RPGNow.com
Close
Close
Browse











Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Psionics Augmented: Mind And Soul
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:52:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Psioncis Augmented-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a welcome and well-explained discussion of the basic differences between psionics and psychic magic: As noted by yours truly before, psionics are drawn from an internal power, while psychic magic channels effects and draws its potency from an external source of power - but beyond that, the pdf goes on to discuss the interaction of both and the potential that can be drawn from their interaction in both narrative and mechanical terms, discussing how class features and overlaps do work between the two. (For an example how AMAZING this blend can be, look no further than the glorious Living legend penned by Forrest Heck...)

Now, that may all be nice and all, but let's look at the archetypes contained herein, shall we? We begin with the mesmerist mindrender, who replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to Intimidate. He replaces towering ego with + Cha-mod to saves versus fear and emotion effects. His touch treatment allows for the progressive removal of increasing fear-based conditions (including cowering when he can treat greater conditions). Additionally, the mindrender may expend one such use starting 2nd level to inflict minor untyped damage and temporarily eliminate immunity to fear, with 7th level allowing for the addition of mindrender terrors from the custom list. Said terrors can be activated as a swift action.

Now here's the thing: The terrors can delivered via both distressing touch and hypnotic stare. Terrors are governed by Cha, can be used class level + Cha mod times per day and the archetype retains compatibility with other terror-granting classes. The most powerful terror requires 16th level to choose and may kill, though a once per 24-hours hex-like caveat retains balance there. Temporary hit points for allies, fear-inflicting. At 14th level, inciting paranoia, leeching life and the implanting of multiple tricks represent some seriously nice options. Instead of manifold tricks, the mindrender can, at 5th level, employ his gaze to "mindlock" a foe, which leaves the foe free to act, but allows the mindrender to employ terrors usually delivered via distressing touch at range. 11th level is interesting: While the mindrender is generally immune o fear and emotion effects, he can willingly suspend this immunity - the more such detrimental spells affect him, the more his power grows. This is wording-wise a pretty impressive and uncheesable one. Kudos! The capstone nets DR, SR and 1/week may reincarnate upon dying from the fears of a creature affected by his fears and terrors! Very, very cool!

The second mesmerist archetype contained within would be the ringleader, who replaces consummate liar with bonuses to Diplomacy and Intimidate and Expanded Collective as a bonus feat gained at 3rd level. Wait, what? Well, the ringleader receives a cool variant of the psionic collective called carnevale, replacing painful stare: The tricks the ringleader can employ make excellent use of this telepathic, Will-enhancing bond, allowing for mobility increase and repositioning effects added or grant significant bonuses to allies/daze foes. 2nd level provides the option to 2/day as a swift action enhance the next spell cast, with the maximum spell level the ability can affect, allowing for the proper support of allies. Starting at 3rd level, the ringleader may use his gaze to force hostile creatures to become part of his carnevale, allowing the ringleader to move certain detrimental effects to the respective character and force the poor sap to reroll checks. Starting at 11th level, this does not even require hypnotic stare. Guided meditation may target any member of his carnevale, with 7th level allowing for a bold stare improvement taht can potentially affect mindless creatures at the cost of psychic inception. Creatures removed from the carnevale may be drawn back in at a glance, sans range, with higher level options allowing for almost Joker-like mocking debufss and the capstone rendering the carnevale almost addictive, penalizing the Will-save to resist the ringleader...oh, and those nearby may be drawn in as well. Oh BOY, I love this! The creepy ringleader of quasi supernatural powers is such an AMAZING and time-honored concept. Caligari, anyone? JAck of Tears? I adore this complex, amazing archetype.

The next archetype herein would be the athanatic channeler spiritualist receives psionics of up to 6th level, drawn from the dread list, with up to 20 powers known and a power points increasing to 120 at 20th level from a humble one, using Wisdom as governing attribute. Instead of knacks the archetype receives two dread talents and a phantom adjacent to the athanatic channeler may be affected by powers manifested on herself when within 5 ft., replacing share spells. 4th level replaces the detect undead ability, instead detecting creatures immune to fear and mind-affecting effects, which is one intriguing twist, allowing the channeler to treat detected creatures as not immune for Wis-mod rounds after detecting them, making a lame detect act as a two-step-set-up for a combo. Nice psionic alternative to the spiritualist.

The second spiritualist archetype within these pages would be the crystalline binder, who harbors the phantom in her psicrystal, gaining Psicrystal Affinity (reprinted for your convenience!) as a bonus feat at first level. Being close to the crystal nets bonuses to saves versus mind-affecting effects as well as skill bonuses determined by emotional focus and 1/day, they may shunt mind-affecting effects into the crystal, at the temporary cost of these skill bonuses. AT higher levels, this works even when the phantom is manifested. Starting at 3rd level, the crystalline binder may 3 + class level rounds fuse psicrystal and phantom into a powerful gestalt entity, granting it AC and DR as well as bite attack (properly codified: THANK YOU!) and later even attribute bonuses, making this entity...AMAZING! Phantom recall draws the phantom back into the psicrystal and at 17th level, the total duration of the gestalt entity is increased to 3 + twice class level. AWESOME.

The pdf also contains archetypes for phantoms, the first of these being the unpatterned, who gain a touch attack inflicting 1d6 + Cha-mod damage that bypasses all DR and resistances, but loses the damage progression of the usual slam attack for this reliable output, which makes it actually okay as far as I'm concerned! 4th level increases this damage to 1d8 and enhances CMB when sundering, further increasing that at 10th level. Interesting: When such a phantom attacks, it rolls 2d20: If it uses the higher result, it deals normal damage; if it uses the lower result, it increases the base damage dice by one die...which is a cool gamble, though, as a nitpick, the ability should specify that the choice must be made before results are made known. At 12th level, the unpattern can generate a 10-ft.-whirlwind attack instead of delivering touch spells. Really, really cool.

The final archetype herein would be the shadow aspect, dealing not with shadow as a physical concept, but more as a Jungian concept: An emotional negation that puts into question whether wilder or shadow aspect is truly in charge. The archetype receives access to a phantom which is harbored in the wilder's psyche and dispelled upon being reduced to - Con-score hit points. Manifesting the phantom requires 1 minute. It may be affected by spells (not italicized) and does not naturally heal. Being entities of base desires, they thankfully have a caveat that prevents them from manifesting alongside other pets. This replaces surge bond and improved surge bond.

The phantom thus called is affected by the negation phantom archetype, which replaces share spells with share powers and may deliver touch powers. They do not gain Skill Focus, but gain skill ranks determined by the emotional focus. The phantom also receives access to a limited array of powers that can be manifested as psi-like abilities. This special phantom also ties in with the shadow aspect's special wild surge, which is called shared surge: Increased manifester level at the cost of more power points, with 7th, 11th and 19th level providing increases to the bonuses. Cool: The archetype may expend psionic focus to pay for the increased power point cost, but doing so increases the chances of shadow enervation to 25%. Shadow enervation? Well, instead of the normal psychic enervation, the shadow enervation (base-chance 10%) ends psionic focus when the phantom is not manifested; if it is manifested, the two swap places - and yes, the wording accounts for dimensional lock (not italicized) and similar effects and even space issues. Additionally, when the phantom woud be dispersed by an attack, the wilder may choose to pay power points on a one-to-one ratio to prevent the dispersal of his phantom. This tether, however, also links the two entities together and means that both cannot be far away from one another.

As a standard action that requires expenditure of the psionic focus, the shadow aspect may unleash a 10 ft. Aoe force damage blast around the phantom, with damage scaling depending on shared surge, replacing thus surge blast. 4th level provides a buff to phantom attack, damage and saves in the aftermath of a shared surge as well as temporary hit points, with higher levels increasing the bonus and a 1/day Will-reroll thrown in for good measure, replacing surging euphoria. As a capstone, the archetype may 1/day manifest TWO phantoms at once, but at the cost of psionic focus and an inability to regain it while they're manifested. have I mentioned the fact that this cloning operation actually manages to get item-duplication and interaction,s omething also covered by the phantom wording, right? This archetype is glorious, high-concept, strong, and OOZES roleplaying potential. Its powerful pet is paid for by several key wilder tricks, making it a damn cool addition to the game.

The pdf also contains 4 feats: One for multiclassing phantoms (usual up to +4, up to character level formula), one for 6 more crystalline bond rounds, one that makes the phantom a free part of a collective and enhances synergy between phantom-granting and collective-granting class and a phantom feat that nets far hand (not italicized)at will while contained within the spiritualist's psyche or incorporeal.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, with only a couple of missed italicizations as hiccups. On a rules-language level, the pdf is precise like a razor's edge, in spite of the highly complex subject material. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the art employed is amazing and thematically-fitting, dark art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Project lead Forrest Heck, with design by Doug Haworth, Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher (Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher are credited as designers for this one on OBS), delivers the second psionics augmented-installment that knocks my socks off so hard, they slap back on my feet. The athanatic channeler is the one archetype herein that I expected to see: You know, a well-made psionic spiritualist. It was pretty clear that this would be in the series sooner or later. But even that one has a couple of cool operations. I already discussed in my review of the amazing Living legend-archetype the fact that Occult Adventures bakes in roleplaying potential and smart options into the very classes and this pdf excels at employing exactly this design paradigm.

Let me state this load and clearly: This pdf is one all- killer, no filler gem of pure amazing, glorious, high-difficulty, high-concept designs. Even the most complex of rules-operations is executed with bull's-eye-precision. The ringleader and shadow aspect alone are worth twice the asking price and the other archetypes are similarly inspired and have truly distinct, unique and exceedingly impressive options. No kitten-failures; no ambiguities. Even when damage is untyped, it is untyped for a reason that works perfectly in the concept of both low-powered and high-powered gaming. The archetypes feature player agenda, intricate interactions of amazing class-features at the highest difficulty and complexity level, glorious visuals and high concepts. in short: This is anathema to bad cookie cutter design; this is the antidote to lame archetype design. It is precise, balanced, and reading the ringleader and shadow aspect made me really want to be a player for once: The roleplaying potential included in them is staggering and can be harnessed in highly intelligent and evocative manners towards the funny or creepy in equal amounts. This, in short, is alongside the absolutely stellar Living Legend, the second Psionics Augmented-pdf I consider an absolute must-own.

