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    Something Stinks in Stilton
    Publisher: Melsonian Arts Council
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/11/2020 07:17:28

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This module clocks in at 29 pages (laid out in 6’’ by 9’’/A5), already not accounting for front cover, editorial, etc.

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the indirect request of my patreon supporters  - more on that below. My review is based on the softcover version, which is a saddle-stitched softcover with pretty solid and thick paper – particularly the covers are more sturdy than I expected from a ‘zine. Why call this ‘zine? Because it is the unnumbered eighth installment of the Undercroft-‘zine.

    This module is intended for level 1 – 3 characters (I’d recommend 4-6 characters and a moderately well-rounded party; particularly a specialist/thief should be included), and is a surprisingly fair offering. PCs reap what they’ve sown, and while death is very much possible, it feels fair. The module has no read-aloud text, and should indeed be carefully prepared by the referee, as it’s a dense module that will most likely happen during a single evening in- and out-game. The module offers only one map, for one of the main adventuring complexes, and no unlabeled player-friendly map is provided for it. The map is b/w and is rather detailed, sports a grid, but no scale noted. If you run this, I’d suggest preparing a map for an Inn, as well as one for a shed. Considering the surprising amount of moving parts and things to interact with, I’d recommend this to the experienced referee.

    The module uses bolded red text to allow for the quicker parsing of information (good); magic item formatting is different from the standard, but consistent with how The Undercroft has formatted magic items, and is pretty precise. As is the tradition with magic items in LotFP, magic items are DANGEROUS. The supplement includes a single new nasty save-or-suck spell that I’d generally recommend not fall in the PCs hands, but then again, this module was written for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP), so very potent low-level magic-user spells are less uncommon. Plus: The referee can relatively easily eliminate this aspect.

    This module is almost absurdist in its horror and has a couple of really dark themes, so if horror themes generally offend you, steer clear. This can be heart-rending and pretty brutal; it can also be characterized as absurd and funny in a really dark way, the latter aspects blending with horror into this utterly unique amalgamation.

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

    ..

    .

    Stilton is an utterly unremarkable village thorp that once was famous for its cheese. Now, 1730, it suddenly is rising to prominence once more, with everybody craving that delicious Stilton Blue, courtesy of one Cooper Thornhill. The party is hired by the man’s sister-in-law, who is played for laughs as a contact: She is an unpleasant woman, badgers her husband, and while she doesn’t want Cooper to suffer, she hires the party to find out about the cheese’s secret – after all, it’s making Cooper rich. Clever PCs will realize that they are not the first sent on this errand.

    En route to Stilton, the party will be attacked by bandits, including a particularly burly one who seems off – a nice introductory battle, and one that doesn’t necessarily have to result in the party being killed: Handing over money etc. is very much possible. Also a plus: What looks like a random encounter actually has bearing on another NPC, who will arrive later than day.

    Now, Stilton per se is pretty unremarkable: There’s not much going on beyond “The Bell Inn” here; a hysterical man in prison (whom the party may actually never meet) claims that his wife’s vanished, but the people at the inn seem to be friendly. Okay, cooper’s wife seems to be mentally handicapped, and so is his ox of a son, but the man behind the cheese? Nice fellow. The local food makes copious use of the blue cheese used in Stilton, and indeed, tastes phenomenally – though it does have some weird side-effects: It can make characters tough, but dumber, enhance their sexual attraction to cows, make them gain weight or the like – the cheese is definitely weird, but not that harmful…right?

    Well, things turn slowly more threatening among all those nice people, as the storm rages outside and the local scallywag has words with Cooper outside. If the bandits weren’t taken care of, a robbed lady arrives and is given shelter for free in the cow-shed…Cooper seems like a nice man…but his cowbell-wearing, daft son seems to be drawing strange figures into the condensation.

    All of this is very British – an almost League of Gentlemen-esque depiction of rural life, including this sense of threat and danger underlying it.

    The module itself? Well, it takes place during the stormy night. The PCs are assumed to investigate, and we get a VERY detailed timetable for what happens when, and from the (possibly robbed) guest to the local guard to other NPCs, there is quite a bit of potential for introducing dynamic factors as complications or reprieves for the party. Ultimately, the party will need to secure an entrance to the cow-shed (with Cooper’s key?) and find a trapdoor here – this trapdoor leads towards the small, mapped dungeon mentioned before, and it is here that the horror underlying the pragmatism comes to the fore.

    You see, Cooper had two kids: James (the now incredibly strong, but dull man upstairs), and Heather – and they found this ancient complex. Inside, heather found a stone arch and then proceeded to activate it. In a kind of somewhat halfway competent manner. Emphasis on “halfway.” You see, Heather stumbled through the arch, and turned into a grotesque cow-human hybrid thing (illustrated in a rather graphic and disturbing manner); her changed physiology leaking blue milk. When James tried the milk, her turned into an imbecile, and when Cooper’s wife turned into a problem, she also got a nice glass of milk.

    The complex down here hides an impromptu shed for the man-cow things…which also get a sort of slow regeneration. The weird meat served upstairs? Guess where it comes from…And the missing travelers? Many can be found here, grotesquely-mutated and often deprived of their limbs. While Cooper cares about his girl (the only cow-thing kept in a human manner), the others? Well, not so much. This becomes particularly evident in the impromptu slaughterhouse, where a half-alive cow thing (once aforementioned missing lady) may convulse while hanging on the meat-hook, spraying blood everywhere. Worse: She was pregnant. When Cooper realizes this, he’ll have a breakdown that clever PCs can exploit…should the timeline provide the angle.

    Oh, and the arch? It’s guarded by what happens when you shove a proper cow through – a ravenous and extremely dangerous cow-thing called Daisy, which is a pretty sad combatant; a frightened animal full of pain. The full horror might well become apparent if the party experiments with James’ magical cowbell (which allows for communication with the mooing cow-things), or if they stumble through the arch, for the latter will make the affected see all others as cow things…

    What struck me as most effective here, though, was Cooper and his son: He is no scheming mastermind, just an incredibly pragmatic man – a man whose pragmatism has turned into truly gut-wrenching, sickening villainy…and yet, he’s no (totally) inhumane monster.

    There are no easy choices here. There is no clean slate or happily ever after regarding the horrors in Stilton. The module covers some advice for PCs trying to contact authorities or the like, and the module can go in quite an array of different directions. The spell mentioned before is btw. a means to transform targets into cow-things on a failed save – permanently. The effects of the milk and cheese, as hinted before, are clearly depicted…and as a whole, well, as a whole, this situation can have vast repercussions for both the party and the world. But unlike many LotFP-publications, these consequences are always the result of the actions of the party, not of a random roll of the dice.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column no-frills standard with bold red highlights, and the b/w-artwork provided are effective at conveying the horror at hand. The cartography is b/w, sports a grid, and is detail-wise nice, but a VTT-version sans labels would have been nice. Similarly, getting a map for Inn and cowshed would have been awesome.

    Oli Palmer’s (to my knowledge) first module is a resounding success. It is novel, featuring themes I haven’t seen executed this well before; it is very detailed, and contrasts its funny and somewhat ridiculous premise with truly gutwrenching horror. It is extremely effective, and I genuinely love the adventure.

    On the downside, the cartography could be more extensive – this isn’t particularly convenient for people like yours truly, who suck at drawing maps.

    Now, I mentioned an exchange with a patreon supporter before: I was asked to recommend an introductory module for a LotFP campaign that’s better than Tower of the Stargazer. Emphasis on “campaign” – i.e. on prolonged play that embraces high impact concepts, but isn’t all about randomly ending the world.

    This module is just that. It perfectly hits the grotesque horror notes, but also features a humor often absent from comparable modules. I LOVE this adventure as a person.

    As a reviewer, the map-situation is pretty much my only true gripe with this, which is why I’d usually round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars. However, at least to my knowledge, this is the author’s freshman offering, and oh boy is it awesome for that! Traditionally, the freshman offering gets a bit of leeway, which is why my official final verdict will round up from 4.5 stars. This also gets my seal of approval for the execution and audacity of the concept. If you don’t mind the map-situation and like horror, consider this a must-buy recommendation right here!

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Something Stinks in Stilton
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    Solomon's Screaming Tomb: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e, English)
    Publisher: Dungeon Age Adventures
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/11/2020 07:15:23

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This module clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/SRD, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    Okay, so this module is situated in a desert area, and it is intended for a party of characters ranging from levels 5 to 7. I’d suggest the usual 4-6. A general overview map of the region is provided (sans scale), but on a plus-side, the module does come with…(mostly) player-friendly maps! The 9 rooms of the tomb all get their own one-page versions, sport grids, but no scale, and an overview map is also provided for the GM. While labels are on the maps, in several cases, the letters are outside the maps, and can be cut off – this, however, doesn’t extend to all maps.

    The information-design of the module is pretty good, though: We do get read-aloud text, which is generally well-written, and the support extends to dialogues with NPCs – helpful and neat. Below those sections, we have bullet points. Monsters also come with descriptions – a nice touch.

    Now, this was an early offering of the author, and it does show – though the author has improved the book: Originally, the module was missing proper statblocks, providing only abbreviated versions. This has since then been remedied (KUDOS!) – we get full stats for the creatures encountered. On the downside, the statblock formatting could make a clearer distinction between the statblock and passive feature-section, particularly since the passive features (such as Keen Hearing and Smell), while properly bolded, don’t have their names in proper italics. Still: Better formatting than many instances I’ve seen. On the formatting-side, “Hit:” should be in italics: “Hit:” to make parsing faster. Anyhow, beyond these, we have some average damage values being slightly off: 3d6+3 should e.g. be 13, not 12. Skills are also not always correct. One part of the final boss is missing its poison damage immunity that the entire being has. More grating, no HD-values are provided – only HP-values are included. So yeah, while we now have stats, they aren’t exactly anywhere close to perfect.

    On the plus side, the module does quite a bit right: We get some rather neat setups: There are two NPCs – young thief Layla, and the wizard Azzan, are investigating the tomb (looking for missing mentors both), and the PCs can compete with them, cast their lots with them, etc. – or, well, a deaf cobbler found in a dangerous oasis might also provide a hint. In short: The hooks are rather detailed.

    Trekking through the desert also provides some sample hazards, and did I mention the trap-like things lurking in the sands, the sabercats or dune rays? This module manages to establish a fantastic, yet gritty atmosphere from the get-go. A plus: The book has a great reason for not allowing for rest-scumming: It, well, screams. Kudos for that!

    The deaf cobbler also introduces a bit of humor…but yeah, in order to explain more, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

    ..

    .

    All right, only GMs around? Great!

    So, the module is per se a straight-forward tomb-exploration: If the party talks to the wizard Azzan Wadi making camp near the tomb, he’ll tell the PCs that his mentor first dealt with the first instance of the tomb screaming, but lost his life doing so. You see, years past, a master thief (the mentor of Layla) entered the tomb and inadvertently-crashed through it, opening a passage to the Dolorous Ichor – a black slime-thing, which is emitting the screams, seeking to lure new prey. The PCs thus have the global effects on the tomb aligned with this antagonist – the black ooze can also animate ichor warriors, which are HARD to kill. There are multiple entries to the tomb (official route or the thief’s), and random encounters with howling (non-undead) ghuuls are also part of the deal. Exploring the tomb, the PCs can meet Layla, and magical monsters (which can affect you with a sight-hampering growth of spider-eyes, thankfully temporary!), spiders with piercing glass webs and the like – some really cool stuff is here. The detail is also neat: The book provides e.g. a whole array of information for speak with dead, and risk/reward ratios are neat: Sure, the NPCs are helpful, but they do have their own agendas…Layla will, for example, not stand for the PCs trying to take her erstwhile mentor’s gear.

    Oh, and there’s a surprise waiting: the missing master Barnabas is actually alive – in a way. He’s sealed in amber, as his spell seems to have gone awry…and powerful magic may restore him. Oh, and then, there’s this white, aggressive arm extending from the wall – it belongs to a massive fiend trapped here, who has a deal: Let it eat a limb, and the character gains power. This forever eliminates the limb, but grants an increase of +2 to Constitution, advantage on death saves, resistance to fire, cold and poison damage, darkvision of 60 ft., and the ability to read and write Infernal. Okay, how does that influence spellcasting? How does losing a leg influence the character? What about multi-limbed races, after all, there are plenty of those available for 5e? This is a solid idea, but its execution is lackluster.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are okay; on a rules-language level, the book suffers from its deviations from the standards, and on a formal level, the irreverent and well-wrought writing contrasts with some typos – my favorite being the “data palm.” Artworks and cartography are hand-made and functional. I strongly recommend printing the adventure, for the pdf has no bookmarks. Boo! The module comes with a second, low-res version for mobile devices.

    Joseph Robert Lewis’ excursion into the screaming tomb is an early offering, and it shows; it is an attempt at executing a straight-forward dungeon crawl in 5e, and frankly, I liked it much more than I should have. It has some replay value, and the wealth of weird creatures features, the global effects and details – this shows love and a distinct voice. While it is not as inspired as his usual work, the module still has fun to offer, provided you can look past the formatting issues. Particularly due to its more than fair $1.00 asking price, this is worth checking out if you’re looking for a solid dungeon. It has flaws, but it also has a couple of nifty ideas.

    That being said, I’d recommend the author’s other work, like the brilliant Saving Saxham, over this any day of the week. My final verdict for the screaming tomb can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    Solomon's Screaming Tomb: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e, English)
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    The Black Spot (5e)
    Publisher: Frog God Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/08/2020 09:42:16

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This module clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

    Okay, so I believe I need to provide at least a brief history lesson: This module was originally penned as part of the epic project of the Frog God Games crew, Lou Agresta, and several other talented people saving a notorious piece of vaporware, namely Nick Logue’s magnum opus Razor Coast, from oblivion; this module was originally part of the “Heart of the Razor” hardcover, which I do own – that supplemental book featured some amazing stand-alone adventures that can be added to Razor Coast. Anyhow, back then, the original author of this module Gary McBride was riding high, providing several downright fantastic adventures, most notably the Way of the Wicked AP. While the author at one point went incommunicado over the KS for his second AP, and wasted a lot of goodwill, I am not going to penalize this book for that. It is my policy to rate the work, not the author. It should also be noted that the author was not per se responsible for the 5e-version:  Patrick Pilgrim and Edwin Nagy handled this, so if you wanted to see me slam this unjustly, I’ll have to disappoint you. I care about the module, and it wouldn’t be fair to the crew that worked hard on this conversion to penalize them from wrongdoings they had no hand in. (And yes, I am one of the people Gary McBride scammed out of more than $140…) So yeah, this review? It’s about this module, not some drama beyond it, and the people working on this conversion deserve a fair shake.

