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Hybrid Class: Luminary
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2017 04:48:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

The luminary class, chassis-wise, receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and also receives 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves. The luminary receives spontaneous spellcasting governed by Charisma, with maximum spell level being 6th. His spells are drawn from the mesmerist list.

The luminary\'s signature tool and skill set would be occult photography - they begin play with a camera obscura that requires access to an alchemist lab to properly clean and set up each day. This device only works for the respective luminary and its hardness increases over the levels. It can be repaired pretty easily and taking a photograph (including loading etc.) is a standard action. A regular photo generates a flash of harmless light in a 20 ft.-cone. The less harmless manipulations, however, can be used a number of times per day equal to character level + Charisma modifier. It should be noted that taken photographs are tracked separately - class level +ü Cha-mod of these may be taken at a given level.

Speaking of manipulations: The luminary can adjust the flash of the camera to inflict fire damage in the area affected, dealing 1d6 points of fire damage, +1 d6 at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. As a swift action, the area of effect can be adjusted to instead affect a 20 ft.-long, 5 ft. wide line. The Ref-save to halve the damage scales with levels, following the 10 + 1/2 class level + Charisma mod-formula. 11th level increases the range to 30 ft. First level also nets hypnotic stare.

At 2nd level, the luminary receives a manipulation, basically the talents of the class - another one is gained every even level thereafter. These include energy substitutions for the aforementioned fire flash, making the camera double as a spyglass, making alchemical photographs (that double as potions), getting a kirlian camera-style aura lens...and, VERY cool from a tactical perspective, setting a timer for the camera, which opens up all types of cool tricks! Higher level manipulations make use of the belief that cameras capture your essence, inflicting Wisdom or Charisma drain. Short-range staggering that increases in severity over the levels, higher-level dispels via the flash...the array of manipulations is damn cool. Similarly, higher level luminaries may elect to take more photos in a given round, generate progressively more potent cloud-effects or learn mesmerist tricks that can be implanted via photographs. And yes, going Fatal Frame /project Zero on spirits (and even the living!) is very much possible! Heck yes!

The propensity for light and darkness also net the luminary darkvision at 2nd level alongside bonuses to saves. 3rd level nets bold stare, with every 4th level thereafter imposing further effects. Once again, a sufficient diversity of options can be found here. 4th level nets a scaling dodge bonus to AC and Reflex saves. The capstones, 4 of which are provided, contain attribute-bonuses, powerful scrying or even a phylactery-style Dorian Gray-photograph. The final option duplicates 1/day sympathy, which is not properly italicized in the text. It should also be noted that

As is the tradition with Purple Duck Games-classes, we receive a massive array of favored class options beyond the confines of the core races, including rarer races and those found within Porphyra. The favored class options presented are pretty neat. The feats contained herein extend beyond the default +x class feature uses and include longer lines when using the flash in lines, preparing the flash for increased DCs and limited daily use circular flashes in a 30 ft.-radius. Instant photography development and ranged feints can also be found here.

3 mundane pieces of equipment, the new photographer profession and considerations of the introduction of photography into a fantasy context further help making the insertion of the class as seamless as possible, with a sample CR 9 ratfolk luminary sample NPC closing the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, bordering on good, on a formal level. The rules-language, however, is pretty precise, even though imho an introductory sidebar explaining the difference of uses, photos, etc. would have made the class a bit easier to grasp - didactically, it could be simpler. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games\' two-column color-standard, with the awesome cover art being the only one in the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

All right, before we begin, let me go on a slight tangent: Photography is a crucial part of our cultural development. There is a phenomenon called the \"visual turn\", which denotes photography as a paradigm shift in our development as a species. Beyond its depiction in Hawthorne\'s classic \"House of the Seven Gables\", daguerreotypes changed how we perceive the world and ultimately, our selves: Up to this point, only portraits and thus, the filter of art and patronage, was used to depict us, with mirrors being expensive. As such, the unflinching and harsh rendition of our as-is-status and the immediacy of the experience (in spite of early photography requiring a LOT of long sitting around sans moving) changed our focus; it was no longer the written word that held primacy of concepts - a single photo could convey a cornucopia of information. It also went hand in hand with the 3 grand insults to the human\'s ego, tying into the third of them - we are not only not masters of our own minds, we are also not masters of our perception.

The subjectivity of our own ways of seeing the world and the anxiety resulting from seeing in black and white an artifact of, ostensibly, a more precise reality, can directly be linked to the increasing prevalence in horror and ultimately, the dethroning of the concept of an observer\'s objectivity, while also establishing a hierarchy of power centered on the gaze that would later be instrumental in our reforms of the systems of law and punishment in general. Yes, the topic is very near and dear to my heart.

Anyways, the pdf, alas, uses \"camera obscura\" as a name woefully wrong; a camera obscura is basically a projector, a primitive form of cinema, if you will - the term was coined by Johannes Kepler, who btw. also noticed that our retinas receive an inverted and reversed picture of the world, which is subsequently realigned by our brain, but that as an aside. The camera obscura was, in essence, a farther developed take on the pinhole camera that shares several properties with the laterna magica.

While both Descartes and Locke used the camera obscura as a metaphor for human understanding and while its shape was later developed into that of a photographic camera, it is NOT, I repeat, NOT a photograph taking camera as we understand the term today. It is, however, correct that back in the day when daguerrotypy was invented, there were no terms for photographic cameras and the first of daguerrotypes were shot on what amounts to a camera obscura by the terms then employed. Utterly useless tangent for the functionality f the class? Perhaps - but it is still something I felt the need to clarify. Ähem, where was I?

Oh yes, the profane banalities of analyzing the PFRPG-class. Let me lower my brows and get rid of my pince-nez. Aaron Hollingsworth\'s luminary, from a design-perspective, is a well-made hybrid class in every sense of the word. The class employs complex mechanics in a cool combination and feels distinct and different from its parents. More amazingly, it indeed plays differently from both mesmerist and alchemist and has a concise identity that extends beyond the confines of either parent class. It is, in short, different than the sum of its parts, which renders it a success in my book. While the tangent above may sound like a stuck-up scholar\'s nerdrage (and it kinda is), that should in no way take away from the fact that this class manages to translate photography into gaming mechanics in a concise and well-presented manner that retains mechanical viability and relevance. In short, this is a very good hybrid class.

Granted, the editing could be tighter and similarly, the concept is not even close to being exhausted - the theme and engine provided practically demand expansion and can carry a vast amount of further tricks. In short - this is actually a hybrid class where I wished it had more room to shine and one where I certainly wouldn\'t mind seeing more. Oh, it is also, to my knowledge, the author\'s first book I analyzed and as such, it receives the freshman bonus. Let it be known that I am pretty impressed and hope to see more of this quality...and more luminary material. My final verdict for this class clocks in at 4.5 stars, and in spite of the hiccups, the verdict is rounded up to 5 due to the freshman bonus and the strength and execution of the concept.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Luminary
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Village Backdrop: Shroudhaven (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2017 04:47:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP\'s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let\'s take a look at the settlement!

Shroudhaven is a foreboding place - nestled within a valley that is defined by not having seen proper sunlight due to the eponymous shroud above the village, the place greets travelers with signs proclaiming that law-breakers will be eaten and that necromancers are forbidden around here. Yeah, you probably can see where that goes, right? Indeed, beyond mannerisms and exquisite artisanship that could hearken to the genesis of the place, with the famed theater mellavious, the place seems affluent and culturally more than relevant - and it does feature a ghast population. And vampires. Yeah, this place can be dangerous...though the undead do try to put visitors at ease and ultimately convince them of their civilized nature. The shorthands of the notable NPCs have been replaced with appropriate NPCs drawn from 5e\'s array, and we obviously don\'t get a settlement statblock.

Depending on the type of game you\'re running, you may also want to know that the place does not sport a market place of magic goods like in the PFRPG-iteration.

The local undead do hunt for \"feral undead\" beyond the village\'s confines, though, as some research can unearth, we find out that locals have a hard time leaving the place...they are subject to a wasting disease until they return. As always, we do receive notes on appearance and dressing style, though this time around, we do not receive sample names. However, 6 rumors and events provide further adventuring potential, in case an eccentric vampire wizard seeking to synthesize artificial blood, a ghast-run manor-house-come-in. And yes, there are farms, courtesy of restricted daylight spells, a cathedral and the relative affluence of the place is evident in architecture and occupations.

