Bards and Sages RPG Resource
DriveThruComics
DriveThruFiction
Powered by DriveThruRPG


Home » Storm Bunny Studios » Reviews
Browse Categories
The Palace of Al Karam
The Palace of Al Karam
Pay What You Want













Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
You must be logged in to rate this
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 3)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2019 13:21:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the little ‘zine devoted to supplemental material for the amazing Bloodlines & Black Magic setting/campaign-hack/system-tweak clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

While the header and tags also designate this as 5e on my homepage, it should be noted that the 5e-material is just one character, and that this character has not been built with standard 5e-NPC-rules and acts as a kind of preview for the 5e-version of Bloodlines & Black Magic.

All righty, so, we begin this supplement with a new creature penned by Tim Hitchcok – the amaymonite, which clocks in at CR 5 (respectable, considering that BL&BM caps at level 7…) and comes with notes of dosh that may be collected, threshold DC, etc. – avatars of Prince Amaymon the Devourer, these beings are fearsome in melee, courtesy of their astral poison and the ability to bind the souls of those reduced below 0 hit points. They come with two options for the witch-class’s version for Bloodlines & Black Magic to make a pact with the entity – oh, and the critter comes with a cool artwork.

Justin Sluder and Jaye Sonia provide the second article – “DJ Yarrick” – or is it “Yannick”? The pdf can’t seem to decide which the correct name is. The fellow is a fey-blooded expert and comes with full stats, though I did notice a few rough spots here.

Clinton Boomer and Justin Sluder than provide a CR 12 (!!) encounter – the curator rose, which presents a truly dangerous art-gallery, including an intricate (and DEADLY) statblock and even some sample conversation tidbits to guide the GM. I really liked this one, and while the build does not include threshold or dosh information, the nature of the build and its themes make me chalk this up as intentional, and not as an oversight.

After this, Clinton Boomer and Jaye Sonia provide brief summaries of the people that came before humanity within the context of Bloodlines & Black Magic – from asura to the hollow ones and pack to the serpentfolk, some nice ideas are provided.

The final article is super helpful – it is penned by Ben McFarland, Jaye Sonia and Justin Sluder, and pertains to the Lords in Glass’s Shadow, and on how to use them. Three fully statted individuals are provided alongside b/w-artworks. One of these NPCs also comes with 5e-stats, though it does seem to heavily use custom rules of the upcoming 5e-version of Bloodlines & Black Magic. As presented, the values of the NPC deviate from what they should be per 5e’s default rules, but without the full 5e-version, I can’t well comment on whether the statblock is correct within the context of Bloodlines & Black Magic’s 5e-iteration. I couldn’t help but feel that 5e-stats for all three NPCs in this article would have been appreciated.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay, given the very low asking price, though I seriously wished Storm Bunny Studios had more of a budget for these; a nitpicky editor could have polished the pdf of its typos (doubled plusses, etc.) and minor snafus. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with several awesome b/w-artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I like what Tim Hitchcock, Jaye Sonia, Ben McFarland, Clinton Boomer and Justin Sluder created here – they all rank among the designers I consider myself to be a fan of, so no surprise there. While the hiccups among the formal criteria prevent this from getting highest marks, considering the low price and cool content, my final verdict will still clock in at 4 stars – if you like BL & BM, you will want to get this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 3)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 2)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2019 12:40:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second if these small expansion-pdfs for Bloodlines & Black magic clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this installment with a general, and a detailed location, both penned by none other than Brian Suskind – and the first of them is…Vegas, baby! Ruled by Satrine, Vegas is actually considered to be neutral grounds, we learn about The Concierge, who manages the steady flow of supernatural tourists, an ancient man with powers hailing from the Uto-Aztecan people, and we also learn about sites such as the Church of the Holy Coin, and learn about urban “legebd”[sic!]s, that, typo notwithstanding, should provide cool angles. Want it more detailed? Well, location number 2, the Exchange, the arcane market/underground, where Old Wotan may be found, among others – if you’re itching for an American Gods-storyline, there you go. Of course, the Shae, the porcelain-masked enforcers also should make for an interesting angle. Did I mention the eye thieves? Really cool locales, though both left me wanting more.

The next section, penned by Blaine Bass, is something different altogether – we get staggered advancement rules for Bloodlines & Black magic. It represents a more gradual level-up process than regular gaming in O7 – it basically provides a 25-level system, wherein each episode number corresponds to a level; the massive table denotes whether you get universal abilities, class features, skill ranks, etc. – it basically stretches the advancement process and doles out a consistent stream of improvements over the levels. The system per se is solid, but not exactly something I like – I’m more the Dark Souls-school of person – advancement only means something to me and my players when it’s earned by pain and hardship, and consistent rewards, such as in looter shooters and the like, do nothing for me. Similarly, the consistent stream of level-up options presented here doesn’t do anything for me – but that doesn’t make it bad! Perhaps it’s exactly what you and your players wanted, so while it may not be for me, it may be a godsend for you and your group.

Jaye Sonia further explains the nature of the Invisible World, touching upon things such as the City of the Dreaming Dead, and particularly, explains the decision regarding the cognitive dissonance of oddities and threshold mechanics versus the more commonly seen insanity mechanics. The article explains pierce the Veil in more detail, and while it did not provide new realizations for me, it was great to see that my assumptions regarding design decisions behind this mechanic had proven to be true.

Finally, Tim Hitchcock and Jaye Sonia present us with…Mr No Face – when these fellows take damage, they are clad in an unearthly and potentially infectious glow. They can also emit bursts that destroy electric devices. As a nitpick: The SP in the statblock erroneously calls faerie fire “faery fire” instead, and the statblock has a few hiccups. None that would prevent you from using it, but if you’re a stickler for mechanical perfection, it’s something that might irk you. The b/w-artwork presented is pretty cool, though, and they are properly creepy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay – I noticed a few more typos than I like to see, and some do slightly influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Brian Suskind, Blaine Bass, Tim Hitchcock and Jaye Sonia provide a nice, inexpensive little expansion for Bloodlines & Black Magic. The ‘zine is nice to have and provides quite a few inspiring tidbits. All in all, I consider this to be a pretty nice offering, closer to being good than to being okay, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 2)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

The Mists of Akuma - Primer
by Gerhardt V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/07/2019 13:57:37

I found 'The Mists of Akum" to be exciting to read. My group in the end didn't want to move over to using Pathfinder. If you are Pathfinder player the is a great adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mists of Akuma - Primer
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/13/2019 08:42:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Whispers & Rumors-expansions for Bloodlines and Black Magic clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with the black-eyed ones, penned by Tim Hitchcock – illustrated in a pretty nice one-page b/w-artwork that depicts a girl coming from a corn field. These Small humanoids are manifestations of the powers-that-be – black-eyed entities, often looking like kids, who can strike a bargain that carries serious repercussions for breaking it. Targets slain by these beings may be returned as black-eyed zombies, and they act as emissaries to Raum. Sample lore is provided for them.

