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Wormskin Issue 4
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2019 06:37:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Wormskin-‘zine that depicts the strange and wondrous forests of Dolenwood clocks in at a massive 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 67 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As always, the material herein has been penned with Labyrinth Lord or B/X in mind, but conversion to other OSR-systems is pretty easy. I own the print version of the ‘zine, which is a nice little booklet. Its spine doesn’t feature a name, which is a bit of a minor nitpick, considering that it is massive enough to have the space for it. …yeah, you can see, I’m having a tough time finding things to criticize here.

All right, so, as far as universally applicable material goes, this includes a brief one-page table of conditions, under which fickle fairy magic items cease to work…like being exposed to a bird’s song! The entries provided are nice, the concept simple, and yet, what may be drawn from this is pretty neat. Unpretentious, usable, solid.

The ‘zine also features a massive d30 double-spread table covering 6 pages that allows you to depict the “lesser” standing stones of Dolmenwood, or to customize weird monuments in your other games. The table sports 6 columns: One column to let you determine stone material, one that denotes the source of the material, one for the state of the stone, and one that establishes the setting. The table notes, for example, that, when a surface has been properly cleaned, it is worth considering by whom. The table also sports uncommon properties, like pleasant or unpleasant smells, attracting wildlife, drawing, elephant graveyard style, dying animals to the place, etc. Finally, detailed features of note may include fine, Drunic inscriptions to summon forth ghost crows, or being able to speak in a grinding voice, proclaiming itself to be the voice of the forest. Think that sounds lame? A table for stones? Okay, so here’s one of the results I got from this table:

A standing stone of salt crystal in the form of a toroid, veined with metal, crawling slowly atop a thousand insectoid legs, accompanied by strains of ballroom music that seem to drift from somewhere, sporting a warning in a coded form of Woldish, which warns the PCs of the dangers of spellcasting in the vicinity. …Come on, this is awesome! These two sections have been penned by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk.

Beyond these tables, the pdf contains a detailed and mapped wayside encounter/mini-module of sorts, which is suitable for low level characters – about level 2 – 4 should be viable. This would be Matthew Schmeer’s “The Atacorn’s Retreat”, which comes with a plethora of rather interesting adventure hooks that go above and beyond, but in order to discuss this in more detail, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only referees around? Great! So, atacorns are the offspring of the Nag-Lord’s trysts with witches: Cloven-footed, cow-tailed, with mule-like features, the atacorn herein, Farthigny, is a bit special in that he seems to have managed to annoy none other than Lord Malbleat…and bards. Known as the “Fiddler in the Dark”, his ostensibly potent magical fiddle is sought after by bards to be destroyed, and indeed, the atacorn does come with 8 different sample tunes – like “Never Ever Swim Through the Fever Marsh”(got the reference?), a pun-filled country jag poking fun at lost travelers. His little two-room bungalow is fully detailed and mapped – he does have a retinue of moss dwarves that seem to enjoy the abuse he subjects them to. His fiddle, btw., is a unicorn-like protrusion that grows from his lower jaw, and it can indeed generate truly astounding tunes. Getting to it, though? Impossible sans killing the atacorn, who, while rowdy, seems totally nice! He invites the PCs to his abode, and proceeds to offer a true feast while regaling them with songs. Said abode, btw.? Lavishly-mapped by Kelvin Green, the bungalow’s b/w-map is truly gorgeous in its impressive details, and is actually player-friendly, bereft of keys and labels! You can copy and cut up the map and hand it to players! Big kudos!

These impressive details do extend to more than the map, btw.: This is one of the densest adventure locations I’ve seen in quite a while – heck, even the fillings of pillows (!! Human hair and fairy wings, in most, but not all, cases…) may be interesting, let alone all the carefully hidden, odd and magical stuff to be found. Of course, there is a catch – Farthigny is not a nice guy. In fact, he drugs the PCs – with drugs to which he’s immune. He totally wants to check their livers – the Jale God once prophesized that he’d be slain a child of a parent whose liver bleeds blue. Did I mention the half-dead dryad in the furniture? There is true dark fantasy, hidden behind a veneer of gonzo whimsy that feels plausible. He also has a cozy torture cellar for ritual sacrifices hidden below the bungalow! Yay! This horrid place is btw. lavishly illustrated in full-color, with a one-page hand-out-like artwork that you can hand to PCs. This place is just as detailed, and Farthigny’s living space contains quite a few odd magical items – like a dagger inhabited by a lesser murder demon, the Ring of Calibraxis (In case you didn’t notice – yep, this does contain quite a few cool eastereggs!), and similar oddities. One note: There is a save or die here, but it’s a justified one – if the PCs drag a magical, potentially cursed tapestry and put it atop a bloody ritual circle, the result may be fatal. It’s very obscure, and I’d be surprised if it comes up a lot during play, but it certainly has the feeling of “you’ve meddled with forces beyond your ken” – random actions beget random (and dangerous results). I can live with that.

The lion’s share of this installment, though, is devoted to the subterranean level of the eponymous ruins of St. Clewd’s abbey, penned once more by Gavin Norman And Yves Geens. This part of the module can be rather challenging, depending on how much your PCs explore, and whether they think they can slay everything in sight. I can see this be a tough challenge for mid-level PCs, or potentially “solvable” for even low level PCs. Suffice to say, this is old-school – and “taking your tail between your legs and run” is certainly the better part of valor – for example, when a massive hydra shows up: Said entity has different attacks for each of its heads, which range from bloated boars to inverted cow’s heads, with different personalities to boot. Trying to best this one? TPK machine for low level groups. That being said, the hydra also is not immediately hostile, which makes this behave as a “reap what you sow” moment. Anyhow, the level of detail is once more impressive: The random encounter table is only half devoted to different creatures, with the other half consisting of chaotic phenomena, courtesy of the dimensional cataract that pulses within this complex, rendering reality somewhat unstable.

It should also be noted that this complex comes with a lavish isometric b/w-map drawn by Claytonian (of “The Wizardarium of Calabraxis”-fame); said map comes with a scale, but no grid, and is pretty damn impressive. It should be noted, though, that, in spite of numbers for keyed locations having been added in blue bubbles, no unlabeled version has been included. We do get a proper jpg.-version, though.

But I digress – you see, this module is STRANGE. There, for example, would be the dangerous, oracular and slightly telepathic catfish that actually manages to make sense, and that makes for a great way for the referee to seed further adventures…if it doesn’t eat all PCs, that is. I used “strange” in opposition to “weird” consciously, as this does not adhere to e.g. LotFP or DCC’s type of weird fiction, instead opting for an oddly plausible scenario of high magic strangeness grounded in a fairy-tale-esque backdrop. In short, it perfectly encapsulates how you can portray Dolmenwood’s unique flavor in a dungeon setting.

The dungeon itself, while certainly deadly, has plenty of loot (including a massive one-page treasure table), for sure – but what sets it apart from many modules would be that it actually, at least half of it, is a social dungeon.

But to explain that aspect of the module, I will have to go into pretty significant, deep lore SPOILERS. If you’re a player, please, at least stop reading now. … .. . All right, only referees around? Well, when St. Clewd vanished while fighting the black unicorn men dubbed Sallowbryg, it wasn’t the end. Indeed, a cataclysm has befallen the monastery even before the goat-men razed it to the ground: You see, a particularly greedy and incompetent abbot sought to call forth St. Clewd once more – not cognizant of the fact that the saint had fused body and mind with the foul beast. Suffice to say, the results were not pretty, and now, the deranged and horribly mutated saint (lavishly illustrated by Andrew Walter in their signature style) has been helf here, watched over by the order of wardens, so that his shame may never be known. This order of fanatic monks whittled away the centuries below the monastery, held alive, ironically, by the effects of the botched ritual, which created the chance to revive the fallen. Okay, it may go horribly wrong. Sure, many come back as zombie-like vegetables…but there’s the sacred duty!

Said monks (random monk generator included), have, in recent years, experienced a schism of sorts – the traditionalists (or Fidelii) and the semi-heretical splinter-sect of the Cardinites. The Fidelii want to keep the deranged saint-thing contained, and keep their vigil, while the Cardinites believe that freeing St. Clewd will help him recover and usher in…something good? Their leaders and holy ceremonies are btw. covered in detail, allowing you to create a subterranean and utterly strange “Name of the Rose”-ish intrigue, should you choose to. Of course, kill ‘em all might be an option, but one with consequences…And yes, the PCs can try to test their mettle against the saint-thing, but it’s not something I’d recommend, unless you’re fond of rolling 3d6, 6 times in a row.

The best way to use these folks, though, would be to have them be what they’re supposed to be: An isolated society of weirdo fanatics, whose whole world-view and fragile power-dynamics may well collapse/ignite when the PCs are added as the proverbial fuse. It should also be noted that the struggle of factions, obviously, does allow for the use of this as a repeat-visit scenario…and, one more note: Even if you don’t like Dolmenwood (WHY??? O_O), this module could be easily used as a kind of religious fanatic bunker in a post-apocalyptic, weird world. Just a thought…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the ‘zine’s one-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a surprising amount of awesome full-color artwork by Anxious P. and Sean Poppe. The b/w-cartography by Kelvin Green and Claytonian deserves special praise – both styles are amazing, detailed and evocative, though I do wish we’d get an unlabeled version for the dungeon as well. The pdf version is fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover is a neat version – personally, I’d advise in favor of getting this and #3 in print, as it’s definitely a high-quality little booklet worth the price-point.

