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Ithreians of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/16/2018 14:23:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the „...of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 35 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content. These pages have been laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper if you print this out.

All right, so we begin this supplement with a deity write-up of Ithreia, also known as “Old Mother Owl” or as the “Queen of the Blinding Wind” – a deity of birds, sea and winter. The deity is Lawful neutral, with 4 domains and subdomains and the pilum as favored weapon. The write-up goes above what you’d expect – it also features an obedience and evangelist, exalted and sentinel boons – the second of the evangelist boons is particularly cool: It lets you tread through difficult terrain, and allies may follow in your footsteps, but only for a round! The boons, as a whole, are intriguing indeed.

As a deity associated with the elements, Ithreia is particularly loathed by the elemental lords, and her legend, realm and divine relations are explained in well-written detail, making full use of Porphyra’s unique cosmology. The write-up also sports notes on her holy texts and holdings and even features cool (get it, because ice….Ouch. Yeah, 2 cents into the bad pun jar…) aphorisms and a fully depicted spell preparation ritual. 2 meaningful and well-written religion traits are included as well, and worshipers of Ithreia can call different creatures – these minor spellcasting option changes add some nice details to the write-up. The pdf also notes divine servants. So far, so amazing!

Now, as far as class options are concerned, we get a variant of the less than impressive Accursed class that exchanged positive/negative energy resistance with cold resistance. (Boring.) The icebreaker is an archetype of the armjack hybrid class, who replaces bardic knowledge with +1/2 class level to Swim, Acrobatics, Survival, Climb profession (sailor) and Knowledge (religion) pertaining to Ithreia. Instead of versed with armor, we get Endurance and scaling cold resistance. At 6th level, the archetype can endure elements via cry to arms. The way in which the duration works here requires a bit of close reading – this could be slightly tighter. At 19th level, the archetype gains the option to use cry to arms to shatter ice/crystalline surfaces.

The pdf also sports quite a few different bardic masterpieces, with Blizzard’s Lament netting you an aura that staggers and blinds nearby targets with a save to negate. There is also one for blindsesne and one that nets allies within 30 ft. +10 (!!!) to initiative. And yes, 5th level bard spell known is hardcore, but considering how rocket launcher-tag-like high level PFRPG gaming can be, this will get nowhere near my game. A crazy prepared effect is also nice, particularly since it actually manages to be uncheesable! Huge kudos there! Fortifying targets versus cold and bleeding at the cost of initiative, Perception and susceptibility versus sleep also is interesting.

The order of the owl for the chronicler (see Prestige Archetypes) replaces well-versed with Endurance. The archetype also replaces mass suggestion with the option to call an Ithreian 11th level cleric. (And yes, statblocks are provided!) via the capstone. The druid archetype Eye of Old Mother Owl replaces nature sense with +2 to Perception and Sense Motive and is locked into a couple of choices regarding animal companions taken via nature’s bond. At 4th level, the archetype gets to cast divination spells while wild shape’d, and retain concentration on them as a move action while in wild shape. Additionally, sense fear and discern lies may be spontaneously cast and discern lies is added to the class list. This replaces resist nature’s lure. Instead of venom immunity, Perception-penalties due to distance are quartered and the druid increases range and area of divinations cast by 50%.

The hermit hybrid class gets a new illumination: +4 to Stealth and Survival in snow, and immunity to cold of up to -50°F and winds of less than hurricane force. The illumination also nets commune with birdsas the spell, may look through the eyes of a bird in long range (what happens with regular sight?), and at 8th level, the hermit knows when population is dangerously depleted or groups are ailing, as if she asked via commune with nature. Okay, does this require concentration? An action? Is it instantaneous? No idea.

There are two hunter foci: Gyrfalcon nets a scaling fly bonus, whale a scaling Survival bonus.

The keener hybrid class gets two laments: One that knocks prone a target and moves it, one that allows targets healed to stand up as a swift action or move 5 ft., even through difficult terrain, sans AoOs. Does the latter count as a 5 ft. step or not?

We also get new kineticist wild talents: Sheltering Snow is a utility wild talent, which lets you make walls of ice and tiny hut, with 1 Burn cost to make it last longer. Squall infusion can be applied to cold blasts and has no burn cost: It dazzles the target on a failed save, regardless if the target was damaged or not. Witheout is another substance infusion is cool: It makes your kinetic blast, the squares it moves through and area of effect provide concealment; at 2 burn cost, this is feasible.

The gyrfalcon of the blinding wind paladin must choose a mount, which must be a roc. Instead of spellcasting, the paladin gets to forage potions, which is damn cool – particularly since this class feature may not be cheesed – only a limited amount may be maintained, and the scaling is sensible. The aura of justice is replaced with…+10 to initiative, +4 for nearby allies. OP as all hell. Kill it with fire. The paladins of Ithreia may remove penalties to ability scores (NOT damage or drain!) with a mercy and fortify allies with a bonus to Fort saves and temporary hit points.

The cool quartermaster class gets the pack tinkerer archetype, who receives Ride as a class skill instead of Linguistics. The archetype gets a cavalier’s mount and may apply inspection only to it. Similarly, trap evasion only applies to it. Unique and cool: Instead of repurpose mechanism, the archetype can teach his animal to activate, ready or deploy items! Love this little engine tweak. The singing Guide ranger must chooses companions as bond and may share ½ favored terrain bonuses and Endurance with allies. The archetype never falls as a result of a botched Climb checks, never falls prone on ice or due to a vessel’s movement. 11th level nets a blindsense granting song that upgrades at higher levels and replaces quarry. There is a share sense based shaman hex with scaling range and we get two shifter aspects: The gyrfalcon one is based on the falcon and replaces the minor form benefit with scaling Fly-bonuses. The Whale aspect does pretty much what you’d expect: Minor form is analogue to the hunter aspect, major provides whale-associated tricks. Nothing spectacular. Finally, storm rider skalds replaces song of strength, dirge of doom and song of the fallen with custom raging songs: The base one if a cold blast; group flight and swimming and storm control make these nice. Well-versed and versatile performance are exchanged for counting as larger for withstanding winds and scaling cold resistance.

The pdf also includes a total of 10 spells that focus on Ithreia’s strong leitmotifs: The cold spells here are nice and do more than just damage, and having a spell that interacts with bardic performance in place is interesting: It nets you early flight as a level 2 spell, but requires maintenance of bardic performance and thus wrecks Stealth. It may also be discharged to reroll an attack roll, which is an interesting tactical angle. Using a spell to prepare a domain/subdomain spell (prepared casters only) is also intriguing. Particularly impressive here would be the spell that manages to preserve other spells – the rules-language here is impressive indeed and it is not cheesable! I really liked this spell section.

The magic item section provides a custom blue bag of chosen tricks, basically the ithreian version of the classic item, as well as three new figurines of wondrous power: opal gyrfalcon, pearl owl and sapphire whale.These are more potent in the hands of Ithreians, which is something I enjoy and a notion I’d very much love to see more of in the final version of the Porphyra RPG, but that as an aside. A glass to see through snow and ice is here, and what really made me smile: Remember that preserve spell trick I mentioned? Well, ithreians get an item class that are LITERALLY spells in preservation jars. Great meta-commentary and a way to make them, well, fun!

We end the pdf with a CR orcam armjack icebreaker and a CR 10 harpy cleric.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ no-frills 1-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf sports a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with EXCESSIVE bookmarks, making navigation both easy and comfortable.

David N. Ross is a very precise designer; he has created quite a few of my favorite class options and tricks out there, from covenant magic to his illuminates and shadow weaver, there are several neat examples of what he’s capable of. This depiction of the followers of a deity is admirable in the best of ways: Ithreia and her followers come to life in this little pdf: The class options breathe the leitmotifs of their patron deity and establish a sense of cohesion and consistency I love to see. I hope that faiths and how they are presented by Purple Duck Games in the future will adhere to similar principles. Beyond the flavor, the pdf manages to provide quite a bunch of complex rules-operations within its surprisingly extensive collection of engine-tweak archetypes and class options. Now, there are a few instances where the rules are slightly less tight, but that wouldn’t irk me. I’m flabbergasted, though, by the ignorance pertaining the gross power of initiative boosts this has. The massive initiative boosts a few options herein grant are ridiculously potent in the right hands and should be purged with extreme prejudice, marring an otherwise compelling and flavorful tome.

That being said, these components are easy to nerf and should not dissuade you from checking this out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, but I’m afraid I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ithreians of Porphyra
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Stock Art: Female Witch with Serpent
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/14/2018 09:13:19

Very interesting little witch with snake. Can't wait to find a good home for it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Female Witch with Serpent
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Hybrid Class: Pundit
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/10/2018 04:00:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 21.5 pages of content, all of which are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this one.

The pundit is a hybrid class of cavalier and wizard, gaining d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression and Will-saves as well as simple and martial weapon proficiency and light armor proficiency. The pundit may cast arcane spells drawn from the class in light armor sans chance of spell failure. The hybrid class gets full casting progression of up to 9th level, with Intelligence as the governing spellcasting attribute, spells drawn from the wizard list. They may substitute Draconic for one of their starting languages and employ spellbooks. However, the spell selection is limited by the authority chosen. I’ll return to these in a bit. The class begins play with a combat trained mount with Light Armor Proficiency. This mount may be replaced for free after 1 week, but it only gains link, evasion, devotion, etc. upon the pundit gaining the next level.

The class also begins play with a clout pool equal to 3 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier, replenishing after rests. As a swift action, the pundit may spend a clout point to gain a morale bonus equal to Charisma modifier to all melee attacks, CMBs and damage rolls. Authorities chosen also have uses for clout-based abilities. At 5th level, as a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity, the pundit may expend an unused spell slot, gaining clout points equal to that spell’s level, though clout may not exceed the maximum daily allotment. This may be used 1/day, +17day at 10th level. At this level, the ability may be used as a standard action and no longer provokes attacks of opportunity. Also at this level, the pundit may expend 1 clout point as part of casting a spell to enhance the DC by 1. The capstone doubles all skill modifiers to Intelligence and Charisma based skill checks while mounted. Additionally, targets critically hit by a mounted pundit must make a Will-save versus 10 + class level. (so…30.) or become stunned for 1d4 rounds, staggered on a successful save.

Now, I mentioned authorities: 9 different authorities are provided, and they work basically analogue to the cavalier’s orders: 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level provide a linear array of abilities granted by the authority. An authority expands the class skill list by 2 skills, with one at +1/2 class level bonus. The authority also governs the type of spellcasting the pundit may have: Each authority is assigned two schools, and the pundit may only learn spells from those schools. Arcane buckler nets abjuration and universal, bone axe necromancy and universal…you get the idea. The authority of hidden truths is unique here: Any illusion cast with a duration of concentration retains its effects for ½ class level rounds after ceasing concentration. Additionally, the 20th level pundit with this authority may make such an illusion permanent, with only one such permanent illusion in place at any given time.

