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Legendary Planet: The Depths of Desperation (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/19/2020 11:52:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 102 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page TOC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 91 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I was a backer of the legendary Planet AP, but not otherwise involved with the creation of this book. It should be noted that this module comes with an art and map folio that clocks in at a mighty 39 pages – that’s all the art inside, ready to be used as a handout, AND player-friendly maps of ALL of the maps featured in the adventure. That is not only AWESOME, it should be industry standard. Huge kudos for this!

The module is written for 4 PCs of at least 14th level and 3 mythic tiers, and the PCs should achieve 17th level over the course of the module, if you’re using the suggested Medium advancement track. The module features the mythic trial to attain the 4th mythic tier. Structurally, we follow the well-established AP-formula of the series: Chris A. Jackson provides aneat piece of fiction, and we get a plethora of supplemental material.

Article-wise, we have a detailed observation on mixing science-fiction and fantasy here that goes into quite a lot of detail for the GM – salient advice, which is supplemented by rules for orbital re-entry and space vacuum; these do include more mystical takes on vacuum. If you do want to include spacefaring in your game, the book offers rules for warp engines and technomantic countermeasures (which makes tampering magically with tech harder); these are kept intentionally pretty wide open regarding the flavor, allowing for maximum customization options. 4 feats are presented: Daunting Interface makes technological items you craft harder to identify or activate. New Best Friend halves the nonproficiency penalty for weapons and equipment (if taken twice, it completely eliminates it), and lets you use even equipment that would otherwise be incapable of being used, provided you can train. Translated Spell is a metamagic feat that eliminates the [language-dependent] descriptor in exchange for +1 spell slot. Finally, we have Environmental Adaptation, which helps dealing with dangerous environments, including space. Minor nitpick: This references “points of mythic power”, which should be “uses of mythic power” instead; this does not otherwise compromise the functionality of this mythic feat, though. The section also features 4 spells: Flicker and its greater version hamper electricity-based effects and tech with specialized suppression fields; mundane paradigm nets an object SR, and mundane resistance nets objects a scaling bonus to saves versus magic. All in all, Steven T. Helt delivers a cool section here.

The gazetteer section this time around covers the gorgeous waterworld of Vareen – and I strongly, as always, recommend reading it prior to running the adventure. The item section includes equipment wielded by the octopus-like bil’djooli, including armor, rods that can fire different types of energy, glassteel helmets, magical ink bladders, stasis grenades and a substance that allows for breathing of water/air, a new material, the varianian coral, as well as toxin filters and vents, the latter being particularly relevant for bil’djooli. The module’s bestiary btw. comes with 4 bil’djooli stats, ranging from CR 6 to CR 13/MR 2. Beyond that, we have stats for several aquatic threats: Conch trees, two cool fish, the varinian sky spore (CR 11), as well as for the Loran race (CR 5); these are engineered mutations based on undine, and are pretty potent; while player-race information is provided, I wouldn’t allow these in my games, unless featuring generally high-powered races. Beyond the deadly monster depicted on the cover (which is pretty awesome), my favorite monsters herein were the invertebrates: We have varinian seastar (Large starfish), a crab that can share emotion effects of others, and a Colossal deep tiger anemone that has frickin’ fantastic artwork.

Okay, all of this out of the way, it’s time to discuss the adventure – and you know what that means: From here on out, the SPOILERS reign! Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! Relstanna, the elali ally of the PCs, comes to them with the krang warrior Khedri, showing off the substance stralleth, which allows for the breathing of water and withstanding of pressure – they show this substance to the PCs, because we go to the water world of Vareen this time around – once more in search of a gate home. Plus, good news: the planet#s locathah civilization is actually nice, friendly even…bad news, though: Recently, the Hegemony has started an all-out war on Vareen, with the octopus-men bil’djooli leading the charge. These toxic octopus-people ooze literal poison, and have a rigid hierarchy – think of them as tyrants of the deeps. Relstanna sent an ambassador to the place – but so far, no news has spread back. From submerged Pol-Nephar on Argos, the PCs should travel to Vareen…

…and the module makes no prisoners. The scene on the cover? That’s what happens! The massive Lasiodon, one of Vareen’s deadly predators, has, alas, eaten the ambassador. If a PC gets swallowed, they’ll find the corpse – and the module accounts for information gained by reviving the dead ambassador or talking to their spirit! This’d be a good place to talk about this being a massive, aquatic adventure: The PC’s Morphic Form feat does allow the PCs to ignore many of the limitations of underwater combat, pressure, etc. The module explicitly calls out the importance of visibility, though…and this is 3D in many instance, obviously. In case you want to go another route, I can recommend Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting for aquatic hazards, rules, advice on running such adventures, etc. Adding that rules-material is pretty simple, but not required. In short: If you usually shirk away from underwater adventuring, this has a means to run the adventure without needing to include all the default underwater adventuring rules.

First contact with both locathah and bil’djooli will probably happen at Surface Station Nine, and meet Strael, a locathah engineer – ultimately taking them to Simrukoth, grandest of locathah cities…and last line of defense for the locals! For the war against the Hegemony is one that the locathah are losing currently big time! As the PCs converse with the emergency council, they’ll have a chance to thwart an assassination attempt by several Hetzuud slayers, which may or may not dissolve in a chase through a bazaar – hopefully, the PCs can take down the shapeshifting spies!

The second part of the module is pretty epic: It’s a big sandbox with several keyed missions that are all about strengthening the war effort; these operations include attempting to take the surface station six, which has been converted into a soldier-slave procession facility, sabotaging the Hegemony’s communications relay, a diplomatic mission to ocean giants…and three rather cool trips to recruit unique monsters: These include the Land-Eater (the mommy of the ginormous monster the PCs might have slain when they arrived…hopefully, they cleaned up well, washing off the scent…), a colossal mantis-shrimp (heck yeah!) and the last of the Bardezites, now undead, as a further unlikely ally. We also have ruin exploration here (including an interesting puzzle combat of sorts), and timed assassination/response tactics help keep up the pressure here. Oh, and the PCs may well have to deal with a rather deadly scouting troop coming for the city.

Ultimately, the fate of all of Vareen, and that of planets beyond, hangs in the balance when the vast battle for Simrukoth commences, and the vast battle begins. Yes, BATTLE! The module makes use of the mass combat rules! If you’re not interested in those, fret not: The pdf does come with a full recap, and you could theoretically ignore them as a whole – for the battle also sports a whole selection of key-scenes, which the PCs resolve on a character level (though I do recommend running the combat!), which include daemonic allies, attacks on Surface Station One – and finally, direct assault on the bil’djooli flagship, the Subjugator, where the powerful bil’djooli navarch and hgis genocidal daemon-ally commanding the Hegemony forces need to be dealt with! And yes, the PCs can, provided they did a good job in aforementioned ruins, actually go home now…but the saga is not yet over! After the epic conclusion of the battle for Vareen, more is yet to come…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf-version comes with plenty of original full-color artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience, with bookmarks provided per chapter-header/part, but not per sub-section. The inclusion of the handout/map-booklet is AMAZING, and the cartography in full-color, which includes player-friendly versions of the maps, is super-appreciated.

Steven T. Helt’s “The Depths of Desperation” represents, at least to me, a return to form for the AP. While “Confederates of the Shattered Zone” had a fantastic environment to explore, it honestly felt to me like it tried to do too much in its page-count, and became a bit busy as a result. “The Depths of Desperation” knows exactly what it wants to be, has a tight focus and theme, and executes it. This doesn’t feel like it could have used 20 or so more pages, or more maps or the like – the module delivers upon the promise of underwater warfare and really makes the PCs feel like they are waging a grand war, focusing on a variety of challenges, many of which don’t center around slaying foes...so here’s to hoping your PCs do have some social skills or magic in that regard.

The sheer sense of epic adventure this breathes is great; the PCs are incredibly powerful, and thus, the module lets them do incredible feats – like recruiting essentially Godzilla-class beasts for the war-effort, like single-handedly turning the tides of battles. It also brings the threat of the Hegemony more front and center, because the PCs finally get to directly confront large-scale forces of their foes. Better yet, all the build-up is successful: The AP has shown remarkable restraint with regards to its villains, and after this module, the PCs will know why the Hegemony is so damn feared throughout the setting of Legendary Planet. Throwing these villains sooner, in weaker iterations, at the PCs en force would have diminished the impressive impact this module has. Very few players will want to “go home” and call it quits after this truly epic scenario; at least, I can’t picture a group that’d stop now.

If your group is really into the nit and grit of rules, you might want to check out Cerulean Seas and add the rules therein; if your group loves mass combat, get Ultimate Battle and Ultimate War. And if not, fret not, for the module allows you to run both the underwater aspect and the mass combat without using either sub-system., should you prefer a more narrative approach: You can just run the events, if you’d prefer that. This potential for customization is just the last bit that elevates this module beyond its already impressive basics for me. So yeah, this is definitely one of the highlights of the AP for me. My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: The Depths of Desperation (Pathfinder)
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Hypercorps 2099
by Matthew W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2020 18:49:52

I'm not sure I've ever had more fun with a setting. It captures the heavy darkness of the dystopian grimdark future you expect from this type of setting, but injects enough levity and variety to keep it fresh and alive. It’s the campaign I keep coming back to in 5e or pathfinder.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099
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Legendary Planet: Confederates of the Shattered Zone (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/27/2020 08:25:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth (fifth if you count the optional prologue) installment of the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 102 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 91 pages of pure content, so let’s take a look!

I was a backer of Legendary Planet, but otherwise not involved in the production of this book.

As always, this book is structured in a way that will be familiar to customers of Paizo’s APs – you get an adventure, some new monsters, a gazetteer, supplemental rules materials, etc. – including a piece of fiction penned by Chris A. Jackson, with the lion’s share devoted to the module.

HOWEVER, there is one thing this series does, which I will continue to praise to the high heavens: We get a frickin’ Art & Map folio. An Art and Map Folio should be frickin’ industry standard. Seriously. The inclusion is a huge plus.

That folio, this time around, is 28 pages long, and contains all the artworks featured in the installment – I love this: Print it out, cut it up, and tell the PCs: This is what you see. Awesome. Particularly since this time around, the artworks tend to gravitate to the seriously impressive side of things, as far as I’m concerned, even more so than before. More importantly, it contains the maps….but this time around, I do have a complaint here. The player-friendly maps are missing! WTF? One of the most awesome things about these booklets was that they featured key-less unlabeled versions of the maps that people like yours truly who can’t draw simply can print, cut up and then use…or that you can painlessly use in VTTs etc. And this time around? NONE! Where did my player-friendly maps go??? Not cool. I want my player-friendly maps back!

The module is intended for the medium advancement track, and assumes that the PCs begin it at level 11/mythic tier 3; by the end of the module, the PCs will have reached 14th level and the 4th mythic tier. The module sports plenty of read-aloud text, as always.

Anyhow, let’s talk about the supplemental material, which is pretty interesting this time around – since, as we’ll see later, this installment is pretty strongly centered on the auttaine, we have a whole little chapter on new auttaine augmentations, including suggested penalties for missing body parts and tightly-defined rules for prostheses. And yes, there is a note on player decency, roleplaying the like with respect, etc. Personally, I applaud this. Some of my favorite heroes have handicaps of some sort, and some of my most fondly-remembered PCs used prostheses, so theme-wise, I’m totally on board here! These include a couple of mundane ones (like stats for blade legs and hook hands), and also cover 5 magical prostheses. The hand of Haymot can transform into a +1 axiomatic crossbow (not italicized properly) and nets SPs (also not italicized). The honing ear helps judge distance and thus enhances Perception and lets you do FUN things. What do I mean by this? You can e.g. tune out background noise! This is a small thing, and something some people might miss, but it DRIPS roleplaying potential and seriously elevates the item. Awesome. Instrumental limbshelp Perform and can 3/day make buff skill checks of nearby allies. Lucky eyes have a clock for an iris, and let you wink 1/day as a standard action, rolling 1d4: They get a +5 luck bonus to skills, saves, damage or attack, depending on the d4, but only if executed before the next turn. The activation action limiting the attack/damage component sans smart tactics make this item more interesting. Another winner, as far as I’m concerned. Strongarm nets you Lifelike Prostheses and a boost to lift/Carrying capacity.

What’s that feat, you ask? Well, the pdf also features 9 new feats, and said feat allows you to better Sleight of Hand concealing the prosthesis. Swift Prosthesis lets you equip or remove one as a standard action. Craft Body Modification does what it says on the tin. Body Modification Attunement is pretty hardcore – you get to choose an item slot, and in that slot, a modification no longer occupies your magic item slot! Body Mod Expert increases the amount of modifications you can have and fortifies you versus infection; Body Mod Veteran builds on that. Skilled Body Modder seriously enhances your Heal checks to install or remove them. Able Amputee halves the penalty associated with a missing limb or body part, and Greater Able Amputee wholly eliminates that. I liked all of these feats, and they made me come up with quite a few cool ideas. Liking all feats in a chapter? Happens rarely these days, so kudos!

The module also features 5 regular bodymods (like nictitating membranes or steel dentures (grills, baby!)), as well as 7 magical ones: Adaptable scales net endure elements (not in italics) and lets you, as a swift action,, choose between minor fire or cold resistance. Filtering gills net water breathing (not in italics…); the hand of all trades is awesome and contains charges that may be used for thieves’ tools, healer’s kits, grappling hooks, etc. – awesome. Iron gut fortifies versus food-borne illness; legs of springing pretty much do what they say on the tin and come with a greater version as well. Finally, silver tongue enhances your singing and oratory skills, and lets you emulate dialects – once more one of these little roleplaying touches I genuinely love seeing. The pdf also includes 3 bodymodders, with locations, descriptions, relevant stats and price modifiers and crafting services noted. Nice!

The equipment section this time around also is pretty cool, sporting the easily concealed and rather deadly fist cannon firearm, as well as the mighty storm of chains, a VERY powerful kyton spiked chain for Large wielders that can also generate a variant of blade barrier. Finally, there is the mighty Darksphere, a technological artifact, which is essentially a variant sphere of annihilation. The section also includes fully realized void gondola vehicle stats alongside a brief discussion of navigation in the Zone. The gazetteer this time around deals with beacon, the largest asteroid in the Shattered Zone, and its de facto capital, including a discussion of the peculiar aspects: For example the oozes dubbed “angels” that produce air, or the fact that the “plague masks”, which actually filter out the corrosive agents from the air that particularly the auttaine don’t take well to. The write-up also includes two statblocks for agents of Purity (the latter called “Oberfähn” as the title – that should probably be “Oberfähnrich”; the other is called “Obersolder” – pretty sure that an “I” is missing there.

Anyhow. Purity. Pseudo-German nomenclature. You probably already have an inkling where this is going. Either way, it’s time to talk about the module and the monsters, so from here on out, the SPOILERS shall reign. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! The PCs’ expedition in Dead Vault Descent was easily one of my favorite modules in the AP formula, but unfortunately, the PCs ultimately didn’t leave it with much to show for – they still have not found a way home, and at this point, their allies have deduced another path home – which requires accessing a gate under the control of the Blood Slavers of Argos, which in turn will require a rather uneasy social event: A dinner with a neh-thalggu mesmerist. I mean, okay, the entity might be a brain-eating crab-monster, but she is impeccably polite and all about etiquette, which means that the PCs can meet up with her in a semi-safe environment. The mansion thus kicks off the module with a tense dinner and shows that this is, indeed, the darkest part of the AP so far. The PCs can attempt to best here, by the way – or roleplay the evening with a strange game called sensora id abstracta: A contest of drawing things from the strange mansion’s substance. So yeah, while the neh-thalggu is deadly, she can be potentially slain, should your group object to cooperating with a brain collector, no matter how impeccable her manners may be. This also establishes that, in this module, an exceptional Intelligence will be something more than one person will be interested in – in an unwholesome manner.

