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101 Hill & Mountain Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2016 12:11:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This collection of spells clocks in at a massive 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with a massive 47 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so, as has become the tradition with these books, we begin with a general introduction before we get the spell-lists; as always in Dave Paul's spell-books, the respective environment has a significant impact on the respective mechanics, potentially changing the effects of the spell in question. In this installment, a leitmotif suffusing the spells would be the hybrid nature of hills, serving as a bridge between the wilderness and the civilized realms; as a whole, this duality and focus on the environment is pronounced.


Spell-list-wise, the classic classes, including the APG classes and magus are covered and bloodrager and shaman receive their own spell-lists as well. At least for now, the pdf does not directly provide support for the occult classes.


Now, let us take a look at the spells, all right? We begin with interesting spells, as they take a mechanically relevant stab at depicting altitude sickness and the means to counter it; beyond their mechanical ramifications, the spells have interesting operations done. The save DC for aforementioned spell is increased if the material component is taken from a sufficiently high mountain...which is simple, elegant and just awesome.


The series has been pushing the boundaries of spellcasting and what you can do with it - and so it should come as no surprise that there are spells in this pdf that are hard to judge in terms of their potency: Amphisbaenic caster, to name one prominent example: As a level 7 spell, it allows you to split into your own self and a shadowy duplicate. Yes, we've seen the like before, but bear with me: The duplicate actually has a significant array of options - it's not just an image, it acts like you do; spells are evenly distributed among the two and while the duplicate's effects cause less damage than the real caster's powers, the doubling of actions this entails is impressive and very powerful. It should be noted that the spell features several peculiarities that render it exceptional in the level of precision, but also make it slightly uncommon. The damage-decrease of the duplicate is, for example, an inverse take on usual shadow-themed spells: Where usually, such spells are only 20% real, here, the reduction of damage caused is subject to percentile effects. I am not against such effects, though it is slightly uncommon to employ such mechanics. Beyond that, the spell actually works better for casters with certain patrons or bloodlines, which is something I most definitely appreciate. The dual action mechanic is similarly precisely codified...and still, I'd call OP on this spell, were it not for significant risks involved with perished doubles, making this spell an option casters won't want to spam all the time. This balancing mechanism makes it actually work out - sure, it's a spell that requires some preparation by the player, but when employed, it is impressive indeed.


Speaking of balancing - the pdf is interesting in that spells like argentine's grace are variants of an already existing spell, increased in potency and balanced via unique, potentially story-hook worthy material components...in this spell's case, just fyi, a silver dragon's scale...


Of course, such variants tend to end up as the rather rare exception to the rule considering the spells otherwise found herein: Want to make your foes magnets for big boulders/avalanches or just conjure them forth to throw at foes or characters? Possible. (cough Giantslayer GMs, get this one /cough)


These would, however, not even be close to the spells you actually will keep in mind when reading this book. For example, which spellcaster than reaches lofty 9th level with actually resist the temptation of smashing enemies by literally letting a mountain top fall on them? Suddenly, "rocks fall, all die" has taken on a whole new dimension. A similar trope that just about every group will probably encounter at one point or another, the spell catapult ally is simply GLORIOUS. Why? Because it actually manages to codify the complex issues pertaining action economy implied by the action, one that is VERY hard to represent in the turn-based combat system, in a compelling and airtight rules-language. And yes, it takes weight and sizes into account.


If the mechanical aspects or high-level awesomeness are not what you're looking for, what about a low-level spell that lets you walk on clouds (long overdue!), the option to make cloud bridges or blasting cones of ash? It should be mentioned that the latter can be taken as a nice example for spell balancing and the value of secondary effects when compared to similar magic effects of the same level.


Not all of the spells are 100% perfect, though - if you look for nitpicks, tehre are a precious few to be found herein - a curse that unleashes an inner beast and devolves the target grants you bite and claw attacks - while the variable, size-based damage-values are accounted for, the spell does not specify whether the attacks are treated as primary or secondary natural attacks. Established conventions exist to make this omission a non-issue, sure, but it still would have been nice to see that specifically mentioned. An entrancing dance that compels those that succumb to it to accompany you conjures up images of Hekate-rites or the pied piper and cantrip-based infliction of light sensitivity on the target similarly makes sense.


Those of us who are into philosophy will enjoy a spell where the author's expertise show through - the illusion deep in the cave, based on the famous allegory of the cave in Plato's work, is genius - not only are the effects well codified, it actually manages to illustrate a complex concept easily, teaching a slightly simplified experience by the mechanics of the system. I LOVE THIS. Considering the fact that many a spellcaster in fantasy worlds is supposed to be hyper-smart, the absence of spells that illustrate complex and intriguing concepts by means of game-mechanics is something that has always galled me...so kudos...not only for the educational aspect this spell contains. While we're at it - what about a spell that eliminates your face and renders your whole body a sensory organ...albeit a deeply unsettling one? You'll get two cookie points from me if you can tell me the theory that one is based on!


If giant form is too generic for your tastes (and/or you need more variety for giant-themed campaigns...), variants for fire/frost giants in this book will have you covered. Transforming into nightgaunts or wyverns may be cool - but not half as cool as making floating hills or mountains. Yes. Floating mountains. Awesome. Using the pun-tastic Grimm Resistance, you can get a powerful buff versus the fey creatures. Generating a magic-powered movement to compel large amounts of people to dig for you may sound specific...but the spell is basically at least one adventure practically spelled out for you.


Tapping into the characteristics of the savage humanoids living in the hills via an array of spells would be another component of the book. Very unique: Phase runner lets you oscillate between the material and ethereal plane, becoming ethereal while moving and substantial while standing still/attacking - this sports a LOT of unique applications for tactics - and, interestingly, the spell takes mounts and vehicles and the like into account. Perhaps, you, as a high-level druid, are just fed up with the encroachment of civilization...if you are, just Raise Mountain Range. 2 square miles per level. The summon spells herein are nothing to sneeze at either - they contain actual simple templates to add at your convenience.


Oh, and to make that reference...since I'm from Germany, I need to mention this, in spite of not being the biggest fan of the whole volkstümliche Musik concept - there is a spell in here called yodel. Yes, you can reskin this one to work via smoke signs. Yes, it is kinda funny, but works. Yes, I will probably use it and require my players to actually yodel when trying to use it. Because that's how I roll. ;)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two column full color standard and features some neat artworks I haven't seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Dave Paul's spells are the most anticipated spell books for Pathfinder for me; let's not kid anyone. They're pretty much the only spell books I truly look forward to reviewing right now. I'm mostly burned out on spells and the significant majority of spells either is a variant on something or doesn't feel magical enough for me. Dave Paul's spells, on the other hand, either do something mechanically interesting, breathe a sense of the wondrous, stitch shut gaps in what spells let you do, provide unique tactical options...it may sound weird, but I actually prefer his spells and variants of other spells over many an "original" spell. Why? Because even his spell variants stand out with unique rules-operations or concepts that breathe the spirit of the fantastic to an extent unrivalled by just about every comparable book. It is a boon for a lot of authors that he got into the spell-writing gig only relatively recently; otherwise many a book of magic would have received less praises from yours truly. The terrain-based 101-spell-series raises the roof for the whole concept of spells and this is no different. Evocative and unique, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval, with an explicit extra recommendation for fans of giants, dwarves and humanoids and classic Against the Giants/Borderlands/Giantslayer-style gameplay.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Hill & Mountain Spells (PFRPG)
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Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald (5E)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2016 12:08:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first of Legendary Games' modules intended for new players clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Before we do, I should not be remiss to mention that this module features a handy "slightly advanced" spellcasting array of options used by some of the creatures herein -the module does sport some discrepancies regarding some spells that are due to the conversion from PFRPG's beginner's box: Bane, for example, is utilized in a version that does not require concentration. While I get why this decision was made, it is something 5e-purists may sneer at as an non-required complication - why not simply grant the creature in question a unique ability? This, however, remains the exception; for the most part, the rules, conforming to the simplified standards, work.


It should also be noted that this module is intended to be kid-friendly; as such, it features relatively straightforward themes of fighting bad guys and doing good; if political intrigue or shades of grey morality are what you're looking for, this may not be the place. I firmly believe in teaching via roleplaying games and kids should not just slog through combat upon combat - and the author seems to concur here, stating the directive that social and thinking skills should be challenged by modules as well.


As for the age-range, well, unless the kids in question are particularly sensitive, this module should be appropriate for kids ages 4 up; in case of very sensitive kids, 6+ would be a pretty safe bet. This does not mean that this module is "kid's stuff", mind you - it very much works for adults, but I'll get back to that in the conclusion.


Setting-wise, this module assumes the kingdom of Threll in the author's Terrallien world, which is a pretty "normal" fantasy world; as such, it is very easy to plug into other campaign settings - in this kingdom, the feyweald is basically a protected area, where the spirits of nature may roam free, unimpeded by Threllish civilization....and this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


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..


.


All right still here? A strange sickness has been plaguing the Feyweald and the nymph queen Pryhoza has asked for assistance from Threll's king Ambrose I, offering an alliance in return for assistance in this matter, which would in turn render diplomatic relations with reclusive druids a distinct possibility. The problem seems to be gift horse...and hence, enter the PCs, which are assumed to be members or associates of the Zekerian order, as denoted by magical amulets - these amulets also provide a safety net 1/day to prevent death and allow for some healing to further decrease the potential of player frustration. The 5e-conversion of the item is solid.


The group arrives at Northrunner Sound, scheduled to meet with the queen and her two advisors ( a leprechaun and a brownie), but an audience with the queen obviously requires the proper gifts - while the king has sent a whole chest, the hustle and bustle of sprites means that the PCs will have to rely on their wits and people skills to present the correct gift to the correct fey -this may be achieved via respective skill-checks.


This first social stumbling block out of the way, the feast begins, but as soon as the arboreal banquet is in full swing (and PCs get bored with the interactions), the party is, alas, crashed: Mites riding giant jumping spiders assault the party and it will be up to the PCs to defeat the threat. Here would be as good a chance as any to notice an aesthetic deviation from 5e-formatting standards in the statblocks: We have colons instead of full stops and e.g. Melee Weapon Attack and Hit are not properly italicized. Similarly, spells are not italicized properly in the respective statblocks. It should be noted, though, that these hiccups are aesthetic in nature and do not compromise the integrity of the creatures faced.


After the threat is eliminated, queen Pryozha confides in the PCs: An evil force has taken root in the feyweald, changing it, turning it and its creatures slowly evil, turning it Unseelie. For 5e-purposes, this quasi-template, a collection of abilities you can slap on fey creatures, has been included for your perusal. She asks them to seek out the threat and take care of it, but not before granting them a specific oil that is supposed to help them bypass the resistances of some fey - a valuable resource that the PCs hopefully use cleverly - and one whose effects have been modified to work better in conjunction with 5e's more rock-paper-scissors-style design paradigm.


On their way through the forests, the PCs will have a chance to help awakened badgers from a trap laid by unseelie brownies and fauns navigate where traps and mites await and encounter an aggressive bird that can be calmed down by smart players...and finally defeat a nasty unseelie giant toad...and finally, possibly the first underground complex ever awaits the players: The lost grove, where a sinkhole guarded by mites now speaks of the influence of a nasty, trapped being called Bayaga. In the pit of the grove where the PCs will have to defeat more mites, an unseelie sprite and faun and yaldira, in Pathfidner a forlarren, she, as the champion of the evil force Bayaga, has received a unique, conversion. The villains boast in good ole' traditional villain monologue and indeed, during the combat, bayaga creates a crystalline earth elemental as a form to fight the PCs - destroying it takes the unseelie curse from the afflicted fey. It should be noted that the crystalline boss does conform in rules-tricks to what earth elementals can do in 5e, which is a pretty nice touch!


Having defeated this threat, the PCs are hailed as heroes, are granted a blessing from the beautiful fey queen as well as masterwork items as a thank you - not bad for novice adventurers, and yes, PC death can be reversed...and Ambrose's favor/reward is nothing to scoff at either!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no grievous glitches, but there are some minor deviations from 5e-formatting conventions in the statblocks. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' neat two-column full-color standard for the series, though in an odd peculiarity, my readers depict some passages of text in slightly bolder letters than other paragraphs. This is purely aesthetic nitpickery, though. The original full-color artwork by Paul Pederson and Beatrice Pelagatti employed in the book is absolutely gorgeous and makes for cool handouts. Michael Tumey's cartography is similarly nice.