The fourth installment of Wormskin, while more module-centric than the ones before, is AMAZING. From the sidetrek that kicks this off to the dressing table to the massive and lavishly-crafted dungeon-level, this installment continues the streak of unadulterated awesomeness of the series, and, some might argue, one ups it with easily one of the most unique and rewarding dungeon-levels I’ve seen in quite a while. This oozes passion, has a distinct style, and when rereading this for the purpose of this review, I found myself just as stoked as when the booklet first fell into my claws. This is excellent and a great example of what a ‘zine can achieve. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 4
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Starfinder Compatible: Orbi City-Station
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2019 06:32:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, though it should be noted that these pages are laid out in a horizontal standard optimized for e-readers – that is, letter-size is pretty large.

The city station of Orbi sits on a disk dozens of miles across a city of metal and glass, with a central tower of black supporting an almost translucent platform almost as large as the city itself. Streets of warm laughter and cheer make the city of Orbi, home of the Nomi, a galactic entertainment hub. The city can fly and take to the air sans even a ripple of air, often traveling not only from place to place, but from world to world. Glass platform and city floor form an airtight bubble, allowing for travel through space.

The city of Orbi is thus a great way to travel and with its incredibly complex engine, the small, gregarious and open nomi, perpetually interested in new impulses and cultures, are a central focus of what makes this cosmopolitan place so compelling. As hinted at before, Orbi does regularly land on planets, and thus could potentially act as a place to meet primitive cultures or provide a culture-shock for characters; as a means to transition or marry science-fantasy and sword-and-planet, for example, this rather works well. The engine of the Orbi is mostly magical, and the city houses almost 600.000 inhabitants, 5/6th of whom are nomi. The city station follows a 256-day year, and population is controlled, with deaths and emigrants counted and then, a procreation season at the start of the year. It should be noted that sexual activity is not frowned upon – as long as procreation is limited to the proper season. Non-nomi are not subject to these official regulation, and immigrant passes and the general focus on the arts make the place seem pretty liberal.

The pdf also explains to use the history of the 200-year-old city ship, mentions the good guy in charge (an android soldier/technomancer, mentioned in fluff-only – Nomi aren’t that inclined to long-term planning), the bitter local fruits grown, etc. While there are dissenters that wish the city closed to immigrants (their leader is once again mentioned), the decision is still up in the air. The city, unlike the standard SFRPG engines, is powered by the Bend Engine, a magical device that bends space. Somewhat to my chagrin, we don’t get stats for the bend engine, which is a bit of a pity, as it certainly has a lot of narrative potential and would make for a nice starship upgrade at higher levels of escalation down the plot line. We do get an overview of the outer and inner ring and the movers and shakers to be found there, as well as a brief summary of the 6 flavorful ships noted as pretty much permanent fixtures. Once more, ship stats would have been nice.

The pdf also includes a write-up of the Nomi, who get +2 Charisma and Intelligence, -2 Strength (making them lopsided on the mental side of things), 3 Hit Points, and they are Small humanoids with the Nomi subtype. They have a pair or arms, a pair of legs, and a pair of limbs that can be used as either. Changing modes for these limbs (for wielding/holding more items or base speed increase by 10 ft.) is a swift action. Cool, if not as refined or fun as e.g. The Ydreft from Star Log.EM: Ydreft. Nomi get Skill Focus as a bonus feat, and may 1/day spend an hour to retrain to which skill this feat applies. They also receive a +2 racial bonus on checks made with tools, and o checks to make use or activate unknown technology. (It’d have been nice to get some guidelines what constitutes unknown technology). Beyond these stats, the nomi come with a full proper write-up regarding relations, homeworld, and even the often overlooked “Playing as a Nomi”-section including what other races may think about them. Kudos! Speaking of which: The pdf even provides notes on nomenclature and vital statistics, such as average height, maximum age etc.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a horizontal two-column full-color standard with a blue background and light yellow text. The layout is optimized for e-readers, which means that this isn’t exactly printer-friendly. The pdf has no interior artwork, but does come with proper bookmarks for easy navigation.

Michael McCarthy’s Orbi is a fun city station. I like the take on a traveling good-guy station, and the nomi, while weird, are also rather charming. They are good-guy aliens. One could easily interpret an artist’s city-on-a-hill-metaphor into the place, though that, if intended, is subtextual and something most folk probably won’t notice. All in all, I really enjoyed this supplement. Orbi is a fun place, has quite a lot of adventuring potential, and features some evocative, cool ideas. If anything, it does suffer a bit from the lack of stats for the ships noted, the engine, etc. Mind you, at this low price-point, this is definitely a good purchase, but it could have easily been a fantastic one with a bit more crunch. This is still very much worth checking out, though. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Starfinder Compatible: Orbi City-Station
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THOT Police
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2019 06:31:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Alpha Blue-module clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, this is an Alpha Blue adventure. Alpha Blue is a sleazy scifi-game in the vein of 70s/early 80s scifi porn parodies that uses the dice-pool based VSd6-engine, and as such, the pdf contains a couple of suggestive images and sexual themes. As far as Alpha Blue is concerned, these are pretty tame, though – there is not a single exposed beast to be seen inside. Impressive, btw. – we get an array of cosplay-ish photography to serve as interior art, with one of the pieces being somewhat suggestive. These pictures are all high-quality, and in case you’ve got something against the depiction of drawn nipples, rest assured that not a single nipple or form of nudity is included within. I know several pop videos that are more lewd than the pictures. That being said, if sexuality is a hot button topic for you, then you probably won’t want to play Alpha Blue in the first place.

All right, so, as always: This is an adventure-review. As such, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only BDSMs (Bold Dungeon Space Masters) around? Great! So, if you did expect a straight sequel to THOT Audit, you won’t get that here. The pdf starts with the premise that the PCs, as opportunists, have joined the THOT police as bounty hunters – but there are 6 different reasons for why they may be late to the party regarding assignments. The adventure takes place during Space Christmas, and police captain Harass and the others seem to be congratulating one Zammy Zathwell on his draw – he got an assignment to a very well-paying job on a New Martian citadel. The citadel is btw. called Nakatomi. Hence the Christmas-theme. Thing is, the PCs probably want in on that job, but their ship will end up being stolen – and it’ll be parked in an area studded with laser mines – and botching here may well wipe out the whole party, so better be careful!

The ship will be found at a refueling station, which’ll allow for a confrontation of the fully statted thief. After that, the PCs will have to get past the Mars blockade, of the Federation, and doing so will be risky. The checkpoint will be risky (one of the officers can telekinetically squeeze the balls of males…), and Karlsbad, the guy in charge, thankfully, can be bribed…or, well, the PCs may use an attempt of a space corvette to sneak past to their advantage… (And yes, we do get stats for the officers and Karlsbad.) Said corvette-driver, by the way? He’s more important than it looks – he is a relic smuggler (fully statted) names Souda, who, as a being of pure energy, can help allies…and is totally invulnerable to lasers! He’s also carrying The Bad Luck Eye Of The Little Crimson God, stolen from the Crimson Da’awn syndicate! It is worth a fortune and may be used to create a doomsday weapon – and yep, he’ll conveniently crash near Nakatomi Citadel if left to the federation…

Speaking of the Crimson Da’awn: The syndicate is planning a hostile take-over of Nakatomi Citadel in order to steal the bare-naked bonds stored there, with the grand plan of opening Alpha Blue-themed restaurants. Think of that as space-hooters, just more lewd. The hostile takeover announcement is btw. represented by a bit of read-aloud text. The leader of this strike-force, Maddek Skwa, has a pretty powerful ability that’ll make others bow and comply, and he and his cutthroats are properly statted. He also carries a magical portable gloryhole, with random effects.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – the takeover attempt is a floating encounter that will probably take place after the PCs have entered the place – provided they figure out a way to get past the leech-covered concierge…who, once more, has unique abilities! This is something that really deserves mentioning: Even regular guardsmen tend to get unique descriptions AND abilities – the guard Thwib (who looks like a turtle except for a Nietzsche moustache and a giraffe’s neck), for example, has a chance of incapacitating targets on double sixes due to a summer spent in ninja bootcamp. The gift shop contains snowglobes (12 provided; including an easter egg for Kort’thalis fans) – I liked those, but the lamprey-faced ballerina that may be hostile or nice? It’d have been neat to get stats for her.