Either way, the path leads into the Shattered Zone – a field of asteroids that remain from a planet; to be more precise, the PCs will find themselves in Beacon (see gazetteer), a kind of sword and planet iteration of an industrial-revolution dystopia, with plague mask-wearing beings, and a thoroughly STRANGE. Indebted in aesthetics to Victorianism, industrial revolution, Bloodborne and sword and planet, the module goes for a genuinely interesting backdrop and a sense of danger enhanced by almost immediate arrivals of dangerous individuals. Unbeknown to the PCs, they have also just stepped into a three-way faction conflict between the Shattered Zone Mining Company, the Contraptors and the Corrosive Ventures. The PCs, thrust into these local struggles (for btw. aforementioned darksphere), and will pretty soon realize that they need to get to a certain gate, Asteroid 113…but to do so, they’ll have to “resurrect” three dead gates: One in Hope Mine, under the control of the Contraptors; one called “Salvation”, which is currently neutral territory, and one called Zenith, under the control of the Shattered Zone Mining Company. In case you were wondering – all of these are essentially sub-chapters, with plenty of dangers – and a need for smart politicking, for there are consequences for betrayal in the zone, and these consequences, well, they aren’t exactly pretty.

Once the PCs have managed to awaken the final gate, they not only get a mythic tier, they will by now also have deduced that their destination is a kyton prison, and that opening it…will, that went both ways. It is here that politics start falling by the wayside, and we get a rather…öhem…well…different approach. One that very much shows the hand of Richard Pett.

The destination is essentially a deadly kyton panopticon, a Hellraiser-esque nightmarescape, with plenty of unique and deadly builds…but wait. There is more. You see, the TRUE masterminds behind the factions’ squabbling, the most powerful force in the Shattered Zone right now, is Purity, which are essentially auttaine fascists. And if you don’t get it immediately from the German nomenclature employed, a propaganda poster with a red flag, white circle, and a black sun inside (which is a real life occult Nazi symbol) on the shoulderpads of Obercommander Aspa Corrosa’s artwork drive that home. She is also infested by a Queborrin, an alien parasite that is one of the new creatures – these generate unique abilities, which is a cool angle, but no template or the like for being queborrin-infested is provided, which is a bit of a lost chance While we’re on the subject of monsters, we also get a Large ogre-ish thing that can irradiate you (the void grim, CR 6), the ironrot lichen (CR 7), feral kytons (CR 9 – guess what the PCs will have to deal with in the prison?), and steamwerks golems (Cr 14) and the deadly CR 17 choke ooze – yep, that’s the stuff the people use to generate air. Don’t screw with them.

… Okay, so, to get that out of the way: I am not a big fan of depicting Nazis in RPG, because it is always a reduction of the true horror they caused. I expected to have more of a problem with this module. But Purity is not exactly Nazism in all but art-direction; it’s different kind of fascism. If you’re interested in why I don’t like Nazis in RPGs, I wrote a pretty comprehensive essay on the topic: http://endzeitgeist.com/miscellaneous-musings-stance-depiction-nazis-gaming/

Anyways, regarding Purity: In spite of their design being too on the nose for my tastes, I can kinda get behind them. Still, I think it’d have been awesome to see them actually visually coded as good guys. Because that’s more effective. Black uniform, red accents – we are hard-coded to view that as evil. One of the gates, the one called “Hope” – it’s actually in one of Purity’s internment prisons. And they are well on their way through the nightmarish panopticon, trying to reach the core of the asteroid before the PCs. The party will have to best the fascists of Purity. Provided the PCs can best the agents of Purity (which are, obviously, in league with the Hegemony), they also need to beat the mighty God-seer of the kytons – and meet a Purity agent who has already arrived: The PCs have reached the forbidden core, as they are taken into essentially a god-machine remnant of a dead planet, an almost BLAME-like complex of vast proportions…but can they best Commander Dhotan Roth? If so, they will learn, as the machine fulfills its purpose, forcing the vast knowledge of the ancient war between Patrons and Principalities…and the PCs will learn that Relstanna may well have set them up. They had to know. It’s time to get some answers…provided they can get out of the Shattered Zone…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules language level; I noticed a couple more formatting hiccups and typo level glitches (“is” instead of “it”, that sort of thing) than before in the AP. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the module comes with plenty of amazing full-color artwork. The art and map folio is great, but the omission of player-friendly maps is annoying. I also disliked that we didn’t get a map of Beacon – as a consequence, this hub always remained somewhat opaque to me, which is probably the biggest weakness of the module’s middle part. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Huh. After the pretty darn awesome supplemental material (penned by Patrick Renie, Mike D. Welham and Richard Pett), the module started off exceedingly well: I LOVE the Shattered Zone and Beacon regarding their aesthetics. Just plain awesome. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that the whole politicking/three-factions angle, with Purity in the back? That could have been executed a bit smoother. The module requires more investment from the GM to make that section work. The gate activation and the like? The finale? Those are straightforward, if a bit combat-heavy. But the connective tissue, particularly considering what these amazing premises could have carried? It feels slightly weaker. This is not a bad module, mind you – the adventure is executed with panache aplomb, and has master Pett’s very distinct style, through a lens of sword & planet aesthetics. And yet, personally; I considered this module to be slightly weaker than the sheer excellence we’ve seen so far.

Legendary Planet, to this point, was an almost perfect AP, and from the lack of player-friendly maps to the middle part’s structure being a bit less impressive than the Shattered Zone would have warranted, this one falls a bit short of that. Does this make me less enamored with the AP? No. But after the nigh-perfect Dead Vault Descent, this feels like it tries a bit too much at once. What it does is genuinely great, but this nagging feeling of a module that is very busy, that would have done better by focusing more on core scenes, never left me.

This should not keep you from checking this out, mind you – particularly if you considered the AP to light-hearted until now; or if you want some seriously unique and twisted material. This would work rather well on its own.

How to rate this? Well, I consider this to be a very good module, slightly tarnished by the map-components and few snafus, and as such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: Confederates of the Shattered Zone (Pathfinder)
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Legendary Samurai
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/23/2020 05:05:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the class-centric supplements by Legendary Games clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so few classes have been as much in need of a proper redesign as the lackluster samurai, which has failed to truly engage me in all iterations I’ve seen so far, so let’s take a look at the legendary samurai! The class receives d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as tetsubo and all one-handed slashing weapons and all armors. They get full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves.

The first thing you’ll then notice, would be the spirit engine, which radically changes how the class behaves and its role in the party composition from the get-go: Spirit is a bit like grit, but the legendary samurai starts the day with no spirit – it is gained when the legendary samurai damages a creature with an iaijutsu strike (this improves further at 7th level, which lets the samurai spend a move action prior to attacking to increase the spirit gain to 2 (known as spirit charge; at 14th level, this may also be done as a swift action, bo more than 1/round), or whenever the legendary samurai takes damage from an attack, including supernatural attacks, SPs and spells, but the class does not gain spirit when struck while flat-footed. Starting at 5th level, the samurai may elect to open themselves to attacks as a free action, making the next attack target touch AC or take a -10 penalty to Reflex saves, but when suffering an attack thus, the samurai gains 2 spirit instead, and may execute an Intimidate check to demoralize the attacking creature, even ignoring fear immunity as an immediate action. When they roll initiative, they gain 1 spirit, which upgrades to 2 at 3rd level, and 3 at 12th level. Spirit can stack up to a maximum equal to Charisma modifier, but unlike e.g. grit, it behaves more like an adrenalin bar – spend 1 minute outside of combat, and all spirit accumulated vanishes. You will probably have noticed the absence of a kitten-caveat – RAW, Iaijutsu-ing harmless kittens could be used to stack up spirit; this obviously is VERY un-samurai-like behavior, and imho should have been prevented explicitly in the rules. Does it break the class? Let’s see.

The class starts play with Quick Draw as a bonus feat and elaborates the notion of weapons being sheathed in the context of traditionally sheathe-less weapons, which is a nice touch. At 4th level, the sheathe may confer a scaling shield bonus when employed in conjunction with iaijutsu strikes. The legendary samurai can treat sheathed weapons as drawn ones for the purpose of AoOs, courtesy of their ability to perform lightning-quick iaijutsu-strikes. This is an extraordinary ability gained at first level, and may be performed with sheathed one-handed slashing weapons; it is an attack action and makes the weapon be treated as though wielded in two hands for purposes of damage dealt; when making such an attack, the legendary samurai may spend 1 spirit to roll twice and take the better result as a free action. At 8th level, this may be executed as an AoO once per round. Additionally, the class is defined by iaijutsu techniques – the class begins play with one, and gains an additional one every 4 levels thereafter. Only one such technique may be applied per iaijutsu strike until 10th level, where one slash and one cut may be executed at once (see below for an explanation of slash and cut), and the saving throw DC, if any, is 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier. Iaijutsu techniques are categorized in two different types: Slashes, which generally inflict conditions etc., and cuts , which influence area and range of the executed attack – the names of the respective techniques feature “slash” or “cut”, making that part easy to discern. Unless I miscounted, a total of 21 such techniques have been provided. These techniques often tend to feature some sort of scaling mechanic, and obviously, the more potent ones are locked behind minimum level requirements.

The techniques include penalties to AC, scaling bleed damage, ability score damage to Strength or Dexterity on a failed save, high level save-or-die, as well as some more supernatural options, such as forced short-level teleportation, and scaling dispel magic that later upgrades to the greater variant – the latter btw. with a hex caveat that prevents constant and abusive hitting of allies to dispel debuffs – excellent catch there. Forming the attack as bursts, including limited ability to shape the area, knocking targets back (as a bull rush), stealthy slashes (that even may even have their effects delayed at higher levels!), lines, limb-cutting, causing fear-conditions, attacking with wind slashes, skirmishing strikes, and utility attacks or using vacuum – if you’re like me an somewhat of a japanophile otaku, this section will have you smile from ear to ear – it’s INTERESTING and it sets the legendary samurai distinctly apart from other classes. The final ability gained at first level would be challenge, which costs a swift action and one spirit to activate – and whenever the legendary samurai rolls initiative, they get 1 spirit that may ONLY be used for the purpose of this ability. Effect-wise, this adds + class level to damage, but penalizes the AC of the samurai by -2; this penalty also is applied to the AC of the target as long as it’s inside the legendary samurai’s threatened area, but only regarding attacks from other targets. This is a thorough delimiter of challenge, but one that makes sense – to a degree. It’s mainly problematic due to the fact that it’s essentially a per-encounter mechanic sans cooldown. I.e. slaying a goblin, 1 round no combat, new goblin arrives, would yield two challenges, whereas waiting briefly and facing two goblins would yield only one challenge. Per-encounter mechanics make no sense in-game whatsoever, and need to be tied to an objective time-frame, which this ability forgets to do.

Resolve, gained at 2nd level, has been changed, and now also employs spirit in a variety of ways: As a standard action, fear-based conditions may be removed; as an immediate action, Fort- or Will-saves may be rerolled, or the legendary samurai may remain conscious. At 9th level, spirit via resolve may be used as an immediate action to make a critical hit sustained a regular hit; 17th level lets them avoid death by expending all points if they have at least 2 spirit, as an immediate action, to instead be left unconscious and stable – the latter conditions are important, as they prevent a pretty nasty immortal samurai glitch. Again, kudos for catching that.

Also at second level, the legendary samurai may choose from a limited list of vigilante talents, with quite a few taken from legendary Vigilantes and Legendary Villains: Vigilantes. (There is one instance where a superscript “LV” wasn’t properly superscripted.) 3rd level has renown hardcoded into the class (makes sense), and 8th level nets great renown, 14th incredible renown, and 20th level a capstone ability beyond that for the renown angle. 6th level nets Vital Strike, with every 5 levels thereafter yielding the further feats in that chain. The banner ability (and its upgrades) has been moved down a level to 4th, and also specifies a minimum size and use rules, which makes its rules integrity superior to that of the standard samurai – kudos! Greater banner was moved down to 10th level.

The class has a second array of options, so-called kiai arts, the first set of which is gained at 3rd level, with an additional ones unlocked every 4 levels thereafter – all such options are unlocked upon attaining the required class level, making them behave somewhat akin to deeds. While supernatural abilities, these explicitly require a kiai shout, and as such have a verbal component. These effects include using spirit to cure and even absorb fear to be discharged by the samurai’s blade, granting allies a scaling bonus to damage versus an enemy hit, and, obviously AoE-demoralize. Ghost-cutting blades etc. are cool, but there also are some potentially problematic ones, like an option that nets you temporary hit points AND allows you to ignore fatigue for as long as they persist, making that one POTENTIALLY prone to rage-cycling abuse, as well as issues pertaining other abilities kept in check by fatigue. That being said, the prerequisite 7th level does mean that such issues won’t necessarily come into play early in the game – still, it’s something to keep an eye out for. The high-level abilities do include some seriously awesome tricks, like teleport-intercepting attacks upon allies or a zone that forces flying creatures to land, ethereal creatures to shift to the material plane, etc. – awesome. The capstone of the class is a super-potent defensive stance, which minimizes damage and prevents death, but also imposes negative levels upon elapsing – and said negative levels may only be removed naturally.

5 different favored class options available for any race are provided, and, taking a cue from e.g. Legendary Fighter, we have an assortment of alternate class features: Instead of the armor proficiencies, we can have monk-like scaling AC based on Charisma, variant proficiency lists, replace challenge with favored enemy or studied target, etc. – and here is as well a place as any to remark that some ability names have not been properly bolded.

Iaijutsu strike may be modified to work with Weapon finesse, we have the option for combat spheres and being a Proficient combatant instead of the iaijutsu engine (Spheres of Might support!), and there’s the option of skirmishing and sneak attack as another form of variant tricks. The vigilante talents may be replaced with bardic, shifter or rogue tricks, and the kiai arts can be exchanged for bonus feats, limited kineticist action or spellcasting.

The pdf also includes an assortment of new feats, which include extra iaijutsu talents, increased DCs for one, having an old weapon that may be magically enhanced, using Intelligence or Wisdom as governing ability score…the solid support feats classes need. The one feat I really liked was Blind Warrior, which lets you play the iconic fellow, including a rather extensive discussion re balance etc. – kudos for including this one.

The pdf includes 10 different archetypes: Ancestral inheritors lose challenge and kiai arts with a biped eidolon without claws, instead gaining the same weapon proficiencies as the samurai. The benefits of resolve may be shared, and (greater) banner is replaced with the evolution surge options, powered by spirit. This one is pretty damn strong. It also is weird, in that the spiritualist’s phantom would have made much more sense than the eidolon. Not a fan. Gunblade duelists, though? Heck yeah. This appeals to the FF8 fanboy in me, but yeah. Just wished the archetype would do more than just yield basic functionality – if you’re looking for unique gunblade tricks, you won’t find them here. This fellow would have warranted a class hack. And yes, I know. I’m greedy. It’s just that I know how good N. Jolly can be with these, and since he wrote the excellent legendary gunslinger… One may dream.

Master strikers are essentially the monk-y unarmed samurai, while oni warriors focus on bludgeoning weapons and are the barbarian-y archetype/theme, including rage. Ronins can use dirty tricks and their renown is tainted. The samurai spherelord is a further Spheres archetype, using both Spheres of Might and Spheres of Power – essentially the blended training archetype. The short notes “SoP” and “SoM” have not been superscripted properly. Soul blades get an intelligent, improving weapon (that has one ability partially cut off, alas), steed lords are the mounted specialists, and yojimbos are the guardians – the latter is a particularly cool engine tweak. Yumi snipers are, no surprise, the ranged specialists.

With blood iron, we do receive a new material that oozes flavor (haha – pardon the pun), and 8 new magic items are included – the second page of their presentation is odd, featuring a lot of blank space in the middle, with items at the top and bottom – as though a piece of artwork was cut or something like that. 6 of these are robes of overflowing spirit, with 4 assigned to the classic elements (oddly, not the Eastern ones…), and one is themed around purity and another one around void. The robes have minor benefits, but wielders with spirit that gain spirit in excess of their maximum can use the excess spirit otherwise lost to activate the robes for a further benefit. The blade of the bloodthirsty (weapon properties not italicized properly) is a +2 keen blood iron falchion that can transform into other weapon shapes, and it can repair itself and enhance bleed damage caused. Nice one. The universal scabbard can fit any weapon.