If you do not already have this glorious gem, get it right now. Unless you have serious design chops, you won't be able to pull off designs of this beauty and precision. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans the slightest hesitation. I so hope that this remains the direction of awesomeness the PA-series will continue to follow. This book has two archetypes that rank among my Top Ten PFRPG-archetypes. That good. Get it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Mind And Soul
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:50:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page b/w-version of the cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though these pages are A5-booklet-sized (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit about 4 of them on a given sheet of paper, provided your eyesight is good enough.

This review is based primarily on the print-version with new layout from 2014, though I took the electronic version for reference purposes.

So, first things first: This is intended as an introductory module...perhaps not necessarily for gaming as such (more on that later),but for LotFP's distinct style of design. What do I mean by this? Well, this module is suffused with numerous designer's notes that elaborate on specific design decisions and rationales, helping the referee understand why and how certain things are the way they are. At the same time, if you're expecting copious read-aloud text or the like, you're at the wrong place here. If you expect mercy or a gradual learning curve, then you'd be similarly in the wrong place. This module is pretty much sink or swim for referee and players alike.

The hook is as simple as it gets, intentionally so, and the dungeon is very much a contained and relatively static environment, making that aspect "easy" - but only that aspect. The story's simple: There was a wizard known to gaze at the stars; his tower remote and removed from the nearest civilization. People talked about him in hushed whispers and his only lackey took care of most things pertaining paltry mortals. It's been a long, long while since anyone saw the wizard. The intrepid group of victi...ehrr, I mean murderhob...ehrr, I mean "valiant adventurers" has decided that the tower's rife for the plucking.

....and this is about as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Only referees left? Okay. So...know how I consider both "Grinding Gear" and "Hammers of the God" hard but fair? This one...makes sense in a similar manner, but is mean. Logical and methodical in its meanness, but yeah. We begin in the field before the tower: Iron spikes rise from the ground equidistantly, ringing it and the open ground between the spikes and the tower is a blasted ruin, where lightning bolts keep striking. Do the PCs carry long poles? Metal armor? Then they should hurry and get inside. Between the spikes and the tower, there is a percentile chance to be hit by lightning...something a level 1 character is not likely to survive. In order to get in the tower, two options present themselves: A knocker and a handle. The knocker makes the doors open themselves. The handles are shaped like serpents...and touching them makes them come alive. Bite the touching character. Save vs. poison or DIE.

That may sound harsh, but when you think about it, it makes sense in-game: Guests should knock when visiting an evil wizard...and the handles are serpent-shaped. The detail is there...and this is a level 1-module in a relatively rules-lite system. It also serves a purpose of establishing a design-paradigm: Details matter and internal consistency is important. In fact, the whole module can be seen as a conditioning, a teaching experience if you will...one that is gleeful in some of its more sadistic moments...but never one that can be considered to be thoroughly haphazard. There are some moments that are nasty, though: There would be wine as treasure, for example: Well, one bottle has gone bad: Drinking it will cause...bingo. Death. The wine's worth something, so with some ill luck, either a PC or a client may die there...which can spark further adventures, sure...but considering the lack of options to detect the spoiled one, it feels cruel.

Speaking of cruel: You see, the aforementioned lackey of the wizard's been gone for many a year, frustrated by the constant misuse by his cruel master...whose spell he sabotaged, trapping the wizard in a circle of salt. The PCs can find the old stargazer. He's been standing, upright and still, confined in the circle, for more than 50 years and his mood is foul...but he does try to put on a benevolent Dumbledore-act...and if the PCs buy it, he asks them to go. If they refuse, he drops his act and becomes threatening. But as long as the PCs don't do anything, he can't do jack. It's the choice and consequence paradigm.

At the same time, the wizard tower depicted here feels very much magical: Within these halls, one can find a levitation shaft used to navigate it, a frozen storage containing vials of blood (which animates and becomes aggressive) and a ghost custodian of the eldritch section of the wizard's library. This ghost challenges the PCs to a game: Select chess, darts, anything you have that can engage your players and potentially is over quick to not stall the game...if you're too good at chess, for example, and doubt that your players could beat you...well, then don't play chess. Why? Well, if the PC fails, the ghost is freed and the PC dies, taking its place. There is no salvation for the eternal guardian here.

One highlight of the exploration of the dungeon would certainly be the wizard's workshop, where an acidic pool of liquid contains strange fish and a complex telescope-like device allows for the opening of the tower's roof...and perhaps the most hilarious, amazing and mean part of the module: All this arcane machinery pertains the wizard's studies: He's been obsessed with other planets and wanted to learn to get there.

Unless the PCs were VERY thorough with their research, they may be in for a surprise: Looking through the telescope, they can see strange entities on another planet. With some serious experimentation, item-use and the like, they can use the device to fire a transport-beam t the planet...but unless they have VERY carefully done their research (unlikely), any PC foolish enough to try to use this beam will be transported to that planet...his molecular consistence changed to something that is considered a delicacy there...and he'll be eaten/drunk/slurped up. (And yes, there is an artwork of a view of the entities...) This whole procedure requires A LOT of effort on part of the PCs, is mean and memorable and pretty unlikely to happen...but it exemplifies to a degree the philosophy of magic being very dangerous, demanding respect.

Oh, and regarding internal logic: It makes sense. Traps and dangers are where intruders shouldn't be. When the PCs find a corpse, sewn up with gold thread in the basements and loot the thread, they'll be attacked by the animated organs inside - deservedly so, I might add! Another aspect I'd consider haphazard in its design: Several magic mirrors provide either significant benefits...or suck in a character, consuming his soul after 3 days, with no means of saving him: Breaking the mirror kills the PC. Sure, anyone who's read Kull-stories knows that gazing into wizard mirrors is a bad idea...but still. Somewhat akin to a deck of many things in its randomness, without the warning the item carries. There is no way to determine the function of mirrors before, btw. - no reward for being smart or observant. Such unfair sections are what tarnish this module in my book, which is a pity, for the atmosphere evoked is cool indeed: In which other module can the PCs find a 16-armed skeleton in a cell...complete with artwork...and have it have no function apart from sparking the player's imagination? The dressing and details are great and evocative.

Heck, the module even has a puzzle - a simple one, but yeah: The treasure chests are contained beyond damaging force fields and the PCs will have to manipulate a console and try to find the right combination to lower the force-fields and gain access to the significant treasures contained in the wizard's vault...provided they don't panic and run into them when they're separated by them...you see, if your PCs believe they can smash their problems away, they'll be in for a rude awakening that is bound to be pretty terminal: There is a very real possibility of the whole tower blowing up in a devastating nova if the PCs try to use brute force to solve the problems of e.g. the workshop. I get it. The angle here is to cultivate a consciousness for when to tamper with something and when not to...but, at least in my opinion, Grinding Gear and Hammers of the God did that job much, much better.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice and easy to read two-column b/w-standard. The b/w-artworks provided herein are amazing, particularly for showing weirdness rather than the usual suspects of monsters, rooms, etc. - they show stuff when it matters that it has an artwork. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover booklet is printed darker than the pdf, being mostly grey-black...which, ironically, enhances rather than detracts from the artworks...though the cover is pretty much a mush of black, the stairs nearly imperceptible. Cartography is detailed and functional b/w, with furniture etc. included. there are no player-friendly maps included as a cut-up handouts or the like.

James Edward Raggi IV's "Tower of the Stargazer" is actually a well-written crawl through a wizard's tower - as in: The ideas and environments are amazing, the things that can be found are interesting and the emphasis on player choice refreshing: The more greedy the PCs are, the higher is the chance they'll die horribly. And, for the most part, the module is fair in its risk-reward-ratios. For the most part, for there are a couple of scenes, some save-or-die-sections, that can only be described as dickish and completely out of left field.

Where Hammers of the God rewarded deliberate exploration and meticulous respect for the environment and its story, where Grinding Gear's whole set-up required care, precision and a keen mind, this one has this tint of haphazardness not only within the roll of the dice, but within its underlying structure. It feels a bit like an "You must be this tough to play here."-sign that exaggerates subjective flaws (or merits, depending on your perspective) and clichés some folks attribute to old-school gaming. In short: This was obviously written, at least in parts, as a kind of proving ground highlighting some of the best, but also some of the worst aspects of old-school gaming. As a whole, this feels, at least to me, like the weakest of the early LotFP-modules. It showcases the aspects that made the other modules stand out and has the very distinct narrative identity, but, both in comment and design, it also requires you to buy into a certain mindset of capriciousness when it comes to the lives of PCs that contradicts the paradigm of successfully letting PCs dig their own graves, so perfectly exemplified by the telescope, the animated organs, etc..

I like this module, but as a whole, I do feel like it undermines its own point regarding the way to game it tries to teach. Then again, perhaps I'm overanalyzing this and the module's playtest ran too smooth, requiring a couple of middle-finger save-or-sucks. I don't know. If you enjoy HARD, brutal and unforgiving modules, if you don't mind a very real potential for a sudden, not entirely deserved PC-death, then this makes for a great, challenging and atmospheric dungeon. If you firmly adhere to the "reap what you've sown"-school of GMing, I'd suggest getting Grinding Gear or Hammers of the God instead. How to rate this, then? Well, this is not a bad module, but neither did it blow me away. For groups that like the dark and weird that consider themselves to be hardcore...this is worth checking out. As for my final verdict...well, while for me as a person, this is closer to 4 stars than 3, as a reviewer, I can't round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Advancing with Class: The Witch
Publisher: The Knotty-Works
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:48:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advancing with Class-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages fo content, so let's take a look!