Paris Crenshaw's first kid-friendly module is fun, evocative and has a structure and feeling like a classic fairy tale, which it ultimately is. This renders it not only palpable for kids, it also can be fun for adults and with some rewrites, you can make it as dark as you want to. Structure and diversity-wise, this is pretty cool. That being said, at the same time, the traveling section through the forest and the final dungeon note paths the PCs travel, with letters and numbers pointing...nowhere. You see, the cartography is player-friendly, which is awesome - no distracting keys and hotspots can be found on them...well, on all of them but one, which is weirdly inconsistent. But the structure of the module seems to employ a bit of wilderness hexcrawling, some sort of choice regarding the path taken...and the maps provided do not help in that regard at all, which is weird to me; my theory is that the module was supposed to have player-friendly and GM-maps and they have been either mixed up or somewhat confused. Anyways, this is still a minor hiccup that does not detract too much from the quality of the module.


There would be one more slight complaint of mine, resulting probably from being somewhat spoiled by Playground Adventures: I am a firm believer in teaching children, at least to a certain extent, about morality in games, since it is an easy and unobtrusive manner to do so. Reinforcing good behavior and morals can be easily achieved in games. Personally, I would have loved to see the module actually feature the choice of how the PCs handle defeated unseelie entities more - a bit of interrogation and foreshadowing from prisoners, for example. The module does offer a means of reverting the unseelie transformation, which is a good thing in a kid-related context. This may be controversial, but I do believe that there is a didactic opportunity lost here - if the choice to keep the defeated unseelie alive or kill them was emphasized more, that well could upset some kids, true; at the same time, rewarding players for "doing the right thing" and only knocking the fey unconscious in the aftermath could have been a very educational experience for the players. I once did this in my games and as soon as the kids realized that good deeds would be rewarded, the motivation to be good increased significantly. Considering 5e's choice regarding killing or just subduing foes, this feels even more like a missed opportunity. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is something to consider when running this module, particularly for the younger ones.


The 5e-conversion of the rules from the original PFRPG-iteration was handled with care, though the 5e-version, to me, seems to actually be a bit more difficult...which is a good thing. Why? Because my players curbstomped everything to smithereens in the PFRPG-versions. Who said kids can't make killer-builds? 5e's less mechanics-centric focus does make the module feel a bit more rewarding.


Now one final note: This was originally written as part of a girl scout experience and honestly, running this module, with its sequence of civilization, banquet, hike, etc. in the downtime of a family trip to a national park or nature itself can be exceedingly rewarding: Take a break, play for half an hour, eat when the PCs are eating, get to the teensiest bit creepy final when it turns dark - the module very much features a structure not unlike a trip into the wild...and honestly, that's how I'd run it in a perfect world where I had the means.


Ah, right, the final verdict. All in all, Into the Feyweald is an evocative fairy tale to participate in; difficulty-curve wise, it is VERY easy, until the final encounter, where things get tougher. The module assumes a moderately competent GM and features a LOT of read aloud text, so no excessive experience is required on the GM's side - only enough to handle the key/map hiccup sans stumbling and the final encounter; if you can run that one, you're good...and it's not hard to run. The module is beautiful and fun, though it does not reach the absolute apex; its atmosphere is great and playful, but a couple of the finer aspects could have used a bit more guidance or specific rewards for actions. The balancing of the module generally worked better for me than in the PFRPG-version, but the slight deviations pertaining the statblock-formatting somewhat cancel that out. In the end, I consider this a good module for kids and a nice conversion with some slight room for improvement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald (5E)
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THE JÖTUNFOLK A Guide to the Jötunfolk of Rhune: Dawn of Twilight
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2016 12:06:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This racial supplement depicts the Jötunfolk race as employed in the Rhûne campaign setting. It clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/preface, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After the Ragnarök clock began its inexorable countdown to the end of days, the jötunfolk started roaming the lands; discarded and unwanted children of the Thrall Lords, exposed to jötunstones, these children were changed in the womb to be born into the shape of half-giants. Increased fertility of the land was the first sign of the influence of jötunstones- it seemed like a golden age in the waiting - but then the burðr morðvíg began, the birth murders, began and saw women die to the births of their monstrously large offspring, leaving countless fathers widowers. The ostracization and negative take on the jötunfolk has remained to this day, the stones now called dreyurgr, curse stones - and thus the Jötunfolk still roam the lands, feared testament of the taint of the land and the thrall lords' influence. Racial-information-wise, age, height and weight tables are provided for these supposedly cursed folks and nomenclature and the like is covered as well.


Racial trait-wise, the jötunfolk get +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha and are considered to be "Giant humanoids (giant)" - that should probably be Large humanoid (giant)...but then again, they are considered to be Medium until they are subjected to a spell or effect that alters their bodies, whereupon they exhibit bestial features, imposing a further -2 penalty to Charisma while in effect...which is interesting, but does it influence the availability of spells for Cha-based spellcasters? Jötunfolk receive a +1 bonus (should be racial) to CMB and CMD and get carrying capacity as though they were Large creatures and are treated as such for purposes of whether they can e.g. be swallowed whole. They also suffer a -1 penalty to AC. Their build does demand fuel, though, and thus they require twice the sustenance of humans. Jötunfolk get low-light vision and the Intimidating Prowess feat as a bonus feat. This feat can be exchanged, alternate racial trait-wise, with rock catching.


When casting divine spells not granted by the thrall lords, they suffer a -2 penalty to caster level checks and a -2 penalty to spell DCs due to their inherent connection with the Thrall lords. Their curse also manifests as healing-impediments: When cured by creatures not beholden to the Thrall lords, they halve the amount of healing received.


Now generally, I REALLY like the jötunfolk's racial set-up: Evocative, infused with setting fluff and cool ideas, the race has all the flavor of the half-giant trope and none of the Large-creature adventuring issues in small tunnels etc. However, at the same time, I need to note one thing: Formatting is really bad here. There are a lot of annoying, unnecessary deviations from presentation standards: Non-bolded ability names, no italicization in the spells, wrong type...Similarly, there's a paragraph after the attribute modifiers that lack blank spaces. This very flawed formatting can be seen in a lot of the content herein. Rock catching lacks the ability type, for example...etc.


On the more positive side, the classic Paizo-classes (Core, APG and magus + gunslinger) get favored class options. The pdf contains a new bloodline for sorcerors, the Jötunblooded bloddline, which lets you enchant a limited number of rocks per day and fling them at foes, turning them into lethal boulders as they fly and higher levels provide a potentially dazing bellow, the option to summon lesser giants and in the end, undergo giant apotheosis.


The pdf also provides rules for chain swords (F*** YES!) and they are pretty cool: the weapon is versatile and requires both a Str and Dex-check to quickly return to its base form...though, much like the giant's mitt allows the wearer to throw and catch boulders with it. Annoyingly, the weapons only have stats for their L equivalents, not for M or S versions. Yes, Jötunfolk may use Large weapons...but still a pity, considering how cool I consider both to be.


The pdf also contains 7 feats - here, the formatting is btw. precise: Beyond the obvious Rock Throwing and gaining the rock throwing and catching racial traits and throwing creatures, the feats also allow for a reach increase to 10 ft., a proper size increase to Large and a racial feat to increase the potency of spells and effects requiring sonic components (excluding verbal material components) increase in potency.


The p0df also contains 4 magic items - while the general presentation here is solid, spells once again have not been italicized. The items contain spaulders that allow for size increases, enchanted throwing stones...and a belt of lesser kin that allows the Jötunfolk to be treated as a regular humanoid for the "purpose of resolving spells (such as enlarge person or reduce person.)" Here, the italicization is there...but there's an issue: You see, giants already are humanoids in PFRPG. Don't get me wrong: I hate this and in my game, I use a lot of the fixes suggested in Legendary Games' Mythic Monsters-series to make giants less wimpy; and in Rhûne, it makes sense to hearken closer to 3.X's treatment of giants as a separate type...but as a stand-alone, when judged only within the context of this pdf...this item thus does NOTHING. Finally, a minor rune pebble that helps with against and against fear can be found. The pdf contains 3 spells, the first of which duplicates the animosity exhibited towards the Jötunfolk as a nice curse; beyond that, we have a 4th/5th level cold damage/slow-combination and a powerful high-level buff with the mantle of the thrall lords' champion, which includes a disease-causing gaze attack.


The pdf ends with perhaps one of the coolest aspects herein: The dreyurgr aura: This manifests as a vast array of strange effects that spread in a radius of 2d10 miles from the cursed stones -and the massive table is 95 entries strong, with the final entries denoting rolling twice or thrice, respectively. These effects are simply glorious if you're looking for magical, rules-relevant effects of weird magical zones and areas, this table delivers: Women don't need to sleep; universal poison immunity; using sticks as wands with random charges (though that could use CL-info); no lying; tasteless meat, fish that are black on the inside - this section is narrative gold and ends the pdf with a positive bang.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, particularly formatting, is what deprives this pdf of the honors it is due. Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous two-column full-color standard that is thankfully relatively printer-friendly due to a lack of colored background. The pdf sports multiple Paizo-level drop-dead gorgeous artworks that are simply astounding. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.


Mike Myler's stand-alone Jötunfolk-pdf has since been revised and included in the Rhûne campaign setting and I'll soon return to it in the context of review for that one, when I'll also analyze it within the overall context of Rhûne. This review just pertains this file, as an isolated entity.


As a standalone book, this pdf does feature a truly imaginative race with great fluff and horribly botched formatting in some cases. The rules-language isn't bad either, but it isn't always as precise as you'd want it to be. Concept-wise, this is a definite 5 stars book and it does have all the makings of a unique and evocative race; I am not a fan of the lopsided design that gears them towards the martial bent, but that is a matter of taste. However, the editing and formatting of this book leave much to be desired, in contrast to the jötunfolk's presentation in the final book,.


Try as I might, I can't go higher than 3 stars on this file; that is not to say that is has nothing to offer you, though: The extensive dreyurgr table, for example, constitutes a great little resource and the pdf is relatively cheap, particularly considering the glorious artwork.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
THE JÖTUNFOLK A Guide to the Jötunfolk of Rhune: Dawn of Twilight
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ZEITGEIST #11: Gorged on Ruins (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2016 11:43:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The 11th module of the groundbreaking Zeitgeist AP clocks in at a massive 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 85 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This is an adventure-review and as such, it contains SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion. You do NOT want to SPOIL this saga for yourself.


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..


.


All right, only prospective GMs around? Sure? All right! The sun and stars are gone and the dread conspiracy of the Obscurati control the world, with the nation of Risur being the sole bastion against the powers that redefined a world's very fundamental rules. In the last adventure, Godmind, the PCs not only will have duked it out with creatures far beyond what most APs deliver as final bosses; they also saved Cherage, capital of Danor, from a fate most horrific and undermined the conspiracy's influence in global politics...and if Danor thus drags its feet, Risur will have at least some time...but ultimately, it is but a matter of time before the nation falls under the combined military force of the obscurati.


Unbeknown to the nations of Ber, Drakr and Crissillyr, there are not in for easy pickings and the calamities that befell Danor would only be heralds of the dread things to come. Now here, the module branches a bit in playstyles: If you want to go full-blown Justice League, swooping in via an airship will have you covered - and yes, including travel distances handily collected in a table. If you prefer (more likely, imho) more deliberate planning and smarter moves as a modus operandi after a whole campaign of intrigue and espionage, then the module supports that playstyle as well.


I was talking about apocalyptic calamities, right? Well, turns out breaking the Axis Seal did open the world to interlopers: The dread Gidim have taken root within the nation of ber, feeding on the psychic forces of the populace; via infiltration and invisible eye-like oculi patrolling the streets - the PCs are contacted by the executores dola liberta, an elite cadre of Berian lawkeeping women - which will bring them, quite probably, to Berian Ursaliña - a land, whose ruler Bruce Shantus may well have been saved by the adventurers in module #6. Glaucia, a gnoll and one of the executores, has detected that something is amiss and offers an alliance if the PCs look into the whole matter - and as they discuss matters, the first assassination attempt is sprung, as high-level Ob killers attack-


A timeline for the Ursaliña-investigation is provided and the PCs better don't drag their feet, as the gidim 's cerebreal mesh is draining the spirits of the locals, slowly building towards a massive cataclysm for the country and perhaps even the world - think of the whole investigation here, with numerous social scenes, as a combination of "reap what you have sown" meeting a dystopian, spirit-draining surveillance state engendered by a grey eminence. The strangely apathetic and sad populace, the requirement for high-level tricks to avoid get past the forces of the gidim - the whole section has a very unique flavor I haven't seen done before in PFRPG, where high-level modules tend to become either sandboxes, epic crawls or combinations thereof due to the system-inherent limitations. While the section cannot possibly account for all player capabilities at this level, it does a neat job - and yes, dealing with gidim bases and meeting up with old aquaintances who may have switched sides in the Obscurati's new world render this section a rewarding experience indeed.