As usual, we end this pdf with a sample NPC, fully detailed with a compelling background story and boon for the party, should they ally – this time around, we have Kuro (which means “black”) Hiro, whose name is quite ironic, as he’s actually a really good and friendly guy, well-intentioned and not burdened by some catastrophe. Nice to see!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are not as good as I’ve come to expect from Legendary Games – the numerous botched superscripts and the obvious exploits make this one feel less refined than usual. That being said, the book still manages to get more highly complex things done right than plenty of comparable files – it’s “just” good in the formal categories. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports multiple really nice artworks I hadn’t seen before. Much to my puzzled chagrin, the pdf lacks bookmarks, which is a huge comfort-detriment. Not cool.

N. Jolly, Siobhan Bjorknas, Adam Ricks and Wren Rosario have crafted a book that frustrates me to no end. Because I desperately want to love the legendary samurai; in many ways, this is the class I always wanted for the samurai-concept. The strikes are exciting and thematically fitting, the kiai abilities rock, and the class does a lot things right. Only to hit every single one of my pet-peeves. ALL of them. Nonsense per-encounter BS? Check. Can be cheesed with kittens? Check. Spirit engine needing some checks and balances? Check.

…and so on. And yet, I can’t bring myself to hating this, because, frankly, I’ll be doing some tweaking and using the chassis. Still, this has all the markings of a rushed and/or troubled development: From the formal superscripts and lack of bookmarks, to design snafus like aforementioned cheese-options that are frankly not something I expect to see from either N. Jolly or Legendary Games, as both author and publisher have demonstrated time and again that they can do much better. Compared with N. Jolly’s GENIUS Legendary Gunslinger-pdf, this feels like a minor let-down.

That being said, there is an excellent chance that you won’t mind the things that irk me to no end. For me, as a person, this is a genuinely aggravating 3-star file. However, it is also the single best take on the samurai class out there, and much of my personal disdain may be chalked up to the pdf hitting all the things that I really loathe to see, that I consider to be indicators of capital-letters BAD class design.

I try hard to not let my own bias cloud my verdicts too much, though, and if you don’t mind about those, this will deliver a compelling samurai; certainly an infinitely better one than the other takes I’ve read so far.

As such, my official reviewer’s score will be 4 stars, with the caveat that you have to be able to stand aforementioned issues.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Samurai
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Legendary Planet: Dead Vault Descent (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/13/2020 13:03:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 108 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 97 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I was a kickstarter-backer for the Legendary Planet campaign, but I was not in any way involved in the production of this AP. My review is based on the Pathfinder version, since that is the game I’m using for this campaign.

Wait, before we continue, there is another thing to note: The adventure comes with a MASSIVE Art-and Map folio: The folio is 37 (!!) pages long, and presents the artworks as handouts. Oh, and we do get player-friendly versions of ALL of the maps! No Spoilers on them, but plenty of details; no immersion-breaking letters or keys. AMAZING.

To reiterate once more: Publishers, this right here should be industry standard! Huge kudos for going the extra-mile, as this renders the folio essentially a massive handout/map-booklet, ready for table-use!

Structurally, this installment of Legendary Planet, like those before, follows the formula popularized by Paizo: We for example get a well-written piece of prose (by Chris A. Jackson). The adventure is designed for 8th level PCs with 2 mythic tiers, and by the end of the module, the PCs should have reached 11th level.

Since the setting of this adventure features a blending of magic and technology, we also have quite an array of archetypes by Jason Nelson, Jeff Lee and Clinton j. Boomer: The book includes the astrologer (mesmerist), delver (wizard), engram channeler (spiritualist), nanotech infuser (sorcerer), penumbral arcanist (arcanist), robot fighter (ranger) archetypes, and the Technopath, Teletechnopath, and Walker in Rust feats. Sound familiar? Yep, this is a significant component of the Magitech Archetypes book. I’ve already covered that book, so I’m not going to retread that discussion here.

The book also contains 8 new magic items:, which include a fishbowl hat, dubbed atmosphere visor, which protects versus inhaled toxins and environmental effects, but not versus vacuum or pressure. Chimes of warning generate a magical resonance, which traverses several miles, providing ample warning – interesting item, and certainly one that has seriously neat application regarding e.g. security system designs, or warnings from Dune worm/tarrasque/etc. critters. The convocation stone is interesting, in that it requires a countdown of concentration before sending request to be teleported to the target – this one has great potential for interesting encounter designs and escapes. The dauntless jacket Is my least favorite item herein – it nets an initiative and skill bonus, as well as a 1/day reroll of an opposed check; at just 4,500 GP, it is pretty inexpensive, particularly for an AP that uses mythic rules. The energy blade, which essentially is a lightsaber, using plasma (half fire, half electricity) as damage basis. And yes, you can use it to fire rays. The orb of venerable memory is interesting, in that it lets you tap into memories/experience, and as such becomes less potent for older characters. Wrappings to conceal magic auras and a minor artifact, the necromantic box, which can be sued to conceal phylacteries, seal in souls or the like, complements this well-wrought section. Matt Goodall also penned this one, and the bestiary-section, which this time around contains 5 new creatures.

Okay, since the monsters, gazetteer and module all are relevant to the story, consider this to be the big SPOILER WARNING. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only GMs around? Great!

As for the monsters: The CR 8 Amalgamite Swarm is a super-deadly swarm that can us its Step-Up based feats to maintain control, and with the ability to disperse and reassemble, makes for a challenging foe. The Divymm are sentient constructs with a sueprisingly-detailed customization engine, including different materials. At CR 3, the hetzuud is more deadly than you’d assume: These intelligent oozes may generate perfect copies and duplicate objects…and they can merge. Have you played the phenomenal videogame Prey? Think of the mimic’s from that game, in slime-version, in smarter. Yeah, a good GM can play these fellows as truly dangerous threats. Supported with animal companion stats, I really liked the entry of the CR 3 Narav, a lizard that can detach its tail – so far, so good…but the tail retains its combat-prowess!, and can continue to maintain grapples etc.! That makes sense from a fantastic point of view, yet feels grounded. Love it! Finally, at CR 9, we have the toxic eradicator, an incorporeal ooze, essentially a kind of living poison gar bio-weapon. Nasty!

The gazetteer is once again something I definitely recommend that GMs read prior to the adventure, for this installment sends the PCs to Kylorn, the Sunset World, a tidelocked planet that may be frozen on the night-side, and very hot on the day-side, but not in a way that would be uninhabitable. Indeed, the planet’s sunset strip, if you will, is a lush and fertile land, and we do get a massive map of the surface of the place. This map sports squares, as well as letters and numbers – at one glance, you could e.g. determine whether quadrant 14-UU is in the dusk-zone, the sunset-zone, etc. I LOVE this, and even more so due to the presence of a player-friendly version of the map. The visuals of the planet and its concepts are easily my favorite in the Legendary Planet supplements so far.

Which brings me to the module itself: Now that the PCs have obtained the knowledge contained in The Scavenged Codex after the massive treasure hunt in the last module, they have the means to reopen a dormant path from the world of Kylorn to return home, but unfortunately, the only available gate to said world is controlled by the Thanex Coterie…who deactivated it in a show of force some 300 years ago, and the Coterie is known for being ruthless and rather nasty. Before you fear the like: No, the PCs won’t have to enter a devil’s bargain once more, and make knowledge of the Opus Aeterna known to them, which is not exactly desirable – instead, the first part of the adventure is one massive caper!

The PCs will have to infiltrate the Thanex’ reception halls, steal the component, and then enter the warehouse currently storing the gate. These locations are fully mapped, and I’m absolutely ecstatic to see a well-presented caper executed in the AP. Emphasis on “well-executed”, for, from brute- force to stealth to subterfuge, we have various means of infiltration, fully mapped areas, and more hooks/angles to achieve each part than you can shake a stick at. Moreover, the adventure structures its material in a smart manner: “Who will be there?,” “How will we secure the component?”, helpful tables for stats of nameless staff – this whole section is LITTERED with troubleshooting information and manages to render the caper more freeform than what you’d usually ever get to see in comparable adventures. Indeed, the whole section can be seen as a massive rebuttal to the claim that rules-intense games like PFRPG etc. can’t handle freeform infiltrations/heists properly, as its sheer scope is certainly beyond anything I’ve seen executed for the system.

In case you haven’t noticed: This section is easily my favorite in the AP so far, and I consider it exceptional enough to warrant a recommendation to scavenge the module for it, even if you do not enjoy the sword and planet genre per se. With a bit of reskinning, you can adapt it, and the massive caper is amazing. We need more modules that go this route. It’s really a bit of James Bond/Mission Impossible, seen through a sword and planet lens, even before the custom NPC builds are taken into account. I adore this.

Once the PCs have finally managed to pass through the gate, they will find themselves on the dark side of Kylorn, and they’ll have to navigate the massive, darkened tunnels that crisscross the strange world – between haunts representing temporal instabilities, the deadly bio-weapons (see monster-section above…), they PCs will have their hands full – but thankfully, they will also find the transportation network that will guide them to the habitable zone of the planet via transport tubes, catapulting them through the planet at incredible speeds. (If none of your players quotes Mortal Kombat, Futurama or a similar movie here, I’m sorely disappointed.) After this chapter of claustrophobic survival, the PCs will have a chance to soak in the wonders of this strange new world – and are pointed towards the Citadel of the Oracle.

It is here, however, that the PCs find that the citadel’s been taken over by a coterie of hostile intelligent constructs; it is here we get a more “regular” type of dungeon-crawling and combat experience, but this is not where the module ends: With the citadel liberated, the PCs learn that the planet’s primary gate lies beneath the scorching dayside of the planet…and the trail there will require that the PCs brave the Palace of the Undying Empress, right at the edge of the sun-blasted daylands. Empress Zefora is btw. a lich, and not one of the simple ones: Interesting here would be the fact that this also is a bit of an investigation, as the empress’ undead “daughters” scheme for her demise, adding a very lite bit of intrigue to the mix, which ultimately culminates in attempting to best the undead ruler – who btw. once was an elali, akin to the PC’s faithful ally.

From the palace, the PCs can once more find a part of the transport tube network, as they make their way to the Dragon’s Gate, which is the final area/dungeon of the adventure. Unlike the previous ones, this one is very much linear, and for a reason: This is one of those rare, finely-tuned and mechanically-impressive gauntlets and combat challenges that will definitely test the PCs beyond what you usually get to see, as befitting of their powers and achievements so far. The adversary-selection here is calibrated rather well, as the PCs make their way to the CR 13/MR 5 mythic vortex dragon you can see on the cover. This is, mechanics-wise, a truly fitting and epic final stretch for the module….only to end in failure for the PCs: The gate can’t be used to send them home, and ultimately, while they will gain the ability to stabilize the planet’s secondary gates, the ultimately will have to return to Argosa, though thankfully, the Thanex won’t harbor a grudge, courtesy of the new venues the PC’s meddling has caused…but this will also have once more put them on the radar of the hegemony.

So yeah, if we’re honest, this module didn’t exactly propel the metaplot of the series farther than it was before, making it a candidate you could theoretically cut, but I genuinely found myself minding less than I expected, courtesy of the pitch-perfect execution of the unconventional vistas and genres explored.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a plethora of new full color artwork, and full-color cartography, the latter ranging from amazing to good. The inclusion of the art and map folio, as noted above, should be industry standard. The pdf comes bookmarked, with bookmarks for chapter-headers.

Matt Goodall, with supplemental content by Chris A. Jackson, Jeff Lee, Clinton J. Boomer, and Jason Nelson, delivers my personal favorite in the AP so far. I’m a huge sucker for capers and heists, and to see one executed so well warmed my heart. The world of Kylorn is also exciting and most assuredly a place I’d love to visit. I consider this to be a masterclass installment. All great? Well, yes…apart from the relatively slow progression of the metaplot and the class options, which I considered to be not exactly among the finest in Legendary Games’ cadre. Personally, I think that expanding the section on Kylorn or the gazetteer (perhaps gameify in some way the surface map?) would have been a better use of the space than reprinting a significant portion of the Magitech Archetypes book, but then again, but that may be me. Still, it is particularly jarring, since e.g. the engram channeler would have made for a great baseline for a NPC in the palace of eternal sunset, for example – but it’s not used. In short, the class options, while certainly not bad, are also kinda superfluous. Then again, they only take up 8 pages, and I’ve already rated those. As a sidenote: Items and monsters introduced do matter in the module’s context, so this struck me as doubly odd. As a whole, that section’s tacked-on feeling is a main reason why this doesn’t transcend the level of being “just” as great as the AP so far, which should tell you something about how well executed this adventure actually is. (I.e.: This almost reached Top Ten Candidate/Best of…-levels.)

In the end, my final verdict will be based on the main meat of this offering, and that’s the adventure, the setting, the items & monsters – the material that is actually relevant for the AP – and that material is, in the grand scheme of things, simply fantastic in the literal sense of the word: This module breathes the notes of sword and planet romance, with touches of raygun gothic, in a way most exemplary. The module most assuredly is worth running, even if you’re not interested in going through the entire AP, and if you do, prepare to engage in a truly fantastic offering. 5 stars + seal of approval. The run of excellence of the AP remains unbroken, and if Legendary Planet can retain it for the remaining modules, we’ll have an all-time great saga on our hands.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: Dead Vault Descent (Pathfinder)
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Legendary Worlds: Melefoni
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/27/2019 07:36:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Worlds-series of supplemental books for the Legendary Planet campaign setting/AP clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I was a backer of the Legendary Planet AP-kickstarter, but had no hand in the creation of this pdf. My review is based on the PFRPG-version.

Melefoni was once a pristine, aquatic world, far from major traffic routes through the vast infinity of space – all of this changed when the colony-ship Trailblazer crashed into Melefoni after a catastrophic hyperdrive malfunction. This, as it turned out, would have far-reaching consequences for the world: The human colonists made the best out of the situation of being stranded, but they brought with them microbes; the hyperdrive leaked, the impact changed weather patterns – and the consequences of The Corruption thus brought required adaption – or extinction. The native asquenti did not understand the changes to their eco system – and thus, when they encountered the human aliens, conflict was always an option, though a misunderstanding ultimately was the cause of the hostilities erupting, resulting in a 12-year war waged between the high-tech wielding alien colonists and the asquenti’s sonic tech.

The war only ended when the asquenti were nearly annihilated by a kraken assault, while the colonists were hit by Hundoon, the wandering typhoon, and almost sunk – which would have been catastrophic for the floating city. This turned the hot war cold – but the colonist’s attempts to stop the typhoon proved fruitless, until the humans managed to strike a deal with hags. For the “low” price of a few individuals a year, the hags would blunt the force of the storm…and only a few would return from them, with females giving birth to changelings.

Thus, Melefoni (fully mapped, but no player-friendly version is included of the map) is currently existing in a rather tenuous state of tense ceasefire, and hostilities, catastrophic climate change and worse continue to threaten everyone. The colony-city gets full settlement statblocks (with a special quality that allows for easier technology perusal), and we learn about the different parties championing other priorities. Currently, the Warhawk party is in control, though there are alos those seeking co-existence. The pdf also presents three local deities, with notes on domains and subdomains, favored weapons, etc., though, honestly, I don’t know why these are here – they don’t really contribute a lot. That being said, the 4 points of interest once more are interesting – an arena of hard water? Cool!

We get stats for the humanoid crustacean asquenti – they are CR 2, have an incredible sight, and can fire lances of sonic energy with their claws. The statblock has a pretty massive formatting glitch: The Sonic Pincer ability is not properly bolded and isn’t even its own line – we just suddenly have the text start right in the middle of the previous ability. We do have some notes for a few variant asquenti.