These authorities further enhance the uses of clout: The authority of the arcane buckler, for example, nets you an additional morale bonus versus a single target if that target has made an attack against another target…which makes no sense, since clout only works for a round, unlike challenge…so how do you determine whether or not the bonus applies? Weird. The abjuration authority nets scaling resistance to en energy type you can choose each day anew. Energy types available are not listed. A deflective aura and limited damage conversion to non-lethal damage. The 8th level nets a shield versus energy types. ALL OF THEM. This is basically a 3 x class level hit point shield versus energy attacks. Again, all of them. Yes, including RAW sonic, negative energy and force. An improved Stand Still and at 16th level, the option to immediate action move and attack, but at the cost of being staggered in the next round, complement this one.

The necromancy authority nets Command and Turn Undead, with a Cha-governed save, fear-inducing touch, better Intimidate, Critical Focus and lifesight, as well as attacks versus foes attacking allies via AoO and with a +2 bonus. The clout ability is problematic: “Whenever the pundit uses a clout point to successfully attack a creature whose kind she has encountered in the past 24 hours…” What constitutes “encountered” for the purpose of this ability? Defeating a target? Killing it? No idea. What does “kind” mean? Subtype? Nationality? Class? Nonfunctional.

The clout ability of the enchanted rose allows the pundit to offer terms of surrender as a standard action, but nets further benefits if the target then declines these. Okay, cool. For how long? Just for the activation of one clout? Then it does nothing, since clout only lasts a round. Many of these abilities clearly have been designed for duration-based abilities or permanent ones, not for point-based, short-burst boosts, and the design-ambiguities and issues when you prod them, alas, do show that. We also can find designs like high-level competing attack rolls (still consider them wonky). That being said, apart from the clout-hiccups, the rest of the abilities provided by the respective authorities tend to gravitate towards the more interesting angle, and rules language is better than quite a few of these hybrid classes.

The pdf includes an archetype, the sigil rider, who begins play with a more powerful mount that is kept in place by negative levels that may not be removed. Higher levels yield better mounts. Since this only replaces high horse, it’d be stupid not to take it after 2nd level. This one really need to cost the class more. The pdf includes 3 new feats:+2 clout, +2 daily uses of an authority power usable 3 +Int mod per day….and a feat that nets you access to a WHOLE NEW SCHOOL. This is bound to be a must have feat. The pdf comes with 10 types of favored class options, which diverge in presentation from the standards and are all assigned to multiple races.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good on a formal level, though there are quite a few issues in the details of the rules-language. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The full color artwork is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Hollingsworth’s pundit is an interesting class – the combo of wizard and cavalier is interesting, but it also shows a couple of issues in its execution: Beyond the problems with quite a few of the clout abilities not having been properly translated from their challenge-origins, the class is very front heavy, providing a lot at 1st level. It also never addresses the vigorous motion/concentration issue, which makes casting while riding unreliable, to say the least. That being said, with a bit of tweaking I can see this fellow work as intended. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Pundit
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FT 2 - The Portsmouth Mermaid
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2018 17:13:03

Since the DCC RPG’s release, a perception seems to have grown up around its playstyle as best suited for gonzo one-shot dungeon crawls. Daniel J. Bishop’s FT2 - The Portsmouth Mermaid and its companion module FT2.5 - Three Nights in Portsmouth show that DCC works just as well for open-ended urban adventures that emphasize investigation and social interaction just as much as direct confrontations via sword and spell.

The setting of the town of Portsmouth draws most directly from H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dagon” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm with plenty of other references to fairy tales and classic children’s literature as seen through Daniel Bishop’s dark lens. Although there is a main plotline set to track along with the 12 days of Portsmouth’s Yuletide Festival, there are enough factions, secret locations and unique random encounters to reward returning to the town over and over again as an adventure setting. In my campaign we’ve managed to run seven sessions so far just focussing on the main plotline and a couple of the side adventures from Three Nights in Portsmouth, with easily the potential for 3-4 sessions more. Highly recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FT 2 - The Portsmouth Mermaid
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Monstrous Bloodlines for Sorcerers VI
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/09/2018 03:26:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 6th collection of new bloodlines for sorcerers clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10.5 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, so let’s take a look!

All right, we begin with 5 new feats:

-Bloodline Beast: Counts as Improved Familiar sans requiring the familiar class feature. There is no such feature. It’s witch’s familiar, arcane bond, etc. Level-restrictions thankfully still apply. A dead familiar causes Con-drain, but does not require costs to replace. Cool: Lets you bypass alignment restrictions.

-Bloodline Bias: Choose a monster type from a list; you get +1 damage with damaging spells versus the chosen type and +1 DC. This also applies to sorcerers and bloodragers.A handy mini-table nets you the equivalents.

-Sorcerous Battery: Use a limited use bloodline power to activate a magic item with charges as a standard action. CL of the item must be equal to or less than UMD ranks, and single use items can’t be activated thus. Nice one!

-Sorcerous Power Drain: The inverse one: Drain magic items to power limited use bloodline powers. Caster level of the item must be higher or equal than your CL. This and battery could power a whole culture and are inspiring, though potent.

-Sorcerous Synergy (Teamwork): +1 CL and +1 to DC and roll twice to bypass SR when aided asa full-round action by your buddy.

The pdf also includes 7 bloodlines, the first of which would be aeon, which may never choose a good or evil spell to the list of spells known, but which allows you to combine Knowledge checks with spellcasting. This is a leitmotif of sorts herein: While I don’t always agree with the balancing, which sometimes makes the bloodlines clock in at rather strong levels, I applaud that they provide meaningful changes for the base spellcasting engine.

Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, aeon. We get a touch that dazes targets and also nets insight (Knowledge bonus) – nice limited use touch. Neat defensive tricks and a high-level combo-buff complement this one. The capstone makes you basically immortal…with auto-resurrection…but you do lose equipment…Cool one!

The Demodand bloodline nets you a limited use Str-damage touch. Their higher-level slime-ability, oddly, works RAW versus ranged or reach weapons as well, which it should not. Cool: At higher levels, the bloodline lets you temporarily suppress divine casting and channel energy.

The eclipse bloodline yields a positive or negative energy touch that can harm or heal, analogue to channel et. al. Dodge bonus, a wall of fire that can fascinate you, shadow step as a SP (plus immunity to [darkness] and [light] spells as well as an apotheosis of sorts complement this one. Also cool: The spells known make alignment-variations of spells more sensible for the sorcerer to take.

Leshy-blooded sorcerers may add druid spells to their spells known, fire entangling pods, a “double-strength” (not exactly perfect rules-verbiage) shield with unique properties and more subdued abilities complement this one, making up for the potent spells-known expansion.

The manasaputra bloodline nets you a third eye that opens on your head when casting spells, granting you a temporary skill buff. The bloodline also lets you fire limited fire or positive energy blasts, adaptive resistance and make a really powerful buffing aura at 9th level. The high-level abilities are slightly less potent to make up for that.

The sakhil bloodline enhances the DC of fear-spells and gets a fear-inducing limited use gaze. Nitpick: Save DC should refer to class level, not just “level.” Ectoplasmic Spell sans casting-time increase (verbiage a bit wonky) and added ghost touch (not properly italicized) are okay, but the capstone immunity array is imho a bit overkill.

Finally, the yaksha bloodline nets you spell level as a bonus to Fort-saves for 1 round after casting. The touch attack labors under the misconception that “distracted” is a condition – it’s not. Worse: It generates a gold coin. Sure, only 3 + Cha-mod per day, but you can wreck an economy with a bunch of these sorcerers. The bloodline also includes a fertility field, metamagic and an interesting apotheosis.

The pdf comes with a bonus-file depicting the Children of the Dead, a monster penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr. These are undead that are spawned by the dread crypt mothers – they have the dhampir subtype and are slavishly devoted to their horrid progenitor. The pdf includes three variants. Really cool, if grim CR 1 critter with a neat full-color artwork.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting oscillate a bit: I did notice a few formal glitches and rules-verbiage deviations, but also a couple of complex concepts well executed. The pdf actually manages to be innovative and interesting more than once, which does help mitigate some of the issues I encountered. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column standard with purple highlights. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr knows how to write intriguing, creative crunch, and when he makes sure his rules-fu is top-notch, we get amazing stuff. There are a couple of real gems herein, but also quite a few hiccups and potential issues. This is not a pdf that will fit every campaign, but it is one that may well be truly inspiring for some. Ultimately, this is pretty much the definition of a mixed bag, which lies slightly on the positive side due to its neat ideas. Now, usually, I’d still round down here, since a few of the hiccups are pretty grievous, but the neat bonus critter and low and fair price point make me round up instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrous Bloodlines for Sorcerers VI
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Legendary Classes: Cartomancer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:44:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, the cartomancer as envisioned by Purple Duck games, comes with d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons (but not any armor – they interfere with spellcasting), ¾ BAB-progression and good Will-saves. They are arcane spellcasters, gaining spells of up to 9th level, drawn from their own spell-list, using Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute. The cartomancer’s spellcasting engine is pretty unique, as it interacts with the deck of cards that grants the class its name: At 1st level, the cartomancer has a deck of 54 cards. When the cartomancer prepares spells, each spell must be attributed to a different card of the deck. The deck is composed of six suits, with 9 cards each: Air, Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood. When preparing spells, the cartomancer gets to choose which suit each spell card is from. This deck may not contain more than 9 cards of a given suit. There also are trick and trump cards, which must be of a specific suit, but I’ll return to those later.

While the cartomancer is within 5 ft. of his deck, he may execute a number of tricks, none of which provoke AoOs: The cartomancer may draw a card as a swift action, creating a “hand”; at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the cartomancer may draw an additional card. Previously held cards are discarded. The cartomancer may discard the cards in his hand, shuffling them back into the deck. Discarding cards does not lose them, and they are intangible, so they may not be caught etc. There are effects that do get rid of cards – the terminology for this would be “consume” – a card consumed is lost and no longer available until the cartomancer manages to prepare spells. When the cartomancer casts a spell from a card, he has to discard a number of cards from the hand equal to the spell level of the spell cast, including the spell’s card – casting 6th level spell, for example, would require discarding 6 cards, including the spell’s card, while casting a 1st level spell would only require the discarding of the 1st level’s spell card.