    Okay, got that? Great! While nominally set in the Razor Coast region of the Lost Lands campaign setting, this module for 4 to 6 5th-level characters is very easy to adapt to pretty much any marine environment – you just need the PCs to board “The Sealord’s Blessing” under Captain Colthyn Riggs. Thematically, the module is probably best described as dark fantasy, and it certainly can be considered to be somewhat old-school – the adventure is not particularly easy, so a well-rounded group is certainly recommended. The module does reward clever and thorough players. The module does feature a few rumors for PCs doing their legwork, and does come with read-aloud text. Vehicles and NPCs are properly statted, and deserve applause for the conversion crew: The statblock integrity is very high as a whole – not perfect (mustard jelly should, for example, have d10 HD as a Large creature, not d8s), but as a whole, formatting etc. is well executed. Often forgotten aspects such as damage thresholds, vehicle stats, etc. are provided, and the creatures not only get proper features, we also make use of lair actions. While e.g. the murder crow once erroneously refers to itself as Lord of Crows, the stats, as a whole, work as written. In short: Among the flood of bad or sloppy 5e-conversions, this stands out as a job well, if not perfectly done, and was obviously done with love for the rules and care.

    The module includes a whole page of troubleshooting advice for the GM. Kudos for that!

    Okay, 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, the PCs are on board of “The Sealord’s Blessing”, and they’ll happen upon “The Flying Fortune” – a ship that ran aground the rock-formation known as Trident – three lances of rock protruding from the waves. The ship’s impaled wreck hangs precariously on the massive rock formation, so exploring the vessel with the captain would be the first section of the module. The aforementioned, diverse monsters add a lot of flavor to this section – and clever PCs can find out that their very captain, well coincidentally also was the man in charge of this vessel.

    Before you groan or whip out your “Curse you and your obvious and inevitable betrayal”-memes, wait for a second. Using a NPC ally to betray the characters is a risky gambit, for most groups will be paranoid and clever. Many a module gets this wrong, and fails to account for the party’s capabilities – this one is more clever, and the reason for that lies in the eponymous black spot, which has another meaning than the one you’d expect from the literary context.

    You see, there is this huge vertical chimney in the middle of the trident, and navigating down its vast length, there is something strange, deadly and horrifying: The vessel of a mi-go is waiting below the trident, accessible this way; the master of the ship, “The Engineer” is actually the mastermind behind the captain’s insistence of getting the party below, and betraying them, for he has been infected with a biomechanic horror, the black leech – the true source of the Black Spot he hides under his gloves. The engineer’s command: “Bring more!”; it’s not the captain who is lying or making evasions – it is the entity pulling his strings.

    After the literal and figurative descent below, the second part of the module deals with the party exploring the sunken space-vessel of the engineer, exploring deadly gardens, finding strange portals, and it makes sense: The Engineer comes with added notes to allow the GM to play it properly, and from nonlethal traps (need the party alive to properly experiment on them, after all!) to the overall layout and the Engineer’s cool lair actions, everything makes sense. Oh, and defeating the engineer initiates a self-destruct sequence, so the escape from the trident will be rather tense as well! Regarding engineer: There is one thing you need to know, that struck me as odd: You see, in the PFRPG-version, the Engineer is a neh-thalggu, a species known as brain collectors. While mi-go fit the deal, there are a few references to “brain collector” remaining – but these could theoretically just be descriptions of, well, what the mi-go does, so no problem there. What I did consider to be an issue in a way, though: The map of the ship has this huge “The Neh-Thalggu Craft"-header, which might cause some confusion with GMs not familiar with the genesis of the module.

    Whether or not the captain survives his ordeal and can be healed of his parasite remains up to the party, and there is a suitable denouement provided.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – the book almost achieves the highest honors in both categories. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with really nice full-color artworks provided. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, making navigation simple and convenient. Cartography remains my most pronounced issue with this book: The maps are full-color and neat, but no player-friendly versions are provided – the aforementioned header-glitch is purely aesthetic, but the absence of player-friendly maps is somewhat unpleasant.

    Patrick Pilgrim and Edwin Nagy did a very good job at converting Gary McBride’s adventure – they retained the difficulty and themes, while taking 5e’s options and system-relevant components into account. This is a well-wrought, atmospheric adventure; it’s tough, but fair. It’s clever. Were it not for the lack of player-friendly maps, this’d be a 5 star-adventure. As presented, it is still worth 4.5 stars, rounded down. If you want a dark, marine yarn, this one most assuredly delivers!

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Black Spot (5e)
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    No Salvation for Witches
    Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/07/2020 08:44:37

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This module clocks in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of quote/preface, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 62 pages of content, laid out in the usual 6’’ by 9’’(A5) booklet-format, so let’s take a look!

    This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters. The review is based on both the hardcover and the pdf.

    Before you read this review, please be aware that I assume familiarity with Better Than Any Man, or at least, with my review of the module herein.

    Okay, if the strategically-placed pens on my hardcover’s copy are no indicator – this module is abbreviated NSFW. If you read this review on a work computer, don’t click on the links to the uncensored version. The module itself contains drawn nudity, as well as excessive gore and twisted imagery – if you’re easily offended, then this may not be the module for you. The module is VERY deadly, and can end campaigns/irrevocably change them. It can be completed in a single convention slot.

    Formally, the book uses LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) as the OSR-rules employed; NPC/monster stats are printed in red, making them easy to parse. Magic items and spell-references are properly formatted, but it should be noted that spellcasters don’t get a list of spells known per se. A lot of the book’s pages (13 of them) are devoted to the Tract of Teratology, a book with which you can conjure grotesque monstrosities if you’re willing to sacrifice people to do so. These bestow abilities on caster and monster, but in a cool twist, the monsters generally suffer from compulsions and strange restrictions – it’s almost like a small brother to the Random Esoteric Creature Generator, and it does its job pretty well, but I couldn’t help but feel like its presence here was not required – having it elaborated into a full-blown book of its own, and using the page-count in a different way would have probably been better.

    The theme of this module, as the introduction notes, is “glibdark” – in short, much like some exploitation flicks, it exaggerates dark themes and taboos to the point where they can become almost funny…but the module is more, at least in my opinion. Still, this “glibdark” aspect bears mentioning: The module, intended for low to mid-level characters (no level range is given) is almost gleeful in its sometimes rather gross descriptions, so whether or not your group can enjoy the like is an important factor to determine whether you’ll like this book.

    There is another factor. You see, I can summarize this book in one sentence: “Better Than Any Man, Convention Edition – or Better Than Any Man, the Satirical Meta-Commentary Module.” In a way, this module is the more successful of the LotFP-modules that can be read as meta-commentary on the reception of Better Than Any Man, the other being Fuck For Satan.

    But in order to elaborate, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

    ..

    .

    All right, only referees around? Great! So, please stop me if this sounds familiar: A coven of ladies with witch-like powers has established a place and try to live according to their remarkably progressive ideals. The ladies have unique abilities, and one of them has more powers than the others. Yeah, well, what was one of the factors in Better Than Any Man takes central focus here: The PCs are basically trapped in a huge dome of magical energy that includes two settlements and a priory. The priory is the center of the ritual currently happening, and it can only be accessed by finding some red spheres – all of this is illustrated in pretty neat isometric full-color cartography…which is missing a scale. Super-weird: In spite of the pdf being layered, the maps can’t be made player-friendly – the annoying labels remain. Boo!!

    But I digress. The 5 women standing with the main antagonist Orelia Woolcott have taken the names of mythological figures, for they want to enact a dancing ritual to change the world! Orelia has managed to contact a per se benevolent entity called “Primogenitor” – this thing badly understands our primitive world from its multi-dimensional perspective, and thus has a hard time actually doing what the ladies intend it to. Still, the ritual in progress, unless stopped, will destroy the (VERY) unpleasant social order of the 1620s, yearning for ideals that ring as sound to most modern people.

    However, in that world and age? With the primogenitor? The consequences will be vast and cataclysmic…but they still may be worth it. The ladies are not classic villains. Nor are the PCs classic heroes. Which brings me back to Better Than Any Man’s reception: That module may be one of the best PWYW-modules I’ve ever run, it may be one of the best adventures in LotFP’s entire library. It was also denounced as a wide variety of things, by people offended by an optional humiliation/BDSM-ish reference, by its dark horror-themes, by not getting the usual adventuring experience. By getting a module that is dark fantasy, and can turn full-blown horror after the PCs ignore LITERALLY their deity warning them away. BTAM was maligned for being too deadly (and yes, it is lethal), for being capricious, and Fuck For Satan took all of these issues and made a review from them. It was a tantrum and a middle finger.

    This adventure does something smarter: It makes the reception of Better Than Any Man, the mischaracterizations, exaggerations, rumor-mongering and deliberate misreadings, and wrote them down. Then, the author constructed a satirical module that can be fun, in spite of all these things, well, being deliberately showcased here.

    If you think I’m reading too much into this, let me give you a couple of examples.

    -There is a village where everyone was slaughtered – a little girl can turn herself inside-out (dragging her e.g. leg through her moth) and turn into a killer creature, which must be dealt with.

    -There are PLENTY of cataclysmic ways for your campaign to go off the deep end. One optional encounter has a slime that can cause an ice age. Looking into a peeping hole can end the world/launch a horrible invasion, or have a character die horribly, seemingly vanishing into thin air. All of these campaign-enders are telegraphed in some way, though – the holes? “GAZE NOT” is written above them. The slime? Can be dealt with/is triggered by the PCs.

    -The lethality is represented in the finale as well: Rocks literally fall, and PCs have the chance to lose limbs on failed saves.

    -There is a couple of a man and woman who hate each other, fused together.

    -There is LITERALLY a psychotic white knight who wants to kill the PCs if they try to interfere.

    -There are nuns giving birth to abominations.

    -There is a perverted abbot, who has a mini-harem of ladies LITERALLY commoditized by the weird magics – one of the ladies has a frickin’ cornucopia-like torso, and their limbs have been somewhat switched around. They are grotesque, yet helpful and happy with their lot.

    There is NO WAY this is not intentional.

    It is the module-version of whacking somebody on the head with a newspaper while yelling “DO YOU GET IT NOW???” Heck, the module actually spells out that Woolcott’s New World Order actually would be GOOD for the PCs. You know, as good as a certain social experiment near Würzburg, destined to be swept away by Carolus Rex, could have been.

    This module’s subtext removes all ambiguity; I’d not even call it “subtext” – it’s text. It’s so ridiculous and excessive with its gore and grotesque components, with its OBVIOUS quoting of pretty much everything related to exploitation themes, that it’s very, very hard to play this seriously. It’s possible, but leaning into the grotesque and outrageous is probably the better call.

    And yet, the adventure is not per se preachy. You can play it without all of these considerations, and since the ritual’s under a strict timer, gathering the red spheres, entering the priory, and stopping or not stopping the ritual can be covered, easily, within a convention slot or single (long) play-session.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column standard, and the module provides plenty of grotesque and gory full-color artworks of excellent quality. The isometric full-color cartography is beautiful, but I’d rather have USEFUL cartography. No scales on the maps, no grids, and worse, the maps feature spoilers. The items required to enter the final area of the module actually are visible on the maps. This is particularly jarring in the pdf-version, where the existence of layered pdfs literally means that there’s no excuse for not being able to turn these off. The hardcover sports “NSFW” on the spine, is solid and high-quality – no complaints there. The pdf doesn’t fare as well, unfortunately: The pdf has this weird phenomenon, where the crisp and perfectly clear artworks of the hardcover book seem more low-res and pixilated, have less crisper colors, etc., and the module lacks bookmarks in its electronic version, which makes navigation a pain in the behind.

    I like Rafael Chandler’s death/black-metal infused aesthetic, with its pitch-black humor, and this book puts this humor front and center. This can be played as a funhouse parade of grotesqueries, and even without knowing about all the online drama, it is a fun and functional module. It is super-deadly, but it, unlike Fuck For Satan, is not a deliberate screwjob (haha – sorry for the atrocious punnery) – underlying its lethality is a very deliberate “reap what you have sown”-mentality. The PCs will only suffer if the players aren’t smart. This is brutal, but it is no exercise in “Got Ya”-BS – it is fair in its savagery.

    Where Better Than Any Man was a relentlessly dark and merciless vision, this is its funnier, goofier brother, is the equivalent of laughing in a slasher-flick. Now, personally, I preferred the other take on the concepts, but No Salvation for Witches does have its place beyond its meta-commentary aspects.

    For a campaign starter, for a convention game with the right audience? This can be genuinely funny. “Right audience” being the big factor here.

    If you’re easily offended, then this will trigger you to kingdom come, and same goes if you just want your standard fantasy.

    But that’s not what LotFP is about. This is one of the few instances, where I’d consider grotesque horror and humor to make for a valid combination.

