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Alterkine: The Ones We Were
Publisher: HermaDolph
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2016 05:16:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module for Alterkine clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


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..


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All right, only GMs left? Great! Our world has recently been graced by a strange meteor shower and the PCs find themselves in a moderately priced bar in the tourist trap Coppersmith, where they are contacted by one Betram, who represents parties intrested in Delsvale - which has shut down operations since the meteor shower - hence, the players, via an ominous black limousine and a chopper, enter the target area.


Delsvale town does look like an eerily ghost-like town, including roving animals. Things turn grim fast, though: The barbed wire fence the players encounter has a breach and said breach is stuffed with human corpses, from which a woman crawls forth, obviously doomed to die from her extensive injuries - and things look grim. Animals are getting crazy, a sect of weirdos have sprung up and the military has rolled in. Entering the quarantine zone, the PCs will have an option to subdue an investigator/journalist and the PCs will soon have a first encounter with a disturbing creature, the clotter - a shambling creature of grafted undead material, a walking sack of offal and bone, hungry for blood of the living.


Things become worse fast from there - the recruiters of aforementioned sect hand out crystals that may well cause infection with mutagenic viruses...just before the military swoops in and takes the PCs hostage. It turns out, the military is planning to bomb out the local mine...but aforementioned clotter monstrosity may actually provide a window for the PCs to escape from captivity. It should also be noted that a two-legged walker/mech is among the adversaries the PCs may encounter, of course, just one of multiple random encounters the PCs can encounter.


The local nightclub would be a crucial place: Here, the PCs are contacted again by the cult, as the leader, one Daniel Sutter (nod towards Sutter Cain, mayhaps?) tries to set up a meeting with the PCs - but if they agree to hear them out, they may ostracize the military if they haven't already. Meeting up with Sutter puts things in perspective: Living in his gothic mansion, the cult leader may be a foreboding character, but he still offers some crucial insight: You see, he literally owns Delsvale and has a research venture in the mine - alas, his own men betrayed him, claiming the crystals, which he considers to be divine. He does directly contradict the narrative that sent the PCs here - this Betram fellow obviously lied to them. It should be noted that NPC-interaction in this module tends to be pretty detailed, with quite a few sample sentences, meaning that GMs less comfortable with verbatim improvisation get enough guidance herein.


Beyond the strange amalgamated monstrosities like bear/frog-hybrids, the PCs will sooner or later have to go to the mine - where they get a glimpse of a horrible thing with too many tentacles and mutations and brave cybernetic adversaries before they find a lead-researcher, who asks them to destroy each and every crystal they can find - in an inversion of the trope, these guys are actually smart...and thus, the module's variable conclusion dawns, as the PCs have to brave the mutagenic influence of the fallen star, decide whom to help...and deal with the grotesquely Scaxtion - insane and with empathy/emotion-controlling bursts of aura. How the final confrontation turns out and whether the mutating PCs succumb to the influence of the fallen stars, how the whole thing ends - it all depends on the actions of the PCs.


The pdf concludes with quite an array of diverse adversaries, many of which sport unique and rather interesting builds with Achilles heels that reward smart rolelaying and nice signature abilities - it should be noted that even the random encounter sport several unique monsters. The pdf also sports 4 new mutations as well as 4 excellent player-friendly b/w-floor plans.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a rather printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. Cartography is nice and solid. The one weak component of the pdf is the CGI-artwork - while it works for the mech, the humanoids in particular are ugly and the final boss's artwork is horrible, doofy even, and subverts the threat it poses. The prose deserves better, so I'd suggest relying on your descriptive powers here instead of showing off the artworks. If you're going for a serious tone. If you're instead aiming for a schlocky B-movie feeling, these will be GREAT and hilarious. Bookmarks are there, but cover, mysteriously, only the new mutations, meaning they might as well not be there at all - a comfort detriment when running this via an electronic device.


Josh Vogt's module for Alterkine manages to create a pervasive sense of foreboding and its sandboxy structure and means for aligning with the respective factions is great. More importantly, the builds of the monsters and NPCs are varied and showcase well what awesome things can be done with Alterkine's rules. At the same time, the sandboxy structure does feel a bit inconsistent - not in its execution, but in its presentation. On one hand, key-NPC-interaction provides quite a bit of hand-holding, while the transition from scene to scene is more free-flowing and requires some work on behalf of the GM. This does not make the module flow badly, mind you - it just means the module is more versatile, but also more work than it could have been. A more pronounced structure would have helped the GM here - though, admittedly, I'm being a nitpicky bastard here.


In the end, this is a fast-paced, pretty apocalyptic and dark little module I thoroughly enjoyed. The builds of sample monsters bespeak a precise understanding of what makes unique foes tick and the low price point also helps make this a worthwhile offering. While the book could have used somewhat better transitions and while the artworks are ugly and bookmarks could be more extensive, the actual content of this module is pretty awesome. I enjoyed the finale, the boss battle, the factions...in fact, most of the content herein. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alterkine: The Ones We Were
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Treasury of the Machine
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2016 06:46:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf containing items intended for the use with the Iron Gods-AP clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this book with a handy list of items by respective price, ranging from varies/50 GP to 180K gold/minor artifact-levels - quite a lot, so what can be found herein precisely? Well, we begin with the technological armor, the slipsuit, which enhances means to prevent being grappled or otherwise impeded. 3 forms of cybertech are provided thereafter - beginning with the amnesia tick and going on to provide discipline and rapture chips - whether to eliminate memories, create obedience or generate BTL (Better than life for non-Shadowrun-savvy readers...)-style bliss (yes, including potential for addiction), these items sport significant potential for story-telling and dystopian narratives...neat indeed, with a cool artwork as a bonus.


Temporarily sowing flesh together with nanite gauze - but where things become more interesting is with the three variants of adrenaline surges, which allow for stimpack-like rage-boosts...but each use puts a strain on the body...too many may even kill the user, providing a potentially hard decision for the PCs - one final boost and risk potential death/unconsciousness to defeat the dread foes...pretty cool! Biotech-wise, optic-enhancers granting low-light vision/darkvision and dermal grafts that provide nourishment via photosynthesis cover utility as well as narrative potential.


Chemosols are sprays that provide cones/can be inhaled and contain artificial pheromones and hormones, irritants or generate susceptibility to environmental conditions. Chemical stunners and a cloud that makes people stunned, but also has them twitch uncontrollably in random directions complement the material further - cool and unique!


Robotics-wise, we receive alternate design specs for androids designed akin to the non-human core-races and the pdf also sports a minor artifact that allows you to hijack robots in line of sight...nasty! Surprisingly, the pdf btw. sports a new robotic creature - the delightfully disturbing CR 1 walking eye, which has a neat little force field and a great full color artwork. Think of it as a disturbing flesh/metal-graft spy-drone. Damn cool!


Obviously, there also are quite a bunch of different technological items, including a capsule that hastens oxidization (think of these as rust-bombs...) and an orb that allows for the nigh-perfect duplication of scanned circuits. I also love the visuals of the detector globe: What basically is a rather conservative means of detecting poisons, magic, etc. is made awesome by the way it works: The glove rises in the air and sends scanning filaments out...pretty cool.


Also awesome - a unit that allows the wearer to pass through solid matter: The harder, the more charges are consumed...and yes, you don't want to get stuck inside the material. Gravity belts that allow for personal gravity in Zero-G-environments similarly are damn cool! Similarly, quick retraining via a helm (utilizing downtime-rules from Ultimate Campaign) is just awesomeness. Oh, and what about a Batman style grappling hook with concise rules, one that also explains how the device is operated? Yeah, pretty glorious!


Speaking of which: What about a probe that can transfer memories? In the field of combat-utility, a means of at-range dousing fires/ridding characters of acid sludge/etc. most definitely will become a favorite of my PCs! Retina-based locks and universal tools as wella s solar charging options breathe a spirit of true imaginative potential that combines utility with potential for adventure-crafting and thumb-sized, inflatable sleeping bags for sub-zero conditions make sense. Thermite-like salts and preservation-enhancing vacuum sealers also are brilliant!


Nanoweave material provides toughness at a low weight and weaponry-wise, beam sabers, lingering lightning guns, disciplinary rods, potentially addiction-inducing rapture-guns, better tangelfoot-grenades and guns that daze foes and can maintain hexes - there is some great material herein, in both fluff and crunch-departments. Oh, and the pdf provides gravity cannons, singularity grenades and telekinesis-duplicating guns...have I mentioned zero-g-grenades? Damn cool!


The pdf concludes with modern firearms, from heavy guns to automatic shotguns, as well as modifications like varying targeting computers, recoil compensators and scopes...though personally, I prefer other takes on the topic of recoil rules than those championed herein - average damage die as a modifier, reduced by Str-modifier, may be rather solid, but in the end is pretty complicated. Still, that's a personal preference.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard for Iron Gods plug-ins and the pdf sports numerous original, gorgeous pieces of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Tim Hitchcock, Robert Brookes, Jeff Lee, Jonathan H. Keith - these gentlemen seem to have had a field day here, with development from Jason Nelson: Treasury of the Machine is the most inspired book among the treasuries so far. This book has everything you'd want from an item-centric book: Heck, even basic spell-duplicators herein feel unique and sport some sort of twist that renders them distinct in mechanics and feeling. There literally is no filler herein, making this an all awesome smörgåsbord of pure awesomeness: When an item-book sports items that, in the vast majority of cases, manages to inspire the reader regarding modules; when such a book provides means of telling new and exciting stories - then you know, you've got something great on your hands. This is such a case. My final verdict for this inspired book will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Treasury of the Machine
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Alterkine: Dossier
Publisher: HermaDolph
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2016 06:44:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This huge expansion for the D20 Modern/Future-based massive Alterkine rules-cosmos/setting clocks in at a whopping 128 pages of content, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page list of thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank, leaving us with 123 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Now, I assume familiarity with d20 modern/future as well as Alterkine's player's handbook in this review, so if a particular mechanic or reference seems opaque to you, kindly check my review for Alterkine's Player's Handbook. All right, so, I generally liked the occupation-system as provided in the Alterkine player's handbook and this time around, there are a LOT more of them to choose from: Whether as a trusty employee of L-Mart, as a girl/boy scout or as a bohemian (which was my profession of choice for quite some time) ...or as a scream queen or ranch hand - the occupations herein are diverse, interesting and superior to those presented in Alterkine's Player's Handbook by a long shot regarding the quality of their design: You see, while not perfectly aligned, they generally provide them same level of benefits; there are no truly superior occupations herein, with all of them providing generally balanced benefits that juggle bonus feats, wealth and reputation bonuses as well as skill bonuses (and even cap-increases for skills). Overall, this chapter shows some serious growth as a game-designer when compared to the base book.


After this rather refreshing chapter, we are introduced to 3 new 10-level base classes, the Charmer, the Investigator and the Trooper. The Charmer receives 1/2 BAB, Fort and Ref-save-progression, 1 d6 HD, 4+Int skills and 6+ 1/2 level action points as well as Simple Weapons Proficiency, defense bonus scaling up to +3 and reputation bonus scaling up to +5. Charmers alternate each level between getting a bonus feat and a talent. Talent-wise, charmers are obviously geared towards being party faces - with skill-enhancers and personal assistants, they are a pretty diverse lot. Additionally, talents are grouped by talent-trees that allow you to mix and match or poach in one to switch to the other: Whether crowd-pleasing crowd-control of counter-terrorists, an ambassador's information access, proper diplomatic training, social chameleons, nobles or journalists, the diverse array provided is pretty impressive.


Fret not if you're a fan of the original base-classes, mind you: Drifters, Mystics, Scavs, Warriors and Techs also receive expansions to the talents they get, some of which certainly are on the more impressive side regarding their concepts: Following the drifter's animalistic body talent tree provides not only boosts to physical attributes, but also a bite and even a regeneration-like healing factor, one that thankfully is not proper regeneration, avoiding that particular hornet's nest...Still, in conjunction with any HP-sharing mechanic, this one means infinite healing for the group. Slow, infinite healing, yes, but still - particularly in d20 modern/future, which values hit points higher than base d20 due to the relative scarcity of healing options in quite a few of the supported campaign styles, this is problematic. On the plus-side, quick wall crawling and further enhancing lycanthropic powers (including options for size large shapes) and wild shape - the number of options is significant and while there are minor issues like the one I mentioned before, overall, they are more concise and internally balanced than the ones provided in the original book.


