PC-robot-race, this means infinite healing. Even in other contexts, this needs a hard daily cap.

2nd level yields evasion, 14th improved evasion, and 7th and 17th level provide additional weapon proficiencies. 12th level yields Multiattack and 6th level decreases the reboot duration from 1 minute to 3 rounds. 8th level yields the choice of +1 to atk, initiative or all saves and at 9th level, the technogeist may affect nearby robots as a standard aaction, commanding them as per suggestion. The rules-text contradicts itself here - in one sentence, it says that the ability can be used 3/day and 1/day.

Starting at 2nd level, a techonpath may btw. share senses with the technogeist. Okay, that out of the way, let's return to the different abilities the technopath can use with her geist, the second of which would be root access, which is unlocked at 3rd level: As a swift action, the character can touch a technological object, granting the technogeist root access, which can be maintained for a daily total of class level rounds per day. The precise benefit here depends on the type of object thus accessed: Armor and shields can convey a significant AC boost (+5 shield bonus, increases to +8 at 13th level; 18th level provides a powerful force field with fast healing and the consumption of rounds of this ability instead of charges). Weapons net bonuses to atk and damage with somewhat weird sclaing (standard +4, +7 at 13th level) and additional attacks - the latter should die or at the very least offer a caveat to prevent additional attack stacking via haste, flurry, etc. 18th level allows the technopath to levitate adjacent to the character, allowing it act and move independently.Computers etc. allow for the sharing of skills etc. and Mark models, prismatic augmentations etc. may be improved as well.

The third functionality of the geist would be to duplicate a kind of pet - the technopath begins play with a security drone, a CR 1/3 robot with a chargeable laser turret and a gripping clamp that can be used for clumsy manipulations. 2nd level yields Craft Robots as a bonus feat and allows the character to craft from scrap and may apply temporary hit points to a robot, though thankfully sans easy cheese option. 5th level yields at-will technomancy with a CL equal to class level -3, ith 14th level making that constant. At 6th level,, the character may use discharge or recharge 1/day as an SP at -3 class levels as CL. 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield an additional daily use, with 18th level increasing the CL by +1, up to class level maximum. 10th level makes the bonded senses always on when using planar networking to hijack robots as well as skill memory's benefits while the technogeist is within a robot. 11th level provides 1/day memory of function as an SP at full CL, +1 daily use at 17th level. This also allows a geist to immediately establish control as part of the action, if so desired. 17th level provides a persistent virtual demiplane - this plane has stringent limits, but represents nearby interaction points and can only be accessed by the virtual consciousness, basically duplicating in flavor and effect something akin to Shadowrun's matrix. As a capstone, the class can also represent and interact with creatures, including those on overlapping planes, within this mode.

Now, I mentioned recharge/discharge - fret not, the spells, part or the new spells contained herein, have a burn-out chance for batteries, so not cheap infinite resource cheeses there. Glamering robots as fleshy beings, detecting technology via technomancy or the like - there are, spell-wise, some cool ideas here. Immediate full restoration of construct hit points, even as a 7th level spell, can be considered to be rather potent and should be handled with care. The spell-representation of magnetic field is pretty nice, as far as hard terrain control goes.

The class comes with a total of 3 archetypes: The compatibilist android, who replaces fused consciousness and memory of function via a variant, robot-based Leadership. The class abilities, like the recharging mentioned before, also tie in with that. The archetype also receives a capstone that nets the divine source mythic ability and herald apotheosis. Circuit breaker technopaths receive a modified skill list and their technogeist gains more weapon proficiencies . If the name was not ample indication, let me spell it out: These guys are more about using a sledgehammer, so to speak: Damaging and destroying technology, via discharges, EMPs and the like. In contrast to this more offensive archetype, the artificial empath is all about Teamwork with the technogeist, a form of co-existence, if you will - represented by 1st level gaining the Empathy feat, teamwork feats and the option to grant the technogeist a persistent form at 10th level. At the highest levels, they can even create artificial life and make the AI a real boy, to use the classic analogy.

While some feats mentioned may be familiar to those of you who own CtA: Fantastic Technology, the pdf also features a selection of new feats: AIs and robots can learn to make Backups in case of destruction; binary communication can also be achieved and another feat allows robots, androids etc. to disable emotions - which may or may not be something that you'd already assume as a given in your game. Why is it here? Empathy. The feat nets an empathic robot/AI. Emotion-and-fear-ignoring metamagic via Forced Empathy Spell is also included and faking emotions can also be found here. As an aside/nitpick, the latter has its benefits/prerequisites not properly bolded. More interesting would be Transform, which lets your robot/android/etc. selectively doe the transformer and change arms, grow wheels, etc. Temporarily wearing a robot is a cool concept, but the execution, even with its hard cap per day here, can be a bit powerful and should only be attempted by advanced players.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' nice two-column full-color standard. The pdf uses a mix of new and stock full-color art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Garrett Guillotte's technopath is NOT for the faint of heart. This is a complex class that requires quite some system mastery to understand...and play. A 1st level technopath that doesn't take care will be left sans drone, for example. Similarly, you have to know how AIs work to run this and most players probably don't. Including a step by step explanation would have made this significantly easier to grasp. You see, you have basically two entities here - technopath and technogeist. However, the technogeist is basically the fuel of class abilities: A distinct entity, yes, but also the source of the technopath's powers. And this is where a lot of the issues of the class, in fact, the grievous ones, lie. RAW, the AI is a distinct entity, with its own actions. At the same time, the technopath governs these actions. This does create an overall feeling where the lines between the two entities are blurred: Compared to e.g. spiritualist or tinker, I found myself wishing that the two would be separated more clearly. This also goes for the technogeist-powered abilities. These generally are pretty cool, yes, but their presentation is, at least when reading the class for the first time, rather challenging.

These didactic shortcomings can be a bit tough, particularly on newer players, but more problematic would be the issues here and there like doubled Skill Focus, wonky bonus iterative attacks and the like, that drag his class down. There is one more thing to bear in mind: Several of the class abilities allow the technopath to potentially make use of powerful foes. While these are thankfully limited, the class only really reaches its full potential in a campaign that sports sufficient amounts of tech. If you run a low-technology game, it loses some of its appeal and power. How to rate this, then? In the end, I consider this to be a flawed class, yes - but also one that manages to get a lot of complex concepts done right. It has some aspects that could have used further clarification, but at the same time, it manages to do something interesting, which is a plus for me. In the end, I consider this a mixed bag on the positive side, which translates to 3.5 stars: Advanced players and GMs willing to invest a bit of time in a tech-heavy campaign may well want to check this out! I'd usually round down for this, but as per the writing of this review, the class is available for 1 buck, which is really cheap for the amount of content - hence, I'll round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: The Technopath
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 10:57:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of PWYW-pregens clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 56 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this would be the small "Pay what you want"-companion tome to its massive extended brother, a colossal pregen book for the Dark Obelisk AP, or, more precisely, its first chapter "Berinncorte" - in my review of the Player's Guide, I briefly talked about the optional reward star character progression mechanic, so let me be brief: You award those for quest completion, defeating key bosses etc. - it's basically an XP-less advancement method. I'd not the biggest fan, but thankfully, easy conversion mechanics are provided.

Since the Player's Guide was system-neutral, I did not comment on another peculiarity of Dark Obelisk that very much becomes relevant here: Quadded statblocks. Instead of one statblock, each statblock in this pdf comes in 4 iterations, color-coded for your convenience: Low-level stats (level 1 - 4, up to CR 4), moderate level stats (levels 5 - 8, CR between 4 and 10), advanced stats (levels 10 - 15, CRs ranging from 10 - 15) and elite stats for levels 15+, with CRs ranging from 12 to 20. Now thankfully, these quadded statblocks retain PFRPG's subsections - i.e. you'll still have CR/XP first, then sex race class, initiative, etc. - in short, they require no getting used to.

The levels for the characters herein would be 1, 6, 10 and 14, respectively and the book does feature a bit of insight into design philosophy - while these characters work, they are not necessarily minmaxed or the like and they enjoy playing against the trope. Special abilities are listed for your convenience, meaning you won't have to switch books, which is a nice plus. What's bold is bolded, magic items are italicized - the formal criteria are surprisingly solid. While we do get e.g. Gronka Hackbang, the half-orc barbarian with Int 6 and Cha 8, e.g. Antagonize as a feat choice makes surprising sense when paired with an Intimidate that does not suck. So yes, I do believe that there is some story within these statblocks per se, which is a good thing since, unlike many a pregen-collection, we don't actually get roleplaying notes or extensive background stories - these are the crunchy mechanics and that's that. And yes, the pregens are effective at their respective roles, so min-maxers probably won't have too much to complain here.