    So, all well? No. The maps prioritizing beauty over utility bother me to no end. No bookmarks? Similarly sucky. And while the Tract of Teratology is a nice tool, it feels pretty useless here – I’d rather have had more module. That being said, unlike Fuck For Satan, this is no somewhat puerile temper-tantrum in module-form; this is, in design and themes, an elegant rebuttal that can be fun to play. It’s not Rafael Chandler’s best work, but it’s a nice module. My final verdict will be 4 stars – for the print version. For the pdf-version, you should think about how important the aforementioned issues are to you, and detract the appropriate number of stars. Personally, I’d rate the pdf on its own at 3 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    No Salvation for Witches
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    Terrors from the Id: The Book of Psionic Horror
    Publisher: Legendary Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/07/2020 08:41:21

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This supplement clocks in at 40 pages,1  page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    We begin this book with new class options for psionic classes, which include new tricks for the Path of War class Zealot (from path of War Expanded) as well, so let’s start here: Zealots get 4 new convictions. One  lets the zealot, as a free action, take sanity damage of up to his Charisma modifier, regaining an expended maneuver for every point of sanity damage taken. Sans sanity system,, the zealot may instead take 2 ability score damage to one of the three mental ability scores of their choice. Mad echoes lets the zealot cause 1 sanity damage to all creatures affected by echoes of steel; if he does this, the target of echoes of steel gets to use the loaned maneuver an additional time. I assume that the bonus use of the maneuver still is voided if the zealot chooses to recover the maneuver, but explicitly pointing that out would have been nice. The final conviction nets the “shattered mind” oracle curse, using zealot level as oracle levels. Unless I am sorely mistaken, there is no such thing. After combing through my pdfs and books, I finally realized what this should have been, or at least, I think I do: In PF #88, a shattered psyche oracle curse was introduced. This was the closest I got to discerning the intent of this one.

    Zealots also get a new mission, corruption. This one nets all creatures in your collective the benefits of your corruption manifestation and stains while you maintain psionic focus. You can expend your psionic focus to allow all creatures in the collective to ignore their stains for 1 round. This ability is missing the action to activate it. The second ability, warping majesty, lets the zealot spend “3 power points on a martial strike, affecting the target with Malefic Metamorphosis[sic!]” If the target failed a saving throw against the maneuver that activated this power, it is affected automatically. For 4 power points added to a martial strike, the target can be forcibly included in the collective. As a swift action, the zealot may command the target to perform a move or standard action, with a “DC 10 + the zealot’s charisma modifier + half the zealot’s level” “will” save to stop performing the action. Leaving the collective requires a move action and a will save. Why all those quotes? Well, if you’re even remotely familiar with PFRPG, you’ll notice that there’s a lot wrong with formatting here – the sequence of the DCs is nonstandard, ability scores are persistently lower-caps, and, to get that out of the way, powers referenced and archetypes are both provided in caps – so the “Malefic Metamorphosis” does not reference a feat, it actually points towards a power – and should be malefic metamorphosis. Skills are btw. written in lower caps.

    The issues this book has with formatting are VERY pronounced, and particularly in high-complexity contexts, they do impact the material.

    On a formal level, it should be noted that the verbiage here also made me stumble a few times, but yeah. The mission is conceptually great, but before we can properly judge it, we have to make a brief excursion to new psionic powers, namely the aforementioned malefic metamorphosis. The power is one of the new powers introduced herein, and is a third-level power for psions/wilders and vitalists. It can be manifested as a standard action, has a range of touch, and PR applies; A fortitude save negates, and the power clocks in at 5 power points cost. The power allows you to impose a -6 penalty to an ability score, decrease the target’s size by 2 categories, make the target lose a limb, render the target blind or deaf, decrease natural armor by 3, decrease DR by 5, reduce fast healing or regeneration by 5 (nice: Has a caveat that prevents cheesing immortal enemies here!), decrease maneuverability by 2 “steps”, impose -4 on attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks and saving throws, impose a 50% chance to waste any given turn; this increases to only a 25% chance to act normally. For every 4 power points spent, you get to add another effect; for 2 power points, range increases to close; for 4, you can affect a creature with additional manifestations of the power, and for 2, the save DC increases by 1.  Sounds familiar? Yep, this is essentially a psionic, more versatile version of bestow curse. I like most of the flexibility it offers, though loss of a limb is pretty nasty, and should probably have been a costly augment. The power is, like bestow curse, permanent, but unlike the spell, it notes this: “any effect that would remove ability damage is capable of removing the effects of this power.“ Okay, I assume that means that any effect curing ability damage also ends this power. In short: It is more flexible, but also easier to remove than the spell. Per se not too big a problem. Oh wait, we were talking about the zealot, right? That means full BAB, and this potent power added for 3 power points to strikes? Now that is damn brutal – compared to destruction, we have the disabling of a limb equated with 3d8 active energy damage and +1 DC. And yes, this is the better comparison than destruction’s AoE-attack, as the new mission’s power point cost does not scale. I really love this conceptually – the infectious mutation/madness-angle reminded me of ole’ Sutter Cain, but as written, this is a very potent added debuff to strikes, one that exceeds in power the options granted by the other zealot missions. RAW, the ability also does not clarify the interaction with targets and affected area – as written, one could argue that 3 power points add this to all affected targets, when a single target was almost assuredly intended. This is a super-cool concept, but it needed some finetuning and polish.

    While we’re on the subject of class abilities, we also get a new surge for the wilder, the horrific surge. This one lets the wilder make an “intimidate” check versus a creature within close range, gaining a untyped bonus to the check equal to the wild surge’s “value” – I assume that to refer to the manifester level increase granted by the wild surge class feature. If suffering enervation, the wilder is shaken for a number of rounds “equal to the level of wild surge used” and loses power points equal to the unmodified manifester level. This is, verbiage-wise, not really functional – does it refer to the manifester level as modified by wild surge? To the increase to manifester level? A wild surge in itself has no level. The surge bond increases the fear of targets already affected by shaken, frightened, etc., and the improved surge bond nets +1 creature affected by the wilder’s wild surge Intimidate checks, + another creature affected for every 4 levels beyond 5th.

    Archetype-wise, the deranged min psion loses the bonus feats in favor of getting an oracle curse (adapted properly to psionics), and at 5th level, we have the tap the madness ability to accept temporary penalties to saves to enhance DCs, with the ability improving at 15th level. Interesting: At 10th level, this ability’s penalty becomes an aura. Formatting is inconsistent here: Class abilities are formatted as though they were feats for the most part (confusing), but not always. At 15th level, when using the save DC-enhancer, the archetype gets to completely ignore PR. Very strong. This should probably be a scaling decrease instead, particularly since they also ignore ANY immunities of creatures, which is OP even at 15th level. – granted, mind-affecting immunity instead nets a +5 bonus, but still. The capstone increases the radius vastly and provides a limited added psionic focus ready to be expended whenever the tap the madness ability is used.

    The fearsome overlord dread replaces devastating touch with a collective governed by Wisdom, which is interesting (or a hiccup), considering that the dread otherwise is governed by Charisma – the archetype gets Unwilling Participant at 1st level, using Charisma instead of Wisdom, and adds the [Network] descriptor to all [Fear] powers and a list. The latter makes me think that the collective probably was intended to be Charisma-based as well. 2nd level’s terror is replaced with spirit of many. Terrors can be channeled as a standard action via the collective, and targets in it are treated as though affected by devastating touch for the purpose of being affected by a terror, or the target can be affected by an Intimidate check. The ability is correctly codified regarding descriptor and spirit of many’s augment, which is the big thing here – you can essentially use terrors on multiple targets for power point expenditure, which makes for pretty potent low-cost debuffs.

    Aura of fear is replaced with a penalty applied to collective members regarding fear-based effects, including the loss of fear immunity. Channel terror is lost in favor of the ability to induct targets into the collective on a failed save by expending a use of terrors. I assume that the save DC here is based on the terrors, but the ability doesn’t state this. Twin fear is replaced with knowing/remote viewing  the location of creatures in the collective. The archetype also comes with a sanity damaging terror. This is an interesting engine-tweak – I rather liked it, minor rough patches notwithstanding.

    The martinet tactician does not suffer drawbacks for collective members reduced to 0 hit points, and replaces coordinated strike with 3+ Intelligence modifier uses of press onward. This ability can be used as a swift action, and lets all members of their collective ignore a pretty massive array of negative conditions for 1 round, , +1 round at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. When the effect wears off, the suppressed effects have their duration extended by an equal number of rounds to which they were suppressed….and here, we have an unintentional exploit: Per default, the suppression of effects in PFRPG has their duration continue to elapse, so if the negative condition elapses while the ability is activated, there is no more duration to extend. This is, admittedly, a nitpick, but the exploit is completely avoidable via a suspension of duration elapsing clause. Oh, and there is this other sentence. While under the effect of the ability, creatures ignore ALL DAMAGE SUFFERED. Granted, they take twice as much when the duration elapses, but this is still broken as all hell. Deity blasts your level 1 farmer? Death delayed, you’ve got this level 1 martinet standing around…and again, it didn’t have to be this way. I love the idea. Add a simple scaling mechanism per round for damage ignored, and there you go. 6th level nets Diehard and collective members benefiting from coordinate gain it as a teamwork feat. 14th level replaces pooled knowledge with the ability to redistribute damage taken among collective members. Good here: The ability has a caveat that prevents damage negation – via DR. Since the base ability regarding delayed damage does not comment on energy types, this should be more broadly phrased.

    The psyche preserver vitalist replaces medic powers with an expanded powers list and the respective powers being treated as though they had the network descriptor. Transfer wounds is replaced and delayed until 4th level, and the replacement instead transfers sanity damage. Collective healing is similarly modified to instead apply to sanity damage, health sense is replaced with sanity sense, and at 6th level, we have a pulse that lets the collective members ignore madness or mind.affecting effects for one round. 7th level allows for the negation of sanity damage taken via the modified transfer wounds replacement, and the 19th level ability allows for regular healing to also be able to deal with sanity damage.

    Next up are two prestige classes: The 5-level psijacker, who needs 2 skills at 7 ranks, Inducting Power, Shared Power and Unwilling Participant, as well as the ability to manifest 3rd-level powers, which must include two telepathy powers. The PrC has d6 HD, 3/5 manifesting progression, and BAB, Fort- and Ref-saves improve by up to +2, Will saves by up to +3 during the 5 levels of progression. If the psijacker had a collective before, it advances as if the character had gained a level in the collective-granting class. The PrC is missing its class skills, and information on its skills per level and proficiencies.

    1st level adds the attune target augment to all mind-affecting powers: for 2 power points, a creature that fails its save against the power becomes attuned to you, and can be affected regardless of range or line of effect. 4th level allows for the expenditure of an additional power point to add attune another creature that failed the Will save against the power.

    The interesting thing comes at 2nd level: When attuned to a target, the psijacker shares an attuned target’s collective abilities, and can’t be forcibly removed. Additionally, the psijacker can redirect ANY power or effect that affects another creature in the collective to himself. No save, no limits here. This ability is AWESOME, but it needs some checks and balances. Particularly since all creatures in mental contact with an attuned target are ALSO treated as attuned, save that they can’t act in this same relay-like manner. 3rd level nets spirit of many, and creatures thus affected can be targets via collective effects and powers, effectively bypassing saves and limits that keep the already potent collective ability in check. Remember: Creatures affected by the relay of the attuned target do not get a save to avoid this! Really cool: The psijacker can change what a creature says in mental communication by expending their psionic focus. 4th level eliminates the most pronounced restriction to the psijacker’s attunement, making it last for 24 hours, which is strange, as RAW, the attunement lasts as long as the triggering power, which can be longer than 24 hours. Attuned creatures also take a -2 penalty versus the psijacker’s mind-affecting powers. The 5th level nets another global augment – for 4 power points, mind-affecting powers can become contagious, and only for powers that allow for a Will save. I love the concept of this PrC, but it could have used a few whacks with the nerf-bat. Still, this is definitely a cool concept! Still, I think many of these options either didn’t realize, or didn’t care about all the very potent benefits that collectives have already hardcoded into their rules. There is a reason why Unwilling Participant requires a standard action to use, has a save, and still is very powerful. So yeah, I wouldn’t allow these options in most of my games.

    The paragon lunatic covers 10 levels, and requires 5 ranks in Autohypnosis, Iron Will, and at least one greater or two lesser madnesses. The class is immune to all mind-influencing effects save for madnesses already possessed, which can’t be healed or removed. The class also sports mad insight, which is essentially advantage on a d20 roll 1/day, +1/day for every odd class-level thereafter.

    We have d8 HD, and ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, and 8/10ths enhanced development (not bolded properly), progressing regarding class features etc. in a class they belonged to before gaining the PrC. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a bonus feat, and 2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a madman’s boon from a list of 12. These are not properly classified as extraordinary, supernatural, etc. – this is relevant in e.g. the ability that allows the paragon lunatic to extend a madness they suffer from to another creature. Most of the abilities are passives, like increasing one ability score by +2, and decreasing another by 4, but yeah…taking e.g. sanity damage when affecting the character with a mind-affecting effect would be another example where ability type is very much relevant. The level 10 ability lets them become super-flexible, and retrain all feats every day, exchange powers for spells (power/spell lists used?? I assume same list…), or exchange class talents etc.

    The book also contains quite a bunch of new powers. To give you an idea: Armageddon is a 9th-level power that deals 10d6 force damage…to everything in a 1-mile radius, centered on manifester, including the manifester. Oh, and you take 4d6 ability BURN to the manifesting ability score. Brutal. Assign imperative is permanent (should be “Permanent, see text”, since an inability means it “only” lasts for several days, and essentially lets you implant Code Geass-like compulsions in targets – which is also the interesting angle here: This 6th-level power is akin to geas/quest, and per default takes 10 minutes to manifest, but otherwise has more flexibility due to its augments, which include the option to manifest it as a standard action instead. However, in such a case, the target gets a Will save. Confusing: The augment-section erroneously refers to this power as “Mind Control”, instead of its proper name; it’s not the only power with this particular glitch. That being said, with lantent programming and this one, you can do some seriously nasty stuff.

    There is also a 60-foot shockwave spread that renders targets helpless on a failed save, a cool signaling beckon to call low-HD creatures to you (but doesn’t compel obedience…) Deathless Form begs to be abused. A 4th level power, the power has a duration of 1 round/level, and prevents death by hit points. ENTIRELY. It also ahs this confusing piece of verbiage “However, the creature does not heal nor regain consciousness; further healing is required in order to bring the creature back to positive hit points.“ Either the first sentence only applies to natural healing (if so, what about fast healing/regeneration), or it’s self-contradictory. It’s not that hard to remain operational with 0 or less HP. Either way, that’s the pre-augmented power. This sort of stuff is also usually a frickin’ CAPSTONE with limited uses, not a puny 4th-level power. WTF. Compare it to delay death. I mean, seriously. WTF.

