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Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/17/2017 05:44:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive toolkit clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page artist contacts (nice), 1 page writer's contacts, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 93 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf comes with 3 hex-crawl-y jpgs - one with icons and labels, one with icons sans labels and one that only notes the starting position. Nice!

Before you're asking - the ruleset this is based on would be Swords & Wizardry, so if you're familiar with the various OSR-rulesets, you'll know what to expect here in that regard. After a brief introduction by the author and a similarly brief background story, we take a look at the first chapter, which deals with character creation for an all-caster party; the first suggestion we have here would be rolling 2d6 + 6 for an array of characters who are less prone to having devastating Achilles heels.

After that, we talk about lifting racial class restrictions - which makes sense, considering the goal of the chapter - but, as you know, this does interfere with the balancing mechanisms of OSR-gaming - level caps and class restrictions were employed to keep the magical races from outshining humans. The proposition here is to a) cap save-bonuses granted by race/class-combos at +4 and b) grant humans two +1 ability score bonuses they can freely assign, capping at 18. Since S&W does not use the d%-differentiation of the Strength-score of 18, I do not have a problem here, though, if you do, this is something to bear in mind and I'd suggest going for 18/01 as a default.

Very helpful, btw.: Since old-school games tend to have a strong race/class protection regarding the tasks available for the classes, the pdf lists several worthwhile publishers and publications you can check out to diversify your roster of options. Okay, this basic contemplations out of the way, you will realize that, to some degree, this pdf champions an opening of options available for the PCs. Personally, I am good with that, but it is something to be aware of. While the book does suggest e.g. potentially giving illusionists some thief tricks, I do lament that the per se pretty cool suggestion is not supplemented by a class-modifying toolkit...but that may just be the crunch-loving bastard in me.

Next up would be 10 new races, ready to be inserted in your game, which are here to provide a more diversified student roster. On a plus-side, these races do come with nice full-color artworks, but the inclusion of the artwork in the file, layout-wise, leaves a bit to be desired - white boxes on a colored background make very clear where the artwork begins and ends.

Now, the races presented herein have a few things in common: They represent iconic concepts and classic tropes...and their power-level exceeds those available in a vanilla S&W-game. Beastfolk, for example, gain a 1d4 unarmed attack, +10% Hide in Shadows, +15% Move Silently, 15 base movement, ability to breathe underwater (!!!) and swim movement 12, natural armor 7 (12 if you're playing with ascending AC) and free Climb Walls as a Thief of their level as well as a ranger's tracking as though they were a ranger of their level. Drow get bonuses to all thief skills ( +5% to 10%) and the assassin's poison use as well as darkvision 120 feet and +4 to saves versus spells. Gnomes, goblins, kobolds, nagas, pixies, tieflings and vampires are included here...and yep, the latter is a nerfed down version, more akin to dhampirs, really. The races generally have in common that they gain several thief skill bonuses, a couple of immunities (vampire), save-bonuses - in short, they are all pretty potent. Some, like kobold and naga, also have intriguing tricks, like setting up impromptu traps or being able to ascertain features of divine or magical areas. The races generally tend to be on a roughly even playing field among themselves, though they outshine the standard S&W-races, though a single kobold, could, provided he has enough days of preparation, generate vast trap-gauntlets and the beastfolk's swimming speed is imho a bit too potent.

The pdf also features three new classes: The bard (requirements Dex, Int and Cha 12), the mage-knight (Str 14 and Int 12) and the Unseen (Dex and Int 15, Wis 12). Bards gain d6 HD, a spellbook, use the magic-user, assassin and thief attack tables, receive +2 to saves versus mind-influencing and sound-based effects, need music to cast and start their saves at 15, using the druid's XP-track. They learn more languages, can fascinate folks (depending on HD) and at 9th level, they get to establish a bardic college. The class has its own spell-list (going up to 6th level), which is not presented in the usual manner: Formatting sticklers like yours truly can be a bit annoyed by this, for, while S&W does not italicize spells in spell-lists, these usually are presented differently - in the way we see it herein, italicization would have made sense...but that is purely aesthetic and will not influence the final verdict.

The Mage-knight gets the paladin's XP-track, d8 HD, fighter/pala/ranger attack tables, +2 to saves versus spells and gets a runic weapon at 1st level - this weapon can absorb spells and then unleash the absorbed energy upon hitting foes, inflicting +1d6 bonus damage per spell level. That...is kinda hardcore, as far as I'm concerned. Sure, it's just one hit, but it still will make the other melee dudes look with envy at the class. Starting at 2nd level, they can cast spells drawn from their own spell-list (capping at 4th level) as long as they're in chain mail or less and have a free hand. There is a problem regarding the interaction of mage-knight and magic-user spellbooks: RAW, the magic-user can transcribe spells from the mage-knight's spell-list, if the spell is on his spell-list...however, for the mage-knight, e.g. disintegrate is a 4th level spell - and RAW, magic-users could thus transcribe the spell as a 4th level spell. It's an obvious cheese and not something a referee can't handle, sure - but it constitutes, from a design-perspective, a minor flaw. At higher levels, mage-knights learn to redirect hostile spells towards them and even rebound them to their casters, which is pretty damn cool.