Undead controlling cultist mystics, monk scavenging and exorcisms feel like natural fits, but I was particularly enamored with the lucid dreaming/dream -themed options for their huge narrative potential. Scavs with their duelist talent tree or the bardic knowledge-like explorer make sense...oh, and there are the illuminatus-themed talents, which focuses on reputation, deniability and deception.


If you're suffering from some sort of insanity, you can go for the lunatic's talent tree, which provides a truly devastating barbarian rage-transcending rampage - but, horribly, it cannot be stopped or willingly initiated, instead being triggered by stress o things the GM determines. While power-level wise brutal (+6s to attributes...), the lack of control on the player's side makes this one not only neat for GMs, but also for players and groups that enjoy story-driven aspects more than direct control. Still, a GM should handle this one's power with care. Techs may elect to specialize in fraud-related talents, data specializations...oh, and they may now build robots via pretty concise and easy to grasp rules! Further rage control for the warrior, a bodyguard's tricks and taunting specializations may look pretty neat, but compared to the at times downright inspiring talent trees other classes got, this one feels a bit more conservative in its concepts.


The Investigator gets 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression, defense bonuses scaling up to +5 and reputation bonuses scaling up to +4 as well as d8 HD, 6+1/2 level action points, 4+Int skills and simple weapon proficiency. like the charmer, these guys alternate between talents and bonus feats gained each level. Talent-wise, we get the whole shebang we'd expect from a class of this name - from forensics specialists to detectives and brilliant medical examiner, we get detailed crime scene analysis and intuition-based talents for the profiling of adversaries. Story-telling wise, there is some serious potential here- enough to make an all-investigator TV-crime-procedural-style campaign, in fact.


The trooper gets full BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Fort-save progression, defense bonuses scaling up to +7 and reputation bonuses scaling up to +2 as well as d10 HD, 6+1/2 level action points, 3+Int skills and personal firearms proficiency. Like the charmer, these guys alternate between talents and bonus feats gained each level, though the list of bonus feats is significantly more expansive. Unsurprisingly, trooper talents focus more on the...let's say, martial bent of things. However, the class does feature a talent tree that should have quite a few of you, my readers, grin: There actually is a Colonial Marine talent tree here, which boils down to being basically exactly the Starship troopers toolkit you'd expect. Similarly, dead shot sniping and really deadly sniper tricks as well as heavy weapon specializations can be found here, though I consider not all talents with similar requirements to be of equal value here.


The skills of Alterkine also receive some coverage, with suggested skill-uses/basic discussions being rather solid. Obviously, such a book also contains feats: A LOT of them. The pdf provides no less than 9 pages of them - though here, the general quality is somewhat less than in the material introduced so far: From bland "+2 to Acrobatics" to an unnecessary rename of "Greater Two-Weapon Fighting" to "Two-Weapon Mastery," there is some filler to be found here. On the other side, perfect memories and implanting a (too short-lived) doubt in foes are pretty cool concepts. Still, a mixed bag in my book.


Now, the book also sports spells, many of which take existing spells and tweak them for Alterkine's purposes - confusion, for example, has its casting duration lengthened. The spells herein mostly represent such minor tweaks, which, while not bad per se, do feel like they could have been done sans reprinting the spells - all in all, this is filler and would have been better served by a general conversion guideline.


The final section of this book is massive - and is all devoted to advanced classes, which obviously follow the 5 or 10-level formula. Since going into the mechanical details for each would bloat this review beyond belief, I'll cover them in broad strokes. The first one herein would be the assassin, who can use action points to deal Str-damage, gets better sneak...and is surprisingly bereft of actual assassination tricks. No insta-kill moves here. The Casanova is a brilliant master of seduction and information theft, while both chaplains and commanders represent different styles of the commanding fighter with authority trope, one spiritual and one worldly. Here would be as good a place as any to mention a particularly annoying formatting/layout-decision: The respective class tables lack the names of the classes they belong to and are at the bottom of the respective class entries, meaning you'll sometimes see a new advanced class and the table of an old one on the same page, with the new class's table following a page or two later - cosmetic, sure, but needlessly opaque. Note that this is not always the case, which makes getting the right table a tad bit more annoying.


The commando is a solid fighter-ish one that learns precise damage output control, while the con artist is a solid face for the party. The crusader can be pictured as the paladin-lite with action points, focused on a certain idea/religion, while fighter aces are exceedingly capable pilots, who, at high levels, may go down in devastating blaze of glory-style ramming actions. The goodfella is a nice mobster-themed class, while grifters are specialists in legal loopholes and the acquisition of items. Gun Dancers are pretty lame dual wielding of firearms-type of guys that get abilities they require when the character already has spent the feats - these guys should offer their benefits as a base class, not as an advanced class...oh, and only, the ability for the Third attack is called "Greater Two-Weapon fighting", making nomenclature inconsistent with the pdf's feat-redesign.


Similarly disappointing, the Gun-Fu Warrior takes until 5th level to gain a unique ability that actually represents Gun Fu...and does so in a pretty bland manner. Similarly, while I enjoyed the concept of the law dog, the sheriff-style enforcer, I consider the actual abilities to be none too exciting. The Martial Arts Master, with varied means of using ki, is more interesting, though I really wished more space was devoted to the concept - 5 techniques are a bit few for someone spoiled by the huge amount of options most contemporary designs offer.


The mastermind, surprisingly, is most about minion progression and reputation - which is good and all, but crazy prepared, contingencies or the like would have been thematically fitting. Ninjas are particularly lethal and agile in a solid representation of the concept, while high-level SpecOps emphasize survival and taking down targets silently at higher levels. Spellslingers can enhance their guns and imbue spells in the bullets they fire, while terrorists are just that - unpleasant bastards with a network and several disturbing tools of their trade...including the manufacture of bio weapons. The warmaster is all about pain and torture and the decidedly unheroic sides of warfare. Weapon Masters are weapon specialists that can maximize a damage of weapons a limited amount of times day. The advanced classes section ends with a relatively solid note pertaining the xenobiologist and her specialization of healing and using medicine.


The book closes with a handy index.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports numerous unique, nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.


Jeff Becker's expansion to Alterkine is superior in almost every way to the base book: The occupations and a huge amount of the options provided herein are simply more streamlined and feel more concise and often, simply more interesting, covering a diverse array of nice topics and character concepts. Similarly, the new base classes and their talent trees make them feel more diversified, more unique and interesting - the respective talents basically amount to free-form archetypes.


At the same time, the expansion does sport some unnecessary filler material that ranges from reprints and renamed feats to very minor tweaks that could have been covered more efficiently. Beyond that, the pdf offers a somewhat strange gap between base classes and advanced classes - where the base classes and their talents are now significantly more modular (particularly considering the material from the core book), the advanced classes feel very niche in a couple of cases, particularly since there is some overlap between the respective concepts: Assassin, ninja and SpecOps do similar things in similar niches, for example - making them more modular allowing for player choice would have been more elegant, particularly since e.g. the assassin is arguably weaker/less interesting than the ninja and specops operator.


More modularity among them and more pronounced advanced class abilities would have made this chapter nice - particularly since quite a few abilities offer relatively small benefits as opposed to truly new things to do. This, alongside the minor hiccups among the talents, ultimately remains the most pronounced flaw of this book.


That being said, at the same time, this is an expansion of Alterkine/D20 Modern/Future that definitely makes sense and feels like a significant step forward for the setting and its mechanics, with the increased design experience definitely showing. The classes, crunch, just about everything, is mroe interesting, more streamlined than in the first book. How to rate this, then? Ultimately, this book, to me, is pretty much a mixed bag, but one that remains on the positive side of things due to some of the truly awesome talents: The fact that this lets you play CSI, Criminal intent, Profiler, etc. with one class alone and retains the fact that all characters are different alone should probably make this worthwhile for quite a bunch of people out there. In the end, this may not be perfect, but it is a worthwhile purchase for those interested in modern/future gameplay. My final verdict of 3.5 stars will be rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alterkine: Dossier
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Alternate Paths: Martial Characters
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2016 04:13:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at...wait...what? 119 pages? Okay, this'll be a long one. Of these pages, 1 page is devoted to the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 116 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, there are classes herein - a lot of them, and they are defined pretty much by their cultural niche and concept - being labeled as exotic classes, since they may be more specialized than a given class, but still taking the same niche. So no, these do not count as alternate classes. Rules-wise, we are introduced to so-called "trappings," items, which, much like e.g. an arcane bonded object, is a defining item for the class - 4 feats allow for the utilization of such trappings in additional ways, limited negation of disarms, functioning after being broken or rerolling confirmation rolls. Clothing can, via one feat, grant the benefits of the endure elements spell while wearing the trapping - which is not bad, though I wished the feat was slightly more precise regarding the benefit applying to the effects only. Feral Feats may be taken in lieu of rage powers or favored terrain. War feats can only be used AFTER initiative has been rolled. In an interesting rule, the pdf codifies morale and suggests bonuses for the side which currently is dominant in that regard, a system supported by 3 feats.


The pdf also suggests house rules for e.g. allowing skill-boosting feats like Athletic to grant the skills as class skills and a rules that allows for a 1-round period of grace for killed characters to be healed...which is a bit odd, once death magic and non-damage-causing magic enters the fray. I think this rule was intended to apply only to hit points, but still - not a well-presented rule. I do like the idea of granting favored class status to a PrC in addition to the base class. The notion to 12-hour retrain favored enemy and terrain is problematic from a rules-perspective, though understandable. The flexibility is nice, but the lack of retraining cost makes it a bit too easy to switch in my book. The book also champions normalization of groups via an easy mechanic and sports a retro-active crazy-prepared (within reason) option to retroactively have bought certain items. While this works in GUMSHOE, the presence and significance of such a rule makes the game progress smoother and de-emphasizes careful planning - whether you like that or not depends ultimately on your own forte.


Now usually, I'm a big fan of realistic, simulation-style combat, but shieldbreaker may go a bit too far, making shields take damage when blocking weapons, rendering the item-class even more...less optimal. Using reposition to halve shield bonuses? Now that one I can easily get behind - makes sense to me and is concisely presented. Are you looking for a combat option that emphasizes more savagery? Well, in theory, making each attack provoke an AoO that is executed AFTER the attack may sound like a good theory; in practice, though, this rule makes the already impressively powerful ranged weapons more powerful. From a fluff-perspective, an assumption of general illiteracy makes sense and is something I used in my games before. Another rule makes combat MUCH more deadly - weapons with one rule deal their damage die + enhancement bonus as bleed damage and an easy fatigue/exhaustion-threshold makes sense. Chances of big creatures knocking smaller ones prone also makes sense. The book also has a rule that means when an attack hits touch AC, but not regular AC, the character would receive the attacker's Str-mod in damage still - I also experimented with this rule in dark fantasy contexts and it is interesting, though it further emphasizes offense over defense. Making weapons grant bonuses to AC make sense, though the limitation is not my favorite. Allowing for Con-check driven ferocity when downed below 0 HP is also something I tried in my games. Personally, I'm not a big fan of regaining 1 hp stable status upon landing a killing blow on a foe.


All of these variant rules can be used and combined and three sample arrays of rule-combinations are provided.


All right, that out of the way, let us take a look at the significant array of new base classes (9, to be precise). The first would be the adventurer, who gets d10, 6+Int skills, full BAB-progression and only good saves. They also get simple and martial weapon proficiency and a bonus feat at 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter. The adventurer can grant himself luck bonuses as free actions 1/2 character level times per day and receives wild-card crazy-prepared of items equal to 100 gp times character level, to be upgraded to 1000 gp times level. While the items adhere to a weight limit, the free and easy access to magic items can be an immensely unbalancing factor, depending on your group: Need scrolls that protect you versus the elements? Got them. Amulets that increase the carrying capacity of the fighter buddy? All ready.


Now in some campaigns, this may be nice and something a given group enjoys. Personally, I loathe the ability with all my heart and consider the limitations not strict enough. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the adventurer receives a talent that include counting as having access to all spells for crafting purposes, quick drawing items from backpack etc., very limited healing (that could use a scaling mechanism to retain its relevance). On the plus side, spellcasting scavenging is represented in a surprisingly concise manner that even takes classes like palas or ranger's decreased CL into account - kudos! At higher levels, the adventurer may preroll a limited number d20s and later substitute them for rolls, with the capstone allowing for rerolls of all d20-rolls and an even more freeform item-generation. While I get that in some campaigns, the crazy-prepared ability can be a true blessing, in others, it may well be a truly annoying alien element that can spoil the fun of other players that like planning ahead...and the balancing control of GMs on item availability. While I belong firmly in the second group and would not allow this ability sans some serious restrictions and nerfing, as a reviewer, I have to swallow my distaste here. On the plus-side, I do enjoy that this guy is a martial that is useful beyond combat thanks to skills etc. In the end, I consider the class a little bit too strong due to its powerful chassis. Nor for every group, but definitely a class some groups will love.