In the bar, the PCs can meet the powerful Federation office Ja’an Maclem, who always has a hidden weapon somewhere. (In case the Die Hard references so far were to subtle…) The museum would allow the PCs to get the Shroud of Tu’uran, which makes for a very potent, if sacrilegious defensive item. The different ladies that would qualify as to-be-taxed THOTs btw. also get their proper stats; my favorite there would be one whose eyes show you a destiny you may have. The lady working at the lingerie shop can daze hostile males and is particularly dangerous in combat when near poles, and makes for a cool potential ally. Less cool: There is a guy who has a rape whistle. Blowing it has a chance of tentacles spontaneously manifesting and…you get the idea. Not a fan of that inclusion. Two reasons: 1) I really don’t like random things and abilities humiliating PCs, unless they earned it. 2) It may be me, but I really don’t think that references to rape, even tentacle rape, should feature in a happy-go-lucky beer-and-pretzels-style game about fun and casual sex. Still, this is a personal opinion and as such will not feature in my final rating; it’s just as easy to picture folks that don’t mind its inclusion – heck, and ex-girlfriend of mine was really into those types of hentai...and it’s not my place to judge anyone’s kinks. Still, figured I’d mention it, and before you ask – it’s literally a throwaway line in one item. Redacting it is a 0-effort job for the BDSM.

A fully-statted parody of Jean-Paul Sartre can also be found (in Space Starbucks); there is a tanning salon in which a female is masturbating, a lawyer’s office (fully statted lawyer); there is a security guard (whose name’s missing an “a” in one instance); the PCs can engage in a slave auction ( 4 different statted slaves provided), and in the art-gallery, there is a hint to Cha’alt. Beyond an insectoid drug-dealer in a Subways (Where’s the BDSM sub-pun there? Missed chance…), we also have a really depraved massage parlor that includes a nice alien…and there is a pretty unfair, sucky room, wherein the PCs have a 2-in-4-chance of dying; 1-in-4-chance of backstabbing the PCs. That is…not fun. It’s just random, and not in a good way. I highly suggest at least providing some way for PCs to evade this random insta-gib.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the impressive two-column full-color standard of the latest Alpha Blue-modules, and text is white, to set it apart from the background. I’m prone to migraines, but this one didn’t trigger that, so yeah. Artworks inside constitute of nice full-color photography, as noted before, and is pretty cool. The citadel comes with a properly keyed, full-color map that may not have a scale, but needs none, considering how Alpha Blue operates. Big plus: We get a VTT-friendly, unlabeled version of the map that can bused as a handout, and all versions of the map are provided as .jpgs as well. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes an unnecessary comfort detriment.

Zoltar Khan Delgado’s/Venger As’Nas Satanis’ new direction for Alpha Blue is great to see. The direction taken in THOT Audit, to provide proper adventures instead of vignettes, is a boon for folks that actually play Alpha Blue, particularly since they feature his trademark weirdness without compromising the overall usability. This module depicts a nice sandbox with a floating “oh damn, shit got real”-moment, leaving how everything plays out to the PCs and the interactions with NPCs – which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. That being said, the Trap Room mentioned is just dumb, frustrating and random, and not in a good way. Similarly, the lack of bookmarks is a comfort detriment in an otherwise nice adventure. On the plus-side, the creativity that went into the NPCs does salvage a high score for this – the author went above and beyond regarding unique effects, tricks, gear, etc. – the stats provided are creative, and we get quite a lot of them. Considering that and the low price point, my final verdict will round up from 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
THOT Police
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Monstrous Lair #23: Troglodytes' Warren
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2019 06:29:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables. It should be noted that this is the first installment that changes not the formula per se, but the layout of the tables and the headers: Instead of “approaches” we now have “outside the lair”, and “notable features” now are called “major lair features”, “trinkets” are now called “trash” – you get the idea.

Outside of the lair, rubble may slow movement, and crude tribal sigils, trails of humanoids dragged towards the caverns and bloody footprints speak of deadly adversaries awaiting – while these ar not particularly specific, they are okay. As for what’s going on, we have troglodytes waiting in ambush, perhaps alerted by some sort of inexplicable sixth sense, troglodytes lolling around, content and sated, and good-natured wrestling, gambling or a dispute in progress. Major features include outcrops that have been crudely fashioned into an approximation of chairs (odd, considering troglodytes are usually depicted with tails…), the signature stench (does that constitute a major feature?) or a forest of mushrooms. The minor features include uneven floors, polished collections of shells and the like. The two best entries here feature albino insects buzzing around lichen and hollow stalactites dotting the ceiling, dripping water.

Individual appearances may include leather belts worn as bandoliers, being one-eyed, having scras or oversized teeth, etc. As far as treasures are concerned, we have shards of onyx, skull-fetishes and swirl-decorated skulls, to name a few. The trash-section includes buckets from which water drips, skulls used as makeshift containers via hardened mud and crude, roughly ziggurat-shaped statuettes.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.

I was not impressed by Robert Manson’s take on troglodyte lairs. Somewhat generic, the tie-in to the troglodytes themselves didn’t shine through as much as I hoped it would. For the most part, you could use these dressings for any primitive cave-dwellers; certainly much less compelling than e.g. the take on kobolds or the amazing one on gnolls. My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrous Lair #23: Troglodytes' Warren
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Everyman Unchained: Teamwork Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2019 06:00:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Unchained-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, I’ve always felt that teamwork feats are a good idea, but not one that has been implemented well – I wholly concur with the assessment of the introduction, that they cost two feat slots for the benefit of one, which is, to boot, situational. This book thus aims to upgrade teamwork feats to make them useful for characters that don’t have a class feature that makes them more viable. Let’s dive in!

Teamwork feats require that you establish a team: 1/day, you can form one by spending a 10-minute drill. A team can consist of a maximum of half your character level + Charisma modifier or ranks in Profession (soldier) + Charisma modifier, whichever is higher. Once founded, all characters in the team count as teammates, and you can only be in one team at a given time.

-Allied Spellcaster: Adjacent teammates get +2 to CL to overcome SR, +1 to determine spell variables, provided the ally knows how to cast the spell or has it prepared.

-Back to Back: No more flanking bonuses versus two or more teammates adjacent. Sneak still works.

-Improved Back to Back: Teammates can’t be flanked when adjacent.

-Broken Wing Gambit: Feign weakness, incur +2 atk from enemy, to grant all other teammates threatening the target. Can also be used as an immediate action.

-Close Formation: Push past teammates while charging (heck yeah) and the feat properly codifies this movement; also, teammates can end their movement in another mates’ space (max 2 creatures per square); gets mount right. This one is really evocative.

-Combat Medic: No AoO for Heal, take 10 even in dire situations.

-Coordinated Charge: When a teammate charges, charge as an immediate action the same target. Ouch! BAB +10 keeps this in check, fyi.

-Coordinated Defense: +2 to CMD when adjacent, +4 versus targets that are larger. And suddenly, gnomes and halflings look less yummy…

-Coordinated Maneuvers: +2 to CMB; +4 when attempting to grapple or escape a grapple.

-Coordinated Shot: +1 to ranged atk vs. targets threatened by teammate; bonus can increase to +2 when mates are flanking. Accounts for cover.

-Distracting Charge: +2 to atk versus the target of a charge until the start of the charging teammate’s next turn.

-Duck and Cover: Has a confusing glitch; should read that they gain a +2 circumstance bonus to AC and Reflex saves, not “AC against Reflex saves;” additionally, all teammates roll Reflex saves normally and take the highest d20 result rolled for their save. (Cool!) If the difference between the roll used and the own roll is 5+, the character is knocked prone (or staggered, if already prone or being incapable of being knocked prone).

-Improved Duck and Cover: Allows characters with evasion to take part of the damage for their allies. Nice! (Also has an anti-cheese caveat – kudos!)

-Escape Route: When a teammate provokes an AoO for moving out of another teammate’s square, the attacker takes -10 to atk on the AoO. OUCH! Potent, but I like it, as it rewards tactical positioning.

-Ensemble: Bolster performances within 30 ft. as an immediate action, increasing range.

-Feint Partner: Makes the target lose Dex-mod versus the next attack of the teammate as well, provided they’re executed soon enough.

-Improved Feint Partner: Foe feinted provokes AoO from all mates.

-Harder They Fall: Makes teammate count as larger for relevant combat maneuvers; increases aid another bonuses based on teammates threatening the target. Oh, and the opponent takes falling damage when successfully affected by the maneuvers. NICE! Attack on Titan, anyone?

-Improved Spell Sharing: Divide duration of spells targeting familiar, eidolon, etc. evenly.

-Intercept Charge: Immediate action move up to speed, blocking the charge – at the cost of movement next round. Cool!

-Lookout: When 2 or more teammates are adjacent, they get to act in the surprise round, as long as at least one would be able to act. Teammates that’d be unable to act treat their initiative in the surprise round as 1. If all would be able to act, they may take more actions! Brutal! Like it.

-Outflank: Increases flanking bonus to +4.

-Pack Attack: Immediate action 5 –foot step when teammate attacks.

-Pack Flanking: Considered flanking, regardless of position while adjacent.

-Paired Opportunists: Typo: Doubled “Whenever” at the start. +2 to AoOs when teammates are adjacent; also allows a teammate to get an AoO when an ally gets one, regardless of own situation. Thankfully has an anti-chain caveat.