Clinton Boomer is up next and provides 20 new oddities that your character may develop, and these contain some much-needed gems – the original book offered less of them than I would have liked to see, and the ones presented here? Awesome. They include being a walking cold spot, having an abnormal metabolism, ALWAYS getting a parking ticket, being seen as belonging to the observer’s gender…and what about always being described in an utterly weird way? What about looking half as strong as you actually are? From roleplaying to minor rules-mechanics, there are some great ones here – like needing to eat stupidly spicy food, but being unable to win any food contest. Hey, that describes me! ;P What about once per day seeing dark universe, twisted variants of corporate logos? Awesome!

Next up is Jaye Sonia, who introduces us to Plymouth Falls, Wisconsin, his backdrop for Bloodlines & Black Magic – or rather, he doesn’t – instead, we get some nice advice to utilize all the oddness, local legends etc. and make Bloodlines & Black magic work for your region.

We proceed with Arcana Mundi, penned by F. Gestu, where we learn about the Seb Libri Tres and the three spells contained within – one a misfire inducing immediate action level 1 spell, the other being a 1 minute casting duration hymn hat nets long-term care benefits during the next eight hours – in Bloodlines & Black magic, that’s super helpful! Thirdly, The Secret King’s Court is a better version of rope trick that comes with the option to forget about its presence when witnessing it. The spells per se are not that special, but the nice description and lore makes them work for me in that regard.

After a creepy clown-artwork accompanied by a no less creepy child’s rhyme, Tim Hitchcock provides advice on dealing with the magical currency dosh – basically a table with critter CRs, harvest DC and two gp-columns – I assume one is the regular success, the other the success by +5 or more – something seems to have gone wrong in layout, though – the first gp-value column’s header has moved up, looking like a header.

The final article herein, the mission church, is presented by Jaye Sonia – it’s a black site that can enhance healing, and to my pleasant surprise comes with a 1-page b/w-map. The map has no secret doors or the like, and no keys, but it does e.g. call a room “office”; I found this less of an issue here than in the regular dungeon environment, but ideally, I’d have loved to see a version without these designations as well.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard, with a surprising amount of nice b/w-artworks. The cartography provides is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. A lite-version for mobile devices is included as well.

Tim Hitchcock, Clinton Boomer, F. Gestu and Jaye Sonia deliver a great little expansion for Bloodlines & Black Magic – particularly the oddities and the sample locale were fun offerings; the healing hymn spell is a nice way to speed up gameplay without requiring full-blown curative magic arrays. All in all, a cool little pdf. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Bloodlines & Black Magic
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/27/2019 12:07:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting/supplement clocks in at 258 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 252 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first of all, it’s pretty evident that, with a book of this size, a detailed analysis of every piece of mechanical content within would bloat this review beyond any utility (and probably drive me stark, raving bonkers), so please be aware that I’m interested in the big picture regarding this game/supplement.

So, Bloodlines & Black Magic isn’t simply a campaign setting for PFPRG – it is, in the parlance of old-school games, a so-called “hack”; i.e. a heavy modification of the base engine and its assumptions. The requirement of these heavy modifications is predicated on the setting, which assumes our own modern world, as seen through a glass darkly. Setting and rules are entwined in this game/setting to a degree that is rarely seen, and no concept encompasses this notion more than the underlying “O7”, Occult 7 assumption. Bloodlines and Black Magic assumes a maximum character level for the PCs of 7th, building on the tradition of E6-based games that began to spring up during the heyday of the d20-era.

This obviously has a couple of mechanic repercussions; for one, it means that the game takes place exclusively within the frame of what most people consider to be the “sweet spot” of PFRPG, i.e. where the math and rules work best. Important to note, though, would be the fact that this cap does not apply to adversaries and supernatural beings, which means that the playing experience remains one of danger throughout. The emphasis of the game is centered more on a narrative angle, and on the use of brains over brawn. This change of focus is also represented in a variety of different assumptions regarding the game itself – for example, the book explicitly states that the vast majority of humans in the world only are 1st level commoners or experts, establishing a generally low power-level. Similarly, the game focuses not on grinding for XP – every encounter is supposed to have meaningful repercussions, and in a world, where many of us are time-starved, I most certainly can get behind this general notion. This also means that prep-time for the GM remains pretty manageable – and if you’re like me and had to redesign a whole AP’s monsters time and again to make them challenging for your players and PCs, you’ll most assuredly appreciate this.

Rules-wise, there is progression beyond 7th level – when you’d attain the 8th level, you’d get a bonus feat or the option to a class feature, though such features must be taken in sequential order that you’d usually gain them. These changes of durability obviously require some knowledge from the GM, but thankfully, the book does contain an assortment of different pieces of advice regarding the implementation of the rules within, which e.g. also extend to how magic items are handled, feasible caps for gold and CRs and the like. With “only” 7 levels of play, level 1 – 2 are called “novice”, 3-4 expert, 5-6 “veteran” and level 7…? Well, these are legends.

Character base power-level assumes either 4d6, rolled 6 times, dropping the lowest result, or point-buy, which ranges from 10m to 14 and 21. Ability scores cap at 19 at the start of the game, and at 21 later – this is the maximum your character can attain. Ability score increases are awarded at 3rd and 7th level.

So that would be the mechanical foundation – but you’re probably asking yourself at this point where the whole “occult” angle comes into play. Well, let me get to that: You see, the assumption of the setting is pretty classic, in that it assumes a hidden, magical reality. Our perceived subjective reality is deemed to be an illusion, one crafted by the so-called Archons – who are basically the supernatural masters of the world. These individuals are NOT kind, they are NOT caring, and they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They rule via essentially institutionalized and culturally perpetuated control mechanisms, and as such, a selection of global elites act as potential agents for the agenda of Archons, willing or ignorant. The notion of elites controlling the world is very much real herein. The Archons have instigated the current order in part as a response to the Goetic Spirits from Christian mythology, which, while mostly banished from the civilized and established order of the Archon’s society, these spirits still retain their power, and haunt the natural world, allowing you to potentially explore the notions of civilization vs. nature on a supernatural level. These entities are also not benevolent, in case you were wondering.

The inability of most humans to perceive the truth is based on the “Veil” – if that reminded you of Pelgrane Press’ excellent Ocean Game settings, you’d be partially correct. The Veil establishes a combination of mundane and supernatural membrane of sorts; the combination of talent and cultural conditioning in association with very real power simply makes a majority of supernatural occurrences not something that may be properly processed – at least not without being deemed as insane by the current cultural paradigm. In a way, this makes Bloodlines and Black magic more plausible to me than Ocean Game, for the setting’s core tenets do assume that, you know, the majority of people and their world-view shape what is deemed to be “truth” regarding a world, its laws and what may or may not happen. With magic potentially eliminating the cold and hard facts of reliable empirical evidence, the notion of the supernatural becomes essentially impossible to prove or disprove, and even the notion of its existence becomes fraught with peril.

This is a leitmotif of sorts, for while most characters receive the Pierce the Veil feat at 1st level, which allows them to see this world’s equivalent of the Real, or at least a higher-level symbolic order in terms of Lacanian psychosemiotics, this is not a trait shared by the common populace – and as such, the explanation of the maintenance of ignorance and Veil is ultimately very plausible without requiring elaborate conspiracies to maintain: There is no competence required by a shadowy cabal, as the conventionalized and preconceived notions of reality act as a control mechanism in and of themselves. This is, as far as I’m concerned, an incredibly clever way of dealing with the very concept underlying the book…and, in a clever further take, this, as most scholars will know, is also something that pretty much represents the notions of pretty much every occult world-view perpetuated throughout the ages: the hidden world, and how it is closer to a divine “truth” that helps transcending the limits of mortality and our day to day condition humana.