Ultimately, though, the PCs will have to find the massive gidim leviathan hidden in the nation - a collossal ship of flesh and steel - think of it as a disturbing, quasi-cthulhoid THING. Now, obviously it will take off and attack and ship-to-ship combat is a very real chance...unfortunately using teh rather bad naval combat rules employed by the AP - I'd strongly suggest using Frog God Games' Fire as She Bears instead...or go for the imho more interesting route: You see, the authors seem to have understood that not everyone enjoys the rules employed and thus, the interior of the leviathan is actually mapped like a living dungeon. So yes, infiltrating the thing, an appropriately epic undertaking, may thwart the imminent feeding of the gidim homeworld...provided the PCs can prevail against the powerful gidim commander.


So that would be the first threat of apocalpytic proportions. Well, guess what? Drakr has seen better days as well: Grandis Komanov's army of doomsday eschatologists besiege Bhad Ryzhavdut, bolstered by not 4, but 5 legendary riders, this world's 4-horsemen analogue if you will, to reclaim the eye of the dread fey titan Voice of Rot. Oh, and the riders? Well, they're now undead titans. Granted, one may well betry the others out of spite...but still. The issue is not simply stopping the exceedingly powerful messiah of the end-times...it is about stopping the very idea that has infected the minds of eschatologists - and so, while confrontation, warfare and the like may well be possible takes on the issue, actually managing to destroy the eschatologist hivemind, their endzeitgeist, if you will (that was weird to write!) may be the smartest and most prudent thing to do.


This is not the end, stopping an army of doomsday cultists is not the high point of this module - Morgan Cippiano asks for assistance on behalf of the ecclesiastical monarchy Crisillyir: The sacrament of apotheosis, which may have been in the hands of the dread eschatologist mastermind, but it most definitely has found its way into the hands of former Godhand Vitus Sigismund - and he is holding public trials for the deities of the world, sentencing them to death for their crimes...and actually KILLS THE GODS. Every two days, a god falls - and with the deity, a lot of the followers fall as well. Stakes high enough for you? Once again, there are quite a few means to handle Vitus Sigismund and actually find the ritual of the axis seal, which may be the only hope for the world...but how to go about everything? Consulting with the powerful Dons, the PCs will have to establish a strategy and while multiple courses of actions are possible, the most rewarding would pertain the journal of Triegenes, held within the dread Crypta Hereticarum - so there is a good chance that this is where the PCs will go. Oh, have I mentioned that the heavenly host, bound by powerful vows, is actually on the side of Vitus? Arrival at the tainted place may not only allow the PCs to reconnect with a powerful demon, Ashima-Shimtu, and free her...it also well may pit the PCs against a whole host of angels, as the breaking of the Axis Seal brings millennia of prayers down upon the place to eradicate everything inside...including, potentially, the journal they need to save the deities. Oh, and even if the PCs succeed here, they still have to actually win the trial - for, like before, the true fight is not about slaying foes, it's about establishing the supremacy of ideas over one another. Unfortunately, Vitus does not take kindly to being defeated...and conjures forth a nice little 300-feet lava dragon. Oh, and the PCs don't have the power of Risur's rulership to back them up...but they do have an airship and hopefully the avatar of Triegenes...but still: Cr 25, if you're interested...the thing is a genocide machine and defeating it will take serious creativity...oh, and aforementioned demon...she may make for an alternate boss as well.


The pdf comes with several handouts - news, a primer on the horrible defensive situation of Risur, maps and letters - the supplemental material is, as we've come to expect, of high quality.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, no complaints in that department. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with nested bookmarks. The artworks range from awesome to solid and generally are full-color with few b/w-stock images thrown in. The pdf is layered and lets you eliminate the graphics on the borders etc. to make it less draining on the printer - kudos!


Liz Courts and Ryan Nock deliver basically 3 evocative campaign-ender modules in one; each of the chapters in this book features the epic depths and stakes one usually only sees in a campaign finisher...and there are 2 modules to come beyond this one! While Zeitgeist has always cheated a bit with the rules and precise modifications of how specific components work, with the breaking of the axis seal and the unfettering of magics, that has gone...and the module embraces the issues of high-level adventuring in a smart way: Instead of focusing on slogs, whittling down PCs in drawn-out battles and grinding everything down to a crawl, the book and the AP's focus on ideologies and ROLEplaying, the means to influence whole nations and ideologies, makes this module stand out. The minor weaknesses of the AP can still be found - when I see a DC 15 check at these levels, I shake my head and there are some minor deviations in the implicit conventions of what type of check a certain action would require to resist. This does take a massive backseat, though; this module's selling point (and that holds true for the whole AP, as far as I'm concerned) were not the mechanics.


It was always the story that dares to demand smart and engaged players and GMs, that dares to weave a yarn beyond the old structures, that focuses on roleplaying and consequences, on free will and the interactions of unique ideologies. In contrast to the old "then the world is doomed" scenarios, here, the stakes REALLY feel high; bereft of the tools that helped them defeat the forces of the fey titans, the PCs this time around are reduced to their wits and considerable, demigod-like powers - and not to slay another demon lord, prevent another meteor...this time, nations and all its inhabitants are at stake; people the PCs know...and their deaths would not even be the damn point of the whole thing! The world turns towards annihilation and it is up to the PCs to try to halt its inexorable spin towards calamity.


Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of opportunity for the PCs to flex their level 19 muscles against foes that are actually worth going up against - but the true achievement of this module is to one up the threats faced in the installment #10: There is, at least for the thinking woman/man (which I assume your group belongs to if this module interests you) more satisfaction in the awesome roleplaying this requires; there is simply more at stake than just fighting titanic beings - this module depicts the war on the very souls and minds of a world. How much more epic can you get? We'll see. Two modules to go.


Is this perfect? No. But it is one absolutely superb module and at this level-range, the only other module I'd consider on par with it, but with a completely different focus, would be the legendary Colliseum Morpheuon, which handles the challenges of highest level gameplay in a radically different way. In short: This is an excellent high level module that transcends in scope and stakes just about every module I know. 5 stars + seal of approval; this further fortifies Zeitgeist's status as the premium ROLEplayer's AP and with only 2 modules left to drop the ball, it is already a monument to smart storytelling.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #11: Gorged on Ruins (Pathfinder RPG)
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Remedial Tinkering - Obligatory Lovecraft Expansion
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2016 11:30:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This expansion of the tinker-class clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


"It had to be done." This simple sentence and the very title made me smile. It takes cojones to choose such a title...and make its very introductory title actaully kinda funny. So yes, this would be the "obligatory Lovecraftian expansion" of the tinker's options...but is it on par with the more evocative tinker-expansions?


As we have so far established a ton of new descriptors in the expansions and the pdf thankfully collates all of them for your convenience; the content herein ties into the absolutely GLORIOUS Happy Little Automata-expansion (aka provide unique paint-jobs that allow for combo-tricks!) - and if you don't have that one yet, you should certainly get it. If you absolutely don't want to, you don't have to, though - only one of the inventions herein has the paint descriptor. The pdf introduces a new subtype invention, the tentacle invention. Only a single tentacle invention may be added to a given blueprint and since it directly influences the grafted tentacle, benefits only come into play when the tentacle is actively used.


We begin this supplement with two innovations: Tentacle Savant nets you the grafted tentacle invention as a bonus invention, treat it as a 2nd level invention with a BP cost of 2. In addition, all tentacle subtype as though their invention level was 1 lower for the purpose of learning them and adding them to blueprint. The second innovation, Wiggly Decorator, builds on it: Tentacle subtype inventions are treated as though they had the design descriptor and grafted tentacle (here not italicized properly) is treated as though it had a BP cost of 1.


The pdf also sporst a greater innovation, namely non-euclidean pathfinding...and it is a truly unique one: Automatons using diagonal movement get +10 ft. to their movement rate and don't provoke AoOs when moving diagonally. This is so simple and cool, I honestly found myself wondering why utilizing diagonal movement this way has not been done before. Two thumbs up!


The pdf also features no less than 15 inventions: All-seeing eye nets automata darkvision 60 ft.; conduit of revelation grants automata a kind of aura that allows other characters an insight-bonus to Knowledge checks. Automata with speakers can gain a retributive tune-in to the dimensions of madness, rendering foes that attack the automaton shaken on a failed save. There also are inventions for the discerning kamikaze directive (but not contingent kamikaze directive): Lingering vestige Adaptors let the automaton remain standing after executing the kamikaze directive at 1 hit points, with limited use inventions reduced to 0 uses. The improved variant, the lingering bestige autonomy module lets the automaton use a limited-use self-targeting invention as a free action before setting the uses to 0, allowing for combo-set-ups via kamikaze directives. Particularly considering the squirming tentacles invention: Unlike what one would expect, this one does not build on grafted tentacle and thus does not have the tentacle subtype; instead, the kamikaze directive is modified to display squirming, flaming tentacles that impose the entangled condition on those hit by the kamikaze directive.


Aforementioned paint invention, bile green paint, imposes a penalty on Will-saves on those hit by the automaton. Automata with a maintenance mode are not destroyed at 0 HP, but rather at -10 HP; between 0 and -10 HP, the automaton is in maintenance mode, which behaves basically like the unconscious bleeding out so many mortal creatures of flesh are prone to. There also would be two strange aeons inventions: The strange aeons parser has you roll a d20 and record the result upon deploying the automaton; this roll may later be substituted for a d20 roll executed by the automaton, but only once and before results are made known. The follow-up invention, the strange aeons precognition device lets you use that result even after results are made known.


Now, this has been pretty much a tradition, so I expected that: The one tentacle restriction imposed on the tentacle subtype? With the dual tentacle invention, you can ignore it and use up to two tentacles at once. Additionally, the benefits of the grafted tentacle invention are maintained when making use of a single invention with the tentacle subtype - the other tentacle can cover for it, after all! Tentacles! Finally! So, what modifications for tentacles are available? Itchy trigger tentacles works with grafted tentacle...and it must, for it allows the tinker to issue a kamikaze directive as a free action after an automaton successfully hits with the tentacle, but only at halved tinker level for the purpose of the kamikaze directive.


Prehensile tentacles allow the automata to wield one-handed melee weapons in the tentacle, adding reach to it. Sticky tentacles is cool: The tentacle emits a sticky good that duplicates the effects of spider climb constantly...and finally, sludge launchers, usable as a directed standard action, allow the tinker to have the automaton fire a blast of adhesive goo at a target within 60 feet. This is a ranged touch attack and entangles the target for 2 rounds on a successful hit. The grafted tentacles remains inoperational until the master's next turn after being used.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good: The rules-language is as precise and to the point as I've come to expect from Bradley Crouch. On a formal level, italicization and the like isn't as concise as in most Interjection games-books; I noticed a couple of "requires" erroneously italicized. Only cosmetic glitches, though. The pdf sports nice b/w-stock art and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Bradley Crouch's "Obligatory Lovecraft Expansion" is a cool addition to the tinker's arsenal. Using diagonal movement type as a game-relevant basis for unique tricks is actually something I have never seen before - and in an engine as versatile and long-used as Pathfinder, that's indeed something! Similarly, the respective inventions are fun an evocative, though I honestly wished the pdf had a means to kamikaze a tentacled automaton and "spread the taint" of the tentacle to another, non-tentacled automaton...it would have worked well within the context of the theme. Oh well, that kind of combo-potential may perhaps be found in a future expansion...if I may suggest a title there: "Lovecraft Expansion II: Non-euclidean bugaloo." I'm kidding, of course - I'd actually want to see that!!