-Seize the Moment: Foe provokes an AoO after being critically hit by teammate.

-Shake It Off: +2 on all saves while adjacent.

-Share Healing: You can divide healing between teammates.

-Shield Wall: 2 or more teammates adjacent increase the shield bonus, depending on shield type. Shield bash does not end this bonus for team members. Also nets cover to adjacent teammates when using a tower shield, making that more viable.

-Shielded Caster: +4 concentration checks while adjacent; also, penalties imposed on concentration are halved.

-Stealth Synergy: When 2 or more mates attempt Stealth with line of sight to each other, use the highest d20 roll.

-Swap Places: Lets you move into a teammate’s space, provoking AoOs; the teammate may move out as an immediate action – no AoOs. Size restrictions apply, though. Cool one!

-Improved Swap Places: No longer provoke AoO, slightly delimits size limitations. Also has a bull rush-y option. Nice.

-Tandem Trip: Roll twice, take better result.

-Target of Opportunity: When a teammate hits a target within 30 ft. of another teammate, that teammate can use an immediate action to shoot the target.

-Team Pickpocket: Bluff to enhance an immediate action Sleight of Hand.

-Wounded Paw Gambit: Ranged weapon follow-up version of Broken Wing Gambit.

The pdf then takes a look at class features: The holy tactician’s battlefield presence is rewired to allow for the exceeding of maximum team size; the drill instructor ability of the strategist cavalier can add up to 4 allies to the team via resource expenditure and a drill; the field instruction of the exemplar brawler can use his action to make allies count as members of the team for a short while. Hunter Tactics make the animal companion not count as a team-member for the purpose of determining maximum. The inquisitor’s solo tactics make all allies count as teammates, but don’t bestow these benefits on the allies…making solo tactics work for the first time really as I envisioned it. The cavalier’s tactician class feature is also rewired to interact with the teammate mechanic.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are still very good on a formal level, with just a few typo-level minor hiccups; on a rules-language level, the pdf is extremely precise and top-notch, with only one autocorrect glitch that could cause minor confusion. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has plenty of really nice artworks, with the expected kitsune focus. The pdf has no bookmarks, and is at the length where I consider that still okay without warranting the penalizing of the final verdict.

What happens when Alexander Augunas, David N. Ross and none other than Owen K.C. Stephens join forces? Awesomeness. The refined versions of the teamwork feats and the engine, which is elegant and only minimally intrusive, are pretty impressive indeed. You could easily slot this into pretty much all ongoing campaigns without much hassle, and the team-building component makes more sense for me as well. All in all, I consider this to be a success indeed, though I did wish we’d have gotten a couple of far out new ones and feats that supplement further the base component of the team-building aspect of the engine. Still, highly recommended - 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Unchained: Teamwork Feats
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Totally Random Tables
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2019 05:58:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page space for notes, leaving us with 10 pages, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this pdf contains a total number of 30 different d6 tables, which sport 6 entries per table; per page, you usually get up to 4 different tables, for up to 24 entries per page. This doesn’t exactly use space economically, is what I’m trying to say. I usually print out pdfs, but here, I probably won’t do that. On the plus-side, each table gets its own color, chosen from 6 different ones, which helps remember them.

It should also be noted that this is NOT a dressing file. This is IMPORTANT. Were I to rate this by the same metrics as e.g. Raging Swan Press’ focused and flavorful dressing-files, this’d be a total failure, because, as its name implies, this is TOTALLY RANDOM. None of the tables have a header or a concise leitmotif, nor do they have a unifying theme.

To give you an idea of the breadth, let’s take a look at the first table: We have “Carbon scoring” as one entry, and “My favorite color is cherry, says the voice.” As another; another table has a wand with 1d12 charges that can reduce a targeted opponent’s hit points to 1d20. (Range would be nice, as would be a note if this is permanent or affects current hit points.) The very same table has a Purple Prizm reference (Alpha Blue’s choice softdrink; also represented in a reused, but awesome artwork) and a rusted sheriff’s badge.

You can find giant fruit flies with suckered tentacles, Metallica cassette tapes, black stockings, oreo candy canes, a cap that probably was inspired by Cloak & Dagger…or Disney World.

The tables herein are absolutely, utterly and totally random, and apart from a one-page, really nice b/w-artwork…that’s kinda it. So…what’s the use of this pdf? What do you do with it? Well, use number one, is simply to get the creative juices out of a routine, but the introduction proposes another use – a means for the GM to challenge themselves. Roll a couple of times on the table before running the game, and see whether you can integrate the disparate elements. Thos are actually the uses of this pdf that are truly salient and work – as noted, for dressing, this is, well…too totally random.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, only good a rules-language level where applicable. Layout adheres to the rather beautiful two-column full-color standard with veins that Kort’thalis Publishing likes to use. The pdf is layered, allowing you to make it very printer-friendly, if you do print it out. The pdf has no functional bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them. As noted before, the artworks featured within are pretty impressive.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ random tables left me kinda puzzled, to be honest. Not as a person, but as a reviewer.

How in all hells am I supposed to rate this?

The entries of the tables oscillate in theme, originality and depth in such a massive manner, the themes are so different from one another, it’s frankly even hard to complain about the depth of oscillation between the specific and general.

As a dressing file, this’d be, at best, a 2-star file, as it lacks focus and direct utility at the table. On the other hand, when used as a challenge for the GM, as a means to hone one’s improvisation craft in Iron GM-style (or to prepare for Iron GM), then this may well be a rather awesome training run pdf that can help freshen up GM styles and get GMs out of creative ruts.

Whether this is worth getting, ultimately, is extremely contingent on what you want from it. I can see folks liking this…and others considering it useless.

This could well be a 4-star file for you, or…well, not. I have to take both positions into account. The relative brevity of the supplement (It could have fitted its content on half the pages, easily) is the most significant detriment for me, and as such, I will round down from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Totally Random Tables
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Adversaries: Voidborn
Publisher: Evil Robot Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2019 05:57:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Galaxy Pirates supplement comes as two pdfs – one made for Pathfinder, and one for Starfinder. Both pdfs clock in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The voidborn fast zombie presented for PFRPG clocks in at CR ½ and is a take on the infectious fast zombie. Slightly odd – while the type is undead, the statblock still reiterates basically a ton of the undead traits and calls them voidborn traits. This would usually not be an issue, but here, as they’re non-intelligent, the voidborn would usually fall under the undead clause of no natural healing, something that is not explicitly stated by the voidborn traits, which makes me think that they may be intended to heal. The CMD is unfortunately off, and the second attack routine looks like their slam attack may be intended as a secondary natural attack.

The voidborn also features some lore DCs, which is generally something I like – but “Medium Undead Knowledge check DCs” is not standard – first of all, this is a good place to note that the pdf italicizes stuff like “Knowledge” that shouldn’t be italicized. Secondly, PFRPG usually handles knowledge pertaining undead via Knowledge (religion). It’d have been nice to see variants of the virus codified as scaling hazards, but that may be me.

As unfortunate as aforementioned hiccups are, the pdf does have something to offer that really stoked the fires of my imagination: A lore section. The pdf discusses how the voidborn are the result of a nanotech virus designed to wipe out life in the Milky Way, and when the pdf talks about how the virus was seeded by sublight probes, how it feels to be infected, the behavior patterns of voidborn, their campaign role and how their predation works, I couldn’t help but smile. As underwhelming as the statblock was, as much did I enjoy this page of well-written and fun lore.

Now, for SFRPG, the voidborn also clocks in at CR ½, but uses the EAC and KAC values of a CR 1 creature from the combatant array. Instead of +2 to Ref-saves, we have +2 to Will, which is odd – as per the undead graft, the critter should have +2 in all saves. Similarly, the undead/unliving traits are nowhere to be found here, instead sporting the voidborn trait. The attack values provided are correct, but the damage values lack the modification bestowed by Strength. Furthermore, the line looks like the creature gets a secondary melee attack at low attack bonus, which is uncommon in SFRPG at low levels, where multiple attacks are usually relegated to CR 6 and above. The ability DC for their fever is off, and we, alas, get no proper track, though the disease practically screams for a custom disease track progression.

The statblock should also specify that they’re mindless, which would usually influence their skills. Here, they seem to be using the CR 1/3 values instead. While them having a master skill (Intimidate) violates mindless’s paradigm, I can live with that, though it’s odd when you think about it, as Intimidate requires a conscious effort that the creature is clearly incapable of undertaking. The statblock, as a whole, does not operate as a SFRPG-statblock does, lacking “other abilities”, the proper formatting of a couple of components, etc.

The table is properly codified regarding the skill employed, which is a plus, though considering the flavor, Life Science or Medicine notes to treat the disease (in Starfinder, much more dangerous than in PFRPG!) would have been nice. As an aside – this being a virus, this practically screams for its own subtype graft.