The race can also choose from a selection of 4 different feats for them – but since they’re not playable, I think I’d have gone a different route here. The pdf also has the envy subdomain for Charm, with a gaze that lets you force targets on a failed save to hand you possessions. It’s okay, but not mind-blowing. There also is a focused water elemental school – hydraulic. This one is actually pretty nice, with hydraulic blasts that have properly codified damage output, etc.

As you have probably surmised, this pdf uses the Technology Guide, and presents two new weapons – the sonic cannon siege engine and the pressurized water cannon – both of which are used by the asquenti supermersibles, inverted submersibles that allow the asquenti to emerge from the waves – courtesy of their sonic resonance propulsion, which is properly codified. Two supermersibles are fully stated for your convenience – awesome! Two new pieces of technological gear are provided, with the first being the sonic grip, which allows for fine manipulation of objects etc. – this allows the claw-using asquenti to execute fine manipulation, as they can use their abilities to recharge the item. An issue here: the sonic grip has no formatting beyond the header. The second piece of gear is the water sheath, which creates a DR-granting shield of water that also allows the aquatic asquenti to work above the waves.

The pdf concludes with an array of different adventure hooks – these are pretty neat and feature a couple of cool angles to develop.

Conclusion: Editing is good on a formal level, and precise regarding rules-language; formatting, however, is pretty rushed – there are a couple of instances of pretty obvious glitches there. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports neat, full-color artworks and great cartography of the planet’s surface, though there is no key-less version of the map provided. The pdf comes with a few bookmarks that have been copy-pasted from The Scavenged Codex; as such, their names are incorrect.

Joel Flank’s Melefoni is a per se cool world, though one that didn’t excite me as much as I hoped it would: The climate catastrophe/colonial angle is cool, and I like the asquenti, how their sonic tech makes sense and explains how they could build their supermersibles. There is logic here. The subdomain, deities and arcane school feel a bit like filler to me, and like space that could have been used to further develop the interesting materials here: For example, rules for the effects of the Corruption, for the typhoon, you know for components unique to Melefoni. All in all, I consider this to be a super-cool set-up that doesn’t live up to its potential, mainly due to not prioritizing its strengths. My final verdict will hence be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Worlds: Melefoni
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Legendary Planet: The Scavenged Codex (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2019 05:55:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the Legendary Planet AP (if you don’t count the optional prologue “The Assimilation Strain“) clocks in at 118 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 107 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I was a backer of the Legendary Planet AP, but I had no hand in the creation of this adventure. While the AP exists in versions for multiple systems, this review is based on the PFRPG-version, since that was the game the AP was originally designed for. Formula-wise, this behaves very much like Paizo’s AP, with the main meat of the supplement being taken up by the module, and supplemental content in the back. Structurally, the module assumes the medium advancement track, and has 3 parts, assuming one level-gain at the end of each part, thus taking the PCs from level 5 to 8, as well as providing the second mythic tier during part 3.

Chris A. Jackson returns with a brief piece of fiction, and we once more have a very detailed gazetteer, this time focusing on the world Rythes and a specific section of it – the once-proud world was almost torn asunder when its interplanetary gates (the Tears of Eternity) were turned against it – now, the gates have finally begun attempting to heal the planet, and a dark age seems about to end, as new people finally emerge from them (there’s a catch, though…), to find a quasi-feudal patchwork of the Broken Baronies – interesting yarn woven by Mike Shel and Jonathan H. Keith here. I STRONGLY suggest reading this prior to running the adventure; much like in To Worlds Unknown, the gazetteers really help the GM drive home the wonder that is so crucial to the sword-and-planet genre.

Tim Hitchcock’s and Jason Nelson’s pretty massive Legendary Vehicles article also deserves mentioning, providing the rules for vehicles, chases and 5 vehicles in one handy article; while e.g. the light sand chariot is essentially identical to the light chariot, this article also includes aquariums on wheels and sand skiffs, essentially, we have an expansion of Ultimate Combat’s vehicle rules here, with vehicular accidents catching on fire, etc. pp. all covered – how well are the new and old content combined? If you don’t explicitly try to look up which component is from where, you will NOT see a difference. Kudos.

Which brings me to an important aspect: Like all Legendary Planet supplements, this comes with something that should be industry standard: A massive Art- and Map-folio pdf. This time around, this massive handout booklet is 28 (!!) pages long, and guess what? Player-friendly key-less versions of the maps? All provided, and there is enough detail on each map to make out tech, cables, etc.! One very minor nitpick is that the overview map does not come with a version sans locations of interest noted, but for once, I didn’t mind too much, considering how many great maps are in here. While two of the artworks are quality-wise not as awesome as the rest (slightly low-res), this is very much me being a spoiled bastard – the booklet is chock-full with amazing, first tier quality artwork, certainly more than you can see in many comparable offerings. So yeah, once more – this should be industry standard!!

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS: Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only GMs around? Great

Mike Shel and Mike Welham also provide a total of 8 new magic items, with two (the chrome scorpion mechanized assassin being the first, and the tech-refueling or acid + cold-damage dealing liquid charge being the second one) of the magic items getting their own full-color artworks. Low-cost helmets that protect against gazes, light blindness (if caused by light-based effects), etc., a glove that lets you first short-ranged bludgeoning jolts, a magical flare – the items manage to capture the elusive theme of blending archaic fantasy and tech VERY well. Kudos.

The bestiary this time around features a monster that really creeped me out – a deadly plant monster that is presented in three distinct builds for different stages of its life-cycle (two of them with their own artwork;the third one is a parasite stage, and has a full-blown battle-scene artwork in the module!), ranged from humble CR ½ to CR 10/MR 4, and boy…the thing…it’s twisted. Love it! Horned, massive beetles (CR 4) scouring the lands, the CR 2 horned simian krang are neat – but I really liked the grey squid-people with the spider-like multiple eyes. There also is a sand-themed ambush predator (CR 6) with suitable Achilles’ heel, and remember the sarlu aquarium I mentioned above? These guys are actually CR 8 telepathic sentient lamprey-like critters that can excrete chilled, caustic mucus. The lizard-like Syaandi, who become more dangerous when cornered, complete an overall cool bestiary, with the sarlu and the plant-thing easily my favorites.

Okay, I have delayed this long enough – let’s talk about the adventure: We left the PCs as they had escaped their jailors, seeing them stranded on the gate hub world Argosa, with no way home. Thankfully, the PCs will have saved an elali named Relstanna during their bid for revenge versus the jagladine, and said ally contacts them with information on a mysterious world called Rythes, which may well hold the means to return home. Unfortunately, a gang-boss called Mr. Sarlu (yep, that lamprey-thing – but the PCs don’t know that yet!) controls the only gate leading to Rythes.

On the way to Sarlu’s compound, the PCs will be accosted by agents of competing crimelords, before meeting the mastermind and his squid-like butler: Sarlu requires three tasks (and yes, the PCs can also attempt to kill everything, but that’s not a smart move, considering Mr. Sarlu’s power. The three tasks are pretty straight-forward – remove a giant moray eel from a pool (Mr. Sarlu’s pool, but the PCs don’t know that yet…), open a quarantined puzzle box…and the final task is more complex: Some disgruntled employees absconded with “something precious” and hold it for ransom. They are hiring – and Sarlu wants the PCs to let themselves be hired, only to betray the ex-lieutenant when he’ll try to collect his ransom from Sarlu. SO, provided they are not killed by the puzzle box or the moray, they’ll be off to a seedy dive (krang bouncer) that also features a supplement tattoo parlor- but basher has already hired muscle…so the PCs might first have to get their competition to “step down” – by whatever means necessary, though a peaceful solution is possible.

Once they’ve been hired, the PCs have a few hours before the meeting – just long enough to be reminded that the Jagladine and their Klaven still hunt them! The final confrontation here, obviously, will be quite a tense affair, and the true level of depravity of Mr. Sarlu will be revealed. Let’s just say that my players vowed internally to kill that bastard. As a whole, I think a bit of troubleshooting regarding Mr. Sarlu would have been helpful; many players will balk having to d the mysterious entities’ bidding for obviously morally problematic deeds.

Anyways, the module then proceeds to take them through the Red Gate, which temporarily disrupts their mythic abilities, save those of the Morphic Nature feat and hard to kill – since mythic power in Legendary Planet was granted by the stargates, this makes sense internally. Until a certain point in the story, mythic powers on Rythes might cause them to be sickened, which fits with the themes of the desolations of the Barony of Dust, their arrival destination – beyond locals, the PCs can witness vast chag beetle bulls battling – and here, a kind of weird frontier theme is going into full force, making the adventure feel almost like a kind of sword-and-planet “winning the West”-equivalent, with feudal themes and tech-monasteries thrown in for good measure. Let me illustrate: You see, chag bulls are valuable and rare – and there’s a solid chance that the PCs might need to make amends. They thus learn about a creature called “Shakes”, who is hunting them down – indeed, this section is pretty free-form if you want to, and you can easily trim it or cut it down, or play it more sandboxy than depicted here – Rythes, ultimately, is an exploration of ramshackle camps of those stranded here, multi-generation survivors of this harsh planet. The PCs are searching for the fragments of the legendary Opus Aeterna, the pieces of the eponymous codex – the module is essentially from here on out a scavenger hunt. This section is one of the instances where you can easily expand the material provided, should you choose to.

During their travels, the PCs will cross causeways, explore relatively detailed settlements, visit moss farms – and find the source of a mysterious fertility in these strange lands – the PCs will btw. actually determine the fate of said fertile land as they explore the lands. Did I mention the dry river? All the strange persons and creatures you can encounter here? The atmosphere created here is impressive and feels very much like a blend of John Carter and the first book of the Dark Tower-saga; did I mention that breaking hypnotic control over an entire order is part of the parcel here? En route, the PCs will have plenty of chances to influence fates big and small, and make friends with a Krang brawler named Khedri. All those locations, btw? All of them come with full-color maps.

Once the PCs arrive at True Velate, they might well run afoul of the super-restrictive (and one might say, criminal) law, as the place seeks to confiscate arcane magic items, something that few groups will let stand for long. While swiftly exiled, the exile will allow the PCs to encounter the ghost of a half-breed member of the Patron progenitor species – this entity can help point the PCs to the other components of the codex, and also once more delimits their mythic powers. Successful in their quest in exile, and reunited with Khedri, the PCs have to still deal with the True Velate issue – the module does not prescribe how this is handled…and it doesn’t have to. With all locations detailed and statted, the PCs have all the choices.

The final part of this module, then, has the PCs venture towards the Barony of Bloom – and the trek there is bound to become even more dangerous than the previous treks! Thus, the PCs are advised by their NPC-friends to go the caravan route – and if you want, you can use the caravan rules here, but the module does not require that you do, instead presenting once more a pretty massive array of encounters that you can mix and match, including one highlight: A chase with the fearful Parched Plains Riders, essentially an epic running fight with no less than three timed encounters – and yes, that’s what you can see on the cover.

The final section deals with the monastery of St. Ioh, where the flowery, seemingly peaceful monks carry a dark secret – they are controlled by the horrible plant monster I mentioned before. The monastery can become a truly horrific place indeed – and if the PCs both their extermination of these plant monsters, they will inevitably take over Rythes! Now how’s that for stakes?

With the defeat of the parasite-infested monks and horrid plant monsters, the PCs get to assemble their scavenged codex (title drop), and use it to return to Argosa – where revenge is best served cold. Mr. Sarlu attempts to kill them all off, providing a climax that should have PCs smiling once the disgusting entity has been vanquished – after all, they are much stronger now, than when they left…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a vast amount of decadent full-color artworks throughout. The art and map folio is excellent, and the quality of the maps is also impressive. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Mike Shel and Mike Welham, with additional content by Tim Hitchcock, Jonathan H. Keith, Jason Nelson and Chris A. Jackson have created an incredibly dense adventure here. The Scavenged Codex is all about exploring the wondrous and strange, reveling in the fantastic and themes of sword-and-planet. It is a module that familiarizes the group with the strange realities of the vast universe they have been thrust into, with the dangers, but also with allies. It foreshadows main themes, has a great comeuppance scene, a high-octane chase – and you could probably play this module for months. If your party consists of completionists and people interested in cultural tidbits etc., then this module delivers more than you’d expect, and if you want heavily-scrited modules, you could potentially consider this to be a bit meandering. However, you always have a plot-line to drive, if you want to. I’d urge you, however, to take your time. There is a reason for this module’s review being so much longer than the one for “To Worlds Unknown.” There is SO MUCH GOING ON. I haven’t even come close to mentioning everything herein!

One could call it out for its slower pace, but after the gauntlet of “To Worlds Unknown”, this change of pace is not only welcome, it is super helpful – PARTICULARLY if you used Assimilation Strain and also duped your players (not that I’d ever do or condone that winkwink) into expecting a standard campaign! In a way, this is a module that familiarizes with themes via a compelling, versatile quest. It hands the reins more to the players after the heavily-scripted first adventure. And that’s a good thing. While the adventure is not as unified in its theme, it instead presents its own strengths and playstyle.

If you’re an experienced GM, you could conceivably run the entire adventure as one gigantic sandbox. While the first part will require an experienced GM, the finale of the module will remedy the adventure for players that balk at the shady dealings they’re forced to engage in during part 1, but some sort of troubleshooting there would have been helpful. The vastness of the scope, the genuine consequences of the PC’s actions – those are huge plusses!

That being said, this is me nitpicking at a very high level – as far as I’m concerned, the Legendary Planet AP so far has delivered not only 3 outstanding modules, but 3 modules that are great in very different ways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval; no here’s to hoping that Dead Vault Descent can maintain this level of quality, see you in the review of that one!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: The Scavenged Codex (Pathfinder)
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Legendary Worlds: Calcarata
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/13/2019 13:24:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Worlds-series, which highlights unique worlds found in the setting of the Legendary Planet AP, usable as complements or as a stand-alone supplement, clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, which are, as always, chock-full with content.

I was a backer of the Legendary Planet AP, but I have not been involved in the creation of this supplement. My review is based on the Pathfinder-version of the supplement, since that was the original system for which the Legendary Planet AP was designed. Aethera or similar settings are also natural fits for this supplement.

All right, so, we begin with a well-written account of the final recording of Ouven the Mad Grinner, as he came upon Calcarata, the World That Dreams….and at first, one would not expect Calcarata to be a place anyone would want to visit: The surface of this planet is characterized best as a blighted wasteland, with an atmosphere that, while, breathable, is full of…things you don’t want to breathe. And yet, Calcarata is the home of a thriving and lush ecosystem – it’s just not in the material plane, for Calcarata’s nigh-human inhabitants, the Penthe (nice nomenclature there!) have a civilization focused in the plane of dreams!

That right there is a unique twist on the old Lotus-eater trope – Calcarata is a vibrant, shared, massive dreamscape, with the Penthe there characterized by an impressive vibrancy of their tones; in the dreamscape, the collective is surrounded by personal dreamspaces (frays, rules included), and then, the sheer raw untapped potential of possibility – unique in many ways: The massive wonder available, must, by necessity of collective civilization, be subject to some rules one usually does not have to conform to. Exploring this unique perspective most assuredly is a worthwhile and utterly amazing roleplaying angle!

Even before the horn-like progenitor-technology, before the dream-fauna, and the Penthe themselves, who can btw. exchange the skilled racial trait in favor of a +4 racial bonus to CL-checks to prevent magic and SPs from going haywire due to wild magic. Alternatively, they can opt for +1 to the DC of divinations and sleep effects, with sorcerers with sufficient Charisma gaining dream (not italicized properly) 1/day as a SP. Alternatively, they could also choose a +2 racial bonus to saving throws versus mind-affecting effects, or the ability to manifest dream-crafted weaponry ex nihilo…including weapons “conjured by impossible” – this is correct rules-verbiage, even though it might not look like it; it refers to the morphic plane characteristic, and not a feat. Figured I’d mention that and spare some less experienced people a bit of confusion. (And yes, the penthe get a bonus to atk here, and the weapons become magic at higher levels.)