The cartomancer may only prepare a limited number of cantrips per day, and this number is equal to the maximum number of cards that may be assigned cantrips. Cantrips are assigned a suit, any any card of that suit may be used to cast a cantrip associated with it, without requiring the discarding of cards. A cartomancer may choose to keep a card as if he had not cast it – this ability is known as clean draw, and may be used a number of times per day for each spell level equal to the number of sorcerer bonus spells per day the character would get, as based on Charisma modifier. This allows for some control and features a unique limitation that is, engine-wise, interesting. The cartomancer begins play with Eschew Materials. While cards are definitely recommended, the pdf does note that alternate means of randomization would be possible and provides basic guidelines.

Starting at 2nd level, the cartomancer chooses a favored suit, with 8th and 14th level providing the same choice: If the same suit is chosen multiple times, progressively better abilities are gained, rewarding both specialization and diversification. The first benefit of the suit specializations, for example, include a +4 dodge bonus to AC versus AoOs provoked via trick cards, a 1/day minor healing effect, new class skills, replacing a Fire card’s spell with burning hands, etc. The second effects include CL-increases for the suit, while the 3rd option provides, once more, unique effects: For earth, that nets, for example, a cumulative natural armor bonus equal to the spell level of Earth cards cast for 3 rounds, allowing you, with the right hands, to truly withstand punishment. No AoOs for trick card water casts, a defensive whirlwind (that has a very minor verbiage issue that does not compromise rules – “deviates” should be “deflect”) or metamagic use. These are unique and add meaningful differentiations between specialists. Like them!

At 3rd level, aforementioned trick cards come into play: You choose a trick card, which acts as a SP, with 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding another trick card. Trick cards take up a slot in the deck, and using it is a standard action that does provoke attacks of opportunity unless otherwise specified. Trick cards take up a card slot when assigned, obviously. It should be noted that the favored suit choices do NOT lock the cartomancer out of trick cards – while associated trick card of the favored suit can benefit from the favored suit, a cartomancer specializing in air could easily take an earth trick card, for example. 5 trick cards per element are provided, and they include unique effects, like e.g. a rod of wonder effect, gain a massive +5 morale bonus to Charisma-based checks for a minute, though this one does consume the card. Some of these have high level prerequisites that unlock combos: Consuming trick card +2 cards to draw twice as many cards as usual, for example, makes for some unique gambits.

Also interesting – instead of burrow speed or the like, an earth trick card allows for the SWIMMING through earth, stone, etc. – with all the complications that swimming entails! I really loved the visuals here! Reducing required discard numbers, moving fires around, making foes lose one of their highest level prepared spells – there are quite a few really interesting and creative tricks to be found here! The unique tricks do not end there, though: At 5th level, the cartomancer gets a second type of card: The trump card. An additional trump card is gained at 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Like trick cards, trump cards are associated with a given suit, and they work in a unique way: You basically discard them as part of discarding cards for spellcasting, in addition to the discard cost of the spell. These cards are basically the “metamagic”-y tricks of the class, and once more, all trump cards may affect all spells, regardless of favored suit chosen.

Once more, the class goes the high road, offering quite a few unique tricks: One air trump card, for example, allows you to increase the distance between targets of a spell, allowing you to increase distances between them by 30 ft. – interesting tweak for, for example, haste etc. That being said, there are a few minor snafus – there are, for example, no “contact spells”: That should be “touch spells.” There also is a unique option to penalize summoned targets, to change spell damage to slashing, etc. – once more, I considered these to be interesting, and any complaints regarding rules are based on cosmetic glitches. It’s always clear what’s meant. The capstone lets the cartomancer choose to consume cards instead of discarding them, up to a minimum deck size of 14, and the cartomancer my Cha-mod times per day choose a card of choice when drawing. Beyond the custom spell-list, we get one of the most massive favored class options lists I have ever seen: Not only are the core races and the more exotic ones covered, we also get a vast amount of support for the significant array of Porphyran races. And yes, these include psionic races.

There also are two different archetypes included: The card reader gets an expanded spell-list of divination spells that may be cast in a kind of spontaneous manner without having them in the hand. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, one of these must be taken. At 8th level, the card-reader gets harrowing as a SP, Cha-mod times per day, with 14th level providing greater harrowing, which replaces the trick cards at 8th and 14th level.

The second archetype is the dice master, who must be chaotic, and represents basically a die-based alternative to the cartomancer, gaining a luck pool at 3rd level, equal to ½ + Cha-mod points, which may be spent to improve skill checks and saves before rolling, using the spell-die sides to determine their potency. Since the archetype does not gain trick or trump cards, the class feature instead unlocks new uses for these luck points. I liked these, but the lack of a proper capstone for it is a bit of a pity. The pdf does have a total of 11 feats as well: Atypical Deck lets you replace a trick card with a trump card or vice versa, and may thereafter choose trick cards instead of trump cards and vice versa. Cool! Bludgeoning Box lets you wield the card box as a weapon. Once/round discarding and redrawing, a bonus trick card, having your box in the ethereal plane and accompany you there, better concentration for spell-card casting…cool. Looking at the top card prior to drawing and putting it at the bottom, if you like, adding wizard’s spells to the spell list and decreasing discarded card requirements complement this section.

The pdf also has a new array of spells that introduces the (invisible) spell descriptor, which makes identifying it harder, imposing a -5 penalty to Spellcraft. These are really cool, in that they provide pretty significant benefits that are triggered as immediate actions while the brief durations lasts. There is, for example, a spell that triggers when a certain amount of enemies come nearby! Really cool spell array, and yes, these have some unique interactions with the cartomancy-engine! The pdf does provide extensive advance for integrating cartomancy and comes with a sample ratfolk cartomancer NPC, with stats for levels 1, 5, 10 and 15.

The pdf does not stop here, though: We get a massive amount of support material: We get a worksheet table for customizing the deck (cool!); we also get printable versions of the trick/trump cards, with the respective suit’s glyphs on each page, and finally, a page of blank spell cards to print out! Big plus there!

The pdf does also come with a bonus pdf penned by Perry Fehr and Mark Gedak, depicting the CR 1 fur-bearing trout based famously on the cryptoid. The pdf also includes a variant, the bush mackerel.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is precise and tight where it counts, but sports a few deviations from the standards. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with purple highlights we’ve come to associate with Purple Duck Games, and the pdf sports quite a few really nice pieces of full-color artwork. The pd comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks making navigation simple and painless.

Nikolaï Samarine’s cartomancer has some really tough competition – the cartomancer by Interjection Games is a rather impressive direct comparison. However, and I did not expect to say this, I do kinda prefer Purple Duck Games’ take on the card-based caster. The synergy with spell-based casting means that the class can interact in meaningful ways with the vast spellcasting engines of PFRPG. More importantly, the class does have plenty of unique things it can do: From how simple the base engine is to grasp, to how the trick and trump cards offer for meaningful twists, the class is intriguing in that it actually play rather well – the card-based chaos-casting is notoriously hard to get right, and it’s even harder to actually judge on paper. Sans playtest, it is nigh impossible to judge how the like fares. This class has obviously seen use at the table, or otherwise is an example of excellent theorycrafting – either way, I am quite smitten by the engine presented and by how it works, as it generates a smooth flow of ebbs and tides that makes spellcasting feel fresh. The innovation does extend to quite a few of the class features the pdf offers, and stretches to small tidbits that add unique twists to concepts. Playing a cartomancer is unlike playing a wizard, and allows you to do things only the class could pull off.

As much as I adore a lot this class does, I did also notice a few minor hiccups that bled into the rules, which might confuse less experienced players, and the dice archetype’s lack of a unique capstone is an unpleasant oversight. While this does cost the class my highest accolades, I consider it to be an impressive achievement and, in spite of the minor flaws, worthy of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, and since this pdf does provide a ton of cool and helpful supplemental material, I will round up. Well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Classes: Cartomancer
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Fantasy Divinations (systemless)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/27/2018 03:44:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you can fit up to 4 of them on a sheet of paper when printing this.

We begin this installment of the series, which is btw. system neutral this time around, with a 2.5 page piece of fun introductory prose before providing 100 answers. For what?

Know when your players are stumped? Or when they use a divination and you have nothing prepared? Well, this humble pdf endeavors to provide no less than 100 suitably cryptic answers that should buy you some time to figure out a smooth way to get things back in order.

“Where is the Place we are looking for?” may be answered, for example, with “ The Desert Calls/The Sand Awaits/Backs to the Sun/For Three Long Days.” – and there you go, you’ll have them in the desert in no time. There are different levels of vagueness to be found, and “How do we get to the place?” is similarly covered – both get 12 responses. So does the answer to the question of what evil needs to be overcome or what treasure awaits. Similarly, if you want to know where the sought after person is, you’ll get 12 responses. “Kidnap. Bounds. Snarling whispers. Journey to the hole in the hill, covered in vines. Questions… questions… “ Yep, the standard cryptic/insane rambling is all here.

There are 10 answers provided for how the PCs may succeed in their mission, how the impending doom may be stopped. Similarly, the question on how to defeat the evil before the PCs gets 10 answers, as does the question for traps.

In a nice bit of comedy, a general purpose divination answer and “Reply hazy, ask again later…” are noted as a bit of fun at the end.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills, printer-friendly 1-column standard and the pdf has no interior artwork, apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – kudos!

Perry Fehr’s divination replies make for a fun little pdf that’s worth the humble asking price of a single buck. It won’t change your game, but it may provide some time or angle for you to get your PCs where you want them. All in all, a nice, unpretentious file – 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the fair price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Fantasy Divinations (systemless)
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Legendary Treasures X
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2018 04:53:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Item-series clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 41 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this.

Now, in case you’re not familiar with the series: The Legendary Items pioneered by Purple Duck Games have influenced my own games to an extent that only very few series have achieved. The idea is simple: I don’t know a single player who really likes the throwaway magic economy; we know, from a ton of books, the notion that magic items slowly awaken with the power of the wielder, right? That’s basically legendary items – magic items that begin with a certain power-level, and then grow in power with characters, remaining relevant and often unlocking unique abilities.

Legendary items range in power-levels from 5 to 10, though most have 5 steps in advancement. These items do have base forms – for most beings, they act at their base capacity, but if you meet the prerequisites of the item, you can begin unlocking the powers. Saving throw DCs, if any, use the wielder’s highest mental ability score modifier to calculate save DCs. Non-SPs that allow for a save have a DC of 10 + ½ the wielder’s level + the wielder’s highest mental ability score modifier. For the purpose of CL of any effects, the wielder’s level is assumed to be the items CL. The pdf does suggest a variant rules for jealous items, which prevents hoarding of items.

We begin with the cloak of protection. Yes, exactly. No, not the ones you already know. The cloak presented here does indeed improve from +1 to +5, as expected – however, beyond that, the storied item also nets you endure elements and 1/day swift action resist energy (cold or fire) at 4th item level. These effects become an aura at higher level and the SP is upgraded to being communal. Scaling SR and, at highest level, resistance versus all elements are added. It’s interesting – a bit of story and some fun modifications and one of the most maligned and boring items ever suddenly is interesting.