The flavor, as before, is nice.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level are good, though the deviations from the default values irks me. On a rules-language level, there are quite a few issues and deviations from the standard, and, alas, this pdf doesn’t have much beyond the statblocks to rate in that regard. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, with the SFRPG-version having a nice, starry border. The pdfs have no bookmarks, but need none at this length. The artwork featured rocks.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan have written, as loathe as I’m to say it, two deeply flawed statblocks here, with the SFRPG one feeling like it’s a pre-Alien Archive one. Particularly in SFRPG, the options of the system have not been realized, and there are, unfortunately, quite a few glitches in this brief file. This is all the more unfortunate, as the lore section is inspiring, to say the least, and oozes flavor. Still, as a whole, I can’t rate this higher than 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Adversaries: Voidborn
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Everyman Minis: Mutative Mucks
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2019 06:45:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 6 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, on the introductory page, we have something I really like – notes on harvesting mutating much, i.e. creature remnants. I don’t know why, but the notion of using parts of magical creatures to supplement your magical effects has always appealed to me immensely. (As an aside: Playground Adventures’ Creatures Components Vol. I is THE resource for that sort of thing…) Each muck yields 3 doses, plus one dose per size category above Small. Heal or Survival may be used as a substitute for Craft (alchemy). The item is properly codified – Monster Blood Tonic. When you consume it, you’re affected by the mutative muck’s subtype’s consume ability for 1 minute. If you drink a second tonic within 24 hours, the effects become permanent, and 1d20 hours later, something goes horribly wrong, subject to GM’s approval. Yep, whip out your mutation tables, ladies and gentlemen!  Some ideas are btw. provided. Nice one!

Mutative Muck, as a baseline, is depicted as a CR 5 ooze, and whenever it takes damage, it regenerates 5 hit points and gains a growth point. When the ooze consumes a creature that’s been dead no more than an hour, it gains a growth point, if it’s of the same size as the muck or smaller, 2 points if the target creature consumed is larger. Eating a creature takes a full-round action, and every time, these guys get 5 growth points, they get the giant creature simple template, up to a maximum of Gargantuan. When a muck doesn’t get growth points, its size reverts at the rate of one template per day. Capable of massive suction, striking these with a weapon can disarm you, and whenever th muck hits a target with a slam attack, the target must save or be affected by one of 6 effects from the mutative muck’s weirdification table. As hinted at before, consuming these mucks has mutative properties.

So that is the base-chassis of the creature. There are no less than 5 different mutative muck subtypes included, all with their own consume-effects and weirdification tables. Two of these tie in with Everyman Gaming’s phenomenal Microsized Adventures – gigantifying grimes and microsizing mires can modify the creature’s size – and the weirdification effects? They’re awesome! The Gigantifying Grime’s table, for example, include having the head swell to an impossible size, making the target count as one size category larger for purposes when you need to squeeze. What about thickening and elongating, which imposes a penalty to AC and the sickened condition. What about having arms shrink to the size of stubs? Yeah, these are fun. When you encounter a polymorphic pollution, you risk having your head transform into that of an animal or vermin – with the corresponding Intelligence! And yep, you can end up being mindless! You could also potentially lose a pair of locomotive limbs!

Regression Wretch makes you younger, and can feeblemind you, turn you into an infant, etc. – while withering wretch is the other side of the coin, potentially aging you! And yeah, this, obviously, can be used in conjunction with the age-modifying rules from Childhood Adventures, but, it works perfectly fine without access to that book.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has two nice artworks in full color. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Matt Morris delivers something genuinely fun here: These mucks go one step beyond what you usually see in creatures, not by power, but by narrative potential. In fact, they reminded me of why I really enjoy some of the far-out OSR-books, and why I go through the hassle of converting as much material as I do. You see, there are a couple of supplements out there, which, in tone, and rules, just jumpstart your imagination – and the mutative mucks are just that. The growth engine alone can allow you to make the classic “Blob from outer space/Wizard’s lab”-storylines; add to that their properties, and you have reasons for PCs to seek them out. Heck, add the unique effects of the subtypes of muck, and you have a plethora of cool adventure hooks just waiting to happen. This is a cool premium-critter pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mutative Mucks
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Monstrous Lair #25: Scrags' Sunken Cave
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2019 06:41:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.

The outside of the caverns of scrags hints at foul proceedings: Rotten fish bones, discarded legs among weeds, half-eaten and then thrown away, macabre fish-head decorations and broken masts used as bridges over slimy ponds – this carries a sense of ickiness, of primal savagery and wrongness I enjoyed…you certainly won’t expect something civilized after this! As for what the scrag may be doing when the PCs invade – they actually are primitive, as expected, but more distinct than I expected: Scarping fat off a porpoise’s corpse? Wedging fishbones in wall prior to coloring them, urinating over a pile of bones while chuckling? Granted, the latter is a bit generic, as is using a femur bone to clean teeth, but it fits. The major lair features include slain fishes with bite marks, crude murals, rusted anchors and discarded nettings…and what about a rowboat containing clothes and weaponry, swarming with insects? The minor lair features table sports deep tracks in the sand, claw marks marring soft sandstone, nervously clucking chicken and anchor used as traps or to hang victims.

As for the scrag’s appearance, we have seal-skin armor, anchor-wielding, wearing the skin of an octopus, barnacles and corals making a weird living armor and more – some creative entries here! The treasure table sports a lavish crown that may turn to dust when exposed to air for too long, a strange dagger that has “Embrace the siren’s call” engraved and treasure boxes of mahogany, wrapped in plain black flags. As for the things that may litter the scrag’s abode, we have pirate’s tri-cornes, tiny ships in bottles, broken figureheads and once resplendent coins, fused with seaweeds, barnacles and similar signs of uncivilized neglect.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.

Huh. Steve Hood surprised me. I did not expect to see scrags covered in this series. Notoriously underutilized and not exactly blessed with a ton of supplements to distinguish them, this dressing file does an admirable job of setting the scrag apart: Uncivilized and savage, brutal and with just enough smarts for malignant thought, this pdf encapsulates them as distinct better than I thought it would, setting it clearly apart from e.g. the sahuagin installment. All in all, a good offering, well worth 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrous Lair #25: Scrags' Sunken Cave
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Monstrous Lair #22: Sahuagins' Sunken Cave
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2019 06:40:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.

In contrast to the often-depicted, sprawling sunken cities of dread sahuagin, we take a more savage approach here – as the pdf immediately makes clear, when bodies wrapped and weighed down by heavy chains, sway in the waters. Shattered ships, immense whale ribcages and “undulating dystopian” forests of seaweeds stretch to the surface – pretty poetic and cool! As for what’s going on, we have sahuagin teasing large eels, prisoners dragged below from bubble cages and the feeding of sharks – pretty evocative! As for notable features, we have gaping jawbones at the entrance, barnacle-covered statues and shoals of tiny fish and crabs dining on the remains of the vanquished. Minor features of these caves can include diamond-shaped lattices taken from ship’s windows, strategically-placed sharp corals and dull ship’s bells used as impromptu warning signs.

Individual sahuagin may sport patterns drawn to mimic seaweeds, breastplates of bones, using manta-ray skin as a kind of cloak/punching-dagger combo or trophies of elven hair…remember the history of conflict with sea elves, and the propensity for the presence of the like being here. The treasures featured include shark-shaped anti-dream-catchers that bring nightmares, fossilized megalodon teeth and barracuda-skulls turned into weird ceremonial items. The trinkets include jars of rotten food that can taint the water with clouds of muck, shark-tooth necklaces that can scratch the skin, releasing blood into the water, and strange orange anemone skins containing air for the unfortunate captives.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.

Steve Hood delivers in spades here – the sahuagin dressing is well-written, breathes creativity and inspires with its dressing. This is a great example of what the series can achieve. Inspired, fun and creative, this gets 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrous Lair #22: Sahuagins' Sunken Cave
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Personas: Folio 1
Publisher: Evil Robot Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2019 11:29:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons

So, the first thing you’ll notice when opening this collection of NPCs would be that we do not get just NPC/Alien Archive-ish entries – this book depicts fully fleshed out characters. The second thing you’ll note would be that the presentation of said characters deviates somewhat from what we’re accustomed to see in Starfinder.

Take Jad Vanta, the first example NPC: We have a small box that lists her as a level 1 CG themeless android envoy; below that, we have listings for KAC and EAC, speed, HP and SP, Resolve, BAB, initiative, ability scores (including ability score modifiers) and saves all in one box. Below this box, the melee and ranged sections are noted before we get a summary of special abilities, feats and then, a skill-table, which denotes class skills with a check mark, as well as the relevant bonuses in those skills. (Nut not ranks invested or the like); finally, below that, we have the equipment section, which differentiates between combat and non-combat gear. While this may, at first, look a bit uncommon – I won’t lie, it elicited the ole’ “That’s not how it’s formatted usually”-response, I quickly began to see the value in this. As this page also contains the full-color artwork of the respective character, we have a pretty simple and handy one-page pregen-sheet here.