The Athlete base class has d10, only 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in simple weapons and light armor as well as automatic proficiency with sports equipment, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-progression. The athlete begins with the option to use his determination to reroll failed rolls, with saves and skills receiving a bonus on the reroll attempt, with every 5 levels increasing the bonus granted by +1 and also providing +1 use. More important and defining, though, would be the position class feature: The position offers an array of changes, including, in e.g. the defender's case, an upgrade of HD from d10 to d12, better BAB-progression or swifter movement. Additionally, each such position allows for additional uses of determination. A new position is learned at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Beyond this chassis-modifying ability-suite, athletes are obviously defined by their sports, which provide bonuses depending on the sport - somewhat inelegantly called "skill bonuses", but the rules are clear enough in their intended meaning. For the purpose of feat prereqs, athletes use their full level and they also receive inherent physical attribute bonuses at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter. 8th level nets evasion and higher levels provide take 10-options for related skills and even a take 20-option at level 20. The class is supplemented by baseball and soccer-weaponry. An okay class, though the few skills somewhat limit it in non-combat environments.


The Gladiator gets d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency in simple weapons, gladius, light and medium armor and also a school of combat, which further modifies the proficiencies, bonus feats and specific special tricks the class learns -Bloodpit Fighters, for example, get sneak attack, while the dimachaerus reduces two-weapon fighting penalties and can even get bonuses in the end...so yes, these have an inherent scaling. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net maneuver specializations that go beyond the base feats, employing gladiatorial points. When the gladiator does something that would make him grant a performance check, he may use the point to power class features and the like - the synergy of renewable resource-management and performance combat is pretty awesome and allows for some rather unique options. Fighting for the gods, life and death of those vanquished, are determined by a coin toss - which is surprisingly tense at the table in actual play. This gladiator did not look as cool as it actually played on paper - I really like this beast, as it manages to make performance combat matter sans crowds. Two thumbs up, though, once again I wished it had more non-combat utility. Still, a great class that has been added to my homegame's roster! (FYI: I upgraded skills per level by +2 in my home game.)


The Guardian gets d10, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 2+Int skills, proficiency with all martial and simple weapons and all armor, including tower shields. While wearing a shield, these guys may expend attacks of opportunity to interpose himself in the line of foes threatening his adjacent allies. To do so, he attacks with +Dex-mod and +shield-bonus versus the target's AC. And no, I'm not complaining about competing rolls here since the ability retains roll vs. fixed value as a paradigm. On a success, the guardian becomes the new target of the attack, which is probably the best designed level 1 bodyguard ability I've seen so far. It should come as no surprise considering the focus of the class, that shield tricks and a charge that ends with e.g. Heal-checks or similar aids to allies are part of the deal, though I found myself rather surprised at the ease and simplicity of this design - and why it hadn't been done before. Speaking of shield tricks - these allow you to one-hand two-handed weapons, but at the cost of not being able to perform more than one attack in a full-round action. Better nonlethal damage output, SP shield other and both numerical options and more allies to be shielded complement a tightly focused class that plays surprisingly well, making armor and shields matter. A rewarding choice, though I'd once again advise for +2 skills per level. Still - kudos! I'll certainly be using these guys!


At d10, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves , 4+Int skills and proficiency in simple weapons, light armors and shields, the inheritor is defined by the legacy of her name and honored ancestry. Basically, you get trappings as well as an ability-suite called lineage, defined by two characteristics like "Beloved" or "Wicked" that provides a modification of class skills and also determines the boons the class gains. The class begins with 1 boon and receives +1 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter and they do include attribute bonuses. Additionally, inheritors can channel their ancestors as a swift action, a total of 1 minute per level per day - some effects of the boons chosen only become available while channeling. Additionally, the class is defined by hereditary attributes/the option to substitute mental ability scores for attack-bonus calculation and defense; alas, the high level option of 2 attributes to attack are a bit too much for my tastes.


The Tataued Warrior gets d10, a trapping, 2 +Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields and prepared divine spellcasting guided by Cha, drawn from the ranger's list with certain modifications and probably is the best example of what I'd consider an exotic class: Following battle protocol (e.g. formal bows) provides benefits for the class, including the possible substitution of Cha-mod in attacks and later even damage-rolls. The defining feature of the tataued warrior, though, would be the ritual weapon, which can be activated as a swift action. Once powered, it acts as a magical weapon. That being said, the flexibility regarding enchantments and their scaling benefits is offset by a fatigue cool-down after use, similar to barbarian-rages. The scaling here is pretty conservative, just fyi, so even low-powered groups should be able to use this one. For high-powered groups; I'd suggest improving the enhancement-bonus granting-progression of the ritual weapon. The defining class feature beyond that, though, would be tataus, gained at 1st level and every even level thereafter, codified by level - and being awesome. While combat utility is here, the tataus provided often feature a drawback at higher levels, providing ample roleplaying potential and justification for superstitions. Furthermore, they allow, when wisely chosen, for actually relevant out of combat options. 6th level self-haste via battle-chants and flexible spell preparation/exchange-options complement an interesting class I really enjoyed, particularly thanks to the significant array of choices this offers!


Thanes receive d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and the great club - and that's pretty much in on that front. Defined by size and brawn, the thane is basically the bully of the battlefield, increasing accuracy and damage output against targets smaller than him. It should then come as no surprise that the class features size-increase (a brief table of weapon damage progression for larger sizes would have been appreciated here) and is particularly adept at using big weaponry. The class also receives a talent selection, but still constitutes my least favorite base class herein so far - reason being that its limited proficiencies, skills and its size can be a severe hindrance: There are dungeons too cramped for large creatures and the added space occupied cannot offset a second character. Furthermore, the lack of defensive options of the class makes it play like a bully: A nasty punch, but can't take one himself. The thane is basically, in spite of size and potency, a pretty bad glass cannon and the magus provides the more interesting playing experience in that field.


The Undying has d8, 2+Int skills, proficiency with all armors and simple/martial weapons. The undying receives scaling bonuses versus fear and pain effects, but pay for this conditioning with the requirement to obey orders. Here's the deal of the class: You want to die. The first time you die each level, you're resurrected as per true resurrection (CL information would be appreciated for magic-suppression-interaction), +1/day at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.However, undying already die at 0 HP - but the cool thing here is that, when they resurrect, they unleash so-called phoenix arts, the first of which is gained at 4th level, +1 every 4 levels thereafter: From bursts of light to devastating flame-novas and AOE-heals, these are pretty much awesome. Only one burst can be applied, +1 at 10th level and the class receives further abilities themed around the extremely evocative concept. Okay, if you've read my review of Rite Publishing's "Secrets of the Divine: Madness, Death, Justice, Healing," you'll know that I really like the idea of a campaign focused on returning characters. If you're like me, this class elicited a "Hell no!"-response nevertheless - when it shouldn't. You see, while powerful on the defensive side and while the deaths seem incredibly strong, the class is in a bit of a dilemma: In order to work at peak efficiency, the undying has to die - which makes it more vulnerable. The bursts are very powerful, but they need to be just that...and the increased vulnerability of the class further helps here. It's surprising, but in playtest, this one turned out to be very much killable and balanced, particularly due to scaling issues against mind-control. Yes, you have your nigh-unstoppable undying...but you may want to be careful with that enchanter over there...oh, and actually being mind-controlled and then slain by your allies is a valid strategy here that should result in no bad blood. This class plays completely differently from any class I've seen so far. Ambitious and oozing flavor, these guys are theme-wise by far my favorites in this book and may be worth getting the book all on their own!


Okay, you may very much call me out on this one, but I'm not sold we actually needed the Wrath class, a hybrid of rogue and inquisitor. Paying for rogue abilities with the inqui's spells, their eponymous wrath can be pictured as an always-on judgment with singular targets. That being said, this 3/4 BAB-progression class does have something some other martials herein lack: Non-combat utility galore. Oh, and the rogue talents the class can exclusively access are superb - there is, e.g., one that allows the wrath to suppress divine energy (channeling, spells...) and another that allows you to fluidly poison weapons after crits. Or what about the genius ability I'll scavenge for inquis, which allows the wrath a massive (+20) bonus to notice invisible foes? (Yes, that sneaky invisible guy will SWEAT in his corners and try hard not to move...) I was pretty much surprised by this one in that I actually liked some design-decisions here and enough unique material to set it apart versus the parent-classes - so kudos there!


This book also contains PrCs galore, all but one (the Storm Envoy) featuring full BAB-progression over their respective 10 levels. Seeing how this review already passed its fifth page as I write this, I shall be brief. The aforementioned Storm Envoy would be a legendary courier you employ when you need things delivered to hostile places like war zones or the abyss. Storm Envoys receive increasing speed as well as agility-related options (e.g. Acrobatics at full speed), self-haste and the option to utilize their vast speed to duplicate spells, from teleport to mirror image by tapping into the resource-management of the PRC. All in all, a cool one.


Speaking of which: The Mystic Seeker would be a representation of the famous, eerily accurate blind fighter trope, managing to get blindsense/sight-progression down rather well - though the interesting component would not be the limited true strikes they can unleash, but rather the high-level option to completely re-do one of their turns, explained by their preternatural insight. Interesting!


The Lone Wolf would be just that - a powerful representation of the solitary skirmisher, the savage soldier that loses animal companions and t5he like, but finds so much more potency in their solitude, including immunity to fear, but at the expense of their cynicism thwarting any morale bonuses. The PrC is iconic and cool.


The Frog Knight would be an agile knight - D'uh - and can jump really well; additionally, he's pretty great at amphibian warfare tactics and provides nice synergy with Dragon Tiger Ox's more differentiated (and tactical!) unarmed attack rules. Sure, this is a bit of an odd PrC, but still a cool and valid option.


Commandos are basically Rambo-the-PRC, with great stealth and several specializations that include limited spells, barbarian rages and the like as well as a focus on ambushes -and here, the commando is downright OP: Gaining a limited number of special, additional solo surprise rounds per day - basically, before rolling initiative's done, these guys can get a free surprise round out of the deal. In the hands of an experienced player, these guys can be true nightmares - while I like the flexibility and design of the chassis, I'm not too big a fan of the PrC's numbers.


Finally, there would be the Bogatyr of the Dying Light - sworn to hopeless causes, there only traditionally are 23 of these knights only unleash their full potential against foes stronger than they are - including, at higher levels, ignoring DR. The PrC also gets resolve and some neat offensive and defensive tricks, making these guys not only flavorful, but also pretty iconic and rewarding to play.


Beyond all these classes and PrCs, this massive book also sports 6 pages of feats - why else would I have explained the [Feral] and [War]-descriptors in the beginning of this review? So yeah, there are quite a lot of feats herein, including a follow-up-feat for Weapon Focus that extends its benefits to all of your proficient weapons, nonlethal damage causing demoralize-attempts and the obligatory class-enhancing feats. The book also sports traits o further emphasize the rival-trait and a feat to grant yourself temporary hit points 1/day. Now, as you know, I'm not a big fan of revising feats unless there is a specific reason - adding grapple to Weapon Focus' options would be one such case, while the revisions in particular of the critical-feats here make sense to me. That being said, this obviously is a matter of taste. The pdf then closes with a rather impressive amount of unique weapons, ranging from Qian Kun Ri Yue Daos to heavy rapiers and dire kukris.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a rules-level are surprisingly tight for a book of this size. On a formal level, though, there are quite a few glitches like its/it's, missing letters and the like. The PrCs are also inconsistent in their listing of iterative attack-bonuses or their omission. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with each class receiving a great full-color artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.


The team of designers of Little Red Goblin Games (here Scott Gladstein, Caleb Alysworth, Christos Gurd, Ian Sisson and Dayton Johnson) have surprised me with this book. You know why? because I've seen a lot of martial classes and, for the most part, specialist martial niche classes end up feeling to me like they could have been handled via archetypes in most cases. Not so here - each of the classes herein has a complex framework of abilities that justifies the classes standing on their own. The PrCs sport high concepts and make sense as classes not immediately available - they get the "Prestige"-component right, something many, including Paizo's, often fail at. There is a more important factor, though: This book follows the first commandment of design in all instances: "Thou shalt not be boring!" Achieving this is harder than it sounds when you're confronted with a jaded bastard like yours truly.