The Unseen represents a conversion to Sword & Wizardry from "Theorems & Dark Pacts", a book that is waiting for me to cover it as well; hence, in all brevity: 1d4 HD, attack table as thief, magic-user, assassin, no armors etc., spellcasting drawn from custom list of up to 6th level, thief ability-progression at -2 levels and a custom XP-progression track, capping at 2, 120, 000 at 20th level. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class gets to choose a special ability that represents the magical sneak trope. (As an aside - I would have loved for the classes to feature the +x XP note for level 21+ gameplay, since that is significantly less problematic in OSR gaming than in most more math-intense games...but that may just be me.)

Okay, so this represents the basic expansion of rules for the player-side of things - next up would be the section that handles arcane school gameplay from a referee's side, introducing arcane lore as a meta-currency: Scribblings, journals, strange items and the like are codified in various classes with values/cost assigned - these, for facility's sake, btw. translate from gold on a 1: 1 ratio. They may be spent exclusively for the purpose of gaining levels, making magic items, scribing spells, etc. - I LOVE this. It's somewhat akin to what LotFP does and what I do in my own campaigns - ascribe value to small things, champion knowledge and making magic thus feel less like a regular commodity. In fact, I'd strongly suggest making this the only way to get magic...but that may be me.

The next section is something pretty much anyone familiar with OSR-gaming has probably seen: A minimalist skill system, which boils down to rolling under the attribute. The pdf also suggests a free-form rewarding of backgrounds. Since hirelings are an integral part of gaming for many campaigns, the pdf does introduce the concept of loyal bonds - basically a story-reward for the PCs, one that is influenced by Charisma etc. as usual, but yeah.

After this, we have a massive chapter of new spells - as the pdf properly acknowledges (Kudos for that , btw. - the book always gives credit where credit is due!!), they partially represent conversions from various sources - classics like PFRPG's blood biography or tongues can be found here, converted to S&W. Now, I am a bit torn on this chapter - the rules-language is precise and to the point, but more so than previous chapters, it changes how the game feels in some important aspects: The reliable detect poison in a pretty large radius, for example, changes how that aspect works in game and is reminiscent of systems that provide more in the range of utility. It is also interesting to note that clerics do not, RAW, gain access to it - it is a Mage-knight and Unseen spell here. Basically, this chapter represents an upgrade in versatility, with spells like tongues e.g. eliminating language-barriers. Whether you like that or not, ultimately remains a matter of taste, but it is something to be aware of.

Following the leitmotif of power lying in knowledge, we continue with treasured tomes: A character who spends at least 30 minutes a day consulting such a tome receives a substantial bonus - from medical textbooks to those containing cyphers, this section is one of my favorites in the whole book and I really wished it was a bit longer - the concept is pure gold. regarding layout, this would be as well a place as any to note that end-of-chapter text tends to result in a bit of blank space on some pages. You may not mind, but, yeah, it's worth mentioning.

All right, this concludes pretty much the rules-section of this massive tome and we progress with a selection of various NPCs, both named and unnamed, that inhabit the school of sorcery. We get stats for all of them and brief write-ups. More importantly, their respective fields of interest and roles provide a variety of different unique abilities and tricks that make them stand out. Where applicable, loyalty bonds have been included with their respective information. Once we have covered this cast of characters, we move on to the locales within the academy, which include its own dungeon as well as a massive, primitive printing press. various spires and a magic, creepy out-of-order restroom...that provides visions for a price, but also may have some sinister purpose. A list of 20 brief random encounter set-ups and a simple generator for people and cliques as well as one for McGuffins can be found. Need to quickly generate a teacher and a potential mishap/complication for your PCs? No problem, there's a generator for that as well. Clubs and extra-curricular activities similarly get their own tables.

Now, this is billed as a combo toolkit/sourcebook/hex-crawl, and indeed, the last 30+ pages of content are devoted to a basic outline of the surrounding lands of Frelundia - here, a desert looms where a mighty serpent-god once feel down and a city of titans long gone awaits exploration. The mysterious collector lives in the direblack swamp and the evil nation of Tyranor borders these lands. A plain of sunflowers contains the astral rock, which may unleash...things, a village of people who disavow the divine providence of rulership and legitimacy of nobles and the PCs may explore the resonating representation of a collective subconsciousness from the plane of dreams. The hex-crawl-section, in general, is pretty evocative, managing to create an overall sense of high-magic wonder, as you may have gleaned from the examples I chose. However, much like similar offerings, it remains sketch-like - you have to develop these wondrous locales yourself.

That being said, a level 1 haunted house (which is really vanilla and not too interesting) as well as level 3 ruins can be found - and the latter actually represents a solid sidetrek adventure. Unfortunately, the solid b/w-maps do not come with player-friendly, key-less versions, which constitutes a comfort-detriment as far as I'm concerned.

The pdf also features a proper, full-length adventure for 2nd level characters - basically a potentially lethal test, as the PCs explore the dangerous dungeon below the school, seeking to find 4 tokens to join the prestigious ranks of the Golden Claw elite students. Interesting here would be not necessarily the complex itself, but the fact that this represents a competitive environment - as such, a rival group of adventurers can make foils and a sequence of their progress is included in the pdf. Once again, there is no player-friendly version of the map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect: On a formal level, I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches like "pendent" and the like. The rules-language, for the most part, is similarly crisp - most referees should not run into issues, though sticklers like yours truly will encounter a few instances where a bit more precision would have been warranted. Layout adheres to a nice 1-column full-color standard with a greenish background...and represents one of the weaknesses of the pdf: The artworks embedded in the file show their borders, which can be a bit aesthetically jarring. The pdf sports a wide variety of full-color artworks, though, if you're like me, you'll have seen quite a lot of them before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The full-color hex-maps as jpgs are nice and serviceable, though the lack of player-friendly versions of the adventure-location maps in the book represents a bit of a comfort detriment for me.