    On the plus-side, a 6th level power that is essentially a tweak on multi-target ectoplasmic form, a psionic tongues variant…cool. Speaking of cool: One of my favorite psi-powers, false sensory input, gets a complex level 5 variant that I’ll most definitely use. The level 8 feed to oblivion power is a better destruction that is most assuredly missing its [death] descriptor, an important balancing aspect for such powers/spells, particularly since it also imposes negative levels and even ignores immunity to the like. Halt has really cool visuals: It is a 30-foot radius, and saps kinetic energy. It makes projectiles fall to the ground, and creatures in the area must succeed on a Fortitude save or be paralyzed, which EXPLICITLY ignores immunity to paralysis, but not immunity to cold. Since duration is concentration-based, I can see this work rather neatly. However, it also notes that psionic effects are shut down as if affected by dispel psionics – so we have AoE save or suck aura that moves, is a dispelling aura, and eliminates projectiles. I think power-level 5 is too low here.

    Insurrection has a chance to force the affected to attack allies. That should have the (compulsion) descriptor. I like the interference field’s massive penalties to concentration. Sharing real and false memories is cool. Personally, I think that the 9th-level power lore of the deceased, which permanently nets you a known power of a deceased creature, should have a limit regarding power lists to choose from, or some maximum of powers from other lists you can thus attain. I welcomed the powers that allow for the use of mindscapes with psionics. Relapse  also needs a limit, and obviously was based on a more limited class ability. The power lets you choose a spell or effect that affected the target within 24 hours that has been ended or dispelled. The effect begins anew. This lets you basically duplicate very strong attack spells/buffs/debuffs, as you with, and bypass 1/day ability limitations. On the plus-side, switching 2 20-foot cubes of terrain and people with spatial displacement? Awesome.

    Okay, this should give you an idea regarding the powers. The pdf also includes 2 pages of new feats. These include making mind-affecting powers cause sanity damage, or render certain powers contagious (the latter being just what you think – at a flat cost of only 2 power points, this one is underpriced and very strong); there also is a Metapsionic feat building on Unwilling Participant – conceptually, many feats here are variants of class abilities I discussed above. Slaying creatures reduced to 0 sanity, enhancers for psychic duels are also here. The section also features the Dream Sovereign feat, which enhances both dream message and induce nightmare with custom augments, a per se cool design paradigm I can see work well on a more global scale. As an aside: The latter power lets you move targets to nightmare dreamscapes…just sayin’…Freddy’s be proud!

    The book also provides 3 new corruptions: Overlord interacts with psychic enervation, and focuses its Manifestations’s Gifts on added effects when manifesting powers. The compelled is the other direction – instead of gaining the corruption because of excessive use of power/imposing of power, this one is about having been subjected to it. Bolding of the manifestation sub-headers here is consistently off, which is puzzling, since the previous corruption didn’t suffer from this issue. The ravager corruption is, no surprise for veterans there, a nod towards Dark Sun’s ravager tradition – your powers generate wastelands, sapping the life from the world. This also ties in with the artifact(s)

    herein – torcs of the legendary ravagers exist in 4 variants, and, well, are artifacts that can vastly enhance the ravage radius.

    The book then provides some notes on sanity damage, psionic (psychic) dueling, and generating MP from power points. The latter requires care in a mixed game: Psionic characters will mop the floor with psychic ones of these rules are implemented. A table of fleshwarping psionic creatures, including ingredients and costs, and 3 fleshgrafts, were pretty nice! Sealed mind is interesting – it makes you immune to mind-affecting effects, but also makes you have a trigger that can be sued for mind control.

    Conclusion:

    Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, and the original b/w-artworks herein are AWESOME. I love them.

    Unfortunately that is all of the positive things I can say about the formal criteria of this pdf. Editing on a formal level is okay, but on a rules-language level, there are quite a lot of vagaries, glitches, etc. – several of which influence the integrity of the rules.

    Formatting, though? Oh boy.

    You know, I often feel petty when complaining about formatting. And I’m sure plenty of authors out there at one point wanted to beat me up for my nitpicking.

    If you need a good example why formatting for a game of PFRPG’s complexity is so darn important, look no further than this.

    I mean, I’ll complain about a bolding missing, sure, but that’s aesthetic. This book, though? It’s the first book I read in AGES, where the formatting is so bad that it makes it harder to grasp how some stuff is supposed to work. There are no italics in this book. Instead, everything, from archetype names to powers to class abilities is formatted like feats. Powers suddenly are called ability. References regarding “levels” don’t specify which levels are meant.

    Combine that with some hiccups, nonstandard verbiage and the complexity of the engines this operates with, and we have a seriously hard to decipher book.

    Oh, and this nonstandard formatting? It’s not even consistent! Heck, one of the PrCs is missing its entire skill section.

    Oh, and guess what? NO BOOKMARKS! Not even F** bookmarks.

    This book? It reads like a pre-development/editing Beta, like nobody took a swing at checking the stuff for balance, like nobody bothered clearing up the immediately apparent issues this has. This book looks like a freshman offering, like a book with a troubled development history, or both – my money’s on the latter.

    I haven’t seen a blunder of these proportions in all of Legendary Games’ catalog. And it’s heart-wrenching, for Matt Daley is a talented author, and there are gems to be unearthed here. There are some genuinely cool ideas here, and while the implementations often are exceedingly rough, one can see the gem this could have been. Heck, the author has done so much better in other publications, this must have been some seriously old work…right?

    …I wanted to love this book so badly. I actually had kept it on the back-burner, because I love psionics, I love horror, and I was confident it’d be a fun, well-wrought book. Instead, I got a heart-wrenching mess. In spite of the good ideas contained herein, I can’t rate this higher than 2 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Terrors from the Id: The Book of Psionic Horror
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    Star Log.Deluxe: Core Species Reforged
    Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/06/2020 11:41:32

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This supplement clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

    After a brief introduction, we begin with the reforged base engine, for buying ability scores works slightly differently:

    Write down all 6 ability scores, and put 10 next to them. You get an ability boost, which you assign and can’t reassign sand a mnemonic editor or the like, and add 2 points to the ability score. You can also choose a flaw, which means you need to subtract 2 ability points from a chosen ability – if you do that, you get another boost, and you may not apply a boost and a flaw to the same ability score. A species’ vital traits entry lists the ability scores you can boost, but flaws remain yours to freely choose, at least usually. Then, you apply the theme’s ability score increase, and after that, you get 10 point to customize your character on a 1-for-1 basis. You can spend these however you want, but at the game’s start, ability scores cap at 18. Points must be spent and can’t be saved for later.

    Simple, right? So, how does the engine proceed to work? Well, each species gets its vital statistics, which note the eligible scores for ability score boosts (and flaws, if relevant), the Hit Points, sizes, speed, sense traits (designated with the word “sense”, inherent abilities (designated as “inherent”), heritages (which may be specific or universal), and the character chooses two species traits, chosen from the character’s species or the “universal” list. The character gets an additional species trait at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter.

    Okay, to give you an idea: Androids, for example, have the HP and size/type of the modeled species, with the android subtype, low-light vision, use their modeled species as ability boost guideline – this modeled species is chosen at 1st level. However, you only get to choose from the android and universal heritage, not that of your chosen species. The android-specific  heritage provided renders you immune to vacuum and eliminates the need to breathe, as well as providing a +2 racial bonus to saving throws vs. diseases, mind-affecting effects, poison and sleep due to having a higher amount of artificial components than biological ones. To contextualize this one, we should first take a look at the universal options available, right? Right!

    The pdf first specifies two general subtype-y categories here – planar scion (self-explanatory) and kabeni; the latter represents individuals associated with undead, death magic, etc. These often include +2 racial bonuses to two skills for the planar scions, as well as resistance that scales: Aasimars, for example, get ½ their level or CR as a resistance to acid, cold and electricity. Planar scions generally change the type to outsider and gain the native subtype. Aasimars can, as a standard action, shed light, with dismissal noted, and this light can beat magical darkness, provided the origin’s CR or item level exceeds the aasimar’s – oh, and daily uses increase with level or CR. Duskwalkers are infused with the powers of purgatory, and are treated as having the ghost killer weapon fusion versus incorporeal undead, and these people get bonuses to saves vs. death effects and negative energy as well as re undead abilities. Yep, the classic ones like ifrit and undine are covered alongside the ganzi, and half-elf and half-orc can also be found here…and yes, you can be a kitsune with a half-elf or half-orc form! Cool, btw.: The ifrit get azimuth laser pistol integrated weapon blasting, including recovering charges – and yep, the ability upgrades properly at higher levels. Ganzi can get the Resolve-powered ability to force rerolls with their quibble ability. Being a skinwalker is btw. also one of the choices you can make, and being nograv-raised (Hello, The Expanse!) – also covered!

    Now, it should be noted that the list of the universal traits actually makes you pay for the like – want to get the +2 skill bonuses or the resistance/save-bonuses for being a planar scion? You have to pay for them with one of the species traits you have. And these could also be used for being adopted: That’d let you choose a species and their culture, and reduce the DC of it by 5; you also can learn traits associated with the ancestry, provided it doesn’t require physiological traits you lack. If you’re a planar scion, you could also be ageless; if you’re a changeling, you could have a swimspeed and expanded lung capacity…or, you could be capable of surviving in space…or, perhaps you inherited dark eyes that can pierce through illusions, or you could control ambient atmosphere. Want to be able to speak with animals? That’s now universal as well, and same goes for a prehensile tail – makes sense in a world when augmentation is common, right? I certainly think it’s cool to have these all be options.

    Let’s return to the android traits, shall we? These include augmentable (+ cybernetic augmentation for a system of your choice), infosphere integration lets you once per day when taking a proper rest choose a mental ability score-based class skill, or enhance that. Another trait lets you have a rebooting nanite upgrade in your brain, allowing you to reboot your brain (rerolled save!) via Resolve if suffer from a variety of conditions. Using Resolve to temporarily gain scaling fast healing…or what about your modeled species’ senses? Very much possible.

    But there’s MORE to this than just modular universal traits and species traits. Know the realization that prehistoric humans are pursuit predators? That we are super-hardy and scary in comparison with other species? Well, humans in this system actually have that represented via the Pursuer ability! It’s great to see that type of information represented in the game. And there are coolnes here: Adrenaline Junkie, for example, nets you 2 temporary Hit Points per level or CR for 1 Resolve that don’t stack with themselves at the start of your turn, provided you are sufficiently stressed, so the GM has final say. Better harrying/covering fire and aid another, the option to shrug off fatigue and exhaustion, and more….what about, for example, delaying the onset of a saving throw-related effect for one round, at the cost of treating your result when you are affected as a natural 1, and the effect bypassing any immunities gained since activating the ability – so yeah, powerful, you won’t be cheesing this. Love it. This is also a good place to note the attention to detail in some of those: It bespeaks of extra care when two abilities that focus on representing teamwork (like those of humans and lashunta) actually feel and play differently.

    Kasatha might be natives or starfarers, and includes drawing strength from your personal traditions, and what about using solarian weapon crystals as fusion seals? Lashunta are dimorphic, which partially affects the ability boost, with heritages being academic or psychic. The traits include being particularly adept at tackling insect races, and yes, you can have a Companion Creature Adept dinosaur!

    Shirren get no less than 4 heritage castes to choose from, which include short-term flight (upgrades to unlimited at a proper level), better social skills and feinting, quicker Stealth, etc. – really cool. Oh, and you can be a combo caste with the right trait! What about an acidic, conical breath weapon that can’t be spammed? Obsession, communal spirit, natural weaponry? All covered. The latter are optional here – for the vesk, they are obviously inherent, and these also get a serious overhaul, with versions with flexible tails, better adaptation to water or venom as heritage options. And yes, the vesk venom is properly depicted. Know what I really loved seeing? You know, Starfinder is pretty meticulous regarding damage types – with the weird and nonsensical exclusion of natural weapons. Well, this pdf is actually more precise than the core rulebook and properly codifies damage types of natural weapons. I LOVE IT.

    The ysoki’s rebuild is particularly interesting, with heritages to represent more anthropomorphic or therian ysoki; we have increased speed, quick scurrying on the floor, better flanking – in short, ysoki can become pretty darn agile and dangerous. And if you never liked them being frail – what about the trait that nets you an upgrade to 4 HP and Toughness? Yep, nice!

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and features quite a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

    Alexander Augunas’ core species reforged are AWESOME. While they system-immanently allow you to create more specialized characters, the changes made to the species don’t hurt the balance of the game overall or jeopardize the implicit balancing assumptions of SFRPG. The species allow for a degree of customization that makes me really happy, and they become, well, more distinct. Indeed, as a whole, I think this supplement will actually prove beneficial regarding the balancing of races, and the planar scion options? Awesome. Come on, you know you always wanted to play a hardy duskwalker ysoki operative, or an aasimar vesk solarian!

    The modularity proposed by this system is really cool, and the way in which it differentiates between the purely biological baselines and cultural aspects also helps you emphasize different stories. It is also full of those little flourishes in the details that show that the author really CARED. When a lesser author would have used one ability and copy-pasted it to several species, here, we have fine differentiation and tweaks that FIT the species and enhance their flavor.

    The traits provided say a lot about the respective cultures...what’s not to like? I ADORE this booklet, and am really happy to see it, and know that I’ll get more out of this than just utility for my SFRPG-games!

    Why? Because the system proposed herein, while finetuned for SFRPG, is also compatible with the one employed in Everybody Games’ upcoming Eversaga RPG, and having this level of flexibility for two systems? NICE. It works smoothly, is rewarding, and, most importantly, fun.

    In short: This is a must-own book for fans of SFRPG. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is now an EZG-Essential. Every SFRPG-campaign I run will use this. Also: Candidate for my Top Ten of 2020. Simple, elegant, rewarding. An inspired gamechanger that makes all species more versatile and rewarding.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Star Log.Deluxe: Core Species Reforged
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    Heritage Composer (TinyD6)
    Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/06/2020 11:38:49

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This massive book clocks in at 112 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 107 pages of content, laid out for booklet-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), so let’s take a look!