At this point, it should be mentioned that we get gorgeous, often spanning a whole page, full-color artworks to accompany the background stories of these items! The construct bane scarab begins with detection of constructs; then gets the scaling ability to bypass hardness, and at higher levels, starts working as a golembane scarab and builds on that, enhancing the wearer’s attacks versus golems…and it learns to mitigate spell resistance of constructs, reduce their natural armor, 1/day negate a special attack of a golem (sans action – should probably be spelled out!) and even get a retaliatory aura. Cool!

The gauntlet of serpents comes with poison resistance, a fully statted clockwork snake (that works akin to a variant of the eminent iron cobra, improving over the levels) and the ability to get more of these deadly tools, add spit attacks to them, etc. Cool! Minor nitpick: It would have been easier for less experienced GMs and players to have an increase in die progression spelled out with an example, but that is nitpicking.

Mammoth boots enhance your overrun capabilities, but also make you louder, hampering Stealth somewhat. Gaining trample as though large, counting as a bigger size category for CMB and CMD and temperature adaption make sense – and yes, as a capstone, we get a mastodon form – which has its own hit point pool! I love this – it’s so simple, yet cool, and is something I wouldn’t object to seeing more often!

Neria’s Dreamsling is a sling staff that gets abundant ammunition and the ability to modify the enhancement granted to the weapon via a ritual into special weapon properties. Firing scaling boulder bullets that are actually phantasms and acting as a staff of slumber complement a well-written item that has its own, distinct identity.

The robes of the battlemonk come with a pretty powerful first level ability that has some issues regarding the rules-language: “When worn, it allows its wearer to make a 10-foot adjustment whenever she can normally make a 5 foot adjustment. This ability can be used to allow the wearer to make a 5 foot adjustment into rough terrain.” So, first of all, that should be 5-foot step. Secondly, 5-foot stepping in difficult terrain is really potent. That one should probably be relegated to its own ability. Changing base physical damage types with unarmed attacks. Weird: The prerequisites note flurry of blows or brawler’s flurry, but the 6th level ability grants you monk class features at 2 levels higher: AC bonus, speed or unarmed damage…so, what about brawlers? Do they get other benefits? Do they get the monk benefits at full character level +2? The item feels less refined than the others so far, extending to slightly cumbersome verbiage instances like “…gains the monster universal ability, pounce,…”, which would usually read “…gains the pounce (monster) universal ability…” – not bad, mind you, but it’s noticeable. This unrefined nature also extends to e.g. Sonic Kick, which can’t seem to decide on whether to inflict untyped bonus damage or force damage. (Why not, you know, inflict…sonic damage??)

The Robe of the Sovereign Mage is a combined robe of armor and robe of resistance. Minor CL-bonuses and SR are spinkled in, and two potent capstones are added on top. The capstones are interesting, but come imho too late – the item is pretty bland, particularly in contrast to the more versatile and organic cloak of resistance.

Witches and shamans can take a look at the Sack of a Thousand Fetishes, which enhances curses and nets cackle/chant, respectively, otherwise acting as a cackling hag’s blouse. Patron/spirit enhancement, additional curse spells, better cackling/chant hex enhancement…I liked this one!

Vailoaria’s Northstar Rose is mechanically interesting, in that it represents a wayfinder that gains additional ioun stone slots, apport-based sending SPs, dimension door, contingency-esque spell storing…and the item’s abilities tie in with the ioun stones in a unique manner. Mechanically, this is by far the coolest and most interesting item within – two thumbs up!

Finally, there would be Zaidyne’s Chaplet, an item intended for kineticists, allowing for the rough identification of kineticist wild talents via Spellcraft. Scaling kineticist’s diadem functionality, storing a blast (with metakinesis and infusions!) in the chaplet. Composite blasts, hollow rod functionality – the item shows that the authors knew what they were doing, accounting for the dense and complex rules-language of the kineticist’s engine – we end the pdf thus on a high note, with undoubtedly the item that highlights the most design skill within.

The pdf comes with a bonus pdf penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, depicting the owl-like Strigifal agathion at CR 9 – with wing and claw attacks, true seeing and the ability to generate blizzards, which, not unlike vrock dances, can be used cooperatively, these beings are a cool critter with a nifty artwork.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – while I noticed a remnant [i] here and there, formatting and formal categories are generally tight. On a rules-language level, the pdf is precise for the most part. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ booklet-style 1-column standard, is printer-friendly and the pdf sports a surprising array of amazing full color artworks for the items. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Derek Blakely and Onyx Tanuki provide a neat selection of items within, though the imaginative potential and precision does oscillate a bit: Reading inspired pieces back to back with e.g. the bland robe of the sovereign mage felt a bit jarring to me. That being said, there are a couple of true gems within, with the final two items deserving special mention. As a whole, the pdf is very much worth getting for the fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Treasures X
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Villains of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/13/2018 13:48:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the „...of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 8 pages of SRD, leaving us with 42 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, pamphlet-style, which theoretically allows you to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, should you choose to print this supplement.

So, what do we get here? Well, basically what it says on the tin – this is no NPC Codex-style supplement that presents nameless adversaries and mook-fodder, but instead should be considered to be a collection of named and framed villains, ready to wreak havoc on your PCs. This obviously means that they all get their own piece of aptly-written prose, as well as statblocks, with the latter making use of Porphyra’s impressive cadre of creatures, races and content in general. Note that you do not need to own Porphyran books to use this, though! There is also a pretty neat Porphyra wiki, just fyi!

A total of 16 dastardly villains are provided within, so let’s take a look, shall we? For brevity’s sake, I am going to assume a degree of familiarity with Porphyra’s lore and races – should you be intrigued by the unique Patchwork plant, click on the “Porphyra”-tab of my review on my homepage, and you’ll have a list of files (and reviews) depicting more in terms of both crunch and lore.

We begin this supplement with Lady Daivona Scovalyx, a CR 17 inveigler erkunae investigator (mastermind) of the amazing erkunae race, still one of my all-time favorites of the setting for the cool, old-school non-Tolkien-ish vibe they have (Vance,Moorcock); anyways, she comes, as befitting of her stature, with her own pact creature (think: racial kinda-familiar), and is followed by Vsehnian, the Betrayer – a CR 11 dhosari rook; dhosari are btw. the servant race of the erkunae, but this clever individual, though aligned with Daivona, can make for a potent foe on his lonesome, clocking in at CR 10.

Brin is more straightforward, and is a CR 10 hobgoblin assassin (amking use of the Porphyran take of the class). Khorg the invincible would be a CR 19/MR 2 invincible half-ogre runereaper, and his damage output potential…well, let’s just say it’s nothing to sneeze at! Abil Copperborn would be a half-human (one further instance where Porphyra’s pretty cool…) skirmisher ranger at CR 15 – loyal and professional, he is actually LN and one of the most potent and skillful contract killers you’re bound to find. His writeup also features the scarf of camouflage item. Qippal Rillkeeper is a grippli hunter (primal companion) at CR 8, bonded to a dinosaur and victim of brutal and ruthless human “safaris” slaughtering all the once innocent frogfolk knew. Bad idea, humans. Bad idea…

Fhemish Darggun is a half-cyclops archaeologist bard at CR 16 – the most ruthless weapon’s fence and dealer of Giant’s Retreat – who, ironically, really likes civilization, even though his trade could potentially be considered to be contrasting with its establishment, or, more importantly, maintenance.

Fulgra the hungry would be a CR 10 wolf-shifter and we also learn about Bonebreaker Essrass, a CR 17 nagaji martial artist monk that can strike as a serpent… Ouch, all right, totally deserved that. ;)

Anyways, we also get to meet Kresta, a tengu unchained ninja seeking for the means to create conflagrations to starve and annihilate the land in favor to her divine master…Lady Gloam of Bhaal-aak made me smile, for here, Justin Sluder pulled out his skills: She is a stealthy creature plumekith assimar warpriest (CR 19), kidnapped and then raised and indoctrinated in the city of shadowy demon-worshipers…and yes, she sometimes visits her parents. Conversations are bound to be awkward, but that’d make for an interesting scene to roleplay…

Ursk the defiler would be a CR 9 skulk oracle, who champions, in a twisted way, freedom. Freedom from fear. Dignity. Reason. Life. With darkness-themed abilities and vampiric tricks, this fellow is twisted in a cool way. At CR 16, master Gyro is a boggle spell specialist arcanist, comes with notes of the uncommon elf lord’s battle armor spell from Kobold Press’ Deep Magic, as well as with bracers of defense item-class. I did grin when seeing the CR 10 augmented half-giant telekinesis/force specialist Brutus Half-forged and the CR 8 aberrant aegis/fighter multiclass from duergar stock Rosca Hatemonger. We end the supplement on a definite high note, with Ibuel the Frightlover, a fey creature xeph dread with 15 levels and CR 16.

The pdf comes with a bonus file depicting the Agropelter, penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, a CR 3 fearsome critter magical beast, a wiry apelike thing whose arms have no middle joints, capable of quick bursts of speed. Solid creature that makes for a nasty artillery at low levels.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no excessive accumulation of grievous glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard, is pretty printer-friendly and sports the classic purple highlights. The pdf has no interior artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and ease of navigation, though the bookmarks don’t note the CRs, which, since the villains are listed in no order I could glean, represents a slight usability detriment when in a pinch.

Justin P. Sluder and Aaron Hollingsworth make for a good team, at least judging by this pdf. Justin has crafted some of my favorite NPCs/villains ever for the Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series, and his talents at making complex NPCs shows in quite a few of these villains, though not all of them. Still, the means by which this book employs Porphyra’s rich canon of options is nice to see indeed. The villain-motivations also are surprisingly diverse, the brief flavor texts lending depth to them. If anything, I did wish more than once that we had a tad bit more space per villain to further add to their myths. That being said, the use of diverse and interesting material herein and the obvious joy in some of the combinations does render this collection worthwhile – the enemies herein will be challenging for your group.

And hey, you can’t ever have enough adversary-statblocks, right? Right! In short: Totally worthwhile if you’re looking for some tough foes to throw at your players! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villains of Porphyra
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Ultimate Covenant Magic
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/09/2018 12:38:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 160 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 155 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, long, long before, back in 2013, before we even could conceive of Occult Adventures becoming such a great Paizo book, there was a humble pdf that fluttered on my digital shelves. It came with an unpretentious cover that read: Legendary Classes: Covenant Magic. It included a base class, then called “medium”, which proceeded to blow my mind, earning the supplement a spot among my Top Ten PFRPG products. Then, there were expansions, and these actually managed to retain the quality and imaginary vision of covenant magic.