Beyond aforementioned barbarian, we get an elven bard, a half-elf cleric, a dwarven druid, a tiefling fighter, a hafling monk, a dwarven paladin, a halfling ranger, a human rogue, a gnome sorcerer and an elven wizard. gender-wise, we have a solid mix here. The builds per se are relatively solid, though they are not free of glitches - while I did not reverse-engineer all of the builds, e.g. the spell save DC is universally off by one: It was calculated with 11 as a base-line before adding the key attribute, when it should be 10 + attribute modifier + spell level. Similarly, the cleric e.g. does not state the chosen domain, which is puzzling, considering that e.g. the sorceror comes with the full bloodline info. It should be noted that the builds use PFU's Artistry-skill, but not the Lore-skill.

The pdf closes with a sample, non-named quadded armored hulk barbarian statblock, including some nice ideas regarding how to play the character, how to use dressing, what the strengths and weaknesses are from a crunch-perspective - you get the idea. This would be basically a teaser for the expanded pregen book, where more such sections can be found. The pdf closes with a brief index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - while the formal criteria and formatting are surprisingly good, some minor build glitches aren't so cool. Layout adheres to a full-color standard that puts either two columns of text or a quadded statblock in the center - there is no overlap between characters, which means that the final pages of some have a bit of blank space. Still, preferable to overlap. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly, backgroundless version. EDIT: As per the posting of this review, a bookmarked version is being uploaded.

All right, so this is the PWYW-version, the freebie pregens for those who want them...and they are solid enough. While we get pretty much pure crunch and not much else, that's as advertised and the statblocks for higher levels mean that GMs will have some nice stats for NPCs as well, if required. That being said, the glitches that I found do drag this down a notch. It also hits a big pet-peeve of mine: We don't actually get the point-buy values used in character creation. Considering that plenty of groups use 25-pt. or 15-pt.-buy for high or gritty fantasy, respectively, getting that precise info and scaling advice would have been very much appreciated.

...I think I may have reached a whole new level of prickishness, complaining about a pretty hefty PWYW-pregen collection, but there we go: We also only get core classes here and one archetype'd character. Considering the wealth of options available for PFRPG, I know that my players refuse to play vanilla core characters. That may be a feature or a bug, depending on how you look at it, but at least some APG-support would have been more than expected - now, of course, those can be found - in the extended book! The high-level versions also tend to be pretty challenged regarding gear, usually sporting somewhat level-appropriate magical weapons/armor with the usual +1/+2/+3 bonuses - so expect nothing too creative there. In fact, the high level versions are SEVERELY underpowered.

Sooo...how do I rate this? Here, things get tricky. You see, the draw here would be the stats and they are plentiful, yes. And no, I don't expect them to be flawless or anything like that...but frankly, I expect them to be a bit more transparent for the GM to modify. They are not totally bad, but neither will they blow you away. This is a decent pdf, and at PWYW, it certainly is worth checking out...but it is not a particularly artful collection of pregens, sporting several hiccups and issues - if you'd like to know which, I went into much more detail in my review of the extended pregenerated characters tome. Even taking the PWYW-nature into account, I can't go higher than 3 stars on this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 11:00:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Player's Guide for the first part of the massive Dark Obelisk-saga clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/KS-thanks, 2 5 pages blank, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of explanations of the peculiarities of this game studio (more on that in other Dark Obelisk-reviews) leaving us with 43.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

First thing you'll notice: The first content-bearing page pretty much provides quick: "Determine in 10 minutes" basics: Berinncorte is a typical fantasy city of 100 -200 citizens, has library, butcher, etc. Why are the PCs there? up to the players. What do they know? Easy - there's a rumors table! And there even are 3 quick notes on how to get the action going from the get-go.

So, first of all, the book explains its unique presentation, which may be more relevant for the GM than the players, but it's still interesting: Taking a cue from AAW Games' playbook and similarly well-presented adventures, we get handy, color-coded boxes: Obstacles are e.g. in an orange/yellowish box; loot can be found in blue boxes and icons clearly denote the respective components for what they are. When a random roll is required from the GM, a handy dice-symbol denotes the action as such.

Books and knowledge are power: Mundane texts come in their own boxes, with value, weight, etc. and can provide bonuses. Relevant for players: The adventure saga uses skill challenges. Before PFRPG purists start booing - these are not 4E's "Make x unrelated checks to succeed" type of challenges, but instead codify e.g. persuasion, complex traps and the like: First check catches the target in a contradiction, second presses forward, third nets compliance, for example. The example uses falling timbers: Perception to note, Acrobatics to avoid, and on a failure/to help others, Strength to dislodge - basically, they represent sequential, more complex skill interactions, some of which can fail, while others can send you back a step on a failure, etc. Basically what we have in other modules, only codified more stringently.

An additional thing that sets this apart would be that PCs can be replaced with NPCs - if such a replacement, due to death or the like, would be required or feasible, it is denoted as well in the text. The Player's Guide also explains the notion of Reward Stars or Candy XP as an alternate means for the tracking of character progression - these basically consist of a variant, non-level-dependent means of tracking character advancement, emphasizing story more over hard numbers. If you're like me and not a fan of the reward star mechanic, fret not, for the pdf does offer the means to use regular XP instead without much hassle. This is about as much as players necessarily have to know about this, so from here on out, we look at the second chapter, which deals with how to use this.

The town comes with a settlement statblock and suggested hooks for the core classes (but not for those from more esoteric sources). Berinncorte can be used in pretty much every fantasy setting sans big hassle, though the default campaign world assumed would by Aquilae. Theme-wise, we'll be looking at high ability, low tech NPC capabilities - i.e. there will be PCs with some solid PC levels, but not necessarily troves upon troves of magic items - something I personally enjoy. Another aspect, which doesn't necessarily feature in the meat of the module, but makes for an interesting feature of the world, would be the tithe: You could call it accurate or cynical or both, but gods in Aquilae demand a tithe and everyone pays - usually 1% of the income, which is more lenient that real life's tenth. You pray, you pay - the tribute directly ends up at the god's place, btw. Gods are immortal and wield power, but are not omnipotent or all-knowing - and while the churches of two gods feature in the module, all of these unique characteristics, from the precise nature of the deities to the tribute, can easily be discarded by the GM.

The same goes for the excessively detailed array of factions and organizations that matter: They are depicted with general influence notes, resources, etc., common traits and include strange guilds like the Meatsmiths that want to raise meat prices and have their craft be recognized as an art to the more mundane like Berinncorte's militia. The factions depicted here go btw. far beyond what actually transpires in the module, featuring private military, bard's guilds, couriers, divination guilds and the like, adding some detailed information regarding the movers and shakers of the world.

That's not much on what to actually expect from the AP? There's a reason for that and you'll see it in the review of the module. Suffice to say, that's intentional. On the plus-side, the pdf does something I very much enjoy: It provides a player-map of Berinncorte and also presents the read-aloud text of the "public zones" - like temples, market square, etc. - basically, if the PCs have probably visited the place, they'll know the lay of the land. The overview map of the settlement (the weakest among all the maps) represents the locales via self-explanatory icons as well as numbers; the detail maps of the locales instead come key-less, just as player-maps should come.

Particularly useful for PCs who are from Berinncorte would be the third chapter, dramatis personae, where the excessive NPC-fluff descriptions and appearance of the more important NPCs of the town have been duplicated for the PC's edification. These also are often supplemented with well-drawn, original b/w-artworks I very much enjoyed. This would be as well a place as any to comment on the fact that I very much enjoy that Berinncorte is not a heteronormative environment: One NPC angle could have PCs help a gay man come out, homosexual characters exist as both regular folks and badasses...nice plus here! That being said, this also brings me to a gripe I have with this Player's Guide: You see, while a bit of the material herein HAS been redacted, there is a character in the city that ostensibly is a male, but in fact, is a female in disguise. The text of the NPC in question has been redacted to not spoil this potential reveal. However, another NPC's text blabbers on and on about how this character is in truth a woman. Not cool. Another aspect to be weary of here would pertain the fact that the descriptions of the NPCs feature information that should simply not be known by the PCs. While quest-relevant information has been redacted, knowing e.g. that a specific character is secretly infatuated with another character should...well. Be secret? In short: there is some information that does not belong in player hands here. Better redacting of that chapter would have been prudent.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a one-man outfit: J. Evans Payne (who has used variants of his name in all functions in the adventure - nice hidden gag) is surprisingly good at controlling his own output, something I really respect. (I suck at editing my own material.) Layout adheres to a relatively no-frills two-column standard with yellowish background. The color-coded boxes help orientation. It's not a gorgeous layout, but it gets the job done and allows you to see relevant material at a glance. The pdf version comes with a second, printer-friendly version with a white background instead. Nice: Each chapter is marked on the fore-edge of the paper - if you flip through the book, you can thus immediately see the chapter. This is nice, but if you flip in reverse through these marks, you'll notice that the left-hand side text in these is not perfectly centered. A purely aesthetic complaint, of the otherwise superior dead tree softcover. As per the one day after the release of this review, I have been notified that a fully bookmarked version has been uploaded - now that is an impressive response-time! We get a few nice b/w-artworks, all original, all enjoyable.