4 feats are provided: Lucid Crafter lets you craft things in dream and take it to the material plane; Endless Arsenal adds to the weapons you can conjure ex nihilo per day; Fantastic Bullet lets you conjure ranged weapons, including ammunition, and Penthe Thoughtwalker nets you dream travel 1/day as a SP, with a personal range. In aforementioned frays, crystallized potential may be mined and refined into a drug called pink bliss, which allows you to perceive creatures both ethereal and in adjacent dreamspaces, which can be a super-interesting angle and validate the need to risk the threat of addiction – particularly in bleak Calcarata’s landscape. And yes, this obviously is nigh perfect for Dune-style plots revolving around spice…

Speaking of which: The supplement comes with not only a couple of exiting points of interest, but also a fully-depicted adventure location, one of the Wakepoint Stations – the primary (and very small) landing site. The map provided is full-color, really nice…but no player-friendly version is provided. Boo. On the plus-side, we do get adventure hooks, suggested encounters – and a new creature.

That massive beast on the cover? That’s a Havriveen – a draconic CR 12 apex predator that not only effortlessly manipulates dreamscapes, its plasma breath dissolves dream-equipment, it can tranverse dream and reality, and being killed by it in dream? Rather strenuous… Did I mention the aura that hampers your abilities in dreamscapes? NICE! And the nature of dreamscapes, their emphasis on creativity, the potentially thus decreased lethality of encounters with this CR 12 beast and the like – perfect reason to use it versus, say, level 3 characters and see how they can handle these beasts as looming threats.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with only a very minor cosmetic glitch. Layout adheres to the series’ nice two-column full-color standard, and the artwork is great. The map is similarly awesome, I just wished a full-color version had been provided. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, but doesn’t need more at this length.

Wren Roy delivers a cool twist on the Dune-style planet, save that she goes one step further, adding genuinely thought-provoking angles regarding the nature of dream and reality to the game. You don’t have to explore these, mind you, but the very set-up of Calcarata inspired me big time to contemplate how e.g. people forced to dream in unison with a shared reality will behave…and what they might do if they wake up. Sounds like a great villain-angle…or culture-clash to me! In short: This humble supplement delivers some genuinely inspiring angles, which is why my final verdict will be 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only because I’d have loved to see more on the interaction of dream, culture and reality, and due to the lack of a player-friendly map. Still, highly recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Worlds: Calcarata
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Stargates
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/13/2019 13:17:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I was a backer of the Legendary Planet AP, but had no hand in the creation of this additional supplement, nor any other stake in it. I’m reviewing the Pathfinder-version, since that was the original system that Legendary Planet was designed for.

All right, so, Stargates, a crucial component of the Legendary Planet sword-and-planet setting, but similarly relevant for regular fantasy, for science-fiction, etc. – this pdf is about them. The introduction notes how the Ancients created them, but then does something helpful I personally enjoyed rather much – it talks about the theory behind Stargates, which is here represented by a base axiom – namely that energy can flow in a linear and non-linear manner. Energy traveling in straight lines, connecting points, would be considered to be part of the Weave, and while it is reliable, it only allows for relatively short-range transport. The Warp, on the other hand, is tapped into by non-linear energies: Stargates bend, ripple and fold energy, allowing for the crossing of the vast universe. The points in the warp, where an energy disparity is created, where surplus or deficit is created, can generate stargates. Transport is usually unidirectional, and manipulation of these gates requires more than just power and a set of coordinates, and as per the writing of the pdf, switching destinations is within the providence of the divine.

These basics out of the way, we take a look at gates in Legendary Planet: While they may differ greatly in aesthetics, they have a couple of common elements: They at least have to accommodate Large creatures, are almost exclusively found where humanoids once dwelled or still dwell (traderoute logic, obviously), and they may have singular or multiple connection points. Gates are circular, though they may be half-buried, round or oval, etc., and they operate in sync with the orbit of the world they’re on. They are treated as minor artifacts, making them nigh-indestructible, and while there is a way to sabotage them, it is a closely guarded secret privy only to the Bellianic Accord. Some gates are always on, some only activate at certain times, some are two-way, some one-way, some may be ignited by energy to stabilize them, etc.

After a couple of further angles for their flair, we begin with the creating a stargate-section: A stargate’s CR is equal to 1 + the sum of its modifiers. Weave stargates add +1, warp stargates +4; the longer the range, the higher the modifier: Solar gates get +0, planar ones +1, galactic gates +2, intergalactic ones +2, same as temporal ones, and intergalactic ones +3. Directions modify this, as does size, activation and the condition of the stargate: Extensive degradation makes activation harder, obviously. And yes, you read right – you can gate through time as well as space. All of these noted components not only are noted in a handy table, the respective entries also concisely codify them and explain the respective entries. Passing through a stargate may have complications – loss of memory regarding the world just left, limited number of passengers (awesome for PCs or BBEGs to escape!), etc. – a whole array of such special effects are available for customization of the gates. Of course, the individual manifestation also comes with a variety of cool effects – cacophonies, pure silence, modified gravitation, smells, etc. – cool!

Stargates may suffer malfunctions 1% base chance, though tables include further modifications for failure depending on degeneration, distance traveled, etc. – and yep, there is a table with 17 different sample malfunction effects included in the deal. From arcane backlash to mutations (10-entry subtable) to more, there, are some cool ones here. As a purely aesthetic nitpick, a couple of them do not have their header properly bolded. Odd: Something has SERIOUSLY gone wrong in the sample malfunction rules. The arcane backlash, for example, notes that arcane spellcasters are drained a certain amount of spells, but never specifies how many, and references “energy drain points”, which never are classified or properly explained. This does not work as written. The rules here also suddenly reference power score points for stargates, which are simply not there – not explained, don’t seem to exist. This, alas, compromises quite a few of the malfunctions.

Now, I already touched upon keyed stargates – the supplement differentiates between conditional keys, power keys and patron keys that can activate partially disabled stargates. Key subtypes are codified, including arcane, cosmic, psychic or technologic keys, to note a few, and the pdf provides rules for gate crashing keyed gates. The pdf also includes a total of 6 sample stargates that range in CR from 4 – 17, noting a kind of stargate statblock that lists all their components, a description and some flavorful text: From the twin pillars of Qa to the huge Pendulums, these are interesting.

The pdf includes two feats: Stargate Lore lets you use Knowledge (planes) to determine the details of a stargate, though e.g. divine gates may require Knowledge (religion) with this – the relevant skill for a stargate is the stargate lore skill. Gatecrasher, the second feat here, lets you use that skill to attempt to activate a locked stargate sans patron key. Beyond these, the pdf includes 4 spells that take the occult adventure classes into account: The 4th level massive-range detect stargate 4th level spell does what it says on the tin; divine destination, a 3rd level spell, grants limited information about the stargates’ destination. There also are the power stargates and greater power stargates spells that clock in at 4th and 6th level, respectively, with their effects evident from the title. The latter can be used to power dormant stargates. And no, neither mention afore noted nebulous power-mechanics. The pdf closes with 4 special abilities that may be used as replacement special abilities – while it is noted that they have mostly story purposes, all but one of them, which aligns a stargate with a patron or philosophy, the respective effects have actually been codified in a proper manner. As an aside: Personally, I think these would make for good roleplaying rewards.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a rules-language level – generally, it’s very good, but the malfunction-section totally falls apart, and there are components that are less precise; on a formal level I noticed a few minor glitches. Layout adheres to the beautiful two-column full-column standard of the Legendary Planet books. The pdf sports beautiful full-color artworks, some of which will be familiar to Legendary Games fans. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Tim Hitchcock, with additional design by Jason Nelson and Neil Spicer, delivers a handy little booklet that helps thinking about stargates as more than a wobbly blue energy through which SG 1 stumbles to the planet of the week; the theory behind the gates does not devolve into technobabble and does its job – explain a plausible basic functionality, without forcing GMs to subscribe to some underlying principle of physics or arcane theory. In fact, I really wanted to like this pdf, and for the most part, I do love it. However, the matter of fact remains that the whole malfunction section falls flat on its face; to me, it looks like it has been taken from another version of the system, from another iteration/take on the concept, and simply doesn’t work as intended. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stargates
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Legendary Planet: To Worlds Unknown (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/11/2019 07:33:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first „proper“ installment (if you do not count the optional introduction adventure „The Assimilation Strain“ clocks in at 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC,2 pages of introduction, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content. HOWEVER, this is not all – the module also comes with a pretty darn massive art and map booklet that offers 27 (!!) pages of handout-ready artworks AND full-color maps. Oh, and suffice to say, the full-color maps do come with player-friendly, keyless iterations – kudos!

This adventure is intended for 2nd level characters, Medium advancement track, and they’ll be 5th level by the end of the adventure – if they haven’t been squashed, that is. Legendary Planet is a sword and planet AP intended for the discerning PFRPG-connoisseur, and as such, the difficulty is nothing to sneeze at. The module is not unfair, mind you, but it is an adventure that the PCs will not cakewalk through.

I actually was a backer of this massive AP back in the day, and while since then, SFRPG and 5e conversions have been made available, my reviews of the AP will be based on the PFRPG-iteration, since that was the original system this was intended for. Structurally, this will be very familiar to anyone who has ever seen an AP: The module takes up the main meat of the pdf, and after that, we have supplemental material, save that there is more. Yep, much like the amazing art & map folio (which should be industry standard), we get quite a bit more – Sean K. Reynolds, for example, has penned a whole planar pantheon write-up (with each deity getting their own symbol), Chris A. Jackson providing a bit of prose, and a pretty massive gazetteer that deals with Argosa, a hub-world of sorts, including Zel-Argose the gateway city. The module also includes 5 new exotic weapons and 5 magic items – 3 of which do get their own full-color artwork. These include projection periapts, essentially two-way mago-holographic communicators, a harness that reduces gravity for the wearer and a vine that enhances natural healing. Sword and planet vibes are hard to nail down, but this delivers.

Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

The bestiary section includes the playable bhagra dogfolk, who receive +2 Charisma and Strength, are Medium, get a 1d6 primary natural weapon bite, low-light vision, and a bonus teamwork feat. Beyond these, we have the peaceful CR 4 Elali, psychic shepherds of the Accord, and the jagladine – which are a serious threat. Think of these fellows as particularly nasty, smarter thri-kreen that can absorb diseases and poisons and excrete a liquefied version of the poison or disease. They also have created the Klaven-species, deadly shocktroops with an inherent, nanite-based status. They are essentially a conversion tool that bestows powers, but also quasi-undead characteristics on the target, and as such are represented by 2 statblocks (one for a foot-soldier, and one for a wolf-based war-beast) and a template.

Okay, so far so good, so what about the adventure? Well, we start off in medias res (as a linguistic aside – English “in the middle of things”, commonly expressed by “in media(s) res” as an idiom, unless my Latin deserts me, would actually be closer to “in medium rerum”), with the PCa awakening from a fugue state as abductees housed in an alien prison on the planet of Garsilt – not that they’d know that now. The vicious Jagladine have abducted the PCs to extracting special information encoded in the PCs’ genes. Good news here –a rogue meteorite contaminated with akata has smashed into the facility. The PCs thus awaken into chaos, as the prison riot-like release of them and others throw them right into an ongoing fray – the PCs will have to contend with the dog-like bhagra before recovering their gear. Of course, there will be an issue regarding communication – but this is circumvented in a smart manner without handwaving, with a friendly aasimar called Andretta offering her translation services.

Speaking of trouble-shooting – monster identification and means to handle it are also talked about, as the PCs try to best the deadly Klavek. The custom monsters and NPC guidelines certainly go above what we usually see in Paizo APs, with plenty of custom creatures – like a melancholic ooze swarm, mindslave mimics, and the like. The module also allows for more social problem-solving, in spite of its action focus – there is e.g. a comozant wyrd the PCs can ally with, and ultimately, the PC’s goal will become clear – reach the stargate, and escape the facility. A task that is btw. made easier if the PCs befriend the little robot BR-N3R. The whole action is intended to be pretty relentless, and the section offers several timed events – with a touch of horror, we have a tauslek matriarch as a first “boss”-like encounter; facility power will be compromised, with aforementioned wyrd as a unique ally that fills the PCs in on the chance of their imminent demise by being struck by meteorites – and in the end, the true boss? A frickin Klaven inquisitor! This boss fight is brutal at this point, and the PCs should be able to finally escape by the skin of their teeth.

The transition through the semi-malfunctioning artifact-level Stargate here will double as the justification for mythic ascension, granting the first tier – and it is assumed that the PCs gain the Morphic Nature feat that automatically adapts the players to the local environment of a planet – this does not allow them to exist in vacuum, but it gets rid of one crucial issue that the genre would otherwise face. The PCs will exit the gate in a fully-mapped lost temple, and also hear, for the first time in a while, the Common tongue. The PCs thus encounter friendly faces – individuals press-ganged into helping the Jagladine , who are seeking a way out of their deal with the Jagladine and their Klaven. The module thus changes gears from a pretty tech-themed dungeon to one that feels more relaxed, more classic fantasy – and after this one, the PCs are off to aforementioned city of Zel-Argose, faced with the vast amount of wonder the setting offers.

The city features guilds, water treatment plants, battle pits – and here, the so far linear story allows the PCs to bask in the wonder that is so central to the sword and planet genre: The PCs can fight in the arena, attempt to find the jagladine prison commander Lomrick, get involved in the city’s politics…and ultimately, Lomrick’s trail will lead them to a seedy (and dangerous) cantina…which can be rather challenging. Their target’s mansion, though, will be an even greater challenge – including a cerebric fungus sorcerer ally of their former jailer, and the means to save one of the elali Relstanna and defeat Lomrick – Relstanna also tells the PCs that Lomrick was a member of the Scions of the Celestial Helix, a sect of fanatics seeking to return an elder evil to the multiverse…it seems like the heroes have their work cut out for them!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant 2-column full-color standard, with a LOT of text per page. The module is also decadent in its massive amount of original, top-notch artwork and full-color cartography. The map-support is excellent – full-blown, detailed full-color maps, with player-friendly versions included? Heck yeah! The module is fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks making navigation simple and painless. The art and map folio is superb and should be industry standard.

Jim Groves penned this adventure, with Thurston Hillman, Jeff Lee, Jonathan H. Keith and Andrew Christian, Sean K. Reynolds and Chris A. Jackson providing additional design and content – and this is genuinely one of my favorite modules from the author’s pen. Jim has managed to deliver a consistently-challenging, exciting action romp that does not let up; the first section of the module is challenging, brutal and simply amazing in how its timed encounters can help you add up the tension and maintain high pressure. After that, the change of pace to a more free-form and relaxed adventuring is very much perfect, as it allows the weirdness of the PC’s situation, the “fish out of water”-angle, to fully develop. Now, it is pretty important that the GM reads the gazetteer to make this section work, but f properly executed, it will elicit a sense of wonder reminiscent of the Outcast videogame, John Carter, etc. – in short, pitch-perfect sword and planet. Add to that the neat set-ups for the remainder of the campaign, the rather detailed notes for the NPCs, the creative builds and the well-tuned difficulty-curve, and we have a pitch-perfect starting point for the main part of the Legendary Planet AP. This is a thoroughly superb adventure, and I’m glad I waited for the AP to conclude, because I seriously would hate to wait for a continuation of this unique yarn. If you even remotely like Stargate, Flash Gordon and the good ole’ classics, check this out! 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: To Worlds Unknown (Pathfinder)
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Ancient Tombs (SWADE)
by Kristian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/04/2019 14:40:03

One of my favorite archetypes to play is the dungeon-delving adventurer, be it in a fantasy setting, a pulp-style adventure, or both (e.g., Eberron). This is a fairly resourceful product. My favorite section within it is "Tomb Hazards" with "Idols" as a close second. I thought the Mechanical Genius Edge was a nice touch, too. My next dungeon delver will definitely take that.

My only complaints are with the page backgrounds and the PDF bookmarks. The page backgrounds are a bit busy and make the text somewhat difficult to read. There are no layers that can be toggled off either. The PDF bookmarks aren't complete, and those that are there don't link to the appropriate sections of the PDF.