In a way, this was an occult class, before “occult class” was a thing; you know, a class with a complex and rewarding action economy and player agency that does not simply escalate numbers, but instead has unobtrusive and rewarding ROLEplaying angles baked right into its very design. This may just be me, but with the release of Occult Adventures, I never stopped thinking of Covenant Magic as pretty much one of the origins of this rewarding school of class- and RPG- design.

Now, it should be noted that Ultimate Covenant Magic is NOT simply a rehash of the previously released material; Purple Duck Games have gone the extra mile here, which should be obvious from the get-go when simply comparing pagecount; moreover, the ducks have went through Covenant Magic with a finetooth-comb and reassessed all components herein, ironing out the very few rough patches the original files offered, while heaping new content galore on top – this is how compilations should be!

Fast forward to today and the issue of nomenclature: We get this – the ginormous, ultimate iteration of an already stellar system. With Occult Adventures’ release, this book renames its first class covenant mage. The covenant mage gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and Charisma-governed spellcasting of up to 6th level – however, in a radical and daring departure from most classes, these are actually spell-like abilities, with all that entails. It is testament to the robustness of the engine and the skill of the designers involved that this never breaks the game. Covenant mages may not learn aligned spells, unless the covenant mage matches the alignment…OR has a covenant with a creature of that alignment! Yes, you can actually cast evil spells as the good guy here…with all that entails.

Now, as the name makes abundantly clear, the focus here are covenants. But wait, sounds familiar? Isn’t there the phenomenal “Grimoire of Lost Souls” already out there? Well, yes, but Purple Duck Games’ system has a radically different focus – covenants are themed around general themes, not necessarily individual spirits – you could have a covenant with a sidhe court, with qlippoths and the like, as opposed to pacts with singular entities. The focus sounds similar on paper, but in practice and roleplaying, actually is radically different. It should also be noted that the systems work remarkably smoothly and distinctly when used in the same game, and could allow for a covenant/pact-only game without much hassle. One of these days, that’s just the campaign I’m going to run!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was talking about player agency before, and the class, from level one onward, and again at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 19th level, gets a spirit boon – basically the talent-list of the covenant mage: These are not simple “You get class feature xyz”-tricks, btw. Wanted to sap speed with a touch attack? You can do that. Conjure forth a shield of roiling spirits? Once more, you can do that! Of course, a better, detective-style speak with dead can be found here, and the basic themes you’d expect have representations, but the list brims with enthusiasm and design-glee – one that is based in the scaling guidance imparted on the covenant mage by virtue of their spirit guide; and yes, while intangible (so no phantom-like pet), this lone, humble ability can engender great roleplaying all on its own…and changes the system in exciting ways, for some abilities require that the spirit guide be sent away/used in a specific manner. If you’re familiar with shadow-usage in shadow magic-based systems, you’ll get what I’m talking about. This could have just been, mechanically, a cool-down timer. Instead, it has this nifty little narrative angle that you can take or leave. It should be noted that the already pretty impressive list of spirit boons is expanded on later levels – multiple times. These alone provide more options than many classes have.

Now, a central component of the covenant mage’s engine and perhaps one of the most impressive and concise rules-operations for a caster I know, would be their trance: 4 + Charisma modifier rounds, +2 rounds per class level after 1st; this trance may be entered as a move action, nets you rage-like bonuses to Constitution and Charisma as you channel entities, and allows the spirits to speak through you – which is a GREAT idea to explain why you can’t use spell completion/trigger items in a trance. It’s these little components, where even the tiniest thing makes sense from a narrative point of view, that set this apart…of, and then, there would be the covenants. Oh, and being knocked unconscious nets you +1 free, final round of trance. No, you can’t abuse it, but it does allow the respective entities to deliver threats etc. and corresponds with the classic and evocative tropes.

Now, a covenant mage selects an influence – these can, for example, be angelic choirs, abyssal hordes, draconic, the occult, the unity, etc. Here, we have a bloodline-ish ability suite that nets a bonus language and determines the capstone of the class. However, they ALSO govern special spell-like abilities while in trance (scaling with levels) and trance covenants, which also scale. Sounds a bit bland for you? Nothing could be further from the truth! Just take the qlippothic redeemer. Some qlippoths argue that extinction of mortal life may not be the way to go to reclaim the abyss – you just have to ensure that no more chaotic evil souls go down there! Hence, there is a qlippoth-sponsored influence with the goal of redeeming everyone! I ADORE this. Doing the right things, for horrifically wrong reasons can make for a fantastic character concept and interaction with an influence that is malign and alien and just wants everyone to get along. That’s the yarn great tales are spun from.

Covenants are grouped in 5 groups, which are progressively granted by the respective influence chosen: Least (1st level), minor (5th level), major (9th level), greater (13th level) and superior (17th level), just fyi. It should be noted that each influence notes a variety of creatures associated with the influence in question, and that such creatures may be called by the covenant mage with their séance ability. Did I mention that these fellows can deal with haunts (You really should take one along next time you go into that haunted mansion/ancient, haunted battlefield…), that the trance engine scales and that item activation etc. also follows a concise progression? The covenant mage is a class you have to play to truly appreciate, but oh boy. Ähem. Sorry. Did it sound like I might that class a wee bit? ;)

Anyways, this is NOT where the book stops; where, previously, we had but this one covenant-devoted class, we now get two: The book introduces the dervish, who gets d10 HD, 4+ Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weaponry and light armor and light shields, as well as fast movement, full BAB-progression and a good Ref-save 4th level nets the SPs of the covenant mage style, once more governed by Charisma, scaling up to 4th spell level. You may have deduced as much from the presence of fast movement, but uncanny dodge at 2nd level would be another good indicator what we have here – a hybrid class of covenant mage and barbarian.

And, I know what you’re thinking: “Now Endy will whip out the uninspired hybrid-bat.” Well, frankly, that’s not required. Quite the contrary, in fact. The class employs the trance engine; it has paths, which are the equivalent of influences (and yes, we get a ton of them, though not one for every single influence, only for those that make sense in the frame provided); it gets trance powers (kinda akin to rage powers and paths come with suggested trance powers) – oh, and the class is actually a solid skirmisher! I kid you not! Heck, path chosen influences, at high levels, the DR, with 8 different DRs noted, to account for thematic differences! This level of care is impressive; indeed, I’d like to state that the warrior-mystic angle has rarely been done this well; while the parent classes are obvious from the design choices made, the dervish manages to feel and play unique and exciting, rendering it one of the very rare examples of a hybrid class that deserves its name, that deserves being included in the game, that has its own identity and soul.

Now, here begin the 28 pages of archetypes – and while both covenant mage and dervish get AMPLE of choices here, it is my pleasure to mention that they are not alone: Wanted a covenant-using summoner? You can find that here. Inner Eye Fighters represent a rewarding covenant fighter option…oh, and did I mention that the book comes with full occult support, providing a means for Paizo’s often maligned medium class to become cooler via covenants? Or the death negotiator spiritualist? Does haggling with spirits for power sounds like a story that reminds you a cherished villain/hero in a comic book? Well, guess what: We even get a vigilante archetype here, with the spirit-chosen! Oh, and what about covenant-related hexes for both witch and shaman?? Want a covenant magic with anti-tech guide tricks? An engine-tweak by donning masks? Covenant mages with hexes, revelations or bloodlines? Yep, you’re covered. Similarly, if you want a divine dervish, unarmed mendicants or mounted dervishes, you’ll find what you’re looking for inside.

Now, beyond influences, covenant magic as a system is NOT hard-baked into classes; or, well, it kinda is in a way, but in theory, pretty much anyone could use it! Why? Well, the 5 different covenant ability strengths are concisely codified for Gm and players alike, with save DCs based on the patron’s Charisma and HD. This may come off as surprising, but the mere existence of this simple and easy to grasp component (with prices, assuring WBL-consistency) helps against the murder-hobo syndrome. Players are less likely to want to slaughter, for example, the fey over there, when coming to diplomatic terms with them could provide cool, unique powers…and from the GM’s perspective, that is a rewarding way to dish out treasure and segue into new adventures. The gp-value table makes this pretty much a no-brainer task – look at a table, done. It doesn’t get more comfortable than this. Now, if all this contract-stuff sounds dry or too wishy-washy for you, rest assured that you’re not left hanging: The details and components are discussed in a concise and helpful manner, including the consequences of breaking covenants, etc.

So, the covenants – the list of covenants included here, you know, the one that handily lists all the covenants alphabetically, ordered by power…is 4+ pages long. We’re talking about over 30 pages of such abilities, which allow you to breach through barriers, gain a kind of truespeech, a literally stunning voice, high level save-rerolls – they make sense! Want, for example, control of the strands of fate? Well, you better find a really potent being with mythic power or hero points…or a norn! Have a new buddy from the elemental plane of earth? Stone fists. Just sayin’! Know a potent undead or outsider with energy drain? Hej, when you get on with them, you may learn the art of the Soul Stealer… There also are a couple here, obviously, that are more limited, but you get the idea – this OOZES flavor. And yes, the classic restoration of youth can be bargained for… This is, in essence, a continuation of the design-paradigm that made the class options stand out – and it’s, in a way, the beating heart of the book; this is where we not only get material that can easily be integrated into any game, we have enough covenants provided and succinct, clear guidelines, that designing new ones should not prove too big a problem for anyone. This may sound dumb coming from me, with my love of fiddly, highly complex systems, but this level of accessibility is amazing. You could hand this to players and have them tinker with it. The system is that accessible. Oh, did I mention the page of mythic covenants that help if you’re playing mythic games? Oh yeah.

Now, I should note that, usually, only covenant mages and dervishes can strike covenants, but the 10-page character-options section provides the feat-basis for universal access, though higher-powered games can ostensibly ignore these; as a whole, this provides the grit and investment decision I love to see, while the aforementioned detailed explanation of the covenants themselves allows the system to be used without prescriptively requiring them. If you’re playing a regular game, use the feats; if you’re going for high-fantasy, go the direct route – simple. Oh, and guess what? Mythic feats AND rewarding Story-feats included! As an example, Spiritual Defiance allows you to enhance the numerical bonuses of trance sans gaining the usual abilities, as you defy your influence. You’re grinning right now, right? I know I am! Really cool: The pdf acknowledges modifying three feats from Pact Magic’s chassis – in the TEXT, not just the SRD. That bespeaks of integrity. Oh, and yes, we also get both traits and drawbacks – and yes, bonus types are TIGHT. There also are a couple of new spells to be found, and we even get two background tables, Ultimate Campaign style, for Covenant Mages and Dervishes. Want advice, and I mean EXTENSIVE advice on running covenants in your campaign, on negotiating contracts, a ton of sample potential patrons for covenant-users? Variant offerings that codify life force, souls and even integrate with Horror Adventure’s corruption-mechanics? This delivers. Heck, we even get two cool sample organizations! Oh, and guess what? Two templates, a ton of NPCs (yep, up to CR 19…), and we even get two ready-made PCs for the new classes, at level 1 and 7.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. From bonus type to rules language integrity, this is an achievement of a tome. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly 2-column standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a significant amount of nice full-color artwork, though fans of Purple Duck games may be familiar with the pieces. The pdf comes with extensive, nested and detailed bookmarks, making the use of the material herein super simple. Oh, and this being Purple Duck games, the whole text is open content. Yes. This is too rarely mentioned, but it’s one of the things I adore about Purple Duck Games.