So, the first player's guide by J. Evans Payne does a LOT right: For one, the angle of the module is not spoiled; the public maps/public knowledge section of the city is AMAZING and should be standard for PGs and the lore-sections on factions etc. adds further dimension to the book. I also really like the idea of fluff-only NPC-profiles of well-known characters, if not the precise execution here. If future books redact more sensitive information, that is most certainly amazing.

In short: This sports a few beginner's hiccups, but also features aspects I consider well-crafted and worthwhile additions to the Player's Guide formula. This is not a perfect player's guide, but it most certainly is a worthwhile addition for any group embarking on the Dark Obelisk AP. How to rate this, then? Well, for me, the dramatis personae section, which would have been a perfect way to provide a mnemonic to players (we all know they'll forget some names, no matter how memorable your NPCs are...), fell flat due to too much information, which represents a pretty big strike against the book, but even taking that into account, this still can be considered to be worthwhile. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the low price point ($1 pdf, $5 print + pdf).

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
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The Hill Cantons Cosmology
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 10:56:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief cosmology clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this pdf is exactly what is says on the tin - a description of the cosmology of the Hill Cantons, which serve as a backdrop for several of the modules put out by the Hydra Collective. But it is frankly more than that.

The world described here would be called Zěm, and after the header, which explains how the world came to be, we begin with a dialog-like frame-narrative that is hilariously irreverent. In the beginning, there was void (or has world-matter existed before?) and all Void was divided in 3 parts - the space of demons, the transitional zone haunted by the Uquitani and the sector inhabited by the mortals, the "Insufferable Void."

A somewhat doofy Overgod toiled...and then created drink, in order to stop caring. He got horrible drunk, danced upon a gas giant shouted (with a curse) and slipped from it, sleeping for aeons. His spilled drink would become the oceans and when he awoke, he watched. Before inventing Drink. Again. And so he languishes in drunken stupor, while petty demons and gods rage and fight, and below that, the mortals toil.

The world itself has a strong law-chaos leitmotif, realized in a rather intriuing manner: The world is separated in roughly three regions: The corelands, which are akin to our medieval age; no magic, rigid structure, no weird stuff. Contrasted with that would be the Weird, basically pure chaos and your excuse as a GM to throw anything at players. Planar instabilities? Temporal rifts? Every creature you can dream off, from the heaves to the realms of fey....it can just stumble out of the highly magical Weird.

Between the realms of Gonzo weirdness exemplified by the Weird and the rigid Corelands, there lie the Borderlands, where the fantastic exists, but is still beholden to at least some natural laws; it is in this hazy, dream-like in-between-realm that the Hill Cantons and the vast amount of adventure they offer, can be found.

Have I mentioned that this pdf actually managed to make me laugh? Let me quote from the section "On Alignment": "In his famous treatise Annals of the Fold-Fold Path, Gaxx the Jerk-King teaches us that five-fold alignment (LG, CG, N, LE, CE) is humanity's limited, warped, half-right theoretical view (or ontology, if you want to get really high-falutin') of how Zěm's cosmos works."

Regarding religion, we have Solarity (Praise the sun!...Dark Souls fans got a chuckle out of that...) and the ancient space gods. Gods are not beholden to mortal alignments and and the pdf goes on to explain various solarist sects, including the "official" one. We are told about the orders that serve the church and the other deities - Hebeka, the Celestial Lady, Ha-Vul the antagonist and also the Old Gods of Pahr.

Similarly, the first beasts, quasi-deific beings created by the grand god - these include the Regimental Goat Koza and Vlenosh, the angry sloth...and beyond these entities, there are the atrophied gods, for all things must wane and perish, even the deities. Finally, the silent god exists, enigmatically, a divine wildcard, whose endgame is yet to be understood.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though a few typo-level glitches can be found, most notably that the "cosmology"-header on each pages reads "cosnology"[sic!]. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with solid stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Chris Kutalik's cosmology is an irreverent, fun short pdf that made me smile more than once. It is creative, weird and at times even funny. The cosmology presented features several components I consider to be rather enticing and helps illustrate a creative and intriguing world. In short: This is a very fun read. Now, this also is PWYW, which should be considered to be an excellent reason to get this gem right now. It is fun,a good read and even inspiring - whether for scavenging purposes, as a mythology or to add further facets to Hill Canton-modules, this is very much worth getting and leaving a tip for. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hill Cantons Cosmology
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Revanchist Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 10:52:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, 0.5 pages SRD, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The revanchist base class must be non-evil and get d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus hand crossbow, longbow, repeating crossbow, shortbow and whip as well as light & medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Chassis-wise, we're looking at 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves.

The revanchist gains Step-up as a bonus feat at first level, but the defining class feature at this level would be oath of vengeance, usable 1/day as a swift action, with 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding an additional daily use. The oath nets the revanchist a bonus to damage against the target equal to the character's level (should be class level) and you treat the weapon as magic for the purpose of overcoming DR as well as +1 to saves versus "effects and conditions" created by the foe. This increases by +1 at 6th, 10th and 15th level. Starting at 6th level, the revanchist's weapons are treated as lawful and good for the purpose of overcoming DR (which can be weird, since revanchists can be chaotic). Nice catch - 10th level makes the weapon count as adamantine for the purpose of overcoming DR, but not hardness interaction. 15th level yields resistance to one of the base energy types or sonic damage, though the wording is wonky: "Becomes resistant (10) to one type of energy..." is uncommon. This resistances may be chosen anew whenever you swear a new oath of vengeance - I'm not sure if this resistance is supposed to only work for effects etc. by the oath's target, since the ability only has a base duration until the end of the encounter

2nd level yields Improved Initiative and 3rd level yields "Sense Murderer" - which fails to italicize discern lies and faerie fire...and is utterly broken: "Whenever a revanchist is within 30 feet of such a criminal, the target is affected by a form of faerie fire, only visible to the revanchist."[sic!] That's not how faerie fire works and basing the ability on "murderer" a) wrecks pretty much every investigation and b) is incredibly opaque - every adventurer, every watchman, soldier, etc. potentially could qualify as a murderer. Non-operational as written. Also at 3rd level, the class gets immunity to fear and grants a bonus of +4 to saves versus fear to allies within 10 feet. This is basically aura of courage, with a needless name-change.

Roar of revenge is gained at 5th level - once per 1d4 rounds, as a standard action, the revanchist can emit a shriek. All creatures (including allies) within 60 feet must succeed a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod or cower (!!!) for 1d4 rounds. This is utterly OP for the level, should be a fear effect and needs to be moved to higher levels. Cowering is one of the most powerful conditions, it's per definition a fear effect and should be prevented by immunities and even though allies are affected, this is a horrible cheese-able ability.

The table contradicts the rules-text - ghost mount, per table, is gained at 4th level, while the rules text situates it at 5th level. Which is it? This companion acts as a full-strength spiritualist's phantom companion. The spiritualist's etheric tether is gained and applied to the mount, which can must be an animal capable of bearing the revanchist's weight and the mount is manifested in ectoplasmic form. The mount also gains some modifications of the base phantom engine. 5th level yields DR 1/-, which increases by +1/- every 5 levels thereafter. Starting at 6th level, the mount ignores difficult terrain and 9th level yields water walk (bingo, not italicized) at will.

7th level yields an alternate oath - oath of hatred. Or at least, that's how the ability is phrased. In fact, it has no daily limit that sets it apart from oath of vengeance, should thus be a sub-ability of it, and nets the benefits of haste (CL 20th - WTF??? At least that one is italicized for once...) and an unytped +4 to atk and grapple-checks. So, does that mean net +8 to grappling? No idea. Needlessly confused. This oath consumes 2 uses of the oath, which means that it won't be used often

9th level yields SR 5, +5 for every 5 levels thereafter, which is not how SR usually scales. 11th level yields air walk at will for the mount "(as the spell, no action required)[sic!]" for "1 round at a time" - This ability, which should be utterly simple...is not, at least not how it's presented here. 11th yields stalwart.

Starting at 13th level, the revanchist may expend 3 uses of her oath to get +4 to Strength and Constitution (bonus type not stated), +2 to natural AC (again, not stated) and +10 base speed as well as DR 10 /evil. Dumb: "As a standard action, the revanchist can deal 10 negative energy damage to a target per class level (capping at 150 damage), 1/2 on a save. Which one? No idea. Range? No idea. How often can it be used? No clue. Can it only affect the oath's target? No idea. Broken as hell, even though it can't reduce a target to below 1 hit point. 14th level yields exploit weakness.