Speaking of farms, ghasts and vampires...know how the undead here require sustenance? Well, there is another type of farm. Yes, it includes the nightmarish combination of words \"chemically\" and \"lobotomized.\" And yeah, any semblance of civility and culture here is skin-thick at best; sure, you don\'t eat intelligent people...but let\'s not talk about people made deliberately non-intelligent. Urgh. Similarly, the curse of the place has special conditions - ones that allow for semi-regular (once a decade) explorations beyond the confines of the place. After all, the place may have sucky weather - but there are so many distinguished people here! Have I mentioned that they sell magic mushrooms here?

Conclusion:

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

Mike Welham\'s Shroudhaven reminded me of the classic horror-movie/satire \"Society\", as seen through a feudal/pseudo-Victorian filter of decadence and manners. The write-ups of the NPCs themselves paint a sympathetic and even kind picture...and honestly, the horrific aspect here lies in the fact that shroudhaven may well be the kindest possible solution for the undead persons; so can you really blame them? Don\'t they have a right to exist? Beyond the veneer of polite society, beyond the horror that you can or cannot emphasize, shroudhaven is an uncommon village that generates questions and responses - whether it\'s finding shelter, a solution...or involves copious amounts of kindling and pitchforks.

This is an engaging village and an exercise in concise writing -while I have seen the angle been done before, I have never seen it done in this concise and unique a way, with a focus on the leitmotif of consumption - cultural and literal. The 5e-iteration is solid and closer to the system-neutral one than to the PFRPG-version, which is a bit of a pity: The curse of shroudhaven and 5e\'s exhaustion mechanics look like a match made in heaven to me and tying them together in a mechanically-relevant manner would have been the icing on the cake. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Shroudhaven (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Shroudhaven System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2017 04:45:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP\'s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let\'s take a look at the settlement!

Shroudhaven is a foreboding place - nestled within a valley that is defined by not having seen proper sunlight due to the eponymous shroud above the village, the place greets travelers with signs proclaiming that law-breakers will be eaten and that necromancers are forbidden around here. Yeah, you probably can see where that goes, right? Indeed, beyond mannerisms and exquisite artisanship that could hearken to the genesis of the place, with the famed theater mellavious, the place seems affluent and culturally more than relevant - and it does feature a ghast population. And vampires. Yeah, this place can be dangerous...though the undead do try to put visitors at ease and ultimately convince them of their civilized nature.

The local undead do hunt for \"feral undead\" beyond the village\'s confines, though, as some research can unearth, we find out that locals have a hard time leaving the place...they are subject to a wasting disease until they return. As always, we do receive notes on appearance and dressing style, though this time around, we do not receive sample names. However, 6 rumors and events provide further adventuring potential, in case an eccentric vampire wizard seeking to synthesize artificial blood, a ghast-run manor-house-come-in. And yes, there are farms, courtesy of restricted daylight spells, a cathedral and the relative affluence is pretty much evident. It should be noted that the system-neutral version of this village replaces the settlement statblock and the magic item marketplace-section with a piece of artwork.

Speaking of farms, ghasts and vampires...know how the undead here require sustenance? Well, there is another type of farm. Yes, it includes the nightmarish combination of words \"chemically\" and \"lobotomized.\" And yeah, any semblance of civility and culture here is skin-thick at best; sure, you don\'t eat intelligent people...but let\'s not talk about people made deliberately non-intelligent. Urgh. Similarly, the curse of the place has special conditions - ones that allow for semi-regular (once a decade) explorations beyond the confines of the place. After all, the place may have sucky weather - but there are so many distinguished people here! Have I mentioned that they sell magic mushrooms here?

Conclusion:

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

Mike Welham\'s Shroudhaven reminded me of the classic horror-movie/satire \"Society\", as seen through a feudal/pseudo-Victorian filter of decadence and manners. The write-ups of the NPCs themselves paint a sympathetic and even kind picture...and honestly, the horrific aspect here lies in the fact that shroudhaven may well be the kindest possible solution for the undead persons; so can you really blame them? Don\'t they have a right to exist? Beyond the veneer of polite society, beyond the horror that you can or cannot emphasize, shroudhaven is an uncommon village that generates questions and responses - whether it\'s finding shelter, a solution...or involves copious amounts of kindling and pitchforks.

This is an engaging village and an exercise in concise writing -while I have seen the angle been done before, I have never seen it done in this concise and unique a way, with a focus on the leitmotif of consumption - cultural and literal. The system-neutral version purges the respective references in a concise manner, though it should be noted that owning one iteration very much suffices: GMs that already have the PFRPG-version don\'t miss out on anything here. In the system-neutral version, I can\'t complain about wanting a mechanically-relevant curse, which is why my final verdict for the system-neutral version will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Shroudhaven System Neutral Edition
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Village Backdrop: Shroudhaven
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2017 04:42:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP\'s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let\'s take a look at the settlement!

Shroudhaven is a foreboding place - nestled within a valley that is defined by not having seen proper sunlight due to the eponymous shroud above the village, the place greets travelers with signs proclaiming that law-breakers will be eaten and that necromancers are forbidden around here. Yeah, you probably can see where that goes, right? Indeed, beyond mannerisms and exquisite artisanship that could hearken to the genesis of the place, with the famed theater mellavious, the place seems affluent and culturally more than relevant - and it does feature a ghast population. And vampires. Yeah, this place can be dangerous...though the undead do try to put visitors at ease and ultimately convince them of their civilized nature. As always, we do btw. receive a proper settlement statblock for the village.

The local undead do hunt for \"feral undead\" beyond the village\'s confines, though, as some research can unearth, we find out that locals have a hard time leaving the place...they are subject to a wasting disease until they return. As always, we do receive notes on appearance and dressing style, though this time around, we do not receive sample names. However, 6 rumors and events provide further adventuring potential, in case an eccentric vampire wizard seeking to synthesize artificial blood, a ghast-run manor-house-come-in. And yes, there are farms, courtesy of restricted daylight spells, a cathedral and the relative affluence of the place is also reflected in the marketplace section depicting magical items to pursue.

Speaking of farms, ghasts and vampires...know how the undead here require sustenance? Well, there is another type of farm. Yes, it includes the nightmarish combination of words \"chemically\" and \"lobotomized.\" And yeah, any semblance of civility and culture here is skin-thick at best; sure, you don\'t eat intelligent people...but let\'s not talk about people made deliberately non-intelligent. Urgh. Similarly, the curse of the place has special conditions - ones that allow for semi-regular (once a decade) explorations beyond the confines of the place. After all, the place may have sucky weather - but there are so many distinguished people here! Have I mentioned that they sell magic mushrooms here?

Conclusion:

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

Mike Welham\'s Shroudhaven reminded me of the classic horror-movie/satire \"Society\", as seen through a feudal/pseudo-Victorian filter of decadence and manners. The write-ups of the NPCs themselves paint a sympathetic and even kind picture...and honestly, the horrific aspect here lies in the fact that shroudhaven may well be the kindest possible solution for the undead persons; so can you really blame them? Don\'t they have a right to exist? Beyond the veneer of polite society, beyond the horror that you can or cannot emphasize, shroudhaven is an uncommon village that generates questions and responses - whether it\'s finding shelter, a solution...or involves copious amounts of kindling and pitchforks.

This is an engaging village and an exercise in concise writing -while I have seen the angle been done before, I have never seen it done in this concise and unique a way, with a focus on the leitmotif of consumption - cultural and literal. My one gripe here is that the curse of the place could have really used some cool, unique mechanical representation, though that is offset by the nice market place and settlement statblock. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + my seal of approval - if you\'re looking for raw content, this one delivers the most of the three iterations.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Shroudhaven
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The Eldritch Ghost Hunter
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2017 04:39:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

All right, the eldritch ghost hunter, chassis-wise, receives d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, as well as hand crossbows, long bow, repeating crossbow, short bow and the deity\'s favored weapon. Wait. On a nitpick: It\'s \"longbow\" and \"shortbow\", not \"long bow\" and \"short bow\"; but more weirdly, those are already included in the martial weapon proficiency, so what happened here? Cut-copy-paste oversight? Or was the martial weapon proficiency supposed to cover only melee weapons? No idea. Eldritch ghost hunters also receive spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawn from their own spell-list, which is governed by Wisdom. If rules system internal consistence-aesthetics bother you, usually spontaneous casting is governed by Cha...but personally, I can live with this class using Wisdom. The chassis also nets a 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves.