Ray Chapel's school of sorcery, as presented herein, is an interesting book: As a toolkit, it succeeds at its task and allows you to play characters and campaigns based on magical schools. I am not a fan of the new races and their increased power sans limitations on levels. On the other side, the tome and arcane lore rules and ideas like that really make this shine. I am similarly ambivalent about the adventuring portion of the book: While I adore the high-concept hex-crawl locations and their inspiring ideas, the detailed modules didn't do much for me: The haunted house is a bit lackluster and the proving ground adventure's trope of the controlled dungeon has been done better by Rite Publishing's Ruins Perilous-series, serialized in their Adventure Quarterly magazine.

The ruins are nice, though - also courtesy to the tendency of providing cool and unique abilities for monsters and NPCs, something I thoroughly applaud. I also, surprisingly, found myself enjoying the notes on the school more than I figured I would - but ultimately, I found myself wishing we actually got a map or more details for it. As written, the daily life, structure etc. of how it works needs to be pieced together from the information throughout the book, which can be a bit jarring for referees looking for something more than a baseline to develop their ideas.

As a whole, I'd consider this a worthwhile purchase if you're looking for a high-fantasy toolkit for OSR-gaming with more potent races. The pdf does have some nice, hackable aspects and features more than one idea that is guaranteed to spark one's imagination. There is a lot to love here, but at the same time, I wished it was a bit more focused - the adventures contained herein eat precious word-count and pages that would have imho been better served to depict the school, suggest structures and the like - as written, we have a pretty free-form customization tool, but one that does require a little bit more work by the referee than I expected. Why? Because unlike e.g. Carcosa and similar huge-region hexcrawls, this oscillates between the big picture and the local one and the latter is not nearly represented as well as the amazing global ideas. Combined with the hiccups and minor layout glitches, I can't rate this higher than 4 stars - though it definitely deserves these 4 stars. If what you read even remotely intrigues you, take a look!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery
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Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery
by James H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/30/2016 05:37:27

Awesome in every way - from the substance of the content to the beautiful, full color, presentation - Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery is an excellent value for the asking price. For less than $5 (US), you get both a new setting for Swords & Wizardry, as well as a slew of new rule options (including new races, new classes, and new spells). If you're looking to run a campaign that centers around (or just features) an academy of magic in Swords & Wizardry, look no furher. I own a lot of Swords & Wizardy magic supplements, as well as magic supplements for other OSR games. This is far and away the strongest. If you can spare the money, get it while the getting is good.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you for the kind words, James. However, I wish to clarify one thing. The usual price for this product is $9.99. You purchased it during a sale, likely around the holidays if this review was close to the purchase date. All the same, Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery contains a lot of content for OSR gaming groups even at that higher price.
Playable Monsters for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/08/2016 03:51:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of Quasar Knight Enterprises' take on playable monsters clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page of artist contacts, 1 page of writer info, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, after some general discussions on how to handle monstrous PCs and parties, we dive pretty much straight into the respective races, which cover a brief physical description, some minor information on society, relations with other races and alignment/religion preferences as well as how the race interacts with adventurers before diving into the respective racial traits - on a nitpicky formatting side, the pdf does not feature the full-stops at the end of the respective headers and here and there, a colon has snuck in, courtesy of the original PFRPG-version of the file. Similarly, it's Ability Score Increases, not the singular. HOWEVER, before you dismiss this - the monster races presented herein, in other regards, very much exhibit adherence to D&D 5e's formatting standards - from switches between "The insert race name" to "you", the general transition works pretty well. Similarly, the races generally sport rather balanced attribute increase dispersal. Similarly, Speed ratings and other rules-language tends to be rather solid. As something that annoyed me, though, I should mention that the pdf fails to provide weights for the respective races.

The races provided in this pdf are the boggards, centaurs, chokers, dark folk, derro, doppelganger, dryad, true giants, gnolls, harpies, lizardfolk, medusae, naga, pixies, sahuagins and vampires. Now, one thing I feel obliged to mention is the following: I gave the PFRPG-version of this pdf a thorough thrashing since it fails in many, many regards. The 5e-version of this book, in contrast, is significantly more refined - perhaps it's due to the relative simplicity of the rules in direct comparison, but generally, the races come off as rather balanced: Boggards, for example, are superb jumpers and swimmers, gaining advantage on both uses of Strength (Athletics) checks...though oddly, the Natural Jumper trait is listed twice. Still, that would generally constitute a massive improvement. Similarly, in contrast t PFRPG, there is, as of yet, no assumption of favored class options or alternate racial traits and similar supplemental material, making the bare-bones approach herein easier to stomach - still, if you expect extended pieces of flavor like in the PHB for the races, you'll probably be disappointed by the relatively brief depiction herein.

On the downside, though, e.g. sometimes spells are not properly italicized, though SPs at least mention the governing spellcasting attribute and gaining of racial abilities at later levels is pretty smoothly handled as a whole. On the downside, there are some instances when ability formatting could be clearer - when e.g. an ability nets you advantage on the bonus attack while two-weapon fighting, mentioning that it requires your intent to do so before mentioning that it recharges on a rest would have made it a tad bit clearer - though, this time around, I'm admittedly nitpicking. Not nitpicking would be the missing DC of a dark folk subrace's curse. And yes, there are a few, though not many, races herein that sport subraces. Somewhat odd - derro as a new dwarven subrace get a bonus action to attack with a net when fighting with a short sword and net...does that stack with two weapon fighting? No idea.