While not each and every component herein is perfect, there certainly are instances in this book I'd consider absolutely glorious: The Undying is narrative potential galore for the GM and a very uncommon experience for the player and it alone is book-seller-level awesome. The Guardian is really cool as well and I do enjoy the tataued warrior - much more so than I thought. While the Adventurer will never get near my games, I know it will find its niche out there. Add to that some rather cool PrCs and we have a book that lacks any objectively bland content - we could argue about some design decisions of commando and wrath, sure, but still - the significant majority of this huge book of crunch saw me smile and even inspired me in some cases...and ultimately, I'd rather have some awesomeness and some components that slightly over/undershoot their mark than a grey paste of blandness that's perfectly balanced.


The majority of content herein is well-crafted, if plagued by none-too-precise editing here and there and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars with a recommendation if the content even remotely interests you - you'll be hard-pressed to find a better bang for buck ratio and it's been a while since a single crunch-book has seen as many classes being allowed in my games ...so yeah...this is one of those cases, where components of a book actually excited me. As a reviewer, I may not be able to give this five stars for its formal and, sometimes, balancing flaws- but the components I love definitely justify slamming my seal of approval on this book. Hence, my final verdict will be 4 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Martial Characters
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Four Horsemen Present: Animated Traps Expanded
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2016 04:00:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Four Horsemen present-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 pages front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


In case you haven't checked out the massive and rather awesome Monster Menagerie: The Construct Companion, you'll be asking yourself what this very concept is: Basically, the idea is to make traps that double as both traps and creatures - and yes, this is mechanically as exceedingly interesting as you'd think it would be. The base rules from aforementioned book are presented herein for your convenience.


The template and guidance provided is simply brilliant, so for the low price you'll get a truly inspired concept here - from mechanical animated traps to magical ones, this component is simply awesome. Of course, the pdf also sports a diverse selection of sample animated traps, to be more precise, we receive 7 sample animated traps that range in CR from 3 to 18.


Regarding the animated traps - what about a door that tries to slam you and triggers fire traps? An executioner's axe supplemented by slay living? These may be nice...but what about a chamber of blades that can dimension lock and mass hold monster those contained within? Yes, this is delightfully devious! Shocking locks that electrocute wanna-be-thieves are cool...and what about the pit trap that keeps on giving, slamming its cover shut and then making sure that PCs reverse gravity slam into the cover and then back onto poisoned spikes? Yes, this is me cackling with glee.


Oh, and what about a crushing stone that not only squashes intruders, but also generates prismatic walls into which it then shoves PCs with grasping hand? Yes, damn cool. And there would also be the arrow-firing trap...that has a constant true strike. Yes, these are pretty much AWESOME.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed o glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the two artworks by Jacob Blackmon are awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Stephen Rowe's expansion of animated traps is an inexpensive, awesome little pdf. Now granted, it left me wanting even more...but on the plus-side, I certainly appreciated each and every animated trap herein, some of which are simply devilishly cunning and cool. On the down side, if you already have the animated trap rules, you will be like me and wishing the pdf was longer and had even more of these unique animated traps. Hence, my final verdict will clock at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Animated Traps Expanded
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Dungeonlands: Consort of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Savage Mojo
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2016 03:18:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This optional side-quest module for the Dungeonlands-saga clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1/2 page advertisement, 1 page RD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This module is basically a sidequest in the fight against the legendary Lich-Queen - but one that can have serious repercussions in Part III of the saga - hence, I'd advise the GM to use this module either during the trip through the Machine of the Lich Queen or as part of the journey towards her Palace in book III of the saga.


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


...


..


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All right, still here? Only GMs around? Good! Once, even the fabled Lich-Queen Ayrawn was mortal and, as mortals are wont to do, she had a companion, a lover, a consort - an anchor, a chance for redemption, a man who would recoil from the darkened paths she embarked upon - this man was Horarion. When the angel Anat was sundered from the heavens and bound, the psyche of the lich-queen sundered Horarion's mansion on Paxcetel, sending it spiraling towards the eternal Maelstrom, leaving, in spite of his arcane prowess, but a single portal, a tenuous connection to the lich-queen's realm, a shining portal you can place at your leisure within the Dungeonlands-saga.


Thus, Horarion remained in his isolated mansion - a place where arcane magic has its own weight, potentially inducing fatigue in casters and thus adding a nasty additional difficulty - and no, there is no means of escaping Pacetel here either - though the mansion's challenges are pronounced indeed - when the stable master has a CR of 12 and a unique variant chimera has taken up roost in the stables, you're in for a treat...and yes, there also is the Shalguath, a unique spirit ox to be found here. Death lurks at every corner here - Horarion has, for example, invested a part of his soul into a tapestry within his sanctum - and yes, the PCs may actually be eaten by the RUG in this room. Killer rug...explain that to your deity once you stand before them in the after-life...funny...and lethal.


A storm of feral spirits locked away, a bathhouse containing a truly disturbing, unique aberration (including powers-granting waters) - lethal. Speaking of which - the empowered waste-disposal disintegrate trap is brutal indeed. The PCs can also do battle with spawning, supreme swordsmen and test their mettle against a unique taiga linnorm...And the vault of Horarion is no less lethal...and contains, among deadly adversaries, an unlikely item: A loom. This item is what makes the tapestry-versions of Horarion basically immortal and maintains the stasis of the islet - destroying the loom makes millennia catch up with the strange inhabitants of Horarion's refuge - which btw. also include odd bark mummies and peris...and the destruction also makes it possible to defeat the three tapestry-bound Horarions, with each destruction providing a new power for a hero, though the types of said powers and their wordings have minor glitches - it's e.g. "mind-affecting", not "mind-effecting" and proper EX, SU, SP-codification would have been in order. Destroying the final tapestry unleashed what has become of Horarion - an undead baneful Noumenon, accompanied by unique hazards, as the house itself creates stony arms, weird roof-beam elementals animated by his power - a brutal boss fight that ends either in death or by learning what Horarion knew, gaining perhaps the most potent weapon against the lich queen...for the destruction sends the PCs back to where their journey to Horarion's domain began. Still, it should be noted that the non-statblock elements, i.e. the hazards and precise presentation o the combat-relevant rules herein could have used a slightly tighter wording - as written, these components require some work from the GM.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good, though, on a rules-level, there are a tad bit more glitches to be found herein than in the revised editions of the machine and place installments. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous artworks in color and b/w, all of which are neat. The biggest surprise for me was the cartography: Horarion's domain receives a beautiful, print-out-ready map that is player-friendly and thus offsets the largest point of criticism that plagued the dungeonlands saga - kudos for including that one! The pdf is a layered pdf that can easily be customized and also sports extensive bookmarks.


Miles M. Kantir, with rules by Allan Hoffman and George "Loki" Williams, has created a truly interesting sidetrek for the main adventures of the Dungeonlands saga that actually is worth playing - beyond the delightfully twisted and diverse combat-challenges herein, this little module offers some truly interesting ideas and brims with creativity. Moreover, this adds a further dimension to the epic struggle against the dread lich-queen, one that is fun to partake in - though this module also makes for a great stand-alone module; you could conceivably run this simply on its own without a hassle and just some cosmetic reskins - and some of the brutal battles, including the climactic boss fight, definitely would warrant that.


All in all, this is a great, fun sub-level of the epic journey through Ayrawn's dungeonlands and one I'd certainly suggest getting, in spite of minor rules-language hiccups here and there - while some components in this module may frankly be more precise, the good components still stand out - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Consort of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
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Summon Undead
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2016 03:15:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book by Flaming Crab Games clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2.5 pages SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 83.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Back in 3.X, there was the old saying that arcanists just suck at necromancy - and to a certain extent, this still is true - surprisingly, if you think about. While fiction does provide ample examples for vile priests commanding the legions of the undead, the iconic image is still that of the necrotheurge (which would be the proper, non-game-speak way to refer to them, just fyi...), the arcane caster, the evil wizard commanding legions of the risen dead. While 13th Age does sport an excellent necromancer class, pathfinder so far has had no base class focusing exclusively on controlling the dead to do your bidding. Until now.


This pdf introduces an alternate class (proper classified as such!) of the summoner, the undead summoner. The class must be non-good and gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor (no spell failure while wearing light armor), spontaneous spellcasting via Charisma, cantrip-access, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Additionally, the undead summoner begins play with a so-called fetch, basically the class's eidolon (for which btw. handy char-sheets are provided).


A Fetch has d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, 4+int skills per HD, No Con-score (instead using Cha as an undead), immunity to mind-affecting effects (here the closing bracket from the list enumerating them is missing in a harmless typo), immunity to death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep and stunning as well as nonlethal and ability drain (but oddly enough, not ability damage, though I assume that to be intended) as well as energy drain and damage to physical ability scores. They are healed by negative energy and immune to any Fort-save unless the ability also affects objects, not subject to massive damage and does not eat, breathe or sleep. This otherwise functions as a summoner's eidolon. The astute reader may note two components here that are interesting: For one, while gaining a lot of undead traits, the fetch is not explicitly designated as an undead, which RAW would mean that it could be healed both by positive and negative energy. This is an obvious oversight, though; one that should be rectified. From a didactic perspective, including all rules for the fetch would have probably made this easier to use and perhaps prevented the minor issues that plague this component.


Secondly, as the book does showcase and explicitly state, unlike an eidolon, the fetch cannot be dismissed or banished by the usual, outsider affecting means and pays for this by being destroyed at 0 HP. Astute readers may also have noticed that the fetch's significant array of immunities is paid for with Life Link, which is absent from the class's features. Fetchs begin play with one feat known and learn an additional feat at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Conversely, they retain the eidolon's Str/Dex-increase, evolution pool and maximum attacks columns sans change. Comparing both, you will also notice that the fetch's BAB is non-standard, capping out at +11 rather than +15. While this disjunction from the BAB-progression is uncommon and not too elegant, I' willing to give the pdf the benefit of the doubt in this case, since a slightly decreased BAB would make sense considering the fetch's significant immunity-array. Ability score increases, evasion and multiattack are retained from the regular summoner's eidolon progression. So that's the fetch - back to the people controlling the undead monstrosities!


Second level provides the Necromantic Affinity feat...but you're more interested in the summoning, right? Well, at 1st level, the undead summoner can cast summon undead I 3+Cha-mod times per day as a spell-like ability, but ONLY when the fetch is not summoned. The wording "uses up the same power as the summoner uses to call his fetch" is a bit problematic, since the summoning of eidolons, on which the fetch is based, usually does not suffer from such a limit. The summoning takes only a standard action and called undead remain for 1 minute per level, instead of 1 round per level. The summoning of the undead mirrors the wording of the base summoner, which means it's pretty precise, but it also retains a slight ambiguity that plagued the original summoner's ability, namely the lack of specification whether creatures called forth may act immediately upon being called. Most base summoning tricks circumvent this issue by having a casting duration of 1 round, but the SP of the original summoner did not explicitly state a ruling on this, an omission mirrored here. While I'm not going to penalize this pdf for this, it still would have been nice to see. And yes, before someone tells me - I'm aware of how it's done - this rant was aimed primarily at showing awareness for a flaw in official rules-language that could use some minor streamlining.


Spells known and spells per day are pretty much the same tables as for the regular summoner. At 4th level, the class receives Cha-mod uses of a d4-based channel negative energy, though it can only be used to heal the undead, not harm the living. Channel energy increases in potency every two class levels beyond 4th, meaning the undead summoner can dish out at least some healing to the undead. Now aforementioned SP-based undead summoning is further diversified - as the base summoner's SP, the undead summoner's SP-summonings do not allow for the stacking of called creatures. However, at 5th level, 7th level 13th level and 19th level, the ability can be used as a one-use to call forth multiple undead via the new spells contained herein: Basically, you still have only one instance of the SP in effect, but you gain more creatures out of it. The respective abilities sport a sensible scaling mechanism over the levels, increasing in potency. The capstone is, unsurprisingly, an undead apotheosis.


There also are class archetypes: The Fetch Master increases HD to d10, gets full BAB-progression and 6+Int skills - but at the cost of no Summon Undead - and, I assume, also not its follow-up abilities. The undead summoner's Master Summoner gets 5+ Cha-mod uses and may stack summons - basically duplicating the problematic base archetype. If you didn't mind it, you won't mind this adaption. If you considered it broken, you won't like this one either. The pdf also provides a slew of undead-themed archetypes for other classes.