Those would be central leitmotifs, and at this point, you probably do get what this book is about; to dive more into the respective details:

Bloodlines and Black Magic has a smart trait system, with each trait representing the type of awakening to the truth of the world, and each of them has been associated with one of the tarot deck’s arcana, once more tying mechanics to in-and out-game practice – you can literally “draw” your trait, if you’re so inclined. These also are studded with actual flavor that serves to further underline the depth and integrity of the subject matter. “What is the smell of the number 7, or the taste of the color orange, or the wisdom in the hummingbird’s song? You saw some sliver of this enlightenment…” to quote one of the different flavor-texts. Much to my pleasure, the rules-integrity of these traits is pretty impressive, using untyped bonuses only in instances where highly circumstantial applications make stacking very much intentional, and otherwise, with pinpoint precision, choosing bonus types rather well. Okay, there is one instance of a capitalized “Dodge” in a “dodge bonus”, but other than that, this is a pretty impressive engine tweak that serves to cohesively highlight the distinct nature of the game.

The game also knows a threshold score – a value that reflects how well the PC can cope with supernatural weirdness. If the Cr or spell level is equal to or less than your level, you can seamlessly process it as part of your reality; anything higher requires a so-called Paradigm check, a Will save vs. DC 10 + level or CR + situational modifiers. Failing this check sees a paradigm shift in the world-view of the character, and this is more than just a type of sanity; since the “sane” world is an arbitrarily-defined and contextualized concept, perception or reality and indeed, how the world interacts with the character, may be influenced. This is, in short, a kind of Entfremdung (estrangement) from the natural order that may manifest in a plethora of different and exciting ways that can range from the paranoia-inducing to the wondrous, but weird. The fact that the book chooses to go this way is exceedingly smart, as it sets the game apart from all other sanity-based systems, instead proposing a world-view once more in line with several Gnostic models. A failure in a Paradigm check also nets you Paradigm Points. Resting 8 hours lets you reduce these by up to character level, and whenever Paradigm points reach a total of threshold times 5,m the maximum threshold increases by 1, resets to 0 and at every odd threshold score, you gain an oddity – a semi-supernatural effect that represents one of the positive results stemming from estrangement from the perceived and conventionalized reality – like being loved by birds, having tattoos seemingly move once in a while and the like. In a way, this score could be seen as a dual representation of how far you may see beyond the conventionalized reality, but also as a means to determine how estranged from the lived in world of a majority of the populace you have become. In short: It is very clever.

In the absence of fantastic races, the eponymous bloodlines take the place of what we usually would associate with racial features. 7 such bloodlines are provided, and they adheres to the usual +2/+2 to an ability score paradigm. While there are instances here where bloodlines tend to be e.g. more suitable for certain classes (due to e.g. a focus on two boosts to ability scores), the changed paradigms resulting from O7-gameplay and the lack of escalation regarding stats actually mean that these lopsided racial traits matter less and thus are exempt, for once, from my usual derision regarding such a focus. The book also does not present a unified race for each bloodline, instead opting to provide a BP-budget (7, of course!) that you can spend for individualized racial abilities granted by your magical bloodline. It should also be noted that trauma, saving a life and the like may all result, in a way, in you exhibiting a bloodline or activating your latent powers. It should also be noted that this section mentions magical diseases that affect said bloodlines…

But how does that work with weirdos curing wounds left and right? It doesn’t. Bloodlines and Black Magic does something I’m a huge fan of – it limits the available character classes to prevent a sense of suspension of disbelief-breaking assumptions implicit in many classes. The 7 classes available for play are brawler, investigator, mesmerist, occultist, psychic, slayer and spiritualist. These choices, to me, are smart, and modified class tables for the classes are provided, with all the relevant features – you don’t need e.g. ACG or Occult Adventures to make use of this game. Skills have also been expanded and adapted, with Computers, Craft (chemicals) (which includes rules to make drugs, explosives and poisons and the like),l Craft (electronics) or Craft (mechanical) tightly codified. Street replaces Knowledge (local) and Knowledge skills have been tightly redefined. Drive, obviously, also is included.

A crucial difference in Bloodlines and Black Magic would btw. be that e.g. learning about how guns are used actually reduces your nonproficiency penalty – the system allows for the learning of skills and character growth via roleplaying as a hard-coded components of its intrinsic assumptions – something I wholeheartedly applaud. Beyond the race and class, a character in Bloodlines and Black Magic has a career, distinguishing between 6 general career groups, and denoting salary by one of 4 tiers within the respective career – PCs are assumed to range in the 1 – 3 tier region, but the table does note the tier 4 information as well. These come with monthly income modifiers, associated skill groups and a selection of talents grouped by tier, which represent a meaningful second array of character features – almost like you had gestalted lite. Each career also has associated ability score modifiers, in case you were wondering. There also are non-path careers, which are more suitable for NPCs or as secondary careers – these only have 1 tier.

The chapter that deals with feats not only presents a massive amount, it also clearly places the control in the hands of the GM, but also provides guidelines for the players, emphasizing once more conceptual and setting integrity over the sheer mechanical aspects of the game. Some feats, like Improved Dodge, just list their modified prerequisites. And you’ll love your dodge bonuses, for Bloodlines and Black Magic does not assume there to be a wide availability and use of armors, instead focusing on what we would consider a more “!realistic” approach. Drawbacks and flaws are also ingrained within the system, and the book champions something I very much enjoyed, namely degrees of proficiency with regards to language – it takes 3 ranks to truly master a language, getting rid of one of the most aggravating aspects of core PFRPG.

Of course, a modern context also requires a proper gear-chapter, which include covering fire, burst fire, automatic fire, spray and pray attacks, aiming and easy to implement recoil mechanics. While guns are great and all…they once more interact with the core assumptions of the game in unique ways: If you can Pierce the Veil, you also become known to the respective entities, and gunsmoke-blessed creatures, which are immune to firearms, may well be attracted to characters under the delusion of being Rambo or Ahnooold. This is not a game of mowing down legions of mooks.

Armor, in case you were wondering, does btw. have a DR and a damage total they can absorb before requiring repair/replacement – this is clever, in that it helps well-equipped teams to prepare – it emphasizes brains over brawn, preparation and smarts and legwork over murder-hoboing.

Magic btw. is influenced by potent sites and holy days, and in-game, there are 7 occult schools (with traditional spell schools noted in brackets) – and magic must be handled carefully. The base assumption is that, normal people just snap when confronted with irrefutable proof of magic. Lobbing that fireball in the crowd? It’ll seriously frenzy the targets, as their worldview can’t cope properly, making your situation much more dire. Once more, the application of magic isn’t nerfed explicitly, it instead uses implicit restrictions that reward engaging with the setting within the internal logic it presents, while punishing behavior that would contradict the internal assumptions. It does so in a way, though, that is very much not punitive, but rather an extension of risk-.reward ratio calculations that PCs and NPCs both need to be aware of. Spells include means to broadcast visions, glitch mechanical or technological items, and with sing the tenfold song of essential names, the target is forced to sing the names of their ancestors, in the process revealing their true name… Speak with the soul of the city allows you to contact the genius loci of a city and ask it questions, and rituals are handled with the much-beloved incantation-engine, which folks will know from Kobold Press, zombie Sky Press, Storm Bunny Studios, Drop Dead Studios, etc.. A couple of cantrips for pseudo-awakened commoners are also included.