Yep, that’d be the first important thing – the characters presented within this book do work as pregens. But beyond that, they also are presented as either villainous or heroic NPCs, i.e. as potential adversaries or allies for the PCs. Now, we all know how Starfinder treats PCs and NPCs differently, and this is represented in the statblocks to follow as well – each of the NPC-iterations presented within comes in 5 different iterations: One for CR 5, CR 8, CR 10, CR 14 and CR 20. These statblocks generally adhere to the presentation conventions of Starfinder, though they do go a tad bit further – they list, for example, the armor worn with all upgrades in the defense-section, which is generally something I welcome. They are, in a way, slightly more transparent than most Starfinder statblocks when it comes to how they were made. Indeed, this “go one step further” mentality is mirrored in the presentation of the NPCs and made me recall one of my favorite series from the PF1-days, namely “Faces of the Tarnished Souk.” How? Well, the NPCs doe come with a tactics section that notes how the NPCs will fight, when they’ll spend Resolve, and there even is an investigate behavior pattern noted.

Beyond that, each of the NPCs has something that made me smile, namely the conceit that these characters may have a bounty on their head – each of them comes with a one-page “Wanted”-style bounty poster, and notes appropriate credits for the bounties for the respective iterations. These “posters” are in so far immersive, as they note physical descriptions of potential crimes and even a “tap to accept”-button. It’s a small touch, but one that really put a smile on my face. This mentality also shows in the details. Let’s take Jad Vanta to exemplify one thing here, namely how consistent this booklet is regarding its details. You see, each NPC comes with a detailed background story, and Jad Vanta awoke to these words:

“Your name is Jad Vanta,” the message on the data pad read. “And I am sorry for what I leave behind.” (Italicized for the purpose of the review and to set apart the text.) Jad came to consciousness brutally damaged, and the previous personality of the body, Gaff Vanta, was indeed wanted for a whole array of terrible crimes. While the background story notes how Jad was cleared of the charges by her previous personality’s partner, Adele. However, the bounty hunter poster mentioned, this handout, is looking for GAFF, not Jad, noting the crimes of personality cloning and erasure of one Jad Vanta! Did a Jad Vanta previously exist? Is this a Jekyll & Hyde-ish story? It depends on how you read it! The guidance for NPC-use indeed mentions several such angles, though certainly not all of them! There are so many way to use this android, it’s pretty impressive – and all courtesy of the interaction between a handout and a clever, well-written story.

Speaking of which: “Carvad Station” as a hub of sorts features in the stories, which allows you potentially to contextualize the respective NPC – or, well, to integrate the material within into a similar station-like hub like Absalom.

This also provides means to potentially connect the characters to a shared baseline of experiences – and potentially, ideologies. Take the second character, Kass Florentine (NEVER “Kassandra” – always Kass!). The spacefarer mechanic – somewhat traumatized by the Carvad Station Massacre, a rather traumatic incident in the station’s history, she is per se a good-natured and kind person. On the other hand, in her villainous iteration, she may have a connection to aforementioned Adele Gunn, which paints a rather…interesting picture. In her antagonist iteration, one could call her an excellent saboteur and terrorist.

Hierarch Massat, the icon vesk mystic with the overlord connection, would be a good chance to note a peculiarity of the statblock formatting that I did not like in an otherwise rather impressively tight book: Italicizations for spells etc. are not really implemented in the concise manner that they should be. O the other hand, ability names that shouldn’t necessarily be italicized sometimes are; I don’t object to the choice of the latter, particularly when this enhances first-glance readability/text-scanning for viable information, but yeah – it’s something to bear in mind.

Claiming to be a chosen of the Visual God, he has a bit of an inquisitor to him – claiming to divulge secrets and unearthing hidden agendas, he actually delivers and thus, he could be considered to be a divinely inspired detective/snoop of sorts, crossed with the rare exception of being, well, a televangelist with integrity and honest belief. I know, a radical concept that pushed my sense of disbelief, but in the infinity of space, why not? Kidding aside, I like this concept very much, and I genuinely believe that running him as the evil celebrity preacher dude, while certainly efficient, is the more obvious and less interesting route here. The hierarach and the mechanic covered so far also exemplify one thing that I haven’t talked about before. Those tactics-break-downs I mentioned? For characters like them that become significantly more efficient and versatile over the levels, the respective statblocks all have their own tactics etc. sections. Kudos for, once more, going the extra mile!

Kiron Maas would be a xenoseeker operative of the ysoki race with the spy specialization, comes with a vocal modulator, and actually has connections to Kass, as well as to the previously mentioned Adele Gunn – the slowly unfolding tapestry of connections between these folks and their surprisingly well-crafted background sections makes the book a fun experience to read indeed. Now, I haven’t commented on that, but the integrity of the statblocks, at least in the instances where I checked them, is actually commendable, managing to squeeze character and interesting combinations out of SFRPG’s rather tightly-wound math, so yeah – kudos! Special abilities have been employed in a sensible unobtrusive way, and while I personally would have liked to see a couple of custom abilities for the higher level builds, considering the focus on pretty straight NPCs, the book does a pretty nice job of helping them stand apart from their brethren.

Not all components of the statblocks are perfect, but as a whole, this book does a pretty good job. One example of a minor snafu would be found with the final character herein, who would be Voque, a kasatha mercenary soldier with the blitz style: Initiative for the pregen is off by +1 – it should be +5 (+4 blitz, +1 Dex-mod), not +4. These are not dealbreakers, but yeah… That being said, the character, designated as a nihilist, is actually pretty interesting: Plagued by survivor’s guilt, she is a great example for a character who, for once, is a nihilist without being depicted as a straight up psychopath. Since this is a philosophical leaning very close to my heart, I considered this to be a rather refreshing authorial choice. The trauma and how compassionate it has been rendered here certainly makes Voque a character that I’d certainly contemplate playing.

So yeah, there you have it – a compelling roster of characters, with surprisingly deep stories – and a teaser that hints at future products, where more the station and the mysterious Adele Gunn will be revealed.

Conclusion: Editing can be considered to be very good on a formal level and a rules language level; for a small operation, it is quite impressive to see a book this refined, particularly one as crunch-intense as this. Formatting is a bit of a tricky question: If you can live with e.g. spells not being properly italicized and minor deviations, as well as the unique presentation style for the pregen-builds, then you could judge this as impressive; if you consider the latter, for example, to be a downside, then this aspect might put you off. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and we get high-quality full-color artworks for every NPC featured within; the inclusion of the “wanted”-poster-style bounty alerts are a big plus and really helped lighten up the crunchy book.

Author Jim Milligan and editor Paul Fields have delivered a rather impressive compilation of NPCs that deserve being called “characters” here; the builds themselves are well-executed as a whole (I certainly have seen plenty less interesting/refined ones), but for me, it was the little touches that made this stand apart. From the tactics to the bounty alerts, this pdf has all those neat flourishes that show that the team CARED. There is passion in these builds, and the stories and how they interact with the characters, the webs they weave, make them ultimately more than just a collection of numbers. This is all the more impressive, considering how they do not resort to easy differentiation methods. Now, this may not be a perfect supplement, but it is one that is worth getting if you’re looking for a cadre of unique and flavorful characters to add to your Starfinder game. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Personas: Folio 1
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Krampusnacht
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2019 11:24:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module-compilation/series of connected vignettes/deluxe-sized adventure clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

Originally, this was intended to hit sites in time for Christmas, but due to my injury, the review fell by the wayside. Since then, I’ve been asked by one of my patreon supporters to move this up in my reviewing queue, so there we go – a holiday module! (As an aside, I like to plan ahead, so yeah, reviews are, in a way timeless, right?)

Anyhow, this compilation takes place in the meta setting of Crestview Hill, and a player-friendly map has been included in the pdf. A sample character sheet is also part of the deal, and we get a charming, hand-drawn map of a sample default house of the town. This pencil-drawn map, while sans scale or the like, doesn’t require them either, courtesy of the VsM Engine’s relative simplicity and focus on narratives. Anyway, it should be noted that this was released for the first season of Vs. Stranger Stuff, which means that it may end being somewhat easy when employed in conjunction with the second season’s rules. These rules are btw. included in the download, though personally, I’d very much recommend getting the excellent second season.

This book contains a series of 6 brief “adventures”, which you generally can complete in a single session of playing each, potentially even within an hour in some cases – these should be considered to be more akin to encounters; fast groups may even tackle more than one in a protracted gaming session. I will continue to refrain to them as “Adventures”, since that is the nomenclature employed within. The adventures can also theoretically be taken out of sequence and played as stand-alone modules/encounters/expansions for your scenarios with a bit of work, should you choose to – module #1 and #6, though, are pretty obviously ones that should be run in their intended spot when using this as a mini-campaign of sorts. I should mention, though, that these respective adventures behave more like chapters of a unified narrative, so basically, you should consider them part of a bigger adventure. It should also be noted that this does have an optional connection you could develop to Vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns.

All right, got all of that? Great! So, in order to discuss these, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great!

As for the flavor of the backdrop: Crestview Hill is suffering from the dwindling logging industry and, apart from a small plant, it’s pretty much a piece of rural Americana in decline. A recent focus of general anxiety on the youth of the town for petty crimes has blown up to a “crime wave” (Too soon for a “war on crime”, though…), and when a pentagram was spray-painted on a back wall, a healthy slice of satanic panic entered the fray. The leader of this outrage mob would be Montgomery Batefield, member of a wealthy local family.