At 16th level, revanchists return from the dead as a revenant when killed by a non-outsider, non-dragon. 17th level yields an AoO whenever a foe hits the revanchist or an adjacent ally, an attack that gains a +2 bonus to atk, +5 if the prompting attack was critical. 18th level yields a bonus combat feat and, as a capstone, the revanchist can perform save or die when invoking oath of judgment - once again, this ability fails to specify its target - RAW, you can use it versus creatures other than the oath's target. This is due to the ability being a copy of true judgment, but judgment provides general benefits, whereas the oaths are targeted effects, making this weird, in spite of being a straight copy. As an aside, the save here is strangely governed by Wisdom - which is completely different from the governing attribute of all other class abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good. There are a lot of missed italicizations and similarly, several non-standard wordings in the rules-language. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the character artwork is pretty cool. The pdf has no bookmarks. Cut-copy-paste is disabled, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment when using the class.

Robert Gresham's revanchist per se is definitely a class with promise - the idea of a ghost mount-riding agent of righteous revenge is cool. Alas, both in balance and precision, the class leaves much to be desired. The base chassis is superior to that of the cavalier and inquisitor, the mount is VERY strong and a bit opaque and there are a lot of hiccups. On a design-perspective, the class offers no choice, no player agenda - one revanchist will be just like all others, with only feats and races making a difference. In short - this class has some broken abilities, issues in the craftsmanship, no player agenda and is too strong. The concept is cool, but that's all the positive I can say about this class, unfortunately. This may be worth revisiting and rebuilding from scratch, but as written, I can't rate this higher than 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Revanchist Hybrid Class
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Mesmerists of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2017 04:29:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD (though one has a spell-line from the previous page), leaving us with 35 pages of content. It should be noted that these sport an A5-style (6'' by 9'') booklet-like layout, which allows you to comfortably fit 4 pages on a given sheet of paper if you print them out.

After a brief introduction, we begin with the massive assortment of archetypes featured within these pages, beginning with the arcane manipulator, who does not receive any armor or shield proficiencies and suffers from spell failure when using the like. The archetype treats the spells gained as prepared arcane spells rather than psychic spells. The psychic components are replaced with arcane ones - while it is pretty evident which components should be used in this substitution, I do think it would have been prudent to explicitly spell it out. Anyways, the governing attribute would be Int here and the mesmerist receives a spellbook. The stare is modified to impose a decreased penalty to account for the gained flexibility, but extends its penalties to Will saves with a custom bold stare. Instead of consummate liar and towering ego, the archetype may employ Intelligence as governing attribute for Diplomacy, Intimidate and Sense Motive and also is treated as having Combat Expertise for the purpose of feat prerequisites. Starting at 3rd level, the archetype adds a limited amount of healing-themed spells to spellbook and spell list - cure light wounds, remove disease, cleanse, etc. - this eliminates touch treatment, though. Solid.

The Caretaker must be good and replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to Diplomacy checks. These guys can focus their stare on an ally, granting them a "+2 penalty on Will saving throws" - this scales up to +3 at 8th level...and obviously should be a bonus with a proper bonus type. Instead of painful stare, the caretaker can convert damage the target of the stare receives into non-lethal damage. Cool: The ability has a caveat to prevent abuse from those immune to nonlethal damage. Nice! 3rd level provides the addition of healing spells to the spell-list, with every 3 levels thereafter providing a new spell added...and yes, they properly denote their spell-levels. 11th level nets the paladin's detect evil class feature instead of glib lie and 10th level nets 1/day mass heal as an SP instead of rule minds. Weird: The ability is Su when it pretty much is textbook SP, structure-wise. That being said, I love this engine-tweak, in spite of its minor hiccups.

The dazzling flailer gets 4+Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons + flails, including nunchaku, spiked chain, meteor hammer, etc. They start play with Dazzling Display and may use it in conjunction with these weapons. 8th level increases the condition imposed from frightened to shaken....äh...wait. Shaken is more serious than frightened. Something's wrong here. This eliminates hypnotic stare. Instead of painful stare, those affected by his Dazzling Display receive +1/2 class level damage from the flailer's attacks with the weapon group. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the flailer gets display improvements to Dazzling Display, chosen from a list of 5 - these allow the penalty incurred by the target to also apply to different values - initiative, DCs, etc., movement and Ref-saves...you get the drift. It's basically a variant bold stare tied to the Display. There is also a solid, exclusive mesmerist trick allowing for the use of a weapon as a hypnotism locket in conjunction with the occult skill unlock.

The elemental eye replaces Knowledge (religion) with Knowledge (planes), and those affected by his gaze can look forward to receiving more elemental damage (1/2 class level); if the eye uses the ability to increase his own elemental damage output, it's even more (1d6 per 3 class levels). Cool: The ability manages to properly code critical interaction. As a minor complaint: The ability should specify what constitutes elemental damage for its purposes, since sonic damage is sometimes treated as elemental and sometimes not; using Porphyra's other supplements and the stare modifications as reference, I'm pretty sure it should only apply to acid, cold, electricity and fire damage. Speaking of which - 4 bold stares are available for the archetype, allowing the mesmerist to penalize saves versus the respective element. It should be noted that the archetype loses painful stare.

Next up would be the gazer, proficient with handcrossbows and whips as well as simple weapons. "They can wear light and medium armor and carry shields" -is not rules-language, alas. Even non-proficient characters can do that. ;) Kidding aside, the intent is clear here and I'm just complaining to help the authors improve. Instead of knacks, spellcasting and glib lie, the archetype receives the complex psychic gaze ability, which is an SP, with a DC equal to 11 + 1/3rd class level (minimum 0) + Cha-mod, usable 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day, with CL equal to class level. Effects persist even after changing the hypnotic stare's target. At 1st level, the gazer picks one gaze school, with 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter unlocking an additional school.

These correspond to schools of magic. These include basic abilities and improvements at 4th level and every 6 levels after that. Abjuration can impose concentration checks to cast spells or SPs with scaling DCs; at higher levels spellcrashes are added and we even get an antimagic field at high levels. Divination nets increasing AC bonuses and SP-duplications of several information-gleaning tricks; Enchantment provides straightforward charms and compulsions. Evocation lets you set targets ablaze with your gaze. Here, the wording is a bit odd: You see, the damage dice used to calculate the damage increases to d8, but since the gaze can render foes alight, they have a chance to continue to receive damage - 1d6. I am not sure if this is intended to be fixed or if it should scale to d8 as well. Illusion can eliminate the mesmerist within the sight of the target, making him invisible...only better: Not even glitterdust etc. help here. Cool! At higher levels, we have complex and scripted hallucination, including precisely worded trigger option. Nice. Necromancy yields undead control as well as debuffs. Annoying: The archetype references "turning corpses into skeletons or undead" - a) Skeletons ARE undead and b), the spell used as reference by the pdf is raise dead - which does something completely different. This should be animate dead instead, otherwise, we have ridiculous amounts of dead PCs returning to life! Transmutation begins with fatigue and then nets paralysis at 4th level...which is kinda lame. Locking a foe down is nice and dandy, but transmutation most certainly had cooler concepts.

Instead of consummate liar, these guys use the hypnotic Stare's BAB as equal to their class level and 3rd level allows them to affect additional creatures with their stares, +1 per every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, psychic gaze may be used upon multiple targets, but at an increased daily use cost. 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter yield a bonus feat and the archetype gets a unique capstone, namely absorbing gaze attacks and potentially unleashing it on foes. Additionally, one school chosen grants a mastery bonus, the exact nature of which is determined by the school in question. I like this archetype's engine very much, but I think its precise execution could be more precise and diverse, considering the loss of spellcasting.

The kytonik would be a high-concept archetype. Instead of hypnotic stare, these guys get an unnerving gaze with a range of 20 feet that imposes a scaling penalty to Will-saves on non-allies, with 8th level extending the range to 30 ft. Whenever a target fails a Will-save versus the kytonik's unnerving gaze, they take 1/2 class level damage, minimum 1. This is codified as precision damage and may only be used once versus a given target per round and while the ability replaces painful stare, it counts as such for abilities and feats. 2nd level replaces towering ego with + Cha-mod to Fort-saves, but only when capable of fulfilling the emotional component of psychic spells. Instead of the standard bold stares, these guys may choose from a wide variety of bold gazes, which allow for the use of combat maneuvers sans provoking AoOs. I like the theme here, but I do believe that it could have used a couple of more abilities to build on its tricks.