Annie Oakley’s Silver, Cortana, the shortsword of Ogier the Dane, the cards of Crowley – the book contextualizes magic items and implements and the like in a way that makes them feel more relevant. As an aside – yes, the book does have a planar model: The ethereal world represents the ghost world, the astral is the realm of ideas, and both celestial and infernal planes are places you really don’t want to end up. Trust me. To facilitate integration of PFRPG content, there is a magical currency introduced, one called “dosh”, and the book presents a surprisingly concise array of pieces of advice that allow the Gm to better implement the game’s assumptions and craft plots. NPC classes, notes on the Archons and their suspected abilities…oh and did I mention the secret societies? They not only come with flavorful write-ups, they also provide feat unlocks, and several signature abilities. From the order of St. Cyprian to Umbra Dei to the Omeag Association, there are plenty of unique and fun ones here – and it is pretty obvious what the real life inspirations for many of them are. Why not use the proper names? Well, if you’re even remotely familiar with the occult community(ies), you’ll know that some of these lodges and orders don’t take kindly to having them made more public – or to have their names used in certain contexts, so it’s also a means to avoid litigation. The book also provides a serious array of brief fluff-only sample personalities, several templates, and the final chapter is devoted to powerful sovereigns – agents of higher power, who come with full stats. This chapter also provides stats for a Goetic Spirit, which makes it pretty evident that it’s a bad, bad idea for PCs to attempt to tackle these guys sans a serious plan.

It should also be noted that the book contains a very unique character sheet that is aesthetically-pleasing, pretty round, and while book (smartly) devotes a couple of pages to explain how to use it, it actually works rather well.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level, good on a formal level – I noticed e.g. one of the NPCs missing half a sentence among the section talking about associates and similar minor hiccups, but less of them than in previous Storm Bunny Studios books. Layout adheres to a surprisingly elegant 2-column b/w-standard, and the game comes with a unified aesthetic regarding its copious original b/w-artworks. This is an aesthetically-pleasing book, with, paradoxically, the cover being one of my least favorite pieces within. The book comes fully bookmarked with a plethora of nested bookmarks, making navigation simple. I unfortunately can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version, since I do not own it. I really wish I did.

Okay, so first things first: This book did not get the attention it deserved during its kickstarter phase, and how it managed to come out this way, with such a shoestring budget, it seriously beyond me. In contrast to many such projects, the creators believed and continue to believe in the game, and continue to put out content – which I am btw. sure to cover. Seriously, though: It’s perhaps due to the pitch. O7 modern sounds pretty niche, when it really isn’t, at least once you grasp the appeal.

This is not yet another half-baked attempt to jam d20-based rules into a modern context not made for it; instead, Bloodlines and Black Magic ultimately represents a serious deviation from pathfinder’s core assumptions in playstyle, structure, power-level and underlying assumptions regarding power – all while retaining full compatibility with the system. This is a pretty impressive feat and means that you get to play a radically different game without learning new rules.

Clinton Boomer, Jaye Sonia, with development and design by Matt Banach, Stephen M. DiPesa, Erik Frankhouse, Tim Hitchcock, Ben McFarland, Justin Sluder, Brian Suskind, Bri A., Mark R. Lesniewski, have created a book that knows one thing: “The Devil is in the Details” – both regarding what makes sense, and what can bring down a book; the previous weaknesses of Storm Bunny’s exciting settings often could be chalked up to small stumbling stones, and in this book, it is my pleasure to report that, while there are editing glitches herein, while not all feats may be exciting, the entirety of the book works in a way that no other modern d20-based game has for me.

It is detail-oriented in the right way; the focus away from super-heroic antics to the occult is smart; the implementation of the concept of the Veil and its repercussions on the world, from how the classes and their restrictions interact, from the gear to the magic, this entire book is very deliberately constructed by a cadre of inspired authors who obviously knew what they were doing. This works so well, because it doesn’t try to divorce setting from system, because it makes the correct incisions and expansions, and because all those design decisions are ultimately informed by one central demand, one core paradigm, namely the requirement to make the game feel concise and unique. In short: This game (and I consciously call it “game” and not “campaign setting”) is ultimately an impressive achievement that showcases how true passion can transcend limitations. How good is this? Well, it genuinely made me regret not being more excited about this before.

And here lies the crux – even with all my ruminations herein, you’ll only have touched upon the collective of small and concise design decisions that ultimately make up the collective appeal of this book, something that vastly transcends the sum of its parts, courtesy of a focused and smart vision that knows exactly what it wants to be and executes its vision without compromise. This may not have a “sexy” elevator pitch, but if modern dark fantasy or horror, if the occult or modern gaming even hold the remotest appeal for you, then please check out this book. This may genuinely be the best thing Storm Bunny Studios has released so far, a compelling vision like no other. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and this also receives a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

The Celestial Host
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/06/2019 13:30:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book contains 150 pages of content if you disregard the materials like ToC/editorial, etc. Not included in this tally would be the 2-page bibliography in the book that I considered to be rather helpful. I have received a physical copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. It has thus been moved up in my reviewing queue; it was also requested to be moved up in my queue by my patreon supporters.

This book was made as the first big product of RPG Design Camp – an enterprise that seeks to fill the hole that kickstarter left in the RPG-scene. You see, while kickstarter is great and all, at one point, patron-funded projects by Kobold Press (then known as Open Design) and trailblazers like Rite Publishing used a sort of crowdfunding before that; a type of making books that integrated feedback and ideas provided by the patrons funding the books in a rather direct manner. In a way, the dazzling creativity of this time left a huge mark on me, and it was also then that I got my first design-chops in published books. As an institution, RPG Design Camp is pure amazing, and I sincerely hope that it’ll continue to provide the means to have amateurs having their material critiqued and refined by veteran authors and designers. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not intended to bash kickstarter! The kickstarter-funds for these projects do allow publishers to make high-quality books with stunning layout, professional editing and great artwork, and indeed, this very book was funded by kickstarter. However, compared to current projects, many of those early patron-powered books may almost seem quaint, sporting few artworks, less stunning cartography, etc. These books, for the most part, had to stand on the strength of their ideas alone. They may have been less refined, but they had this creative spark of jamais-vu that really excited me.

What does that have to do with this tome? Well, “The Celestial Host” was originally conceived as an offering that was supposed to provide about 20,000 words on each pantheon featured within. You don’t have to be a math savant to note that this book’s page-count vastly exceeds this projection. It is a testament to the RPG Design Camp and Storm Bunny Studios-crew that this massive tome came together in this shape, going indubitably vastly over the projected budget. In spite of going over wordcount in such an excessive manner, the massive book features a ton of original and rather impressive high quality full-color artwork. Why do I mention that? Well, because there are a couple of instances where this book is a bit rough around the edges, much like many of the old patron-funded projects of yore, though in a somewhat different manner. You’ll see what I mean by this below. This is clearly a labor of love for those involved, and I applaud the commitment to presenting this book in its current form – not only is it vastly bigger than anticipated, it also has A LOT of content per page. This is a busy book that seeks to cram into its pages as much information as possible. I can easily picture certain layout-choices with broad borders etc. bloating the page-count to over 250 pages. No, I’m not kidding. This is a VERY dense book.