First of those would be the Blight Ranger, who gets an undead FETCH companion at -3 levels. Not an animal companion (who already are strong) but an intelligent fetch with evolutions and all. And no, he does not pay for this with other tricks. OP. The Famine Druid also gains a fetch, undead empathy, and shaping into undead. Full-powered fetch. OP. The Nightmare Rider cavalier gets a quadruped or aquatic fetch as a steed with the mount evolution - problem here: The mount needs to be large, meaning the cavalier can't ride his mount unless that mount is large - which is a 4-point evolution. He replaces expert trainer with Touch of Corruption and gets fear-causing banners. The archetype nets a full-strength fetch, which is extremely strong and OP; it also doesn't work unless a 4-point evolution is chosen...and, touch of corruption is significantly stronger than expert trainer - which is made obsolete by the fetch anyways. OP.


The Undead Bound antipaladin replaces fiendish boon with scaling undead servants - no complaints here. Undead Charmer sorcerors have two spells known less each level, but they gain the bones mystery (with bonus revelations at level 1, 3 and every 4 levels thereafter), including the capstone final revelation and they must take the undead bloodline, which is slightly modified. The archetype may also affect undead as though they were humanoids, which is much stronger than you'd anticipate, considering the usual immunity and thus lack of requirement of investing into boosting that save. I rather like this one, though I do believe that the significant amount of bonus revelations may be overshooting the target line by a bit. Personally, I'd also make the "treat undead as humanoids"-ability restricted to daily uses. Undead Hunter rangers gain a full strength fetch companion ("that must be animal-like" - this is NOT proper rules-language! What does "being animal-like" entail? Low Int? Quadruped? No idea!) - again, immediately making the class pretty OP - which is particularly sad since I did enjoy the diverse undead foci provided for the archetype. The Undead Stalker rogue replaces trapfinding with scaling skill-boosts versus undead, traps sense versus better saves and defenses versus the undead and replaces 4th level's rogue talent with at-will hide from undead. On a nitpicky side, the ability's header lacks the SP-declaration, though the text does feature it. This makes a weak class even weaker and even more situational - the archetype needs an upgrade.


Now this rather depressing chapter is done, we turn our attention towards spell-lists provided for the respective character-classes and then a SIGNIFICANT array of Summon Undead-spells - beyond the base-spells, there also are aforementioned legion-spells and the aptly-named level 9 Zombie Apocalypse...which is pretty dang awesome.


Speaking of awesome - for each of the summon spells herein, we get statblocks - all colelcted herein - from the CR 1/3 Grabbing Beheaded to Zombie King Crabs, Paleoskeleton Triceratops to Fallen Flumph Graveknight antipaladins, mummified gynosphinxes and the obvious flaming crab skeletons, this extremely detailed array of statblocks, partially crafted, partially collected, makes this book exceedingly more useful than it would otherwise be - no page-flipping, nothing - awesome! We're speaking of no less than 66 1/2 pages of undead statblocks, mind you!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good. On a rules-level, there is something odd going on here: Some parts are precise, well-phrased and sport next to no issues, while others (namely the archetypes) fall horribly flat of the precision the base class sports. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy-to-read two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks, sparse though they are, are beautiful b/w and fit the book rather well and the nice fetch-sheet is a cool touch.


Alex Abel's Undead Summoner is pretty damn awesome - this book made me very happy when I first read it - not only does it provide a convenient undead statblock resource, the alternate class summoner presented herein is different enough to warrant the alternate class...and it makes the undead summoner, the undead-commanding arcanist actually work - even at low levels, which is absolutely and positive awesome. While the class does sport some very minor needs for clarification (Positive energy healing for fetch could be e.g. eliminated by simply stating that it has the undead type...), this is a huge step forward in the evolution of Flaming Crab Games and when playtesting the class concluded, I found myself positively excited to write this review. While not yet perfect yet, with some VERY minor streamlining, this book would be 5 stars + seal of approval - that was my expectation upon testing the undead summoner and I was looking forward to writing a completely positive review.


There is but one huge and strange component that tarnishes an otherwise carefully-crafted book, namely the archetypes. Oh boy did these archetypes sour the pdf for me - up to this point, I was pretty confident that this book would be all awesome, but balance here is dreadfully off - not only does the fetch easily surpass all creatures it replaces, the non-relevant exchanges of companion-supplementing abilities further exacerbate the significant power-discrepancy. Know what's even worse? RAW, the fetch adheres to the fetch's rules and that of the undead summoner - which, unlike quite a few of the classes here, does not sport a penalty for destroyed fetch-companions, meaning the beast can be called again and again. It's not only better, it also can be used with impunity! Basically, the archetypes grossly underestimate the sheer power of the fetch (or an eidolon, for that matter) when compared to e.g. mounts, animal companions etc. Add to that glitches à la a cavalier who can't ride his intended mount replacement and we have a section that single-handedly manages to drag down what otherwise is an excellent resource. From OP archetypes to one that makes the poor rogue even more restricted in the class's usefulness, this section is seriously bad and were the whole book of this quality, I'd bash it rather hard.


However: The archetypes take up only 3 pages of this book, which is mostly devoted to codifying undead summoning for each level; most of this pdf is statblocks and the new class and its tools. This has to be represented by the final verdict. So, in the spirit of transparency, here's how I arrived at my final verdict: For the undead summoner, spells and statblocks, I would have went for 4.5 stars, rounded down due to the minor issues. The horribly flawed archetypes (which I'd at best give 1.5 stars) for other classes, while broken as all hell, make up only a very small part of the book. Granted, quite an array of space is taken up by statblocks, not all of which obviously are new - though enough of them are - and what's here in that regard is nice. It is via careful deliberation that I arrive at a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the whole of the book. Still, I remain with a warning against the archetypes...but also with an explicit recommendation for anyone even remotely intrigued by the undead summoner as a concept - you'll get more than a fair share for your bucks and personally, I look forward to making more of these nasty masters of the undead for my campaign.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Summon Undead
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The Secrets of the Divine: Death, Justice, Healing, & Madness (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2016 03:43:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment of Rite Publishing's books detailing the unique pantheon of Questhaven along the unique servants of the respective deities clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Now if you're not familiar with the series, here's the basic summary: The deities in Questhaven are peculiar in that their true names are not spoken - instead, they have aliases like "Our Shifting Oracle of Genius" or "Their Mistress of Madness," with the precise epithet depending on your personal relationship with the deity. The deities sport favored weapons, domains and the like and concise write-ups and the pdf also offers unique options for the respective servants of the deity - often to the point, where the archetypes and feats provided radically change how a character serving the deity plays.


The first deity covered herein is, concept-wise, already very interesting: Our Mother of Many Ways is a chaotic neutral deity associated with jackals, badgers and the like - however, unlike most jackal-associated deities out there, she is not an evil creature - instead, the basic idea is to take the old adage of the thin line separating genius and insanity is represented and embodied by this deity. The vine of inspiration and its associated benefits, the manifestation of her favor and information on the holidays of the deity -all written in the compelling prose we've come to expect from the series. The deity also grants two subdomains for Knowledge, namely Prophecy and Inspiration, with domain powers allowing for insight bonuses to be granted to skill-checks or for or for relative flexible premonitions that allow you to act in surprise rounds or gain insight bonuses to AC/attacks, etc.


The deity also sports 3 new feats, one of which retaliates 1/day (not expended if the target saves) an attack on your person with a madness affliction (narrative gold!). Another allows for exactly one revelation with activation time of 1 full round or less to be used as a swift action - which can be pretty potent. Finally, feat number 3, is a high-concept one, allowing you to transform wine of significant quantities into ingested poison. While very circumstantial, I can see this being a cool plot-device indeed! (How did this one group take the fortress back from the ogres?) The write-up also contains, surprisingly, the Joyous Fellowship - a paladin archetype/orga that represents chaotic good followers that receive perceptive gaze (with a cut-copy-paste error referring to inquisitor levels), an aura of hope and, more interestingly, at 4th level an euphoria-powered barbarian rage in lieu of spells. The higher level auras are also rather distinct, allowing for the smite-powered extension of rage to allies, with chaos-based DR/lawful and apotheosis as well as banishment-powered smite. On a cool fluff-level, the archetype also features a fully depicted code of conduct - overall, a solid chaotic pala.


The second deity covered herein would be "Our Queen of Wisdom and Mercy", the shepherdess of contrition and mercy - enormously popular due to healing offered free of charge, but unsurprisingly none too popular among the clergy-in-spe due to the exceedingly high moral standards required by the church. The write-up of the feats this time around contains two feats, one of which is exceedingly interesting: Sister's Lace allows you, to, as a swift action, consume three uses of both healing and protection domain 1st level abilities to lace conjuration (healing) or harmless spells, either granting a significant long-term AC-buff that scales with your levels or charge a creature's weapon with healing, which is discharged upon being touched by the weapon - which offers some surprising, tactical tricks I haven't seen before.


The second feat, Healer's Grace, allows for the expenditure of domain powers to grant rerolls versus negative conditions based on the cleric's own Will-save - pretty powerful, but fitting one. We also get a new paladin, the Queen' Man - at 4th level, they can significantly enhance the casting of spells and provide a defensive shield that wards against conditions you can negate via mercies and high-level paladins can convert damage in a huge radius into non-lethal damage can be considered truly cool - that battle waging on the grounds of a misunderstanding? Well, these guys can make sure no-one dies! (On a nitpicky side, the archetype is once erroneously called "compassionate son" - but that's pretty much a cosmetic gripe.) The capstone similarly emphasizes taking conditions, damage, etc. of others, making the archetype's final levels predisposed to notions of heroic sacrifice, something I really like in the frame of paladins and, since this replaces spells, the power of the class feature seems justified. Furthermore, the archetype sports a number of unique and complex modifications of divine bond with a specific ward-creature that makes the Queen's Man a superb bodyguard for the target creature. We also receive a second archetype, the Harmonious Spirit warpriest, who receives a modified list of skills and proficiencies as well as several monk-related abilities. Automatic merciful spells, merciful extraplanar prisons to deal with vanquished foes and the like render this archetype rather cool for groups like mine, where murder-hobo-ing intelligent life is NOT considered behavior that's acceptable for good characters. The harmonious spirit also receives a code of conduct, while aforementioned paladin does not.


The third deity herein was one I've been pretty much excited about for a long time - the Reaper of Death and Rebirth, served by the Crematorium of the Grim Gatherer - and yes, this is an interesting component of the church: Beyond the usual death-related iconography and different takes on the religion, the addition of phoenix and rebirth as central concepts render this one a surprisingly fresh take on the death-god-trope. The archetype provided here would be the Ruiner fighter, who gets a specific ruin pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which can be used defensively, to make wounds that are hard to heal or cast curse spells - though I'm honestly hard-pressed to note a sufficient amount of spells with the cures-descriptor - a spell-list,. even a small one, would have been very much appreciated here. Additionally, higher level ruiners receive hexes, bonus damage versus cursed foes and the stalwart ability (not a fan - basically, evasion for Fort- and Will-saves) and high-level ruiners can prevent the very first attack in a full attack executed against them by cursed targets. Overall, a cool, if somewhat user-unfriendly archetype.


Now on the interesting side, there is also a universal archetype contained herein, the Phoenix Child...which is less of an archetype and more of a GM-based template that is applied to characters. Think of it as a kind of mythic path sans tiers that is instead tied with linear progression to the respective class levels. You see, these beings may be reborn in fire, but they also return from the grave with a list tattooed into their arms - this is the list of specific tasks the character has to rectify in order to be absolved of the sins committed in a previous life, with final death being the reward...though redemption thus gained is scarcely attained. Beyond various flame-themed abilities, this one is basically a power-increase, a narrative option...and made me immediately contemplate a campaign, where all PCs are Phoenix Children. Not suitable for every campaign and GMs should be aware of the additional power, but still, I consider this AWESOME.


The final deity herein would be Our Steely-Eyed Judge, the deity of justice and law - stern, fierce and vigilant, supported by a rather well-written Truth inquisition that includes a honesty-enforcing curse, with the two feats once again sporting a domain-powered lacing effect, which, this time around, offers for a kind of flanking curse and a limited retributive bestow curse (lacking italicization), which is nice. The write-up also sports the Thief-taker Slayer archetype, a specialist of urban tracking (with handy DCs/modifier-tables provided), including the rather cool generation of tracer-objects and high-level quarries and a talent that allows for the garroting of enemies and a non-lethal incapacitation talent that erroneously mentions the bounty hunter in another minor hiccup.