I also have one quibble (not a complaint, honestly) with the About Legendary Games text in the credits page. It refers to the reader as a Paizo fan, but given the context of this being a Savage Worlds product, that might or might not be the case. It just seemed a little presumptuous given the target audience. Not a big deal, but something for the authors to think about.

One final note: please be conscientious of "racist" fonts. There's a great Twitter thread that discusses this concept.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Tombs (SWADE)
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Star Battles
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/28/2019 06:14:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for Star Empires clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

In many ways, this supplement is the all but mandatory expansion to the Star Empires-system, as we this time around take a close look at space combat, so yeah, Star Empires is very much required.

We begin the supplement with 3 new themes – the commander (Charisma +1), the Dog-Fighter (Dexterity +1) and the Jury-Rigger (Intelligence +1); minor nitpick: Resolve Points and Skills are capitalized in SFRPG, and not all of the theme abilities do that consistently correctly; in fact, there are a whole lot of instances throughout the book where skills etc. are not properly formatted. I’ll be calling out a few of those to give you an idea, but not all of them. That being said, there are quite a few remarkable tricks here – 12th level commanders being able to change command boons? That’s quite a potent (and cool) thing; that being said, Master Dog-Fighter’s level 18 ability, for example, is overpowered and exploitable: After you serve as pilot or gunner, you recover 1 Resolve Point. No cap. This is in so far puzzling, as Starfinder has the significant foe-mechanic, and imposes a hard cap on a similar theme ability, namely the master pilot’s level 18 theme ability; and the other theme abilities do not suffer from this – master jury-rigger, the level 18 theme ability, actually has such a proper cap in place, for example.

The pdf then proceeds to present 7 new feats: Arcing Shot is ridiculously strong, as it lets you be treated as standing in an adjacent square or hex for the purpose of determining line of effect for ranged attacks or gunnery checks. The feat ahs no prerequisites, when it clearly should at least have Mobility and an alternate feat as prerequisites – you add 9 squares/hexes to where you can fire from, and can do so as soon as first level. Thankfully, this broken feat remains the exception – the others include options to attempt to teleport into starships, enhancers for the combat engine, the means to substitute BAB for skills in ship combat, better bypassing of hardness, and the option to spend a Resolve Point (not capitalized properly) in starship combat to take 10. So yeah, apart from Arcing Shot, which needs to be seriously nerfed or burned to the ground, the feats are cool and meaningful.

Next up are 7 new spells, two of which are mass versions of spells; these do take the (imho problematic) Starfarer’s Companion’s classes by Rogue Genius Games into account, should you be using that book; the spells are technomancer and Starfarer classes only, so no new material for mystics. (Odd, considering that a couple of the spells are on e.g. the cleric spell list.) Anyhow, we have a couple of rather interesting ones – conjure starship pulls together a tier ¼ starship sans weapons, and requires a Resolve Point; minor nitpick: Starfinder formats the means to cast spells at higher levels different than what it displayed here: The spell can be cast at +3 spell levels for a better starship. Disrupt function and its mass version allow you to glitch and malfunction starship systems with a caster level check opposed by the ship’s TL; pretty potent, but held in check by the necessity to expend a Resolve Point. Enhance ship is pretty awesome, as it nets temporary build points for 1 minute/level; for 5 Resolve Points, high-level technomancers can even completely reshape ships in an 8-hour ceremony – cool! Finally, there would be restrain vessel and its mass version, with a proper Piloting check to break free. These spells add some serious fantasy into the science-fantasy, and as a whole, I found myself enjoying them very much, in spite of the minor formatting hiccups.

The book then presents 8 new starship stunts, which include rules for planetary re-entry. There also are proper ramming rules, as well as clinging, escaping and propelling the vessels – essentially a means to grapple with ships, and e.g. Stern Drifts and thruster backwash? Cool! Bouncing off of shields of other ships is also iconic, but to nitpick, the DC notes “DC 20 + 1.5 the ship’s tier” – the piloted ship, or the once you bounce off of? I assume the former, but this is still ambiguous semantics. Cool: The book also introduces the invoker starship role, a role I very much enjoyed seeing – it adds some tactical depth and makes sense. Kudos for this one.

Okay, this out of the way, let us take a look at squad ship combat. This assumes, generally, one ship per character. The book suggests removing the -2 penalty for Snap Shots in the context of squad combat, and the engine introduced the hack job minor crew action. (Minor nitpick once more – it’s minor crew action, not minor action.)

The book then introduces 5 mks of ablative armor – which is essentially a form of DR that applies versus kinetic and energy attacks, but which degrades with every hit, and armor hardened versus radiation? Makes sense. I very much liked these! The book then introduces damage control systems, which includes damage repair bots (DRBs) and automated damage control system (ADCS), both once more in 5 mk-ratings, with essentially virtual Engineering ranks. These made sense to me, and speaking of which: Decoy and Ghost drones, the latter of which mimic essentially a phantom signal of a ship? Yeah, I smiled a big smile here! 7 expansion bays are provided, and include cryosleep chamber, dimensional lockdowns, teleportation bays, etc. Weapon expansion bears close watching: It lets you install a weapon of one size category larger than normal, and costs just 2 BP: This means that the expansion allows smaller ships to feature bigger guns, which outclass all comparable other weaponry of the other categories. An upgrade from a light particle beam (10 PCU, 10 BP) to a heavy laser cannon (10 PCU, 8 BP, +2 BP for weapon mount) would increase your damage output from 3d6 to 4d8 – for NO INCREASED COST in BP or PCU. You don’t have to be a numbers wizard to notice that this is problematic. Yes, it costs an expansion bay, but it provides massive combat-related benefits for that. This needed playtesting and nerfing, this needed to have higher costs. Compare that to the other options, like boarding passages, planar travel lockdowns etc. – those are primarily acting to narrative tools. Though it should be noted that the dimensional lockdown should imho have a caveat that allows for caster level checks or the like to bypass them, but one can argue that the 2-hex range of the lockdown makes for a sufficient limitation there.

On the other side, e.g. having essentially a transformer ship? Heck YES!! Speaking of “heck yeah” – external aides with localized gravity outside and the like? Yes, I love those! We also get three new hulls, and the (multibody) hull descriptor, which denotes a group of ships of Small or Tiny size, somewhat akin to a starship swarm. There also are rules for regenerative hulls, with the BP cost ranging from 1 x size category (1 Hull Point, not properly capitalized in the book) to 7 x size category for 5 Hull Points per round. This occurs at the start of the engineering phase. I do not think that these should have no PCU costs. They should. Particularly since Hull Points generally tend to be harder to replenish. And yes, it does note that it best works for organic starships, but yeah – I’d seriously restrict that to GM ships only.

On the security side, we have cloaking fields, dimensional and divinatory shielding, exterior antipersonnel weapons, and the like – the cloaking field’s high BP costs here are chosen well – you won’t be doing stealthy reconnaissance with heavily arm(or)ed ships. Star Trek-ish means to use dimensional analytics to enable crew to teleport on board of target or locked on ships is nice, and its increased costs mean that they do not invalidate e.g. boarding passages. Still, chances are that you probably will favor one of these two options, and disallow the other – it’s different aesthetics. Cool: We also get terrain adaptations.

The weapon section includes Star Crash (I need to watch that classic again!) like boarding pods, jammer rockets and observer missiles? Interesting: Marker cannons and frickin’ ORBITAL WEAPONS and an array of super deadly ramming weapons! Yeah, there are some gems here. And yes, there are plenty of starship weapon-rules, such as contagious weaponry. Unfortunately, there are instances here where the author makes some errors in rules terminology that can be rather confusing: For example, the celestial quality mentions “radiant energy damage”, which does not exist in Starfinder. Granted, the pdf makes this behave as irradiate versus evil outsiders and undead, but it also notes that it’s penetrating shielding and hulls, which makes rules-interaction weird. More confusing, there is a radiant special property (see SF #7), so this is not only the wrong terminology and non-existent damage type, it also confuses what “radiant” means in established SFRPG rules parlance. Draining weapons are also exceedingly potent, and interesting, if the hit and deal at least 1 Hull Point damage, they cost a ship hit 10% of its PCU output until the next engineering phase, stacking up to 50% - but here, I can see the interesting angle the weapons’ power adds to the game: It provides a reason to NOT try to get most out of your PCU. As per SFRPG’s core book, components not powered renders systems inactive, so yeah, like this. The starship weapon upgrades are interesting for the most part, though the long-range weapon modification (2 PCU, 1 BP) is a bit underpriced.

Okay, so next up, we have rules for dealing with characters battling starships – and vice versa. And yes, you won’t be soloing starships a lot. They are super deadly for tiny little characters, and the rules represent that – including appreciated notes that such scenarios need to handled with care. Two thumbs up here! Same goes for the starship-scale monsters (with e.g. world-eaters and miasma kraken included); we also get an adaptation of the troop, depicted as a graft. Artillery bracer rules are also provided alongside ones for planetary shielding. Did I mention rocket fists for powered armor?

Alrighty, and now it’s time to take a look at the mass combat rules! We not only get a brief errata for Star Empires, we also have army equipment and starship rules for mass combat! Starships are organized in fleets, with a CR of 10 + tier, rounded down, minimum 10, and a properly defined array on inherent abilities that all starships have, including weaknesses. The integration of ships in the system is surprisingly simple, smooth and elegant. The book also presents some ideas for multi-layer mass combat and more than 10 new tactics to teach to fleet and armies, and as briefly mentioned previously, we do have command boons herein as well, with a couple of them being very strong: Using RV instead of MV, for example? That’s a very potent boon when compared to a +2 MV or RV versus armies that suffer a penalty to DV. A couple of immunity special abilities are provided as well.

Much to my joy, siege weapon rules have also been included here, and while we’re at it: The simulationalist in me cheered big time for acceleration movement rules, as they make simply more sense to me – plus, they’re easy to implement, and add tactical depth! The book also provides alternatives to Profession for the purpose of mass combat, with two pages helpful starship DC-action tables in two difficulty levels makes for nice options here. Easier and more lethal modifications to the engine are provided as well, and from scaled ship combat to simplified mass combat, there are more options here that I really enjoyed seeing.

Speaking of which: Don’t have the time and/or inclination to stat a ton of armies and fleets? Fret not, for the book closes on a high note, with 19 sample builds, ranging from ACR 8 to 30.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a rules-language-level is as precise as we’d expect; on a formal level, the pdf is more rushed than what we expect from legendary Games, with quite a few formatting deviations. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a blend of old and new full-color artworks. The pdf version includes plenty of nested bookmarks, making navigation simple and convenient.

This book by Matt Daley, Mark Hart and Jason Nelson was an odd duck for me: It’s on the one hand the work of obviously very talented designers, and features not one, but several rules and option that had me smiling from ear to ear; and when it operates within its closed system of mass combat, it operates very well; the use of starships in regular scale etc. is another big plus, and as a whole, there are plenty of things herein that I’ll be using time and again. This book features components with top ten candidate level of coolness, and more than once. This has lots of truly inspired, top-tier material inside.

However, on the other hand, the book also feels rushed in a few ways – from formatting not being as precise to more serious strikes against it: There are several rules-components that are easy to cheese, overpowered, and/or obviously should have seen some thorough playtesting to iron off the rough patches – and I mean seriously “rough” – the book doesn’t falter a lot, but when it does, it does so in a way that is noticeable on a rules and balance level. In a way, this could have easily been an EZG Essentials-must-have-level book, but in its current iteration, I can’t recommend it as universally as I’d very much like to.

To make this abundantly clear: This is a book, chock-full with things to love; but it’s also a book that needs some very careful scrutiny by the GM, for there are options herein that will unbalance the game if introduced as written. It is the accumulation of these flaws that deprives this book of the accolades I would have heaped upon it otherwise. My final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Battles
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Star Intrigue
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2019 12:18:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Starfinder clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in ym reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

So, this book builds on the “kingdom”-building style engine presented in Star Empires – it is, in a way, the Ultimate Intrigue to Star Empires’ Ultimate Campaign, to draw some PFRPG-analogues. As such, I assume familiarity with Star Empires in this review.

In more details: We begin with rules for factions: Factions have an alignment, with Lawful factions gaining +2 to resources, Chaotic factions gaining +2 to power; Good factions get +2 to reputations, Evil ones get +2 to power; Neutral factions get +1 to both resources and reputation. Now, as you all know by now, I am NOT a fan of alignment – and this pdf does oblige, which is a big plus: Instead of using the simplistic alignment angle, Ethos can be used: A table with traits, bonuses and opposing traits is provided, allowing for more nuanced gameplay – love this!

A given nation may have any number of factions, but if the combined size of all factions exceeds 10 times the nation size, it does get Unrest +1 during the Upkeep phase, representing a splintering of identity – and providing, obviously, a justification to eliminate factions… Not every type of faction will be represented in a nation, but all nations should have a Civil faction representing the citizens, a judicial one to represent the rulers. Factions have a goal, obviously.

The term “operation” is used to denote a task a faction can choose during the faction turn. Factions have 3 types of “ability modifier” analogues – power, reputation, and resources. Size denotes, well, size – one point represents approximately 25 individuals; this is an arbitrary number, though – you could easily use e.g. 1000 as a number instead to track massive factions, but you need to make sure that factions all use the same scale. Factions receive a modifier to faction checks equal to 1/10th of the faction’s size, rounded down. Tension is somewhat akin to a faction’s Unrest – it denotes a penalty that is applied to all faction checks – 1 for every 10 tension points the faction has. If tension reduces a faction modifier below zero, the faction splinters. Certain types of operations and things happening can increase or decrease tension.

A faction’s wealth is measured in Wealth Points (WP), with 10 WP roughly approximating 1 BP. Here are a couple of observations – the supplement, oddly, refers to credits by the opaque “cp”-term, which is confusing; the book should refer to credits, or at least properly explain that. Secondly, I’m pretty positive that something is very wrong in the conversion rates from WP to BP to credits. A WP here is noted to only be worth 400 credits, which is RIDICULOUS. It becomes even worse when using this and extrapolating the conversion to Star Empires sizes, as that leaves you with an empire’s starting budget clocking in at less costs than many high-level weapons. Something went horribly wrong here, and since the latter sub-chapters reference, multiple times, how characters can purchase WP, this glitch remains persistent and compromises a core component of the engine. There was a reason for there NOT being such a conversion rate in Star Empires. After some cursory math, I’d recommend making a WP cost AT LEAST 4,000 credits; if you’re like me and like round numbers, 5,000. Just my two cents.

A faction begins with 10 WP and a size of 0; infrastructure will increase the size, and factions of size 1+ can launch operations, earn income and increase its size. If a faction is reduced to size 0, it can only undergo the recruitment operation.

Faction checks are rolled by using a d20 and adding the relevant faction’s attribute, with default DC being 15; 1s are automatic failures, 20s automatic successes, and factions may not take 10 or 20 on faction checks. The pdf presents a total of 10 faction types, ranging from trade to military, and also presents brief guidelines for the GM to build new types of factions. The type determined, we have to think about secrecy states – factions can be open, covert, or disguised.

As noted before, factions can have one or more goals – these may be public or secret, and consist of an Aim, a Scale, and a Subject. The Aim is classified in 4 rough categories: Control, Boost, Reduce and Eliminate. There are 6 different scales to consider, from individual to international, and all of them as well as public/secret goals influence the DC of the faction check, as a handy table summarizes.

Faction turns happen during the nation turn sequence, after the Edict phase, and the results of the faction turn come into place before the Income phase. The sequence in which the factions act in a turn is determined by a Power-check as a kind of initiative, acting in reverse order. In the instance of a tie, the smaller faction goes first.

The faction turn begins with the Upkeep Phase: If tension reduced an attribute below zero, the faction has to check for splintering; after that, the faction pays its size in WP as upkeep costs; after that, wealth is added first by characters (here, the credit-conversion-issue once again rears its ugly head), then by Resources checks. After this, Operations phase begins: The faction size determines the maximum number of contiguous faction operations a faction can undertake at once. Launching an operation costs the operation’s cost. Operations are classified in two types – only one type of active operation may be performed in a given turn, but maintenance operations may be performed more often. A total of 16 such operations are presented.