On both a plus-side and point of minor criticism - harpies no longer have an OP 1st level fly speed, instead gaining the option to glide, with 7th level providing proper flight. While the flight is magical in nature (and thus problematic), it can be envisioned as a jury-rig. Not complaining, mind you - just observing. That being said, I'm not a big fan of inventing a glide speed.

While overall, the races generally turn out to be relatively well-balanced, there are some examples that are slightly stronger than others...but there are some issues in the fine-print: E.g. a medusa's gaze of stone's damage lacks a damage type -which is a pity, for the ability is actually well-balanced in one smart way: The gaze only petrifies the target if it reduces the victim to incapacitated...which is pretty cool...but also takes a bit of the utility away. Why not simply go with a combined degrees of failure + multiple saves approach as the gazes of some creatures in the monster manual do? Also problematic - what about averting one's gaze? Gazes usually allow that option, though this one does not...which I get, but it basically turns the gaze into an ability that is a gaze in name only.

As a personal nitpick, neither centaur, nor naga tackle the ladder-conundrum - players and GMs will have to resolve that on their own. On a positive side, the vampire race herein is pretty playable and balanced, though its children of the night ability could use an action...still, both sunlight and running water weaknesses are pretty solidly depicted. On a downside - the write-up mentions a "resting place" - but no mechanics for it. Or for a weakness of being staked. It's basically the ultra-bare-bones approach to the subject matter. On a nitpicky part - vampire weaknesses already have established names in the Monster Manual - which interact with other rules...so I can't, for the life of me, find any valid reason why the vampires herein don't use that nomenclature as well. This is particularly odd, since one of the 4 feats herein is devoted to getting rid of just that (these racial feats btw. all lack prerequisite-lines). One feat grants you, among other benefits, the means to fluidly switch your domains...which is imho a bit much for a feat and will continue to grow in power the more domains are released. On the plus-side, see invisibility plus a cool ability that nets you advantage versus specific foes (elemental, fiends and fey, but strangely not celestials, for example) if you know their true names. The pdf sports two nice mundane items, one for breathing underwater and an item that temporarily helps versus light blindness, but oddly not sunlight sensitivity.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; while there are several formatting glitches and minor deviations from the standard, for the most part, these do not cripple the pdf. Layout adheres to an okay 1-column full-color standard with a blend of full-color and b/w-artworks - they are okay, but nothing to write home about. The pdf, annoyingly, has no bookmarks, which renders navigation annoying.

Ray Chapel's second shot at the races herein fares better than the first; while the fluff-component of the racial depiction very much still follows the formatting of the PFRPG-version, the 5e-crunch ends up being better than the PFRPG version's crunch. Due to 5e's relative youth, there simply aren't that many alternative rules and the like to take into account and the balancing of the races generally feels more sound. Unfortunately, at the same time, this pdf does stumble quite a few times regarding the finer details of 5e's chassis with needless deviations from already existing abilities and similar hiccups. That being said, as a whole, this still remains pretty functional and should be considered an okay, if not mind-boggling purchase. If the concept strikes your fancy, you may get some mileage out of this, though sticklers for the details may be upset at some of the aesthetic glitches. Similarly, like in the PFRPG-version, if you expect racial fluff, compelling cultures or the like, you won't find that here. Still, in comparison to the original, this represents a significant step up. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Playable Monsters for 5th Edition
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New Fighter Maneuvers & Talents (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/06/2016 04:13:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the fighter-class clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page artist contacts, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The 13th Age fighter, as this pdf aptly observes, is a significant step up in usefulness and player enjoyment over most iterations in any d20-based gaming system, but there are some holes in the fighter's arsenal: In the introduction, the author aptly observes the odd lack of flexible attack triggers on odd results (haha...sorry, I'll punch myself later for that one) and the relative dearth of ranged attack compatible maneuvers. This pdf, thus, introduces the concept of martial schools that can be pictured as a fluffy umbrella for new feats and maneuvers, with the core book's array being treated as unaligned or basic tricks - this fluffy diversification tactic is not necessarily a bad idea, since it allows a GM to create local differences in martial traditions and control access to certain combinations of tricks.

The first of the martial traditions herein would be the Glimmering Cloak, which sports 3 talents and 10 maneuvers, many of which can be upgraded via feats. A thing you'll notice if you are a purist for formatting is that the presentation of the feat-component of the respective pieces of crunch, while formally in line with 13th Age, does not sport the respective "boxes" - while this will not influence the final verdict, I felt obliged to mention it nonetheless. So, what can we do? Well, via En Guarde!, we can declare duels that penalize first nearby enemy, with feat-support also targets that are further away. The targeted creature suffers penalties while trying to attack creatures that are not you, with higher tier feats allowing crit-range increases and increased penalties - and no, you can't abuse this since it only works once per battle - still, nice way of drawing aggro from foes.