All in all, this is a fun, cool expansion to the tinker and, in spite of very minor formal hiccups, this is well worth 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remedial Tinkering - Obligatory Lovecraft Expansion
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Craft Points - Redux
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2016 11:28:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Well, before we do - many of you will know already that I'm a pretty big fan of Downtime-rules, crafting and the like. But the matter of the fact is that not all campaigns will take to these rules to the same extent; indeed, there are campaigns where time is of the essence or where, within a vast dungeon-complex, establishing a crafting base, keeping it secure, etc., represents a complication that is simply not desired by either group or GM. As a person, I am firmly in the camp of believers that this can be a truly awesome and evocative experience...but I absolutely understand why quite a few groups dislike the notion.


It is for said groups that this system was created. To craft an item without spending the normal labor time, a character with an item creation feat can pay 1/10th of its market price in craft points (minimum 1, rounded up). The character also must pay 1/2 the item's market value in GP and once these are spent, the item is finished the next day. The rationale is that the character had been working on the item for a while and only now has finished it. Anyone helping in the creation of items can contribute craft points - characters with the appropriate craft feat can contribute full craft points, while those that lack the respective feat can only contribute them on a 2 for 1 basis - for every 2 points spend, they pay for 1 craft point.


Magic items require a Spellcraft check versus DC 5 + CL; failure of more than 5 on this check results in a cursed item. You may reduce craft point cost by spending more time on an item - for every 100 sp worth of work as per the Craft skill, you decrease the craft point cost by 1.


A handy table provides some examples for items made with this system and their respective costs. Beyond these, the pdf provides Craft DCs Redux - quarterstaffs and slings or casting plaster would be very simple DC 5 items, for example, while e.g. alchemical dragons or CR 16+ traps would be extremely intricate at DC 35. The system is very simple and easy to grasp and 2 sample examples help illustrating the use of these DCs.


The question obviously remains - how do you get craft points and prevent them being spammed like crazy? Well, a 1st level character has 100 craft points and every subsequent level nets the new level times 100 additional craft points. Creatures of Int 3 or higher also have craft points as though their HD was equal to the level. Creatures too dumb to Craft (less than Int 3) don't get craft points and familiars, eidolons etc., i.e. all class feature creatures, don't get craft points. A handy table collects craft points gained by level and total craft points accumulated. And yes, the ardent reader may have noticed that the limitation imposed on craft points means that there is a kind-of-but-not-really crazy prepared flexibility inherent in the rules presented - though whether you perceive that as a bug or feature depends, ultimately, on your own stance.


Now obviously, this necessitates a closer look at the item creation feats and indeed - the pdf does take a look at them - including the creation of technological and psionic items, with a handy table providing the number of craft points the respective item creation feats net you. These do include craft feats for the creation of alchemical items and master work items as well as a feat that can be taken multiple times to allow for craft point accumulation; basically, in order to offset a sudden, massive influx of instant masterwork weapons, the system imposes a feat-tax on them, which does make sense, as the instantaneous generation of these items would by every craftsperson would detract from the intended flavor...and it does retain an emphasis on the importance of specialists that would otherwise be lost.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column 6'' x 9'' standard and the pdf has no bookmarks or artworks, but doesn't necessarily require them at this length.


Mark Gedak's Craft Point Redux rules, to make that abundantly clear, are not made for me or my group; I am firmly in the planning/deliberation-camp; heck, we have a whole private board for planning, downtime activity, etc. and regularly checking it and taking a look what the characters do "in the meanwhile" is a pretty constant source of joy for me. That being said, I know that not all parties have this luxury; there are con games and groups that only rarely meet...or that simply don't share my love for the nit and grit of planning and simulationalist gameplay.


While the craft points introduced here represent an abstraction I won't use in my own games, I certainly see the significant merit this system can have for groups that want to focus "on the action." For such groups, this represents an intriguing and very simple system you can introduce without much hassle or fanfare. The book-keeping is minimal (apart from craft point tallies) and the implementation elegant, the explanation of the system didactically feasible.


Oh, and this is "Pay what you want." You can actually get this installment for exactly 0 bucks, check it out and then leave a tip you'd consider appropriate...and it is my staunch belief that for some groups out there, this will be a godsend of a file. For what it is and considering the no-risk nature of this pdf, this is very much worth 5 stars. It may not be for me as a person, but it sure may be just what your group wanted!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Craft Points - Redux
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Legendary Classes: Quartermaster
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2016 06:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 26.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The quartermaster is the lord of equipment - as a framework, the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor proficiency. He may disarm magical traps as though he was a rogue and traps disarmed by him can be re-armed as a move action. The class may use Appraise instead of Perception to spot valuables and also use the skill to identify magic items. The class gets half class level to Appraise, Craft, Disable Device and UMD and all of these skills are governed by Int for the quartermaster.


At first level, the quartermaster receives resources equal to his Intelligence modifier, minimum 1. This behaves much like grit or panache, though the points do have an anti-kitten-abuse caveat (YAY!) and inflicting negative conditions via devices or directly can restore a point. The quartermaster unsurprisingly also gains deeds; unless otherwise noted, they can be used multiple times per round, though reduction of resources points is only applied to the total, not per activation. Some of the deeds require certain pieces of equipment to perform. The starting tricks of the class are already pretty interesting: There is, for example, a deed to throw nearby allies a given item, granting them temporary proficiency, provided the quartermaster has it himself. Crafting of makeshift tools and weapons is also one of his tricks.


Equipment bonuses and masterwork bonuses are doubled for the class and a quartermaster may use broken items as though they did not have that condition. 3rd level unlocks exceedingly fast (free action drawing of weapons, sheathing, reloading...wait, reloading? Yes, this would be an issue to be aware of: If you're not using firearms balanced by massive reload action-economy penalty, this is no issue...but if you do, I'd instead go for a reduction instead here. Pretty cool: One minute of set-up work can be done in a single move action. That collapsible tub or altar? Fwhump and it's there! That armor? Pretty quickly donned. Also at third level, the quartermaster may apply to bonus granted by dangerous devices to one of his attacks. What is dangerous devices? Well, at 2nd level, any piece of equipment that is not a weapon or trap increase their DC to spot and resist by +1 and attacks with them by +1. Furthermore, these bonuses increase at level 4 and every 2 levels thereafter. Oh, and yes, the damage for the item becomes +1d6 of its usual damage type (including nonlethal damage caveat for items that usually don't inflict damage), +1d6 at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter, making this somewhat sneak-y. And yes, you can beat ogres with rotten fish to a pulp. Fans of Asterix will definitely get a smile out of this ability. To avoid abuse, this damage may be inflicted once per turn, which provides a cap not dissimilar to the cryptic's. Starting at 3rd level, dangerous device bonuses versus objects are always applied and from kicking doors in to using Disable Device to break them in, there is some serious sapper vibe going on here.


But back to the deeds:3rd level also unlocks further mastery regarding the perception of traps and at 7th level, repurposing e.g. stills and similar devices to make it "look like an accident" is possible...and exceedingly fun and creative. The 7th level ability is Thrift is also intriguing: Items with charges or daily uses can be used by the quartermaster sans expending a use/charge by instead substituting points of resources, with magic items costing 1 point of resources per charge and one-use magic items costing 2 points of resources; mundane items are free. This is at once an interesting ability and one that can be problematic - considering the fact that CL or cost of the item in question do not feature in, this can be abused like crazy, right? I have bashed stuff like this before...so how does the class offset this issue? It is simple and friggin' genius: This ability only works if the quartermaster has 3 of the items in question or more. That unique staff or total destruction? Nope. You still can get a lot of mileage out of items, but you won't get infinite healing and nor will you unintentionally break the game with the class when an adventure assumes a powerful, unique item. This is simple, elegant and genius. Finally, there would be weapon leverage, which allows adds constant bonuses to weapons with specific types or qualities: All flails are treated as though the quartermaster had Improved Reposition, for example. Additionally, the weapon groups/qualities have associated bonus actions that require points of resources and either a swift or immediate action to activate.


11th level allows for more costly, but longer lasting item-use instruction and 11th level provides universal equipment tricks at the cost of points of resources. Which brings me to the second focus of the class: Starting at 2nd level, the quartermaster gains the Equipment Trick feat and extends the benefits of the feat to those he instructs in the use of the item-type. The feat is gained an additional time every 2 levels thereafter. At 11th level, even those not covered via the feats can thus be temporarily gained. Starting at 11th level (and increasing in versatility at 15th and 19th level), the quartermaster can imbue certain qualities in objects, making them e.g. count as adamantine etc., thus alleviating the DR/resistance-bypassing issue that improvised weapon specialists get sooner or later. Starting at 15th level, easier take 10s may be nice...but imho cooler would be the option to destroy costly magic items to generate bursts of magical energy depending on item CL and school...or...and they can deal nonlethal damage versus constructs and then take them over. 19th level provides animate objects, AoE air walk and a costly wish. On a nitpicky side, while these modify the base spells and their effects, it's slightly odd that the airwalk-granting deed is SU, while the other two are SP - I assume this is due to the free action activation, but imho, the potential AoO would still be justified here. This is just personal preference and will not feature in the final verdict, though.


You probably have expected it, so I'll just come out and say it: Yes, the class has a crazy prepared ability, which would be deep pockets. This allows the quartermaster to carry 50 gp times class level unspecified equipment and the ability interacts properly with the other class abilities like makeshift item creation etc. The ability has a "reasonable carry"-caveat for unwieldy objects. Now here's the thing: Of all the numerous iterations of such an ability, this is only the second that managed to get the "no specific items"-caveat right; combined with the unwieldy-objects-caveat and a "separated from equipment"-caveat...


DRUMROLL


...this is, ladies and gentlemen, the VERY FIRST CRAZY PREPARED ABILITY I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO ISSUE WITH!! It happened. I can't believe it. So beautiful... _


Starting at 3rd level, the class may substitute Disable Device for Craft skills pertaining the use or repair of items (but not their creation!) and 4th level unlocks an interesting one: Weapon specific feats like Weapon Focus are applied to all weapons he is proficient with. 5th level allows the character to acquire gear beyond what would usually be available in a given setting and also nets evasion. At the same level, quartermasters may spend a full-round action to inspect the gear of a creature standing attention to convey his pack rat ability's benefits...and yes, this can be applied to vehicles. Pack rat? Yep, gained at 2nd level, medium load or encumbrance is treated as light instead, but sans affecting carrying capacity. (Note to self: My girlfriend has this ability - she is at least a 5th level quartermaster!)


At 5th level and every odd level thereafter, the quartermaster also gains one "uncommon" proficiency - firearms, exotic ranged weapons (should exclude firearms), shields, siege weapons...you get the idea. At 9th level, buying more than10 or more identical items, the class gets all at half price...but when he resells them, he'll get blacklisted...so no abuse here either. (And yes, this makes ammo dirt cheap...but at 9th level, we're beyond the levels where that matters too much even in most low magic groups.) Improved evasion is gained at 13th level and at 17th levle, when attacked by a trap, the class may Reflex save even against Will- or Fort-using traps


The class comes with a ton of favored class options that include uncommon races like kitsune and ratfolk as well as some Porphyra-races like the Xesa....and they tend to be interesting: 1/7th of a move action exclusively to manipulate objects can make a real difference in play and comes sufficiently high-priced to not upset lower level gameplay. Kudos for not phoning those in!


Next up would be the feat-section, which not only reprints Equipment Trick for your convenience - it also provides means to increase the range of quartermaster abilities or equipment tricks with range. And yes, the pdf explains that this is NOT telekinesis. Earlier deed access (with a trade in towards Signature Deed at 19th level) can be found herein and is one of the instances where I have to be an A-hole: This feat has the (Resources) subtype, but does not specifically note resources as a prerequisite, which can become problematic with other deed-using classes. And yes, I am aware of the intent here, but RAW, that's what's here. Extra resources, multiclass support and Improved Brace, which reach fighter builds will LOVE complement this section.


Of course, the quartermaster is about equipment...so what about armored boots in different qualities and oversized caltrops in different power-levels? Yes, you can have colossal 64 lbs. caltrops. Friggin' cool! Safety nets, mithral poles...pretty neat!


Oh, and then there would be a TON of equipment tricks - including ones for blankets, anvils, balloons, censers, furniture, scabbards, horns, maps, mirrors, prosthetics, soap water, sunrods...and I haven't even scratched the surface yet! We're not talking about one trick either, but about multiple per item type! The respective prerequisites make sense in their context and the pdf closes with a sample level 1 furnace elf quartermaster.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting adhere to the tighter examples; while there are some deviations from the default rules-language like "count" instead of "treat" in some cases, the language manages to actually cover the highly complex operations in a precise manner when it counts; all deviations I noticed were purely aesthetic in nature. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and the pdf has no artwork apart from the nifty cover. Yes, this means that this is a VERY long, very dense book for the low asking price. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, though they only point towards the chapter headers.