Okay, so, theme-wise, this is a kind of heir of “Deities & Demigods”, at least in a way. WAIT. If that elicited groans from you, then please continue reading nonetheless; if that sounded interesting, then by all means, do go on. First of all: I wasn’t a big fan of 3.X’s Deities & Demigods-book. Having had the old-school books on gods inspired by real-world myth, at one point, I started being more interested in fantastic cosmologies and novel mythologies, in part due to my frustration with how real-world mythologies tend to be handled in many gaming supplements. They are often grossly inaccurate or so “authentic” that they lose any direct applicability to the game, relegating the PCs to mere sidekicks for cosmic forces that tell a story we’re all familiar with. This may be a spoiler of sorts, but this book handles this aspect with more grace than I expected it to.

Three mythologies are covered: The Arthurian myth, the Tuatha Dé Danan, and the Norse mythology. From the get-go, this includes two of my favorite mythologies, so that is a plus. It should also be noted that this makes ample use of Rogue Genius Games’ Feat Reference-file, which unlocks PFRPG’s Golarion IP-flavored feats for a broader audience, providing the means to ensure compatibility with the Obedience-engine from the Inner Sea Gods-hardcover. Additionally, it should be noted that the builds included make use of Mythic Adventures-rules, which is a plus as far as I’m concerned. This book also does not commit the cardinal sin of statting deities (which would then just end up being slain by some power-gamer) – instead, the book goes a different route.

What route? Well, that takes some time to explain, so please bear with me. So, both the Deific Obedience feat, and the new Deific Reverence feat, allow for devout characters to gain a benefit for fulfilling an obedience. The new feat allows any character to gain these benefits once every 8 –minus character level, minimum 1 days. As such, obediences for e.g. Arthur, Lancelot and Gawain are provided to illustrate how not just deities, but also mythic individuals that represent certain character traits, flaws and virtues may inspire such obediences. Indeed, in the Arthurian context, this makes more sense than having obediences for e.g. the Christian God, the lady of the lake or the grail – which do get a brief, rudimentary deity-write-up, but which are, obviously, more removed from mortal affairs. Thus, one could speak about a thematically fitting and sound re-contextualization of what obediences and their powers apply to. This is not necessarily something you consciously and immediately notice, but a subtle design decision that can slightly alter the way you think about these mechanics.

The second engine presented would pertain Regency. As all of you know, medieval Europe’s social strata were justified in much parts by the notion of “Gottesgandentum” – the idea that social standing and the right to rule were based on the divine grace of god, and as such, raising your hand against a noble when you’re only a peasant, was considered to be not only an affront, but an upsetting of the divinely ordained balance of the world, an act that may well endanger your very soul. It comes as no surprise, then, that the prominence of rulers with quasi-magical abilities, protected by god’s grace, have become pretty much a staple in legends. Even before that, there were plenty of societies and cultures were the right to rule was justified with a direct claim towards some sort of deific mandate of stewardship over mortals.

In fantasy gaming, this notion has found traction in the rather cool concept of regency and rulership providing genuine power – and in this book, we have this concept codified via the Regency point engine. When you gain a territory, you receive 3 + your Charisma modifier, and may spend these points for an untyped bonus equal of twice the number of regency points spent, with the amount of points spent per round capped at the character’s level. As a minor complaint, while it is evident that these points are intended to apply to all types of rolls, this is not explicitly specified, and neither is whether you can spend them retroactively after results are made known. The focus here lies clearly on the narrative implications, suggesting e.g. mythic power to be available within the respective Territory claimed, and while I love this as a concept, the engine is a bit threadbare and only features 7 mythic feats. It also mentions the ability to perform specific acts of mythic power, and doesn’t really codify the regency-gain within the frame of mythic adventures’ rules – is it a universal ability? If so, of what tier? The section also misses quite a few spell-references, failing to put them properly in italics. So yeah, the execution is rough and somewhat rudimentary here, probably courtesy of the limited space available in the tome, but its idea, its concept, is by no means unsalvageable. My personal suggestion would be to graft regency points atop Legendary Games’ excellent Mythic Marvels system, using them as an alternate resource.

The next section deals with something rather crucial – it discusses the means of divine ascension, and how it should be handled, how deities should be handled. Indeed, this section could be seen as the reason for the absence of deity stats: The book champions an approach, where only VERY specific weapons and circumstances can result in the slaying of a deity and in divine ascension, and I applaud that. It also talks about some rather interesting notions regarding the interactions with mythology – if you slay Thor by exploiting the notions of his foreordained doom, what happens? The book does offer some exceedingly clever angles there, and indeed, from notions like fated masks, to ascended mortals, different means of thinking about divinity are provided…and before you ask, yes, this does include the notion of gods being aliens so widely spread among the more far out. esoteric circles. The book does not fall into the common trap of prescribing any solution, and instead presents the individual concepts in a broad term, establishing a common ground of ideas, which is later elaborated upon in individual story- and campaign-seeds.

Speaking of which: You do not have to consult the bibliography presented (though I personally do recommend you do!) to use this book. The core legends and beliefs are explained in a rather intriguing manner for the respective three chapters. My one complaint on a thematic level here would be that both Tuatha Dé Danan and Norse mythology draw a lot of their individual appeal for me as a person from the curious absence of binary thinking that, in Derrida’s terms, values presence over absence, that conceives of the world in stark good/evil contrasts, but this may just be me. And yes, I get it. Many of our roleplaying games are burdened by a morality system that thinks in binaries along one or two axes – Pathfinder on the good-evil and law-chaos axes, but I’d still have loved to see the difference of thinking about the world and a brief primer on the morality stemming from it as a breath of fresh air. Then again, I may be alone with this desire, and thus will not penalize a book that already overdelivers, content-wise, in an exemplary manner. For the Arthurian myth, the rendition of the Fisher King story most deeply steeped in Christian lore, though, this very much works perfectly.

Speaking of which, we do get quite a lot of sample builds here: Arthur Pendragon, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Gawain, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Mordred, and even King Pelles the Fisher King and Morien, the Moorish knight, receive stats herein. The builds of the statblocks rank among the upper echelons of complexity, employing a nice combination of archetypes, class-combos and mythic paths to render the builds, complexity-wise, above average. With notes on heraldic crests, secrets, character traits and the like provided, these legends indeed are not just simple builds, but feel like proper characters. The vast majority of them also get stunning, original full-color artworks, with only two of them using well-chosen artworks I’ve seen before. While I did find a couple of minor hiccups, their general integrity is above average. More than that, though, the book contains an impressive amount of different artifacts and magic items: From Excalibur to the blades of the other knights, to Lancelot’s ring bestowed onto him by the Lady of the Lake, the respective items deserve special mentioning – it is in these that we can find quite a few rather interesting rules: We, for example, have exploding dice (roll highest damage number again, and add results) with Lancelot’s sword and similar ideas that make them feel rather creative.