All right, after a brief and solid piece of introductory prose, we begin with 5 different patrons, with 3 being tied to fey, one representing a more scholarly bent and one being an antithesis of winter. More interesting than these (though their spell selection is pretty interesting) would be the metric ton of hexes that can be found herein, which are further categorized by theme - Eldritch, Fey, General and Shadow would be the respective leitmotifs. Fey hexes are restricted to fey with a fey patron, shadow hexes are restricted to witches with the shadow patron - simple and makes sense, though, as a minor complaint, last time I checked it was "patron" and not "patron theme" - but that's just cosmetic and hence will not influence the final verdict.

Now eldritch hexes are basically a means of grafting a warlock-like blasting chassis on the more utility-centric witch; this is primarily done via the hex bolt hex, which causes 1d6 untyped (sigh) damage per 4 class levels, with a ranged touch attack to hit, a range increment of 15 ft. and a maximum of 10 range increments, which, while a bit rocky considering its behavior, can be considered to be somewhat of a balancing thing. Now, where the verbiage becomes confusing is when it spells out that the bolt is considered to be magic and thus bypasses DR - the wording can be read as ignoring all DR, not just DR/magic. Only one such bolt may be fired at any given round, regardless of iterative attacks. The bolt is treated as a 2md level spell for casting defensively purposes and is not lost on a failed check, but rather receives a penalty to attack The second major theme to be found among these hexes would be the hex forged hex, which lets you weave untyped bonus damage into melee or natural weapons (not unarmed attacks? Why?). Taking a cue from kineticist wording, there are also infusion hexes, which can be applied to either hex bolt or hex forged, with the exception of energy infusion, which replaces the base energy type of a hex bolt to one of the base energies or "sound" -which does not exist. It's sonic. Energy infusion hex bolts apply resistance, but ignore SR and the other infusions net deafening, frightening, blinding or sickening properties to the bolt. Higher level hexes add further effects to choose from.

Weird, btw.: Neither major, nor grand hexes sport the distinction by hex type in their respective arrays, with the major hexes building upon hex bolts providing cones, fireball-like long-range exploding bolts as well as a weird Cleave-y modification. These, alas, do also sport some oddities: A maximum range of a non-range-modifying bolt, for example, contradicts the maximum range of hex bolt. Similarly, the shaping modifications do not specify whether infusion-type hexes affecting hex bolts work with these shaping tricks. While, unlike the annoyingly infinite hex bolt, these do have a hard cap, I am frankly not sold on the whole sequence. I've seen warlock-y classes done better than this graft, which feels like a basic attempt for some blasting capacity that could have been refined into a mighty engine...but wasn't. When compared to e.g. Interjection games' ethermagic or kineticism, it also promotes doing the same each round, namely blasting. Not a fan and the deviations from standard rules-language are fatal in such a chassis.

The fey and general hexes feel more "witchy" in tone to me and ultimately, to me, are the better examples from a design perspective: Here among the general ones we can find hexes to hamper spellcasting, the ability to deliver messages via avian messengers, the option to pass unimpeded through rough terrain or undergrowth sans taking damage or gaining a mildly toxic nettle-skin. Spitting iron nails at short range that may bypass mage armor et al. is a cool visual. That being said, e.g. the traveling itch could have used a bit of a power upgrade - a -1 penalty to atk for class level rounds does not warrant taking. Also: There are no typed penalties in PFRPG. Interesting - there is a touch that nets the witch and allies bonuses versus the recipient, with the major hex providing an AoE-version of deep slumber, thematically codified as a faerie ring around the witch...while only one such ring may be in effect at a given time, it basically exacerbates the sleeping issue that riled up so many GMs, though personally, I consider it valid...but I wished its wording was slightly more refined. Among the fey hexes, there is an AoE-20 ft-gaze that kills standard actions of targets and a nice sequence of hexes that blinds the target selectively to the witch, which is pretty cool.

The shadow hexes...are basically every shadow-themed class ever. Cloak weapons in shadow for damage-bonus? Check. Stealth-bonuses? Check. Minor sneak attack? Check. They're not that bad or problematic, but neither do they blow me away when compared to the better takes on theme. The feats contained in the pdf mostly concern themselves with witch multiclassing, but also sport better attacks via staves or brooms as well as enhancements of new hexes or archetype abilities.

The new archetypes herein follow a similar trend: The Eldritch Witch, for example, would be, surprise, the archetype for hex bolts/hex forged, with the fey-touched witch the specialist for the fey-themed hexes, one that receives a fey familiar, whose table collates two levels per row, which is slightly problematic from a RAW/convention-perspective. The harrowed harlequin is interesting and receives several social skills as well as a gremlin familiar. Weird: Adding damage to feint attacks at high levels is a bit wonky in its implementation...and does not specify a range, whether only the witch can use it for her own feints, etc. - after all...you don't want to get into melee with a full caster. The madness matriarch may cause insanities and the mystic astrologer is one of the more interesting ones, sporting some solid fate-based rerolls and similar abilities. The high-level option to negate actions retroactively, gained at 18th level, is pretty cool in theory, but its wording is mega-opaque and needs clarification.

The occult scholar receives more brainy skills and is a expert scroll-user, while the shadow mistress, bingo, would be the shadow hex-themed archetype of the collection. The pdf concludes with 3 sample characters, 2 at CR 4 (elven fey-touched + human madness matriarch) and a CR 8 serpentfolk eldritch witch.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are issues on a formal and rules-level. From apostrophe-hiccups and similar typos, the pdf lacks italicization for pretty much every spell and violates rules-formatting in several instances., rendering the content more opaque than it should be. Frustratingly, not to the point where the pdf is not operational, mind you...but yeah, you'll have to reread some passages and will stumble over oddness here and there. The pdf adheres to a 2-column, full-color layout-standard with decent stock art. The pdf is internally hyperlinked and fully bookmarked.

John Buckley's take on the witch is frustrating to me: It takes several cool concepts and proceeds to sport some really ingenious tricks: The nail-spitting, for example, is amazing from a visuals point of view. At the same time, it contains some serious filler and...well...didn't blow me away. I've seen warlock-y blasting done better numerous times; I've seen shadow done better numerous times...and the hiccups in formatting and verbiage make some components...well. Weird. The internal balance is also somewhat inconsistent, with some hexes being clearly significantly weaker than others.

I don't hate this pdf. It does have some gems and if you're willing to iron out some of the verbiage glitches, you'll find some seriously fun concepts herein. At the same time, I can't see the pseudo-warlock graft exciting anyone when there are better options. Same goes for the shadow tricks, rendering a significant portion of the pdf...kinda obsolete and slightly redundant from a thematic point of view. In the end, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advancing with Class: The Witch
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Legendary Assassins
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/21/2017 09:10:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The assassin-PrC has captured the minds of gamers and GMs alike ever since its 2nd edition kit...but, alas, if there is one thing that holds true for the concept, it's that its rules-representation standard in 3.X and, subsequently, the Pathfinder-iteration, just don't do the job that well. The pathfinder PrC is hampered by having been released at a very early stage in the system, which rendered it...well, not too captivating, as it inherited the weaknesses of 3.X's takes on the concept. From Kobold Quarterly's second issue back in the day to Green Ronin's highly evocative Assassin's Handbook back in the day, there have been many attempts of making an assassin base class, but in 2016, we saw not one, but two that stand out: Number one would be Purple Duck Games' "Assassins of Porphyra", which created an intriguing prestige archetype concept. Number 2 would be the PHENOMENAL Assassin-class by Interjection Games, which employs an extremely rewarding maneuver-engine that just blew me away. Both, however, do have in common that they represent base-classes.

It is interesting, in this context that this pdf represents the first attempt I know of to salvage the assassin as a PrC. The first step towards this endeavor the pdf undertakes would be that it, after elaborating on the origin of the term and its original usage, to eliminate the nonsense evil-only restriction. In a world where murder-hobo-ism is a driving factor of economy, limiting assassins to be evil only always felt weird. (Heck, that's probably why the Book of Exalted Deeds back in 3.X had a "good killer"-PrC...). Prerequisite-wise, a BAB of +3 and 3 relevant skills at 5 ranks are what it takes to become an assassin as per this book, with the PrC providing d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 1/2 Ref-save progression and 3/4 BAB-progression. Additionally, the PrC nets proficiency with all standard crossbows (light, hand, heavy), daggers, darts, rapier, sap, shortbow (normal + composite), short sword and light armor. It's a bit weird to see the garrote missing from the list, but oh well. The class can cast arcane spells while in light armor sans spell failure. At 1st level and every odd level thereafter, the assassin gains sneak attack +1d6, but may forego this progression in favor of spell progression or a bonus combat feat - big plus here, since this means the PrC retains relevance and diversity for more base classes!

Starting at 2nd level, the assassin chooses one type of effect from a list, like disease, divination, etc. - she gains +1 to saves versus such effects, +1 every two levels thereafter - I think that should be class levels, but I may be wrong and in dubio pro reo means that I won't hold that against the pdf. 2nd level also nets uncanny dodge, with 4th level providing hidden weapons and true death. As a minor nitpick, the spell reference to remove curse in the latter ability has not been properly italicized and the verbiage is fully functional, but slightly nonstandard. 5th level nets improved uncanny dodge, 6th level Quiet death, 8th level Hide in Plain Sight, 9th level swift death and 10th level, angel of death. Death attack and poison use are gained, just fyi, as we've come to expect at 1st level of the PrC. The former is modified, though: 3rd and 5th level reduce the amount of study required to execute death attacks by 1 round.

Here is where player-agenda falls into place: At 1st level and every odd level thereafter, the assassin-PrC presented here may select an assassin talent from a list of 27 available selections. These allow for scavenging or further progressing of previous class tricks like the gaining of a rogue talent, a ninja trick, counting as fighter-levels for feat prereqs, continued wild shape progression, etc. Forcing foes to roll Sense Motive twice and take the worse result versus the assassin's Bluff, increased DCs for poison-based magic, dealing sneak attack versus grappled foes (With the right build, that's a serious ouch!) - there are some serious tricks here. Characters with channel energy may expend one attempt of the ability as part of a death attack to auto-confirm threats and bypass the target's DR if he is on the opposite end of one of the alignment axes. I'm right now hearing "God punishes, I kill" by Iron Mask blaring inside my head...powerful, yet circumstantial and thematic. Nice. As a whole, these talents focus on diversifying the PrC and making the multiclassing into it from different backgrounds more rewarding...so yeah, kudos!

