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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 11:00:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #054: Uneasy Rests the Crown'd Head
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Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2017 04:19:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

...

..

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gateway Pass Adventure Path Part 1: Brighton Road (PFRPG)
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Skyrider Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:16:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The skyrider base class received d10 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. How much skills per level, you're asking? NO IDEA. That info is missing from the pdf. Blergh.

The class gains challenge at first level, +1 daily use for every 3 levels beyond first. The skyrider also chooses an order at first level. Two specific skyrider orders are included here, with the first being the order of the zephyr, who increases the movement rate of skyrider and mount when moving towards the target of a challenge (+10 ft., +20 ft. and 30 ft. at 7th and 15th level). Skill-wise, the order nets Perception and Survival as class skills. 2nd level yields the handy ability to count as 1/2 weight for the purpose of determining mount encumbrance as well as eliminating the penalty to AC when charging. 8th level yields a tripled speed when charging, which is VERY strong. Worse, spear fighter weapon group weapons now behave as though they were lances...i.e. like one of the most problematic aspects of the base game. Not the biggest fan there. 15th level nets a +2 AC bonus versus ranged attacks for rider and mount when charging, an additional 50% miss chance. Additionally, they deal automatic damage (untyped) equal to twice the class level to any obstacles in the way - no save, no attack roll - just broken...and I don't even have to state how this can be highly problematic in its precise rules-interactions, right? They also take only 1/4 damage from damaging obstacles.

The second order contained in this book would be the order of venom, who increases the threat range of the mount's attacks by 1 in challenge...which isn't bad per se. But threat range increases by a further 1 for every 4 levels thereafter. Skill-wise, both Fly and Survival are included...which is weird, considering that the base class already receives Fly as a class skill. For the cavalier, I guess... Weird, btw. - the order of venom's order abilities are formatted differently than those of the order of zephyr. Since the order also yields a bonus on Knowledge-checks made to identify creatures, its 2nd level ability builds on that; identified creatures observed as move actions can thus yields short-term bonuses that increase at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 8th level allows the skyrider to use wyvern poison as a standard action and execute one attack with the poisoned weapon. 15th level lets the skyrider dismount, fall up to 200 ft. and attack a foe at the end; if successful, the falling damage is added to the attack and the skyrider takes no damage. Sooo, is the falling damage multiplied on a critical hit? No idea. The pdf also sports companion stats for wyvern and griffon, though the griffon's advancement-lines lack proper formatting.

Starting at 3rd level, the class receives the high talon ability, which nets +1 to atk and damage whenever attacking from higher ground, increasing the bonus by +1 at every 3 levels thereafter. 4th level yields the griffon companion, which uses the skyrider's level -3 as druid level. The griffon does not receive share spells, obviously, but does gain Light Armor Proficiency as a bonus feat. This feature is weird, since it locks the character in the griffon-choice, contradicting the wyvern-option presented by one of the orders - RAW, the order of venom would thus only be available for the cavalier.

5th level yields mounted evasion, which is pretty self-explanatory. 7th level provides the option for the griffon to carry the skyrider...and this is weird, for, provided the griffon is trained and weight etc. checks out, he could do that before. Carrying the rider also "reduces the fly speed" but fails to specify by how much. The skyrider may use Fly instead of Ride while mounted. At 10th level, things get wonky and the griffon companion is treated as though the skyrider always had a full druid companion progression...which is incredibly clunky.

13th level nets full fly speed when carrying the skyrider...implying a fixed penalty for a rider, but failing to specify how that all interacts with encumbrance etc. It looks pretty functional...but unfortunately isn't. 9th level yields Hover for the griffon, Flyby Attack for the skyrider. 17th level allows for full-attacks of both mount and rider after a charge at the cost of -4 to AC. 18th level provides mounted improved evasion. 20th level lets the skyrider dismount after a charge and execute one attack that automatically threatens a critical hit and may insta-kill the target. May? The DC is 10 + damage dealt...which is hilarious, considering all the crit-upgrades and potential boosts to charge attack damage. Also ridiculous: The skyrider may fall off the griffon, hit a target...and be caught by the griffon, regardless of distance. Yeah...makes no sense.