The Macaroni, fops and dandies, inflict 1d6 force damage after saving versus a charm effect and living to the end of the spell's duration, replacing consummate liar thus. Instead of mesmerist tricks, these guys can choose vigilante social talents and 3rd level renders them immune to the shaken condition, with 6th and 9th level providing immunity to frightened and panicked, respectively. 11th level provides something extremely potent: The ability to gain two worn item body slots. Of his choice. Here's the issue - the ability makes it sound like you can freely assign these...but "body" is actually a precise slot...so which is it? I assume it's free selection...but seriously, as a replacement to glib lie, that's pretty potent. The archetype does come with a great piece of full color artwork depicting the character, though.

The Master Mesmerist draws his spells from the divination, enchantment and illusion spells of the wizard spell list, including cantrips, and makes them psychic spells. They get spells of up to 9th level and use the druid's spell progression to determine daily spell allotment. Once again, conversion from arcane to psychic would have warranted a note. They use Cha as governing spellcasting attribute and lose mesmerist tricks...and 9th level spellcasting is MUCH too strong for losing just mesmerist tricks, even when restricted to these schools. Not getting near my game.

The mirahoiru add Acrobatics to their list of class skills and gain several eastern weapon proficiencies, from kama to kusarigama to wakizashi, quite a nice list. They can also use light armors. The archetype suffers from diminished spellcasting. Instead of painful stare, mental potency and glib lie, they gain a ninja's full sneak attack progression and they may take ninja tricks instead of mesmerist tricks, using their class level as ninja level for prerequisite purposes. 2nd level nets +Wisdom bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Disguise while he can provide the emotional component of his psychic spells. Not the biggest fan of dual attributes to anything, but I can live with it here.

The Panoptes gain +1/2 class level to Perception and qualifies for the Improved and Greater Disarm feats, ignoring some benefits. This replaces consummate liar. Okay, here, things get...disturbing an cool: Instead of painful stare, the panoptes gains all-around vision via hundreds of eyes over the character's whole body, which can seamlessly close, granting a bonus versus petrification, paralysis and gaze attacks - to nitpick, that should be "bonus to saving throws", but the intention is clear. Instead of 1st level's trick, they gain a peacock familiar and 2nd level yields Darkvision or improves it, also granting a reduction of the percentile chance to miss invisible creatures. This replaces towering ego. The capstone yields 1/day SP mass hold monster...which is designated as SU and is textbook SP, but oh well...we do get an AMAZING artwork of the archetype. Brett Neufeld did a great job here!

The siren's mind-affecting spells have thought and verbal components and teh archetype receives a couple of bonus spells, replacing towering ego. They get + class level to Perform (sing) instead of consummate liar. Unique: Instead of hypnotic stare, they use their voices to generate the tricks we expect from the base class. This means she does not require the same line of sight...but to make up for that, she may not eliminate the knowledge of her song from the target's consciousness. Cool. Mental potency only applies to mesmerist spells with verbal components. The Spellbinding saint transforms her spells into divine spells (again, component transition could be explicit for the sake of ease of reference). She also gains two warpriest blessings, using Charisma as governing attribute, with 10th level unlocking major blessings. This replaces mesmerist tricks, manifold tricks and masterful tricks. A bit front-loaded as far as I'm concerned. 4th level, 8th, 16th and 18th level nets a combat or metamagic feat. At 20th level, we get SU miracle once every 3 days, but still requires the component.

The vision is a mesmerist sans spells and has neither caster level, nor spell list. The vision gains an unchained summoner's eidolon, but not life link etc.. Visions use Con as governing attribute for mesmerist abilities. 5th level yields +1 to Fort- and Ref-saves, +1 every 5 levels thereafter, replacing mental potency and glib lie. 20th level provides a native outsider apotheosis.

The pdf also contains 6 new bold stares: Penalty to Acrobatics, Climb and Swim; Bluff and Linguistics, DCs of EX abilities and feats; making the target friendlier; knowing the precise location of the target and penalizing AC can be found here. Nice ones.

A total of 10 tricks are provided for the edification of the reader. These include teamwork lying, triggering a berserker rage, percentile chance of negating sneak/critical hits, a sharing of teamwork feats, adding an Intimidate check after being caught sneaking around, sound-dampening, better healing, slowing poison, uncanny dodge and an AC-bonus can be found here - nice array.

The book contains vile tricks - these can only be implanted willingly or via Subtle Implantation, but they are darker...basically, they hurt the target, making the trick less of a buff and more of a devious debuff. These include becoming confused upon rolling 1s (and allowing the mesmerist to undertake that endeavor immediately at a +2 bonus!), penalizing flanking or causing the target to intercept ranged attacks aimed at the mesmerist. What about delegating ability score damage due to casting spells? Yeah, nasty. These are not all of them, mind you. As a whole, some cool ones here!

The pdf also features 6 master tricks...which include growing temporarily 4 additional arms when using unarmed strikes, including Multiweapon Fighting. Being encased in protective ice when reduced to below 0 hp is also rather cool, particularly since the block does heal and blocks line of effect. Implanting a counterspell similarly is a rather nifty trick - I like these.

We next are introduced to new feats - these range from a bit lame (higher DCs for animals and anthropomorphic creatures) to very interesting: You can lock your gaze on one target for 24 hours; the target is affected, but you're locked out of your own stares...but you can end this as a free action. Considering that this eliminates a central limitation of the class, I'd suggest adding a hard cap of daily uses to this feat. Pure awesome: Mesmerist Implants. This feat is actually 8 in one - you choose one of the 8 implants and gain benefits from cybernetic interface to aura scanner. Have I mentioned the option to shutdown implants etc.? VERY cool. Spellbite Stare is also intriguing, replacing the painful stare's effects, but allowing you to cast a spell that directly targets creatures and requires no atk roll as your painful stare. Casting time modifying effects cannot be used in conjunction with this feat and it does count as inflicting painful stare damage. Big kudos: The complex feat manages to get Lasting Stare interaction right.

Subtle Implantation, mentioned before, is pretty evident from the name - and it is AMAZING and utterly required for mesmerist masterminds. This feat on its own may be enough reason to get this pdf. Vile Misdirection builds further on this and lets others benefit from the vile tricks. Wracking Stare inflicts nonlethal damage via hypnotic stare and Wilting Stare adds a penalty to Painful Stare feat or Will-Saves of targeted mesmerist spells as the aftermath of inflicting painful stare damage.

Equipment-wise, we get masterwork mesmerist kits...and more: The above has hinted at it...more Technology Guide support! Like hypnotic mesmer eyes! Cool. Oh, and treatment magnets. Shields can benefit from the spiraling special ability and weapons from painful, with both interacting nicely with the respective class feature.

Fans of Ravenloft or Horror Adventures will enjoy the new narcissist corruption contained within these pages. Before you're asking: We don't take the clinical angle here, instead focusing more on the mythological one, including a need to Cha-buff and gaze into reflective surfaces. The corruption stages don't 100% follow that theme, though, with the final one making you a sociopath, a completely different diagnosis...I know. I know. It's a complex concept. Positive correlations between psychopathy and narcissisim have been observed, but yeah...as far as I'm concerned, they are apples and oranges. The manifestations allow for arcanist exploits, better illusions, adding Cha-mod to saves and the like - they, unlike the stages, feel better in line with the theme. That being said, the stains, as a whole, make for fitting and cool penalties for the powers gained via the corruption.

The pdf concludes with a brief spell-list, noting PDG spells that should be added to the mesmerist's class spells.

This pdf also comes with Paul Verane, a sample mesmerist 3 in his own little 4-pages pdf - nice bonus!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. While I noticed quite a few typo-level hiccups and punctuation glitches, for the most part, this is solid. The rules-language, for the most part, is very precise, though there are a couple of hiccups here as well - unfortunately, sometimes influencing the integrity of the rules. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard (in A5, 6'' by 9'') with purple highlights. The artworks provided herein are full-color and rather impressive, considering the low price point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.

Aaron Hollingsworth and Blake Morton's take on mesmerists was a weird experience for me. You see, I adore the base class and think that it could and should care significantly more via its chassis. The vile tricks and implantation modifications presented within these pages are a huge, amazing step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned. I adore them. Similarly, quite a few of the feats and other options within are cool, evocative and make sense. The archetypes take the base engine and tweak it in various ways - some in a cooler manner than others. As a whole, I felt that quite a few of the archetypes herein could have, concept-wise, carried more than the abilities they received. The panoptes or kytonik, for example, imho practically demand additional, cool options. While there is A LOT to love within these pages, the pdf, as a whole, is also a somewhat flawed book with quite a few small glitches, some cosmetic, some not so cosmetic, making this a bit of a mixed bag for me.