Speaking of options: A total of 9 feats have been provided, which should also prove to be useful from Red Mantis killers - while the feats have been stripped of references to that closed Golarion IP, adding temporarily the fiendish template to your mantis form is a nice bit. Summoners can take a feat to lend the benefits of their assassin class features via bond senses to their eidolon, which is very strong and, with minimum level 3rd in the PrC, justifiably reserved for higher level characters. Adding sneak attack to a familiar's delivered touch spell is pretty potent. Beyond these the usual extra talent, increased DC, etc. numerical upgrades can be found. Making poison stick longer to a blade, assuming mantis swarm shape or increasing death attack DCs via ki-expenditure make for nice tricks.

Now, with the prominence of Game of Thrones (say what you want - I still prefer the books...) in TV, it should come as a pleasant surprise that this pdf contains an archetype for the PrC, namely the Many-faced killer. "This is does not have a name." These guys have an alternate array of requirements regarding feats and skills - I assume that these are replacements for the regular assassin-prereqs, not additional ones, but I am not sure. Instead of death attack at 1st level, these guys gain class level to Bluff, Disguise and Sense Motive, making them experts at intrigue and social subterfuge. Fret not: Death attack is still unlocked, only at 3rd level, where it replaces the assassin-talent. They can apply disguises in half the time and reduce penalties for other races, with 2nd level providing quick change. 4th level replaces true death with at-will alter self, and 5th level provides untrained skill use of skills pertaining to cover. 8th level replaces HiPS with the option to masking his alignment or emulating others, with 10th level allowing for the at-touch subsuming of a helpless creature's aura and identity, fooling divinations etc.

The pdf concludes with 3 sample NPCs, which highlight different means of using the PrC - a CR 10 iron-arm enforcer (monk/assassin), a Cr 8 cultic purgaton (necro/assassin) and a CR 12 rogue/many-faced killer build. Each sports a bit of fluff and advice on using them.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some nice artworks, though fans of LG will be familiar with some. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience, but has no nested bookmarks, only basic ones that point, for example to the feat-section.

Jeff Lee's take on the assassin-PrC makes it a viable, strong option one certainly can consider from a PC-perspective. From getting rid of the dumb alignment-restriction to the increased multiclassing-support, the pdf significantly improves the PrC. While the slight prereq-confusion with the archetype is a bit of a hassle, that's not something I'd consider an issue. This pdf certainly achieves its goal and I'd be singing more praises if the aforementioned base-class iterations had not already taken the assassin-concept to a level that surpasses what this pdf can deliver with its improved chassis.

Personally, I enjoy the complex and extremely rewarding maneuver-management of IG's class to a point where I don't ever want to play a vanilla assassin again. That being said, this prestige class will still see use in my games, namely whenever I have to pit an NPC with assassin-levels against my group and don't want to fully redesign the statblock. Due to being pretty much compatible with the original, this is extremely useful even if you're like me and prefer another, full base-class-take on the assassin. As such, this may not reach the highest echelons of amazement for me, but it will remain a nice and handy tool in my GM-arsenal. As such, 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!]
Legendary Assassins
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Race Options: Dwarves
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/21/2017 09:08:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with ~7.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, so we begin this pdf with a ton of alternate racial traits to customize dwarves - unless I have miscounted, a total of 12 such alternate racial traits is included. Nice touch: The base racial stats of the race have been reprinted here for your convenience, but more interestingly, the pdf contains 3 suggestions for racial subtypes and which respective alternate racial traits to use to epitomize them, sporting some nice fluff as supplemental material.

All right, so what do these alternate racial traits cover? Well, they cover, for example, training in medium and heavy armor that allows the dwarf in question to add +1 natural AC when wearing them, replacing stability with a different kind of dwarven resilience. Gaining a bonus to atk when outnumbered instead of hatred also ties in well with the flavor of the dwarven people. Life on board of ships and a trait that represents dwarves not having access to steel make sense and allow for concise presentations of people with different cultures. Bonuses against mind-affecting spells based on a life of adherence to clan principles, or ones to Survival underground based on a desire to retake ancient homes or AC-bonuses versus flanking foes - the alternate racial traits represent a great marriage of tying into dwarven lore and making the respective switches make sense and retain balance. Kudos indeed - I do not have a single complaint in this section!

The pdf contains the spelunker racial archetype for the ranger class, which is locked into favored terrain underground, leaving no tracks there and replaces woodland stride with cavern stride. Solid, if unremarkable one. The pdf becomes more interesting when we take a look at the new equipment, which contains 3 new exotic ranged weapons, like the spiked bola that can be filled with fluids or the peg-leg pistol, which is kinda awesome from a flavor perspective. The dwarven fountain would represent a fantasy-equivalent of a light flamethrower, which is similarly nice, though I've seen that concept before. As a purely aesthetic glitch: The damage dice in the table sometimes sport capitalized "D"s instead of "d"s, but that does not impede the functionality of the material. The pdf contains rules for adding hollow cores to weaponry, allowing them to double as a blowgun, which is a cool idea. However, the verbiage here is a bit wonky, referring to "equipped" when the pdf probably means drawing and notes increased ranges for weapons with longer shafts, but does not provide rules to back that up. A fire-retardant powder makes sense and clay that allows for the reshaping of stone similarly is nice. Alchemically-strengthened obsidian makes for a cool material, particularly for cultures sans ready access to metal.

Next up would be 6 new racial feats, with two providing some nice tricks for seafaring dwarves with better use of siege engines. Using shields as a standard action to grant yourself concealment is BRILLIANT and frankly should be part of the default options for the item-class, so that one gets two thumbs up from me, as does the spear-enhancing feat that makes it a REALLY bad idea to charge a dwarf with a spear. A +2 poison enhancer is pretty much the definition of filler and gaining Blindsense 15', as soon as level 1, is pretty strong and not something I'd suggest for every group.

The pdf also features 3 magic items: Seafaring dwarves will like anchor-all, which, once per day, may bring any vehicle to a screeching halt unless moved by truly formidable forces. Headbands of shared animosity allow for the temporary sharing of hatred/favored enemy bonuses and the head-dress of the jaguar nets skill-bonuses and a 1/day bite attack, which does not specify primary or secondary, but one can default to the standard there. Still, anchor-all is the star here. The pdf concludes with a new spell, the 3rd-level call of the clan, which nets you and all allies of the same race within 30 ft. +2 to atk, weapon damage, saves and skill-checks. Not the biggest fan here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I only noticed minor hiccups. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some seriously nice b/w-pieces or art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Unless I am sorely mistaken, this is the first pdf by author Kim Frandsen I've had the pleasure to read. Yeah, pleasure. I have seen a lot of dwarven options and the ones herein, contrary to my expectations, actually managed to make me smile a couple of times! There are some serious gems herein and the alternate racial traits are immaculate in their balance, while remaining true to the themes of the dwarven people. From the new items to the feats, there is a bit of filler within this pdf, but as a whole, I consider this a worthwhile supplement. Taking the freshman offering bonus into account, my final verdict of 3.5 stars will hence be rounded up. Nice job and a promising start!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Race Options: Dwarves
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Cults of Celmae: The Ashen King
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/21/2017 09:07:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first pdf depicting the diverse cults of the Celmae-setting (also known as Shattered Skies), clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The believers of the Ashen King's creed hold the conviction that the cataclysm that shattered the lands of Celmae, the central, original catastrophe of the setting, was but a means of staving off a yet worse apocalypse. Worshiped, unsurprisingly, by the duergar and similar underworld-dwelling creatures, the creed of the Ashen King, fully reproduced here, begins with the words: "We follow the shadowed path of He who destroyed the world and saved it." - yes, this is indeed an interesting duality.

The aforementioned beings receive further coverage and, if you will, contextualized origin-myths: Adherers, for example, once were leper-bandits, transformed by their worship of this deity. Similarly, the kobolds also receive a brief history of their interaction with the deity...and we hear of the hell-candle of Brynndell, where strange dust rendered miners sick, hellish lights began dancing in tunnels and ore containing the undead make for a nice set-up for a high-concept mine-crawl. Finally, orcs whose skin has sloughed off, with sinew and muscles turning gray, represent a nice take on the classic creature with a distinctly Ashen King-like flair.

The Ashen King is depicted as a Lawful Evil deity with 4 domains and subdomains and two favored weapons: Pick and scythe. As always with Celmae-deities with multiple favored weapons, that leaves me to question how this interacts with class features and proficiencies pertaining the favored weapons of the deity. A deity of fire and ash as well as of rigid principle, the write-up manages to evoke a resonance with the Dark Souls-series in themes, which is a nice touch as far as I'm concerned.

The pdf provides 3 fully statted servants of the Ashen King - a deep dwarven (duergar) warpriest at CR 11, a rogue (charlatan) at CR 11 and an adherer dread mummy cleric at CR 9. I'd be significantly more well-disposed to using these fellows if their statblocks were properly formatted: There is not a single italicization in sight, which renders running the statblocks more tiresome than it should be. Also annoying: One ability of the mummy uses the second person instead of the third, making it quite obvious that the ability was just ccp'd. On a more positive side-note, 3 complex and relatively detailed adventure-hooks are included.

The pdf also features a selection of spells, namely 3: Ashen King's Gloom is cloud that imposes fear-based effects on those inside and may even panic those trying to dispel/disperse it from the inside. Lava Ball is just a renamed Giant Lava Ball from Rite Publishing's 1001 Spells. Similarly, Sphere of Disintegration is just a transparently renamed Disintegration Sphere from that book. You know, I don't mind this type of borrowing, particularly of good pieces of content, but the renaming without any flavor additions is odd and does look a bit to me like to me like obfuscation, since the spell-names are not closed IP. Generally, I consider it a sign of courtesy to denote when one is borrowing another person's design, beyond the confines and demands of the Paizo-standard books/OGL. I won't penalize this book for it, but it also shows as an inconsistency in the spell presentation, with the first spell's formatting being incorrect in several cosmetic details.