It should also be noted that the pdf has a section called "Skyrider Archetypes"...and nothing in it. The only content there would be the orders, one of which arguably isn't even for the class.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good. From the missing skills per level to typos and inconsistent formatting, the pdf suffers from a plethora of hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has a really nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks and cut-copy-paste of text is disabled, making the use of this pdf not very comfortable.

Angel "ARMR" Miranda's skyrider is not without promise, the aerial cavalier...

...oh, who am I kidding? This lacks crucial information, has some seriously wonky abilities, is a one-trick-charge-pony...and worse, everything this pdf does has been done more precisely and better. Get the ultimate, excellent flying resource "Companions of the Firmament" - it literally does everything this pdf does better and so much more. It's an EZG Essential for a reason. Alternatively, if you only want a nice aerial cavalier class, go for "Letters from the Flaming Crab: Winged Cavalry" instead; it also is vastly superior. Let me reiterate - this pdf is not a total wreck...but when compared to two vastly superior products, it has absolutely nothing going for it. Hence, my final verdict cannot go higher than 1.5 stars...and frankly, I can't bring myself to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Skyrider Hybrid Class
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Mini-Dungeon #052: Look Not With Thine Eyes But Thine Mind
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:14:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon can be played as a sequel to "There are more Things in the Planes and the Earth", but it works perfectly fine on its own as well. After having braved the weird complex and witnessed an elder thing talking to Formians, the PCs now explore a complex where the insectoid creatures represent the none-too-pleasant opposition - random encounters are provided as well, 4 to be more precise, but it should be noted that, from a blind monk to a termite swarm, a caulborn and aether elementals, the opposition found within these halls is rather diverse and fun.

Conclusion:

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

Stephen Yeardley's latest installments of this sequence of loosely connected mini-dungeons has a diverse and fun array of foes, a neat atmosphere and generally makes for a cool, fun dungeon. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #052: Look Not With Thine Eyes But Thine Mind
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Mini-Dungeon #051: There Are More Things in the Planes and the Earth
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:11:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This can be used as a sequel to the previous mini-dungeon "When goblins die, no comets are seen", though it can also be used on its own. The very entrance to this complex is trapped with a suggestion to "leave and never return", establishing a sense of foreboding dread that the complex then manages to expand - from traps with insanity mist to cairnwights and slithering trackers, the caverns contain some nasty tricks; and yes, burrowing can actually yield treasure...if you know where to look. At one point, the PCs will also have a chance to witness an elder thing, which retreats courtesy of aggressive formorians.

Pretty cool: The mini-dungeon contains 4 nice little random encounters to keep up the pressure.

Conclusion:

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

Stephen Yeardley's exploration of these realms below is interesting and the challenges and obstacles faced are fun and create an interesting mini-dungeon, well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #051: There Are More Things in the Planes and the Earth
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Four Horsemen Present: Celestial Character Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2017 04:44:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All, right, after a brief introduction we meet the Ishvara race. This race takes the concept of a heart and mind divided between selfless altruism and selfish ambition, making equilibrium difficult - you know the metaphysical concept. The ishvara embody this race - they perceive themselves as incarnations of imperfect souls and the moral turbulence makes them a prime candidate for self-realization, for the life of adventurous struggle, while also providing a deeply ingrained roleplaying angle for personal development, which is a big plus to me. The ishvara are native outsiders who get +2 to an attribute of their choice, darkvision, +2 to saves versus fear and despair effects and a 1/day option to reroll such a save on a natural 1. Additionally, they gain +2 to saves versus poison and mind-affecting effects and +1 to Perception and Sense Motive, both of which are always class skills for the race.

The race is pretty cool, though it does not come with an age, height and weight-table. Aasimar can choose 5 new FCOs - fighters can buff their energy resistance; mesmerists enhance their saves versus possession and compulsion effects with the evil descriptor, while samurai enhance challenge damage, skalds get +1/6 rage power and warpriests get +1/2 daily fervor uses. The ishvara also feature several favored class options, including several occult classes and the vigilante. Finally, sylphs also get a couple of favored class options - including ones for the Shifu class. Nice!

Next up would be the CR +1 angelbound template, which represents a pact with the forces of celestial realms, granting the creature SPs, attribute bonuses, etc. in exchange for scrutiny by the angel in question, with 9 different angel types covered - the template basically represents those willing to conform to rigid moral values in order to serve the heavens and vanquish evil. Fun and certain to see some use!