The ghost hunter begins play with one domain from his deity\'s list, but does not gain bonus spells or bonus spells slots associated, though domain powers are gained - here, a reference to inquisitor, from which this was ccp\'d, is still in the file. Speaking of which - the ghost hunter begins with exorcisms 1/day, +1/day at 4th level, +1/day every 3 levels thereafter. A second exorcism and a third are gained at 8th and 19th level, respectively. Sounds awesome, right? Problem: They are basically mostly judgments that have nothing in common with what we\'d consider an exorcism by any meaning of the word, even by a stretched one...unless \"pummeling into submission\" is your definition of an exorcism. That being said, disappointing though this may be, choosing e.g. ghost touch (not properly italicized) and silvering weapons at least make for slightly solid ideas, even though they are not as relevant from a mechanics perspective and make for bad choices in all but specialized campaigns.

The ghost hunter is locked into favored enemy undead via the ghost enemy class feature and begins play with monster lore. 2nd level nets Wis-mod to Initiative as well as at-will detect undead and track. 3rd level renders the character immune to all forms of possession and 8th level upgrades that to extend to spells like trap the soul. (Yep, not italicized.) 3rd level nets a favored terrain, +1 at 8th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 4th level nets basically hunter\'s bond...and here, any sense of internal power-balance comes apart. The companion option adds the incorporeal subtype to the animal chosen...and the creature is undead. This is significantly better than the companion sharing. Additionally, the undead type AND the incorporeal subtype add a SIGNIFICANT assortment of immunities to the critter in question. The lack of different scaling for the companion similarly makes that one problematic. Also: I assume that Handle Animal is still used for the undead, even though it\'s technically no longer an animal.

5th level provides the option to imbue one of the weapons with the \"bane undead weapon special ability\" - and this is why rules-language formatting matters. 6th level\'s benefit provides help versus a failed save versus frightful moan. that\'s very specific. Also: The 12th level upgrade is RAW broken: \"At 12th level when the ghost hunter fails a Will save she becomes shaken instead of frightened.\" No punctuation and the sentence fails to reference that it pertains to frightful moan....or is that supposed to extend to all Will-saves? Or just those causing fear-based conditions? No idea. 9th level nets evasion (bad Ref-save, remember) and 11th level stalwart. Urgh. So yeah, omni-evasion. 12th level nets greater bane and 14th exploit weakness. 16th nets improved evasion. 17th nets slayer, 18th the ability to craft a special ghost trap that can trap the soul. You guessed it, the formatting\'s wrong. However, the ability also does not specify how it is activated. how the trap works. Why it\'s Ex. The CL of the spell-duplicating effect...anything. This is the definition of non-operational. The capstone makes them superb hunters of the undead.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not good on either formatting or rules-language level. Beyond a number of editing and formatting glitches, rules-language, when not taken directly from an existing class, don\'t work properly. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides a pretty amazing piece of interior artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length, I can live with that.

Robert Gresham\'s eldritch ghost hunter has a cool basic idea - the specialized hunter of the undead is a tried and true trope...so where is the signature weapon? Why are the traps gained at 18th level, when frankly the PCs will have a ton of better solutions...provided they damn traps would actually work. Why don\'t exorcisms exorcise anything? Then, we\'d have the issues with the OP companion, which makes internal balance sketchy as well. And the fact that the class doesn\'t have a single interesting, even halfway operational class feature that is not already done to death by inquis or rangers. I can rattle off multiple archetypes of both classes that frankly do a better job at the undead hunting aspect without feeling so disjointed. This is targeted at fans of ghost busters, obviously - and it utterly fails at properly depicting ghost busting. There\'s a Rogue Genius Games-$1-item pdf that does a significantly better job of unlocking this theme for your group.

To cut a long tirade short: On both a flavor and crunch-perspective, this misses the mark and I can\'t really picture any game that would really benefit from the inclusion of this class. It is flawed from a rules point of view and fails to cover its intended niche. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars - with the artwork being the only saving grace for me, I can\'t round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Eldritch Ghost Hunter
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Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 2
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:24:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second booklet of essays and thoughts by the eponymous Raven Crowking (aka Daniel J. Bishop) clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 50 pages, though these are made for the a5 (6\'\' by 9\'\'-standard) - you can fit 4 of them on a sheet of paper if you\'re like me and tend to print things out.

We begin this pdf with the basics and, even if one is an experienced judge, it may help to recap the steps: 1) Brainstorm. In the beginning, there was the idea. Simple as that. 2) is a golden rule. I mean it. If every designer followed the rule, my job\'d be much more pleasant: \"Never base the adventure on expectations of what players will do.\" Seriously, you can try to rig the game, manipulate structure, etc. - no pre-written module will survive contact with a table of creative minds intact. It\'s simple as that. If the module requires a thoroughly railroady array of sequential decisions that could go any way, then we have an issue on our hands. 3) is more complex and less obvious: The goal of players in a module is to exert control over the situation. As simple as that may sound, the ramifications of this truth are much harder to control from the perspective of the author - but at the same time, this provides a means of structuring leverage to employ to keep things on track.

4) is not necessarily correct, but true as a design tenet: No group will find everything. Well, I could rattle off instances where my players did find everything sans me cheating or the like, but they are crazy experienced veterans of the toughest caliber...so yeah - from a designer\'s point of view, hiding too much can be bad. 5) is important: Remain true to the setting. The PCs, via smarts and insane luck have managed to accomplish impossible deed xyz? Then they DESERVE the huge reward. Similarly, if they screwed up, they SHOULD get hosed. Beyond these, context, an awareness of possible introduction spots and the dynamics of the table are important - and so is the need to make it clear that another GM/judge/referee can run your module - the latter is more critical than you\'d think: Designer-blindness and established group-behavior paradigms can easily thwart that one.

The basics out of the way, we come to the advanced components - and it is here that the booklet becomes more interesting, as it halts to analyze the things players take for granted at the table: To wit: E.g. unimpeded communications, risk/reward-levels, etc. - as soon as these basic premises are compromised in one way or another, things get interesting. A number of classic (and new) sample modules are used to illustrate the clever use and modifications of such basic premises...yes, beyond the confines of DCC. What if e.g. seating arrangements suddenly matter?

The advanced adventure craft rules are similarly helpful: There should, for example, be multiple clues to unearth a given piece of information. This may sound obvious, but many, many investigation scenarios still get that aspect horribly wrong. Similarly, offstage material and the like need to be considered alongside with player and character proclivities. If your only hook for gold-greedy murder-hobos, but not the fanatics of god xyz, then your module may need diversification in that regard; even more important would be the fallacy of alignment-associated behavior. I have never made a secret out of my conviction that alignments suck, are anathema to the roleplaying of complex characters and should be purged with fire. More important would be the fact that they often act as a lazy shorthand for designers: Good hook, neutral hook, done. Lame. So yeah. Objectives, allies, bosses and the like are given similar, deep consideration - and so is the sudden and dramatic reveal is a tried and true and much cherished experience that resonates with all of us...but at the same time, it is harder than you\'d anticipate to pull off in face of a jaded crew of players. Thus, detailed consideration, including several modules quoted for reference, can guide a Gm to excel at employing this narrative device.

Beyond these, we also take stock on meaningless encounters - when and how to use them, for example. And why they can and should matter. While a given encounter may have no benefit to the story told, we all interact with it nonetheless; as such, the lack of a previously ascribed relevance towards the proceedings of the given plot, ultimately, generates an absence that GM and players alike can fill with speculation, observations, etc. - often enhancing the general immersion of a given setting. I am willing to bet that pretty much every GM worth his or her salt has, at one point, just taken up player-speculation uttered in the aftermath of such an encounter and greatly enhanced the overall flexibility and fungibility of a given module.