David N. Ross and Julian Neale, with additional writing by Mike Myler, provide a masterpiece. I mean it. This is the OG of the Occult design philosophy, and it is superbly impressive, more so than it ever was before – and that’s saying something!

You see, I am very much cognizant that my love for complex, fiddly systems à la Interjection Games’ tinker or Michael Sayre’s Akasha is no secret; at the same time, complex systems are not for everyone; while a new system may provide a unique playstyle, not every player enjoys trying to wrap their heads around, for example, an engine like the kineticists. This is where covenant magic comes in. The genius of the design employed here is twofold: For one, the book manages to provide a crunchy system that is rich in story and actual roleplaying potential, which is not something many books achieve. But more importantly, it marries this potential with a playing experience that is utterly distinct and different from all Paizo-classes…while not requiring that you learn one bit of new system! This book manages the impossible feat of having the cake and eating it, too – it teases, coaxes and persuades the d20-system underlying Pathfinder in new and exciting shapes and forms.

If you’ve read the Paizo-classes, you can play this. This is the most accessible subsystem I know, at least in this range of excellence; for, while it retains its superb accessibility, it also manages to do utterly unique things with its engine; it manages to carve out its own, distinct and design-as well as flavor-wise, unique identity.

This ranks among my favorite 3pp-crunch books out there. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as “Ultimate Psionics” or the “Grimoire of Lost Souls.” Yes. That good.

Let me put it differently: I have a policy regarding my Top Ten-list: If the components of a compilation have won a spot on my Top Ten, the compilation can’t be featured on it once more. I have never been this tempted to break this rule. I won’t, as that would be unfair. But oh boy, do I want to!

Ultimate Covenant Magic is a masterpiece that oozes passion, care and attention to details; it’s, as noted, the small things that add up, that elevate this book to the lofty place it occupies in my esteem. My final verdict for this masterpiece, unsurprisingly after my glowing review, will be 5 stars + seal of approval. This also gets my EZG-Essentials-tag as a book I wouldn’t want to miss in my games. Why? Think about it: You can use covenants to combat that Christmas Tree syndrome of PCs with too much gear…replace magic item-rewards with boons and blessings that come with obligations and your game will take on a whole new direction.

Anyways, while it can’t feature on this year’s Top Ten list, this does get the candidate for my Top Ten of 2018 tag as well – to mark it as a book that has number 1-contender qualities, in spite of not being eligible to win. Basically, any way to make this show up when browsing for excellence. ;)

One more thing: Purple Duck Games is currently designing their Porphyra RPG – they will carry the torch of Pathfinder’s first edition with their very own spin. Books like this are what this game needs, so if that sounds like something you’d love, support the Purple Ducks!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Covenant Magic
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Stock Art: Bearskarktopus
by Richard W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/25/2018 04:57:37

Cool illustration, I put it to great use in my latest adventure! I was very happy to discover the image has a transparent background, so I didn't have to try and cut it out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Bearskarktopus
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Unchained Monks of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/22/2018 03:55:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ „...of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

After a brief one-page introduction, we begin with the archetype section, the first of which would be the descendant. This one represents an engine tweak, gaining a bloodrager bloodline at first level, which is governed by Wisdom instead of Charisma, gaining bloodline powers at 1st and 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. For the purpose of SPs etc. gained thus, class level equals character level. This replace the 1st level bonus feat and the ki powers gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Powers entwined with bloodrage instead work in conjunction with ancestral communion, which may be entered as a free action, which can be maintained for 4 + Wisdom modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds for every subsequent class level attained. Ancestral communion nets a +2 morale bonus to Strength, +4 to Will-saves and +2 to Fort-saves. This replaces flurry of blows. Bloodline feats may be chosen as monk bonus feats. At 6th level, the character can spend a ki point to cast the first bonus spell granted by the bloodline as a SP, noting once more, correctly, how this is governed by class level and Wisdom, with 10th level, 14th and 18th level unlocking further bonus spells at progressively increasing ki costs. This replaces the ki powers gained at these levels. All in all, this is a solid engine-tweak.

Next up would be the Firefall monk, also known as Qunbalati. These monks replace Perform with Disguise as a class skill, and the AC-bonus is reduced to only the Wisdom bonus. Instead of flurry of blows and stunning fist, the archetype gains the throw anything and bomb class features of the alchemist, using class level as alchemist level to determine their potency, and Wisdom modifier as governing attribute. This stacks with other bomb-granting abilities. As a rules-aesthetic complaint, the unchained monk’s chassis does not actually require bombs to be relevant – as a full BAB-class, the bombs hit very reliably, which presents a similar disjoint as the gunslinger. That as an aside, the qunbalati gains ki pool at 7th levl, treating his unchained monk level as 4 lower for the purpose of ki points and ki strike; the archetype also does not gain ki powers of 4th, 6th, 8th and 12th level. At 3rd level, the archetype adds Wisdom modifier to Reflex saves trying to reduce the damage dealt by his own bombs; at 8th level, this applies to all Reflex saves to which evasion applies. Starting at 6th level, as long as the qunbalati has 1 ki point, he does not provoke AoOs with bombs; at 12th level, while having at least 2 points, bombs may be thrown as a move action; at 16th level, while having at least 2 ki points, you can throw a bomb as a swift action – these are relevant in the absence of discoveries, obviously.

Thirdly, we have the flying monk, who is locked into Dodge and Mobility at 1st and 2nd level regarding bonus feats, ignoring prerequisites. The archetype gets the first real signature ability at 5th level – when doing a flurry, the archetype can jump sans provoking an AoO, necessitating a DC 20 Acrobatics check when threatened. On a failure, the flurry stops and larger enemies increase the DC. At 10th level, an additional jump may be attempted per flurry, with at least one attack between them, but this second jump costs ki. The number of ki you can spend per round is capped by Wisdom modifier, and the ability replaces 5th level’s style strike and 10th level’s ki power. At 8th level, the archetype gains acrobatic dodge, which is cool: Once per round when attacked by a melee attack, the character can attempt a DC 25 Acrobatics check – on a success, the character gains +4 dodge bonus to AC versus the incoming attack. This, however, does count as a move action taken in the next round – at least until 15th level, where succeeding the check by 15+ means that it does not consume next round’s option AND allows you to attempt it again. This replaces 8th level’s ki power and 15th level’s style strike. I liked the idea of this ability – I just wished it would become available sooner.

Martial virtuosos may select Style feats as bonus feats, and 6th level allows for Adept of Many Styles (enter a style, use feats based on that style as well as another), 10th level for Master of Many Styles (ditto, for two additional styles, + 1/round style switch as a free action) as bonus feat options. Starting at 4th level, the archetype reduces the number of skill ranks required by a Style feat by Wisdom modifier, with the option to split the reduction between skill prerequisites – this is interesting and replaces still mind. At 6th level, the character gains stance breaker instead of a ki power: Once per round when attacking an enemy that has adopted a style, the archetype can break a style, knocking a hit foe out of it and preventing reassertion of the style for a few rounds – this is particularly interesting if you’re using a system that employs style-like stances and extend the benefits to these. At 10th level the duration of style-lockdown, and at 14th level, two style lockdowns may be executed per round, with additional uses beyond those requiring more ki points.

The naginata master gains proficiency with naginatas, long spears and similarly weaponry and treats weapons with the reach property as monk weapons, which becomes relevant at higher levels. 8th level allows for the use of ki to enhance these weapons as though they were fists. At 12th and 20th level, these weapons are treated as + one size category . The archetype does lose stunning fist and unarmed strike. 4th level yields Favored Weapon for a reach weapon…which is not a feat I am familiar with. I assume this to reference Weapon Focus, though it is possible that it instead references e.g. the marksman’s favored weapon class ability, which isn’t a feat. Unpleasant hiccup. At 16th level, we have the option to expend reach by 5 ft. for one round as a swift action.

The pinyinist comes with some racial restrictions in Porphyra, excluding some of the weirder races sans classic humanoid physiology from taking the archetype. There is a reason for that: At 4th level, the archetype gets ki meridians, which may be activated by spending a ki point as a swift action and last for Wisdom modifier rounds. One is chosen at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, replacing the ki powers that would usually be granted at these levels. 1/day gaining of two ki points, DR, skill or initiative boosts – the benefits are pretty traditional, but the flavor makes them interesting. As a nitpick, I’m not too happy with the bonuses granted being untyped. At 6th level, and again at 10th and 14th, the pinyinist opens a meridian chosen permanently, losing the ability to open them. Kudos: Those that would become really problematic otherwise get unique benefits from being permanently open. 12th level extends the meridian list by a further 6 entries, once more corresponding with organs of the body. Building on that, 18th level provides the means to activate meridians that have been permanently opened for combined boosts, once more featuring a few unique tricks. I love the flavor of this one and the base of the engine, if not necessarily the execution – it could have carried a whole class.

The void monk adds Autohypnosis to the class skills (something that would point towards the Naginata specialist indeed referring to the marksman class feature erroneously as a feat) and has a bad Ref-save, but a good Will-save. Instead of evasion, the monk may substitute an Autohypnosis check for a Will-save, which is mechanically not that smart – as noted time and again before, skill checks are notoriously easy to break. Instead of improved evasion, the void monk gets the means to resist probing into his mind, requiring that any entity attempting to do so succeeds at a massive Sense Motive skill check. Instead of diamond body, the archetype gains no breath. Nice ideas here, though I wished the archetype had a bit more active tricks going on.

Next up would be the Grasshopper 10-level PrC, which requires BAB 5+, 5 ranks Acrobatics as well as evasion and flurry of blows. The PrC gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level (with a paltry 3 class skills), and does not gain new proficiencies. The PrC has full BAB-progression, as well as ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression. The PrC allows for the addition of both Dexterity and Strength modifiers to attack rolls executed with flurry of blows at 1st level, which, from the get-go, is problematic – this would have made sense for non-unchained monks, but not for the already full BAB unchained monk. The PrC has a ki pool of ½ class level + Wisdom modifier, and thankfully, the ability gets interaction with the ki pool class feature granted by other abilities right. Unarmed strike, flurry and stunning fist scale as though the PrC-levels were unchained monk levels. 2nd level nets a +1 deflection bonus per free hand. Nitpick: The deflection bonus is stated as being cumulative, which could be read as pertaining to the ability (which seems very likely) or as pertaining any deflection bonuses. A more elegant variant would have been to state that the bonus equals the number of free hands, or alternatively increases a deflection bonus accordingly. This would aso have made the interaction with the follow-up ability smoother. At 6th level, while getting at least a +1 deflection bonus from a free hand, they also add Strength modifier as a stacking bonus to AC.