Beyond these option, we conclude this book with some truly intriguing pieces of fluff that elaborate the themes and concepts of Questhaven, including the crossroads of dream and some important pieces of advice some authors out there should take a look at - making fluff not read like a DVR instruction manual is something that would make my reviewer's obligations significantly more compelling...but I digress.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are the one component of this supplement that could have used some streamlining - there are quite a few punctuation glitches in here and references to the wrong class in some abilities, remnants of either cut-copy-paste glitches or revisions in the class-name's respective nomenclature. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf has nice artworks for the deity's symbols and more, most of it in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, so this one is pretty hard on me - I like just about all of the respective options portrayed herein, though the ruiner could really have used a list of curse spells by level. I also would have loved a code of conduct for the Queen's Man. Then again, the significant majority of archetypes and options here not only sport some awesome concepts, they also manage to use rather innovative mechanics and inspire to an extent that makes me come up with plot-lines by virtue of simply reading them - a feat not many pieces of crunch achieve. So yes, Steven D. Russell's latest collection of deities and related material must be considered to be inspired, though it also feels a bit rougher on the edges than what I would have liked it to be. Still, most glitches herein are ultimately cosmetic in nature - which makes me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the inspired ideas herein to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Divine: Death, Justice, Healing, & Madness (PFRPG)
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Four Horsemen Present: Abstraction Golems Expanded
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2016 03:41:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


What is the abstraction golem? Well, the obvious response would be that it is a mythic template that allows you to create golems from the very fabric of concepts like love, war etc. - abstract concepts. First introduced in the massive and exceedingly impressive Construct Companion, the base template is provided herein, but, as the title suggests, the options introduced there are further expanded herein, providing new abstraction templates to craft these conceptually awesome golems from.


The first of these would be Fate, which obviously is luck/doom themed and can even grant mythic wish 1/week. More interesting to me, since it pretty much was an imho required addition, was the Hate golem, which not only sports a rage-inducing aura, but also the titan's rage champion ability and associated benefits versus the targets of the ire....which can be manifold indeed.


More sagacious characters will most certainly be surprised when the repository of ancient, lost knowledge turns out to be a Knowledge golem that can educate mortals as well as mimic class abilities akin to the trickster. Personally, though, I consider the life golem with its granting of regeneration, the ability to animate plants (instantaneous AND awakened!) and, more importantly, a kind of super resurrection that can even thwart old age interesting - we all know the inevitables don't like meddling like that and indiscriminate life can end up a huge issue. The Archmage's competent caster and the option to temporarily learn spells that magic golems sport is similarly interesting, as is the war golem that scavenges the marshal's Fight On, while being superb in conjunction with teamwork feats...and canceling them out.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to the neat 2-column full-color standard established for the series and the artworks by Jacob Blackmon are great. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Stephen Rowe delivers exactly what the pdf says on the tin - more, cool abstraction golem concepts and, honestly, I still love the concept to bits. At the same time, with the novelty worn off, the spoiled reviewer-bastard that is me couldn't help but feel that this book very much plays it safe - compared to some Mythic Monsters by Legendary Games or mythic templates released by Stephen in his gruesome-series of pdfs released by Rogue Genius Games, the abstraction golems herein felt less unique.


Basically, I see the framework: Add + x abilities, which include SPs, an ability-scavenge from a path...you get the idea. Much like a series where one is aware of the set's nature, this does take a bit away from the pdf - in direct comparison, Stephen Rowe has simply crafted more inspired material.


That being said, I could rattle down a list of publications that wish they reached the level of these ideas - the golems within these pages are solid and fun and I'm basically being a very spoiled reviewer right now. Still, I couldn't help but feel that hatred could have used a spitefully self-destructive ability; that magic could have used a truly unique way of modifying spells, perhaps even of breaking the laws that govern magic. Again, I'm spoiled, but the golems herein could have used a codification for the blending of abstract concepts (love-hate golems?) or a similar step forward. The book makes the concept broader, but not deeper. This should not prevent you from checking this out, though - this is still a fun book, well worth the asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Abstraction Golems Expanded
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Call to Arms: Axes & Picks
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2016 03:39:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief paragraph of introductory prose, we are treated to a solid little introduction of the history of both axes and picks and their roles in warfare before we are introduced to the subject matter at hand - here, beginning with properly codified flint weapons, which, while fragile, may ignite flammable material when struck against metal - which is one of the trademark "Why hasn't this been done before?"-moments I love in the series. Similarly, I am pretty sure that more than one GM out there will appreciate the rules for weapons with double heads, allowing for the free action switching of them. If you're like me and contemplate converting Age of Worms, you'll certainly appreciate these rules for the signature weapon of servants of dread Kyuss.


Alas, there is a sensible modification that is rather problematic: Alternate Axe-bits make sense: They allow for the inexpensive addition of material-based weapon properties. For campaigns à la Ravenloft that sport the requirement for obscure materials to bypass some sorts of DR, this makes sense. At the same time, incorporating e.g. adamantine does feel problematic to me, since adamantine's price is carefully balanced versus the significant powers it grants. Material bypassing DR =/= material bypassing DR and while the scaling price does still reflect this, it imho does not do so in a sufficient manner for the more powerful materials.


A total of 12 different simple weapon axes and picks are provided, from the awl to the Alpenstock (originally created to serve as a climber's tool, literally meaning "staff of the Alps"), which helps with climbing - though the bonus type it conveys should probably be an equipment bonus. But that's just me being a nitpicky prick. A total of 16 martial weapons (including aforementioned climber's tool) are included within, as well as 9 exotic weapons, with the ricocheting gnomish throwing picks being among the more interesting ones, while e.g. the dhampir maul, is slightly problematic: The weapon is a big hammer with a slot for e.g. a stake to be inserted. So far, so good, right? Alas, the stake-part is fragile and the notation of damage is 1d6/2d6, which is slightly uncommon.


Now this is a cosmetic glitch, sure, but I do have another issue here: The finer balancing of some of these weapons seems to be slightly off. Take the executioner's axe: At 40 gp, it offers a base damage of 1d12, Crit 19-20/x3 and both the deadly and fragile quality - compare that to the dwarven longaxe, which costs 50 gp and offers a base damage of 1d12, Crit x3. Personally, I believe that the extended crit-range is more powerful than just the addition of the fragile quality offsets. While the weapons generally are on par with established ones, they sometimes slightly overshoot their targets - not by much or to a game-breaking extent, mind you, but still.


Regarding internal consistency, there are two entries among the weapons that are unlike the others, two entries that do not belong - the stiletto and misericorde. The latter being the "Mercykiller"-blade used to grant mercy to the mortally wounded - a long, narrow knife, thin enough to fit between the plates of armor. With the ample variants of axes, I don't really get the inclusion of these weapons here, but oh well - once again, I'm complaining on a cosmetic level. That being said, I do believe that the latter represents an obvious missed chance to grant the blade more of a mechanically unique identity by e.g. facilitating coup-de-grâce-attempts. (Granted a magical misericorde later provides that when used versus undead, but still... Oh, and the magic weapon is imprecise in that it does not state whether rejuvenation or similar abilities fall under the healing-prevention of undead finished with the blade.)


Reinforced sheaths make sense to me - these sheathes can turn picks and axes into a bludgeoning weapon, which makes sense - the item also codifies better nonlethal damage dealing and the new, sheathed properties of the axe/pick - kudos! On the magical side, the pdf introduces two new special weapon abilities: At +1 bonus, hewing weapons add +4 to CMB to sunder attempts and the +3-equivalent felling property increases the damage output of the weapon to be equivalent to the size of the creature targeted - but only for one attack and the damage-die never decreases for fine/diminutive. This is problematic in three ways: 1) It increases the "one hit kill"-factor that is anathema to epic battles. 2) Weapon damage die increases are pretty opaque, much more so for weapons of larger sizes - damage progression-tables would have been greatly appreciated. 3) For +3, 1 hit damage-increase, thereafter the weapon does not convey this bonus against the creature for 24 hours, feels very punitive. All in all, not a fan in the slightest of this one.


The pdf also contains 9 specific weapons spanning the price-range from 8K gp to 103,018 gp. The specific weapons are solid, though not always brilliant: Take the axe of fire and ice: One head +1 flaming burst, one head +1 icy burst (both not italicized) - and that's it. No additional trick, no unique feature...boring. Speaking of minor formatting hiccups - the forester's axe's one superscript property lacks the superscripting formatting for an unsightly "UE" in addition to lack of property italicization - though its doubled function as a renewable rod of flame extinguishing is at least not that bland. The Jack-of-all-trades, a poleaxe, is more interesting: Each head of it is separately enchanted and crafted from a different material to make the weapon feasible against all kinds of threats and the weapon even has the information for its non-magical price...but, alas, it lacks the precise damage-stats for each head: There are a lot of axes, spears and the like and while I love the idea of the weapon, its execution, alas, renders it an inoperable guessing game as provided.


On the plus-side, a weapon made to break objects, doors and locks is neat. Somewhat oddly misplaced herein: The thunderstone arrowhead is always "formed in the shape of handaxes or arrowheads" - does that mean there are handaxes with this property? This does contradict the +1 shock arrow base item, though...which brings me to the second entry, which covers the handaxe version...and its language is, alas, just as confused, referring to arrows and the like. Worse, its effects are that "powerful magical lightning strikes the ground" - does that mean lightning bolt at the item's CL? Would make sense, but the bolt strikes from above, so is it call lightning? I have literally no idea how this is supposed to work. On the plus-side, I REALLY love the magical sheathes provided here, conferring e.g. cold iron's benefits to the weapon. Surprisingly, the wording here is more precise. A cursed sheath that corrodes weapons is also interesting.


The intelligent axe Old King Harold, bane to orcs and goblins, is a rather neat one and we also get the stats for the mythic axe of Perun that can control weather via mythic power and call down lightning (here with the proper spell) in these called stormfronts - odd, really: How a more complex item works, where a simple one stumbles. On the downside, the lack of italicization and superscript-errors make complex items like this one harder to grasp than necessary. The indestructible spike artifact is a brutal spiked maul and conveys iron body on the wearer - BRUTAL!


There also is a new rogue talent that allows for the exchange of sneak attack damage die to reduce armor bonuses - basically, trade damage for precision. An okay talent. The feats are interesting: Using disarm to negate shield bonuses...though the alternate use, which lets you make "opposed Strength-checks" to make foes drop the shield feels wrong - opposed Strength-checks usually do not happen directly in battle; PFRPG tends to use CMB/CMD instead and the d20 vs. d20-base means that the roll is very swingy. Not a fan of this component of the feat. The second feat allows you to perform AoOs versus attacking foes when fighting defensively or in total defense, potentially disarming them. Oh boy, this one - I like the intent, but the feat "gives you an automatic attack of opportunity" - which is not default wording and could mean that you can exceed AoOs per round. I'm not sure how this works.


The pdf concludes with a solid write-up of Craft (Knapping) for the manufacture of flint or obsidian weapons and items.


Conclusion:


Editing and particularly formatting need some work: The lack of italicizations of certain components and amount of superscripts not superscripted is pretty jarring. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.


After the disappointing first installment in the series, I kept my distance to the series, mainly since I didn't want to bash Fat Goblin Games, then a totally different company, quality-wise, than today. Imagine my surprise when current Call to Arms-books actually were rather imaginative, inspired and cool....which made me wonder: When exactly did the series and company become better in such a short time? Well, I returned to Call to Arms to take a look at what Lucus Palosaari has crafted, to witness the growth of the author, if you will. So yeah, this is why you're seeing a review for this old pdf now. To get that out of the way: This was obviously before editing and formatting reached the current level, so in that regard, the pdf isn't that great.


Similarly, rules-editing is not yet as tight as in later installments of the series and there are quite a few slightly problematic components herein, some that simply don't work. At the same time, this already displays the strengths later installments exhibit - there are some true "Why hasn't this been done before?"-moments to be found herein, which provide equilibrium for the flaws. Ultimately, this is a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side of things, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though I will round down for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Axes & Picks
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Fractured Phylactery
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2016 10:20:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module is 54 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 50 pages of adventure so let's check this out!


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


All right, still here? Leander d'Arstand is not your everyday lich - in fact, the undead creature was rather smart and modified the standard phylactery-ritual to split his phylactery into 4 parts and scattered them subsequently to the elemental planes. Half a millennium has come and gone and the tide of years has eroded Leander's resolve to exist, nourishing a subtle death wish. Now, he depends on a twisted game, challenging the strongest of heroes to put an end to his undead existence. Since this is a high-level module, the adventure provides some pieces of advice on how to deal with the by now obligatory divinations and teleportation capabilities your PCs will no doubt have. Of course, since plane-hopping is involved in these pages, we also get a short run-down of planar qualities and necessary protections and peculiarities that separate planar adventures from their prime material counterparts. Additionally, much of this module is presented in a rather free-form, sandboxy style and at the end of a given section, expansion ideas and options for the respective planar forays are given alongside suitable suggestions for creatures..