Carl Cramér's quartermaster was a class I had absolutely no desire to playtest. I'm not a fan of deeds being fixed and prefer player agenda/choice. I have not seen a single class or ability that managed to get the crazy prepared aspect 100% right and this class is built around just that. Urgh.


You know, sometimes I'm really glad I do this reviewing thing. I would have totally missed out on an awesome class. The bonus damage it can dish out makes the quartermaster relevant in combat, though the primary focus will be support; but unlike many a class, this one is not just about skills or a set array of parameters and stratagems. I remember some blurb talking about this being teh wizard of skill-classes and I'd actually disagree vehemently. While the quartermaster does share in common that his whole trick set-up and trap-making boils down to an option array not unlike spells, the class plays best in the hands of spontaneous and creative players - whether they be kids or adults, the class can deliver brutal slapstick that is mechanically relevant or be an awesome representation of the non-explosion-based sapper/trapper/handyman-trope.


Yes, the pdf has some minor rough edges like the feat, the weapon proficiency group hiccup and a couple of minor rules-language guffaws. Know what? Ignore them. The only reason I mentioned them in the first place is because I have to as a reviewer.


This class may not be perfect, but IT IS GLORIOUS.


No, really. It will take a bit to understand it. Playing it actually helps get a feeling for the action economy and the vast potential this has. Think of these guys as non-psionic cryptics with a mundane flavor that are efficient support-characters. I love this class. It may stumble in some minor cases, but instead, it gets the big things right; the highly complex rules-operations like the crazy prepared bit, the bonus damage bit, etc. All of this, however, does not really account for the best thing about this class: How it plays.


The quartermaster is, in short, ridiculously fun to play. Let me reiterate: Back in 3.X, when I ran "Night of the Living Dead" in my Ravenloft campaign, it was for 7th level PCs (as opposed to 1st level, for which the module was designed) and I rewrote...everything. I basically went full blown zombie apocalypse. My players had no ammo left; no charges. Melee weapons were breaking left and right (I'm a bastard)...so, at one point, they started looking through their backpacks and found soap, shovels and the like...and proceeded to get creative to...well. Not die. To this day, one of the stories that always comes up is the one, where the kensai threw a shovel and decapitated neatly a zombie with a crit, creating an avalanche on soapy terrain. This class is this scene, made into a class.


Unlike a wizard, who has a set paradigm of effects codified as spells, the quartermaster has items. Items we partially know in real life. As such, we have a stronger connection to them...and an easier time getting creative with them. In short: Much of the joy this class offers stems from the hard-coded rules for effective innovation this framework offers. Creativity has a higher role here than with most prepared casters...and it's what makes this class so fun. Don't get me wrong - the quartermaster is NOT a weak class; it does have mechanical oomph enough. But the most fun with it will be had by the die-hard roleplayers that really like coming up with uncommon solutions...and in such, this class, as strange as it may sound, actually feels like it brought a bit of that old-school feeling back, when PCs improvised with items much more because not everything was buried beneath a wall of feats/abilities.


This then, to me, would be the crowning achievement of the class beyond its precise take on complex concepts: It does account for and codify PFRPG's requirements regarding the precision of feats and ability-availability...but at the same time allows this jury-rigging improvisational element back into the game in an imho unprecedented capacity. I've been doing some serious OSR gaming these days...and this class brings some of the flair beyond the rules, some of its free-form spirit to PFRPG without being sloppy. I know that quite a few of you out there will love it for that.


In spite of its minor flaws, I've rarely had this much fun picking a class apart...and this is where my reviewer-job becomes a bit annoying. You see, formally, I probably should rate this 4.5 or 4 stars...but that would neither account for its achievements on a mechanical level, nor for those regarding sheer FUN. Those of you who want flawless mechanics in even the most miniscule part of the pdf or a flawless editing may consider this to be a 4 or 4.5 star file, depending on how you weigh it.


However, personally, I have always been true to rating according to my passions when they flare up this highly, something that happens all too rarely these days and much less so in a concept if seen so often...wait, correction: A concept I have seen botched so often. The quartermaster gets it right. It's a class that emphasizes ROLEplaying and clever players without dropping the ball regarding crunch and explaining it away.


It is a crazy prepared class that manages to get a huge array of things right. It is, more importantly, a fun, unique and rewarding class...and one I wouldn't want to miss in my games anymore. Were it not for the hiccups, this would be a candidate for my Top Ten-list. I can't do that, but as written, I'll still rate this 5 stars and add my seal of approval to it. Get this one - it's rewarding, unique and fun.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Classes: Quartermaster
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The Genius Guide to More Cleric Talents
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2016 05:57:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This expansion for the already massive talented cleric clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with...holy moly, 31 pages of content!


All right so let's take a close look at even more options for the talented cleric! As has become the tradition with these, we begin with new edges and the very first one is already one we imho needed: Available at 5th level, it makes the cleric a cult leader in a twist on Leadership that interacts with spellcasting - at higher levels, followers can be targeted by range "you" spells and even deliver touch spells for the leader. I know I'll be using the living hell out of this edge. There is another edge that completely redefines the very notion of "cleric" - Null Disciple. These guys, in the tradition of Malhavoc Press' classic "Requiem For a God" or the BoVD's Ur-priests, do not worship a deity, but in fact loathe them, stealing divine spells via touch attacks from foes, gaining the chosen spell as a SP. This completely, radically changes the scope of the whole talented cleric and further builds on the godless edge, providing the dimension of changed play-styles I was missing from the base book. Things get better: Being reincarnated, gaining boons from sacrificing to one's deity...cool. Even cooler: Technology Priest, with full technology guide support and domain spells.


Beyond these edges, the pdf also features a metric ton of talents: Debuffs added to channel energy (with debuffs scaling according to channel energy talents taken), limited ignoring of DR for clerics utilizing the Destruction domain, quicker movement a limited amount of times per day, sacrificing victims to the Outer Gods, 2 mile radius of nicer (or worse) weather (oddly, slightly bolder text than other text herein), breaking the minds of those who fall into the cleric's hands...there are a lot of cool options in this book. Challenge and counting as +1 size, hijacking symbols, tossing a coin to get a bonus or penalty to a roll, creating food ex nihilo, corrupting and redeeming others...pretty nice. Or what about adding an arcane mark via inflict spells that automatically grants the cleric death knell's benefits if the creature dies? What about temporarily becoming a ghost at higher levels?


Very cinematic: There is a talent that builds on the challenge edge; when the target is defeated in melee, all allies within line of sight with less HD must check to avoid becoming frightened. (Nice balance re HD to avoid kittens!). Taking on elemental or draconic aspects are also options and all the channel-enhancing tricks now have representations within the framework of the talented cleric as well. Epic: High-level clerics may create funeral pyres for fallen allies, calling them forth as a weaker ghost that is not suffering eternal anguish, providing potentially a cool ally/cohort. Synergy with the mass combat rules employed in Ultimate Campaign can also be found. Clerics in tune with nature can do the green skin photosynthesis and clerics of trickery-based gods will most certainly love the option to conceal their magic auras - an ability much required at this point. Wind shields upgraded to hurricane force can help against the deadly damage output of ranged specialists. No-magic/rare magic campaigns will enjoy the talents that let you duplicate spells via the application of the Heal skill. Stepping through walls or doors, gaining a servant, making water unholy by a mere touch, tear spells apart by naming them and using spells of a higher or the same spell-level...oh, and have I mentioned attunement to weather or the option to stay young?


Yes, this pdf does have a ton of material and I have not even scratched the surface. And before you ask: The classic ""Save vs. Wall of Text"-box that helps organizing the content is included.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though some sections look like their text is more bold than others in a peculiar formatting/layout anomaly. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard with dense text, broad borders and a grey background and the pdf features several solid pieces of stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but do not expect individual bookmarks - only the chapter headers are bookmarked, which means you'll be skipping through the pdf a bit. Slightly odd: The pdf features no new capstones and does not organize the talents according to the regular talent/advanced talents-line, which makes it slightly harder to navigate than usual.


Stephen Rowe is a beast of a designer. The fact that he actually managed to generate this file after the vast amount of work in the talented cleric, without being redundant...is pretty astonishing. More so, then, would be intriguing that some edges herein actually redefine the whole way in which the talented cleric can be played. Basically, where the normal talented cleric/warpriest is the more conservative and restrained take, this book would be where the creativity is let lose: The edges alone, even if you are not using the talented cleric, perhaps due to sharing my own gripes, are worth getting this pdf: Take them, recode them for your own purposes and simply be happy. That is not to mean that the talents aren't great - they are and there is a TON of material in this book. AT the same time, while this book certainly ranks as one of the best "more talents"-type of books, it did feel like it fell slightly short of the absolute and pure awesomeness that is the pdf on more witch talents. While it pushes the boundaries in similar ways and offers more material, personally, I considered the witch book comparably slightly more intriguing.


This should be taken as me complaining at the very highest of level, though: While I will never be the biggest fan of the talented cleric/warpriest-file, I am very much a fan of this book and the cool options contained within. The writing is superb, but as a whole, the organization and talents aren't as groundbreaking as the edges. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, with my seal only missing due to the accumulated nitpicks in layout etc. - my recommendation remains, though: If you need new cleric material and don't care too much for the talented cleric, this still is a worthwhile purchase...which says a lot about Stephen Rowe's talents. (Get it?...Sorry, I'll punch myself for that later...)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to More Cleric Talents
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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:10:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second GM's Miscellany-book containing Urban Dressings clocks in at a mighty 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 114 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do: Let's rewind the clock for a second, shall we? The ardent reader may have noticed that GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and Dungeon Dressing are on my EZG Essential list; the books also shared my number 1 best book spot in 2014...so if I consider these books so great, how come I never got as excited about the first GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing book? There is a simple reason for that: The book tried to chop up an urban environment in its constituent elements; shops, traders, parks - you get the idea. The approach sounds valid in theory, but in practice, I found the results to be...well. Too generic, there's no sugar-coating it. The book works well, but considering the vast amount of dynamic elements present in a given urban environment, it also had components missing. Suffice to say, of all the dressing-series by Raging Swan Press, the one book that does not get used ALL THE TIME is the first Urban Dressing book. (I'm not kidding: GMs, get the Wilderness and Dungeon books NOW; there literally is no GM and campaign that will not be improved by them. Players - these are perfect present for your GM...and the books will improve your playing experience!)


So yeah, when I saw, of all the dressing books, that the Urban line was continued...I wasn't really excited. This changed. Fast. You see, taking a cue from the lavishly-detailed Raging Swan press-modules, the series stopped trying to chop up towns; instead, it began focusing on types of town. Table-wise, the individual installments would contain sights and sounds to witness: Equal parts local color, atmosphere building and adventure hook; then, businesses with fluff-only owners, similarly fluff-centric folks would provide the people you'd need when the PCs suddenly start looking for the local cobbler, the tax collector...you name it. GMs lacking the immediate inspiration to get the PCs hooked in a given adventuring context could resort to tables containing hooks and complications that provide for instant action and means of dragging PCs into the respective environment - actual ROLEplaying catalysts, if you will.


This change of structure and focus has served the series EXCEEDINGLY well and subsequently, the Urban Dressing-series has turned from a mixed bag on the positive side of things into a much-used commodity at my table. This compilation, then, would be what collects this improved part of the series and collects it in one handy tome. Now why should you care? Simple: It may sound odd, but while I love using the small pdfs at my table...the organization of the big books is simply glorious. There is some level of convenience inherent in just flipping open the book spontaneously and roll with it. It's an odd phenomenon, but one that not only my group has experienced.