    This book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my supporters.

    So, what does this do? Essentially, this is a DIY-heritage composer, which has assembled a total of 125 Heritage Traits (partially compiled, partially new) and categorized them in 5 different tiers of power, differentiated by the number of base Hit Points the Heritage starts with. This range usually spans 8 to 4 HP. Nice: The book is pretty newbie-friendly and walks you through the basic considerations, like considering setting and genre, help with finding the proper inspiration, and then assembling the total. This is not just basic: The book provides advice like making your nonhuman characters closer to the ends of the HP spectrum, talks about talent choice, and skills.

    The organization of the massive array of traits is helpful – it ranges from weakest or most restricted to strongest, from 8+HP to 4+, respectively. The book also clearly states the base line of 6 HP for humans in most settings, explicitly providing a context that’s easy to work within even for people less experienced/new to roleplaying games. Okay, so what can we find among the 8+ HP Heritages? Well, we for example have ameboids[sic!] (shouldn’t that be amoeboid?), who are immune to blunt object-damage, have only a 15 ft. speed and suffer Disadvantage on reaction rolls. We also get the Artificial Lifeform, ability to see in the dark, a Heritage representing coming from the depths beneath the waves (super helpful, but makes spending prolonged time on land dangerous). Being Gigantic makes you twice as tall, but prevents you from sneaking/hiding, and all Tests featuring equipment and Attacks using regular-sized weapons are at Disadvantage, plus you can’t use Light Weapons. Equipment and weapons have to be custom-made and are more expensive. Okay…so where is the hardcoded benefit beyond the system-immanent size benefits here? This one is pretty punitive.

    On the plus-side, having a shell, being High-G Born, or being a hardlight projection (Red Dwarf, anyone?) are covered alongside living rock. The latter is super interesting, as it renders you immune to conventional Light and Heavy Melee Attacks and imposes Disadvantage on Ranged attack, but also makes you heal very slowly. You can be made of living metal (!!), elect to not need to sleep…or you can be really hard to destroy, at the cost of being somewhat of a parasite, requiring blood, youth, etc. to sustain yourself. Undead come with a wear and tear table.

    The 7 HP Heritage Traits include being aquatic (the regular version), having corrosive fluids, foresight, multiple arms, the ability to protect yourself with a kinetic shield, or what about Claws as a Mastered Weapon, at the expense of not being able to make ranged weapons? There are also means to be able to process pretty much anything as food, an uncanny ability to go unseen, being venomous, etc.

    The 6 HP Heritage Traits include being an Acrobat, Alchemist, Bar Fighter, etc. This region also includes being able to speak with animals, going Berserker, and a trait that marks you as being able to process information with Cold-Blooded detachment, making you hard to manipulate or intimidate. Classic notions such as becoming a Defender or Diehard are provided, and Eidetic Memory is also included in this context.

    In the 5 HP-range, we have chameleon skin, healing via cold , having echolocation, being able to generate taser-like stunning shocks, and the pdf does include having an excellent metabolism, sense of smell, etc. are provided here – as is the classic hypnotic gaze, having a pheromone-based communication, web spinners, etc. are provided here. I really like the one that has you “zeroed out” – you don’t officially exist, whether due to glitch or magic.

    Finally, the 4-HP range, we have insectoid bodies, the ability to conjure forth canine or feline spirits. Being naturally buoyant, being a descendant of fey, jumping through shadows or plants, etc. – you get the idea.

    So, how does the system work? Method A): You choose two traits and take the lowest HP. Method B) You choose two traits and a drawback. Method C): Choose two traits AND limitations for each of them…and beyond these and their considerations spelled properly out, the pdf also provides some rough advice for handling Heritages with more than two Traits.

    After this section, the book provides an array of drawbacks, which grant additional Hit Points upon taking them; these can be greed, being an enemy of the authorities, etc., we get quite a few interesting ones. The book also provides drawbacks specifically crafted to net you a bonus Trait, including classics such as being arrogant, having allergies, etc. – neat!

    Beyond the drawbacks, we also get so-called Paragon Traits, which essentially mean that you embody something – you can have only one of those, and ideally, they are earned in game. The book does spend quite some time explaining how impact- and meaningful they should be regarding the roleplaying implications. To give you an example: Deadly Focus lets you concentrate an Attack against a single opponent, which deals 6 damage sans Test. The foe must make a Save Test at Disadvantage or suffer full damage, half as much on a success. The Trait works with any weapon group, but requires the character to focus EXCLUSIVELY on the one specific group chosen. If an enemy is killed with this Trait, all enemies witnessing it suffer Disadvantage on their next Attack. A character with this Paragon Trait may also not have Berserker. In some ways, paragon Traits almost fill the class niche – expert survivalist, great magics, really skilled at some tasks – with these, you can pretty much play the iconic adventuring party.

    This is not where the book ends, though – instead, we get full rules for playing animal companions, with different guidelines for Small, Medium and Large companions – these rules provide concise and imho pretty well-balanced options. Furthermore, the section comes with, you guessed it, yet more Traits, such as Animal Telepathy, being psionic, being able to talk, etc. Moreover, we get a handy list of player traits suitable for Animal Companions, and two different options for handling advancement.

    And guess what? More to come! The pdf then proceeds to provide rules for playing as a monster, including some salient advice on balancing them versus a non-monstrous party, with e.g. increased XP-cost providing a suitable way of keeping them from overshadowing “regular” characters. Once more, we get a list of recommended traits, before we dive into a selection of  sample heritages, which range from alien species to shadow fey to robot cats and undead spirits bound into inanimate objects. A 3-page worksheet (great handout) and a massive index complement this book.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are very good as a whole, on both a rules-language and formal level. While I noticed a few minor hiccups, none of them really impeded my enjoyment of the book. Layout adheres to a one-column full-color standard, and features quite a lot of rather neat full-color artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with bookmarks for chapter-headers, but not for individual traits – some additional bookmarks here would have been nice.

    Geoff Gander’s Heritage Composer is a well-crafted tome, no doubt about that. It is interesting to observe how much depth and versatility the author manages to squeeze out of the relatively simple TinyD6-engine. It is also pretty impressive to observe that, for the most part, the balancing is really impressive and well-done; this does a much better job at delivering well-rounded toolkit-like races/species/heritages than many comparable games. Looking at Savage Species and Advanced Races Guide there…

    But I digress: If you enjoy TinyD6, consider this to be a must-own book. It is versatile, interesting, and covers a lot of breadth without becoming obtuse or hard to handle. While there are a few minor snafus, the system as a whole is easy to customize, seamless in use, and inspired. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up, and this gets my seal of approval.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Heritage Composer (TinyD6)
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    Monsters of Porphyra 3
    Publisher: Purple Duck Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/04/2020 11:52:17

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This massive bestiary clocks in at 256 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (by letter – smart!), 2 pages of alphabetic monster list, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 248 pages of monsters, so let’s take a look!

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

    Okay, so a few things first: The book provides a list by monster subtype, by monster type, by environment and by challenge rating – in short, combined with aforementioned ToC and alphabetic list, handling the book is simple and painless. That might sound like a small thing, but particularly for big bestiaries, it’s seriously helpful. It should also be noted that, if you’re not familiar with Porphyra RPG, this book’s content is pretty much compatible with PF1 – most GMs will be able to use the monsters herein on the fly, without any hassle.

    However, this is not where the book stops: 12 pages are devoted to the universal monster rules employed herein, and we also get the rules for subtypes and types. And yes, these genuinely are helpful – take e.g. demon lords: They will be particularly proficient with ritual magic (coming soon), and do not possess a static initiative, providing a glimpse of what we can expect from apex-level outsiders. From ogdoad to the zicree, there is a lot here that is interesting: The zicree can e.g. construct via strange fibroids, and are automatically part of a collective for the purpose of ability interactions – so yes, psionics remain very much a fixed part of Porpyhra. Types have their own entry that lists their metabolism with a new header– so whether they eat, breathe or sleep…which is something I genuinely appreciated being here, as it makes parsing that information swifter than in the previous iteration. It’s admittedly a small thing, but I found it helpful. The slightly tweaked monster creation guidelines (up to CR 20) are also presented herein – it is notable that class skills of monsters have been moved to their types, which I personally like – it means you won’t have to flip pages as much.

    Okay, that’s the organizational aspect covered, but there’s another big thing to note: The book has a list of artists, and which creatures they provided the artworks. I am always in favor of crediting people properly for their work, so kudos here – particularly considering the vast amount of full color art herein!! I wish more publishers did that. After this list, we have a pretty detailed “How to Use” for the book, which does include a handy summary of the poison rules (which imho are seriously superior to PF1’s take on poisons!). The section also explains the changes made to initiative (passive total) and Notice, which is essentially passive Perception.

    Okay, so the book as a whole, obviously, is a monster book, and as such, it is devoted to presenting a ton of creatures for your game. I have reverse-engineered quite a lot of the critters herein, but not all of them. From the data I collected, I can attest a degree of precision that is beyond what you’d expect to see from a book of this size. Covering each and every creature herein would bloat the review beyond any utility, so I’ll try to provide a cross-section of what this book offers.

    All right, so, what do we get? Well, the book supports quite a few of the less prominent outsiders, including aeons, and the CR 8 parabythos deserves special note: They can fire a blast that splits mortals in two – the body and a crystalline form, which is immobile, with both having half the target’s HP. And yes, getting rid/curing the affliction is included – unique, and flavorwise a neat niche covered here. The lepidoral agathion manages to make a bunny-person look cool, and has pretty brutal slaps that can cause confusion for a rather prolonged period of time, and speaking of agathions, there also are owl-agathions capable of creating blizzards. The book also introduces something rather uncommon, namely a low-CR angel, the meadow maid, and the book includes a psionic angel. Speaking of uncommon outsiders: What about a psionic beetle-like asura? The book also features a new demon lord, and something that made a lot sense to me: The apiary devils, essentially a whole low-CR caste of devils that acts as a group of individuals establishing footholds – and making fortresses, for they are super-adept at making new fortified structure. This makes so much sense in the context of infernal efficiency. 2 new genies (metal and wood) are also provided, and there’s a new inevitable as well – they are REALLY creepy to me, tasked with eliminated creatures of mixed bloodlines. Yep, that is a damn chilling thought here, having a four-armed monster come after you for your mixed bloodline...and did I mention the qlippoths designed to interact with mortals? They are also rather chilling.

    Did I mention the sonic-themed sluu’gho? Or the four-armed warfan-using Hevaka, agents of Lyvalia, the Whispering Councillor?

    The elemental themes of Porphyra are also represented in some really cool multi-type elementals, like the mighty CR 17 backdraft, which can suck targets prone and towards it, then deliver truly devastating multi-damage type explosions? Or the masagmasvima, hurling magma and an aura that can sicken targets?

    Of course, there are a lot of other critters herein. For example, there are the one-eyed Abaasy giants with a fear-inducing gaze and horrid, metal lashes, the chthonic cyclops, and there are the anakim giants (aesthetically-coded as quasi-Sumerian); and with chingatrüll and drainpipe trolls provide 2 new types of trolls with unique signature abilities. Speaking of which: In case you were wondering, yes, this book does include several templates as well, for example ones for the unknowing creature, which is used to design creatures that haven’t realized that they’re dead – and who don’t take kindly to that being pointed out. Another example would be the hexenbiest template, which is a means to represent beings bound to a hag – as such, there is quite a bit of variety even within the template. Templates, of course, do include several sample creatures. I am particularly fond of the moldering template, since this template allows for the use of common molds and slimes as infections that take over the bodies of host creatures.

    Do you like dragons as much as I do? Well, then this book has quite a lot of material for you! Beyond the guardian, hagiographical and porphyry drakes (4 statblocks provided for each of them), we also have the arid, ashen, darkstone and hoard dragons (3 statblocks + global rules provided for each of them), and the new CR 13 wasteland linnorm, which comes with suggested sample treasure. While an elemental, the sleet dragon is draconic in form, and the qi dragon is actually an animal and not exactly smart. I was surprised seeing that this fellow was not at least a magical beast, but its design is very much in line with the design paradigms of animals – very much focused on being a hunter, etc. The grotesque CR 20 typhoean, with its draconic headed arms can also be roughly considered to be a part of this section...and this also holds true for the really cool paper dragon golem! (CR 26, btw. – and yes, they are extremely deadly!)

    Of course, there are more constructs in this book: There would be a spiderbot with laser webs, there are drones, there is a really cool guardian made from blood, linked to a ward? One of my favorites is the nightmare collector – a boss-monster-level construct that can create dark duplicates, with a smart Achilles’ heel – a very cool example of a puzzle boss!

    Of course, the book also makes ample use of the notion of a fantastic ecology, which includes new oozes, giant wolf spiders, the long-limbed trog flies…and what about a horrid amalgamation of grizzly, shark and octopus? (!!) Two new owlbear variant are provided, and we can find the massive whalecrocs, and a mongoose-like creature bred with an eye towards thwarting killers, able to detect poison and studded with skunk-like spray. Dinosaurs and megafauna are also provided, and what about the grotesque psionic moddey dhoo, with their curse of the black dog, moving in perpetual silence? Did I mention that the book provides stats for dire penguins, or the rot monster, a chilling relative of the rust monster that is really creepy? The chameleon-like psionic shadowcat and the sheepsquatch, or the shadow-themed anglerfish-thing…the strange flora and fauna really help and add to the flavor presented here.

    As you can see, there are some fun critters here – and this playfulness can also be partially seen among the fey, with beavertails…and did I mention that Tiny fey preferably ride…DIRE CORGIS? On the creepier side, the undead/fey crossover botachs, who portend disasters, are also here. Coral dryads and other water-borne critters are provided. Plants also deserve special mentioning: For example, there are spores from space which blight and transform organic material, generating twisted lifeforms. What about oozes grown in bear-form (jellybears?), or a take on the CR 15 leucrotta, or the roog, which are fey that have adapted to urban life, distilling poison from their surroundings? The eye-plucking Vaar’s ravens are magical beasts, but also sport this flavor, and we do get a wendigo template as well as a take on Old Man Winter. Did I mention the racing snails, including brief rules on handling races?