The pdf introduces the gloom helm, which can duplicate aforementioned spell, enhances Intimidate versus said targets...and gets a per se cool trick that allows for a premature end of the cloud, as it draws towards victims, heating their equipment. All things that should be italicized....are not. Also: +4 to Intimidate versus targets affected by the spell plus a 1/day spell-in-a-can with a unique modification feel a bit underwhelming for the massive price of this helm: 28 K.

We get a specialized summon monster-list for the servants of the Ashen King and also, and that is quite nice, an Inner Sea Gods-style write-up of the deity, with full-blown obedience, evangelist, sentinel and exalted boons. These are, for the most part, nice, though adding disintegrate to an attack should probably be SU, not SP. The option to truly dissolve corpses in sticky soot, preventing the return to life is nice, though, once again, the formatting of abilities is slightly inconsistent here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in previous offerings by Wayward Rogues Publishing, but formatting in particular is still off in several immediately obvious ways that could and should have been caught. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a solid blend of original and stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment.

Jeff Lee, Robert Gresham and Ewan Cummins deliver a nice deity write-up here; the ashen king tapping into visuals that have been popularized by the souls-franchise certainly generated some interest on my end. That being said, if you're expecting notes on a cult or religion's structure, fame or prestige benefits herein, you won't find them - so if you're accustomed to e.g. Fat Goblin Games' "Final Phase", you'll consider this to be a bit barebones. I do know now about several of the servants of the Ashen King, but not much about an agenda, modes of operation or the like.

The flavor that is here is nice, though: In particular how adherers have been fitted with a cool origin story makes me consider them more than just a lame twist on mummies, so big kudos for this one. There is quite a bit to like in this pdf, but at the same time, the flawed formatting of the pdf, its inconsistencies that become even more obvious when comparing material that has been ccp'd and renamed from other sources...that aspect is really, really rubbing me the wrong way and further decreases the oomph the pdf offers.

Don't get me wrong, the fluff herein is pretty nice and has some cool ideas, but mechanics-wise, I found myself less than impressed by this. If you're just looking for mechanics, consider this a 2-star-file. However, if you do not mind the reprints and are in it primarily for flavor and ideas, then this may be something worth checking out and closer to 3 stars. Since I make it a habit of trying to see the positive in a given book and since this is primarily intended as a flavor-book on a cult, I will rate it as such...though honestly, as much as I like the ideas here, I still feel that the whole religion and its structure are pretty opaque to me. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo, with the aforementioned caveats.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of Celmae: The Ashen King
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

I Loot the Minion's Body
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2017 03:46:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "I loot the..."-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so what do we get?

Well, the first dressing table herein contains keepsakes and sports no less than 100 of them: From small stones taken from invaded and destroyed castles to pointed fangs that ostensibly may have once belonged to a vampire to stuffed kid's bears and miniature urns...or betrothal tokens, there is a tint of sentimentality and storytelling potential inherent in these, making them fitting and, as a whole, a well-crafted table that can tell little stories and provide hooks to further develop.

Table number two features 100 entries as well. Minions have a hard lot in life and they often live where they work (commuting to evil mastermind's base of operations tends to be a deadly endeavor with all those hydras, undead and traps...) and thus, their backpacks or chests contain a diverse collection of miscellanea to bring some sort of relaxation to their lives...or hint at ambitions beyond their employ. From engraved pewter tankards to ship's logs, romance novels, bones sufficient to complete a human skeleton (why?), badly forged writs of safe passage, collections of mismatched forks - from the surreal to the mundane, from the eccentric to the desperate, these are interesting, in that they may actually make the PCs look for a particular minion - if the minion wishes to escape, for example, that may be an angle they can work!

Table number 3 deals with the contents of pouches minions may be carrying around - once again, the total selection is 100 entries strong and allows for some nice characterizations: A poppet with pins stuck inside; vials of squid ink; charms said to enhance fertility, stolen city watch insignia... the table continues the tradition of the previous two ones in that it manages to add depth to the faceless minions, in that it may make them stand out and receive some sketches of a personality. What more could I ask from this?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions: One optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. Kudos for that!!

Kat Evans delivers big time in this cool, evocative supplement - which is difficult: After all, minions are pretty much defined by being the faceless legions. Any pdf managing to add depth to them with the roll of but a single die deserves applause in my book. Now there is something I wish the pdf did differently - and that would pertain its system....or lack thereof. You see, beyond impotent, wrongly-brewed poisons...there is no real rules-material here, when the insertion of one or two poisons or similar items would have made it stand out more. As written, this is very much the same pdf as its system-neutral brother, with only the covers being different.

Still, this should be seen as me complaining at a VERY high level - the tables are excellent and fun and this very much deserves a final verdict of 5 stars. Bringing some identity to minions is hard, considering the diverse nature of the job-description, but this succeeds. My heartfelt recommendation for pretty much any GM!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Minion's Body
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

I Loot the Minion's Body System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2017 03:44:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "I loot the..."-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so what do we get?

Well, the first dressing table herein contains keepsakes and sports no less than 100 of them: From small stones taken from invaded and destroyed castles to pointed fangs that ostensibly may have once belonged to a vampire to stuffed kid's bears and miniature urns...or betrothal tokens, there is a tint of sentimentality and storytelling potential inherent in these, making them fitting and, as a whole, a well-crafted table that can tell little stories and provide hooks to further develop.

Table number two features 100 entries as well. Minions have a hard lot in life and they often live where they work (commuting to evil mastermind's base of operations tends to be a deadly endeavor with all those hydras, undead and traps...) and thus, their backpacks or chests contain a diverse collection of miscellanea to bring some sort of relaxation to their lives...or hint at ambitions beyond their employ. From engraved pewter tankards to ship's logs, romance novels, bones sufficient to complete a human skeleton (why?), badly forged writs of safe passage, collections of mismatched forks - from the surreal to the mundane, from the eccentric to the desperate, these are interesting, in that they may actually make the PCs look for a particular minion - if the minion wishes to escape, for example, that may be an angle they can work!

Table number 3 deals with the contents of pouches minions may be carrying around - once again, the total selection is 100 entries strong and allows for some nice characterizations: A poppet with pins stuck inside; vials of squid ink; charms said to enhance fertility, stolen city watch insignia... the table continues the tradition of the previous two ones in that it manages to add depth to the faceless minions, in that it may make them stand out and receive some sketches of a personality. What more could I ask from this?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions: One optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. Kudos for that!!

Kat Evans delivers big time in this cool, evocative supplement - which is difficult: After all, minions are pretty much defined by being the faceless legions. Any pdf managing to add depth to them with the roll of but a single die deserves applause in my book. Now, this is very much identical to the "PFRPG"-version in that it does not contain crunch or system-specific items, but unlike in my review of said version, I can't well complain about that here, right?

Well, yeah...but, as it turns out, the series has reached a very high level of quality at this point...and compared to some other installments, this feels like one tiny step below the apex...so I'll settle for 5 stars for this one as well, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Minion's Body System Neutral Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

The Dragon's Hoard: Rings, Rods, and Staves
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2017 03:42:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Flaming Crab Games' magic item-pdfs clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin without much ado with 16 new rings - and ALL of them receive their own b/w-artwork - with one exception that has a black-red-artwork...don't know why - I think the b/w-version would have been a better aesthetic choice there...but I digress. The first ring is a winner: Anchor rings look like a bland dimensional anchor spell in a can...until you realize that you can throw your magical anchor at a creature who already teleported away. The target may have full concealment, but if you do hit, you'll drag the being back! Now that type of modification is what makes an item stand out. Nice!

Bands of Bortherhood are twinned and allow the wearer to know the location of the other as per status and add +1 to atk when both are flanking the same creature...which is pretty boring. The coil of vibrant ash at 45 K...is a bit underpriced. Not only does the wearer blow up in a 15d6-explosion if slain, on a melee crit, thankfully only 1/day, the ring adds a DC 20 disintegrate as insult to injury. There would be a serpent ring that fortifies versus poison and that can uncoil and inflict minor Con-damage (should be codified as poison for immunity-interaction, which it RAW is not) or a generally nice ring that lets you shoot blinding goo...with the issue being that it can be used an infinite number of times per day - for 4K, that is much too strong, considering that the item allows for no save!

Really cool: Gossiping rings let you whisper to the ring, point to a target...and then the ring pops up there, allowing for stealthy conversations perfect for intrigue-heavy games. Rings that generate telepathic bonds are nice, but e.g. a ring that nets you a bonus to AC and saves...is pretty much the definition of filler, as are skill-enhancing rings. A set of 3 rings, all worn in one slot on one hand that nets planar adaptation, though? Nice and makes sense, though weirdly, its text refers to a medallion...so do they also occupy that slot or not? I assume the latter, but I'm not sure. Horrible: a ring that replaces a barbarian's rage with monk class features. Not only outclasses it monks (granted, not hard), it fails to translate limited daily resources properly: No rage left? Put on the ring. shakes head A ring that glows when near goblins...is lame. On the plus-side, a one-use ring that deals damage as an immediate action when the wearer's reduced to 0 hp, healing him? Nice one! Rings that contain a magical garrote are cool...but the justification for allowing its use more often than a usual garrote would be allowed for is flimsy at best. A ring the extends Wepon Focus to a group of weapons is nice.