Next up would be a component near and dear to my heart: The realm of dreams. With concise observations regarding the nature and significance of dreams, the pdf explores them as a possible setting as well as a narrative device. I am deeply sorry for all groups wherein this amazing means of changing the scenery has not yet been employed - so yeah, two thumbs up here. The next chapter would also be near and dear to my heart: Killing fields. As anyone who\'s been following my reviews for a while knows, I am pretty enamored with the tactical new RPGs, but at the same time a fan of rules-light gaming...but regardless of system ultimately employed, my sensibilities very much dictate that I want a concise world...and this ultimately means that none of my games sport CR-appropriate challenges. Various sub-categories exist, but their use in a given game, apart from establishing goals and the like, is not to be underestimated as far as I\'m concerned.

This leads into the next aspect, namely fairness and entitlement - and, for the designer, the contemplation of when something\'s too much. There ultimately is no easy reply to this complex question, but there are some aspects to consider: Reaping what one has sown and player agenda are important; similarly, \"rocks fall, all die\" is not fun for anyone, unless it has been telegraphed properly. To give you an example: In one of the classic Frog god Games-modules, my players went past all warning signs (6 sarcophagi) to forcefully dig into a room where they anticipated a mother load of treasure. When said room had a lich and mummy-monks came forth from the niches, they were wipes, with only one PC escaping by the skin of his teeth. None complained about it being unfair...though I have seen on boards and tables players grow a sense of entitlement due to the relatively narrow structure of adventures championed since the 3.X-days. The structure of assumed mid-adventure-progression has done some harm to the sense of danger, but also to the freedom the PCs ultimately should have. A good GM can counteract this, but it is still something to be aware of when designing modules.

Similarly, the pdf does mention horror, but here, I\'d like to interject my own observations: Horror follows a different paradigm. Horror assumes a willingness on part of the players and player characters to assume the position of being (relatively) powerless and to be fine with that; similarly, skewed scales of balance are pretty much what the genre thrives on. As such, the biggest obstacles towards good horror-gaming, at least in my opinion, often does not lie within the structure of the modules, but in the mind-set of the players and PCs. You can\'t expect a feisty paladin who usually jumps face first with blades drawn into the maw of demons to suddenly quake in his boots at the sight of a rotten carcass. It is a matter of theme and genre and it is my firm conviction that establishing assumptions, but at the table and, in some instances, in modules, can seriously help retaining a cohesive and rewarding mood and playing experience. Tl;dr: Horror\'s not for everyone. It\'s my favorite mode of gameplay, directly followed by my pretty dark interpretation of fantasy, but some players derive no joy from having their PCs die or become mad in horrible ways. How far is too far? It, ultimately, always depends.

The assumptions and options presented by in-game day-jobs and notes on several ideas to establish a monster-canon can be found here as well - including \"The Following Thing\", a stag-headed beast in a black suit, ending the pdf certainly on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to the relatively printer-friendly 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Daniel J. Bishop\'s second collection of dispatches is better than the first in a variety of ways; for one, the information contained herein is less colored by preaching to the choir; instead, we have helpful and well-reasoned observations regarding the finer details and components of the art of adventure-design. There are, frankly, plenty of books out there that cover the basics, but this pdf deals not primarily with the basic craftsmanship aspect, but rather the artistry of making modules - and this renders it, at least to my sensibilities, significantly more rewarding. Its respective points are illustrated well with a canon of excellent modules as reference-bibliography, if you will, and while I don\'t have all of them, I do have a lot and could ascertain the points being adequately supported by the quoted material.

The accomplishment of this collection of essays lies in the fact that it can be seen as a well-crafted reminder for designers and advanced judges/referees/GMs alike regarding the aspects that can make both an adventure and a whole campaign rise from the mediocrity towards being truly memorable. In short: This does not focus on providing guidelines to making something decent or just \"good\", this is focused on helping the reader go the step beyond, reach for the lofty levels of creativity and excellence. As such, it may not be the best book for novice GMs, authors or judges, but for everyone with a sufficient level of experience, this can well be considered to be one of the better GM/author-advice books, regardless of setting employed. Many pieces of advice given most certainly pertain contexts far beyond the scope of DCC. As such, I consider this is well worth getting and it receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 2
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The Esoterror Summoning Guide
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:21:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion book for The Esoterrorists (which is also useful for other GUMSHOE-games) clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

So, first things first - since I\'m trying to help retain this review\'s usefulness for folks not familiar with esoterrorists: The idea of this horror-game is pretty much brilliant. The PCs are part of a conspiracy, the Ordo Veritatis - and it is actually a benign one. You see, our world sports a membrane that separates us from the Outer Dark, a place of chaotic and infinite possibilities, pretty much all of which are horrific nightmare fuel - think of it as the desert of the real, as the horrific, chthonic truth of reality, where science and the laws of physics break down. Here\'s the thing - the membrane isn\'t a wall - it is elastic, regenerates slowly and can be ripped, torn...and it may be the collective unconscious of our species. For as long as we believe in ordered reality, for as long as we cling to hope, to a sense of the world...well, making sense, the membrane will protect us from the Outer Dark. Conversely, despair, a sense that life\'s surreal and an experience of Entfremdung from existence, the glorification of dark deeds, horrific superstitions that gain traction and similar proceedings ultimately weaken the membrane.

There is a second conspiracy, but it is not a structured hierarchy; instead, it is a cluster of infinite cells - the esoterrorists. Their end-game is to break down the membrane and welcome the entities of the Outer Dark to our reality - for whatever purposes. Esoterrorists perform horrific deeds and ultimately are enemies of all mankind - with the horrific prospect of their sheer existence being a weapon. If the truth of the Outer Dark existing becomes widely known, said knowledge alone will greatly diminish the membrane, potentially breaking it. Hence, the Ordo Veritatis\' (or OV) goal is to keep the public ignorant of the horrific struggle, the shadow war waged behind the scenes. The esoterrorist\'s main advantage in the struggle against the superb organization of the OV, however, lies in their command of magic...or rather, in their ability to summon the dread entities from the Outer Dark, who have...well, really nasty tricks up their sleeves.

This book, then, would constitute essentially a massive dossier for the agents of the OV - written in-character, as though it was a need-to-know-basis briefing file, this book elucidates upon the various types of summoning at the disposal of the esoterrorists and the current theories pertaining the mechanics of said summoning. In the beginning, the paradigm shift for the OV\'s endgame, from the overly ambitious eradication to containment, is explained in succinct and captivating detail. Similarly, the current theories pertaining the membrane provide a concise picture o the stakes of this conflict - it is against the backdrop of new media and a progressively more daunting task that we are introduced to the different types of summoning techniques the esoterrorists employ.

The first of these would be the Greater Invocative Summoning, and it may be the most hard to pull off, but also the most powerful technique: It requires a significant amount of people (we\'re talking thousands) and the considerable psychic energy these individuals generate; as such, it is easy to spot and anticipate, but actually preventing it while maintaining anonymity and ignorance of the OD (Outer Dark) entities is VERY hard; the danger this type of summing poses, though, is considerable, for it can draw a new OD entity to the world - and after an entity has been clad in our reality\'s nightmares, after it has manifested once, it can be called in a significantly easier manner - less expenditure, less elaborate requirements - basically, it thereafter can be called forth via a lesser invocative summoning. This summoning, in short, can establish a foothold for an entity or type of entities. Following the formula, we get case studies pertaining such summoning rituals as well as suggested countermeasures for the OV agents...always remember, in the end, you need plausible deniability, mundane explanations for the proceedings to enact a proper veil-out.

Ontological summoning is different - it capitalizes on the previously noted power of folk belief; basically, a belief is taken and continuously reinforced by the esoterrorists, who seek to make the folk belief seem plausible, like the surreal, reality eroding truth. That factory, where Freddy Krüger died? Making kids disappear in the vicinity, seeding sightings and fostering fear and angst in the face of the obvious evidence are what allow entities called forth thus to assume appropriate shapes.