Then again, that’s me nitpicking. At 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the PrC gets to choose a ki power from a limited list. There are a couple of PrC-exclusive ones here: Better jumping, ignoring gravity changes (cool), double jumping mid air via ki, create shockwaves (and fissures!), ignoring limited DR, a variant one-strike flurry powered by ki (with a minor formatting glitch) , maneuvers, alternate kick-damage type…the tricks are cool, with the exception of one of the powers, which just represents a numerical escalation. 4th level nets the ability to hover via ki, and even temporarily fly. Cool and gets maneuverability etc. right. At 6th level, while getting at least a +1 deflection bonus from a free hand, they also add Strength modifier as a stacking bonus to AC. 8th level adds +1 attack to the flurry of kicks, and at 10th level, a flurry can be combined with standard or move actions when attacking with feet only; the action may not imply movement or use feet, which is an uncommon, interesting limiter. The action may also not be used for combat maneuvers or melee attacks, but ranged attacks, potion drinking, etc. are viable.

There is a second PrC here, the wild master, who requires flurry of blows and wild shape, as well as 5 ranks in the Knowledge (nature) skill. The PrC gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level ½ spellcasting progression for the druid class, full BAB-progression, and half Fort- and Ref-save progression. The PrC nets no new proficiencies. The PrC can use flurry of blows with natural attacks while in animal form (important limit!). At 4th level, natural attacks when flurrying, are treated as +1 size, with 8th level increasing this to +2 sizes.

Class levels stack with unchained monk levels for unarmed strike, stunning fist and flurry of blows. ½ class levels stack with druid levels for the purpose of wild shape. The 3rd level nets favored shape nets a choice of 8, which include bears, felines, etc., but oddly no canine specialization. The bonuses they convey to the respective shapes are concisely presented. 5th level and every 2 further levels yield another such favored shape. At 4th level, while in a form that is not the standard form, the PrC can use wild shape as a swift action. At 8th level, when assuming the form of an animal, all animals of that type in a 60 ft. radius gain +2 to atk and damage, which is a bit rough, considering that “fish” or “raptor” are categories, whereas “bear”…is pretty singular. 10th level nets timeless body and adds Wisdom modifier to AC and CMD (stacking) as well as to some skills. I did not like this PrC. It’s very numbers-focused and not that interesting.

The pdf also contains 7 new ki powers, which include making weapons temporarily count as monk weapons via ki expenditure to sacrifice hit points to regain ki, with a daily cap. Personally, I think the damage should scale, but at least the hard cap prevents total delimiting of the ki-resouce. Still, that’s up to + Wisdom modifier ki, which can be rather brutal. Temporarily seeing via ki is interesting, though I think that just referring to all-around vision would have been more elegant here. Pinyinist-support for more meridians, wall running and allowing the monk to train weapons, using them as monk weapons on a semi-permanent basis complement this section.

The final chapter deals with new feats: I already mentioned the Many Styles-feats; beyond these, there is one that fortifies you against massive damage. Very problematic: regaining ki via crits. Ki is not grit; it’s a limited resource and as such, should not be able to be recharged via critical hits. Worse, the feat lacks a caveat to prevent abuse via bags of kittens: Whip out the bag and start beating up your fluffy friends – it’s for the greater good. Enhanced Dodge is a joke. +1 dodge bonus while you have at leats 4 ki. Yeah, let’s waste a feat on that. Faster Flurry of Blows nets you +1 attack at highest BAB against a foe after hitting a single target at least thrice with a flurry. Unstoppable Flurry of Blows builds on that, for 6 attacks. There is also a feat that lets you use ki to enhance channel energy.

The chapter’s main meat, however, would be the 5 imperial styles: In Porphyra, these are considered to be noble arts, and they include Underworld Style (flanking prevention and enhancers), Sovereign Style lets you declare attacks as fake, making them work as Intimidate checks instead. (Erroneously referred to as Intimidation here, but that’s a nitpick.) Combining the style with Everyman Gaming’s psychology rules from Ultimate Charisma makes it even more interesting. Like it. Sky Style focuses on falling/dive bombing on your enemy for potent attacks, unlocking jumps to trigger the benefits. It, like Sea Style focuses on underwater/in water combat, with swim speed and bonus damage in water (which is a pretty nasty numerical escalation). Forest Style is interesting, enhancing attacks versus larger foes (or those higher up) and nets you the means to effectively deal with being prone, etc.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the Purple Ducks have made sure that the content is functional and solidly-phrased. There are only a few minor hiccups here. Layout adheres to a 1-column, printer-friendly b/w-standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports some really nice full-color artworks. Annoyingly, the pdf lacks bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Nikolaï Samarine provides a solid expansion for the unchained monk here – it’s somewhat hybrid-concept heavy for my tastes, but mostly handles the task of presenting viable options well. That being said, it’s most interesting when it dares to do something thematically unique – the Pinyinist is, for me, the star here, theme-wise. That being said, the supplement is pretty technical overall – there is a lot of tweaking with numbers, and there is a general tendency towards escalating the numbers, particularly for offense, which isn’t as smart a move in a system already geared towards offense. That being said, while this shows that the author is not yet a veteran, you can see a burgeoning daring here, one that I can see develop into intriguing supplements. As presented, the book is, as a whole, represents a mechanically well-crafted offering that can be somewhat problematic in the hands of min-maxers. The supplement, as a whole, to me represents a mixed bag, and I feel that it’s closer to rounding down than up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Unchained Monks of Porphyra
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Adventure Avenue: A Nightmare Awakening
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/06/2018 11:07:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ Adventure Avenue-series clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 55 pages of content, though these have been laid out for pamphlet-size (6’’ by 9’’, or A5), which means that, provided your eyes can handle small text, you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this.

Now, first things first: On a formal level, the module sports two maps: One full-color regional map of the Burroughs of Dunmark, basically a horror-themed region of Porphyra, and a b/w-map of the dungeon featured herein. Unfortunately, we do not get a player-friendly version of the dungeon-map, which constitutes a comfort-detriment. On the plus-side regarding comfort, the module sports something that more adventures should have – namely, a list of treasure with selling value and rooms, if applicable, noted, and a second table that lists the XP-values of the threats faced within. Kudos for this nice GM-helper!

The pdf does, however, come with a bonus files penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, which depicts the hagiographical drake, a CR 7 critter that breathes poisonous fire and which also gets speed bursts. Nice one!

Back to the module: If the title and cover art were not ample indicator, this is a dark fantasy/horror adventure set against a fantasy backdrop; if you’re not playing in Porphyra, then it should be easy enough to integrate this into most campaigns. As the module makes use of the themes of Dream and some mythos-themes, it should easily fit into, for example, Fat Goblin Games’ Shadows over Vathak-setting, or adventure-sequences with dream- and cosmic horror themes. The encounters and locales sport brief read-aloud text sections, fyi, so yeah, this is very much helpful for GMs that have a problem improvising compelling descriptions.

In order to discuss this module in more detail, however, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. The pdf sports a couple of nice full-color full-page artworks, btw.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The PCs, via one of multiple hooks, are tasked to investigate the strange disappearance of Alra Vyrsmak and thus pick up her trail near the isolated and xenophobic village of Nirun’s Hillock. Already suspicious of outsiders, the climate of the village has not been improved by ill winds and strange dreams. The village gets its own village statblock, and the module here takes an event-driven form, using encounters to generate a growing sense of unease – the local shrine, for example, is creepy and features iconography associated with the Great Old Ones, and watching the strange worship may well show that some villagers are becoming pseudonatural! The night is also haunted by a nightgaunt, and dreams of the mythic kingdom of Iskandar beset those dreaming. Ultimately, the PCs will need to retrace Alra’s footsteps past the many branches of the Little Wander River, where remnant of fight with river folk have attracted leshy to the corpses, witchlights can lead the PCs into the hungry embrace of carnivorous plants, and Alra’s abandoned campsite has been taken over by Zoog. The next of aforementioned nightgaunt, strange and unearthly, would be an odd further place. Nice: these sections allow the GM to slowly establish an atmosphere of ever-growing apprehension, which culminates in the dungeon that makes up the main meat of the module.

You see, the complex that Alra’s trail leads to would be the Dreamer’s enclave, once used to control a vast swath of the region. The arrival of hapless Alra has resulted in the Dreamer awakening, taking a form imitating the sought after shade of Iskandar. The complex itself is rickety and multiple potential partial collapses must be contended with; partial flooding and cool haunts complement this section. The choice of monsters is nice and there even is a small bit of roleplaying interspersed here. Ultimately, the PCs will hopefully find Alra. Whose mind has been subjugated. Subduing the sage can provide a redemption-angle for the PCs to help with, which is a nice touch – but in order to actually triumph here, the PCs will have to collapse basically a kind-of-overlap/transition to the Plane of Dreams, and defeat the dreaded “Shade of Iskandar” – who turns out to be a rather potent nightmare lord mi-go! The pdf comes with all relevant stats; the original layout file was lost, though, so one comment sports a replacement creature – I don’t mind, as the proper replacement is valid and nice, but I figured I should mention that.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no serious accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and is printer-friendly. The full-color full-page artworks of monsters sported herein is Nice. Cartography is solid, though the lack of a player-friendly map is a bit of a bummer. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Roth’s “A Nightmare Awakening” is an unpretentious, well-crafted swamp-expedition with a mythos-angle; it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is tight in its representation of the tropes and themes we expect from the genre. The convenience of the tables and generally solid use of haunts, traps, etc. mitigates somewhat the absence of player-friendly maps. The star here, what elevates this module above many of its brethren, would be the smart use of unique terrain in conjunction with the previously-mentioned complications. The module does not feel sterile, and the dungeon manages to feel dangerous not by virtue of throwing tons of enemies at the PCs, but by means of its features. That’s a big plus for me. If you want just a dash of cosmic horror/dark fantasy with a mythos bent, then this delivers – it does not swamp you in hopelessness and does not require a plethora of subsystems to generate tension. This is not a brutal purist’s module, and, while not easy, it will not leave the PCs crippled or gibbering. In short: This is a nice piece of genre-writing, and as such, it deserves a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Avenue: A Nightmare Awakening
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Hybrid Class: Godsend
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/17/2018 12:10:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper.