Traditionally, the Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press have featured bonus content in compilations like this - and this time around, we get 2 pages that provide interesting considerations regarding the naming of thoroughfares in your game -I considered the article well-written and sensible, though some tables with sample names and the like, a quick generator, would certainly have been appreciated. Now content-wise, we cover a lot of ground: Borderland towns, bridge town, decadent towns (called "decedent" in the bookmarks in one of the rare Raging Swan Press typos), dwarven towns, elven towns, logging towns, marsh towns, mining towns, pirate towns, plague towns, port towns, slum towns, trade towns and war-torn towns all are covered. They do have in common that I have actually covered the respective pdfs in their individual reviews - so please just click on the Urban Dressing tag on my site and you should get a list of them. I don't like being too redundant, so let's just give you a general impression: The vast majority of them absolutely ROCK and even the less awesome installments are "only" very good. The second season, if you will, of Urban Dressing is extremely impressive.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press's 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a blending of glorious previously released b/w-artwork and new pieces. The pdf comes in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks to each table, making screen-navigation very easy. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the print copy, but it is very high priority to get; the wilderness dressing and dungeon dressing books, after all, are excessively used in my games and both leave nothing to be desired.


Josh Vogt singlehandedly revolutionized the series and managed to maintain a level of quality in his tables that is baffling: Each installment features this eclectic blending of the mundane and magical, the common and weird that makes the tables actually FUN to read. Not kidding you; I actually look forward to reading them. This whole book was crafted by master Vogt...and it can be considered to be a true achievement, there's no way around it. This humble, unpretentious book improves the game in much the same way as its Dressing-brethren did before for Wilderness and Dungeon environments.


So let me make the following abundantly clear - as a person, I consider this to be an absolutely superb resource. If I had to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book features basically no rules-relevant information - the NPCs have alignment and class information in brackets, but that's about it. You won't find any terrain hazards, settlement qualities or the like herein. The system-neutral version gets rid of these class information tidbits, making it truly neutral...but apart from mostly cosmetic distinctions, both versions are pretty close.


...


Yeah, that's about all of the negativity I can muster towards this glorious tome. Let me make abundantly clear how useful this book is in the most rewarding way, by simply writing my verdict. This book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016, gets 5 stars and seal of approval and it also receives the EZG Essential tag; I literally don't want to run a fantasy campaign without it anymore! So here's to hoping that we see more from master Vogt and Raging Swan Press - there are frankly few books that have so successfully improved my game...and I play in German and have to translate these on the fly. So yes, GMs, get this now, whether you're playing Pathfinder, 5e, 13th Age, OSR - no matter the fantasy campaign, your game will benefit from this book! I certainly know that this made me a better GM.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II (System Neutral Edition)
Click to show product description

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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:09:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second GM's Miscellany-book containing Urban Dressings clocks in at a mighty 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 114 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do: Let's rewind the clock for a second, shall we? The ardent reader may have noticed that GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and Dungeon Dressing are on my EZG Essential list; the books also shared my number 1 best book spot in 2014...so if I consider these books so great, how come I never got as excited about the first GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing book? There is a simple reason for that: The book tried to chop up an urban environment in its constituent elements; shops, traders, parks - you get the idea. The approach sounds valid in theory, but in practice, I found the results to be...well. Too generic, there's no sugar-coating it. The book works well, but considering the vast amount of dynamic elements present in a given urban environment, it also had components missing. Suffice to say, of all the dressing-series by Raging Swan Press, the one book that does not get used ALL THE TIME is the first Urban Dressing book. (I'm not kidding: GMs, get the Wilderness and Dungeon books NOW; there literally is no GM and campaign that will not be improved by them. Players - these are perfect present for your GM...and the books will improve your playing experience!)


So yeah, when I saw, of all the dressing books, that the Urban line was continued...I wasn't really excited. This changed. Fast. You see, taking a cue from the lavishly-detailed Raging Swan press-modules, the series stopped trying to chop up towns; instead, it began focusing on types of town. Table-wise, the individual installments would contain sights and sounds to witness: Equal parts local color, atmosphere building and adventure hook; then, businesses with fluff-only owners, similarly fluff-centric folks would provide the people you'd need when the PCs suddenly start looking for the local cobbler, the tax collector...you name it. GMs lacking the immediate inspiration to get the PCs hooked in a given adventuring context could resort to tables containing hooks and complications that provide for instant action and means of dragging PCs into the respective environment - actual ROLEplaying catalysts, if you will.


This change of structure and focus has served the series EXCEEDINGLY well and subsequently, the Urban Dressing-series has turned from a mixed bag on the positive side of things into a much-used commodity at my table. This compilation, then, would be what collects this improved part of the series and collects it in one handy tome. Now why should you care? Simple: It may sound odd, but while I love using the small pdfs at my table...the organization of the big books is simply glorious. There is some level of convenience inherent in just flipping open the book spontaneously and roll with it. It's an odd phenomenon, but one that not only my group has experienced.


Traditionally, the Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press have featured bonus content in compilations like this - and this time around, we get 2 pages that provide interesting considerations regarding the naming of thoroughfares in your game -I considered the article well-written and sensible, though some tables with sample names and the like, a quick generator, would certainly have been appreciated. Now content-wise, we cover a lot of ground: Borderland towns, bridge town, decadent towns (called "decedent" in the bookmarks in one of the rare Raging Swan Press typos), dwarven towns, elven towns, logging towns, marsh towns, mining towns, pirate towns, plague towns, port towns, slum towns, trade towns and war-torn towns all are covered. They do have in common that I have actually covered the respective pdfs in their individual reviews - so please just click on the Urban Dressing tag on my site and you should get a list of them. I don't like being too redundant, so let's just give you a general impression: The vast majority of them absolutely ROCK and even the less awesome installments are "only" very good. The second season, if you will, of Urban Dressing is extremely impressive.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press's 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a blending of glorious previously released b/w-artwork and new pieces. The pdf comes in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks to each table, making screen-navigation very easy. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the print copy, but it is very high priority to get; the wilderness dressing and dungeon dressing books, after all, are excessively used in my games and both leave nothing to be desired.


Josh Vogt singlehandedly revolutionized the series and managed to maintain a level of quality in his tables that is baffling: Each installment features this eclectic blending of the mundane and magical, the common and weird that makes the tables actually FUN to read. Not kidding you; I actually look forward to reading them. This whole book was crafted by master Vogt...and it can be considered to be a true achievement, there's no way around it. This humble, unpretentious book improves the game in much the same way as its Dressing-brethren did before for Wilderness and Dungeon environments.


So let me make the following abundantly clear - as a person, I consider this to be an absolutely superb resource. If I had to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book features basically no rules-relevant information - the NPCs have alignment and class information in brackets, but that's about it. You won't find any terrain hazards, settlement qualities or the like herein. The system-neutral version gets rid of these class information tidbits, making it truly neutral...but apart from mostly cosmetic distinctions, both versions are pretty close.


...


Yeah, that's about all of the negativity I can muster towards this glorious tome. Let me make abundantly clear how useful this book is in the most rewarding way, by simply writing my verdict. This book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016, gets 5 stars and seal of approval and it also receives the EZG Essential tag; I literally don't want to run a fantasy campaign without it anymore! So here's to hoping that we see more from master Vogt and Raging Swan Press - there are frankly few books that have so successfully improved my game...and I play in German and have to translate these on the fly. So yes, GMs, get this now, whether you're playing Pathfinder, 5e, 13th Age, OSR - no matter the fantasy campaign, your game will benefit from this book! I certainly know that this made me a better GM.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II
Click to show product description

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The Genius Guide to the Talented Cleric
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:07:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The so far largest of the Talented class-pdfs released by Rogue Genius Games clocks in at a colossal 91 (!!!) pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1/2 a page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 86 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look at this beast!


Okay, at this point I assume that you are familiar with the set-up of talented classes and will not explain the concept for the oomphteenth time: In short: Breakdown of class features and archetype abilities in two categories, edges and talents, allowing for increased flexibility. If you need a more detailed breakdown, please consult all of my reviews for the other talented classes.


Chassis-wise, the talented cleric gains d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and aura corresponding to deity or alignment and bonus languages. The class begins with 4 edges, 2 talents and gains 2 edges and 3 talents at 2nd level. At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the class gains an edge. The class usually gets a talent whenever it does not gain an edge, with the exclusion of the first 2 levels and 5th and 7th level, where both edges and talents are gained. 20th level provides the Agent of Divinity capstone.


Now, there is a glitch here: The table actually is incorrect: The talented cleric should gain 6 edges and 3 talents at 1st level, as per the text - this is a pretty big hiccup and not something I'd consider negligible. Anyways, this massive book does have something included you may be surprised to see: You see, this actually should be the "Talented Cleric and Warpriest" - it does contain blessings and all the warpriest tricks as well, which probably goes a long way to explain its huge size. We'll get back to this component later.


No as for edges, as established in the series, cleric spell casting (prepared, via Wis) progresses via subsequently taken edges, with 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter unlocking new spell levels. Similarly, domains are edges and act as a prerequisite for a lot of the talents you can find. If you take a blessing and have a domain, it must correspond to it. Blessings can be used 3 + 1/2 class level number of times per day, and the edge can be taken an additional time to unlock 2 new blessings. I assume these do not need to correspond to domains, since the ability does not specifically say so, but having that in print would help. Like domains, blessings act as prerequisites for certain talents. Improved familiar, fervor, flurry of blows, ki pool (available starting 7th level), mounts and orisons, proficiencies and spontaneous casting all fall in the edge category. Similarly, the somewhat notorious vows can be found here, including the vow of poverty, which does not feature "vow" in the ability's name - while obvious from context on how it should work, it still is an oversight. Similarly, you'll notice a relic "warpriest" here and there.


Beyond these components, however, the edge chapter does allow you to play nihilist clerics (unlocking a lot, prereq-wise) (YES!!!), godless ones (similar) or demigods or pantheon worshippers. Pantheon worshippers, with their flexibility of domains and demigods, who may expend spells as immediate actions to force penalized rerolls, may be the two options here that I do consider a bit problematic. That being said, as a whole, the edges do a solid job in enabling various concepts and the pdf even features psychic clerics, which is great if you're like me and plan an OA-centric game.


Now talent-wise, things become interesting: Asterisk'd talents are blessing talents and usually require the corresponding blessing to work, though some can be qualified for via domains. Channel Energy is found among the talents, surprisingly - but here's the thing: The progression actually, analogue to spellcasting, requires additional talents, with a cap of 1/2 class level + 1d6 as the maximum to prevent min-maxing abuse at lower levels. Channel energy is relevant, since alternate channeling talents are codified in an appendix, working as potential substitutions for the talent. Beyond that, variant channeling is detailed in excessive detail. The pdf also features a spell-list, which is pretty important, since a lot of the edges and talents, domains, etc. expand spell availability - and for the most part, that component does make sense.


One should also not fail to mention that e.g. divine commander and thus, mass combat options, can be found among the codified talents. Blessed Fortitude cannot be cheesed into, requiring divine armor and minimum 3rd level. Now, there is a structurally problematic component with the base cleric class that becomes apparent when breaking down the class as a talented class - it is very front-heavy. Much like the better installments in the series, flexibility, ultimately, does come with a bit of a price here, namely a slight delay, though one that ultimately allows for a more rewarding playing experience.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard employed by RGG for these books; the pdf has relatively broad borders, but also a ton of text, making this an incredibly dense pdf to process. The artwork, while I've seen most of it, feels more unified than in the bard book (Plus: I love the black-lipstick-wearing battle-nun) and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though individual edges/talents do not have bookmarks, so you'll do a bit of scrolling.


Stephen Rowe is a beast - I can't really picture doing all of this work myself without being utterly burned out on the concept; design like this is capital letters WORK and this pdf certainly does a neat job in codifying the cleric and warpriest within the talented framework. That being said, personally, I am not a fan of the warpriest being integrated herein: The combination options of warpriest and cleric within this book, while certainly helpful for some groups, does actually limit the appeal of the pdf, at least for me. I'm not the biggest fan of the ACG-classes and the combination options of warpriest and cleric options, as a whole, allow you to transcend the power of either class - which may just be what optimizers asked for, but when compared to master Rowe's talented witch, I can actually picture campaigns in which I'd not use it. In short: My rather gritty main campaign will not get to use this book. That being said, unlike the witch, going completely spell-less is less viable due to the chassis, though the combination of both classes would have made that a distinct possibility if the blessing/domain-prerequisite-aspect had come with alternate means of qualification.


Don't get me wrong - this is not a bad book, not at all. But is does groan a bit under its own weight. I do believe that separately balancing cleric and warpriest would have probably resulted in more precise results. I am complaining at a high level here, but this one still ends up being one of my least favorite installments of the series, in spite of its epic scope and cool (often novel!) ideas. For me, the min-maxy aspect is slightly too pronounced in this one. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Talented Cleric
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Tides of War: Rogue/X Feats
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:05:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 a page blank, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, the first of which, however, is devoted to the introduction to the subject matter at hand - which would be feats for multiclassing rogues.