The book also provides, fyi, stats for so-called “shades” of the mighty swords – lesser versions of the mighty artifact-level weaponry for those that follow the tenets and ideals of the respective knights. It should also be noted that we e.g. get dismembering weapons – a lesser form of vorpal weaponry that can sever limbs. The fisher king build reflects the mythic vulnerability to spears and makes the character take damage for moving fully. It’s in the small aspects like this that veterans of PFRPG can plainly see truly novel components, where we can perceive that the authors really did care – there is not a single item that’s phoned in herein. While the rules language of a few of them could be more elegant, they still have this tangible sense of new voices coming into their own.

Beyond this, we have influence-rules (from Ultimate Intrigue) represented with the Knights of the Round Table, as well as the cult of the Children of Logres. As one of the “rough” patches I mentioned before, the “-uence” of “influence from the knight’s table has been partially obscured by a sidebar. A couple of sample spells (including lance-throwing and making a shield grow and fall atop a target) may be found here as well, and the section concludes with basically an extended hook that is centered on a fey ritual lampooning the Knights of the Round.

The second chapter, that pertaining the Tuatha Dé Danan, is slightly less crunchy, but not in a bad way: As a generally lesser-known mythological cosmos, the book acknowledges their obscure history and the nature of the rather diverse pantheon that seems to feature a surprising amount of overlap. The section mentions the Door or Dor’Eld, and we do get rules for the blood-craving dozen idols of Crom Cruach; as before, we do receive a ton of artifacts and magic items – from Nuada’s Silver Hand to the Spear of Light and the fabled Golden Gwyddbwyll, which also includes rules for the two games you can play with it, this section follows a different paradigm and theme, as befitting of the mythology. Indeed, much to my pleasant surprise, Celtic practices like the importance of poetry, sacred groves and wells or the tradition of sacred marriages may be found. The book also features 4 sample traits suitable for Celtic-inspired campaigns. We get 12 full write-ups for various Celtic deities, with plenty of surprisingly inspiring story seeds included, and flavor-centric notes on planar allies and religious heroes noted. Heck, we even get a sample poem in the Brigid write-up, penned by Kimberly A. Murphy, has been provided here. On the downside, Goibniu does lack the “deity statblock” that list epithets, alignment, domains, favored weapons and centers of worship that usually start off the write-ups. As far as statblocks are concerned, we do get Maidens of Morrígan (leanan sidhe bloodragers) and Sreng, the slayer of Nuada, we receive quite a few interesting statblocks here as well.

The third chapter presented within deals with the Norse gods – and fittingly, we do get a fully depicted Incantation of Gods’ Blot as a ritual representation. Freyr’s war antler gets weapon stats (so does, btw., the sling-staff in the Celtic chapter), and 7 deities receive their full write-up, with associated omens, cults and manifestations noted; valkyries do receive their own entry here as well, and while this obviously does not include all of the deities, much to my pleasant surprise, often neglected deities like Forseti do receive their due on a smaller scale as well. Nice: Instead of providing the oomphteenth take on stats for the get of Loki, we instead get fearsome and fully statted iterations of both Surtur and Thrym, the most famous giants from Norse myth. The chapter includes the evil Røkkr Niðr-cult – seeking to hasten Ragnarok’s arrival, with 3 cult-specific traits provided. Traits to represent the high value of oaths and a feat that provides rune-themed alternate channeling options may be found here, including a cleric archetype, the Vitki, which is rather cool, in that it blends Kobold Press’ Northlands-runes with the engine from Rhûne.

As far as items are concerned, we do get Muninn’s feather, Thor’s Mjolnir and the like. And yep, alas, the names have been Anglicized, but on an interesting note, the mighty hammer of Thor actually, in its mechanic execution, may not be 100% smooth, but is rather creative in that it clearly is a homage to how the item worked back in 2nd edition. Its rules are a bit tougher to understand due to the missing formatting of spells and the like herein, though. On the plus-side, some truly creative spells, notes on a couple of cults and holy sites and plenty of story seeds that often go beyond the ones we expect from RPG-adaptations of the mythology, is a pretty big plus.

The final chapter of the book is devoted to the “Ode of the Crimson Eagle”, an adventure for 7th level characters penned by Andrew Christian. Its premise is rather unique: Every summer when the sun reaches its highest peaks, Sir Avon of the Knights of the Round, Thane Fjolmod Ulfhedin and the Celtic priestess Rhoswen gather at the Grand Moot – this time on Harolde Island. A surprisingly nice rendition of the isle as a player-friendly handout is included, and NPCs/factions provide proper intrigue-stats for verbal contests. 4 different small handouts have been included. The module does not sport read-aloud text.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, after some politicking and establishing the scene, there will be an attack threatening the Moot – unbeknown to the factions, the Crimson Eagles, seeking to claim the mighty spear Ascalon, have infiltrated the island, and once the PCs have rebuffed the initial assault, they will be faced with something rather interesting – clues that represent basically a riddle that will allow them to hopefully claim the magic weapon before their adversaries, and before hostilities erupt. The main part of the module is all about a free-form sandboxy treasure-hunt – gathering clues, traveling to and fro – and yes, traveling speeds from locale to locale are provided in a handy table. The challenges faces, with giants, dragons and fey, tie in with the respective mythological themes, and the Crimson Eagles are nasty adversaries. The module features various degrees of success and failure and provides a surprising amount of material for its wordcount. I usually am disappointed by “back of the book”-modules like this; they are often phoned in. This is not – it actually managed to blend the mythologies and themes in a surprisingly sensible way. Kudos!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language level. There are quite a bunch of glitches herein, ranging from typos like “Excaliber”, hyphenation mid-sentence sans linebreaks, to inconsistencies à la “Harold” vs “Harolde;” rules-language adherence to the verbiage structures we’d consider standard also fluctuates somewhat, with a couple of components being exceedingly precise, while in other instances, there are some issues in the verbiage. Spells and magic items are often properly formatted, while in other instances, the italics are missing. Generally, functionality is maintained, though. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that jams a ridiculous amount of content into these pages, and artworks, for the most part, are exceedingly impressive original full-color pieces. The respective chapters are color-coded, allowing you to quickly flip to the relevant chapter – nice touch there. The softcover is a nice book.

Ben McFarland, Brian Suskind and Jaye Sonia, with contributions by Darren Belisle, Craig Campbell, Andrew Christian, Andrew Durston, Robert Fairbanks, Jeffrey Hersh, Les Hostetler, Chad Middleton, Christen N. Sowards and Kimberley Murphy Watson, provide an impressive book here. Granted, in an ideal world, this would have received a strict editing pass to get rid of the sheer number of minor glitches, which do accumulate. However, between that, and having a page-count so far above what the project initially promised? Heck, I’ll take the additional content every single time! Particularly since this book, its formal glitches notwithstanding, manages to evoke a sense of wonder that I frankly did not expect. I expected to be at least partially bored; after all, I’ve seen the concepts done multiple times, am thoroughly familiar with the mythologies provided, and have read plenty of RPG-supplements on the respective topics. Picture my pleasant surprise when, in the small details, from nuanced explanations of characters to a plethora of magic items, we, time and again, get rules that often do genuinely creative things.