This hybrid class is a blend of paladin and porphyran assassin, which remains one of my favorite PFRPG-takes on the assassin. As a righteous killer, they must be good and get d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus hand crossbow, rapier, sap, shortbow and short sword as well as light armor. They get an aura of good and may use detect evil at will. They also get full BAB-progression. The class is intended to have good Reflex saves, but the column in the table NOTES THE WRONG VALUES. Unless 18th level is supposed to nerf Ref-save from +10 to +2, the high levels are wrong for the column – an oversight that even a cursory glance should have caught. 4th level yields paladin spellcasting, governed by Charisma.

The class gets a sneak attack variant dubbed secret smite, which applies when a target is denied Dexterity bonus to AC or when flanking a target. This starts as +1d6, and increases by 1d6 every 2 godsend levels thereafter. Sloppy: “If the target of secret smite is an outsider with the evil subtype, an evil-aligned dragon, or an undead creature, the bonus to dam­age on the first successful attack increases to 2 points of damage per level the godsend possesses.” I kid you not. That’s a downgrade. The godsend is actually WORSE at killing evil things. Also: reference to first attack is weird. OH, and secret smiting good creatures by accident wrecks your spellcasting and supernatural abilities for the day, killing a creature thus does it permanently. 2nd level yields lay on hands and quiet death (Stealth check when killing a creature in the surprise round to prevent notice). 3rd level nets immunity to fear and 4th level provides death attack, governed by Int. Sloppiness continues – we have references to sneak attack that should refer to secret smite.

As an aside: Secret smite is NOT a smite. It is not active. It’s always on. The name’s misleading and the ability just eats wordcount. Make it sneak attack and add a second ability that increases sneak damage versus smite targets. Anyway, 4th level also yields uncanny dodge and 6th level nets divine bond, for a weapon as well as the first mercies; 10th, 14th and 18th level expand the list of mercies available. 8th level nets improved uncanny dodge and an ability that lets you prep a corpse to make the target die once more if returned to life. A spell reference here has not been italicized. 9th level yields immunity to charm spells and SPs, but not effects. 12th level makes weapons behave as though good as well as the option to make a death attack after only one round of study. Detect evil can be sued as a swift action starting at 14th level and 15th level nets + Cha-bonus to secret smite damage versus evil targets and ignores all damage reduction. 18th level provides 1/week atonement. The capstone provides maximum healing as well as “sneak attack the godsend inflicts counts as a death attack, with no study required and regardless of the target’s suspicions.” Which RAW does nothing, since the godsend does not have sneak attack.

The pdf includes a brief code of conduct and 4 feats: One nets limited access to rook-spells. Hold Disguise nets 1/day use of lay on hands for disguise self. Yeah, wouldn’t waste a feat on that either. There’s another one that nets 1/day use of lay on hands as misdirection. Left-Handed Blade nets +2 to Bluff checks made to feint as well as swift action feints. The pdf closes with a HUGE list of favored class options for the vast amount of Porphyran races.

The one good thing here: The Colossus of Dhu, a CR 22 colossal, lion-headed construct that clocks in at CR 22 and makes for a really cool bonus pdf! The monster penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr gets two thumbs up.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good on a formal and rules-language level. Secret smite, the signature ability of the class, has not even been properly CCP’d. Layout adheres to a 1-page standard that is b/w and sports purple highlights. The pdf has no artwork apart from the cover and comes fully bookmarked.

Urgh. I don’t get it. The idea of the sacred killer is amazing and evocative. The godsend, though, is the least interesting incarnation of it. Its basic abilities are not interesting and lose what made the porphyran assassins cool. The class is super-linear and bland, lacking any distinct identity. The rules-language is not good either. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Aaron Hollingsworth can do so much better. He has done so much better. This, though, feels phoned in, uninspired and really, really bland. I can’t recommend this pdf. Unless you want the bonus file. The bonus critter is cool. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Godsend
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Spellbooks of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/14/2018 06:27:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

And now for something completely different! This installment of the “…of Porphyra”-series clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we take a look at different spellbook styles, a section that, on its own, should already be considered required reading for many GMs. After all, why should all spellbooks be profane paper or vellum? Instead, this section talks about birch bark, jewelry, tiles, runesticks and magic itself acting as the medium to record magic. It may just be a page, but it is a page that can really jumpstart the creation process. Icons and talismans are similarly mentioned, and an important, often overlooked note is provided: Unless specifically enchanted and modified, spellbooks are per se not magical! That is important for hiding them in plain sight, etc. Spellbooks are categorized in 5 general categories: Formula books, spellbooks, occult books, meditation books and prayer books. Meditation books are used by spontaneous arcane casters, occult books by psychic casters and divine books by divine casters. Using another type of book than the intended one requires UMD and, if this differentiation makes no sense to you, an optional rule to ignore that is provided. I would not suggest doing so, though, as it can upset the careful balancing between spell types. Calculating value and the conditions to get the respective preparation ritual’s benefits are covered next, with writing and ritual costs collated in a handy little table.

And then, we begin the massive, main meat of this supplement. Spellbooks. Formula books. Prayer books. A metric, frickin’ ton of them. The respective entries feature a read-aloud description of the respective books, the values notes, price with and without preparation ritual, and the spells, of course. They also note the class and level of the author. Class-wise, all Paizo-classes, including antipaladin and bloodrager are covered, with rook and primordial mystic also getting their entries. The Wizard chapter is divided into sub-chapters for specialist wizards, with a universalist chapter as well. As hinted at before, ACG and Occult Adventures classes are included in the deal.

The nature of these texts varies wildly – Research Report MCMIII, for example, allows you to expend the boon as part of a thrown weapon attack the increase the range increment of the thrown weapon by 5 ft. per highest level “elixir” (should be “extract” – but at least, the glitch is consequent) in the book that you can cast – apart from the minor terminology snafu, a cool scaling mechanism. Pondering an investigation by testing a hypothesis, increasing a poison save DC, increase polymorph duration at an increased counter-vulnerability for the effect…really cool tricks here. The more well-read of GMs will also find quite a few unobtrusive easter-eggs here: The antipaladin prayer-book “Geranine, or the Misfortunes of Sin”, obviously represents a now to the writings of Marquis de Sade. Gnomic proverbs, which encompasses Wisdom such as “what you see is not what you get” made me chuckle. Some of these are really subtle: “Abyssmal,” according to the descriptive text, praises the abyss, and is very confused about what it is, noting devils, angels and armies of elemental siege engines. If you’re like me, you probably couldn’t help but smirk, for, in parts, the title was indeed my response to some chapters of “Paradise Lost”, the book this undoubtedly parodies – the preparation ritual’s boon, planar defiance, fits well with that theme.

There are also books about the world tree, collections of remedies, a heretical text that attempts to unify two faiths..what about collected posters from the walls of temple-inns? Divine records? A truly boredom-inducing snorefest that hides truly potent powers? Lore literally recorded on leaves? An inquisitor tome called “Watchers on the Wall”? (It refers to the Wall of Sleep in Porphyra, fyi) The Hexenhammer can be found, and mediums, with the right book, may ask famous Mr. Blaine, main character of a series of occult books. (In fact, several other books for other classes also reference Mr. Blaine…which was something I rather enjoyed.)

Did I mention the “Fall of the House of Strat” (XD) or the fact that psychics will really like finding the “Horrors of Old Dunmark”? And guess what? Witches will certainly want the account of “Dreams of the House-Witch”, which allows you to anchor an area when preparing spells, becoming nigh impossible to pin down. A clever twist, represented in rules as well. At the highest power levels, we can find the option to make some conjurations last 24 hours…and “Advancement by Fireball” is certainly a book that sounds like fun reading. (It can also enhance your damaging spells.) The illusionist tome “Selling Out” also got a chuckle out of me. The pdf is suffused with great ideas for the respective tomes, varying themes and focuses as well as boons constantly.

The pdf comes with a bonus file, depicting the CR 3 apiary devil, poisonous drones with a hive mind that can construct room of black foam in bewildering speed. I liked this critter, as it provides a rather neat excuse for the Gm to suddenly generate an alien and horrific environment.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level, bordering in both cases on true excellence. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard that is mostly b/w with purple highlights. The pdf does not sport much artworks, just one previously used one – yes, this means that it is absolutely CHOCK-FULL with content. The pdf also comes with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience, making navigation as easy as can be.

Every GM has their pet-peeves regarding the prepping of the game. For me, the one aspect of the game I loathe with a fiery passion, is making spellbooks. I just don’t consider it to be enjoyable. Other folks will hate adding templates to monsters, but for me, it’s the much easier and quicker task of making concise spellbooks.

Because I want them to have a theme. An identity. And I seethe internally, whenever my players miss them, after I have puzzled together so many fitting spells, after I came up with a cool preparation ritual/boon. I talked about this in quite a few reviews; it’s one reason I tend to use more spontaneous casters than prepared ones.

And it’s, honestly, a damn pity. With all my books and pdfs, I can name surprisingly few that provide a decent accumulation of spellbooks with character, and these cases tend to gravitate towards the grimoires/high-powered end of things, where the books almost become their own characters. Now, don’t get me wrong: The most treasured possession of my current gaming group may well be “The Inverse Calculus of Unseen Refraction” by Legendary Games, but you can throw books of this power at the PCs all the time. You need moe subdued, yet relevant books, preferably ones with character.

Enter this pdf. Carl Cramér has done what I wouldn’t be able to do without rage-quitting at least 100 times. This book contains more than 100 (!!!) spellbooks, ready to use. Had-crafted. With unique benefits and character. This humble, unpretentious pdf managed to make reading through this vast amount of spellbooks actually INTERESTING. Heck, its allusions are so subtle and unobtrusive that you may not even get them all and still have a blast with this. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. The book retains its serious angle and concise in-game aesthetics without compromising its raw, undiluted utility.

In a surprising coup, this humble book represents honest, unpretentious design-WORK. Capital letters. This took a ton of effort, and it shows – it’s not something you can put together in a day or two. At the same time, this pdf very clearly emits a sense of playfulness and joy, which is remarkable, considering the very limited space that it has to operate within; each book does not have that much room to make it unique, and it should be seen as testament to the author’s passion that they don’t start to become redundant after half the book.

In short, this is a supplement that oozes passion and care, that genuinely feels like a supplement that was not only made to make the lives of GMs easier, but also to inspire, to spread some joy. This could have been an excellent example of “solid workmanship”, but it doesn’t settle for it, instead adding those little artistic flourishes that elevate a good book to a truly great one. Considering the type of book this is, the success in this endeavor should be considered to be even more impressive.

In short: Do yourself a favor, cut down your prep-time and get this pdf. Heck, even if you like making your own spellbooks, this may well be worth checking out, based on the strengths of the concepts this contains, based on the versatility of the books featured. This is an excellent, super-useful book, and receives 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spellbooks of Porphyra
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