    Do you prefer the macabre? Well, the yaramayahu has a grossly-enlarged head and can swallow foes and regurgitate those slain as spawn, their bite shrinking targets. This monster would be ridiculous, but the artwork actually made it in equal parts disturbing and surreal. The crypt mother is a genuinely disturbing undead, twisting the themes of motherhood, with the children of the dead complementing this in a twisted manner. What about swarms of eyeballs? Based on porphyran lore would be undead nature spirits and deist spirits. The typhoid mary creating plague doctor undead also offers a twisted angle – and if my fey examples above were too much on the cute/myth-side – there are truly twisted fey here as well, for example the organ thief…and yes, nomen est omen.

    Of course, if epic tales are more to your liking than the horrific, this book delivers as well: There are the mighty techtonic terrors (pun intended), a construct doomsday machine capable of causing earthquakes, searing those nearby and firing jets of magma. There are the starfallen inquisitors, heralds of strange worlds beyond;  there are steam-powered turtles, and the mighty CR 22 Colossus of Dhu (CR 22) recontextualizes the Rhodos notion for an oasis in an epic manner. The artwork of the lion-headed golden titan certainly set my mind ablaze. Or perhaps you liked the notion of horde demons, of standing against a Berserk-like flood of deadly demons? Good enws: We get a whole category with the Bosch demons, so named after ole’ Hieronymus, with several menus of abilities. I mentioned the zicree before: Think of these as psionic octopi with multiple eyes and strange exposed brains – and did I mention their guided evolution and potent creations? 8 zicree are provided, with surprisingly different tricks – these breathe a nigh-perfect pulp-angle, and it’s been quite some time since a creature-species immediately made me want to write a whole series of adventures for them.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are super-impressive on a formal and rules-language level; this ook is impressive regarding its precision as a whole, particularly considering that it’s essentially an indie production, even though you wouldn’t notice! Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard with purple highlights, and each monster gets a proper full-color artwork. An original one, mind you! (!!) The blending of styles is rather nice – horrifying monsters look horrifying; goofier monsters goofier – the assignment of artists to monsters was handled very clever. Moreover, the styles don’t differ too much, providing a rather consistent aesthetic identity. The book also includes a couple of full-page artworks. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked with EXCESSIVE bookmarks – links are included for each critter. Kudos!! I can’t yet comment on the print version yet, as it hasn’t been released as per the writing of this review, but I’ll be sure to get it.

    Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, with additional material by Derek Blakely, manage to deliver something genuinely impressive: Not only are big bestiaries hard to make, delivering the third (!!) such massive book, the purple ducks managed to actually provide creatures here that I haven’t seen before: There are plenty of unique abilities, and I’d be hard-pressed to mention a creature I didn’t enjoy. Oh, and the authors achieved that without being redundant, adding unique twists to classic concepts in the few instances where the like was quoted. Moreover, the supplement manages to be incredibly well-rounded, filling niches in monster-coverage even when already using PF1’s 6 Paizo-bestiaries and the first two Monsters of Porphyra. The thematic gamut runs from science-fantasy to pulp to horror to the mythological, to monsters drawing from D&D’s tradition of weird fantastic ecologies. Like dragons? This delivers. Enjoying dinosaurs? The book has material for you. Enjoy pulp? Monsters for you are right here. Do you need some horror-critters? The book has you covered.

    This is even more impressive when you consider that this book didn’t have a huge team of people working on it – apart from the ton of talented artists (Bob Greyvenstein, Brett Neufeld, Brian Brinlee, Carlos Torreblanca, Gary Dupuis, Gennifer Bone, Jacob Blackman, Jayaraj Paul, Justine Stilborn, Kristen Collins, Matt Morrow, Michael Syrigos, Rick Her­shey, Ryan Rhodes, Tamas Baranya, Theresa Guido), only three people managed to make this gem of a book. For context: This actually is my favorite Monsters of Porphyra-tome so far – the genesis regarding the transition from PF1 to Porphyra RPG did not hurt this gem. My final verdict is 5 stars + seal of approval, and this gets a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2020.

    If you’re looking for a great bestiary for PF1 or Porphyra RPG, get this! Oh, and as an aside – by using Monsters of Porphyra I – III as the creatures in your new campaign, you can really change up the tone of your game in a cool manner. Try it!

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Monsters of Porphyra 3
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    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (P2)
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/04/2020 11:49:42

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

    Know then, young prince, that in the days of yore, when Atlantis had first sunken into the seas, there was a place called Macrimei, situated amid windswept hills in colder climes, where ruins howl of ages long past, its populace descendants of a once glorious culture, now reduced to a state that is but a shade of their former glory; a place where once towers of ivory pierced the sky, everything looks as though a certain Cimmerian's sandaled feet had cut a swath through the landscape. Into this desolation came the wizard Anazturex with his own private little army of henchmen, dubbed after the strange local deity "Soryan", his Sons of Soryan. It's been years under this small magocratic rule, and nowadays, everyone is barred from the red obelisk where Soryan's supposedly worshiped, as the wizard's tower watches over a village born in ruins.

    It is rumored in town, that one day a strange silvery child appeared and subsequently vanished...and the wizard's tower has an odd tendency to disappear for weeks on end, only to suddenly reappear...but to what ends, no one knows. Oh, and in case you are not too keen on the reveal of the nature of the wizard, an alternative is provided as a designer's suggestion...kudos for going the extra-mile!

    Now, the lore and flavor, the writing – is top tier. This being an expanded version of a shorter pdf originally released for PFRPG. It also provides new material in pretty compelling ways. To be more precise, we get the usual expansion pertaining the surrounding locality, the law of the land, customs, etc. Dressing in particular is remarkable: For example, the dressing/event table sports 20 entries…but the pdf goes beyond that, providing some smaller sub-dressing suggestions for visits to certain keyed locales. The pdf also features well-written fluff-only write-ups for NPCS, 5 to be more specific, but if you expected new attacks or abilities for some of the unique creatures herein, you won’t find that.

    The PF2-iteration has been properly adjusted rules-wise regarding skills, etc., though using the (critical) success/failure paradigm of PF2 in e.g. the rumors would have been a nice touch.

    The artifact, the Orb of Soryan is still here, but is a total mess in how it is presented in PF2: No Bulk, no proper Activate line, no proper traits. A total mess from a rules-formatting and -integrity perspective.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are formally good, but not impressive on a rules-level, with the artifact’s presentation in particular being a very weak outing. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

    In case my ample allusions to the genre-classics were not ample clue: This village is a perfect bow before the tropes of Swords & Sorcery, a village dripping flavor and atmosphere out of every pore; just as useful in a post-apocalyptic scenario, Macrimei is a fantastic village that manages to evoke the primal sense of the ancient, of decay and ages long past with panache and prose so concise and dense, you feel like you could cut it. While it could just as well be tinted through the shades of high fantasy, unlike most sojourns of PFRPG into the genre, I'd strongly advise against that, for this village backdrop GETS what makes Sword & Sorcery so amazing - it's neither flowery prose, nor the themes...it's the room for growth, for question-marks, the precarious balance of blanks and filled-in information, the tone.

    I seriously LOVE John Bennett’s Macrimei.

    But this PF2-conversion feels phoned in.

    I get that the multi-system realities of the series mean that its installments tend to gravitate to the rules-lite side of things, but the messed-up artifact is pretty bad. I do think that each installment would benefit from trying to be a bit less system agnostic to make the different iterations account more for the realities of their systems, so I do LIKE that we get a proper artifact here…or I would, if it had been properly realized. It could have been a cool selling point for PF2, but ends up being the opposite, emphasizing that this is a linear conversion that doesn’t use the new and exciting possibilities of PF2 to the degree it could. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (P2)
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    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (OSR)
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/04/2020 11:48:21

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

    Know then, young prince, that in the days of yore, when Atlantis had first sunken into the seas, there was a place called Macrimei, situated amid windswept hills in colder climes, where ruins howl of ages long past, its populace descendants of a once glorious culture, now reduced to a state that is but a shade of their former glory; a place where once towers of ivory pierced the sky, everything looks as though a certain Cimmerian's sandaled feet had cut a swath through the landscape. Into this desolation came the wizard Anazturex with his own private little army of henchmen, dubbed after the strange local deity "Soryan", his Sons of Soryan. It's been years under this small magocratic rule, and nowadays, everyone is barred from the red obelisk where Soryan's supposedly worshiped, as the wizard's tower watches over a village born in ruins.

    It is rumored in town, that one day a strange silvery child appeared and subsequently vanished...and the wizard's tower has an odd tendency to disappear for weeks on end, only to suddenly reappear...but to what ends, no one knows. Oh, and in case you are not too keen on the reveal of the nature of the wizard, an alternative is provided as a designer's suggestion...kudos for going the extra-mile!

    Now, the lore and flavor, the writing – is top tier. This being an expanded version of a shorter pdf originally released for PFRPG. It also provides new material in pretty compelling ways. To be more precise, we get the usual expansion pertaining the surrounding locality, the law of the land, customs, etc. Dressing in particular is remarkable: For example, the dressing/event table sports 20 entries…but the pdf goes beyond that, providing some smaller sub-dressing suggestions for visits to certain keyed locales. We also get well-written fluff-only write-ups for NPCS, 5 to be more specific – these reference wizards instead of magic-users, so if that bothers you, consider yourself to be warned.

    The artifact, the Orb of Soryan is still here, but unlike the botched 5e and PF2-versions, it actually works in a pretty smooth manner, getting old-school rules functionally right, and using a no-frills roll-under mechanic to activate. Nice! Minor nitpick: Destruction caveat would have been nice, but oh well. It also references caster level, which might upset some purists.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are formally good, and slightly weaker when it comes to rules. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

    In case my ample allusions to the genre-classics were not ample clue: This village is a perfect bow before the tropes of Swords & Sorcery, a village dripping flavor and atmosphere out of every pore; just as useful in a post-apocalyptic scenario, Macrimei is a fantastic village that manages to evoke the primal sense of the ancient, of decay and ages long past with panache and prose so concise and dense, you feel like you could cut it. While it could just as well be tinted through the shades of high fantasy, unlike most sojourns of PFRPG into the genre, I'd strongly advise against that, for this village backdrop GETS what makes Sword & Sorcery so amazing - it's neither flowery prose, nor the themes...it's the room for growth, for question-marks, the precarious balance of blanks and filled-in information, the tone.

    I seriously LOVE John Bennett’s Macrimei.

    And I do enjoy this OSR-version, in spite of it being almost system neutral – it’s my firm conviction that this would have benefited from a few added OSR-stats here and there…they don’t take much time to make and don’t take up much space, so that would have rendered this pretty much a book you can simply pick up and play. That being said, this iteration does not share the issues of the 5e and PF2-version, and is the first iteration of Macrimei for old-school games…and frankly, considering that, I maintain that this is very much worth getting if you remotely enjoy sword & sorcery. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (OSR)
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    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (5e)
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/04/2020 11:46:49

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

    Know then, young prince, that in the days of yore, when Atlantis had first sunken into the seas, there was a place called Macrimei, situated amid windswept hills in colder climes, where ruins howl of ages long past, its populace descendants of a once glorious culture, now reduced to a state that is but a shade of their former glory; a place where once towers of ivory pierced the sky, everything looks as though a certain Cimmerian's sandaled feet had cut a swath through the landscape. Into this desolation came the wizard Anazturex with his own private little army of henchmen, dubbed after the strange local deity "Soryan", his Sons of Soryan. It's been years under this small magocratic rule, and nowadays, everyone is barred from the red obelisk where Soryan's supposedly worshiped, as the wizard's tower watches over a village born in ruins.

    It is rumored in town, that one day a strange silvery child appeared and subsequently vanished...and the wizard's tower has an odd tendency to disappear for weeks on end, only to suddenly reappear...but to what ends, no one knows. Oh, and in case you are not too keen on the reveal of the nature of the wizard, an alternative is provided as a designer's suggestion...kudos for going the extra-mile!

    Now, the lore and flavor, the writing – is top tier. This being an expanded version of a shorter pdf originally released for PFRPG, it also provides new material in pretty compelling ways. To be more precise, we get the usual expansion pertaining the surrounding locality, the law of the land, customs, etc. Dressing in particular is remarkable: For example, the dressing/event table sports 20 entries…but the pdf goes beyond that, providing some smaller sub-dressing suggestions for visits to certain keyed locales. We also get well-written fluff-only write-ups for NPCS, 5 to be more specific – these reference the proper default stats. Somewhat to my chagrin, the set-up SCREAMS lair actions or legendary actions to be added at least to one of the NPC’s statblocks – this was not done, missing a chance to make this more compelling in 5e.

    The artifact, the Orb of Soryan is still here, but makes a pretty big mistake, in that the grand failure of proper activation, which is insanity, is not properly implemented regarding 5e’s perfectly fine madness rules. The artifact’s rules are also a total mess: Spellcasting granted not properly presented, and the feat it references? Does not exist in 5e. There is no “Alertness” feat – it’s called “Alert.” Its formatting is also really off regarding an artifact.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are formally good, but not impressive on a rules-level, with the artifact’s presentation in particular being a very weak outing. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

    In case my ample allusions to the genre-classics were not ample clue: This village is a perfect bow before the tropes of Swords & Sorcery, a village dripping flavor and atmosphere out of every pore; just as useful in a post-apocalyptic scenario, Macrimei is a fantastic village that manages to evoke the primal sense of the ancient, of decay and ages long past with panache and prose so concise and dense, you feel like you could cut it. While it could just as well be tinted through the shades of high fantasy, unlike most sojourns into the genre, I'd strongly advise against that, for this village backdrop GETS what makes Sword & Sorcery so amazing - it's neither flowery prose, nor the themes...it's the room for growth, for question-marks, the precarious balance of blanks and filled-in information, the tone.

    I seriously LOVE John Bennett’s Macrimei.

    But this 5e-conversion feels phoned in.