Thirdly, constructionist summoning would be the Frankenstein approach - the mad scientist creating a flesh-golem, the programmer seeking to make an evil A.I.-god, the brainwashing cult that seeks to create a monument - basically, here, it is not belief that generates a vessel, but actual construction and belief in the receptacle. Speaking of cults - there is one more and particularly grotesque way of bringing an OD into the world: The total destruction of a personality with impositional summoning. Basically, esoterrorists completely break down a person\'s self and instill a belief in the target that the person was destined to be a vessel or actually IS the Outer Dark entity (ODE)...until it supplants the unfortunate being, overriding everything and becoming, for all intents and purposes, the ODE. It should be noted that this can also generate a means in ingress for new ODEs... and the case studies featured here are particularly brutal. Finally, there would be opportunistic summoning, which is basically grounded in finding cryptid-sightings, LSMs (Low Membrane-Strength places) as well as similar places and establishing contact with ODEs.

Speaking of which - the issue of negotiating with such entities, when and where it is permissible and when it is appropriate, is also depicted in detail: Basically, the agents are given guidelines to deal with the alien psyches and easy tools to evaluate whether it is possible to defeat the entity sans giving in to demands, when and how such strategies are valid and the different demands are indeed covered as well. prolonged negotiation and the potential stability loss that entails.

Now, what to do with all the knowledge this pdf provides for the agents and GM? Well, there would be an interesting sample scenario that takes up the last couple of pages, one called Cell Death.

The following will cover the basics of this investigation, so potential players of the scenario should skip ahead to the conclusion. From here on out reign the SPOILERS.

...

..

.

All right, still here? The agents are sent to Rome, where Lucio Mancini lies dying in a hospice ward, asking for Mr. Verity and the \"pluggers\" - esoterrorist slang for agents of the OV plugging the membrane. Mancini\'s wife died of an inoperable lung condition, caused by toxic smoke, which made him slip into esoterrorism and now he\'s riddled with cancers and has one request from the agents of the OV - find is son, who has gone underground. Introduced to the esoterrorist cell of one Graham park, Mancini does not want his son to pay the ultimate price as well. It is from here that the PCs track the trail of Lucio\'s son to the sleepy backwater town Bluewater in Idaho. Here, different types of potential summoning endeavors can be eliminated, one by one, until impositional summoning is left - and indeed, in a well-guarded farm, the esoterrorists have not only established a security perimeter of concealed cameras and the like - they also have a subterranean bunker complex, where Lucio\'s son\'s personality was systematically broken down: He witnessed, time and again, as radiation and toxic smoke corroded and gruesomely slew people in front him, while he was unaffected - thus nearing the completion of the summoning of a new ODE, the balefire man, a really nasty ODE whose stats btw. are provided herein.

The problems faced by the agents consist of more than just dealing with the armed esoterrorists, though - they have to find the bunker complex and hopefully, via mementos, gain an edge in combat against the dread entity. Similarly, the hazmat suits the PCs can find certainly will be helpful when dealing with the ODE...which brings me to a bit of an issue I have with this scenario. While it is permissible for OV agents to eliminate esoterrorists, the perhaps smartest way of dealing with those in the inner vault would be rigging poison gas to it, flooding the bunker - the pdf very much acknowledges this. The PCs arrive as the remaining esoterrorists give their lives and call forth the ODE - something that cannot, RAW, be prevented, which I get from a dramatic perspective. However, poisoning the unarmed ritual practicing esoterrorists frankly violates the code of ethics and could act as a catalyst to bringing forth the balefire man - after all, it is established that a good man\'s evil deeds weaken the membrane more than that of a conscience-less psychopath. So yeah, that aspect of an otherwise good module would constitute an internal logic issue in my book. On the plus-side for the battered agents if they take down the ODE, the veil-out should be easy thanks to the secluded nature of the farm.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good from both a rules-language and formal perspective. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column b/w-standard that emulates papers and dossiers, with photo-like, amazing b/w-artworks as well as excellent b/w-drawings emulating a \"clipped in/attached\" feeling - the layout conveys well the illusion of reading a proper dossier. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan\'s Esoterror Summoning Guide represents an amazing resource; the fact that you can hand it to your players and just have them read the book(and enjoy the experience) renders this not only a great handout, it also makes the subject matter, which could have been dry and bland, thoroughly exciting. Each of the ample case studies can act as a great adventure hook to build new scenarios from, so that\'s another plus. In fact, the summoning-type categories, obviously also are relevant for Fear Itself and can be employed beyond that game: The general ideas for various types of summoning can conceivably be equally easily used in the context of Trail of Cthulhu or Night\'s Black agents, particularly if you\'re running a genre-spanning game that features elements from multiple GUMSHOE-settings.

I similarly absolutely enjoyed the final scenario attached, which does a great job of showing GMs and players alike how to employ the knowledge they and their PCs have in game; that being said, the denouement and climax of the module, to be, was a bit of a dud, since the potential code of ethics violation and the lack of diversified outcomes made this more railroady than required and slightly less refined to me. let it be known, however, that I am complaining at a very high level here - I still consider this to be an excellent purchase and well worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterror Summoning Guide
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Mythic Minis 95: Clever Combat Feats II
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:19:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial (also contains 2 feats) , 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-Lightning Draw: +2 to atk and damage with the first attack of a Lightning Draw weapon before the end of the turn. Only one weapon gets the benefit, if more are drawn. If you expend one mythic power, it costs no panache and the target is flat-footed versus the attack that receives the bonus. Nice.

-Measure Foe: Increase bonuses granted by base feat by +1, learn about twice as many combat feats. If you expend mythic power and use Sense Motive after only one attack/full-round of watching the target, you suffer no penalty. While I loathe the base feat, this is a valid upgrade to mythic stature.

-My Blade is Yours: Treat your blade as having all applicable special features. Cool: For mythic power, you may add your partnered ally\'s magic weapon property as well, with 1/2 mythic tier acting as cap and limitations to cover the fringe-cases. This one is AMAZING!

-Piercing Grapple: No penalty and Intimidate bonus increases to +4 and also applies to combat maneuver checks to maintain the grapple (but not its initiation). By expending 1 mythic power, you can deal the weapon damage upon initiating the grapple, rather than when the target escapes. Cool!

-Quiet Death: Even after an opponent\'s first action, the DC to hear combat is 0 and if the target doesn\'t yell (or you manage to grapple him before that), it does not automatically prompt Perception checks. Thank you. Thank you so much. I am so going to use that as non-mythic class features/talents, etc. Worth getting the pdf for.

-Starry Grace: Unlocks use with starknife TWFing or flurry of blows or when the other hands occupied. if you have at least 1 panache, you gain +10 ft. movement on a move action after attacking with a starknife or when using charge or Spring Attack. As a move action, you can make the starknife returning for mythic tier rounds. When attacking with it and then moving, you may expend mythic power, you are treated as still in the square where you made the attack for purposes of flanking...or threatening AoOs! You may hurl the starknife as part of that AoO, mind you. This is a BEAUTY. Seriously, I love this feat. It is amazing. Again, one I\'d consider viable for other contexts beyond mythic gameplay.

-Street Style: When you use your swift action to grant yourself bonus damage, it applies to all attacks you make that round. You may also move with opponents when bull rushing them and the movement does not count against your movement for the round. You may also expend mythic power to enter the style in a non-urban environment for up to 1 minute.

-Street Carnage: Critical range of unarmed strikes increases by 1, before applying other feats.

-Street Sweep: Add +1/2 tier to the Fort-save of foes to avoid being knocked prone. They also take +1d6 bludgeoning damage from being smashed to the ground and you gain +2 to atk versus prone foes.

-Swipe and Stash: Plant objects as a move action; as a swift action if you expend mythic power. You may also use Sleight of Hand or the steal combat maneuver to steal and replace an object with a single hand and gain +4 to both. NICE.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson deliver big time in this mythic mini - there are some truly amazing gems here that should provide some amazing tricks even in non-mythic campaigns. Seriously, there are quite a few options here that beg being introduced to pretty much every game. Inspired. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 95: Clever Combat Feats II
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Mythic Minis 89: Clever Combat Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2017 07:17:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-But a Scratch: You can use the feat with ranged crits and the DC is reduced the farther the attacker is away. Shaken duration increases by +1 round per 2 mythic tier. I assume a minimum of 1, but am not sure here. However, being critically hit thereafter or subject to an ability that deals more than 1/5th of your maximum HP end the effect. 1/5th max HP is a petty inelegant benchmark cap here.