However, in spite of these, there are several options herein (buffing mesmerist, debuffing tricks, etc.) that simply are too cool to designate this as just a mixed bag. While not everything is amazing herein, there are several concepts that fit this description. Formal criteria-wise, I'd probably settle for something around the 3.5 star-range, but I'd rather have a flawed book with brilliant highlights than a perfect accumulation of bland mediocrity and this book does not deserve being called that. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If you're like me and look for engine-tweaks for the mesmerist and some seriously needed additional options, take a look. Can we have a sequel book, please?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mesmerists of Porphyra
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Lunar Knights
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2017 04:24:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page used resources (nice for further research!), 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this is a lycanthrope sourcebook and as such, we begin with a discussion of both animal and hybrid alternate shapes - and something I personally enjoyed: A lengthy discussion of what happens with the excessive mass that changing shape entails. Potential explanations from classic skin ripping to flesh sloughing off are covered. This may sound weird, but it is something that seriously made me smile - one of Hemlock Grove's few saving graces past season 1's beautiful visuals (that were lost in season 2 and 3) would be the phenomenal, visceral werewolf transformations. A more mystical approach is also mentioned, but as a whole, it is something GMs all too often miss clarifying, when it (like Hemlock Grove's first season) could conceivably help structure adventures featuring lycanthropes. The other characteristics of being a lycanthrope, from enhanced ability scores to empathy etc. are similarly discussed in depth, with the default template included for easy reference.

From there on, we discuss the different types of lycanthrope - afflicted and natural, receive information on the nature of the curse and go further - both belladonna and wolfsbane receive poison stats and similarly, the "kill the original were-lord to end the curse" narrative contrivance also is included for your consideration. The basics established, we move on to myths and folklore from our own world, particularly those concerning the methods of affliction and the respective reasons for the curse. This is surprisingly well-researched. How well-researched? There actually were tidbits in this section that I did not know. This may sound like I'm full of myself, but I've written a metric TON of high-powered lycanthropic strains for my Ravenloft games with a similarly excessive array of mythological references and abilities. (Yes, to get that out of the way, I HATE that PFRPG treats all lycanthropes as one template.)

But I digress. Why should you care? Well, in Armenian folklore, werewolves are women who have committed deadly sins, thus being forced to spend 7 years in wolf form. They are visited by a spirit with a wolf skin and commanded to don it. Oh, and they devour their own children and those of folks nearby. Here's the cool thing: Each such entry actually comes with proper, mechanical representations of the myth. To take this example, such unfortunates can cast knock at will as an SP. In Ethiopia, the buda (or bouda) are blacksmiths that can transform into corpse-eating hyenas that may be kept in check with holy symbols. In Finland, werewolves may have a paralytic gaze, while in Greece, they may rise again as vampires after being killed! The Haitian jé-rouge can possess others and yes, we get skinwalkers, the classic, Slavic undead...and Thailand's werecrocodiles have diamond teeth and can cast spells! Amazing chapter, as far as I'm concerned!

Chapter 3 contains new class options for your perusal, beginning with a barbarian rage power that makes attacks count as silver while raging and goes on to present the lunar domain, which features the options to fire untyped damage causing moonfire and, at 8th level, generate a moon-equivalent of daylight that can force lycanthropes to transform. Yeah, not impressed by this one. Seen its tropes done before. If I had a Benjamin for every anti-lycanthrope moon-domain with silvery fire blasts... Similarly, the sorceror bloodline included is just not that interesting. Scaling bite, DR, natural AC...seen it done often. Not a fan. That being said, the core classes and how they work with lycanthropy are all discussed...though honestly, I would have been interested in all non-core classes; the basics have been done to death, while e.g. lycanthropic summoners etc....well. Haven't.

The next chapter focuses on new PrCs, starting with the Dire Lord, who receives d10 HD, 4+ Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-save progression and covers 5 levels. To qualify, you need to be non-lawful, a lycanthrope and have both the Rage class feature and Improved Control Shape. Skill-wise, the ranks lock this via 5 ranks prerequisite to being available pretty early. The PrC's levels stack with barbarian levels for the purpose of rage and qualifying for rage powers. 2nd level yields Improved Natural Attack as a bonus feat for one natural attack of the beast form and 3rd level yields +2 to Str, Dex and Con while raging in hybrid form. Unfortunately, this is non-operational due to the bonus type used. Only the highest morale bonus applies and rage also provides a morale bonus, one that exceeds this ability's benefits. It is pretty clear that this should INCREASE the morale bonus granted by rage etc., but RAW it doesn't. 4th level provides Improved Natural Armor (only gaining the benefits in hybrid and animal form, unless the humanoid form has natural armor as well) and 5th level makes you grow by one size when assuming hybrid or animal form. There is no control here, alas, which may make the otherwise cool capstone a liability in narrow confines.

The eponymous lunar knights are lycanthropes who have taken up the mantle of fighting evil. You all know at this point how I see lycanthropy, so suffice to say, concept-wise, I'm not that thrilled. But what about the mechanics? Well, the PrC covers 10 levels and requires lycanthropes with a good alignment. The knight needs 5 ranks in Diplomacy and a BAB of +3 as well as formal initiation. The PrC yields d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields. Chassis-wise, we get 1/2 Fort-save progression and full BAB-progression.

1st level provides the lunar oath class feature, which grants +1 hit point per class level. Once per night, they may also meditate and pray for 10 minutes, regaining 1 hit point per class level. Also at 1st level, the knight may use a standard action to enhance his weapons for 1 minute per class level, granting a +1 enhancement bonus, +1 for every 3 class levels beyond that. These stack with existing bonuses and can be used to also add a variety of special weapon ability. As a nitpick: These are not properly italicized and lack their equivalent bonuses behind them, meaning you'll have to look that up. It's not bad, since they are pretty common, but it's still a slight inconvenience. Kudos: The ability covers double weapons and nonmagical weapons and if the weapon housing the enchanting moon spirit is destroyed, the ability requires a period of grace to work again. The ability may be used additional times per day for every 3 levels beyond the first. Big kudos: The ability even manages to not break the hard cap of enhancement bonuses on weapons. Not bad!

4th level yields +4 to demoralize checks while in animal or hybrid form; 3rd level +2 to saves, which scales up to +4 at 8th level. 5th level yields the ability to ignore up to 5 points of DR, which scales up to ignoring 10 points at 10th level, but only applies to weapons, not natural attacks. 6th level yields SR of 10 + class level, but only at night when the moon is visible. 9th level yields darkvision 60 ft. or increases an existing darkvision by 30 ft. As a whole, I wasn't blown away by any of the PrC's abilities - they are well crafted, granted, but not too spectacular or unique. On a plus-side, I really liked how conditional some are - this provides a bit of GM control and some serious flavor and establishes a concise leitmotif, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned.

The third PrC herein would be the Moon Priest, who needs access to the lunar domain, must be a non-evil lycanthrope and be capable of casting remove curse. The PrC gets 2 + Int skills per level, d8 HD, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression, 3/4 BAB-progression and 9/10th spellcasting progression - only the capstone level has no spellcasting progression. The PrC gets +2 to CL-checks to break curses, which increases to +4 at 5th level. At 2nd level, all healing spells are cast at +2 CL and 3rd level yields DR 2/-, increasing by 2 at 6th and 9th level. 4th level allows for control of whether or not to inflict lycanthropy via bites and 6th level empowers all healing spells cast while the moon is visible. No, this does not extend to causing damage to undead. 7th level provides a cool ability: Those bitten become natural lycanthropes, rather than afflicted ones! 8th level also has a cool idea: As a full-round action, the moon priest may remove the taint of lycanthropy from a creature, removing the template, no matter how it was gained. It can only be used at night, under the light of the moon. Big issue: The ability has no reach. 10th level yields a bonus domain.

Fourth among the PrCs would be the Pack Alpha, who needs to have Leadership, 7 ranks in Diplomacy or Intimidate and must be, obviously, a lycanthrope. The PrC yields d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons and all types of armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The PrC covers 10 levels and features 1/2 Will-save progression and 3/4 BAB-progression. Additionally, it stacks its levels with fighter levels for the purpose of qualifying for feats; nonfighters treat the pack alpha levels as fighter levels for the purpose of feat prerequisites. 1st level yields Skill Focus with either Diplomacy or Intimidate and the PrC begins play with the Alpha's influence ability, which can be activated as a swift action and affects all allies within 60 feet that can hear the alpha and have an Int of 3 or more. It is suppressed when the alpha is dazed, unconscious, etc.; the ability grants +1 to attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saves and skill checks, increasing its potency by +1 at 5th and 10th level. 2nd level yields a bonus feat, with 4th, 6th and 8th level providing additional ones.

Beginning at 3rd level, the alpha may 1/day as a standard action grant an extra move action to any or all followers within 30 feet. This does not change the initiative count and excludes the alpha from the benefits, with 7th level providing an additional daily use. Big kudos: The ability comes with a caveat that prevents multiple pack alphas from stacking it - only one such extra move may be taken per round. Well done! 9th level provides immunity to fear within 30 feet of the alpha. Easily the most interesting of the PrCs herein.