10 rods are up next, with the first being pretty cool: Capable of fanning out, it can make ray spells fan out into cones and cone-spells narrow down to rays. While there is a kminor typo here, the wording generally is pretty precise...oh, and no, spamming disintegrate through it won't work. That being said, the transition from ray to cone is not perfect: rays that allow for a save become opaque: Is it the new Ref-save and the original save or just the new save? A rod that summons forth insects that eat dead flesh is nice to get rid of evidence. Dragon breath duplicating rods erroneously refer to "electric" when it should be "electricity". Rods of elemental whips have cool visuals - but the air-version has a problematic option, providing potentially infinite charges,1 per hour, for technological items while touching them. Rods of enhanced summons are broken: 3/day as a swift action, cast a spell on a summoned creature. No casting duration-caveat, no spell-level caveat, nothing. Flavor-wise nice: A rod that lets you spell out a name, summoning yeth hounds that then proceed to hunt down the target. There would also be a truth-compelling rod that acts as a mace and minor skill enhancer. Amazing: There is one high-priced rod that can only be used by paladins: When the pala uses it, he's obliterated...but so is any nearby creature under the effects of smite evil. I'm pretty big on palas and heroic sacrifices...so yeah, amazing.

The pdf's final section features a total of 6 staves, most of which are pretty basic spells-in-a-can with minor bonuses, though two deserve special mention: The staff of relativity has an hourglass that can generate AoE haste...but after the duration elapsed, it's AoE slow! I love the visuals and the minimum charge required here - very cool. Similarly evocative: The staff of self-loathing can make a target perceive one an illusory version of the target, which attacks the target whenever it attacks, inflicting the same amount of damage as the attack on a hit. These two staves stand above the others and really got me thinking.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal level. On a rules-level, some objects could have been tighter. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly two-column color-standard. The pdf sports an impressive array of awesome b/w-artworks for the items. Kudos there! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

A metric ton of folks has contributed to this pdf: James Abendroth, Isaiah Burt, Kelce Casey, Chuck DiTusa, J Gray, JJ Jordan, Douglas “White Templar” Mawhinney, Jacob McCoy, David S. McCrae, Sean McGowan, Brian Minhinnick, Angel "ARMR" Miranda, Michael Ritter, Matt Roth, Thiago Shinken, Jeffrey Swank, Anthony Torretti, Chris Walter, C. J. Withers. Unfortunately, this does show in the relative strength of the items: Some designers adhere to a more cuatious power-curve, while others go for (too) strong...and in design philosophy, basic number/bonus-tweaks exist side-by-side with truly amazing gems. This pdf has some items that are 5 star + seal material...but also several that, in 2016's Pathfinder, are redundant or simply not that interesting.

In short: This is pretty much the epitome of a mixed bag. While there are more items in this that left me cold and unimpressed than gems, the gems that are here shine very, very brightly. Considering the low and fair price-point, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, though I can't round up for it...if some of these captured your imagination, this is worth taking a look at.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Dragon's Hoard: Rings, Rods, and Staves
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

I Loot the Warrior's Body
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2017 04:18:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "I loot the..."-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so what do we get?

Well, we begin with a massive table of 100 entries that covers armor and outfits that add an AMAZING depth of detail to the respective entries: From bulky bronze armor weighing a whopping 150 pounds to holy symbols emblazoned on the respective armor to seashells added, from armor fashioned to look like hezrous, the diversity or theme is here, but it is supplemented by entries that take the whole table one step beyond, from "cool" to excellence: There actually are quite a few entries here that are mechanically-relevant! Gliding cloaks? Check. Armor that has tubes that can be filled with liquid ice, cooling the wearer in absurdly-hot environments, even with proper bonus types? Check! Leather that exudes a sticky slime when submerged in water at least once per day, giving the wearer an edge when trying to escape from grapples? Check. Clothing more akin to an insect chrysalis, armor made from basically a chain? Oh yes, beyond the thematic diversity and impressive breadth, this table has it all.

This extends to the second 100-entry-strong table, which features scabbards in need of repair (with DCs), gel staunching bleeding wounds, helms that have a mouthpiece as a free action that lets them spout alchemical fire, bandoliers with only a few daggers remaining, helms that can "bite", tripwires, boots that grant minor electricity resistance....oh yes. This is me smiling from ear to ear right now! From gas-masks to nets and bolts that are too large for standard crossbows, the table delivers big time.

The third table would deal with pouch contents: Twigs used for lottery (one short than the others), debt ledgers, wanted posters showing the PC's mug, sheets of paper making fun of wizards...or what about the book that reads "instant fortress"...and is a pop-up book? I totally laughed out loud here! This wonderfully dry sense of humor suffuses some of the entries...and there are incredibly spicy peppers to be found among letters, wigs and entries like "This orange good is repellent to insects as well as traveling companions." That's one sentence that exemplifies perfectly what I mean with humor and excellent writing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions: One optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. Kudos for that!!

I can count the number of pdfs that I did not consider excellent penned by Mike Welham on one hand. His prose is excellent, his imagination amazing. Boy, oh boy, this pdf pretty much shows how I came to hold him in such high regards: Not content with simply providing a diverse array of options full of flavor and different tones, he goes one step beyond, providing a ton of minor rules-operations within the little space available...operations which frankly made me crave a book of mundane/alchemical item tweaks. It's that good. The dressing is glorious, but adding these tidbits to it ultimately makes this stand-out further and marks it as excellence and my favorite installment in the series so far. 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Warrior's Body
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

I Loot the Warrior's Body System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2017 04:17:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "I loot the..."-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so what do we get?

Well, we begin with a massive table of 100 entries that covers armor and outfits that add an AMAZING depth of detail to the respective entries: From bulky bronze armor weighing a whopping 150 pounds to holy symbols emblazoned on the respective armor to seashells added, from armor fashioned to look like hezrous, the diversity or theme is here. The amazing mechanical options some of these entries had in the PFRPG-version have been eliminated here without compromising the vision of the respective entries: There still is resilient glass armor, an armor with tubes that can be filled with a cooling agent to allow for operation in hot climates, etc. - just sans all the pathfinderisms. Chainmail that pinches, gliding capes, armor made from a tar-like substance - there is some serious imagination at work here.

This extends to the second 100-entry-strong table, which features scabbards in need of repair, gel staunching bleeding wounds, helms that have a mouthpiece as a free action that lets them spout and ignite oil, badger pelts bundled with rat pelts (an easter egg), helms that can "bite", tripwires, boots that provide a bit of protection versus electricity...oh yes. This is me smiling from ear to ear right now! Have I mentioned the hilt that generates a new weapon each day, which then proceeds to vanish again? That's basically a minor magic item in one entry. Have I mentioned the buoyant shield? Yeah, this table is great.

The third table would deal with pouch contents: Twigs used for lottery (one short than the others), debt ledgers, wanted posters showing the PC's mug, sheets of paper making fun of wizards...or what about the book that reads "instant fortress"...and is a pop-up book? I totally laughed out loud here! Insect repelling pipes, stick-human-figures made of chicken bones...This wonderfully dry sense of humor suffuses some of the entries...and there are incredibly spicy peppers to be found among letters, wigs and entries like "This orange good is repellent to insects as well as traveling companions." That's one sentence that exemplifies perfectly what I mean with humor and excellent writing. What about the platinum coin that accurately answers a yes/no-question to then vanish?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions: One optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. Kudos for that!!

I can count the number of pdfs that I did not consider excellent penned by Mike Welham on one hand. His prose is excellent, his imagination amazing. Boy, oh boy, this pdf pretty much shows how I came to hold him in such high regards: Not content with simply providing a diverse array of options full of flavor and different tones, he goes one step beyond. While this version of the pdf obviously is system-neutral, it manages to still retain the glorious panache of the PFRPG-iteration: The items do not lose their magic, their diversity and the quality of the prose is not diminished in any way. In short: Even in the system-neutral version, this loses nothing of its splendor. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Warrior's Body System Neutral Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Deadly Gardens: Catchweed
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2017 04:14:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

We begin this installment of Deadly Gardens with the twigman fetish, which can generate a wooden construct, which then may be directed by the user to attack and otherwise idles. I like this item per se very much, though the interaction of the item with save-prompting spells and effects make it a bit flawed - I assume auto-failure, but I'm not sure.

The pdf also features two terrain types: Razor Shale is EXTREMELY hard to climb and requires similarly high Ref-saves to prevent taking damage while doing so. Worse, it damages ropes... Shifting dunes move targets on them, necessitating Acrobatics-checks to remain standing...neat.

The titular creature herein would be the pretty neatly-drawn CR 10 catchweed, which is a Large plant that not only may grapple foes, it may also engulf them. It is also pretty quick and creatures trampled may similarly be grappled by the catchweed. Worse, being grappled makes you subject to not only constrict, but also blood drain...and it regrows rapidly when it can drain blood.... More nasty: Creatures caught within this carnivorous, oversized tumbleweed must save or be nauseated, further diminishing chances to survive the harrowing experience. An all-around cool critter.

We also get natural items this time around - the classic 8. These include soporific xtabay spore pods, the fortifying powers of wyvern adrenal glands...and more: Viper vine glands enhance bite etc. attacks to include a horrid fascination effect that dazes foes hit; leucrotta mandibles can yield non-fragile bone weapons, while thunderbird pinions, when added to flight-related spells and effects as additional material components, can yield temporary respite from the unpleasant effects of storms. The thorns of catchweed can yield bleed-inducing darts or ammunition and assassin vine berries can induce vomiting-based respite from ingested poisons - though the rules here represent a disjoint between fluff and crunch - RAW, the vomiting target isn't even sickened. Finally, gryph ovipostors can help inject poisons into targets. Apart from the one hiccup and a type (Mmedium size), that is the best array of natural items in quite a few of these installments. Kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good - while not perfect, the pdf does try to represent some cool operations and stumbles a bit here and there, but I'd rather have a cool idea with slight imperfections than perfect blandness. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and is pretty printer-friendly. The artwork is pretty cool and in b/w and the pdf, in spite of its brevity, comes fully bookmarked. Kudos!