-Cat and Mouse: When not attempting a riposte with the regular feat, the dodge bonuses are doubled. When expending mythic power in conjunction with parry and riposte and successfully parry, you gain these benefits without having to forego the riposte. The feat could be slightly clearer when the mythic power expenditure takes place. I assume upon activation of parry and riposte.

-Circuitous Shot: When using the feat to bounce ranged attacks off objects, you can bounce it off up to mythic tier objects, at -2 per object. If you expend mythic power prior to firing, you can render the target flat-footed, even if the target would be immune to it. Yes, it\'s the Lucky Luke trick-shot feat! Neat!

-Clambering Escape: If you use the feat to reposition a creature, that target suffers a -2 penalty to saves to avoid the respective effect. Via expenditure of mythic power before making a saving throw to which evasion applies, you may use Clambering Escape for a reposition attempt before making the save, potentially allowing you to escape it. Even if you don\'t, you receive +2 to the save if the repositioned creature is in the area of effect. Interesting one!

-Cunning Intuition: Ready an action as a full-round action, but be capable of making the full-round action when the readied action is triggered. Additionally, you can choose whether to have your initiative changed after the action was performed, or whether to retain your old place in the initiative order. This feat\'s mythic upgrade...is frickin\' OP, even for mythic gameplay.

-Fencing Grace: Gain the benefits with any light or one-handed weapon. When wielding a rapier, you retain the benefits even while TWFing or using flurry of blows or have your other hand occupied. You also add 1/2 mythic tier to the bonus provided. When wielding a rapier one-handed and expending a surge while attempting a disarm, reposition, steal or sunder, you may roll twice and take the better result. Odd one - on one hand, it unlocks other weapons; on the other, it retains unique benefits for rapiers. Not sure what to think of that...feels a bit all over the place to me.

-Martial Dominance: +1 creature in range intimidated per 5 BAB. When used in conjunction with a critical hit, the number of rounds is multiplied by the critical multiplier of the weapon. Is a bit overkill in my book.

-Ranged Feint: When ranged feinting, you may choose to have the creature feinted flat-footed versus any creature\'s next attack, not just yours. If you do, the first attack ends the effect, whether or not it hits. Penalties for feinting non-humanoids, animal intelligence, etc. critters are halved. By expending mythic power, you can cause the target to be denied his Dex-bonus to AC versus all attacks made until the beginning of the next turn and may declare the use of mythic power even after feint-results are made known.

-Ready for Anything: Take a full round\'s worth of actions during the surprise round. If a combat would have no surprise round, you may expend mythic power to get a surprise round in which only you may act, unless other creatures have the same feat or a similar ability. Considering mythic gameplay\'s exceedingly high value of high initiative/hitting first, I\'d not allow this in my mythic games.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though on the rules-language level some minor ambiguities have crept in. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs deliver Clever Combat feats that have some gems...but also feats that frankly are too strong, particularly in mythic gameplay. Ironically, the initiative modifying feats in question would be less problematic in non-mythic games. That being said, the pdf still has a fair price-point and some sweet ideas, making it a quintessential mixed bag, slightly on the positive side, and my review thus clock in at 3.5 stars - though I can\'t round up on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 89: Clever Combat Feats
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Places of Power: The Mistfall Refuge
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:14:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Averin Steelhammer and his dwarven clan did not have the best of times - driven from their ancestral lands by a horde of demons (guess they dug too deep), they aimlessly wandered the foreboding Greyspire Mountains - until they found the echoing cliffs of the eponymous mistfall refuge, etched with protective runes and magical obfuscation, the enterprising dwarves figured it would be a perfect place to start anew - turns out they were right. The lore pertaining this fabled place is suitable obscure (read: High DCs) and entry is only gained via invitation and by paying a hefty entrance fee - but once there, whoever had to vanish...is gone, proofed against the magical espionage of the vizier crossed and the vengeance of the king for absconding with his daughter. Yeah, the place with its protections is pretty much the location that a certain barbarian (and pretty much every group of PCs I ever had) would certainly require at least once - after all, PCs have a real knack for stepping on the toes of the completely wrong folks...

The whole application process and being led there, btw., is also covered alongside the obligatory rumors and events...and yes, there is a teleportation hall, a tavern/guest house/theatre-crossover and the pdf does not fail to comment on the particularities of daily life. Beyond the absolutely gorgeous 1-page isometric map (seriously worth the price of admission and a great hand-out), the place obviously has adventuring potential galore, even before introducing the 4 sample \"guests\" who are currently biding their time in this refuge from the worries of the world. Made me really chuckle, btw.: Moog, the awakened bear monk. Yes, that is one of them. Come on, that is cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. Layout adheres to RSP\'s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two iterations, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer - kudos there! The cartography by Simon Butler and Dyson Logos is excellent beyond the usual standard of the series: We actually get a stunning isometric map this time around. Personally, I consider the map alone worth the low asking price. I think by joining Raging Swan Press\' patreon, you can actually get the high-res map for the evocative place, but I am not 100% sure. The map provided is cool, but sports keyed rooms.

Jeff Gomez and Jacob Trier joining forces has delivered nothing but amazing in this Place of Power: Beyond being extremely useful tool for the GM (\"Oh damn, now the city\'s powerful guys will want them dead and I have no logical explanation why they\'re not found...wait, they helped that one dwarf a couple of sessions before...\") to make the PCs escape overwhelming odds, it also makes a glorious place for a subdued investigation into the fugitives...and then there\'d be the question of who actually made and magic-proof\'d this place...a ton of amazing adventure, unique yet easily usable in just about any context, a ton of ideas crammed into a precious few pages: This is glorious and epitomizes what the series should be about. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Mistfall Refuge
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10 Monsters - A Basic Bestiary - V.1
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:12:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little bestiary clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/monsters by type/CR, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

We begin this pdf with the blessed ring at CR 6 - an immobile ring of Large mushrooms that may not move...but it can spray devastating bursts of acid at foes. After entering the ring, it generates a dome to rest in, so yeah, sniping into camp is impeded as well. Sounds like your average adventuring nightmare? Nope, for there is a twist: These plants are actually good, can detect alignments and only assault evil creatures - they represent basically a powerful safe zone to rest and recuperate for the good guys. Creepy? Yup. But also damn cool. Oh...and they don\'t make much difference between things - if one being inside is evil, the digestion routine begins...ouch.

The cadavalier at CR 9 is a pun worthy of yours truly; it is also an undead, quasi-centauric entity with retributive bone spurs, powerful leaping capabilities and serious armor training. While I noticed a minor typo in the flavor text, I was pleasantly surprised to see notes on advanced creatures and creating these undead. At CR 7, cavern giants would actually be pretty kind beings - uncommon for the udnerdark. Beyond their cauliflower ears, their rules also enhance their theme - they absolutely love wrestling, allowing them to inflict nonlethal damage, Dex and Str-damage...you get the idea. On a nitpicky side - their thrown stalactites should probably inflict piercing damage, not untyped damage.

Cavernivores are more straight-forward - at CR 12, they are huge reptiles with bioluminous tendrils. Think of them as basically the reptile equivalent of angler fish. Torturer Devils would be, now that kytons no longer are straight devils, the stand-in - immune to the effects of social skills, they are a brutally efficient build with extended threat ranges and multipliers and a nasty pain-debuff - that should probably be codified as a [pain]-effect.

At CR 25, the gloom is a living nightmare - bald humanoids with no face, exaggerated smiles full of black teeth in funeral clothing, they clock in at a mighty CR 25. They receive exceedingly powerful blades, are absolutely silent and receive both sneak attack and opportunist - basically, they are high-end, nigh-unstoppable supernatural assassins. Deadly. CR 10 brings us Old Man Winter, the oversized axe-wielding corrupted fey that draws life from those slain, who actually, in spite of the type, makes for a deadly adversary. Oh, of course, he has ice-themed SPs as well as the option to conjure forth icy winds for soft crowd control.