Panache is somewhat of a pet-peeve of mine, particularly when using 13th Age's multiclassing rules - it lets you use Cha instead of Str (and instead of Dex for ranged attacks via the Adventurer-feat)...but is balanced by only allowing that for basic melee attacks. A bit odd: "Additionally, once per battle, you may add your Charisma modifier to the die roll of a save ends the effect."[sic!] - I'm pretty sure, a part of the sentence is missing. Pretty cool - the higher tier feats allow you to temporarily add 1/2 escalation die to MD and later PD as well for a limited amount of time. Via the parkour talent, you gain 5 free background points to assign to appropriate backgrounds like acrobat, cat burglar, etc., while also unlocking an escalation die-tied Flowing Movement. This tie can be eliminated via the champion feat, but at epic tier, you can use haste as a wizard of equivalent level...which feels odd to me, since haste targets yourself or an ally - and I can't really see this technique grant it to an ally. That may just be me, though.

Distracting Swish is intriguing in that it allows, on odd hits, to have allies disengage - pretty cool. Now Impressive Flourish lets you add Dex or Cha, whichever is higher, to damage, with higher levels providing 2x/3x that amount. The feats decrease the triggering roll required and ties it to the escalation die. MD-enhancing Buffs, penalizing foes you miss, switching places with engaged allies (limited to 1/round), allowing allies to spend a recovery - all in all, an interesting array of maneuvers, some of which allow you to turn really sucky luck into wins - natural 1-reroll, plus, potentially rendering the foe vulnerable. The editing, however, is a bit flawed in some of these - enemy instead of enemies for the 9th level maneuver, for example. That being said, while glitches like this are jarring, they generally do not negatively influence the respective functionality of the crunch in this pdf.

The second martial arts-school in this pdf would be Heaven's Eye, with 2 talents and 9 maneuvers, which provides solid options for ranged fighters - which include extended aiming capacity and acid arrow as well as the option to call forth supernatural storms that can deal different types of damage to foes moving closer towards you- some more guidance would have been nice here, since the pdf does mention different types of damage available, but not any suggestions for when to choose which. This still is, obviously, mostly a cosmetic complaint, though. Ricochet Shots, hails of arrows, sniping and allowing allies to disengage - all in all, a great selection of tricks for ranged fighters, with particularly the option to perform regular attacks as interrupt actions being pretty intriguing.

The Iron Hand tradition would be an unarmed - and focused on Wisdom. Now, as you probably know, unarmed strikes, RAW, are pretty subpar...which is why this pdf has a bit of an oddly phrased suggestion: "While one could reflavor unarmed strikes as heavy or martial one-handed weapons, by extension all Iron Hand talents and maneuvers should be reflavored this way as a default." This sentence is odd - I think it means that the Iron Hand talents and maneuvers are assuming this change, but I'm not sure. Cleaned up wording would certainly help here. This type of glitch is even more odd, considering that the pdf generally manages to get the interesting crunchy bits often right: E.g. ranged blast ki attacks, options to charge them, ki-based miss damage to nearby targets and critical stuns...all in all a fun martial tradition.

Reaper's Field would be the martial tradition focused on heavy weapons like greatswords and polearms. The practitioners of this style can cause damage even while disengaging. Decreasing enemy PD for one turn upon any even hit or miss - basically, this tradition exemplifies hitting hard and manages to get the feeling right rather well - hitting so hard that, when you have a natural even miss, the enemy loses his next move action, for example...is pretty dang cool. And striking with a 9th level maneuver so hard the ground quakes and causes nearby foes miss damage...yeah, this is cool - mainly because it feels like the guy with the big weapon hitting hard.

Sanguineous Rack would be the "evil" fighting style - with fear-instilling in enemies, negative energy damage, harming yourself to enhance your strikes, rerolling villainous relationship dice and even gaining options to reduce MD. Ongoing damage, with feat-upgrades allowing for the increase of the save from default 11+ to 16+...envenomed blades that can also cause the vulnerable, shadow-jumper-style short range teleportation - a cool, dark-themed and pretty trick/debuff-heavy tradition.

The final one would be the Second Soul - said to be either guarded by ancient spirits or perhaps even possessed, these fighters can draw upon a limited array of cantrips, petition the aid of spirits in combat and are, unsurprisingly, particularly adept at hunting the undead, gaining background points via one of the talents. With spirits mirroring your even hits at escalation die 1+, ranged attacks that allow you to teleport to the target, attack of opportunity-causing poltergeist allies...all in all, a cool take on the benevolent, if slightly creepy "heir to greatness"/spirit-themed fighter.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are ODD in this one. Whyß Because, on a rules-language level, for the most part, this pdf is exceedingly precise and well-crafted. At the same time, there are more than a few typo-level hiccups, punctuation issues and some wonky and confusing sentence-structures in here...which is particularly baffling since Ray Chapel's writing is generally precise and to the point in that regard. So yeah, another editing pass would have done this pdf good. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with each tradition gaining a neat full-color stock art that fits well with the respective theme. Annoyingly, the pdf has no bookmarks - but at least an internally linked ToC. Still, navigation is a bit annoying here.

You know, this pdf made me pretty happy - this is Ray Chapel's first 13th Age supplement, at least to my knowledge, and he exhibits a detailed and well-versed grasp on the rule-set and its peculiarities. More important than that, the fighting styles/traditions introduced herein lend a sense of more unique identity to the fighter class in the 13th Age rules, making the actual playing experience for practitioners of different traditions completely different. Personally, I'm not a big fan of the attribute-substitution-tricks since they produce a bit of unnecessary optimization cheeses with the multiclassing options...but even in that context, they still work. Also important, at least to me, would be that the styles generally seem to be pretty much on par with one another. They feature solid tricks and are sufficiently distinct to play almost like sub-classes of fighter. Now, there is a reason for these traditions to be thus structured and I urge groups out there to retain this structure - cherry-picking options herein can lead to some pretty powerful builds, so unless that's the focus of your group anyways, I'd suggest retaining the suggested tradition structure.