In that way, this book is truly a rightful heir to the concepts pioneered back then by Open Design; it manages to capture that spirit of creativity, and infuses old themes that have been, by all accounts, done to death, and instill them with a sense of the novel and genuinely interesting. Heck, even the “back-of-the-book”-module actually manages to pull off a blend of the three mythologies and add something beyond what you’d expect. This book may be formally rather flawed, but it oozes passion and a sense of joy that is hard to convey. It provides fresh voices, and while e.g. formal editing is not up to the standards we expect nowadays, I am, in spite of my repeated annoyance, glad that I have this book.

“The Celestial Host” brims with creative story hooks, unique items, cultural tidbits – it brims with ideas, both on a narrative and rules level. It is rough around the edges, yes. And if you’re very nitpicky regarding editing, then this will annoy you. However, passing on this book would also deprive you of a book that is more creative than Deities & Demigods for 3.X ever was. As noted, I genuinely did not expect to like this book enough to write this, but in spite of the numerous formal flaws, I consider this book to be very much worth getting. It is, in spite of the age of PFRPG, a book that feels fresh, a book that hearkens back to the glory days of Open Design, where fresh and creative ideas revolutionized what we expected from d20-based supplements and adventures. We need more books of this caliber. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval, with the caveat of a tolerance for formal glitches being required to enjoy this to its fullest; if you don’t have that tolerance, then do detract a star. Personally, I found myself enjoying this more than I imagined, and while, as a person, I will consider this to be a rounding up candidate, as a reviewer, I have to round down. Still, if you harbor even the remotest bit of love for the mythologies covered, do take a look – I bet that you’ll find material herein that will indeed make you smile.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Celestial Host
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Storm Bunny Presents - The Zhamaja (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/28/2019 02:29:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of this little pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page of which is devoted to the SRD, with the other 3 sporting content of some sorts, with the first page sporting the amazing artwork of the monster, as well as the description – the zhamaja is a worm from beyond space and time, prowling the darkness beneath, with horrid, ringed mouths and poisonous stingers – on page two, we actually do get visual close-up representations of the moth and poison-sac-laden stingers, including annotations, making that part look a bit like a field manual, which is a pretty damn cool angle, as far as presentation is concerned.

The zhamaja comes with 2 statblocks – one for CR 6 and one for a CR 13 iteration. Both have in common, that they can either opt for tentacle slams, stinger or bite attacks as far as their attack routines are concerned, and with their telepathy, they are not mere brutes, but actually sentient adversaries. Another plus would be that we do get descriptions of the respective features of their behavior patterns, with the pdfs explaining e.g. the functionality of the acidic maws and behavioral patterns. These diverge between the two variants and add some serious value to the critter, contextualizing them in the context of the game and kicking the creative juices in high gear. A problem here in the 5e-version, is a slight disjoint regarding the flavor and attack array – their Multiattack consists of a tentacle, a bite and a stinger attack, with the stingers actually, flavor-wise, being part of the tentacle; this is in as much a bit odd, as it deals the same amount of damage, but also adds poison damage on a failed Constitution save. This is supposed to be offset, I guess, by the optional attack routine of hitting with additional tentacles instead of bite and stinger, if the first tentacle attack hits. Considering that bite gets bonus acid damage, stinger bonus poison damage, that option usually doesn’t make much sense, in spite of the cumulative (and some might argue “un-5e-ish” +1 bonus to attack with subsequent tentacle attacks.

On a formal level, it should be noted that, while the statblock is solid, it does not properly format the abilities, which are usually both bolded and italicized in 5e, and followed by a full stop. Similarly, “Hit” is not italicized in the attack section. A possible error in the statblock pertains to the stinger attacks, which are +1 too high – this leads me to suggest that the stinger may have been intended at one point to require a previous hit of a tentacle. As far as tentacle attacks are concerned, an easy means to differentiate them slightly would have been a change of damage type. While tentacle attacks are often bludgeoning in 5e, e.g. gricks have slashing tentacles, grells piercing ones, so I don’t object to piercing tentacles per se. Considering 5e’s rock-paper-scissors approach to damage types, though, it’d have made more sense to provide a meaningful choice for the monster there, perhaps shifting the tentacle damage value around.

The introduction of the Outerdark as a new terrain type made me smile, as it reminded me of the much-beloved Ocean Game-based settings by Pelgrane Press, so that’d be another flavor-plus, as far as I’m concerned. So, as far as flavor and artwork is concerned, this is a definite 5 star + seal candidate, but, as noted, there are a couple of components that may end up irking you slightly ona formal level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, and slightly less refined on a rules-language level. Layout is pretty gorgeous and adheres to a two-column full-color standard reminiscent of a field manual, with the phenomenal artwork by Terry Maranda being one of the highlights of the supplement. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I really liked Jaye Sonia’s zhamaja, mainly because they are a great example of what I’ve been preaching – good flavor can really elevate a critter. A cynic could call them another worm-like thing without much going for it, but it’s the contextualization of the monster that adds to it, that helps it come into its own. While the pdf sports a few minor snafus and design decisions that could have been refined a bit, the creature ultimately is more compelling in its 5e-iteration. While not exactly reinventing the wheel as far as critters are concerned, it is a solid addition to your bestiary. Having a couple of special abilities that diverge more strongly between versions also helps the two iterations stand out from one another more. In short, this version, to me, feels slightly superior to the PFRPG-version, which is why I will round up due to in dubio pro reo from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Presents - The Zhamaja (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Storm Bunny Presents - The Zhamaja (Pf)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/28/2019 02:27:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page of which is devoted to the SRD, with the other 3 sporting content of some sorts, with the first page sporting the amazing artwork of the monster, as well as the description – the zhamaja is a worm from beyond space and time, prowling the darkness beneath, with horrid, ringed mouths and poisonous stingers – on page two, we actually do get visual close-up representations of the moth and poison-sac-laden stingers, including annotations, making that part look a bit like a field manual, which is a pretty damn cool angle, as far as presentation is concerned.

The zhamaja comes with 2 statblocks – one for CR 6 and one for a CR 13 iteration. Both have in common, that they can either opt for tentacle slams or for bite attacks as far as their attack routines are concerned, and with at-will telepathy, they are not mere brutes, but actually sentient adversaries. Another plus would be that we do get descriptions of the respective features of their behavior patterns, with the pdfs explaining e.g. the functionality of the acidic maws and behavioral patterns. These diverge between the two variants and add some serious value to the critter, contextualizing them in the context of the game and kicking the creative juices in high gear.