The CR 9 Tamazulim is a gigantic, warty toad that emits a truly despicable stench - obviously, it receives a tongue grab...but it may also breathe lightning. That being said, from the flavor-text, I expected the stench quality here. Oh well. The CR 7 Phantom Troll is a damn cool idea: You see, these guys are not only great hunters and beings that heal by inflicting damage and cause Str-damage - they\'re also naturally invisible. I really enjoy this critter, but one ability contains a cut-copy-past remnant referencing the invisible stalker. They still rank as one of the most challenging CR 7 critters you can throw at players.

The final critter herein would be once again one for the higher CRs - 23, to be precise. The Typhoeon has a humanoid torso and head, but the lower body of a colossal snake, with serpent-shaped arms that sport serpent heads where the hands should be. Oh, and wings. It can fly. In a minor discrepancy of fluff and statblock, the fluff notes the creature to have serpent heads, while the respective abilities reference dragon-heads...which btw. can both basically generate flame-thrower style cones each round.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; I noticed a couple of unnecessary hiccups. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games\' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf actually comes bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The pdf has no artworks.

Which brings me to a central aspect - personally, I prefer substance over style and this pdf does feature some cool critters with interesting abilities and evocative concepts - I can envision quite a few of them better than similar creatures, so as far as I\'m concerned, for the low and fair price, this does a nice job. That being said, not all of Derek Blakely\'s critters are amazing and the editing/formatting hiccups make themselves felt in such a small file. At the same time, I will actually use a few of the critters herein, which, considering the amount of critters at my disposal, is a sign of neat design. I should probably round down from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, all things considered, but considering the fair price-point and the gems that are herein, my final verdict will instead round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
10 Monsters - A Basic Bestiary - V.1
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Mythic Minis 88: Feats of Misdirection
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:09:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-Blustering Bluff: You can use the feat to reduce the penalty of impossible lies by 5. Creatures fooled also do not automatically realize they were fooled, only becoming cognizant of the deception when presented with evidence or contradictory claims. Nice!

-Confabulist: After botching Bluff, you can follow up with Diplomacy to admit to the lie; on a success, you gain +5 to the second Bluff check. Additionally, 1/day, you may expend mythic power to retry an otherwise impossible to retry Bluff check.

-Cutting Humiliation: The penalties of the feat\'s effects are doubled. Additionally, you never become humiliated when failing to use the feat. You may also expend mythic power prior to making the check to deliver a memorable humiliation instead; this one remains in effect for 1 month per tier, as it becomes the gossip. Humiliated individuals may temporarily offset the penalty by concealing their identity, but cannot remove it by composing themselves, but beating you in social combat or intimidating you ends its effects. Now that type of coolness I what I expect from mythic intrigue!

-Intoxicating Flattery: The penalty extends to Bluff and Diplomacy DCs as well as influence and discovery checks made and you no longer suffer penalties from failed flattery.

-Manipulative Agility: +1 Sleight of Hand per 5 ranks of Bluff. Additionally, when delivering secret messages, check both skills and take the better result.

-Misdirection Attack: AoOs made in conjunction with this do not count against AoO-total per round. You also get +1/2 tier to attacks and + tier damage.

-Misdirection Redirection: Target of the redirect is flat-footed for the purpose of the attack. If you expend one use of mythic power, you deal +1d6 per 2 tiers, which is treated as though it were the rogue\'s sneak attack. One question here, since that wording is slightly odd: Does this mean that the damage this feat can inflict is treated as sneak attack for the purpose of prerequisites?

-Misdirection Tactics: You can use this while fighting defensively. You may also use it more often versus a foe, though subsequent uses require the expenditure of mythic power.

-True Deception: Add tier to Bluff to impersonate an individual; use mythic power to correctly guess specific information the target may know with successful Sense Motive checks, with tier as a bonus to the check. Also allows you to expend one use of mythic power to speak in a language the individual you impersonate knows as if you had cast share language. Both can be combined. Damn cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson have a nice selection of mythic feats here; while not all are amazing, there are some really creative ones here that warrant the low asking price. My final verdict clocks in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 88: Feats of Misdirection
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Mythic Minis 87: Feats of Diplomacy
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:07:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-Call Truce: Add mythic tier to Diplomacy checks made; on a failure, you may not use Diplomacy again with a creature entreated with for 1d4 minutes rather than hours; during the round you are calling a truce, you gain the defense bonuses of total defense as well as +1/2 tier to saves versus mind-affecting effects. For mythic power expenditure, you can use it with creatures with whom you do not share a language as well as gaining + tier to Bluff, Linguistics and Sense Motive to communicate across the language barrier for 1 round. Has a minor, purely aesthetic hiccup, a reference to Diplomacy that is not capitalized.

-Entreating Critical: When you confirm a crit versus a creature, you may choose to deal lethal or nonlethal damage; if you choose nonlethal, you gain crit multiplier to Diplomacy with the creature for 24 hours. Alternatively, instead of rolling the confirmation roll, you may expend mythic power to affect the target with share language as an AoO-less SP. Creative one!

-Ironclad Logic: Bonus is increased to 1/2 Int-score and you may always take 10 on Diplomacy checks. Cool: Doubles as Skill Focus (Mythic) Diplomacy for prereq-purposes; also uses Int as well as Cha in social combat when employing tactics with assigned Int-based skills. Not a big fan of dual attribute-mods to any check.

-Nerve-Wracking Negotiator: Instead of attitude returning to normal, a creature that failed the save increases the attitude by one step for the purpose of making requests. This does only make following requests more likely and does not generally improve the creature\'s attitude towards you.

-Persuasive Bribery: Doubles bonus in Diplomacy and Charisma checks, as the bonuses on the bribes. Via Sense Motive, you can discern whether a creature is susceptible to bribery in general, with various classes concisely defined. If you expend mythic power, you also have a general idea of what type of bribery would work best.

-Play to the Crowd: Add mythic tier to Sense Motive made in conjunction with the feat; surges used with the feat are applied to both Diplomacy and Sense Motive for 1 hour; If engaged in a verbal due, you learn all the target\'s biases, which may be slightly overkill. When using a charm or compulsion effect (excluding fear) after succeeding a Sense Motive DC 25 check used with the feat, you increase the save DC.

-Threatening Negotiator: Renders victims of intimidation helpful when exceeding the Dc by 5 or more; has synergy with Nerve-Wracking Negotiator.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Rigg\'s mythic feats of Diplomacy are generally well crafted, but also ultimately represent mostly increased numerical bonuses, which are simply not that amazing for skill-based environments. Personally, I wished this had increased breadth of options more for more breadth, rather than piling on in the already abuse-prone skill-bonus depth-department. It does that, mind you, but not to the maximum extent. In comparison to what the cool subject matter Diplomacy offers, this mythic mini left me not that excited. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 87: Feats of Diplomacy
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Past Lives: Secrets of Reincarnation
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:55:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Reincarnation in d20 and its derivatives, ultimately (and undeservedly so) often boils down in relevance to being a subpar version of returning the dead to live and a plot contrivance. This pdf\'s mission-statement is to change this. Formatting-wise, this is achieved via the introduction of a so-called past-life profile - and no, that is NO chosen by the player. A past life profile conveys a series of bonuses to a respective PC at certain levels - this is represented in certain abilities gained, etc. While the design-goal is that of a net-gain, each past life also has an accompanying disadvantage stemming from the experiences of said existence. The unifying downside of the past life profile is that spells that return the dead from beyond the pale do not work as reliably and require a caster level check to work - one modified by the PC\'s Charisma bonus; the stronger the personality, the easier it\'ll be to return the soul.

Past Life Profiles are pretty extensive: Each begins with a brief summary of the past life in question, proceeding then to denote how that person died. Then, we get a quirk the PC manifests due to the echo of the past life and then the abilities, based on character levels. The respective profile also has a reincarnation feat - the player gets to know the name of the feat...but not its benefits. It can be taken freely for a feat-slot, if the player qualifies. This is a cool way of dealing with the hazy aspect of past life memories. Finally, each past life also has notes on plot-development.