Just like they can influence the course of nations, so can they interact with individuals – their relation to individuals can be easily tracked with 5 positive and negative ranks, all of which have their own name and explanation provided. – having a positive rank of 5 means you’re in control of the faction, having a negative rank of 5 means that you’re anathema. Gaining and loss of influence points are presented in a concise and easy to grasp manner, and, as you could probably glean, there is a more fine-grained way to describe interactions with factions – namely influence points. Thresholds for ranks are provided, and in a rather cool way, faction size once again comes into play, with larger factions making rising to the top progressively harder.

Factions can grant favors, which the PCs may cash in – borrowed resources, gathering information, etc. 30 such favors are presented, and some of them get their own table that differentiates between influence ranks and the extent of the favor. To illustrate this issue, and how the credit-formula imho yields persistently odd results: Borrow Resources, for example nets you resource times 20 credits on rank 1, while rank 5 nets you resources times 5000 credits. For comparison – the largest sample faction herein is a megacorp with a size of 467, which would yield the equivalent of 9340 credits borrowed at rank 1, while someone with a rank of 5 (which means “in control” of the faction), could borrow “only” 2,335,000 credits – a vast sum, sure, but for the CEOs of a megacorp? That’s only slightly more than two level 20 armors. Sure, impressive, and maybe I’m too strongly influenced by Shadowrun, but that’s still not a sum that impresses me, particularly considering that the resources are borrowed. In PFRPG, this would have been a very impressive sum indeed; in SFRPG? Less so. You can’t even outfit a whole high-level party with state of the art armor. The command team a rank 5 fellow can send out? It’s CR 10. All in all, these don’t feel right to me; further delineation and a finer differentiation between ranks, with higher ranks/benefits for larger factions would have been prudent here.

The same, partially, hold true for the hazards, i.e. the negative things a faction can do to the PCs and instigate to hamper them, but, courtesy to the more narrative focus here, it struck me as a slightly lesser issue. The pdf then proceeds to go through the process of creating factions for existing nations, and features a couple of sample factions for your convenience. I usually do not comment on artwork and the like, since I’m more interested in the actual content, but here, I feel obliged to do so: The pdf sports two artworks prominently displaying a red flag, with a white circle inside; in the white circle, printed in black, the black sun rune can be seen. One is a propaganda poster reading “Pure of thought, pure of purpose, pure of race.” In case you didn’t know: The black sun (Schwarze Sonne) is a design based on the sun wheel (Sonnenrad), and first occurred during Nazi Germany; SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler (one particularly loathsome bastard, even for a Nazi) gave the order to have the symbol laid inside the Wewelsburg; it literally consists of twelve radially-aligned and mirrored victory runes (Siegrunen – the notorious “S”s), or 3 superimposed swastikas. These symbols are LITERALLY used as a replacement sign of recognition for Nazis in places, like Germany, where the use of a swastika is prohibited by law, as well as by the right-wing, racist esoteric underground. So yeah, if you see someone walking around with a schwarze Sonne, then there is a very high chance they’re frickin’ Nazi pricks. And they are the artworks chosen for sample factions, without any context. sigh Now, I know that Legendary Games takes a decidedly anti-fascist stance; heck, they even have a module for that purpose, and I assume that the artworks were taken from that module. However, I still consider the artwork’s inclusion sans context here tasteless or at least, tone-deaf– as a person, I do think that the depiction of Nazis as one-dimensional villains detracts from the true horror they wrought (and I’ve explained as much in a very detailed and long essay on my homepage), and these pictures would have made me without the context of knowing Legendary Games, put down the book to never touch it again. These symbols and slogans are depicted without any context whatsoever. So yeah, I know that no ill intent was at the root of the use of these artworks here, and Legendary Games is beyond reproach when it comes to their politics, but for me as a person, this was still puzzling. Note that this will NOT influence my final verdict, but it’s important enough to me as a person to explicitly point it out.

The second part of the book provides the SFRPG version of verbal duels: Getting to know an audience bias is a DC 15 Sense Motive check, which seems low to me; considering how skills balloon, this fixed DC, while subject to optional GM modification, seems low. Anyhow, seeding the audience is handled better, with a DC scaling by CR and a more pronounced manner – 1.5 times CR +15-20 is suggested as the top, which seems more feasible to me. This also allows for the seeding of edges, which may be used to reroll checks. A duelist has a Determination that consists of the highest mental ability score + total level or CR. Cool: Roleplaying has a serious influence here, with multipliers or divisors added to Determination depending on social advantage or disadvantage. Like it! Using the last tactic or repetitive tactics imposes a penalty on the associated skill check. A verbal duel consists of verbal exchanges.

At the start of an exchange, a duelist chooses a tactic for an opening, makes the associated skill check, and increases the ante for the exchange by 1. The current DC for the exchange is set to the result of the skill check. The opponent can choose to end the exchange, or increase the ante by 1, choose a tactic and roll the skill check. If it exceeds the previously set DC, then the argument continues and goes back to the instigator; if not, the exchange is lost, and the ante is deducted from the Determination score. Choosing to end the exchange nets the opponent one edge instead. 10 different tactics are provided with individual rules – it is here that tactical depth enters the fray. Personally, I think it’d have made sense to have an option to up the ante to speed up verbal duels. More circumstantial modifiers would have been nice as well, as Starfinder has greatly streamlined skills by CR in comparison with Pathfinder. Multidirectional and team duels are also touched upon, but as a whole, I think the engine could have used a bit more meat on its bones.

The pdf then proceeds to present rules for personal brands: A public personal brand has 6 facets ranked from 0 to 10; these are Charm, Genius, Heroism, Altruism, Acumen, Guile. These ranks may be used in place of the key ability modifier for the position’s associated ability score in related checks. Considering that the default NPC rules assume that +10 in an ability score is assigned to ~CR 16, this generally checks out regarding in-game logic. As you could glean from the conspicuous amount of facets, you determine starting ranks by checking your ability score – a value of 14 or higher nets you a rank in a facet, and appropriate behavior may net you more, depending on the GM’s decision. Each of the facets also has three skills assigned to them. The system for brands assumes a Trending Phase as an abstract turn, in which the characters leverage and build their reputation; in the context of Star Empires, this should happen once per nation turn; otherwise, there should be about 4 such phases per level. At the start of each such phase, PCs can determine one of two actions – developing the brand, or launching an engagement. Developing a brand is done as follows: Select a facet to improve, roll an associated skill check; on a success, increase the rank in the facet by 1. The DC is pretty low – 15 + twice the rank the PC is trying to achieve. This makes the maximum DC 35 – high, sure, but also an assured victory starting at the higher middle level-range. I kinda wished the system scaled better.

Anyhow, a personal brand nets the PCs twice the starting number of facet ranks as agents; these can be directed to undertake engagements. At higher facet ranks, admirers, skill bonuses and the like enter the fray, and more complex engagements may be undertaken. Rank 5 nets an accomplice – basically a cohort-style henchman at CR-2. Engagements are classified in three groups: Basic engagements are unlocked at rank 2, intermediate engagements at rank 6, and advanced engagements at rank 9. Engagements have fixed DCs and success is determined by rolling a d20 and adding the number of agents tasked with it, up to a maximum of the respective facet’s rank. Natural 1s are always failures, natural 20s always a success. A PC may have one persistent engagement in effect (DC 17), and some are risky – the latter can result in agent loss. All engagements are associated with one or more facets. All in all, I liked this system.

The final page of the pdf presents 4 new feats: Adept Leader treats your ability score to affect an empire’s attribute as two higher and nets a bonus to Stability. Center of Power is cool, in that it lets you use your personal brand accomplice to survey an infrastructure, which provides serious benefits. Effective Operator grants your faction once per faction turn a bonus equal to one of your mental ability score modifiers. Fortunate Leader lets you reroll during the event phase on the empire or colony table and choose the result. The decision to roll twice must be made beforehand, though.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules language level, the book is not bad in any way, but there are a couple of instances where I couldn’t help but feel that the math could have used a few adjustments. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features, for the most part rather nice full-color artworks that fans of Legendary Games will be partially familiar with – and, as noted above, some unfortunately placed pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Hmmm. Matt Daley and Ben Walklate’s Star Intrigue was a book I all but had pegged for a top ten candidate; I liked the direction Star Empires was taking, and when I realized that this book would have faction rules, I was ecstatic.

Plus, I really enjoy social combat engines in my games. By all accounts, this book should have won me over without even trying. However, quite the opposite happened. Star intrigue is a good book, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not even close to the homerun I hoped it’d be. The credit to WP/BP conversion issue throws a wrench in the entire system’s integrity. The verbal duels and personal brand components are damn cool in concept, but remain pretty small aspects, like afterthoughts, when they deserved more room to shine. The factions completely disregard interaction with star ships (star ships feature in Star Battles), which makes the faction rules feel incomplete. The benefits for high influence ranks also feel a bit low for the internal logic of Starfinder’s economy. The verbal duels are per se solid, but also slow, and feel like they, with 10 or so pages more, could have been truly awesome; same goes for the personal brand sub-engine. As an aside: The way in which information is presented is also somewhat less than ideal – this requires close-reading, when a few sidebars summarizing the process, some bolded key-sections and the like would have made this more player-friendly. Personally, I don’t mind that, but since this is a book that players will want to peruse as well, it bears mentioning.

All in all, this is a solid book; it’s not perfect, but it does what it says on the tin rather well. And yet, it left me with the nagging feeling that splitting it “Star Factions” and “Star-dom” or something like that would have benefited the individual systems. This is one of the books that tries to do A LOT, and does it well, but which could have done everything in an excellent manner, had it featured the room required for it. All in all, I consider this to be a good book that left me as a person dissatisfied in several of its finer components, though it should do its job well for most tables, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Intrigue
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Legendary Rogues
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/08/2019 13:30:00

This is my first attempt at a formal review of a roleplaying product. As with any review, my personal biases and preferences of game style will color the review, so it’s probably a good idea to identify these. As a GM, I tend to prefer products that evoke a strong flavor and mechanics which support that flavor. This goes beyond mere mechanics; I like products that offer a leitmotif that extends beyond rules, one which can also suffuse the campaign world in a narrative way. I also get jazzed by products that provide elegant solutions to otherwise complicated or ineffective rules in the Pathfinder RPG. Rules systems which unify disparate concepts into a cohesive whole, which streamline the playing experience for both GMs and players are greatly appreciated by me.

As a player, I greatly prefer customization options and decision points that are built into the product. If it is a new character class, I like having the ability to choose from a selection of options, rather than being shoehorned into a class ability that may or may not fit my character concept. If it is a new rules subsystem, it should expand my ability to create interesting character concepts that effectively execute the concept during play, while not adding a large amount of complexity to the character management process.

Okay, with those caveats out of the way, let’s get on to my reviewed product: Legendary Rogues by Legendary Games.

This product offers us a complete rebuild of the rogue class; it was published in 2015, after Paizo had offered us their rebuild of the rogue in Pathfinder Unchained. Why all this rebuilding of one of the classic tropes of fantasy gaming? Well, the prevailing opinion of the rogue class as originally published in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that it is underpowered with respect to the other 10 base classes in the Core Rulebook. Initial complaints seemed to focus on the rogue’s opportunities to use her iconic sneak attack ability, her sub-par potential to be an effective DPR class, rogue talents being underpowered and subsequent class offerings from Paizo which rendered her skill mastery (another iconic rogue ability) second-rate. Paizo Publishing answered these criticisms with the Unchained Rogue.

The unchained rogue attempted to bring the rogue back into the general power-level of the other base classes. They executed this design goal by introducing skill unlocks (abilities only a rogue could attempt given a specified number of skill ranks), and by granting the Weapon Finesse feat as 1st level bonus feat. This allows rogues to use DEX as their primary combat stat, reducing MAD and making them more effective combatants at early levels. Rogue talents get a few additions, but generally remain about the same.

This is where Legendary Rogues steps in. The book launches with an unfortunate gaffe: It welcomes us to "Legendary Paladins" in the introductory page, which may cause some initial confusion for the reader. This is the only instance of this error, however, and the balance of the book does reference the correct legendary rogue class and product.

The introduction gives us a brief summary of the product, and identifies the key concepts that will be introduced in the book, such as Skill Specialties, Avoidances, and Instincts. It goes on to discuss how many Rogue Talents are redefined to align them better with similar abilities of other core classes. The rogue in combat is mentioned, and then the Legendary Rogue ties all of these concepts into a rebuild of the rogue class.

Skill specialties are addressed first. These are packages of skills (usually 1 skill plus a situational use of a second skill) that grant a scaling untyped bonus equal to ½ the rogue’s class level. Each skill specialty may only be selected once, and bonuses from multiple skill specialties don’t stack (nitpick: untyped bonuses in PF1 stack, so it may have been better to give these bonuses a type such as competence or insight). Athletic agility grants a bonus on Climb checks and Acrobatic checks made to traverse narrow or uneven surfaces. Imperceptible provides a bonus to stealth checks, and increases the miss chance for concealment. I like this one a lot! Information broker gives bonuses to Knowledge (local) checks and Diplomacy checks to Gather Information. There is a total of 14 skill specialties provided, giving the legendary rogue a means of diversifying or specializing while still remaining the best skills-based character class. Well done!

The supplement goes the extra mile by discussing skill unlocks from Pathfinder Unchained next. It discusses ways that skill unlocks can be substituted for skill specialties, or how you can use both systems simultaneously, giving the player a wide variety of ways to achieve skill mastery.

Avoidances are next, which are ways that the legendary rogue can avoid harm. Instead of the core rogue being forced to accept Trap Sense as a linear ability, the legendary rogue can choose an avoidance at 3rd level and every three levels thereafter. Avoidances include such abilities as Defensive Agility which grants a +1 Dodge bonus to AC when the rogue fights defensively or takes the Total Defense action, Elusive Moves which grants a +1 Dodge bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity and a +1 Dodge bonus to CMD to resist a Grapple combat maneuver, Missile Avoidance (+1 Dodge bonus against ranged attacks) and Poison Resistance (bonus to saves against poison, can be taken multiple times). Trap Sense is included in the Avoidances category, but is but one option among eight possible choices.

Instincts are abilities that highlight a legendary rogue’s superb senses and instinctive awareness, modeled upon the Evasion and Uncanny Dodge abilities of the core rogue. The legendary rogue may select an instinct at 2nd and 4th level, and at every four levels thereafter. Options include the familiar Uncanny Dodge and Evasion abilities along with their improved versions, plus Instinctive Awareness (always act in a surprise round, even if unaware of attackers), Leap Aside (rogue can take a 5 foot step as an immediate reaction to an attack or AoE spell; resolution of attack is possibly affected as a result), and Celerity (roll twice for initiative, take preferred result). 10 such instincts are provided.

The next section tackles Rogue Talents as a class ability, and attempts to bring them up to a roughly equivalent power level of other similar class abilities such as a witch’s hexes or a magus’s arcana. Several new rogue talents are listed and existing talents (such as Assault Leader) are upgraded from once per day to once per opponent. This approach makes a lot of sense narratively; after all, why would a rogue only be able to execute a talent (most are extraordinary abilities) once, and then forget how to use them?!? It makes far more sense for a rogue to use the ability on an opponent, who sees the ability and can defend against it once used, but a new opponent has no knowledge of this ability, and is vulnerable to it once as well. Rogue talents are gained at 2nd level and every two levels thereafter, for a total of 10 talents at 20th level. A massive 93 total rogue talents are offered, roughly balanced between re-worked and new talents, providing a wide array of effective options for the legendary rogue to shine.

‘Rogues in combat’ is the next major section of Legendary Rogues. It discusses how the core rogue tends to fall behind other martial classes in combat ability, and behind other ‘skillful’ classes such as the bard and the inquisitor in Saving Throws. It goes on to propose ways to compensate for this deficiency, making the rogue a more effective combatant. These solutions are codified into the Legendary Rogue class, which follows later in the book.