The introduction of the Outerdark as a new terrain type also made me smile, as it reminded me of the much-beloved Ocean Game-based settings by Pelgrane Press, so that’d be another flavor-plus, as far as I’m concerned. So, as far as flavor and artwork is concerned, this is a definite 5 star + seal candidate; alas, the critters themselves are mechanically less interesting, offering not much in the way of truly distinctive tricks, and sort some glitches in the statblocks, like missing the application of special size modifiers to CMB/CMD, for example. The glitches are not bad, mind you, and these remain usable, but if you’re particular about mechanical precision, this may irk you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, and slightly less refined on a rules-language level. Layout is pretty gorgeous and adheres to a two-column full-color standard reminiscent of a field manual, with the phenomenal artwork by Terry Maranda being one of the highlights of the supplement. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I really liked Jaye Sonia’s zhamaja, mainly because they are a great example of what I’ve been preaching – good flavor can really elevate a critter. A cynic could call them another worm-like thing without much going for it, but it’s the contextualization of the monster that adds to it, that helps it come into its own. However, at the same time, I can’t well ignore the fact that the critters per se don’t really have anything unique going for them on a mechanical level; their feat load-out is clever, but combined with the minor hiccups in the mechanics, I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down. If you don’t mind these components, this is still worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Presents - The Zhamaja (Pf)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Alessia Promo PDF - Seirye Qin, Captain of the Skyship Amethyst Myst.
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/26/2019 12:21:12

Let me start with a disclaimer: I have several friends at Storm Bunny studios who worked on the World of Alessia and I ended up backing the Kickstarter. With that being said, I've also played some of the test material, and I'm really looking forward to it. Alessia is an awesome blend of sword-and-sorcery type fantasy with some elements of science fiction nicely worked in. All of that includes some beautiful stylized artwork that has something of an anime/Blizard sort of feel to it that ties everything together in a consistent way. The rules are going to be compatible with 5th edition D&D and Starfinder, which will make its a flexible game for players of different systems.

This promo PDF will give you a good overview of what is to come, but the setting and the system itself is much more rich and datailed than a promo can show. It's shaping up to be a really exciting setting, and I can't wait to play it once it's released!

My website did an interview with game developer Jaye Sonia a while back. Have a look for more details.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alessia Promo PDF - Seirye Qin, Captain of the Skyship Amethyst Myst.
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Bloodlines & Black Magic
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2018 20:54:18

Hoo boy, there's a lot to unpack here. TLDR is that fans of modern fantasy, modern d20, or playing Pathfinder on a scale that keeps fear of the supernatural very real, this is the book for you.

The big thing that sticks out with this book is its size. Similar to some other Storm Bunny products, this book is incredibly extensive, clocking in at over 250 pages. Quite a bit of it is illustrated and tightly detailed, so you can expect to get quite a large bang for your buck. We've got a revised race system, some revised classes, a whole bunch of modern fantasy rules, and of course the oft-toted O7 rule system.

The O7 system (adapted from 3.5's old E6 rules) works great, creating a system of accelerated progression that makes characters feel powerful while keeping the dangers around them very real. The fact that the supplement offers a lot of details on how to accommodate a system of low-level gameplay into a high-fantasy game like Pathfinder is a nice touch. O7 is overall a very versatile, capable of being utilized in worlds far afield from the urban fantasy setting of BL&BM. I should mention, however, that the full alterations from O7 extend into the "Building your character" chapter of the book as well, so those wanting to utilize the full bevy of mechanics will have to check that chapter as well.

Now, let's get to the crunch itself. The first thing that needs to be talked about is the Bloodline system which replaces race, and I feel that this could be improved upon. Flavor-wise, the different heritages are all very distinct, with numerous lore tidbits being given for each and distinct flavor being established for every kind of character. The concept of custom-building bloodlin abilities through a point buy system is also fascinating. However, something that sticks out as distinctively lacking is the inability to customize ability score bonuses. This is particularly problematic when only one bloodline grants a strength bonus, a prospect which limits the number of viable strength-based builds.

The class list in this book is restricted, but this works to it's advantage. The open classes are Brawler, Investigator, Mesmerist, Occultist, Psychic, Slayer, and Spiritualist (although it seems implicit that Alchemist was supported at one point), seven classes which I feel do not get enough love. Many of them get new abilties at first level that suit the setting well, and the new archetypes for many of the classes are not only thematic but also fun to play. What's more, they are capable of being used in regular Pathfinder at low levels (high-level versions would be appreciated in future expansions should they occur).

In addition to bloodline and class, BL&BM introduces a third choice known as Careers. These determine your wealth and can grant a wide variety of potent non-combat bonuses if you progress enough in them (which is an entirely separate track from levelling up). It adds a modern aspect into the game without causing such rules to intrude on class functionality, and I could see quite a few games adapting it.

The system of feats and traits has received some revision in this book, and I feel that the changes are for the better. The use of a Tarot deck for deciding traits is darn creative, and the new and enhanced feats not only do a good job of making these options more suitable for modernized play but also more impactful on character concepts (Ability Training can actually boost your scores permanently, Demolition Training allows you to build and utilize all sorts of explosives, Weapon Proficiency feats now grant proficiency with multiple weapons every time you take them). Even better, these feats embrace creative strategic play, allowing the characters to utilize them in inventive combinations that offer a surprising amount of depth.

Equipment is also a consideration, and I feel that BL&BM does a good job of representing modern firearms in Pathfinder's ruleset. The sheer variety of weapons is impressive, allowing for players to customize their arsenal in some mechanically relevant ways. Armor, on the other hand, is less well-executed, with rules being ambiguous as to what guns (and melee weapons, for that matterr) can punch through what armor.

One final issue I have is that the PDF is poorly optimized and takes quite a while to load on my computer (a curse of the stylized design, I suppose). I'm hoping that this gets fixed up at some point.

Overall, there is a lot of good stuff here, and while some of it could use improvement I feel that there is more than enough fantastic content in this book to justify a purchase or run a campaign.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Creator Reply:
Thank you so much for your review! We wanted to add so much more, but we were working with a tight budget and much bigger dreams. Our latest issue of Whispers & Rumors will address a few things. I plan to simplify and expand on the armor rules in the future (which could be streamlined some). All in all, we love reviews and look forward to making better games. Cheers, Jaye
Storm Bunny Studios: A Catalog of Ideas
by Dain N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/09/2018 19:07:45

Good layout for what will be an expanding catalog document. The transition from one title to the next is clear based on, I assume, the publication's cover and inidivual background. Definitely works for the purpose it serves.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Studios: A Catalog of Ideas
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Storm Bunny Studios: A Catalog of Ideas
by Duncan N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/05/2018 07:27:17

It's a free catalog of products showing the wide vairety of settings put out by Storm Bunny. Even if you aren't interested in getting the products within, you may as a GM find inspriation for a unique setting or bit of storytelling within your campaign by previewing the variety of worlds they have on offer.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Studios: A Catalog of Ideas
by Ken M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/04/2018 01:43:00

Storm Bunny has always had some of the best art, so I pretty much always look forward to their catalogs. No exception here; the art is beautiful, and I have a weakness for Rhune (melding technology and magic). Looking forward to how the catalog evolves over time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Studios: A Catalog of Ideas
by David B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/03/2018 13:52:58

ne of my favorite publishers! plenty of great stuff coming out this year



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Studios: A Catalog of Ideas
by David H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/03/2018 08:53:43

I'm a fan of Mists of Akuma and was told to check out Storm Bunny Studios offerings. Downloaded the free catalog --- nice format! Reminds me of the glossy catalog pages they used to include with boardgames (Axis and Allies era!). Didn't know they had other settings -- definitely looking into!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Displaying 1 to 15 (of 61 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
Powered by DriveThruRPG