The pdf also features several archetypes, the first of which would be the angelic voice bard - at 3rd level, inspire competence is replaced by accompaniment - as an immediate action, the character can use aid another to help an ally while maintaining a bardic performance - I assume that the range is the range of bardic performance, though RAW, the ability does not specify the like and only implies the necessity to hear the bard. The ability is balanced either way, however, by requiring bardic performance expenditure. The bonus increases at 7th and 15th level by +1, respectively. At 8th level, dirge of doom is replaced with an interesting ability: When the angelic voice casts a spell with verbal component or as part of a bardic performance, he may forego the effects of the spell to increase the DC and CL of another caster by +2. This may sound easy here, but rules-language-wise, that is actually a pretty complex operation and I generally like it.

The Renegade hybrid class penned by the horsemen also receives an archetype, the celestial outlaw, who just needs to be non-evil. Instead of intimidate equipment, these guys get +2 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate, potentially moving the attitude of those affected up or down, as per the outlaw's precise skill use. The 3rd level shoot first is replaced with false surrender, which lets you spend panache as part of a parley - if you Bluff or Diplomacy, you may quickly draw the weapon at any time, kicking off a surprise round and providing serious initiative bonuses to allies. At 5th level, the outlaw can, as an immediate action, duplicate a nonmagic innocence 1/day, with 11th level increasing daily uses to 3/day. This replaces the sneak attack dice progression of these levels.

Next up would be the celestial soul monk, who must be good and replaces slow fall with celestial soar - supernatural flight, starting at 10 ft. with clumsy maneuverability and increasing in speed and maneuverability over the levels - kudos for properly assigning speed and maneuverability to the levels they work best with here. 10th level makes unarmed strikes count as good, with 16th level makes them also work as mithril. 13th level provides the perfect soul ability, which represents a native outsider apotheosis that features DR 5/evil, SR 5 + class level, with 20th level replacing this with the celestial creature template and 10 + class level SR; this replaces diamond self and perfect self.

The field medic wizard replaces Appraise and Knowledge (engineering) with Heal and Profession (physician) and does not get to choose a magic school (not even universalist), but still gains two opposition schools, but gets an additional spell slot per spell level, which must be used to prepare on of the healing spells added to the spell-list, learning them as arcane spells. Excellence: No, they cannot be learned by other casters as arcane spells. It's catching exploits like this that clearly showcases the experience and attention to detail of the author...and that makes my job so much more satisfying! Kudos! At 1st level, Heal-use can yield hit point healing and 10-minute treatment can even allow for better disease recuperation or ability damage recovery. The archetype also gets 3 + class level deathwatch. Unique and cool: 8th level yields the option to heal nearby allies as well when rolling maximum hit points with healing, while 13th level allows for the leftover healing of mass curing spells to be redistributed. Nice!

The guardian angel cleric is locked out f a series of evil/dark-themed domains and may not cast spells with the evil descriptor; when channeling energy, one of the base elements, negative energy or sonic damage are chosen - allies in channel range gain +2 to saves versus the chosen energy and decrease the damage incurred by the type, lasting until the cleric's next round. Cool and strategic! 5th level yields the option to spontaneously cast life pact or shield other using a 2nd level or higher memorized spell slot, with 9th level adding the option to spontaneously cast contagious zeal and sacred bond using a 4th level or higher spell slot. Engine tweaks are a hard sell on me, since most of the time, they're cookie cutter and not that interesting - this is none of these things, representing a fun and strategic modification of the cleric engine.

The phrenic defender psychic may not cast spells with the evil descriptor and, as an immediate action, may expend a point from the phrenic pool to grant herself +2 to Will-saves versus evil compulsion effects. They may not choose abomination or pain as disciplines and, regardless of discipline, receive spear of purity at 4th level as a 2nd level spell. 10th level yields dispel evil as a 5th level spell, replacing the respective discipline spells. 3rd level grants the shielding spells phrenic amplification, which allows for the expenditure of 1 or 2 points from the phrenic pool to give the target of a linked spell a buff on saves versus evil spells or effects. 11th level nets a similar amplification to end possessions, domination-effects or simply exorcise via the use of linked spells - damn cool archetype!