I assume you're probably all familiar with multiclassing in the first place, what do these feats do?


-Balancing the Craft: When preparing spells exchange either one hex for a rogue talent you don't have or vice versa; you have to meet the prerequisites. The wildcard flexibility offsets some of the issues with multiclass rogue/witch characters. solid.


-Channel Shift: At the start of the day, you may reduce sneak attack bonus damage to increase channel energy by +1d6; once you reach +2d6 channel energy, you may reduce it to increase sneak attack damage by +1d6; as soon as both reach +3d6, you may move 2d6 around this way. This feat is generally nice idea-wise, but personally, I'd value a channel die higher than a sneak attack die, in spite of it being a limited resource.


-Devious Empathy: Use wild empathy to lie to animals. Cool idea...but not sure if it's worth a feat, considering the penalties that still apply and the pretty circumstantial benefits.


-Dextrous Focus: When making a Dex-enhancing mutagen, you may increase the Dex-bonus by +2, but if you do, you also increase the penalty to Wisdom by 2. Nice!


-Energetic Precision: Expend 1st level bloodline or domain power daily uses when successfully using sneak attack to add +1d6 damage and change the damage caused to the type of your bloodline/domain. I like this, quite a lot in fact, though it should probably read "limited use bloodline or domain power" as a caveat versus non-limited abilities that cause energy damage. I'd also be more comfortable if this actually specified the types of energy, but ultimately, that's more of a cosmetic gripe.


-Enhanced Magic Talent: Replace the minor magic rogue talent cantrip with a 1st level sorc/wiz spell. If you gain major magic as a rogue talent later, you gain a 2nd level spell instead of the 1st level spell. For a FEAT? So, I have to waste one or two rogue talents AND a feat for one lousy 1st level spell? Some sorcerors may go for that, but it's a sucky deal for them. Not starting with wizards...


-Inspired Precision: Add +1d6 plus your bardic performance's morale bonus to all precision-damage dealing attacks by you or your allies while you're remaining bardic performance. The feat should specify that allies have to be affected by bardic performance; RAW, allies beyond reach can be affected.


-New Levels of Daring: Whenever you use Acrobatics or missed by enemy attacks and more than 2 attacks of opportunity miss you, you gain 1 grit or panache. When an attack hits you that round, you don't regain grit. You can only do this either Cha (panache) or Wis (grit) bonus times per day. Reviewer puts away the bag of kittens for now...


-Sneaking Glance: As an immediate action, if a target of your glare is denied Dex to AC and is hit by an ally in melee, you may add your sneak attack damage - 1d6 to the attack, usable Cha-mod times per day. Interesting mesmerist-crossover here.


-Trickery over Training: Add Extra Rogue Talent to the fighter bonus feat list.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Flying Pincushion games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid stock art. I am not a fan of the final page's half-empty state - some sort of stock art (or more content) would have made that look less...empty. The pdf has two bookmarks in spite of its brevity - nice.


Frank Gori's multiclass feats for rogues vary in power and coolness a bit; the witch-feat, for example, completely outclasses the sorc/wiz-feat. and there are some minor hiccups in the finer points of the rules-language. That being said, for the low price-point, this still has something to offer for the discerning roguish dilettante. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars...and while I consider quite a few feats herein pretty solid, they feel a bit less streamlined than in the magus-pdf. In the end, I consider this a mixed bag on the slightly positive spectrum of things, but still have to round down for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tides of War: Rogue/X Feats
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Four Horsemen Present: Monsters Under the Bed
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:32:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is the intent of this book? Well, first of all, PFRPG assumes that most creatures are defeated by combat, right? Well, if you've been following my reviews, you will note a certain belief of mine pertaining moral values that can be conveyed via roleplaying games. This pdf's first goal, then, would be to provide options to make monsters more suitable for children of ages 8 and below. The first creature in this pdf would be actually a template with a sample being - the option to make baby creatures at CR -3; including mechanical representations for being hard to hurt for even the most cold-hearted of villains and the required mechanics to properly take care of the toddler - so yes, taking care of the creature thus modified can be an interesting challenge during regular adventuring.


The next creature would be the Toy creature, which is entertaining, but also fragile and comes with either a CR +1 or +0 modification for the base creature...which would btw. be as well a place as any to note that the sample creatures with templates applied (as well as the new creatures) do feature adventure hooks spelled out for you - and they are rather creative. Trojan toy ogre? Pretty cool idea! Cooler yet: When a weakened hell hound, always a runt and scaredydog, is looking to finally get some weak-looking sheep...which may well cause a panic. The CR clocks in at -1 and the creature to which this template is applied can be cowardly, a caregiver, comedic, cowardly - this whole template has basically 6 individual weaknesses to take the edge off the critter.


Beyond these templates, the pdf contains monsters - like the CR 3 Closet Creeper that may hide under beds and closets - and, as parents all over the world have been telling their kids...it's more afraid of them than they are of it. If a kid does suffer from fear regarding the "man in the closet", RPing an encounter with a benign and incredibly cowardly creeper may actually solve that. So yeah, kudos! At CR 5 candy golems are vulnerable to...being eaten. Even regular creatures gain bite attacks against them! Less malign than regular gremlins, the CR 1 boogrel gremlins (3 sample traps included) are the tricksters of the gremlins and look the part - they feature a rather cool full color illustration.


More suitable for older children would be the CR 10 haunted mansion - which takes the route of making it basically a less mobile mimic-style critter. This is generally a solid idea, but one I've seen before and one that I would have loved to see done in either a more kid-friendly, goofy version or one that featured full-blown haunt control, a weakness to exploit...the like. That being said, the fluff centering on scaring folks rather than killing them is nice.


The final creature herein would be the being featured on the cover - the CR 7 White Hag: While they can detect thoughts and feature basically the tropes of the fairy godmother/benevolent fey, they also are incredibly gullible and perceive the world in absolutes, where heroes can do no wrong...which, particularly for kids and adults with a finer ingrained and complex concept of right and wrong may make for some truly intriguing adventuring opportunities. The proposed hook about always getting your way and the issues with that certainly sport didactic potential galore!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard established for the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks range from somewhat creepy b/w-stock to nice original full-color for two critters.


Stephen Rowe knows how to write child-friendly material; he has written one of my all-time favorites regarding kids-adventure (and since Gencon, I actually have a signed copy! YEAH!) - so yes, he does know what he is doing. The focus away from potentially lethal combat to being slightly spooky (as in Scooby-doo-levels or below) and the focus on nonviolent conflict resolutions and misunderstandings make the critters herein potentially suitable for even the youngest of players. The surprising highlight of this book, in spite of the neat builds for the monsters themselves, though, would be the treasure-trove of ideas in the adventure hooks, with each being a potentially rewarding experience for players and GMs alike.


For the fair price, the significant majority of critters contained in this pdf do what they set out to do admirably and feature quite a lot of adventuring potential - now if you're looking for truly scary monsters, you'd obviously be wrong here, but if you're looking for ideas and creatures to supplement your games for the youngest players (or just want a change of pace), this delivers - more so than I expected it would. A good GM can easily get more than one adventure out of each creature herein, with the hooks already being great pointers to further develop. Considering the amount of play-time you can get out of this, my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Monsters Under the Bed
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Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:30:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first of Legendary Games' modules to support the simplified Beginner's Box-rules clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Before we do, I should not be remiss to mention that this module features a handy "slightly advanced" spellcasting array of options used by some of the creatures herein - they can be cast as a standard action and are collected one a handy GM cheat sheet. It should also be noted that this module is intended to be kid-friendly; as such, it features relatively straightforward themes of fighting bad guys and doing good; if political intrigue or shades of grey morality are what you're looking for, this may not be the place. I firmly believe in teaching via roleplaying games and kids should not just slog through combat upon combat - and the author seems to concur here, stating the directive that social and thinking skills should be challenged by modules as well.


As for the age-range, well, unless the kids in question are particularly sensitive, this module should be appropriate for kids ages 4 up; in case of very sensitive kids, 6+ would be a pretty safe bet. This does not mean that this module is "kid's stuff", mind you - it very much works for adults, but I'll get back to that in the conclusion. As a quick summary: All but those that want something really dark and gritty should find some fun within these pages.


Setting-wise, this module assumes the kingdom of Threll in the author's Terrallien world, which is a pretty "normal" fantasy world; as such, it is very easy to plug into other campaign settings - in this kingdom, the feyweald is basically a protected area, where the spirits of nature may roam free, unimpeded by Threllish civilization....and this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right still here? A strange sickness has been plaguing the Feyweald and the nymph queen Pryhoza has asked for assistance from Threll's king Ambrose I, offering an alliance in return for assistance in this matter, which would in turn render diplomatic relations with reclusive druids a distinct possibility. The problem seems to be gift horse...and hence, enter the PCs, which are assumed to be members or associates of the Zekerian order, as denoted by magical amulets - these amulets also provide a safety net 1/day to prevent death and allow for some healing to further decrease the potential of player frustration. The group arrives at Northrunner Sound, scheduled to meet with the queen and her two advisors ( a leprechaun and a brownie), but an audience with the queen obviously requires the proper gifts - while the king has sent a whole chest, the hustle and bustle of sprites means that the PCs will have to rely on their wits and people skills to present the correct gift to the correct fey. This first social stumbling block out of the way, the feast begins, but as soon as the arboreal banquet is in full swing (and PCs get bored with the interactions), the party is, alas, crashed: Mites riding giant jumping spiders assault the party and it will be up to the PCs to defeat the threat.


After the threat is eliminated, queen Pryozha confides in the PCs: An evil force has taken root in the feyweald, changing it, turning it and its creatures slowly evil, turning it Unseelie. (And yes, if you're using Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary and full PFRPG-rules, you'll have the template used here!) She asks them to seek out the threat and take care of it, but not before granting them a specific oil that is supposed to help them bypass the resistances of some fey - a valuable resource that the PCs hopefully use cleverly.


On their way through the forests, the PCs will have a chance to help awakened badgers from a trap laid by unseelie brownies and fauns navigate where traps and mites await and encounter an aggressive bird that can be calmed down by smart players...and finally defeat a nasty unseelie giant toad...and finally, possibly the first underground complex ever awaits the players: The lost grove, where a sinkhole guarded by mites now speaks of the influence of a nasty, trapped being called Bayaga. In the pit of the grove where the PCs will have to defeat more mites, an unseelie sprite and faun and yaldira, a multiclass forlarren and champion of the evil, imprisoned bayaga. The villains boast in good ole' traditional villain monologue and indeed, during the combat, bayaga creates a crystalline earth elemental as a form to fight the PCs - destroying it takes the unseelie curse from the afflicted fey.


Having defeated this threat, the PCs are hailed as heroes, are granted a blessing from the beautiful fey queen as well as masterwork items as a thank you - not bad for novice adventurers, and yes, PC death can be reversed...and Ambrose's favor/reward is nothing to scoff at either!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' neat two-column full-color standard for the series, though in an odd peculiarity, my readers depict some passages of text in slightly bolder letters than other paragraphs. This is purely aesthetic nitpickery, though. The original full-color artwork by Paul Pederson and Beatrice Pelagatti employed in the book is absolutely gorgeous and makes for cool handouts. Michael Tumey's cartography is similarly nice.


Paris Crenshaw's first kid-friendly module is fun, evocative and has a structure and feeling like a classic fairy tale, which it ultimately is. This renders it not only palpable for kids, it also can be fun for adults and with some rewrites, you can make it as dark as you want to. Structure and diversity-wise, this is pretty cool. That being said, at the same time, the traveling section through the forest and the final dungeon note paths the PCs travel, with letters and numbers pointing...nowhere. You see, the cartography is player-friendly, which is awesome - no distracting keys and hotspots can be found on them...well, all of them but one, which is weirdly inconsistent. But the structure of the module seems to employ a bit of wilderness hexcrawling, some sort of choice regarding the path taken...and the maps provided do not help in that regard at all, which is weird to me; my theory is that the module was supposed to have player-friendly and GM-maps and they have been either mixed up or somewhat confused. Anyways, this is still a minor hiccup that does not detract much from the quality of the module.