We start these events as the adults are living it up at the Community Center, while the well-liked Jenny Winslow, a teen, does the babysitting for a lot of the neighborhood families – the PCs are thus gathered, watching some cool late night movie, when Jenny comes in bearing popcorn and pizza. The idyllic evening is interrupted by a phonecall, and Jenny seems to be agitated – she seems to be fighting with her boyfriend, her parents don’t approve of him, and since the town is considering a curfew, he tries to convince Jenny to run off with him. Visibly rattled, jenny will leave the PCs to the tender screen, to wrap some presents – and after a while, the PCs can hear thumping upstairs…and a cold breeze will be blowing from upstairs.

Investigating will yield a present, crudely-wrapped, with oozing liquid seeping from it and leaving a trail behind. Approaching the grisly package will see it develop stubby limbs that will carry it back into the room – where they’ll see the Krampus. He pronounces a sentence (Big kudos for getting the German right!), leaps from the window…and the present attacks! It btw., obviously contains the dismembered bodyparts of poor Jenny, animated as a corpse puppet. Phones are dead…and what to do now??

Well, module #2 sees the PCs trying to get to their parents – as they pass the department store, they witness little elf-like creatures vandalizing the Department Store; the PCs follow them, probably, but ultimately will have to best them in the manager’s office, where they show that they are grotesque imps – killing the weak and annoying critters sees them burst into flames…but on the plus side, the PCs can restock here!

Entering Maple Street will have the PCs witness Krampus dragging away 3 kids in chains – kids the PCs go to school with! Seeing the PCs, he’ll fling his chain up a tree and face the PCs! But before he can reach them, he mysteriously bursts into an icy, snowy flurry – from here on out, the freezing wind will act as a global penalty to PC draws, and when the PCs dislodge the chain to free the PCs, they’ll witness the chains animating as pretty tough adversaries.

Continuing, the PCs can see that there’s a power outage in the cold – all save the blaringly-lit house of Mr. Stern, which features the excess of blinking and flashing lights. Passing near, the strange lights will start to color themselves a wicked red, bathing the streets in a putrid, pinkish-red glow, as the plastic decorations are filled with unearthly life and attack – including reindeer and a snowman…and once these have been taken care of, plastic Santa will come as a pretty tough boss.

While the others are site-based, the 5th sequence is not – Cruel Christmas has the PCs see ominous signs of violence – blood splotches on snow banks, hoof prints in the snow, a car with holes punched in…with piles of crashed cars as strange barriers…and when the PCs hear a gunshot ringing, they will witness deputy Dewey bleeding out, skewered by a zombie reindeer! Powerful and deadly, there are plenty of them…and they’ll herd the PCs towards the Community Center. It is here that Batefield used his occult knowledge to dupe the townsfolk into contributing their energies to the subtle summoning of Krampus. The smartest PCs get to engage in a Brains challenge to come up with a couple of deductions that may or may not be true, depending on the GM: Depending on how complex you’d like to make the showdown, you can use multiple components of the potential Krampus-binding to modify the showdown, for the adults have been drugged. It’s up to the Kids to stop the cultist and Krampus – both of which are potent foes…nice angle, btw.: Particularly good children may be invulnerable regarding Krampus, for he can, after all, only hurt naughty children. (And yep, going outside is a convenient justification to declare PCs naughty if you have a group of goody-two-shoes.)

The pdf closes with notes on how to handle longer adventures such as this, as well as suggested rewards.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice one-column or two-column full-color standard with a nice mix of photography-style b/w and full-color artwork. The cartography is nice and full color. Downside: The pdf is not properly bookmarked, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey provide a nice Christmas mini-campaign for the Vs. Stranger Stuff game. The series ticks off all the different takes and takes on a particularly apocalyptic tone that I didn’t expect here; not content with a series of standard vignettes, this goes one step further, and is better off for it. Global effects and pretty tough challenges that can be customized, particularly in the ends, represent pretty cool components. I kinda wished that the connective tissues here had been a bit more pronounced, that there had been a bit more interconnectedness and consequence between and within the sections of the module, but this is me complaining at a high level – the finale and start and overall atmosphere make up for being mechanically somewhat straight. All in all, I do consider this to be a fun, well-wrought mini-campaign. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Krampusnacht
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Advanced Adventures #19: The Secret of the Callair Hills
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2019 11:22:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was sponsored by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All right, as always for the series, we use the OSRIC rules-set, including a couple of deviations from said system’s formatting conventions; conversion to other OSR-games is pretty simple. As for level-range, the module is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 3 – 5 and it takes places in a borderlands-like frontier’s region, which is represented by a hex-crawl area. Unlike many hex-crawls, the hexes themselves aren’t numbered, instead providing terrain features etc. It should be noted that there are two overland maps – one for the general region (with a scale of 1 hex equaling 1 mile) and a second one, which takes a slightly more detailed look at the area, with a hex being equal to ½ a mile. The overland exploration does feature entries that focus on animals, humanoids and bandits, making for a subdued and quasi “realistic” take, which is something I generally enjoy. A further plus here would be that the hex maps are not boring – from rivers to hills etc., the region feels plausible and diverse enough to explore. The icons chosen to represent specific places also are easy enough to differentiate from another. The pdf does include two mini-dungeons as well, both of which cover 4 rooms arranged in a linear manner. The module, as always for the series, does not contain read-aloud text for the most part, though one of the adventure hooks does provide a bit of text for the GM.

All right, and this 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, by frontier’s region, I meant that design and to consciously evoke the whole frontier-narrative; you see, the Callair Hills were once part of the domain of the Ynlar, a proud warrior race who kept the goblin population in check, mining and working on the silver that their native lands offered. When southern settlers came to know of these bountiful lands, the response was swift and predictable, and after a period of initial peace, greed triumphed and the Ynlar retreated to the prospectors…until their burial lands were to be settled, whereupon a bloody conflict saw them wiped out. A period of calm followed, due to political circumstances, and now, settlers had once again been sent off to Callair Hills to farm and mine. And this is where the PCs come in.

There are three hooks: Happening upon a farm where the dead still lie, getting a job offer, or being warned by settlers leaving. Callair Hills have been haunted, and folks are dying. Farms are destroyed. It’s up to the PCs to find out what happened. Okay, so this premise is per se interesting, and before you groan – it’s not a noble savage narrative that’s spun here. The map contains quite a few farms that may be destroyed, abandoned or inhabited, though no sample names or NPCs are provided. Close examination of the area will show that there are quite a few burial mounds, with skeletons inside – at least at day. At night, the skeletons (more powerful than usual) roam the area, though, oddly, this is not represented in the random encounters. An alternate table for of encounters for nighttime journeys would have been nice.

Further exploration of the area will feature the ruins of an old fort, the first of the 4-room mini-dungeons, where a scholar can potentially be used to fill the PCs in on the region’s history. While creepy, the fort has a couple of nice cultural tidbits – a means to preserve food, some cave locusts, etc. This is atmospheric, but ultimately a sidetrek and mechanically and story-wise, not relevant. You can skip the entirety of this complex and still “beat” the module.

The same does not hold true for the second mini-dungeon, the biggest burial mound in the center of the fields. Though “big” is relative – RAW, the map uses a scale of 2 feet per square, which makes the first room 10 feet wide and long. If you usually track PC positions, this can be a rather claustrophobic experience and makes running it a challenge.

This complex, once more, does a good job at establishing a culture for the Ynlan, and it contains two tomb guardian undead bodyguards resting, as well as the new creature, the barrow lord, a rather potent 7 HD undead. If the PCs plundered his tomb so far, they won’t have much choice but to attempt to destroy the undead – but if they have reigned in their avarice and act quickly, they may attempt to communicate with the undead, provided they have a means to converse with the undead. (Another way to handle this would be aforementioned scholar…) Turns out that the barrow lord swore a solemn oath to defend the ancestral lands from invaders…and clever PCs may succeed in convincing him that his undead legions have been killing harmless farmers that do not constitute invaders. Or, well, the PCs could go on an extermination crawl and clear all the mounds and destroy the barrow lord – after all, he and his undead legions have been killing innocent folks.

The pdf includes notes on further adventures in the region.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features nice b/w-artworks that I’ve seen before. The cartography is b/w and does its job, but no player-friendly versions are provided, though the scale-decision for the final mound is puzzling and harder on the GM than it should be – most groups will need to redraw that one. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is the first module by Geoff Gander I’ve read, and it has potential: I like the descriptions, the theme, that it does not stoop to just providing an annoying noble savage narrative. I enjoy the subdued themes, and for a first module, this is pretty nice. However, the adventure really suffers from its brevity. Some encounters by night, some pressure, more expansive mini-dungeons, more details for the farms and overland exploration – this has the makings of a nice adventure, but its scope seems to be too much for the few pages it has to develop its ideas. I know one-page-dungeons and mini-dungeons that are meatier. This module, in short, is flimsier in content than its page-count would make you believe. You can finish this in under 4 hours, easily – even quicker if your players are very “get the job done”-style driven veterans. With 3 or 4 pages more, this could have been a really good adventure. As provided, its brevity neuters any impact it might have had, the atmospheric tidbits etc., and reduces it to a solid, if woefully short offering. My final verdict can thus not exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up only due to this being the author’s first module.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #19: The Secret of the Callair Hills
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Wormskin Issue 3
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2019 11:06:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Wormskin-‘zine clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 50 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As always, the OSR-rules employed within are intended for Labyrinth Lord or B/X and may be easily converted to other old-school rules-systems.