Russ Brown and Matthew Carroll deliver one of my favorite critters in the line here - the catchweed is damn cool. Similarly, I really like the fetish, in spite of the save-issue. The terrain options are nice as well and the natural items offer some really cool tricks. That being said, the minor hiccups do drag this down a bit, which is why my final verdict will fall just short of my seal of approval. Still, this is very much worth getting and receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Catchweed
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Trail of the Apprentice: The Oracle's Test (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2017 04:12:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Trail of the Apprentice-series, designed to teach RPGs to both players and GMs alike, clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content. The pdf also comes with an art and map folio that clocks in at 27 pages (if you take front cover and editorial away), presenting the art as hand-outs as well as versions of the maps with and without grids, player-friendly and key-less - kudos for that! Seriously, as far as custom map-options goes, this should be industry standard.

Now, as always, the Trail of the Apprentice is designed to be relatively family-friendly and should result in no issues for kids ages 8+, unless you have particularly sensitive kids. This is very much kid-friendly, though, as always, I'd strongly suggest parents using this saga to reward non-lethal conflict-resolution, something the whole AP, alas, does not do, which represents, as a whole, the one glaring oversight it has.

All right, this is about as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. This being an adventure-review, potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! If you're reading the PFRPG-version - don't be confused by the copy-pasta mention of 5e in the intro: You're reading the right version of the module! We find our heroes again in the little community of Riverside, where they are scheduled to meet with a local sage called Hector Amaku, who knows more about the massive Ithmar forest, and specifically, the ruins of Sol'Ithmanna inside this vast expanse. Why? Well, the PCs may have ended adventure #3 with the name of their mysterious adversary, but between modules, no amount of scrying or information gathering has yielded any results...which represents a bit of a missed chance. Slowly unearthing this and the trail towards Riverside would have made for a great experience at this point and helped the GM learn the ropes of a slightly more modular investigation, while also introducing the means of information gathering beyond the basic "walk the quarters" highlighted in adventure #2.

In the tavern where the PCs meet the sage, they may run afoul of a werewolf thief, whose relations may or may not seek retribution later. Anyways, the sage points the PCs towards the ruins and tells them about the legendary oracle there - to gain access to Sol'Ithmanna's ancient oracle, the PCs will have to collect an array of seals within the ruins of this once-great civilization and prove themselves worthy of the values they represent. That information under their belt, the PCs are off into the forest...which represents a step back when compared to module #3: Instead of providing a hex-crawl or similar player-agenda-driven adventuring experience, the trek turns out to be pretty linear, with several combat-encounters along the way, none of which are particularly hard.

Once the PCs arrive at the ruins, they can visit the different, fully mapped sections of the ruins - but it should be noted that the totality of the ruins does not feature a map, so connections between the hot-spot areas feel a bit opaque. Unfortunately, not the only section of the module that remains a bit opaque. While the ruins do feature random encounters, the main task for the GM-learning experience here would be handling pretty much the most challenging thing a GM can attempt regarding combats: There is the Dark Hand, an evil adventuring group who also seeks to get the seals and thwart the PCs. Considering that so far, the GM did not have to manage more than 2 moderately complex statblocks at the most, this feels a bit like jumping in the deep end, more so considering that the combat(s) with these guys will test PCs harder than any others in the series. Spoiler-alert: This is the most difficult-to-run section in the whole series, not something in module #5.

It's also tooth-less in the extreme: The Dark hand does not kill the PCs if they down them. Groups are different, sure, but considering that the PCs should be the "good" guys and have happily been killing everything (ostensibly, including potentially these rival adventurers!), this show of mercy is transparent as GM-fiat to even novices of RPGs...and undermines, if you so far have stuck to just handwaving the PCs killing other critters and NPCs, the PC's identity as heroes. Not cool.

More aggravating, at least for me, is the fact that the respective areas for the seals universally fail to mention the precise location of the seals...you basically have to improvise their exact placing after the mandatory combat encounter, which gives the whole section a bit of a haphazard look...something underlined by e.g. a fire elemental sporting the treasure entry of boggards which had to be defeated before that.

The leitmotifs of the virtues are also...well...not that concise here: The seal of compassion can be found in a place scouted by aforementioned boggards as a potential breeding pool...for which they'll die if they try to keep the PCs away. That...kinda made me cringe from a meta-perspective and the values of the ancient civilization do become relevant. Besting the rival adventurers, the PCs gain access to the oracle's domain, where they will pass a nice iteration of the trope of the hero's test and after the extremely disappointing trek through forest and ruins, this is thankfully a return to form.

We have a 5-room dungeon here, with every room representing a test of one classic virtue held dear by the vanquished civilization: These range from the classic "one lies, one tells the truth"-puzzles to a mix of real and imagined undead or letting loot lie - and after that, the PCs can finally meet Revien, the faerie seer, bound to forever guard this place. From this wise being, they can gain information - the more tests they have completed, the more clues the PCs will receive: At the very least, they'll now know that Belazeel tries to use the serpents to open a magical prison called "Basilisk's Shroud" to free an ancient sorceress in hopes of learning her powerful magic. Further warnings and details of the dangers ahead may give the PCs an edge in module #5...but that will have to wait for next time.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as precise as I've come to expect from Legendary Games. There area couple of unpleasant hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is decent and in full-color, with the art-map-book as a nice touch.

Paris Crenshaw's fourth installment in the series feels rushed in more than one way. After the excellent and evocative #3, this is linear, dry and bland in the beginning, missing out on some nice ways of teaching magical and mundane means of investigation in favor of captain exposition. The ruins, alas, similarly feel rushed - like each section was intended to be more detailed (at least to the point where quest-item-locations were marked...) and feels like it misses its GM-teaching aspect...unless that aspect was supposed to be "fix stuff a module didn't properly spell out." The saving grace of this installment is the hero's test dungeon. It may not be new or exciting for any veteran, but for novices, it is AMAZING. In fact, it is my suspicion that each test should just have been aligned with a location in the ruins....perhaps that was the case once (comparing the relatively weak map of the seer's domain with the intricate maps of the ruins, that sounds plausible to me...).

After the issues in internal logic with the rival adventurers and the weak hack-fest of the journey and ruins, the oracle's test-dungeon is a breath of fresh air that salvages this module at least partially. This does not change that this represents, by far, the weakest part of the whole series so far. Veterans will get nothing out of this and novice GMs may end up frustrated and flustered by the whole ruin section...to the point where , were it not for the test-dungeon, I'd tell you to skip this. The dungeon is worth getting for the classic hero's test experience for new gamers. Experienced groups should replace this module with another and experienced GMs running this for kids should consider seriously tweaking it to make it more compelling and diverse. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up, if only barely and due to the presence of the iconic hero's test.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice: The Oracle's Test (Pathfinder)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Drow of Porphyra - The Strivog: The Bone Drow
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2017 03:35:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the series depicting the diverse drow cultures of the patchwork planet Porphyra clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!

One note first: This depicts a capital letters EVIL drow culture and as such contains some mature themes (hence no PFRPG-logo) - it's not grimdark and won't shock kids in their puberty, but sensitive small kids shouldn't read this. If you need guidance: If your kids love Conan or enjoy reading darker stuff, they'll be fine.

On a far-off planet, at one point, the elves were exiled from the light for offending the gods, becoming that world's wintery bogeymen, one and all, only allowed to roam when warmth and light receded. Cold as ice, haggard and drawn, they ravaged and slew...only to be drawn, inevitably, back into the cold confines of the underworld. Thus they languished and anxiously watched the calender, awaiting entropy and the ever-advancing assault of winter whittle away the days of summer, year by year - until they were finally free...or so they believed. It is in these days of gods that had abandoned their world that they encountered a deity of death - and it is the horror-fraught exile through this deity's land that forever transformed the strivog, in both mind and body, with the food of the dead, the acts of despicable cannibalism and worse demanding their toll, converting them to the worship of the dread entity...but also granting them strength, purpose and organization.

Thus they arose from the Icekrypt, a magically frozen wasteland of ice...and it is from these cold regions that they set forth, established their guilds and followed the deadly commands of their Lich Queen. Their culture is slow and deliberate, like the eternal ice and the patience of the dead; there is not much place for warmth in the hearts of the strivog and their brush with death left them even less fertile, which may be the once chance other races have. Ruthlessly meritocratic, their guilds and reputations and ranks are further extolled, painting a vivid picture of deadly culture, organized and structured and as inevitable and deliberate as the eternal ice, enslaving and generating vassal-dependencies, calling to the service of the dread Dark Maw.

The laws of the dead have been applied with grisly potency to the culture and the disturbing drow worship their deity via the grand edifices of sinew and bone these chillingly (haha) civilized drow craft in their calculated, merciless savagery, creating an overall highly-structured empire of ice and bone that manages to convey a concise and sensible picture of an evil empire.

Racial trait-wise, the strivog receive +2 to Dex and Int, -2 Cha, drow immunities, carrion sense, darkvision, resistance 5 to cold, +1 to the DC of necromancy spells (and, if the Wis is higher than 11, 1/day chill touch, command undead, touch of fatigue) , +2 when interacting with undead (should specify precisely the skills to which it applies, though it's clear that they should apply to the social skills) and undead made by them gain +2 turn resistance! OUCH! They gain 6 + class level SR (should be character level) and suffer a -4 penalty to saves versus hot climates, -2 to saves to resist fire spells and effects.

Now here is an interesting take on alternate racial traits: Flavor-wise, the strivog share traits with the undead/ half-undead, but to maintain balance, they do not gain these traits, instead allowing them to choose their progression and specializations via alternate racial traits in an interesting manner: For the price of a feat or a number of skill points defined by the respective trait, the strivog can learn it, with character level +5 acting as a scaling cap that prevents low-level super-strivog. Intriguing: The more of these admittedly powerful tricks (like skeletal DR 5/bludgeoning) the strivog accumulates, the more drawbacks associated with the dead they also have to take. These tricks include powerful, 1/day abilities like howling agony as an SP or a fear-based paralyzing gaze that is saved from being insanely OP by the hex-caveat and the 1-round duration. Still, the options presented here are more in line for campaigns using pretty powerful PC-races...but as far as NPCs are concerned, I have no such scruples...and the drawbacks are brutal.