But how to rate this? Well, as mentioned, I actually really like the crunch and tricks this lets you pull. At the same time, lack of bookmarks, somewhat inconsistent editing and a select few minor hiccups do result in this falling slightly short of its own potential. However, what's here most certainly is worth getting for the fair price-point. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. I certainly hope to see more such pdfs!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Fighter Maneuvers & Talents (13th Age Compatible)
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Death to Alignment!
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:40:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1 page of artist contacts, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement with 1 page of opening fiction before diving right into the nit and grit of this book's lofty goal - abolishing a system deeply ingrained in d20 and its derivatives. And, much like the author, I absolutely LOATHE the alignment-system. I consider it poison for portraying complex characters and have abolished it in my non-playtest games for more than 10 years. It took a lot of work to get there - but can this book take this effort and burden from a GM's shoulder's? Well, let's find out!

This book begins in a rather promising and didactically-relevant manner - by listing influences of alignment on rules-components by material influences: Whether it's classes, prestige classes, feats, traps or items - the pdf takes carefully stock of material covered and does so in a rather fine manner. After this handy list (which, with the new big rules-books may no longer be complete, but retains its usefulness), we dive into the respective rules-operations, beginning with options to strip classes of alignment. Interesting: The author takes the same route I did regarding clerics, rebranding them as clerics of life and death, respectively. Ranger's favored enemy outsiders obviously no longer have their subtype, slightly widening that component. Sorceror bloodlines are mentioned and particularly interesting would be the paladin - who now may detect magic, smite any hostiles...and replaces good/evil with heavenly/hellish - more on that later. Interesting, btw.: Bless Weapon bites the bullet to account for paladin power-increase and the Cloak/Aura spells are replaced by an alignment-neutral version.

In lieu of a Law Domain, we get the Control domain, instead of Evil Corruption, instead of Good Purity - etc. - these alternate domains are well-crafted and actually sport some interesting and thematically fitting domain powers. Since alignment is good, some rather detailed analysis is given on DR in concert with DR-bypassing. Now I mentioned heavenly et al. as new magic item properties - these are now applied by subtype. (Once again, just fyi - just how I handled that.) Sun blades now are problematic for undead and creatures with light blindness, etc. Overall, this pdf has me seriously impressed so far.

Beyond these carefully-filtered options, the pdf also sports variant alignment systems - the axis of purity vs corruption (see all anime with creepy angel-nazis ever for ideas how creepy purity can be...), a three alignment-system (good, neutral, evil) and a classic one based on Law, Neutrality and Chaos - here, somewhat erroneously called allegiance, but whatever - a total of 5 feats complement this system, which has this fuzzy tint of old-school-nostalgia.

I was somewhat surprised to see the obvious choice not in this book, the one I personally use: Allegiance to a concept of ideology: Be it faith, a form of government or a town. But oh well, I certainly won't bash the book for taking a different road when it does such a good job at it!

The book is not yet concluded, mind you: We also get some rather interesting though-experiments, the first would pertain a humble paladin and similar concepts that allow for an imho more concise depiction of paladins in a given context, including incremental punishments for code of conduct violations. Similarly, necromancy gets quite a bit of coverage, with multiple takes on why it may be stigmatized - from just having a bad rep to actually being toxic. A further experiment for human interaction that helps a GM realize the relativity of alignment nomenclature can be embarked upon as well and finally, advice on not sweating it too much and finally, the pdf contemplates what makes "evil" evil in game- and honestly...I don't concur here. RAW, it is pretty easy to make good guys do horrible things in PFRPG. In fact, from an out-game perspective, I consider most good guys EVIL. How many groups out there are like mine and enforce a "killing is not what good guys do, unless there is absolutely no other way"-policy? Yep, figured. The game's not made that way...and similarly, by applying real world ethics to game ethics, we open a fun can of worms. Just diverging in opinion here this should not be misconstrued as criticism of this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, certainly more refined than in the other books by Quasar Knight Enterprises I've read. Layout adheres to a1-column full-color standard, which is a bit annoying if you print this out: The pages have a yellow background that drains ink/toner like crazy. The pdf's artworks are in full-color and while rabid fans of Purple Duck Games may know them already, they are beuatiful. A big strike against a booklet like this, though, would be the lack of bookmarks Without them, electronic navigation is cumbersome and printing this, as mentioned, is a serious drain on the printer.

Ray Chapel's Death to Alignment is quite frankly by far the best book he's made in my opinion - it's concise, logical, well-presented and fun. But I wouldn't be me if I had no complaints, right? So there we go: One of the unfortunate realities of such a book is that it ages by definition - this is no exception. The game has moved on and this could use an expansion. For example, where would you draw the dividing line between paladin and antipaladin in such a setting? How would you depict shifts in tendencies? What about all the new classes and materials? This book, while detailed, obviously can't cover all of that...but it would be nice if it did....and that remains, content-wise, my one complaint.