The seventh sash arcanist lose access to all necromantic spells, but gain access to a wide array of prismatic-themed spells, from the humble color spray to the mighty prismatic sphere. Whenever the character casts a spell from the abjuration, evocation or illusion school, they can choose an ally within 30 feet and a color of the rainbow (or black), conveying a benefit to ally and seventh sash until the next turn - +4 to spell damage, saves versus a subset of effects, skill bonuses...you get the idea. Starting at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, an additional ally may benefit from the ability. This does delay gaining the first arcane exploit to 3rd level. 11th level yields colorful exploits, adding Cha-mod to CL when determining the effects of certain exploits and also increases the maximum level of the exploit effects by Charisma modifier - though this potent option does replace 11th level's greater exploit.

A total of 14 new feats can be found within - Celestial familiar yields the celestial simple template (with a minor, cosmetic typo); Merciful critical lets you convert precision damage or critical hit damage on the fly to nonlethal damage (NICE!) and merciful smite is similarly self-explanatory. Smiting Spell lets you reroll 1s of damage rolls of spells at the cost of +1 spell level, while Singular Brilliance increases the DC of dazing, blindness etc. effects by one and extends their duration by 1 round. Uncommon Resistance lets you decrease one of your energy resistances by 5 and gain resistance 5 to the one you chose. Nice customization option, though (I wished it spelled out the energy types it can be applied to. Resolute Character nets you a save reroll when you'd be forced to act against your alignment or nature. The pdf also introduces the concepts of virtue feats, each of which represents one of the 7 cardinal virtues - Boon of Abstinence makes it possible for you to go longer sans food or water and helps versus poison, starvation, etc.; Boon of Chastity helps versus enchantments and attraction-based effects; Boon of Humility enhances your aid another, if you choose to incur a penalty to AC, while e.g. Boon of Patience lets you specify multiple triggering conditions when readying an action - pretty cool! These concepts most certainly have - all in all some really cool ones here!

A total of 7 celestial relics, powerful magical items, can also be found herein: The Decantur[sic! should be "decanter"] of endless holy water is just what it sounds like...but no, you can't use it to flood a dungeon - its mechanics are actually directed, which is a big plus here. The efreeti prison bottle is pretty much self-explanatory and no, the imprisoned creature has no chance to become insane. The warhammer elven thrower would be a warhammer that elves can fire at foes. Midnight blue rhomboid ioun stones nets Alertness, but also make subterfuge harder. Fans of Solomon Kane will certainly appreciate the puritan's pistol, a lucky revolver that cannot be used by evil, acting almost as a cursed weapon for those so foolish to use this. The robes of benign heritage would be a variant of the arcane heritage version and the sacred book is a blessed book variant for arcane casters.

We close this pdf with a total of 7 new spells, the first of which would be borrow grace, which allows you to tap into the willing or unwilling +Cha-to-saves granting options of some creatures. Nice one! Celestial Form nets temporarily the celestial creature template. Chromatic Orb and Chromatic Sphere would be two spells that deal with the rainbow-theme: The Orb causes 4 types of energy damage, helping potentially determine resistances and immunities and featuring partial saves, while the sphere represents a defensive option. Kudos regarding spell levels here - they make sense to me and are in line with the power of existing options. Flies, then honey allows you to salvage blundered social interactions. Heavenspeak represents a combo buff + minor heal/debuff + minor damage within 30 ft. The spell has, alas, a sentence fragment missing - it reads "Leaving the spell's area Any outsiders..." Prismatic beam ends the pdf on a high note, concept-wise with a low-level prismatic spell option for 2nd level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level (also due to Steven T. Helt's obvious expertise!), but on a formal level, I found more typo level glitches and the like than I'm used to Rogue Genius Games. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard for the series. Interior artwork contains a blend on new and stock art in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven T. Helt's designs tend to rather subtle; he has a knack for identifying gaps in the rules and one of the few designers who constantly and reliably delivers engine-tweaks for components of the game that have been overlooked. Where other designers would blunder, his takes on these is consistently precise and meaningful. Contrary to me usual predilection for high-concept, long and complex archetypes, I found myself actually enjoying the shorter, highly compatible engine tweaks he provides herein - so big kudos for that! At the same time, I did wish there was slightly less "this is a variant of x" among the items and I don't get the absence of alternate racial traits of age, height and weight table for the conceptually cool, if mechanically a bit conservative race. As a whole, this collection of options definitely has some worthwhile, fun material, though it misses the highest marks of e.g. his comedic character options. Still, very much worth getting, in spite of the minor blemishes. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Celestial Character Options
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Mini-Dungeon #050: When Goblins Die, No Comets are Seen
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2017 04:34:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon can be run as a sequel to "Doubt not that stars are fire", but can also stand on its own. After delving into the coldfire-infested tunnels in the previous module, the party dives into the dark, where they'll encounter the remains of a tribe of dark folk, fighting wights...and the tunnels also contain horribly weakened goblins and a complex with traps aplenty in the remnants of a mysterious complex