That being said, first would be the elemental plane of fire, where the PCs will have to enter the palace of Overthane Grosk, fire giant warlord and owner of whole kennels of nessian warhounds. Of course, the obvious way would be for the PCs to merrily slaughter themselves through the fortress, though perhaps not the wisest one: If they agree to peacebonding their weapons, they may enter the thane's hall and can even negotiate the release of the ruby they seek from the thane's throne - if they endure the cruel pranks of e.g. magma mephits etc. and have come peacefully before the thane. Of course, they could also fake peace-bonding etc. - sideboxes elaborate on these tactics, though I would have liked some sample DCs for the peaceful negotiation with the thane - an omission that could have easily been rectified.


After that, we're off to the plane of water where the keeper of this part of the phylactery is already expecting the PCs - in a vast grotto, the PCs are lead towards the old one, an exceedingly powerful Aboleth sorceror who awaits them with a peculiar and deadly trap as well as a whole cadre of aquatic minions to challenge the PCs and add them to his collection. His spellcasting prowess notwithstanding, I couldn't help but feel that this final confrontation felt a bit behind its own potential: One of the coolest and most defining traits f aquatic battle is its 3-dimensional aspects, which are absent from the encounters portrayed here. See Alluria Publishing's legendary Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting/Underwater adventuring guidebook for an excellent example on how buoyancy, streams etc. can be used to make battles under water truly interesting and feel DIFFERENT.


After this one, we have an interlude when a rogue 6/assassin 10 and a summoner 16 are sent after the PCs by Leander to make things interesting and slaughter them - even if the death of one or two characters is only an inconvenience at this level. On the elemental plane of earth getting to the adventure locale might make for the toughest hindrance, even though what awaits the PCs is no cake-walk - carnivorous crystals and an advanced crag linnorm as a boss make for a challenging foray, though honestly, I would have enjoyed to see the tunnels featuring more evocative environmental elements like earth spikes, earth quakes, crystallizing viruses - you know, things that make the players appreciate how non-hostile the prime is.


The final foray, then, leads to the plane of air, aboard the flying air ship Skydragon (which comes with full stats as a magic item, but not with stats for the naval combat system - wasted chance there!) and meet its surprisingly nice crew of air-born smugglers, who is currently trying to safely deliver some astral devas - Only to have the ship attacked by a horde of demons. Whether the PCs fight with the crew, with the demons or choose to use the chaos to get their fingers on the final part of the phylactery, the ensuing epic battle and chaos aboard the Skydragon will definitely be something the players will fondly remember.


With the fractured phylactery in their hands, it's time for the PCs to hunt a lich and their only lead to the whereabouts of Leander lead to an abandoned mansion situated in a swamp - which is, of course, a false lair protected by guards and wards as well as the spirit of a human bard who had to witness his children being slain by Leander and turned into Blood Urchins, some of the more deadly inhabitants of this haunted house-style. Among the other challenges, traps and minor undead will serve well to slowly but steadily deplete some of the PC's resources before the meet Leander - who turns out to be a grave-knight! After taunts about wasting time on the elemental planes and an epic battle, PCs will hopefully be smart enough to realize that this seemingly final boss is just a dupe and enter the teleportation circle towards Leander's true lair. The house has a great flair and if you don't know the tricks to make "old" paper, a sidebox explains the usage of coffee or tea. Nice for those who didn't know about this classic trick!
Leander's true lair is no cakewalk and it is here that the difficulty of the module escalates - iron golems. Clockwork Golems, Alchemical, Brass and Bone Golems, Zombie Megalodons guarding a lake. Have I mentioned a room that has every inch covered in symbol and rune traps, from explosive runes to the worst of the symbols? And then there is the final showdown, in which the supra-genius lich hurls undead, spells and even dominated, good adventurers at the PCs in a lethal, epic final confrontation that would a worthy conclusion to a campaign - or the beginning of a new one, if the PCs fail and Leander reignites his ambition, seeking to enslave towns, cities and perhaps even kingdoms...


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed multiple typo-style glitches in the module. Furthermore, a peculiarity of the formatting is that each chapter begins on a new page, often resulting in the final pages of a chapter containing perhaps 3 paragraphs of text and being otherwise empty - space that could have been used for further information, content, or even cut in order to save printing/ink costs. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read 2-column b/w-standard, with monsters and traps as hazards being highlighted with respective symbols to make the information easier to find. The b/w-artworks herein belong to the upper echelon of quality and carry evocative themes and look neat. Robert Lazaretti's maps are b/w and simply awesome, though the Overthane's fortress feels a bit bland in comparison. What I don't get is why we don't get player-friendly versions of the maps sans map keys - the maps are nice, yes, but the players will see the letters on them - and I hate that. Player-friendly maps are by now in many publications standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for easy navigation.
High-level adventures are few and far between and honestly, I don't get why - sure, stats are messy, the rules are complex, but high-level adventuring can be a total blast - with Coliseum Morpheuon still being one of my favorite modules/sourcebooks of all time, it should come to you as no surprise that I joined the kickstarter that gave birth to this particular module. If you're following my reviews on a regular basis, you probably also know about my aversion to elemental-themed classes, though perhaps not one secret of mine: I really love the elemental planes! I really do and think that the lack of coverage and modules set on them is a huge gap not only in PFRPG, but in practically all d20-derivates. Here we have untapped potential and this pdf seeks to tap into that. Or at least tries to. What I do like about the elemental sojourns is that they not only consist of the locations, they do also take the planar traits and PC capabilities into account, yes, actually require them. I also really liked how two of the trips to the planes can be solved by non-hostile means - I just don't get why no sample DCs to make the discussions more complex, why not more information on the NPCs to negotiate with was given. And I don't get why the elemental plane of air has to resort to an attack by hostile beings from the outer planes instead of creatures from the inner planes. For e, that felt a bit jarring in theme.


The final location is flavorful and sufficiently creepy and the respective boss encounters as well as the final confrontation feel sufficiently epic for such a quest. Where the pdf fails, albeit slightly, is showcasing the unique nature of the respective planes - why no 3-dimensional combat on the plane of water? Why not battle between rival skyships on the lane of air instead of an invasion of one vessel, especially with naval combat rules established and made by Paizo for Skull & Shackles? Why no cave-ins or sentient earth on the plane of earth? The module features a lot of going to other planes without making them feel unique - and they should be more than a more hostile, elementally-themed version of the prime. Yes, the traits are there and fractured in, but the module lacks the environmental hazards that create the true feeling of estranged otherness. Don't get me wrong - the planes-hopping is still good and enjoyable, but it hurts my heart to see how easily it could have been a module of truly epic coolness and instead settles for being just good.
Combine that with the editing glitches, blank space and lack of player-friendly maps and we have even more wasted potential at our hands. A capable and imaginative Dm can make this module still the stuff of legends, but as written, it falls a bit behind what could have easily been a benchmark for PFRPG planar modules. Thus, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fractured Phylactery
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Into The Breach: The Forgotten Classes
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2016 10:00:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment of the Into the Breach-series clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved forward in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.


But wait - what exactly is this? Well, know those NPCs classes? Well, they actually get some modifications in this little book. "But why would I care?" Simple: Either you're a GM and look for some enhancers and novel tricks for them...or perhaps, you're looking for a change of pace and want to run a low-fantasy campaign, a horror campaign -whatever. There are plentiful reasons to champion the less powerful classes and the gameplay can indeed be exhilarating. However, at the same time, there's a design-aesthetic issue with NPC classes - they frankly are not that versatile, so let's see whether the content herein can render them more intriguing!


We begin our survey with the adept-class, whose first archetype would be the caller. These guys choose a resonant aspect from amid the classic elements, gaining a "+1 circumstance bonus on all saving throws against effects from her chosen element" - which is, alas, very flawed rules-language. You see, I think this is supposed to mean the associated elemental damage types...but I'm not sure. There are water effects that deal bludgeoning damage...do they count? What about boulders falling on the PCs? Does the bonus only apply to spells and effects with the descriptor of the respective elemental damage? See, I feel like a bastard when I do this since the ability looks like "you know what the designer meant." Thing is, you don't, because the language simply isn't precise enough. sigh


Unfortunately, things become even more opaque at 2nd level, when a caller may breathe life into the element as a full-round action, which then behave as animated objects, with levels determining size and construction pool. The problem here is that elements are not constructs - they have different traits and the ability uses both interchangeably - so which save-progression do they have? What is the base frame upon which those crafted elements are made? I have no idea. On a nitpicky side, the ability also sports some it's/its-errors, but that remains cosmetic. At higher levels, proper elemental damage codification with new construction pool tricks in one case, while another retains untyped damage, when that should obviously be the associated elemental damage.


Another ability allows for the hijacking of constructs, elements or animated objects to deal untyped damage (problem, considering the prevalence of DR and similar defenses among constructs) - the ability, alas, is missing the information about its range: Touch? Ranged? No idea. This is particularly galling since concept-wise, e.g. construct-possession at higher levels and granting sentience are pretty neat concepts and similarly, the capstone for a permanent element creation evokes some nice images. Additionally, the construction points rules, collated and provided for your convenience, make for a considerate, nice addition here. I really wanted to like this one and it's pretty close to actually working, but the imperfections in the base abilities of the archetype severely hamper it. It can easily be fixed, all right - but still.


The second archetype would be the Deep Jungle Shaman of the Flesh, who may track even the trackless in jungles and may consume the dead of her own kind to gain temporary casting enhancements, including, at high levels, the option to cast spell-like abilities of creatures consumed. The ability replaces "summon samiliar" in an unnecessary typo. While the wording could be a tad bit more refined, this one does not sport any glaring issues.


Next up would be the Nun, who obviously needs to be female and receives access to a domain as well as channel energy at 2nd level. Nuns also provide Wis bonus when aiding another instead of the fixed bonus and may grant nearby allies immediate action rerolls 1+Wis-mod times per day. High-level nuns are particularly potent healers and at 15th level, may 1/day use un/holy word...with one problem: There is no unholy word - the proper name of the spell is blasphemy. Other than that a nice archetype.


The Vicar receives a modified list of class skills as well as the knowledge domain and a so-called flexible domain from among his deity's portfolio - which is a pretty strong option. Additionally, he receives Wisdom modifier in addition to Charisma to perform (Oratory) and Diplomacy and may duplicate a limited list of bardic performances at his level -2, starting at 3rd level. Additionally, 5th level nets one of a huge list of domain-related abilities, including the perfect feigning of death, the compression ability and similar tricks - which, over all, are exceedingly fun and unique...and they make sense. Nice one!


The Aristocrat-class also receives several archetypes herein, the first of which would be the Coven Sworn, who receives a limited array of bonus feats, wild empathy at 4th level (with Greater Wild Empathy-feat-progression) and even an animal/vermin companion at -3 levels. As a capstone, this one gets a patron - all in all, a solid one! The Noble Wastrel is an archetype that pretty much represents the trope of the Dorian-esque dandy, with negated downsides of drugs, an inscrutable will as well as the means to use honeyed tongue and good looks to end emotion-based effects or instill hostilities - though the latter should probably be classified as an emotion based effect. Still, a damn cool archetype that makes the capstone (which grants immunity to mind-affecting effects while drugged) fit in perfectly. Love this one! Two things are inevitable in life...yes, we all know the immortal words of Big Ben and the tax assessor, with 6+Int skills, knows them better than most. These guys get cavalier order benefits (at 1/2 level), but do not have to adhere t the order's tenets and the order's members dislike the tax assessor - surprise. Gaining a Judge Dee-style bade dazzle and antagonizing adversaries as well as a peacebond hex-duplicate and a second order round up a compelling archetype.


Now, we already have a big book on commoners, but here we get archetypes for the most maligned class by design: The Forester, for example, gains sensible tracking and favored terrain as well as a suit that enhances his camouflage - and makes so much sense. I always hated how regular folks were just lost in the woods, with only super-rangers out there - this is the representation of the regular hunter, the everyday joe living from the woods. Love it! The Hostler specializes in one sort of common animal and becomes a superb trainer for this animal type and even command animals of other targets, including the bucking off of riders and some serious healing prowess - once again, a great little archetype that makes sense indeed and adds a bit of realism to a game world's demographic.