Know what robs this of the seal and an even higher rating? The very printer-unfriendly presentation and the lack of bookmarks. This is a book you'll use often, one you'll consult multiple times...and consulting it, in either option, just isn't that comfortable. The topic is far from exhausted - and I honestly hope this'll get a sequel. Until then, I remain with a final verdict of 4 stars for a useful, if not perfect book.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death to Alignment!
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The Abstract Thief
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2016 19:07:47

This supplement clocks in at 21 pages, including 14 pages of content. The first thing of note is that the PDF comes with no bookmarks, nor is there a table of contents. At this size, it probably isn’t necessary, but it is a minor drawback. The primary feature of this supplement, as the name suggests, is the Abstract Thief base class. This class is a 3/4 BAB class with six levels of Int-based prepared casting. It has its own custom spell list (all the Abstract Thief spells are drawn from Paizo’s Core Rulebook, Advanced Player’s Guide, and Ultimate Magic). The spell list is quite a bit narrower than that of the Bard. The class has a variety of minor class features, including trapfinding and sneak attack (though with a delayed progression compared to the rogue class), and a variety of small number boosts.
The principle class feature of the Abstract Thief is its Abstractions. Starting at level one, they can steal “essential elements” of enemies, which replenishes a pool of abstraction points. The abstraction points do very little before level three. At 3rd level and every three levels after that, the Abstract Thief learns one of a variety of Abstractions (in a similar manner as rogue talents, witch hexes, and similar types of class feature choices). Each Abstraction allows the user to steal some idea from a target, applying a temporary debuff to the target and a temporary benefit to the Abstract Thief. The effects of the different Abstractions are varied: one allows you to temporarily steal skill ranks from the target. Another allows you to steal the effects of beneficial divination. One Abstraction allows you to steal the targets emotions, giving you the benefits of Moral bonuses, rage, etc. Other abstractions let you steal things like the targets memories, youth, senses, and health. One of my favorite Abstractions is called Steal Shadow: it temporarily removes the target’s shadow…and replaces it with a Shadow (as the monster from the Bestiary) that aids the thief. I have mixed feelings about this class overall. Power-wise, it falls right in the middle of the range of Paizo classes, so balance is not a concern. The Abstraction class feature is one of my favorite class features I have read in quite a while. On the other hand, the Abstractions are the only unique or interesting thing this class brings to the table. I would have preferred if it got another major unique class feature (or an expanded version of Abstractions), and lost either the plethora of dull/minor class features or had its spellcasting scaled back or removed.
After the base class, we get a small handful of thief-friendly feats, including the expected Extra Abstraction feat. Finally, there are a few pages of fluff describing backstories of sample Abstract Thieves. There is a small amount of color artwork scattered throughout this supplement. Short Term Use: The editing is good, though not perfect. The rules are presented clearly enough to be used easily, so you shouldn’t have trouble dropping an Abstract Thief into your campaign, making for a short term rating of 4.5/5. Long Term Use: As I said above, the Abstraction class feature is one of the best class features I have seen in a long time. The class has a niche as a skillmonkey class that is more “thief” oriented than the bard and alchemist, and doesn’t suffer from a lack of out-of-combat utility the way the rogue class does. On the other hand, the choice of Abstractions are the only meaningful decisions an abstract thief gets to make when leveling, which really leaves a narrow range of possible Abstract Thief builds, at least unless an expansion is released. Overall, it earns a long term rating of 3.5/5, rounded up to four due to the low price.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Abstract Thief
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Death to Alignment!
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2016 19:05:11

This supplement clocks in at 44 pages, including 37 pages of content. The interactions between alignment and the rules of Pathfinder are quite possibly the most criticized portion of the rules. Still, removing it is a nontrivial process. It’s easy enough to just say that everyone counts as True Neutral for rules purposes, and to remove the things that no longer have a function (like Detect Evil and aligned weapons). But removing elements of the core rules is tricky, because those rules are referenced in supplements. For example, many monsters get Detect Good as a spell-like ability, and alignment-based damage reduction is common. Making ad-hoc revisions to half the monsters in every monster manual ever written for the system is not something most end users want to do. Hence, this supplement aims to give a comprehensive set of adjustments to the core rules which make it easy to remove alignment-related rules from future supplements. After a brief introduction, the first major section of this book summarizes the ways in which alignment interacts with the core game rules. It is a whopping nine page list of things that need to be addressed later in the book if the supplement is to achieve its stated mission. This section is largely stuff you already know, so it seems a bit like a waste of space. However, as a digital-only product, space is not exactly at a premium. The next section is the heart of the book. Every game element in the core rules and some in the Advanced Player’s Guide which depends on alignment is modified. Some are simply tweaked, while others are given replacements (e.g., Magic Circle of Protection from <alignment> is replaced by a new spell called Magic Circle of Protection, so any class/monster/item which uses or gets Magic Circle of Protection from Evil by the core rules is instead modified to use Magic Circle of Protection). Base classes, prestige classes, spells, damage reduction, and items are all modified. The author also gives four new cleric domains to replace the alignment domains if you want each of the gods to keep the same number of domains. The entire process is quite succinct and easy to generalize to supplementary content not covered in this book. Once you have separated alignment from the rules, you have three options. Firstly, you can continue to use alignment, just without it getting bogged down in the rules. Secondly, you can stop using alignment and just focus on roleplaying. Finally, you can introduce an alternate “alignment” system of in-game morality without having to worry about how it interacts with the game rules.
The final section of the book presents three alternate systems of alignment, which are all easy to implement because alignment has been removed from the game rules. None of them are particularly original, but they are there. There are color illustrations scattered throughout this supplement. Short Term Use: Editing and rules language are very clear. The formatting is somewhat jumbled, possibly to reduce the page count at the expense of readability (reduced page count shouldn’t be a high priority goal for a PDF-only product). There is no table of contents, nor does the PDF come with bookmarks. For a 44 page PDF, that’s a real hindrance in learning the system. Once you’ve been using these rules for a while, they fit naturally enough into the rest of the game that you likely won’t need to reference this PDF at the table very often, but when you are first learning it the lack of bookmarks can be a problem. The fact that every rule in this book is meant to apply for entire campaigns also means that it is less likely you will implement it immediately after getting the book. Thus, its Short Term Rating is a 2/5. Long Term Use: This supplement makes short and elegant changes to the core Pathfinder rules, and does so in a way which continues to fit with almost all future and current supplements. You can expect to be using this product for as long as you are playing Pathfinder, and with very little to complain about it. Death to Alignment therefore earns a perfect 5/5 Long Term Rating.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death to Alignment!
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Nice Things for Fighters
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2016 19:04:39

