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    Gear Book: Battle Gloves
    Publisher: Evil Robot Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 10/20/2020 22:09:24

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This little pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 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.

    This pdf fixes a very specific issue via equipment – this is its sole focus, and something to bear in mind. Armor Storm soldiers with Hammer Fist, and the glove is supposed to duplicate the effects of the item level of a heavy or powered armor. The core book is rather limited regarding its battle gloves, but it’s clear that you’re not supposed to have a paltry 1d4 punch in SFRPG, where the system very much requires the increase of weapon-damage.

    This book, thus, presents new battle gloves, based on the one-handed damage charts; these are analog or powered, light weapons sans critical effect, and the table-header properly classifies them as basic melee weapons. One battle glove for every level is provided. All of the design-concerns above are concisely explained. Even better (a GOOD thing for high-complexity games like SFRPG), the reasoning is explained to the GM as well. And the math checks out as well – costs, damage, and item-levels are balanced so unarmed combat options hard-coded into the system are not invalidated.

    This is per se great. But there is one downside to the battle gloves herein: Due to needing to adhere to the power-curve of unarmed attacks, there are a couple of battle gloves that have the same base damage, with the higher-level version just…costing more. This is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”-situation, though, so I get the reasoning behind this decision. That being said, there’d have been an obvious solution. Critical effects and special properties. While easy enough to add and modify, these could have been used as additional balancing tools – perhaps exchanging lower damage for effects or the like.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no significant hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the neat two-column full-color standard of the Galaxy Pirates-series. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length, and the color artwork is solid.

    Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver an inexpensive, handy little supplement that makes Hammer Fist more viable. In that way, the pdf succeeds admirably. When it comes to differentiation between item-levels, the same can’t be said. This is a very focused item supplement, and in its niche, it does its job. Now, I’d usually harp more on the issue between item-levels and lack of differentiation, and round down from my final verdict, but this does have one crucial advantage: It costs a grand total of $0.99. What can you get for that nowadays? Where I’m living, you can’t even get a coffee at the student’s cafeteria for that. If you’re a student. Considering that, well, I do feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. However, if you’re just looking for the items, and not for some help with the Hammer Fist ability, you may wish to round down.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Gear Book: Battle Gloves
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    Tales From the Fallen Empire
    Publisher: Chapter 13 Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 10/16/2020 09:37:10

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This massive campaign setting clocks in at 216 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages editorial/KS-backer thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 3 pages of advertisements, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 204 pages of content.

    These do include two pages devoted to a character sheet, and 4 pages of helpful index. Interesting choice: The book doesn’t begin with editorial/ToC, instead front-loading the legend of the setting, by providing an excerpt from the scrolls of Tian of Zhou. This prologue really manages to set up a great basic premise that managed to resound with the tone one associated with the excerpts from the Nemedian Scrolls.

    It should be noted that my review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review by one of my readers, who also sent me the softcover copy of this book. My review is primarily based on that version, and I have also consulted the pdf.

    Anyway, the expectations set by the prologue are promising indeed: We learn that the world is essentially the remains of Leviathan, the grand dragon, slain by his rebellious offspring, with connections to other worlds/planes remaining; this simple planar geography lets you add different tones with relative ease, as the dragon’s portals lead to other places. So yeah, you can add a neat array of hodgepodge races here, though the world generally is assumed to be human-centric. Since back then, we had a sorcerer-king era, and said era ended around 100 years ago with the fall of the city-state of Uruk, initiating the Third Age. This premise is pretty much awesome – if you go with the classic heroes, it’d be situated somewhere between the age of Kull and that of Conan. This is a good premise. Alas, much to my chagrin, the book doesn’t really do much with the cool dragon-corpse angle. Sure, sun = heart, sea = blood, etc. may be nice – but the sea isn’t really blood (unlike in the Scarred Lands, for example), and apart from a great little line about things below keeping the corpse-world alive, there isn’t much going on here.

    Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the Philipp Mainländer-ish take on living on the corpse of a deity; but the premise doesn’t really have consequences regarding weather, regarding seasons, regarding anything – as written, this could be any old planetoid world, and that frankly bugs me to no end. Okay. Maybe, I am overinterpreting things. If the creation myth is supposed to be allegorical, the world a regular planetoid, that’d be an explanation…but it’d be one that underwhelms me slightly. Why am I bringing it up, then? Well, because there are two more instances wherein you get to learn about the world, and there are discrepancies in these sections. These may or may not be intentional, since the book does drop a TON of lore upon the judge, and the information does seem to come from both authoritative and in-game sources.

    The problematic aspect with the per-se solid lore, is that the book takes a few odd stances: On one hand, we learn that there are no proper gods, and hence no clerics in the setting. On the other, we get a massive pantheon of deities, some being the great dragons, some deities from other worlds. It should be noted that I am one of the judges who enjoy reading a lot of lore, but this book did make things a bit hard for me, as said discrepancies also apply to the general tone of the setting.

    What do I mean by this? Essentially, this setting assumes a higher power-level than default DCC games – the variant character creation rules presented for playing in the world of Urd seem to champion significantly higher power-levels than DCC’s default. If there was no magical healing, this’d make sense to a degree, but turns out there is – the witch-class, one of the new classes herein, essentially takes the cleric’s role. The classes presented are barbarian, marauder, sentinel, sorcerer (wizard variant) and witch; beyond these, we have the man-ape and drake race-classes.