    I get that the multi-system realities of the series mean that its installments tend to gravitate to the rules-lite side of things, but from the snafu with madness to the messed-up artifact, this feels like a very low-effort 5e-take on the subject matter, where the material SCREAMS for at least a bit of love for unique abilities of the village’s overlord.

    I do think that each installment of the series would benefit from trying to be a bit less system agnostic to make the different iterations account more for the realities of their systems, so I do LIKE the fact that we get a proper artifact here…or I would, if it had been properly realized. This could have made some really cool use of some of 5e’s features, and do so without much hassle. It didn’t, instead providing a mostly system-agnostic version that gets the few system-specifics wrong. The stellar concept and prose deserved better.

    My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (5e)
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    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (P1)
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/04/2020 11:46:20

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This expanded version of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

    Know then, young prince, that in the days of yore, when Atlantis had first sunken into the seas, there was a place called Macrimei, situated amid windswept hills in colder climes, where ruins howl of ages long past, its populace descendants of a once glorious culture, now reduced to a state that is but a shade of their former glory; a place where once towers of ivory pierced the sky, everything looks as though a certain Cimmerian's sandaled feet had cut a swath through the landscape. Into this desolation came the wizard Anazturex with his own private little army of henchmen, dubbed after the strange local deity "Soryan", his Sons of Soryan. It's been years under this small magocratic rule, and nowadays, everyone is barred from the red obelisk where Soryan's supposedly worshiped, as the wizard's tower watches over a village born in ruins.

    It is rumored in town, that one day a strange silvery child appeared and subsequently vanished...and the wizard's tower has an odd tendency to disappear for weeks on end, only to suddenly reappear...but to what ends, no one knows. Oh, and in case you are not too keen on the reveal of the nature of the wizard, an alternative is provided as a designer's suggestion...kudos for going the extra-mile!

    Now, the lore and flavor, the writing – is top tier. The expanded version also provides new material in pretty compelling ways. To be more precise, we get the usual expansion pertaining the surrounding locality, the law of the land, customs, etc. Dressing in particular has been properly expanded: For example, the dressing/event table, which has been extended to 20 entries…but the pdf goes beyond that, providing some smaller sub-dressing suggestions for visits to certain keyed locales. The 2.0-version also features well-written fluff-only write-ups for NPCS, 5 to be more specific…but there are also less pleasant things to report: The original did sport a full settlement statblock, which was cut in a puzzling decision – and the same goes for the two perfectly serviceable statblocks featured in the original. The artifact, the Orb of Soryan is still here, but is now presented in plain text as opposed to in its own sidebar – which is just an aesthetic decision I wasn’t too keen on. Having its CL etc. on the next column, separated from the write up, also rather disappointed me.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

    In case my ample allusions to the genre-classics were not ample clue: This village is a perfect bow before the tropes of Swords & Sorcery, a village dripping flavor and atmosphere out of every pore; just as useful in a post-apocalyptic scenario, Macrimei is a fantastic village that manages to evoke the primal sense of the ancient, of decay and ages long past with panache and prose so concise and dense, you feel like you could cut it. While it could just as well be tinted through the shades of high fantasy, unlike most sojourns of PFRPG into the genre, I'd strongly advise against that, for this village backdrop GETS what makes Sword & Sorcery so amazing - it's neither flowery prose, nor the themes...it's the room for growth, for question-marks, the precarious balance of blanks and filled-in information, the tone.

    I seriously LOVE John Bennett’s Macrimei. But the 2.0-revision left me remarkably cold regarding its new material – it primarily provides some minor quality of life improvements, but cutting of perfectly fine material strikes me as strange. If you already have Macrimei’s original iteration, I’d strongly suggest skipping this one; in fact, depending on how you value stats vs. fluff, you might consider the original to be the better choice. Don’t get me wrong: The flavor is still fantastic, and I really liked the new fluff-stuff as well, but as a whole, I expected more from this. My final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo, and because I can’t bring myself to round down for it.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Village Backdrop: Macrimei 2.0 (P1)
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    Stay Frosty
    Publisher: Garske Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/01/2020 09:50:08

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This little game clocks in at 29 pages if you disregard the influences page and the editorial, etc.

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to receiving a softcover version with the task to review it. My review is thus based on the saddle-stitched softcover (6’’ by 9’’/A5).

    So, what is “Stay Frosty”? Essentially, it’s a focused, rules-lite OSR-game based loosely on The Black Hack, which deals thematically with a Starship Troopers-like scenario. You do not need to know The Black Hack to play this game or understand this review. The tone is informal, which you may or may not like, but I found it to be less grating than in many other publications. It should also be noted that the book literally once calls for “Rulings, not rules” – usually the excuse fielded to explain sloppy design, but this time around, that’s not the case.

    The central resolution to resolve conflicts is to roll 1d20 equal to or above the Attribute; if you have advantage, you roll twice and take the better result, if you have disadvantage, you roll twice and take the worse result. Both cancel each other out.

    The game features 4 Attributes, namely Brains, Brawn, Dexterity and Willpower – you determine those by rolling 3d6 – as per the global rules, lower Attributes are actually BETTER – easier to roll over. The game indicates this by adding a plus-sign to the Attributes – because, you know, rolling above them is a success.

    Next up, you choose one of 8 MOS: Armor gets a light tank or APC and a repair toolkit, and has advantage to operate and repair vehicles. I think that the “repair toolkit” is a remnant from a previous version of the game, for the item isn’t per se specified, and the game otherwise only features the general toolkit. Infantry rerolls 1s on damage rolls for personal weapons, and gets either grenades, SAW, sniper rifle, LAW or flamer. 4 of the MOS have minimum Brains Attribute requirements: If you have 11 Brains or lower, you can be a Cyber – this means you have advantage on hacking tech and get a wrist-comp. Alternatively, you can be an Engineer, who gets advantage on damage rolls for explosives and a satchel charge plus toolkit. With Brains of 10 or lower, you can be Intelligence, who receives advantage when gathering information and on initiative when executing planned attacks; they also get a wrist-comp. At 9 Brains and lower, you can be a Medical, who has advantage on healing rolls and gets a medpack. If your Will is below 8, you can be a Psi-Ops, and start with 3 powers; you’re also outside of the chain of command and are ranked as a Lieutenant. Finally, if ALL your Attributes are 10 or lower, you can be Spec. Ops – this one nets you advantage on one damage roll per fight, and lets you ignore one Tension Explodes result per day – more on this mechanic later. You also start play with SAW, grenades, LAW or sniper rifle, and you get a beret.

    After choosing MOS, you roll for rank: On a 1-3, you’re a Private, and get a combat knife and +1 HP per level. On a 4-5, your rank is Sergeant, and you have advantage on Battles of Will and get a swagger stick. On a 6, you are a Lieutenant, and can give advantage to a Private or Sergeant once per encounter. You also get an auto pistol.

    …I per se like the ranks, but “per-encounter”-abilities never made sense, as it’s an arbitrary timeframe. Let’s say two rooms are adjacent: Ion one, we have 1 bug; 2 are waiting in the next. RAW, this mechanic would mean that the player gets advantage once if they manage to take down the one bug before the other two enter. Combat ends. Then combat restarts when the two bugs enter, and we have another use of the ability. These issues can easily be avoided if a fixed timeframe (say , a minute?) is implemented, but RAW, that’s not the case here.

    You don’t get maximum HP at first level, but you do get to roll 1d6+4, at least. Each character gets a standard equipment list and rolls twice on the miscellaneous equipment table – from motion trackers to rations and scopes, there are a couple of cool items here, and yes, that includes combat drugs.

    Armor and helmets net 1 point of armor each. The damage output of PC weapons ranges from 5d6 (Single-use weapons like LAWs, etc.) to 1d4 (Fist), and have properties that make them more interesting – blast, agile, stun, etc. AP means “Armor piercing “ and ignores the numerical value worth of armor. Ranges are codified in 6 abstract distance categories: Hand-to-Hand, Close, Short, Medium, Long, Extreme. During a PC’s turn, you can move somewhere Close and take an action, or you can move somewhere Short. More on actions later, because the weapon-engine has a pretty cool feature for beer-and-pretzels style games: The Ammo/Supply Die. After a fight, you roll this die on any weapon used. On a result of 1 or 2, the ammo die’s size is reduced by one step; if the Ammo Die reaches d4 and you roll a 1 or 2, you’ll only hear the “telltale “click” that tells you that this unit of ammunition’s run out. I generally like this – the only downside being that you can’t really run out of ammo in combat.

    Aforementioned medpacks btw. do have a Supply Die, which is rolled after each use – these behave pretty much like the Ammo Die. A PC can carry a number of items equal to 21 minus their Brawn; more, and you suffer disadvantage on Brawn and Dexterity – this limit explicitly counts for everything, including armor, etc.

    Now, I mentioned vehicles before – 4 sample ones are provided (APC, Jeep, Light and Heavy Tank), and range in HP from 40 to 75, with armor running the gamut from 3 to 10. Vehicles have 3 abstract speed categories (slow, average, fast): Faster vehicles have advantage on rolls to escape or give chase, and difficult terrain lowers speed by one category. Humans on foot are Slow with disadvantage. Vehicles also have special qualities – these can include being an all-terrain vehicle, carrying passengers, and two qualities that influence combat: HA stands for Heavy Armor, and means that only Heavy Weapons can damage it – for personal weapons, this means that only LAWs or satchel charges will be able to damage the vehicle. Heavy Tanks also have anti-personnel weapons – merely approaching these risks taking damage. The vehicles come with 4 sample vehicle weapons (Flamer, HMG and light/heavy cannon), and use the same abstract range categories as personal weapons, but can have unique qualities, like the ability to lay down suppression fire. Vehicles have a Fuel Die and Ammo Die – and yep, you guessed it, these work as you’d expect.

    As for combat: Initiative is rolled by checking Dexterity: If the PC succeeds, they go before enemies, if they fail, they go after enemies. Attack is resolved similarly: Dexterity is used for ranged attacks, Brawn for hand-to-hand/melee combat. If you succeed, you roll damage. Another action you could take, is to engage in a Battle of Wills. You roll Willpower, and on a success, the target has disadvantage on their next attack roll. You can Focus and roll Brains, If you succeed, you get advantage on your next attack. Alternatively, you can use a psi-power, make a swift skill roll with equipment, etc. Enemies hit the PCs if they roll under the PC’s Dexterity or Brawn, respectively. The game also has a sort of equalizer built in: Both PCs AND Hostiles subtract 1 from their attack rolls for every HD the hostile has over the PCs. If using a vehicle, you use the PC’s or the vehicle’s HD. Wait. What? Vehicles have no HD, they have fixed HP-values! :(

    Armor is subtracted from damage, and heavy cover imposes disadvantage on attack and damage rolls, while light cover only imposes disadvantage on damage rolls. If a PC’s HP reach 0, any excess damage is ADDED (high = worse) to an attribute randomly determined; if ANY Attribute reaches 21, the PC dies. HP heal fully after 8 hours of rest (this period also resets Tension), Attribute damage at the rate of 1 per day. Skill rolls and saves are primarily using the same core mechanics, with minor differences: Skills are used by the PCs, saves happen to them – you roll equal or above the value of the corresponding Attribute. Skill rolls are made at disadvantage without the proper tools. Examples for saves are given, and as often, a roll of 1 or 20 means you get to roll on one of the FUBAR-tables – the one for failures and critical hits, respectively. Both have 6 entries, with tactically-interesting results. Skill use also has a critical failure table, in case you were wondering – that’d be the SNAFU-table.

    Now, the game also has a Psionic power engine, which is just as efficient and simple, based on Willpower: You roll above your Willpower to execute one of the 9 psionic powers featured herein. Interesting, though: If you fail a Willpower roll, you can choose to accept brain drain. If you do, you take as much damage as the amount by which you failed the roll, but the power works. Handling this tactically is important, for when you fail the Willpower roll of a psionic power, it fails AND you can’t use it again until you had an 8-hour-rest. The powers include the ability to impose disadvantage, dominate the minds of others (harder the more HD the target has), heal allies (but not self), take control of a machine, cause damage to intelligent, living things that bypasses armor, pyrokinesis, telekinesis, telepathy and remote viewing. Most psionic powers have a range of close or touch (should probably be hand-to-hand), and there are ways to empower some psionic powers: This imposes a penalty on the roll, but adds effects: The mental assault increases damage, the pyrokinesis can be adjusted by adding the blast or heavy property, you can read the thoughts of targets – you get the idea. The engine is easy to grasp and simple – I like it.

    In the beginning, I mentioned the “rulings, not rules” sentiment– well, to quote the pdf: “Jesus Christ, I guess we have to spell everything out. We’ll see how long I can stand this.” This acts as an introduction to falling, hunger, drowning, etc. – hint: The answer was “Not very long;” the section is a grand total of half a page long. I really dislike it when a RPG-supplement gives me flack for wanting precise rules, so yeah, as a person, this rubbed me the wrong way – but not for long, for the book doesn’t actually need this attitude here; it is surprisingly precise and at this point, you can run a game. The book then proceeds to provide a character sheet, including an example of a filled-out one.

    Leveling up happens automatically after a mission. You get +1d10 HP, and roll 1d20 for each Attribute; if you roll LESS than your Attribute, you subtract one from its score. Privates may roll twice and take the better result for Brawn or Dexterity; Sergeants for Brains or Dexterity; Psi-Ops for Willpower. At level 3 and 5, you get an additional action per round, usable solely for attack, battle of wills or focus. Psi-ops learn a new power at level 3 and 5.

    That’s the player-facing section. The GM side of things champions point-crawling as a suggested mode, and introduces the Danger Die. That’d be a d6 which you roll when the PCs dawdle, move from node to node, enter a key-area, etc. This can include the end of effects, clues, encounters, but also Tension Increases and Tension Explodes.