Chapter 4 provides, how could it be any different, new feats - a total of 9, to be precise. Bestial Heritage yields an animal form's racial modifiers to skills, Fur Shift, which yields a degree of control over fur and allows the lycanthrope to Disguise himself better and the important Improved/Greater Control Shape: Improved yields +4 to Constitution checks to change shape, while the Greater version allows for rolling twice and take the better result 1/day. Quick Change lets you change shape as a move action (erroneously called "move-equivalent"), while Moon Magic represents a variant of Natural Spell. Lunar Power yields +2 to Str, Dex and Con while in animal r hybrid form during the full moon. The channeling feat Command Lycanthrope does exactly what it says on the tin. Horrible Transformation can cause those that witness your transformation to become shaken and has a minor rules-language hiccup, referring to "Willpower save" instead of "Will save" - more problematic would be that the feat gets the shaken condition wrong. Last time I checked, the condition does NOT penalize weapon damage rolls!

The chapter also features a list of suggested feats for lycanthropes, before we move into the second part of the book - what I'd call the NPC-gallery. We get a massive array of statblocks here, all with both human and hybrid form. The lycanthropes covered would be wereape, werebat, werecheetah, werecrocodile, weredog (whose hybrid form is, oddly, called werejackal), weredolphin, wereeagle, werehyena, wereleopard, werelion, wereshark, weresnake (in two versions - constrictor and viper!) and finally, the werewolverine. These statblocks range in CR from 1 to 4, covering the basics. So yeah, if you want a massive cadre of low-level lycanthrope statblocks, this may be worth checking out for that alone. Granted, the builds use primarily core material and don't employ complex archetypes or anything like that, but they constitute a nice selection of rank-and-file lycanthropes. There are a scant few hiccups, but nothing glaring that would impede the usefulness of the material much.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level; I noticed a few inconsistencies in both, but not many. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' 2-column full-color standard in the form of an ancient grimoire. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and sports a wide variety of nice full-color artworks...by the author!

Yep, you read right - this is the first book by the extremely prolific Jacob Blackmon that I have reviewed that not only features his artworks, but is also actually penned by him! So yes, this is a freshman offering and thus gets a bit of leeway. First things first: This book reads like a passion project. It is evident that some serious love, research and care has gone into it; it is not a phoned in book. The craftsmanship is also surprisingly precise for such an offering - the big stumbling stones of various abilities and required caveats all are present, which is another big plus. Balance-wise, this should work fine in even the most conservative of gaming groups, though very high-powered games may be a bit underwhelmed here.

So, should you get this or not? Well, this question is surprisingly complicated for me. As you all know from my reviews of the Bite Me!-series, I have pretty strong convictions regarding lycanthropy and how it should be portrayed in the game; I like to emphasize the curse, the psychological trauma and seductive lure of the beast, whereas the goal of this pdf is to present options for good lycanthropes...pretty much the anathema for my personal aesthetics. As a person, I did not gain that much from those aspects. As a reviewer, however, I do know many groups out there are harboring a different take on the concepts and it is for such groups that I'll try to rate this.

If you are a GM, you may very well want to get this book for the MASSIVE amount of low-level lycanthrope statblocks inside. That component is very useful to have. As a player, I wouldn't be as excited, though. The feats, class options and PrCs conspicuously omit advancements made in PFRPG - no non-core-material, for one. Not even for the APG-classes. The PrCs and class options unfortunately similarly feel a bit underwhelming; don't get me wrong - for the most part, their craftsmanship is solid - surprisingly solid, in fact. But, and this is only my impression, mind you, they felt very much like they were playing it safe, to the point where I...I'm sorry, but there's no tiptoeing around it, considered them...kinda boring. They don't really have a cool, unique ability and feel like 3.X PrCs, also regarding the power of their abilities.

What do I mean by that? Let's take a look at the pack alpha. No teamwork feats. No troop-commanding of werewolves. Moon Priest? No cool variant channeling. Dire Lord? No bloodrager synergy. There is no moonlight kineticist. No werecobra mesmerist. The moon knight has no order or magus-like tricks. A PrC capstone is "get any extra domain" - seriously? These PrCs don't feel like "prestigious" professions - they feel like they should be archetypes in PFRPG. Oh wait. We have those concepts covered already. More than once.

In short: This feels, regarding player options, like a book that would have been decent prior to the release of the APG. 2016, though? Sorry. No. The player options are not badly executed; the craftsmanship is nice...but in balancing and design-aesthetics on the level of 3.5. Which is simply not enough.

At the same time, this book does offer some nice value for GMs. The NPC-chapter is extensive and fun; but by far the best part of the book, the one that had me smile from ear to ear, would be the unique tweaks of lycanthropes in various real-world mythologies. That section is gold and I seriously wished it was longer. Dear Jacob - I hope you are not discouraged by this review, you have potential. However, I have no option but to rate this as a complete package and as such, the pdf simply doesn't reach the high standards I expect. Be courageous, be up to date regarding all those wonderful options that PFRPG offers. In the end, I cannot rate this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the freshman offering bonus. GMs may want to take a look; players are better served elsewhere.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Lunar Knights
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Mini-Dungeon #054: Uneasy Rests the Crown'd Head
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2017 04:22:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This is a direct sequel of "Ne'er trust the white wolf's tameness", but works perfectly as a standalone offering. The PCs venture down into a sinkhole, only to find an air membrane on water that can cling to the PCs, providing 60 minutes of air... -1 minute per round of strenuous activity, so they should better manage their precious air supplies......oh, and the less minutes remain, the more is their visibility impeded, which adds a really cool tactical option to the whole proceedings!

Now, the PCs can engage in plentiful 3D-combat here, as the complex is new and intended to be nothing less than the start of a new aboleth outpost, created by two brethren of this loathsome race. From a breach to the elemental plane of water and its guardian to other watery foes, traps, swarms and finally, the battle against the bosses, this is a diverse, challenging and extremely evocative mini-dungeon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley's excursion to the realms below the waves here is fantastic: It provides the means for interesting and rarely faced foes in a thoroughly fantastic environment. The air/vision mechanic is well worth scavenging and could carry a whole mega-adventure complex...in fact, that's what I'll use it for! It is impressive how much flavor and coolness the author has once again squeezed out of these precious few words - and how much fun. 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #054: Uneasy Rests the Crown'd Head
Click to show product description

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Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2017 04:19:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon can be run as a sequel to "Look not with Thine Eyes, but Thine Mind", but works just as well on its own. The PCs continue their descent into the bowels of the earth, teleporting into a lethal trap, where multiple, deadly guardians must be bested to escape the "Wolf's Eyes" - a kind of guarded teleport trap. Free f this challenging gauntlet and its powerful golems and swarms, the PCs have to make their way through the lethal traps of "the wolf's jaw" - and from here on out, things only get more foreboding, as remnants of horrific fates, 4 random encounters you may or may not use, and a terribly injured group of adventurers speak of worse things awaiting in "the wolf's mind" - a part of the complex where the way leads further below. It should also be noted that this mini-dungeon has a potential, direct way out of its confines at this point...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and decent, but not as good as the best in the series. The .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley sports a nice quasi-puzzle, some challenging traps and foes and a thematically concise and interesting mini-dungeon here. No complaints, well worth getting - 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
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Gateway Pass Adventure Path Part 1: Brighton Road (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:18:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, before we dive into the nit and grit: To me, an adventure path is a campaign that covers the majority, at least 2/3rds, of an adventurer's career. I get why many a publication uses the AP-moniker, but personally, I'd consider anything less than that an arc. I know, I know, not too relevant, but I still felt the need to spell that out.

Anyways, what do Star Trek, Twin Peaks, Esoterrorists in station duty mode, Red Dwarf and daily sitcoms have in common? Simple: A central location. Many a campaign has a hub, from Lankhmar to Feeport and this location and its quirks and NPCs slowly grow upon the PCs, It's one of the points of criticism fielded against the otherwise excellent CotCT-campaign that the PCs had to leave their home. It thus should come as a surprise, that so far no series of adventures has really capitalized on the notion of the PCs really getting to know their home, their base, and defending it from whatever may come their way. This series of adventures, then, would do just that - the premise centers on two feuding fiefdoms, the Ottonians and Goodchilds, and a border fortress between them. The PCs, via one of various hooks, will be in the employ of the Ottonians, specifically, in the employ of the charismatic inquisitor Nathaniel Lyon, who has opted to reopen the Brighton road, for in the years since the road's closure, the area has become poor and destitute, with many a former soldier falling to a life of crime.