Favored class options for core classes plus inqui and alchemist are provided. Strivog, being orderly and organized, belong to a guild and an order, and thus, we get faction traits galore, including an anti-version of stabilizing touch, 1/day skill rerolls. As a minor complaint, the bonus types here are not properly codified. The pdf also provides rules for making e.g. swords of sinews and bone (with the disturbing promise that they can do that while the victim still lives...). If you're btw. using the missing body parts/prosthetics-rules from Strategists and Tacticians, well, then you're in luck, for the engine for fetish and totem creation is compatible with these.

These fetishes and totems steal abilities and allow the user to hijack them: While based on Spellcraft, at least partially, their wide-open and modular creation actually manages to prevent cheesing via spells or items, which is very impressive. In fact...the whole process of the creation of these represents a truly impressive feat of crunchy craftsmanship: From activation to what can be done with them, this engine alone should make this pdf worthwhile for GMs...or those looking for some particularly grisly trophy-maker...and before you gas and scream OP - there is a steep cost for the like, namely XP, which is generally not done in PFRPG...but considering the power these offer, I very much support this decision here. Several saple fetishes are provided, from assassin vine sashes to the lucky halfling's foot.

From bone bags to funerary rites to 10 spells, we can see quite a few nice ones here - some of which are classics that made me smile for their inclusion here: Raise City. Just sayin' The pdf concludes with a brief fluff-only overview of the main settlements of the strivog empire and some adventure hooks.

The pdf also comes with a bonus-pdf, the 2 page (1 page monster, 1 page SRD) depicting the CR 2 sunbat that hibernates at night and has a spear-like beak - nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but on a rules-language level , the pdf could be tighter. Some bonus types, some verbiages that are precise, but deviate from the standard, some minor hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard of the series and the pdf has some seriously nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Patricia Willenborg's series of drow-cultures, intended for mature audiences, is absolutely amazing. While I'd be hesitant to allow all options in non-high-powered games for players, so far each of the pdfs has managed to provide a truly evocative, unique vision of drow that sets them apart, big time, from the boring old spider-worshiping cliché. While they tend to have, on the crunch-side, some editing hiccups and minor issues, they more than make up for that by their engines: Whether it's the drug-generator, the poison-customizer or this one's fetish-generator, they provide easy and amazing customization options for GMs.

Beyond that, they just are a great read. The prose is captivating and compelling, painting a vivid and compelling picture. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I was completely burned out on drow culture-sourcebooks before this series came along. The strivog, now, are part of that great tradition that makes me really want to integrate them in my campaigns. The attention to detail and consistency of the culture depicted is amazing, captivating and ignites that spark of creativity within me. In short: I love this pdf; it is well worth the low and more than fair asking price. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - The Strivog: The Bone Drow
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Cultures of Celmae: Briranor
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2017 03:33:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The briranor, prior to the Shattering, were an isolated people, dwelling on the Emerald Isle (fully mapped in full color!) - a tribal people fighting as much amongst themselves as with the orcs. When the Shattering tore Celmae asunder, they faced titanic beasts and had to retreat, in unity, to the newly unearthed cities of ruins opened to the sky by the now floating landmasses. Occupying the remains of this erstwhile civilization, they tried to rebuild...but soon had to come to grips with not being alone: The majestic behir and the briranor, after a tentative first contact, entered into an alliance that persists to this day, an alliance that allowed them to reclaim their lands. Initially reluctant to mingle with the strange new race they found in their once homes, the briranor soon mingled with the new elven race - and thus was born a race that could be summed up as Celmae's half-elves...though I prefer briranor. Why? Because, perhaps for the first time in ages, I feel that the hybrid race has a concise and distinct identity. Massive kudos!!

The nation of briranor receives its full write-up - with massive mountains and fey-haunted forests, the nation has plenty of adventuring potential and the sample settlement Baitha is a nice addition. The second nation depicted herein would be that of the Gallfaen - and yes, if you recall the Brynnyn, these fellows would be the ardent foes of Shub-Niggurath's cults and the dread titanic creatures unleashed upon the world, a tribal people. (They also gain +1 to Intimidate checks.)

The supplement then does something remarkably different - something I applaud: It takes a deeper look at the lands of the Briranor, covering all major settlements to be found within this region of the world, including settlement statblocks and lore galore and copious adventure hooks contained in the vivid prose. This made the region, at least to me, come to life more so than any before in the series. As a nitpick, the gold values in the statblock marketplace sections have been italicized, when they shouldn't be, but that's, as mentioned, cosmetic.

The gazetteer also covers the emerald pull, the fey-territory mentioned before. The pdf also sports crunch, though - in this instance, that would be the behir rider, who receives d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. The PrC can be taken at 8th level, provided you can meet its criteria, and has a cool flavor requirement (two thumbs up) - namely that the prospective rider must have single-handedly defeated a behir. Ouch! Love it!

The PrC begins with a young behir companion (proper animal companion stats included!!) as well as behir empathy, a behir-centric-version of wild empathy. The base behir companion is powerful - and has a great catch: If the behir rider has another mount, eidolon or familiar, the "behir will kill and eat it". That's so deadpan...I love it. It made me actually laugh when I read it. 2nd level nets behir's stance, which provides a +1 bonus to CMD versus trip attempts, which increases by +1 every even level thereafter. 3rd level nets natural armor +1, increasing this every odd level thereafter. At 4th level, the PrC receives combination charge, which nets the behir a free bite attack when the rider is charging. 8th level allows the behir to execute the breath weapon at the end of the charge (with a caveat to prevent recharge abuse!) and as a capstone, we have a decrease of the recharge time for the breath weapon by 1 and immunity to electricity for the rider.

The behir companion begins play with 8 HD and increases these to 15, has good Fort- and Ref-saves, increases skills from 8 to 15, natural armor from +6 to +12 and increases Str and Dex by up to +6 over the course of the 10 levels of progression. During the class advancement, the behir also receives 7 bonus tricks. It begins play with link, with 2nd level providing devotion (+4 to Will-saves vs. enchantment) and grab, 3rd level providing evasion, 4th constrict, 6th rake, 9th improved evasion and 7th level breath weapon. The 10th level provides swallow whole. Powerful, yes, but ability-dispersal-wise and considering the relative dearth of good abilities in the base PrC, more than justified. Now, there is one baffling oversight: The second page of the behir's rules-text...is completely italicized. It's a cosmetic glitch, but one that even casual inspection could have caught. Still, as a whole, my favorite class-design in the series so far!

Next, we are introduced to 4 new deities (all with their own full color symbols) - there would be Ametus, the creepy deity with the needle-pointed fingers that wrested the secret of undeath from the Grey Maiden (Vecna, anyone?), Lyria, patron of sun, passion and art, Reata, dual deity of love and lust as well as war (which makes a lot of sense to me!) and Wyre, master of dreams, magic and knowledge. Now these deities do have a couple of minor issues: Ametus and Lyria have two favored weapons, which makes the proficiency question and interaction of favored weapon mechanics problematic - do both weapons apply bonuses, if any? Lyria also gets one subdomain more than the other deities.

The pdf sports 3 domains: Art, Dream and Passion: Art allows you to temporarily make regular items masterwork and 4th level allows the character to take bardic masterpieces, substituting spells known with spell slots...which sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, bardic masterpieces require the expenditure of bardic performance, which means that the domain...doesn't do anything there, unless you have somehow access to the bardic performance class feature. The movement subdomain lets you touch a target 3 + Wis-mod times per day, forcing them to move gracefully away from you (nope, does not provoke AoOs). This one should have a save to negate. The sound subdomain provides basically a weaker version of inspire courage. Not blown away.

The dream domain nets you the option to 2/day to apply a +5 bonus to AC or Ref-save of a companion. The wording makes me think that this should have an immediate action activation, but the ability does not specify one...so yeah. 8th level lets you scry while sleeping...and nope, the spell's not italicized. The Passion domain lets you touch another to grant them bonuses to Perform, while 8th level provides immunity to non-magical fear effects and a bonus to saves versus magical fear.

The pdf concludes with a new material, azure luster: The material is used for weapons exclusively (being to malleable for armor) and increases the damage of the respective weapon by one size category, but are ALWAYS treated as broken. The material also ignores the AC or shield bonuses granted by iron or steel armor (explicitly just these - bronze, mithril, etc. are good!) and may not even damage these materials - iron creatures would be completely immune versus these weapons! The cost, at +5K gp, is pretty low for the benefits...but then again, I LIKE it. It provides a great in-game reason for making armor and shields out of strange materials, for getting that bone armor...you get the idea. It feels a bit rough, but offsets that by being imaginative, ending the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting...are not that good. I noticed several typo-level hiccups and formatting in particular, while better than in previous installments, sports some very obvious hiccups that should have been caught. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and artwork consists of a blend of nice full-color original pieces and stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes an unnecessary comfort detriment.

Jess Carson, with additional writing by Robert Gresham and Angel "ARMR" Miranda, delivers the by far best Cultures of Celmae-supplement I've covered so far. The flavor is more in-depth, with the gazetteer painting a more vivid picture of the regions and people in question. The briranor have a more distinct identity than most half-elves I have seen, which is a big plus. In fact, I was getting ready to sing some more pronounced praises here...and then, I stumbled over the deity-write-up section and the problematic (and partially boring) domains, which stick out like a sore thumb in the book. The deity-fluff is generally nice, if not too mind-blowing, but the domains...are simply not as refined as they should be. Compared to both PrC and new material and the cool ideas they represent, this section feels...less compelling.

This is an inexpensive pdf, yes. But the domain issues do drag this down a bit, unfortunately, to the point, where, in conjunction with the pretty nasty formatting issues, I can't rate this as high as I'd like to. It should also be noted that bonus types could have used a more rigorous codification in this supplement. Still, of the early Cultures of Celmae-books, this is BY FAR the one most worth getting! If you're looking for more culturally distinct half-elves, it could very well be exactly what you're looking for! Still, with the formal issues, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Briranor
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 2779 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG
Mobile version