One note, though: It depends on the players you have....but kids can minmax and make brutal builds pretty well once they set their minds to it. If your group consists of adults or kids with experience...they'll curbstomp all but the final encounter. So yes, the focus of this module rests on new players and those that have less experience in using the game. Admittedly, this is the very intent of the product line and not every group is as hardcore as my kiddie-group, but it is something other target demographics may want to be aware of.


There would be one more slight complaint of mine, resulting probably from being somewhat spoiled by Playground Adventures: I am a firm believer in teaching children, at least to a certain extent, about morality in games, since it is an easy and unobtrusive manner to do so. Reinforcing good behavior and morals can be easily achieved in games. Personally, I would have loved to see the module actually feature the choice of how the PCs handle defeated unseelie entities more - a bit of interrogation and foreshadowing from prisoners, for example. The module does offer a means of reverting the unseelie transformation, which is a good thing in a kid-related context. This may be controversial, but I do believe that there is a didactic opportunity lost here - if the choice to keep the defeated unseelie alive or kill them was emphasized more, that well could upset some kids, true; at the same time, rewarding players for "doing the right thing" and only knocking the fey unconscious in the aftermath could have been a very educational experience for the players. I once did this in my games and as soon as the kids realized that good deeds would be rewarded, the motivation to be good increased significantly. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is something to consider when running this module, particularly for the younger ones.


Now one final note: This was originally written as part of a girl scout experience and honestly, running this module, with its sequence of civilization, banquet, hike, etc. in the downtime of a family trip to a national park or nature itself can be exceedingly rewarding: Take a break, play for half an hour, eat when the PCs are eating, get to the teensiest bit creepy final when it turns dark - the module very much features a structure not unlike a trip into the wild...and honestly, that's how I'd run it in a perfect world where I had the means.


Ah, right, the final verdict. All in all, Into the Feyweald is an evocative fairy tale to participate in; difficulty-curve wise, it is VERY easy, until the final encounter, where things get tougher. The module assumes a moderately competent GM and features a LOT of read aloud text, so no excessive experience is required on the GM's side - only enough to handle the key/map hiccup sans stumbling and the final encounter; if you can run that one, you're good...and it's not hard to run. The module is beautiful and fun, though it does not reach the absolute apex; its atmosphere is great and playful, but a couple of the finer aspects could have used a bit more guidance or specific rewards for actions. In the end, I consider this a good module for kids with some slight room for improvement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald
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Cryptics of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:25:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Porphyran class options-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf comes in the A5-size one-column standard, so when printed out, the format would be more of a booklet style.


All right, so let's take a look at the character options in this book, which hit us right after the introductory fluff with the first archetype, which would be the chaos bringer, mainly intended for the classic and evocative erkunae, who have first been introduced to the canon of Porphyra in the Fehr's Ethnology-series. As befitting the theme of chaos, the archetype may add a touch of chaos to any power manifested, changing its parameters in an unpredictable way: Generally, 1 -6 delivers one of two negative effects; 7 -14 delivers the "neutral/none-too-inconvenient" effects (like different target chosen within a splash damage radius) and 15-20 providing the beneficial tricks. That being said, there are a couple of rough patches in the mechanics here - for example, the splash damage: Is an empty square an eligible target or not? What if there is no eligible target in the radius? Similarly, the chance to pay 0 power points or get a 50% damage increase can be pretty potent, considering the array of abilities that can grant d20-rerolls. While this does not make the archetype's base premise broken, it can lead to problems for some groups. This replaces Scribe Tattoo.


On the plus-side that I actually consider pretty well implemented, Pandemonium Disruption changes the creature type choice mechanic when gaining psionic focus, instead randomizing it and allowing for potentially multiple types, alignment types and "none" as well as "all." The interesting component here would be that the cryptic's pattern must be attuned to a creature type and usually, the attunement is an enforced part of the gaining of psionic focus - with this archetype, a lucky chaos bringer has a very good reason to basically keep the psionic focus attuned to all, providing a reason for them to maintain the focus instead of expending it. Which, per se, is nice. On a downside, the ability in no way specifies that the chaos bringer may only use this randomized attunement to a creature type in stressful situations, meaning that gaining focus and expenditure at a given adventuring days' start would be repeated by a cryptic whenever he had the time to do so - basically, as long as the archetype has enough time, he'll end up with "all", which is a pretty severe abuse that could have been mitigated by a simple caveat. Hampering truth-seekers and their spells and power, better saves versus charms and compulsions, control over thoughts read and a chaos-apotheosis-style supreme insight complement an interesting, if not perfect archetype.


Next up would be the enigmatic paradigm for the eventual race, who gains a bonus equal to Int-mod to AC and CMD while wearing no armor, carrying not more than a light load and maintaining psionic focus, thankfully including stacking caveats for monk bonuses and the like. Speaking of which - instead of the trapmaker and proficiencies, we get the unarmed damage progression and feat-wise capability of a monk here as well, setting the tone for this archetype, with Patterned Strikes being gained at second level instead of the usual insight. Similarly, starting at 6th level, these guys gain a flurry, though thankfully the archetype steers clear of combining patterns with that, restricting it to unarmed strikes. You don't know the Patterned Strikes feat? Well, it is one that will not get anywhere near my table - it allows you to add disrupt pattern to all your unarmed strikes, including iterative attacks, thus breaking the usual restriction of disrupt pattern, but while excluding the combined use of both this melee and ranged use of the ability. Here's the problem: Flurry + full disrupt pattern per attack. Nope, not getting near my table.


The underappreciated and delightfully weird Xesa plant-race, who alter their disruption to instead work via strange seeds in the target, causing damage to creatures and healing plants...and there we go, disqualified from my games. Disrupt pattern is a non-limited resource and considering the sheer array of plant races available, this means infinite healing from level 1 forwards, for the whole group if the plant character has a means of sharing hit points. OP and needs a hard whack with the nerf bat, which is a pity, since the floral-themed visuals of the archetype are pretty cool. The Dragonblood Judiciar is damn cool - they can deal nonlethal damage with their patterns and are experts at tracking foes and bringing them in alive. Pretty evocative: Starting at 6th level, when properly sentencing a foe according to the facts, they gain bonuses and better defenses against the foe. As a capstone, the archetype goes Judge Dredd with "I AM THE LAW" (Imagine me going full Stallone here), gaining save-or-suck blasts.


The Qi'tar nightrunner replaces the absorb option of altered defense with scaling miss chances, with better free-running/parkours and proper cat burglar tricks, including the option to mitigate failed Stealth checks 1/target per Stealth attempt with Bluff to create a distraction - very much obliged. I really like this archetype, though this is as well a place as any to mention that editing isn't as precise on a formal level as in some other PDG-releases - lower case "stealth", "verses" instead of "versus" - there are a couple more typo-level glitches in the pdf, though they admittedly do not usually hamper the rules-language.


The Avoodim Purifier increases the damage output versus outsiders (all of them, not only a subtype) and gains several abilities to enhance his knowledge versus outsiders as well as the option to add this variant of disruptive pattern to melee attacks performed with slashing weapons instead of swift trapper...which is pretty potent. Let's take a look: The ability does specify that it is the exception to the 1/round caveat - so far, so good. The problem lies within the contradictory wording, which makes me believe that some sort of balancing caveat was lost somewhere: "A purifier can use his disruptive outsider as part of any or all attacks made with slashing weapons he makes." and "The purifier cannot use this ability as part of an edged melee attack and as a ray attack in the same round." So, what is "edged"? Can it or can't it be used? I thought it was slashing melee exclusive, so why the ray caveat? I think I know what the ability was trying to preotect abuse-wise against, but as written, this does require some clarification. As a capstone, the archetype has an apotheosis, which is relatively cool as far as that type of conventional design goes and the higher levels allow for planar allies.


The pdf also features new feats for the cryptic, 7 to be precise. These generally deal and interact (or are part) of the respective archetypes, with Chaotic Favor allowing for the modification of the chaotic roll as part of manifesting a power to be modified by +/- 1d3, with erkunae gaining +1d4 instead, exacerbating the aforementioned reroll power's strength. The Chaotic Power metapsionic feat unlocks a lesser variant of the archetype class feature for non-archetype adherents, with the same caveat. Enduring Defense has the following benefits: "You can the benefits of the enduring defense class feature that you otherwise would not have." - I am pretty sure there's a verb missing here and while I can guess what this is supposed to mean...it's nonfunctional. Extra Sentencing allows for more sentene uses by the aforementioned Dragonblooded archetype. Floral Growth is a bit like a gardener variety of a psionic Brew Potion - which is nice, though explicitly stating the activation action and mechanics would have helped here - one can extrapolate those, sure, but e.g. the usage of "wearer" does imply that these growths take up slots which they may or may not do. Parkoud Climbing would be a solid take on the aforementioned nightrunner archetype's tricks in feat-form


The pdf provides three new insights, which allow for the upside down change of sequence of iterative attacks regarding their base attack bonus (Interesting!) - though, as a word of warning, in groups less mathematically versed than mine, this could slow down the gamelplay, as the cryptic is thinking which totality of his iterative attacks is more efficient. Also: My group at least rolls atk, damage, atk, damage...not atk, atk, atk, damage, damage, damage... So depending on how you play, this may be pretty useless. The follow up insight provides complete control over the sequence, which sounds intriguing on paper, but will slow down gameplay in even math-savvy groups, while retaining the predecessor insight's issues. Finally, there is a metagaming insight I really dislike on a personal basis: Move action to learn an enemy's AC, CMB and CMD. No range or the like required. IF your group likes these types of abilities, cool - I really don't.


The pdf also provides 10 psionic powers, which include a multi-energy ray, crystalline shackles...the general visuals an intent is pretty cool. Unfortunately, the wording does not always live up to the precision required. Crystalline Shackles, for example, limits movement to "5 foot movements, with an Acrobatics check DC 20 to move at half speed." Does this movement count as 5-foot steps when the Acrobatics-check is failed? Is there a consequence for attempting the check and failing (no movement)? The rules-language could have easily been streamlined to where is did not feature this unfortunate wording. A teleport + distraction-clone-power is imho too low on the level scale, lacks information pertaining the control of the duplicate and lacks the teleport-prevention caveat for ability/power/spell interactions...well, you get the idea. All in all, a well-intentioned array of powers that can be streamlined into properly working...but also a section that misses the precision I would have wanted the concepts to feature.


The pdf does have new magic items as well - gloves that allow for the blending of hidden pocket and containers, jackets of hidden pockets and a torc that makes powers look like they originated elsewhere - pretty neat. The pdf concludes with new materials, the first of which would be godsmind crystals: Holding such a crystal "reduces hit points by 1 per hit die." This NEEDS to be maximum hit points, otherwise sequence, healing etc. come into play. Also, "A character can use the crystal to cause 1 hit point of damage per hit die they have to another creature, but they take the same amount of damage." Untyped damage. No DR-interaction. No range. "In the hands of a psion, they are able to infuse power points into so that the creature takes 1d6 points of damage, while still taking 1 hit die of damage per die of damage they deal." Okay, there is so much wrong with that sentence. To give you a brief impression: Only psions? How much power points? What's a "hit die of damage"? I get what this is supposed to do, but the wording isn't functional even before going into disrupt pattern interaction. The second item would be a godmind crystal gavel...which obviously suffers from the base material being horribly broken.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are a mixed bag - while, in the beginning, the issues pertaining rules-language were pretty minimal, the latter pieces of content did somewhat decrease in quality. On a formal level, the pdf does have more glitches than I am accustomed to in Purple Duck Games books by now. Layout adheres to the 1-column, relatively printer-friendly full-color standard with some nice artworks, though astute readers may know them from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Scott Dillon's Cryptics of Porphyra is not a bad book, let me make that abundantly clear. In contrast to many a book featuring racial archetypes, the book tries very hard (and succeeds) in blending the unique flavor of the respective races with the archetypes associated with them, so that's a plus. However, at the same time, there are a lot of hiccups on both formal and rules-aesthetic levels that decrease the overall functionality of the book to the point where I consider precious few rules-components to be on the level of precision I expect and require in my games. Unlike many a supplement, these can be salvaged by a competent GM/rules-dev/editor, but I can't rate the potential alone here, particularly considering that several of the components herein focus on a rather brutal escalation of cryptic damage-output that may be too much for some groups. As a person, I like this book significantly more than the array of problems would make you believe, but as a reviewer, I have an obligation to my audience. Let's not beat around the bush: This needs work. It has some gems in it, but they do need refinement. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars...and unfortunately, I can't round up for this one.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cryptics of Porphyra
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