And this is pretty much as far as I can go without getting into serious SPOILER-territory. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! You see, Nathaniel has begun covertly recruiting the less corrupted of the criminal elements, for he suspects something lurking...and how better to ensure plausible deniability than via a band of miscreant low-lifes? Opposed to Nathaniel's agenda would be the rebellion slowly engendered by one Robert Cornelius, who is using smuggling tactics and whisper campaigns to build his strength, all in the ultimate goal of ending the serfdom system that has ruined his life. The primary foe of Nathaniel would, however, be the armiger Cadwell Brunson, a former guardsman who has retained his bandit network and seeks to lead Nathaniel into an ambush and eliminate him for once and for all. So these three fully statted individuals would be the power-players here, representing the matrix of intrigue and machinations here.

The PCs, however, won't know any of this right away. Instead, this adventure will begin with a burning wagon crashing into the doors of the Starry Sky Inn, while the PCs are en route to reopen the Brighton Output. Dealing with the fire and bandits constitute an interesting first encounter, though one that does not feature a map or the like - granted, most GMs have a bunch of tavern maps ready...but yeah. In the aftermath of the combat, the GM gets a chance to introduce the PCs not only to the excessive poverty in the area, but also to a helpful witch named Rosin Sinti and their fellow guards, who come with brief, fluff-descriptions to set them apart. En route, tracking can help determine some pieces of information about the environments and a handy random encounter chart is included as well.

The outpost has obviously seen better days - it receives a nice b/w-map and the PCs will have a chance to start cleaning up the place, fixing roofs...and then there's the dead cleric outside, killed by a storm. Her spirit lingers in the officer's quarters as a haunt, guarding the children she sought to guide to a better life. The kids, all marked by poverty, can make for interesting sidekicks or, in some cases, potential apprentices/cohorts...for their home, the hamlet of Wassail, is one sans perspective for them. Beyond that, the PCs have a chance to deal with a shambling stalker and potentially find a secret tunnel, which may become relevant later. A handy table of 8 random events helps btw. establish a concise mood here. Speaking of mood: From dining to the sheer amount of information herein, the adventure takes a refreshing stance regarding that aspect - we take a bit of time, yes, but from tax costs to be levied to the NPCs, there is quite a bit of roleplaying.

This extends, btw., to day 2, where perceptive PCs get to notice a scout and his hunting crows keeping an eye on the outpost and have their first major social encounter, as they check the wares of Mr. Lilliputian, a dwarven diplomat. And indeed, the PCs can find various discrepancies in his papers...and several pieces of cargo he tries to smuggle through: Black powder weapons and baby rust monsters, to be more precise. (And yes, alternatives are included if you don't like blackpowder firearms in your game.) While in the end, when bribes etc. fail, Lyon does let him off with a warning, this still represents a rather fun encounter.

During the night, a guardsman, however, will have found a rather mysterious death, as his fellow watchman dozed the night away, which will cast a somber tone on Roisin the witch returning - she can act as courier between the output and civilization, offer healing and return every other day...she also has her own agenda, but precisely which, I won't spoil here. In the following days, the PCs will have a chance to deal with a shambling mound hunting in the vicinity. Beyond that, a local baker is probing the waters to come over once in a while to sell cookies, and a pig farmer asks for the possibility to leave some of her pigs she is bound to buy in Norwich here. It is such pieces of local color that make the place feel organic, that make players fond of it in the long run.

Lilliputian will return (and continue his smuggling), though this time, a man named Kier is following hot on his heels, arriving soon after the dwarf has passed through. Kier is a ranger, has no travel papers...and claims that Lilliputian is wanted for carrying contraband across territories. While he is not wrong, having no papers would make it within the purview of the PCs to refuse him...and a similarity between the attire of the man and that of the scout watching them should also make the PCs rather suspicious. When later, a wealthy merchant arrives, a subsection of Cornelius' men attempt to kidnap the fop in broad daylight, unaware of the strength of the outpost's folks (read: The PCs) - though their knowledge of smuggler's tunnels may help them escape. Later, the PC'll meet a hermit with, surprisingly, imperial travel papers, setting up an interesting mystery for the future.

On day 6, the PCs may get a day off, but the pdf still depicts, in detail, what actually transpires regarding the various NPCs that return. In the following days, the PCs will have a lot of choices on their hands: Do they help Roisin smuggle folks who can't pay the high taxes through the gate? How do the react to the disguised Cadwell, who poses as a Goodchild...and the man seems to know the hermit, who utters some warnings...Daniel, one of the folks, wants forged papers (and may slip off into the night as a deserter later); new guardsmen arrive, And indeed, from day to day, the intrigues subtly grow - trolls need to be dealt with, Kier returns, will-o'-the-wisps haunt the night, drawn by the sorcerous power within one person's blood..

Beyond further smugglers, wine merchants and a Romeo and Juliet-undercover-scene with the children of the rival fiefdoms, there is a lot to be found...interestingly, the latter may actually blow Cadwell's cover. At one point, a fight between heavy drinkers passing through on a gambling night may erupt into violence and Kier...well, he'll find a rather nasty end at the hands of a doppelganger, who is btw., surprise, up to no good.

Beyond aforementioned star-crossed affair is discovered by the hermit, he mentions several key facts about the environment to the PCs...before a frickin' CR 17 green dragon swoops in. And no, the PCs should not try to fight that beast...and instead perhaps establish a tithe or something like that? On their next day, the PCs may find a camp within the woods if the choose to escort the hermit, including several pieces of much needed loot...and encrypted papers...but they'll also have to evade goodchild guards.

Cadwell arrives on day 14, demanding payment from Nathaniel, for he has been blackmailing the inquisitor...and, depending on the PC's actions, he may bring grisly trophies along....and it his here that the PCs get to defend the fortress against the forces of Cadwell. How the adventure ends depends largely on the PC's actions - Nathaniel Lyon may well be hanged...or the PCs could keep him in charge, forgiving him his well-meant duplicity...though not all story ties have been closed...

The pdf comes with a high-res labeled .tif of the fortress and an unlabeled, high-res jpg. for use as a player's map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, but not perfect -there are quite a few minor hiccups regarding punctuation. Layout adheres to a nice b/w-version of Rite Publishing's standard layout. The pdf features b/w-artworks for all key NPCs, though I have seen most of them before. The cartography is really good, but I do wish that e.g. tunnels, environments, inside of buildings, etc. had also been covered.

Greg LaRose's Gateway Pass is completely different from what I expected - this could actually, theme and atmosphere-wise, be an old-school Bandit Kingdom Greyhawk module, an OSR module or the like; it breathes this sense of antiquity, of a world at a declining stage in its phases, of a place that has moved on. This is a surprisingly low-magic, down to earth module that works rather well thanks to its very dense atmosphere, remarkable characters and details - the details, repetition of characters and the like generate a rather interesting, very organic and believable simulation of an organic world and appropriate consequences.

The level of detail, however, also means that this module requires that the GM tracks quite a few decisions, which, while not hard, could have been better laid out. You see, this is basically a LOT of text and the lack of highlights via bolding, references to consequences and the like can make the module slightly harder to run than it needed to be. I for example, had totally forgotten about the tunnel mentioned and had to look that back up. This module basically represents scenes, but doesn't concisely separate the rules-relevant aspects from the key-story aspects and agendas in the respective encounters - you need to know precisely how it'll work, particularly since, unfortunately, in two cases, an editing glitch of a typo-level made such a key sequence a bit more opaque than it needed to be - I was more than once both tantalized and surprised by some new revelation/note while reading a day's event. Much of this could have been avoided, if the adventure synopsis in the beginning simple featured a cliff-notes version of day-to-day-events for the GM: You know, like "Day 1: Event x, event z; NPC y arrives, NPC W leaves; if a) has happened, then c)."

I also think that the decisions the PCs make regarding smugglers, etc. could matter a bit more and that excelling at a given encounter/acting with tact and smarts, should yield a bit more rewards...but that may just be me.

So, in short, structure-wise, this is not the best module; however, its concept is pretty novel and exciting and the set-up is great. The best component would be the almost realistic atmosphere and (mostly) low fantasy-feeling nature of the proceedings, with the eerie and fantastic only sometimes rearing their heads...but when they do, they do so rather neatly. You can feel like a soldier in a dangerous wilderness, hunting trolls and slowly putting two and two together regarding the agendas and allegiances of the NPCs. In short: This series has plenty of potential.

I was, however, also kind of disappointed to not get maps for the inside of the buildings and the lack of a scale on the maps means that this is a module that's mostly intended for mind's eye-style playing, though in the finale, the works slightly less well than in the rest of the module.

How to rate this, then? I adore the atmosphere herein, as you may have noticed - it's my kind of gritty fantasy, of realism and simulated life; the module achieves the illusion of an organic world. At the same time, the module does have a few drawbacks on the formal side that drag it down a notch. Ultimately, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, though I will round up due to in dubio pro reo on this one. This is not a go-play module, but if you like gritty fantasy, this may well be worth getting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gateway Pass Adventure Path Part 1: Brighton Road (PFRPG)
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