Okay, so, this installment of Wormskin represents a shift in focus – this time around, we embrace distinctly Dolmenwoodian tones, beginning the supplement with a brief recap of the history of Dolmenwood, penned by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk. And don’t fret. It’s not hundreds of pages of bland dates – it sports a couple of entries, tells us about the erection of the warding versus the entities of Fairy, the mysterious Drune sect of self-styled elite protectors/masters, the arrival of the church of the One True God and how it pretty much failed to civilize Dolmenwood, but slowly managed to have the Drune ostracized…it’s just 4 pages, and in this brief section, it’s more inspired than many such timelines I’ve seen before.

Better yet, the following article, which details the languages of Dolmenwood, is awesome: Only the most potent members of fairy aristocracy will know the Immortal Tongue of Fairy; mortals attempting to speak Sylvan will sound like fools; Liturgic, as a Latin stand-in, is the language of sermons of the One True God, and from the goatman’s caprice and high caprice, to woldish and high woldish or the drunic language, these briefly touched upon languages add some intriguing details to the setting.

A cursory glance at the FREE Referee’s Map of Dolmenwood will make you realize that there is this weird circle held by rune stones – this is the Witching Ring, and it is unique and several ways…but honestly, this is getting into territory I feel I need to mark, so here goes:

From here on out, there will be PLENTY OF SPOILERS. Potential players of Dolmenwood should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So this massive witching ring of runic stones? It’s boundary can’t be crossed by fey; teleportation doesn’t work, and charms and illusions have a 33% chance of failure. Interaction with runic stones, detailed notes on the inscription (which speak of the King of Brakenwold, Elder Phanatarch and St. Clewd slamming the doors on Frigia shut) and more can be found. You see, Wild Hunt-ish fey of what one would associate with the Winter Court have been driven from Dolmenwood…and should the wards ever collapse, Winter eternal shall reign. Oh, and yes, the book discusses, in detail, how this may be done, how the stones etc. can be sabotaged. Because, you know, if the villains don’t do it, PCs are liable to start tinkering with forces beyond their ken…

The book also continues depicting the hexes of Dolmenwood, covering a total of 7 different hexes (these are once more penned by the Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk): All of these are winners, to say that up front: The first ties in with one of the 4 new monster, the scrabey (plural: scrabies) – these demi-fey (fairies that have left the immortal lands, becoming natives of Dolmenwood) are grubby, scrawny elf-like beings 4 ft. high that can assume worm form in a pitch. As shrewd merchants, they come with a d12 table of stuff for sale, and 6 traits allow for customization, making them feel unique rather than just a generic creature. As in installment #2, we get 4 ready to go encounter ideas and also 4 detailed lair-ideas for them. Beyond this hex, we also learn of the phantom isle that houses a black elk goddess, the summerstone and the strange tower that is inhabited by 3 badger mages. Yes, badger mages. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume that Mike Welham wrote this… XD A local column allows for strange gifts, but unwittingly may subscribe the PC’s souls to a forgotten godlet…

Another hex deals with yet another unique critter, the mogglewomp. Mogglewomps are awesome. They truly feel like a medieval fey that have been purged from the pages of legend at one point: Mogglewomps are a bit like predatory fairy hermit-crabs in theme, not in looks: Without a home, a mogglewomp is a droopy humanoid, neckbearded and pretty harmless, wandering with but one goal: To be invited into a home. Once invited, the mogglewomp will start growing to grotesque dimensions (lavishly illustrated in full color) until it fills pretty much the whole homestead, eating the host. This perversion of hospitality makes the critter resound, and traits to customize both forms, sample encounters and lairs are provided as well. This is a fantastic critter.

While we’re on the subject of critters, let’s comment on the two final ones, which are tied to, you guessed it, the eponymous ruined abbey of the nigh-mythical St. Clewd. As an adventure-locale, it is intended for low-to mid-level characters; if your players are smart, they may well live at low levels; when run as a combat-centric module, it will almost assuredly wipe out groups below 3rd level, and it can be made challenging for much higher level PCs, so GMs should beware. The abbey’s ruins are depicted in a gorgeous b/w-top-down isometric map. Minor complaint: The map lacks a scale, which makes judging dimensions somewhat hard, and there is no unlabeled, key-less version of the map provided. The abbey has been penned by Gavin Norman and Yves Geens. In this installment of Wormskin, we learn about the ruins of the abbey that are left above ground. Beyond the random monster encounter section (8 entries), which is more detailed than you’d expect, taking up about ¾ of a page, the ruins feature a so-called scryke (also penned by Yves Geens) as a new critter: Stunted, jet-black humanoids, manifestations of chaotic energy…that, surprisingly, tend to keep their word, if only the letter of it. These beings can assume a destructive fog form, and they are not per se hostile: Drawn to relics and religious icons, they are repelled by the divine, requiring often the assistance of mortals. As before, traits, sample encounters and lair notes complement this creature beyond the confines of the module-section.

Now, not necessarily a part of the monster section, but an important factor of the highly customizable difficulty of the ruins of the abbey, would be the massive ghost monk generator: 8 names, ranks, appearances, characters and positions are provided. We also get 8 attack forms, 8 wishes and 8 secrets, making this an efficient encounter/side-quest generator that can easily be used to expand the module, to make it more deadly, or to weave small stories into the exploration of the dilapidated ruins. Ghost crows that partially exist in the ethereal nest here as well, and the ruined chapel shows a great example of direct indirect storytelling, if you well, with beautiful mosaics telling the legends of St. Clewd, foreshadowing the things to come in part II of the adventure.

Okay, you got me. I saved the best for last. You noticed that I have to yet cover the final new monster, right? That would be the Gloam. The gloam is one of the coolest undead I have read in quite a while: What may look like a flock of ragged birds in one form can become a gaunt man made of feathers, bone and beaks, a strange avaricious, but not inherently evil living dead that comes with a sense of palpable unease. It carries deadly diseases, and the detailed customization options we expect by now are included, as is an amazing one-page b/w-artwork of the entity in undead swarm form. What sets this apart? They can charm kids, the innocent. In the ruins, three kids have fallen under the spell of the mighty “Mister Rag-n-Bone”, one of them equipped with a motherlocket, an amulet that would allow for communication with her mom, were it not for the creature’s charm…but then again, it is looking after the kids…right? Right??? The gloam is awesome, and my favorite part of the upper ruins.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standards with golden highlights and a combination of gorgeous full-color and b/w-artworks. The cartography is great, though the lack of a scale and player-friendly version represent downsides. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Gavin Norman, with help by Greg Gorgonmilk and Yves Geens in a couple of articles, maintains a streak of pure imaginative vision, of excellence. Wormskin #3 is an incredibly dense, evocative glimpse into the tantalizing world of Dolmenwood, which seems to be utterly bereft of filler, of the boring. The magazine tiptoes the line between the surreal, the horrific, the absurd, and manages to be darkly funny and tragic at the same time in a most profound and awesome way, further crystallizing an aesthetic that sets Dolmenwood apart. I love it. The absence of a player-friendly map for the ruins above represents a drawback, though, which is why this loses half a star, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, though I’ll still round up and gladly award this my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 3
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Everyman Minis: Allakhadae
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2019 11:04:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait! Right at the bottom of the SRD? There’s a coded message there. See if you can crack it sans decoder!

So yeah, Allakhadae. Another nice touch is that this pdf’s introductory text? It warns the GM; makes slightly fun of them Alen Igma. Loved this introduction.

But what is Allakhadae? A CR 30 Great Old One. BOOM. And I mean “BOOM” – this fellow uses both psychic magic and kineticist tricks, being classified as an essokineticist who draws upon the powers of the planes themselves and uses psychic energy instead of regular Burn to pay for its powers. The Great Old One is impossibly skilled, can change sizes – and thankfully, is imprisoned…for now. The entity also can spend PE to warp reality, making REAL mirage arcana, simulacra,etc. – in short, we have a truly FRIGHTENING campaign-ender elder evil that WILL challenge your high-level PCs!

Of course, such an impossibly smart entity does have a cult, and as such, the pdf also includes the dream subdomain, which allows for the shaping of pleasant dreams (or nightmares), and 8th level yields basically a variant of the witch’s slumber hex.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules language level, apart from a missing blank space in flavor text. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a neat artwork, as seen on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I love Alexander Augunas’ monster-design. His critters have a tendency to have staying power, to be difficult and imaginative in their abilities, and this beauty is no different. 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Allakhadae
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