Conclusion:

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

Stephen Yeardley's take on exploring these weird tunnels makes for a fun and interesting sidetrek that makes for a neat, fun little romp. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #050: When Goblins Die, No Comets are Seen
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Mini-Dungeon #049: Doubt Not That Stars Are Fire
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2017 04:29:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right! This can be used as a sequel to the "Pit your Wits" mini-dungeon, but works well on its own: Following a mutated goblin attack, the PCs have to go down the pit, the walls aglow with coldfire...and worse, there is a deadly substance...and this coldfire substance has mutated the local goblins into goberrations - a variant, weaker faceless stalker...and being too close to the substance is really painful. Dried coldfire can result in a similarly horrible mutation for careless PCs and within this place, raging rubble, cerebric fungi and worse await...but there indeed is a way down...but do the PCs dare continue?

Conclusion:

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

Stephen Yeardley shows what an awesome atmosphere you can generate with a few monster reskins and some deadly terrain. This is a deceptively hard little mini-dungeon and makes great use of the environments. The mini-dungeon is fun and evocative and certainly worth the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #049: Doubt Not That Stars Are Fire
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Deadly Gardens: Hypno-Lotus
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/19/2017 06:36:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins, as always, with new magical items, the first of which would be the alluring everbloom crown, which is a high-priced item that allows the character wearing it to affect plants with mind-influencing effects and 3/day cast charm monsters, but only on plants. The second item would be the mowing scythe, a +2 plant bane scythe - the first attack each round with this scythe targets all plant creatures threatened by the wielder - which is powerful, but only works when all creatures threatened are plants. Additionally, 3/day, the wielder can attack ALL CREATURES in a 60-ft.-line, which is extremely powerful - 68K does offset that somewhat, but still...circumstantially, this can be insanely strong.

We also get a total of 7 natural items: Accuser devil eyes can record visually everything that occurs within 24 hours, allowing for easy recollections; blink dog fur can once prevent being unwillingly pulled to the ethereal plane. Bunyip shriek balls can panic foes when squeezed, while chupacabra tongues can temporarily enhance the user's movement. Hypno-lotus petals can be used as a full-round action to grant telepathy with a creature or induce a mind-affecting effect preventing autohypnosis. Necrophidius bone meal fortify the user by providing bonuses versus dazed and paralyzed conditions. Powdered forlarren horn grants DR 5/cold iron, but also imposes a penalty to saves versus emotion effects. Aforementioned blink dog fur can be used as a power component for blink's percentile miss chance to be rolled twice, while use in conjunction with dimension door reduces damage of being shunted into a free space. Hypno-lotus petals can increase the duration of hypnotism and suggestion. When used with mass suggestion you can affect +1 creature and murderous command grants a bonus to attacks of affected characters.

All right, I've beaten around the bush long enough: The star of the pdf would be the hypno-lotus, which clocks in at CR 10 and is lavishly and gorgeously rendered by artist Becca Baen. Mind-affecting abilities can affect the lotus and the critter gets a pretty strong mental defense. The petals of the lotus generate a mesmerizing, hypnotic pattern with its leaves...and the plant can make creatures nearby attack themselves and communicate with their charmed thralls. Oh, and their slams and grabs are nasty. Love this critter!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard and is still rather printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artwork of the creature is amazing.

Stephen Stack's hypno-lotus is an amazing critter. Deadly, versatile and fun. The supplemental material is similarly well-crafted. With no significant glitches or complaints on my end, this can be considered to be an amazing little pdf, well worth the asking price of less than a buck! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, missing my seal only due to the imho OP, but cool scythe.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Hypno-Lotus
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