So, what do we get? Well, the first past-life profile would by Kyssalis, the elf-eater, lizardfolk queen of the Dead Water tribe, was captured and summarily executed by her adversaries. A PC with her past-life feels his voice fall an octave while angry and sports an irrational hatred of elves the PC is cognizant of. On the plus-side, the PC begins play speaking draconic and later levels net Swim as a class skill (or a bonus), favored enemy (humanoid[elf]), favored terrain (swamps) and even learns to execute a primary natural attack, qualifying potentially for Multiattack etc. This very much should give you an inkling of what these offer - flavorful bonuses, somewhat akin to roleplaying rewards/abilities sometimes provided by good GMs...and it doubles as an individual plot-line, as a kind of built-in roleplaying catalyst.

The next one would be Vantum H\'Haran, phylactery hunter. Let that sink in. Now that\'s a high-risk job-description if there ever was once! And indeed, the mysterious abilities this one conveys represents well the potency the previous life must have had - flashes of insight, arcane counters - the abilities gained are significant, but the flashes of past potency similarly can be disquieting; one ability, for example, renders you staggered for a whole day the first time you use it. This ties in perfectly with the established narrative tropes associated with the experience - and indeed, allows for a type of storytelling experience that is enhanced by this humble set of rules. A PC who was a legendary smith in a past life may literally learn to speak with swords! Death by fire, on the downside, may actually see certain, defensive magics...just fail to work for the PC.

The past lives presented here are not, at least in my opinion, double-edged swords in the traditional sense; instead, it may well hope to consider them to be character-arcs and roleplaying assists that require exactly 0 work to integrate into a given campaign. Whether it is a paranoid conjurer queen, star-crossed lovers or even a deity, replaced by a doppelganger demon (whose header is oddly formatted differently than that of the other profiles)...or perhaps, you\'ll find out that you once were a renegade aboleth, obsessed with imbuing slaves with a modicum of free will (hey, for aboleths, that\'s ultra-liberal!) - in any of these cases, the potential for roleplaying and the unique quirks that past lives result in can and must be seen as nothing short of amazing.

Now, as mentioned before, the respective profiles allow access to their own unique feats - a total of 7 would be provided. While I could nitpick one for noting caster level in two of the 4 benefits and not in the rest of the two, the intent remains clear - and the benefits are damn cool...cool enough to warrant taking the feat: Said example would allow for immediate action utility spells/healing to get you out of all manner of nasty situations, for example. Another feat lets you designate an intended wielder of powerful magic items you create, enhancing the respective weapon for this individual by perk and quirk. What about being a walking fire extinguisher?

Even cooler: We also get at least one unique magical item per past life, several of which receive their own full-color artworks. These items, once again, allow for unconventional tricks: There would be a grimoire, which provides a chance for you to bypass magical wards with passwords. There would be a powerful weapon that can be enhanced with a metal band (can we please have more thus upgradeable magic items?) and there similarly is a brooch that reacts to negative conditions via helpful spell-based benefits. You\'re blinded? Great, you turn invisible for a brief period of time. Promise rings of aforementioned star-crossed lovers? Check. What about a ring that lets you generate instant, water-filled trenches? Yeah, cool. The pdf concludes with a brief table to randomly determine past lives.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as usual for legendary Games - I noticed a couple, mostly cosmetic hiccups. Layout adheres to the gorgeous two-column full-color standard for Mummy\'s Mask plug-ins and the pdf features several nice full-color pieces, though fans of LG may know some from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

First things first: This book is useful beyond the confines of the Mummy\'s Mask AP. The respective past lives can literally fit within every context due to their nature, though they obviously do echo the themes of the AP. Michael Kortes\' system for past lives herein is a stroke of genius in my book. The abilities gained and the progression of their tricks really help making the PCs more involved in a given story and any player and GM worth their salt can draw bucket loads of inspiring, actual ROLEplaying from this book, while simultaneously reaping the rewards of engaging with the story on a deeper level. The totality of mechanical benefits, viable unique ability-choices (via feats) and well-crafted magical items make this come together as something that exceeds the sum of its parts. At a place in time where we have a vast array of mechanical options, one may easily forget that they ultimately should help carrying the story. As such, this supplement does an amazing job of making exploring the stories of the past lives featured herein rewarding and engaging for players and GMs alike.

I absolutely adore this pdf and while its minor hiccups are there, I can\'t rate this the full 5 stars....but I can rate it 4.5 stars, round up and add my seal of approval.

As far as I\'m concerned, this is absolutely amazing and I certainly hope we\'ll get to see more past lives in the future. For my part, I am certain to expand upon the system presented - the concept is too compelling and neat not to. (As one final note: That unique feat you just stumbled over that no one knows? That unique ability that would change the dynamics of your game\'s world and thus is banned? Tying that to a past life is a great way to say \"yes\" to a player asking for it, while curtailing its implications and maintaining in-game logic: \"Of course none but the PC can do this - it is only due to being the reincarnated XYZ he can break the laws of magic this way!\" Just sayin\'!) Can I have more, please?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Past Lives: Secrets of Reincarnation
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Campaign Backdrop: Marshes & Swamps
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:53:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installation of the helpful environmental toolkit-compilations by Raging Swan Press clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page stat blocks by CR, 2 pages of author bios, 1 page of advice for reading statblocks for novice GMs, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 76 pages of raw content, so let\'s take a look!

Taking a cue from Raging Swan Press\' other, no less intriguing compilation books, this one features a table of all statblocks used herein by CR (spanning the range from CR 1/4 to 10) with accompanying page numbers and, as a nice service to the talented authors involved, we get a page of author bios, which is great to see.

But what is this? Well, the short answer, as already hinted at, is that this is basically a toolbox for a specific type of terrain, namely the swamps and marshes. Where other Raging Swan Press collections for example collected the significant amount of dressing files or village backdrops in a single tome, the goal of these books is to organize the tools for the GM by region he needs - in this case, that would be forests and woodlands, obviously.

The presentation of the content is exceedingly smart - we move from the non-specific to the specific, from the general to the detailed in this book; Hence, we begin with a 50-entry-strong table depicting an uneventful day\'s journey in each entry before adding 100 minor events and 100 dressings, then move on to random encounters that don\'t suck - a total of 14 such encounters have been collected from the respective Raging Swan Press pdfs, now available for the first time in print - and yes, the bonus enhancement encounters from the web-enhancement have been included. Beyond a fluff-centric table, we also get a nice GM-cheat-sheet for terrain.

After establishing the basics of the swamp, we move on to settlements inside - hence, the urban dressing for marsh towns would be next, providing tables galore to use and enjoy, with businesses, events and hooks - all in. The excellent lace of Power, the Mudded Manse, can similarly be found within these pages as a ready to drop in location and speaking of which - 4 sample villages from the village backdrop-series are included herein: Aldwater, Thornhill, Tigley and Vaagwol. It should be noted that I have reviews the constituent files that make up this compilation, so if you require in-depth guidance regarding one, you\'ll find it in these reviews.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues apart from a cosmetic hiccup of a read-aloud text\'s box looking weird and similar minor things. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press\' two-column b/w-standard with solid pieces of b/w-artwork, The locations have some nice b/w-cartography as well, though in particular Thornhill\'s map has since it was originally featured herein been used for several settlements I encountered; that may be an aspect you need to be aware of. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with excessive bookmarks and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one made for screen-use: Kudos!

This compilation of material by Jesper Andersen, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Denver Edwards Jr., Steve Hood, Greg Marks, David Posener, Jacob Trier, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham provides a great one-stop-shop-experience if you need the tools to make swamps and marshes stand out. Now whether you need this book ultimately depends on how big a Raging Swan Press-fan you are. If you already have all the GM\'s Miscellany-books and the individual pdfs, this mainly will help in the discipline of organization.

Personally, I love having a book in my hands, but considering that I already have the dressing books and the villages, I\'m not sure I\'d get this. If, however, you only have one or two of the files herein and/or none of the GM\'s Miscellany books that overlap with this, then this instantly becomes a must-have book that is extremely useful. In short: Whether to get this or the Miscellany-books depends on which organization paradigm you prefer. My final verdict for this compilation will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Backdrop: Marshes & Swamps
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