Legendary Rogues posits that without the Sneak Attack class ability, the rogue’s attacks are essentially the same as the NPC expert class, and then enumerates the various ways that Sneak Attack can be nullified in Pathfinder. This section of the book discusses ways to make Sneak Attack more effective and applicable. Most of these solutions are included with the Legendary Rogue class, which immediately follows.

The Legendary Rogue class gets d8 hp, 3/4 BAB progression, good Reflex saves and 8 + Int skill ranks per level. Sneak attack +1d6 is gained at 1st level, and increases by 1d6 every odd level. She gains a broad and deep group of class skills, and is proficient in all simple weapons plus the hand crossbow, longsword, rapier, sap, shortbow, short sword, and sword cane, as well as one of the following weapons: garrote, longbow, whip, or a single light or one-handed martial weapon. They are proficient with light armor and bucklers but not with other shields. Rather than enumerate each class ability (which other reviewers have done with painstaking analysis), I’ll skip this and move on to observations, thoughts and conclusions.

This class offering does something really cool, something that I wish other publishers would pick up on: In addition to the class rebuild, the document offers numerous commentaries and sidebars about design goals and implementation. The reader gets insight not just into how the class is reworked, but also why. We get justification for the design decisions that were made for the class, giving us better insight into why this class is balanced with more current Pathfinder classes, and how it goes about doing so. This is great; I wish more publishers would include such commentary.

I must mention one regret that I have about this product. Files for Hero Labs are not offered (as a rule, Legendary Games does not create Hero Lab content to support its products), which for me creates an additional investment of time. You see, I use Hero Labs character management software exclusively for my Pathfinder games, both as a GM and player. I find it indispensable, given the vast number of variables that can affect a character’s statistics and abilities during play. When I allow a third-party class into one of my campaigns, I insist that it is enabled for use with Hero Labs. Consequently, the Hero Lab files must either be offered by the publisher (as with Kobold Press and Drop Dead Studios), or I must create the file myself. Now, I am not a professional programmer. My job isn’t even programming-adjacent. Learning how to code in Hero Lab was purely a skill that I wanted to learn, and it has taken over two years for me to gain a basic proficiency in creating custom content through the Hero Lab Editor. I have coded all of the class abilities for the Legendary Rogue into Hero Lab and am now working my way through the rogue talents. If you are proficient in the Hero Lab editor and want to add the Legendary Rogue to your content, be aware that coding will take several dozen hours to complete, due to the sheer number of options and abilities included with the class. On a difficulty scale, I would rate this a six out of 10. The coding isn’t terribly hard, but the number of scripts is pretty large.

Legendary Rogues delivers the rogue class that I have always been hoping for, but never got. This is the rogue that delivers on the class fantasy, giving me a robust toolkit with which I can build the kind of rogue that I envisioned, not some cobbled-together patchwork of archetypes that doesn’t quite realize my vision. Matt Goodall and Jason Nelson have created the rogue that will hereinafter be the default rogue class in all of my future campaigns. The sheer amount of customization offered by inherent skills, skill specialties, instincts and avoidances allow me to create virtually any rogue concept that I can conceive without the need to add archetypes. Their design is impressive, their goals realized, and the final product is a glory to behold. I love this book! If Hero Lab files existed for it, Legendary Rogues would get a perfect ten out of ten from me. Lacking the Hero Lab support, I still rate this at 9 out of 10, and highly recommend it as a wonderful replacement for the lackluster core rogue, and its slightly less lackluster cousin, the unchained rogue.

Do your game a huge favor, and get this book! The rogue will no longer be the red-headed step-child of the Pathfinder RPG!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Rogues
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Legendary Barbarians
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/26/2019 13:34:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the class-centric supplements by Legendary Games clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with a summary of design decisions made when crafting the Legendary Barbarian presented herein, which is handy to have indeed. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at this class redesign. The legendary barbarian has d12 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armor and all shields – yes, this includes heavy armor and explicitly also tower shields. However, fast movement only applies when wearing armor less than heavy and not carrying a heavy load. The class, obviously, has full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. A small thing. But one I enjoyed, was to see Endurance gained as a first level bonus feat. It makes sense in the context of pretty much every barbarian in fantasy/sword & sorcery-literature ever, and doesn’t break the game – good call. Second level yields uncanny dodge, 5th level improved uncanny dodge, and 7th level yields DR 1/- which improves by 1 every 3 levels thereafter. Third level nets danger sense, which scales in the classic manner, i.e. +1 for every 3 levels thereafter. 14th level yields indomitable will, which is slightly more precise than the default verbiage of the ability, explicitly pointing out that it stacks – it’s a small touch and technically not required due to the ability’s untyped bonus, but it’s still a very much appreciated component.

So, what’s new? How do you play a barbarian? Your first action in combat will be “I enter rage” – without fault, in 99.99% of instances. This class completely rewires rage and changes this, and indeed, the whole angle of how rage operates. A legendary barbarian has 4 + Constitution modifier rounds of rage per day, with each additional class level attained increasing this by +1.Rage is still renewed after 8 hours of rest, takes a free action to enter, and temporary ability score boosts do not influence the rage-allotment available. While in rage, the legendary barbarian gains an untyped +4 bonus to Will-saves against fear, -2 to AC and receives 2 temporary hit points per Hit Die, with 11th and 20th level increasing this to 3 and 4 per Hit Die, respectively. While in a rage, the legendary barbarian may not use Charisma-, Dexterity- or Intelligence-based skills (except Fly, Intimidate, Ride and Acrobatics) or any ability requiring patience or concentration. A rage is ended as a free action, and fatigues the legendary barbarian for 1 minute afterwards, and while fatigued or exhausted, the class may not enter a new rage. Spells, feats and effects that would grant rounds of rage only provide half as much, minimum 1. – I assume that to mean rounding down, as per the default. Odd: The paragraph stating this has been presented twice – once as part of the ability, and right after that, in a kind of boxed text.

Here’s the thing: Rage is now tied to so-called rage forms – once is chosen at 1st level, and another one is unlocked at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. When entering rage, the legendary barbarian enters one of these rage forms, and rage forms may not be changed while in rage. Rage forms improve in power at 11th and 20th level, and a total of 13 are provided. Here,w e can find the option to grow claws (properly codified both regarding type and damage caused – kudos!), and the claws account for if the barbarian already has them. Later, we get a bite attack and a gore attack. Battle meditation nets a bonus to atk and AC, bestial rage allows for shapechanging. Not a fan: This form unlocks unassisted flight at 30 ft. and average maneuverability sans the usual landing clause common for low-level flight/jump options. At first, only Small and Medium animals are available, with later levels unlocking more size categories.

Close quarters rage is interesting, in that it nets +3 to atk and damage, but only with ranged attacks executed against targets within the first range increment. It also increases critical multiplier of such attacks, which is something I generally am weary of, but the caveat that explicitly prevents stacking of such effects reigns that in. Closing Wounds nets fast healing, destructive rage boosts melee and thrown weapon damage and sunder attempts. Dueling rage lets the barbarian choose a target to challenge: Against this target, the penalty to AC does not apply, and the barbarian gets a bonus to atk and damage. Elemental rage laces elemental energy into attacks and net a short-range damaging aura. Enlarging rage does what it says on the tin, and another rage form nets omni energy resistance and boosts to Fort- and Ref-saves. Straight bonuses, bonuses to melee and Intimidate also exist.

A bit of an issue – aforementioned challenging rage? It’s worse in every conceivable way than reckless rage – reckless rage nets you +3 to melee atk, damage, thrown weapon damage and Will-saves. Dueling rage just nets you +3 to atk and damage (including ranged weapons) and mitigates the -2 penalty versus one target, and you are dumped out of rage if the target is killed. (“Oh no, cleric – keep my challenge foe currently bleeding out alive, otherwise I’ll drop out of rage!!” – yeah, makes no sense.) Unless you’re playing a VERY atypical barbarian, reckless rage will be the more boring, but also superior option. Internal balancing could have been tighter here. Vicious rage is also somewhat problematic, in that it is a concept I generally like – a +3 to atk, +2d6 damage, but at the cost of taking 1d6 yourself – think of Guts from Berserk in the black armor. I can generally get behind that, but the damage output at level 1 is brutal; the damage type inflicted should also probably not be untyped here, and instead mirror the damage type inflicted by the weapon wielded. As written, this is problematic.

I generally like rage forms, even though their internal balancing isn’t perfect – but they do present a bit of an issue. With the reduced rage-gain and the front-loaded budget of rounds of rage, dipping into the legendary barbarian is a VERY enticing option. By spreading the rounds of rage a bit thinner over the lower levels, and by taking care regarding several of the rage forms, this could have been much smoother. As written, I’d strongly suggest limiting the options to dip into this class.

At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the barbarian gains a new rage power. Totem rage powers may now be freely selected, which, while potentially making sense, also can be a bit problematic – it depends on your game’s aesthetics and the skill employed by your players. Lists of existing and unchained rage powers for use with the class are provided here, and the pdf does include its own list of rage powers exclusive for the legendary barbarian. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 21 such regular rage powers have been included. These include moving over water as per water walk (italics missing), dealing scaling ability score damage to a mental ability score (proper minimum level cap). There also is a rage power that extends your rage’s duration after spending rounds of rage on it when you score a critical hit, with the durations stacking with themselves and being contingent on critical multipliers. Cool: This may not be cheesed! Huge kudos for making this work properly! Counter bull rush, being immune to lycanthropy in animal/bestial rage form, rerolling miss chances, etc.

One of the most interesting and visceral chains here builds on a rebuild of unchained rage’s crippling blow, allowing for the severing of limbs, codifying them by type – and yes, the rules are actually fair. And yes, at the end of the chain, you can rip off heads. Ending grapples/swallow wholes, ghost hunting – several cool options here, and as noted before, rebuilds for both chained and unchained rage powers have been provided.

6 new totem trees are provided – arcane, bestial, blood, shadow, sky and void, and 7 single mighty totems are included as well; these latter ones become available at 14th level and include 50% chances to negate critical hits and precision damage, negative energy damage for those nearby, etc. The new totems, for example, allow for light level control, quicker run/charge, blood-related effects, buffs accompanying entering a rage – you get the idea.

Okay, this component of the rage mechanics out of the way, it should be noted that greater rage also nets immunity to fear, tireless rage prevents temporary hit points cycling and mighty rage, as noted, yields the benefits of the rage form’s capstone benefit. Level 20 also lets the barbarian spend 1 round of rage when scoring a critical hit to make the target save or die.

Now, here is something I very much liked seeing – the class comes with a lot of alternate class features: 3 alternate proficiency arrays (including one that nets unarmed tricks like Catch Off Guard and Throw Anything), Endurance replacements, fast movement replacements, options to get rid of uncanny dodge and danger sense and indomitable will and DR-replacements. These generally do make sense regarding their internal powerlevels. I like these customization options very much.

The pdf also features 9 different archetypes for the class. Gunpowder savages are basically the gunslinger-crossover, locked into close-quarters rage form, with Gunsmith replacing Endurance, better gun-butt bashing, etc. Incredible bulk is about enlarging and using Wield Halfling, a part of a mini-feat-chain herein that lets you clobber targets with their friends. Love it. Mutagenic rager instead is sickened/nauseated by rage and gets AC and physical ability score boosts. Pint-sized ragers get a custom rage form versus larger targets, while righteous ragers get a rage variant that works versus evil targets, ignoring all DR of such targets as soon as 1st level. WTF. Savages are the ranger-tweak with 6 + Int skills and an animal companion instead of rage forms. Slavering nightmares are about using fear/demoralize (including the chance to cause damaging nightmares via crits); steppe warriors get a mount and builds on ferocious rage. Vengeful bruisers are a kind of monk-crossover. The latter two only have d10 HD, just fyi.

The pdf also introduces barbarian brands – basically, a barbarian’s version of monk vows or paladin oaths. The barbarian may have multiple ones, and 6 are provided – these generally are cool. Several, have a pretty easy clause to break – which is why they sport a Redemption-line that allows you to regain it by fulfilling the stipulated conditions – and no, atonement is not required. I like these very much, and wish there’d have been more. As written, they provide more rage rounds, and that’s it; not even close to what you could do with them mechanically. Beyond the already mentioned feats to beat targets to death with their flailing friends, we have a couple of feats for an Extra Rage Form, an Extra Rage variant, and one that lets you transfer effects of feats that require a specific weapon to improvised weapons.

4 magic items and two weapon properties are included: lesser returning, at +1000 GP makes a weapon return if you reduce the target to 0 HP or below. At +2, greater smashing weapons have bonus damage versus objects and emits sonic bursts when destroying them. The totemic club nets an aligned totem’s lesser rage power while raging. Sadistic pauldrons are armor spikes that cause bleed damage, and that enhance damage output in rage. The helm of echoing screams boosts Intimidate at the cost of Diplomacy. Gloves of reckless throwing enhance thrown attacks, but render the items broken after being thrown. This can be abused potentially if you can get your hands on hard to destroy enemy items. The pdf closes with 5 sample builds and a CR 5 sample NPC, Gorund Windwalker.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed a couple of formatting hiccups, and internal balance wasn’t always as tight as I’ve come to expect from legendary Games, but as a whole, this is a well-crafted supplement. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features several full-color artworks that will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes with only the most basic of bookmarks – the table, one class feature replacement and a few archetypes and main chapter headers are covered, but comfortable navigation, this is not. Odd – almost like something went wrong here.

Jeff Gomez and Jason Nelson have addressed several issues with the default barbarian class, but I’m not 100% sure that the new iteration is that much better, to be frank. I generally like the notion of rage forms, and from Endurance to getting rid of that god-forsaken anachronistic alignment restriction, there are plenty of things I like. I am not that keen on the free totem mixing and matching and probably would have made that an alternate class feature. The main catch of this version of the barbarian is, that it doesn’t drown in rage rounds – which is a good idea in general. Resource management is a good thing. Here, the implementation is very front-loaded, though – the legendary barbarian is very dippable, more so than the regular barbarian.

At the same time, the class offers no incentive whatsoever for NOT going into rage, which is pretty much the thing that could have fixed the class without reducing rage rounds available. A solarian-like engine, two modes – something like that. It makes sense when you think about it – Kull’s stoicism, Conan’s cunning, Solomon Kane’s ridiculous stubbornness…barbarians don’t just excel necessarily while in rage. Making a single pool of resources pay for rage and abilities available only while NOT in rage would have also added a whole new level to build strategies. Why am I harping on the decision to reduce rage rounds available? I agree with the sentiment behind the design fully – but not with the implementation, as there are plenty of genuinely exciting and rewarding options out there that consume rounds of rage, and thus render the implementation of said options in conjunction with the legendary barbarian kinda awkward or even impossible. Unlike the vanilla magus’ arcane pool, the barbarian’s rage actually has a lot going for it, and losing out there is…well, a pity, one that severely limits the rebuild’s appeal in a global context without offering enough to make up for it.

In a way, this class design feels like it changes things; not necessarily for the better (unless you discount aspects that are often houseruled away), and not for the worse – it’s different, and for everything the class does better than the regular barbarian, it also has a small tidbit like unassisted flight too early, like some options not aligning in power level, that blemish it slightly.

This is a good class rebuild, but it’s no revelation; it’s neither a Legendary Magus, nor a Legendary Cavalier or Gunslinger, nor one of the awesome and modular Rogue or Fighter rebuilds. The alternate class features presented herein were my favorite aspect within, as the archetypes tend to gravitate to the obvious engine-tweaks that we all expect by now. All in all, I felt that this was the weakest class-rebuild by Legendary Games that I’ve read so far. It’s not bad by any stretch of the word, but I fail to see sufficient improvement or enough cool stuff to incentivize me to implement it. Particularly when the barbarian classes that exist aren’t that sucky or one-dimensional AND have a vast array of options that this fellow misses out on. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Barbarians
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