The trope of the adept urchin, the urban survivalist, is similarly wide-spread and very limited sneak attack as well as social skill-bonuses and a sanctuary-duplicating wide-eyed pity-based effect alongside a network of informants make sense and are fun indeed.


The expert class may now elect for the boxman specialization - obviously an expert of all things lock-related and a good base for escort missions or heist-based games, an in-game reason why adventurers would even bother with these guys - nice!!! Master Craftsmen are pretty much defined by their trade secrets, basically talents the class begins with at 1st level, +1 every 3rd level, including the option to make magic items faster as well as the substitution of alchemy for energy-damage-dealing spells when crafting, while the minstrel is basically a toned down bard with limited performances as well as an ability that makes foes target him with nonlethal means, representing well the trope of the minstrel bluffing foes to leave him alive.


The Warrior-class may also choose from new archetypes, the first of which would be the Deep Jungle Flesh Hunter, a poison using warrior with facepaint that enhances AC. Nice jungle-stalker-type/poison specialist. The Farm Soldier is particularly adept at using farm implements and an urban barbarian's rage (at -2 class levels) when nearby allies fall (and later, when he himself is damaged) - here, we btw. also get 100 sample items to be found in the possession of a peasant. Once again, not much to complain about. The pen-ultimate archetype herein would be the Siege Sapper, who codifies e.g. siege weapon barrage shots in rules-language, which is obviously contingent on sufficient siege engines. While this makes the archetype rather circumstantial, I can see e.g. PCs trying to take this guy out in sieges etc. The rules-language is not always perfect here, but it's precise enough, in spite of the relatively complex subject matter. So yes, I like that one. The final archetype would be the Yeoman, who may use bonus feats from Tides of War: Volley Shots (which I do not have) and the archetype receives e.g. melee use of bows and better bow use - the archetype is, as far as I can tell, relatively sound.


The pdf also does sport a new base class, the way trader, who receives d8, 6+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-Saves. The class gains bonuses to business-related skills and begin play with a free vehicle with which they can ply their trade. Additionally, wanderlust and the laws of supply and demand allow the trader to receive more gold as well as easy access to any black market at higher levels. In the end, the class becomes extremely adept at blending in and excellent selling margins as well as at-will know direction.


The pdf concludes with 3 pages of fitting weapons and items - from reinforced hoes and pitch forks to 4 different light armors, which, while solid, annoyingly lack the "+" in front of the respective Max Dex Bonus entries in the table.


Conclusion:


Formatting is VERY good this time around, at least for the most part. However, the editing on both a formal and a rules-level is pretty flawed, sometimes extending to the information required to correctly determine how an ability is supposed to work. An additional editing pass would have very much been appreciated here. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports beautiful, thematically fitting full-color art.


Frank Gori, Jeffrey Harris, Richard Litzkow, Taylor Hubler - the team here has crafted a book I most definitely will use. The archetypes herein are diverse and varied and cover a significant array of concepts that imho were in dire need of a representation, with quite a few of them making sense and inspiring adventures as well as a more concise demographic for the villages, cities, etc. out there. In fact, I really want to love this book, I really do - the content herein, with the notable exception of some of the adept archetypes, makes sense and works pretty much with no or next to no streamlining required.


The book, per se, is solid...though I wished it did one thing, and that would be to balance the archetypes among themselves. While all generally are somewhere between standard NPC-class impotence and PC classes, there is quite a significant difference between the archetypes of the adept and expert in power-levels, which means the pdf is less useful as potential PC-material for truly low-powered games. In such a context, this does require some tweaking by the GM to work on the same level - granted, this is not their intent per se, but if they had managed this feat, I'd be singing praises for this book and recommend this unanimously and sans "but"s.


I still am, in a way - you see, having played my own share of low powered games with classes and options like this, I can attest that the options herein provide meaningful choices without blowing the potency of the NPC-classes up too much. Beyond the potential of it, this book does achieve what it sets out to do - and that is something not to be underestimated. How many times did you ask yourself how those NPCs survive in a world of orcs and demons? Well, the archetypes herein make this more believable. While still a long shot away from PC competence, it makes sense that the forester can hunt and not die; that the nun can heal, that you need a boxman for the heist of the archmage's tomb...etc.


How to rate this, then? Well, in spite of the glitches, I pretty much love what this brings to the table and while I should probably penalize this more for its glitches, I can't bring myself to do it - for better and worse, this does allow for the telling of several compelling narratives and allows a capable GM to enhance the immersion of the campaign world by providing at least semi-capable NPCs that do not belong to PC-classes. In short: I like this book and though I wish it was more refined, I still adore what it does and sincerely hope there'll be a sequel or a streamlining down the road. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If the concepts even remotely interest you, then get it - while not perfect, this is well worth the asking price.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into The Breach: The Forgotten Classes
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Village Backdrop: Tigley
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2016 09:58:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


All right, just in case you're not familiar with Raging Swan Press excellent series of villages - here's the deal: Each village backdrop showcases one particular village, complete with settlement statblock and so much more: We get information on magic items for sale in the place, key NPC-information, notes on local nomenclature and lore that can be unearthed via Knowledge skill-checks as well as 6 local rumors and sample events - the latter of which should be considered to be adventure hooks the GM can develop into full-blown adventures or just use to add local color to the supplement.


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


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


Conclusion:


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


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


While there are several unique and compelling ideas herein, just throwing your PCs into the village will not write adventures in itself; unlike the best of the Village Backdrops, you'll need to prod a bit more, help craft a bit more investment and trouble, for Tigley could have used more pronounced conflicts that tie-in with its great local color - as provided, some minor disputes and a bully are the most prominent issues. In any other series, Tigley would be considered to be absolutely glorious, but considering the superb quality of the series as a whole, it does fall slightly short of the best in the series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Tigley
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Monster Menagerie: A Council of Genies
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2016 09:56:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rogue Genius Games' Monster Menagerie-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introductory page on the subject matter, the first creature featured herein would be the CR 6 Afara, genies of ash with a significant array of unique tricks - beyond being able to assume ashen form and increasing damage output, the sport a powerful retributive aura that may cause nearby creatures to choke as well as the option to spit embers. There are some minor inconsistencies here, though - the choking aura should imho have its save governed by Constitution or Charisma for more powerful afara, but that's just me being picky. More importantly, the ember spit should probably cause fire damage rather than untyped damage. The failure to properly codify elemental damage caused, unfortunately, extends to other genies as well - the CR 12 Electricus' arcing aura should clearly deal electricity damage; it doesn't. It's untyped damage. This extends to the ability to use said aura to ground and the creature even manages to get basic damage type wording in an admittedly cosmetic glitch wrong: It's "electricity damage", not "electrical damage" that should be added to their attacks - a glitch that extends further to other abilities, btw.


The CR 18 negative energy-themed Guayota has a Black Breath, a spinning mass of black energy that drains hp, which can be swallowed again to heal the genie. However, it can be destroyed by "a successful dispel magic or by being targeted by a sunburst or similar magic." Problem: This is SU, I have no idea of the dispel check's DC. How does that work with sunburst? Does the cloud move with the genie or does it remain stationary? What in the name of all nine hells are "similar magic"? That's just plain SLOPPY. The wording of an item-destroying ability lacks an activation action and first grants a save to avoid the broken condition, then RAW doesn't when it comes to destroying the item.


On the plus-side, the ice-themed CR 7 Hrimthur has a two-save, all 1d4 rounds ice-shard burst aura of cold and piercing that is solid, barring the lack of an activation action, which makes me assume it's automatic, though the verbiage implies otherwise. The CR 10 Inhabitors are intriguing in that they can hijack constructs and objects, but, alas, their object meld ability lacks an activation action, which is an odd oversight, for the construct-hijacking ability does cover that ground. Mireimer, the CR 4 mud-themed genies receive potentially suffocation-causing criticals that require water of Heal-checks to clear - not much to complain about this guy.


The shadow-based CR 8 obscurial is nasty - they can animate the shadows of foes: If the shadow slays its own, a greater shadow is born; if the owner slays the shadow, s/he is left shadowless and cursed (once again, sporting the wonderful "similar magic" verbiage) and they can make tools of shadow and even solid walls from the material, here with the CL properly taken into account, just fyi. On a slightly nitpicky note - I do believe that shadowcrafting should probably be faster than regular crafting, which it RAW is not. Additionally, how much hardness and hp doe the objects have? If e.g. an object can be fashioned from metal or wood, which one's stats are used for the sahdow duplicate? No idea.


The CR 5 Prince of Beasts can absorb poison and disease as a carrier and consume the souls of the helpless (creating ghouls) as well as rapidly shapeshift - nice! At CR 2, Spell Fetches horridly overpowered allies for any spellcaster - these guys can store spells and even scour the planes to retrieve and store spells for their masters, which the master then can cast or learn - yes, that's pretty much infinite spells. Worse, they can even get spells from other spell-lists their masters then can cast. Basically, this is an infinite wild-card scroll character with a minor cool-down...adn since they are available as improved familiars, they have the dubious honor of being the most overpowered familiar I know of.


The CR 7 Tephran can cause 5 foot squares to explode and would be a sadistic magma genie...not much beyond that, but I guess here's as good a place as any to comment on the fact that additional noble genie rules are provided for most, though not all of the genie herein.


The final creature herein would be the CR 18 Yazata, the positive energy counterpart to the Guayota, who receives a blinding pulse of light and a jittering euphoria-inducing (de)buff that makes concentration and offense pretty hard, but also doubles healing received in a nice duality - over all, a cool one.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good; on a rules-level, there are some serious blunders here, though. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color grimoire-style and is truly a sight to behold - and so are the numerous absolutely awesome original artworks by Jacob Blackmon herein, which inspired me more than any other component herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Sam Hing is a veteran among the designers and I am a bit stumped regarding this book; you see, I was pretty much ecstatic that we'd finally get new, unique genies herein - and there are instances, where the respective creatures are pretty much awesome in concept and flair. On the other hand, there are a lot of issues in here as well - in some instances, wording is simply imprecise, while in others, there are obvious and unnecessary minor hiccups. There would be the case of the most overpowered familiar ever...and a creeping sense of either development being aborted halfway through or the author oscillating between good days (making awesome creatures) and pretty bad ones, where mechanics fall flat. I don't know - but I do know that I went out of this pdf rather disappointed, thinking that the beautiful art and layout and cool concepts would have deserved better. A good GM can sure salvage all creatures herein and they are functioning, but I still feel this falls flat of its own potential and the standard established for this series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Menagerie: A Council of Genies
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10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2016 03:24:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second inexpensive pdf detailing basic villages for the explicit use of being a base for kingdom building clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this little pdf with the village of Appleton, famous for its flavored gins - and we are introduced to two signature buildings as well as three rumors pertaining the village. The salt-selling and rather nasty place Borley would be situated at the opposite end of the alignment spectrum at CE and a place of hardships and dangerous tasks. Deepmarble, defined by the marble quarries, similarly has a theme of hard work, though less grim.


Eastdeer, suffused with snakes of all types and sizes - for the village is famous for taming, training and selling snakes, though I'm surprised the medical/alchemical applications of snake venom have not been mentioned here - still, by far the most interesting village covered so far. Lorhayven, blessed by hot springs and obsidian mining as well as an academy seems like an interesting place as well. Redhurst is a terraced village cresting a hilltop, a river circling its base - which is solid.


Lawful evil Seahollow has an obvious layout glitch, where the fluff-text has entered right in the middle of the settlement statblock in one painfully obvious formatting glitch in the sheep fleecer's village. Straywyn may sound elven, but is a predominantly dwarven town defined by its gem mine.


Summercrest once again would be a rather unique village, with wheeled huts constantly on the move, drawn by alpacas, we have an excellent example of truly evocative concepts here, one that really showcases how great these minimalistic write-ups can be - kudos here!


The final village, Swynford, is defined by moderately successful iron, coal and sulphur mining as well as the training of ponies and makes for a solid, though less remarkable settlement.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty decent, though the aforementioned formatting glitch is pretty nasty. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are surprisingly beautiful and full color - kudos there!


Liz Smith's second array of Kingdom Seeds sports several nice, minimalistic village-write-ups to base a kingdom building game on or to simply throw into your game when you need a village. At the same time, the pdf does showcase some cases where the villages truly inspire with unique concepts and ideas...though at the same time, some of the villages felt pretty common to me. All in all, for the low asking price, this is a solid little book, though probably not one that will make you gasp in amazement. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills (PFRPG)
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