This supplement clocks in at 32 pages, including 25 pages of content. The first thing of note is that the PDF comes with no bookmarks, nor is there a table of contents, which is a somewhat annoying but not a complete deal-breaker at this size.
After a brief introduction, we get many pages worth of combat feats. These feats are designed with the knowledge that combat feats are the main class features of fighters, and, thus, should have a range of versatility and power comparable to other classes’ major features. The feats allow for a range of different abilities, from blocking spells to damaging an area instead of a single enemy, to moving enemies you hit. There is one crucial flaw in this section: the feats which are supposed to be class features have long chains of incongruous feats as prerequisites. Barbarian rage powers don’t require taking numerous weaker rage powers as prerequisites. Witch hexes don’t require taking lots of non-synergistic weaker hexes as prerequisites. And, of course, learning or casting Summon Monster VI doesn’t require first learning Summon Monster I through V. The fact that fighters’ main class features are locked behind chains of prerequisites, while at the same time are no better (and often weaker) than other classes’ class features is one of the most commonly cited reasons for the fighter’s deficiencies. If the goal of this section was to provide Nice Things for Fighters, it didn’t meet its goal. Next comes a string of archetypes for fighters. The Bombardier gets a version of alchemist’s bombs. The Everyman Hero archetype gets a bunch of minor miscellaneous boosts. The Grappling Cord Acrobat gets a bunch of grappling-themed abilities, the Scrapper archetype eliminates armor-related bonuses, and the Warrior-Poet gets a bunch of bard class features. The archetypes range from weak to moderately strong, but there is a dearth of originality in their abilities, with a lot being drawn from existing class features. The Grappling Cord Acrobat was the only archetype that really impressed me.
There are a handful of color illustrations scattered throughout this supplement. Short Term Use: The editing and formatting are very good, and the rules language is fairly clear. The lack of a table of contents or bookmarks hurts is usability as a PDF. If you are reading this review, there is a decent chance you are considering whether to use this product or Path of War (or both). This supplement consists almost entirely of feats and simple archetypes, so it may seem easier to introduce than an entire subsystem like Path of War. However, when taken straight out of the box, Nice Things for Fighters does not actually accomplish what it promises. There is very little in this supplement that allows a fighter to affect things outside of its immediate vicinity or affect the narrative out of combat, so this supplement does nothing to bring it closer to the level of spellcasters. It sort-of helps by almost bringing the fighter up to the level of other martial base classes, but doesn’t quite make it because the feats are locked behind long prerequisite feat chains and the archetypes suffer from an overemphasis on number boosts. Overall, this product gets a Short Term Rating of 2/5. Long Term Use: Despite my earlier criticism, many of the feats in this book do have interesting effects. If one were to go through the book and tweak, remove, or reduce the prerequisites for all of the feats, you’d get a fairly good collection. That, combined with the fact that I really do like the Grappling Cord archetype, nets this supplement a Long Term rating of 3/5.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Nice Things for Fighters
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Death to Alignment!
by Jonathan A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/23/2014 10:31:37

If you've ever taken the time to change one of the basic rules of a game system, you realize how much work it takes to make your changes comprehensive and consistent. That's exactly what this book does for you--and let's face it: how many of us are actually happy with the d20ish alignment system, as written? This book presents an intelligent, well-researched, and conscientiously transparent means for removing or replacing alignment in your Pathfinder games. The basic system it presents is a way for you to take alignment out of your Pathfinder game without breaking any of the existing classes. Its changes are rational, consistent, and easy to implement. They're also spelled out in detail by section, so they're simple to understand and reference, and it's easy to modify or ignore anything you don't like piece-by-piece. In addition, the author includes a fair number of alternative options to the alignment system. The systems it proposes are, as with the rest of the content, well thought-out and presented. Most of them aren't very detailed, but that's kind of the point. It's worth noting that this is system-specific for Pathfinder. You could probably make it work for other OGL systems, but it'd require some tweaking. The writing isn't technically perfect, but it is easy to read, and the formatting is generally good. Despite the deceptively high page count, it is concise; the author uses all that space to make his lists easier to digest and scan. It's a quick read. (Remember, that's good when you're talking about rules you'll have to learn and reference in the middle of combat.) If you'd like to run a Pathfinder game but are dissatisfied with the standard rules for alignment, pick up this book. It's worth the price, easy to read, and simple to use. I'd definitely recommend it.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death to Alignment!
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