    Tension is easily the mechanically-coolest thing about this game. The more Tension you accumulate, the frostier the PC become, and Tension is measured in 6 levels: At Tension 1, you have no benefits; at Tension 2, you get +1 to damage rolls; at Tension 3, you have advantage on saves; at Tension 4, you have advantage on Initiative; at Tension 5, ranged attacks gain the agile property, and at tension 6, you get an extra action per round! Tension is a really cool mechanic! Moreover, when Tension Explodes, the PC must make a Willpower save, or take Tension times their level in damage (armor does not count!); if this reduces HP to 0, the excess is NOT applied to Attributes. Instead, the PC regains ½ their HP and rolls on the Going Apeshit table, which is perhaps my favorite table herein: Going overkill (not good for your ammo supply…), fight or flight responses, having a big mouth (bad for Tension), becoming twitchy, etc. – all possible.

    Tension, in short, creates Tension: You want to have a high Tension for its benefits, but it’s also rather risky. Really cool, and plays just as well as it reads.

    The book also features a basic mission-generator (d6 mission types, d8 planets/environments, d10 antagonists, d12 NPCs, 1d20 complications) and random generators to determine how the PCs got in, settlements and buildings, intelligent aliens, and a 2d20 name-generator. The section also includes a d12-table titled “super gross” that delivers pretty much what you’d expect. This section could have used a bit more meat on its bones, imho.

    The book closes with a mini-bestiary: Antagonists are presented with Name and quote, HD noted, armor, attack + damage, morale and special abilities. Nice here: No filler! Amoeboids, cephalopods, bugs, demons, essentially predators, terminators, zombies, etc. – the monsters herein feature their unique tricks, and provide a neat basis for the GM to design new foes.

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the game is precise and rules-lite and maintains a high degree of precision throughout. Layout adheres to a no-frills one-column b/w-standard for the most part, and the supplement uses italics and bolding to make the rules easier to parse and grasp – and does so consistently. Again, nice. Artwork-wise, the book uses pixilated artwork in the style of old-school games, which I found surprisingly charming, supplemented by some decent b/w-drawings.

    Casey Garske delivers a surprisingly well-crafted little game here; “Stay Frosty” features a couple of genuinely interesting rules that retain the low-complexity rules-lite style of a beer and pretzels game, while still managing to do interesting things. Tension as a mechanic is pretty great, and could be used for stress-like circumstances beyond the confines of this book.

    Stay Frosty manages to do exactly what it sets out to do – deliver a Starship Trooper-style space marine game that’s easy to pick up and run. The game does have potential for expansion – finer differentiation between tools instead of a global toolkit, and dangerous terrain being two of the big things that I’d have liked to see. Stay Frosty is also really easy to explain to new players, and if the book had indeed spent the time covering all its bases without complaining about it/assuming RPG-experience, it’d have been a recommendation for new players. That being said, I do consider this in its present state to be a worthwhile booklet to pick up for a quick and uncomplicated game. Just remember to “Stay Frosty.” My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Stay Frosty
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    Ships: Slavern Shuttle
    Publisher: Evil Robot Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/01/2020 09:47:08

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This installment of the Series of pdfs that provides fully operational spaceships for your SFRPG-game clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon-supporters.

    After the awesome and massive frigate, we have a regular-sized ship type this time around, which comes, as always, in multiple different iterations. The base shuttle is a tier 1 Small shuttle with S6 thrusters and an Arcus Light power core. The ship has a basic computer, signal basic hyperdrive, an cut-rate sensors – but it does have mk3 armor and mk1 defences, and features three light laser cannons – two (non-inked) forward facing, one on the turret. Unless I miscounted, it has a little bit, but not much left in its BP-budget, which makes sense and allows potentially for minor modifications.

    The slavern gunship builds on this for a tier 2 variant. EDIT: Previously missing bolding was added. Kudos for fixing that! The primary difference here would be an upgrade for the power core, which is increased to Pulse Brown – and promptly used to fuel two non-linked chain cannons, which replace the forward-facing laser cannons. The vessel maxed out its BP-budget, which I can appreciate particularly for specialist ships.

    The tier 3 slavern raid leader transport is powered by a Pulse Gray power core, which fuels S6 thrusters, the ship features forward-facing fire-linked chain cannons and a turret with a high explosive missile launcher. With mk 5 armor, basic 30 shields and mk3 defences, but only cut-rate sensors and a basic computer, common crew quarters and cargo hold expansion bays, the design of the ship (which makes good use of its BP) oozes “raiding vessel.”

    The fourth ship is actually not a slavern ship per se, but a turan shuttle they managed to obtain. This one clocks in at tier 5, powered by a Pulse Black power core, and equipped with S8 thrusters and a signal basic hyperdrive. While we have mk 6 armor and mk 5 defences, the ship shows its different makers in pretty much every aspect of its design: It has a mk 2 duonode computer, and its expansion bays feature only one cargo hold, but do come with medical bay and escape pods. The crew’s lives are more important here, and it also shows in the presence of good crew quarters, basic medium-range sensors, light 70 shields, and biometric locks. Offense-wise, we have two non-linked light plasma cannons on the front, and a third one on a turret. Turan efficiency is also represented by the use of BP here – unless I miscalculated, the entire BP-budget’s been used.

    The variants provided include notes on famous crews for each variant, as well as lore-tables that list sample DCs for Computers checks so that players that do their legwork actually know what they’ll be up against. Also nice: The write-ups list sample creatures/cargo that they might be carrying – oh, and in case you were wondering, the pdf does explain the modus operandi of a slavern raid in a pretty cool piece of flavorful introduction. The supplement comes with the paper-stand mini-style print-out page, and a pretty darn impressive 2 pages that depict the vessel in gorgeous full color from both front and back. We also get a really neat and aesthetically-pleasing map-version of the interior of the vessel in full color, noting its sections. And no, I’m not complaining about map-labels! Why? Because the ship comes with a VTT-friendly jpg-version of the map that is 100% player-friendly. Kudos!

    EDIT: In the first iteration, one of the pre-filled ship sheets (which are super handy as handouts for players!) was incorrect; this has been rectified immediately. Kudos for the swift fix!

    Conclusion:

    Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level and on a formal level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks and maps for the ship, both in full-color, are STUNNING. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length.

    Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver yet another cool installment in the series. With a couple of tweaks, starship combat can be super-fun, and after a few hiccups at the start, I’ve made it work in my game rather well. However, I a) don’t have the time to stat X starships, and b) SUCK at drawing at cartography. As such, this series has been a huge boon for my game, and the convenience offered alongside the cool maps always make these pdfs a welcome addition.  The addition of a player-friendly VTT-jpg is yet another plus for the series. EDIT: The updated pdf gets rid of my complaints. As such, I consider this now to be well in the region of a 5-star pdf. Kudos to the Evil Robot crew for the swift fix/update!

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Ships: Slavern Shuttle
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    Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths (5e)
    Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 04/30/2020 07:16:28

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This supplement clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

    All right, so the second Book of Heroes-installment provides 8 new barbarian primal paths, with the Path of the Frozen Fury being the first….and it’s a rather interesting one: When you’re raging, you emit cold, and creatures that are within 5 feet of you at the end of your turn take 1d6 cold damage, which improves to 1d10, 2d6 and 2d10 at 6th, 10th and 14th level. This damage has no save, but is dealt automatically and rewards a harrier style gameplay, which is interesting and changes the roles of the character. It also means that allies must take care when nearby, adding a tactical angle. Like it! And yes, the barbarian is obviously immune to this damage. 6th level increases your AC by 2 versus ranged weapon attacks, and 10th level makes you immune to being frightened or poisoned while raging, and if already under such an effect, they are suspended for the rage’s duration. 14th level lets you score a critical hit with your weapons on a 19-20.

    The Path of the Conqueror lets you use a bonus action when you hit in melee– the target must make a save (based on your Strength as key ability), becoming incapacitated until the start of your next turn on a failed Constitution save; one use per short rest interval, +1 use at 6th and 10th level. 6th level provides proficiency with Charisma (Intimidation), doubling the proficiency bonus if you already were proficient. 10th level provides immunity to being frightened, and 14th level extends this to being charmed. Also at 14th level, there is a mighty ability that lets you add +10d6 damage (Akin to Sneak Attack, this damage type is not codified) to a melee weapon attack – a successful Constitution save of the target halves this damage. You can’t make additional attacks the round you use it. This damage cannot reduce a target below 1 hit point, and may only be used once per long rest interval.

    The Path of the Demon makes you grow horns (1d6 piercing) that you can use for an additional attack executed as a bonus action after using the Attack action with a weapon. This horn attack does not gain your ability score modifier to damage. At 10th level, the horns are treated as magical. Weird: The barbarian is RAW not proficient with horns. 6th level nets the ability to read, write and speak Abyssal and advantage on Charisma checks dealing with fiends and those with fiendish patrons/connection. 10th level nets you resistance to fire and poison while raging, and at 14th level, you grow demonic wings while raging, with a flying speed (incorrectly called Fly speed, but that’s a nitpick) equal to your speed. Wings can’t be manifested while wearing armor, unless the armor can accommodate them. Also at 14th level, when you enter rage, you deal 3d6 fire damage to all within 10 feet, with a Dexterity saving throw for half damage. The governing ability score for the DC here is btw. Charisma, in line with the 6th-level feature.

    The Path of the Giant nets you +5 feet reach with melee weapons while raging and proficiency with Strength (Athletics), double proficiency if you already were proficient in it. 6th level makes you choose one heritage corresponding to one of the giant types: Choosing Fire and frost giant nets you resistance to their corresponding energy types, Hill giant to poison damage, and storm giant to lightning damage. Stone giant get rock catching, and cloud giant lets you cast fog cloud and misty step once per day. The latter should specify spellcasting ability and probably be based on rest interval instead of per day, but those are cosmetic complaints. At 10th level, we get rock throwing (30/120), 2d10 bludgeoning, using Strength; 14th level doubles ranges and increases the damage output by +1d10. Also at 14th level, you can expend a bonus action after making an Attack to force a creature you attacked (regardless of whether you hit) to make a Constitution saving throw or be pushed 5 feet away, more if it fails the save by 5 or more. Your save DC is governed, as suitable, by Strength.

    The Path of the Pyrorager is not simply a damage-type-flip of the Path of the Frozen Fury; While raging, your melee attacks add +1d6 fire damage, which improves by +1d6 at 6th, 10th and 14th level. Odd: This specifically mentions that this damage is treated as magical. Plus, though: The ability does not stack with spells or weapons that deal additional fire damage. (Minor nitpick: A reference to a flame tongue isn’t properly in italics.) Rather powerful? Yep, but here’s the catch – you REALLY need to be careful with this one, for when your rage ends, you suffer one level of exhaustion! 3rd level nets you Ignan, but is a bit weirdly-phrased – it mentions proficiency, when 5e codifies languages usually regarding the ability to speak, read and write. 6th level provides resistance to fire damage, which upgrades to immunity at 14th level. 10th level nets advantage on Charisma checks when conversing with elementals speaking Ignan. 14th level provides a 30-foot line of fire for 3d6 fire damage, with a Dexterity saving throw for half damage, usable once per long rest interval. Unfortunate: The line does not specify its width, which they need to do in 5e.

    The Path of the Skald nets you 2 cantrips from the bard spell list, and begin with 2 spells known, increasing that up to 11. You get up to 4 spell slots for 1st and 2nd level, 3 for 3rd, and 2 for 4th spell level, and use Charisma as spellcasting ability score. You need a musical instrument to cast (somewhat weird, considering IRL skaldic tradition does not require them…) and you can cast damage-dealing spells while in rage, and you can add Rage Damage to the damage of your spells. Formatting nitpick: “rage damage” should be capitalized. The path also nets an inspiration mechanic (d4s), and targets can only use it to enhance damage. Kudos: This does clearly state interaction with bardic inspiration. At 6th level, you can use two uses of this feature to grant all allies within 30 ft., including yourself, a Skaldic Inspiration die. 10th and 14th level provide a bonus spell known, and 14th level replenishes your skaldic inspiration after a short rest as well, not just after a long one.

    The Path of the Superstitious Warrior can perform a 5-minute ritual; after that, they can spend a bonus action to detect the location of any aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, fiend or undead within 30 feet, plus one use per short rest interval at 6th, 10th and 14th level. You can choose a creature thus detected and deal an extra 1d6 damage to it with melee attacks while raging. 6th level nets you an item that you believe will protect you from one type of creature you can detect via Superstitious Ritual. The item per se does nothing, but you get advantage on saving throws against spells and abilities of the chosen type. You can also use your reaction (to what?) to give an ally within 5 feet advantage on a saving throw against such a creature’s spells or abilities until the start of your next turn. 14th level nets you a second such item. These items don’t preclude you from wearing magic items, and replacement of lost items is covered. 10th level nets advantage on Wisdom (Survival) to track creatures chosen with the item, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. (I assume this pertains to both types once the second item is gained, but the pdf doesn’t specify this.) 14th level lets you temporarily emulate a type of movement that one creature detected via the ritual, allowing you to hunt down such creatures better – and no, this cannot be cheesed..

    The final path would be the Path of the War Avatar. At 3rd level, when using the Attack action, you can make another weapon attack as a bonus action, with full ability modifier to damage. You can use this feature Wisdom modifier times before requiring a long rest to recharge it. 6th level provides a, well, not so cool – the first attack you make after entering rage nets a +10 bonus to the roll. Not a fan – even true strike just nets advantage! 10th level nets advantage on Charisma checks made to converse with celestials and fiends, and 14th level lets you choose one of the three physical damage types, granting you resistance towards all nonmagical sources of the chosen type.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, with only a few niggles. On a rules-language level, the pdf is precise for the most part, with only a few exceptions. It should be noted, however, that rules syntax deviates sometimes from how 5e usually phrases certain things. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and we get 4 artworks – two full-page and two half-page artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience – kudos!

    Dale C. McCoy Jr.’s barbarian options are a step forward in comparison with the fighter options in the last installment. The designs for the primal paths are bolder and genuinely change the playstyle of the class, which is a good thing in my book. While there are a few hiccups here and there, the options generally are interesting, with the possible exception of the final path, which I considered to be pretty underwhelming. That being said, the book does otherwise deliver a cool array of options, and while the minor hiccups prevent this from reaching higher rating echelons, this is still a barbarian option book I can recommend. Hence, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Book of Heroes: Fearless Barbarian Paths (5e)
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