    Since in-depth analysis of these classes would bloat the review, in all brevity; Barbarians gain a scaling Savage Ferocity Die, and in combat, can roll it, taking the rolled result, or any result below that. This is per se an interesting idea, but the effects are pretty diverse: As a result, it sometimes makes sense to roll the die and hope for a high result – and then not getting it. To give you an example: Entry 2 nets you an addition 30 ft. running jump movement for -2 to the AC. Okay, cool. But why can the barbarian execute that only in combat? Since you can always roll a 1, you can end up not getting this result…and e.g. fall to your death, when you could have escaped with this ability. The problem here is focus: The abilities should be attack-based, with the utility-based tricks relegated to another suite array. I like the idea here, but the execution can be potentially annoying. Man-apes are essentially brutes with deed die and a berserk rage. Marauders are pirates with black market connections, sentinels are sacred guardians in the Dol Minor wastes, somewhere between paladin, rangers and rogue. Yes, I meant rogue, not thief. More on that later. Draki are repitile people who are particularly good at using magic items. Sorcerers use ritual magic, and have been stolen from Dark Sun, in that their magics have defiler-like effects, drawing upon the life energies of those nearby. Witches get a custom spell list, are better at casting divination-like spells, and can Make Potions at first level and, as noted before, heal.

    Regarding ethnicities, the book presents a whole array, including idiosyncrasies – when negative aspects are roleplayed, the player gets a coin that can be sued for rerolls, having the proper item on hand, etc. – the idea here is cool. The book also presents an interesting mechanic that ties a die of forbidden lore to lucidity – essentially a madness system applied to DCC, in aesthetics based on Call of Cthulhu. The system is relatively simple and easy to adapt, making use of DCC’s die-chain mechanics, and is rules-wise perhaps one of my favorite aspect herein. The book also presents an engine for ritual magic and magic item crafting. The ritual engine is per se mechanically-solid, but leaves one thing up to the judge that I really look for in ritual engines: An actual description of the actions performed. You know, some sequence, perhaps even a quick “ritual-step generator” so one can actually roleplay the ritual, instead of just having a spell with a long casting time and cost.

    The crafting magic items sections deserves special mention, as it assumes that magic items are (usually!) the result of demons being bound in the item! As such, a variant rule is provided for obedience of the respective item. I like these. However, I might note that these are pretty. The book also provides a massive chapter of new spells and patrons, though the latter only have Invoke Patron and Spellburn tables, no individual corruptions – bummer. The spells include calling e.g. waste tigers to serve, a spell to kill off plant life, a spell to make a target a servant for a limited duration, a spell that causes harm by striking the shadow of the target, fire beams, insect infestation, making a massive tower of sand – these are classic visuals here. I generally like this, though the entire chapter also failed to introduce me to anything I haven’t seen before. It is very much a selection of magics as expected for the genre.

    The book also features a total of 4 pages that provide basic naval combat rules. These are per se serviceable, but its presentation is really confused. I’m familiar with plenty of complex systems, and it took me a few rereads to get how the system works. It’s also very much contingent on having a marauder. If you are a marauder, you’ll be better at naval combat than anyone else, and to my significant chagrin, now much in the way of magic/ship interaction, or unique abilities based on class, are provided. My impression was that the system would be very boring and uneven to actually play, and said impression proved to be correct. I strongly suggest steering clear of the naval combat rules.

    On the plus-side, the actual description of the world and its regions once more manages to capture the spirit of the prologue, and the cartography (by Alyssa Faden, I think) provided for the cities is AWESOME. B/w city shaped as a scarab? Heck yeah! Downside: All maps consistently lack a scale, which makes the world feel somewhat opaque regarding its scale. Still, the part of the book that depicts the world has some neat parts.

    This cannot be said about the bestiary. The bestiary section of this book is easily one of the worst I have seen in a setting for quite a while. For one, the respective creatures are not that interesting mechanically. And there’s this other, nagging feeling. When we get that list of golem traits, and it doesn’t line up with any of the golems herein, when a will-o’-wisp-like creature is described as harmless, but have a frickin’ +14 attack for 2d8 electricity damage. We have instances where the Act die line isn’t properly bullet pointed (the raptor has the die and MV listed in the HD-line) – or the value missing. This is a weak, boring section. And it is here, finally, that I realized what irked me about this book.

    This reads like a D&D 3.X campaign setting. It claims, time and again, that it’s gritty, but it really…isn’t. You see, it has all the dressing of a sword & sorcery setting; it has this notion of being a high-powered one, yeah, but the trappings are here. Ape-men? Check. A few b/w-drawings with exposed breasts? Check. Ritual magic etc.? Check. But it never feels like all of that is an integral part of the setting. It tries to accommodate for so much, it loses its footing. Magic’s supposed to be rare, yet we have magic creation rules. We have essentially Dark Sun’s defiler-magic, but no individual corruptions. We don’t have magical drugs or the like, no strange savage alchemy, but we do get a whole system of new coins to convert to (starting wealth table is btw. missing which coins it uses); we have golems galore, extraplanar guys, plant-zombies – you know, the usual D&D-ish array. Heck, same goes for the wraiths. We have no deities and clerics, but witches. In many ways, this feels cobbled together, and as though it had been originally written for D&D 3.X before being changed to DCC. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, the rules are solid and do a decent job at what they want to achieve. But they never come together in a concise manner. The individual systems just float around, and quite a bit of the content feels like it’s there simply for filling page-count. Neither drake nor ape-man are interesting, and the other classes are also very cookie-cutter…or somewhat problematic in how they play.

    Speaking of “problematic in how they play”: The book has two sample adventures, one 0-level funnel, and a module for levels 3-5. The former is missing any read-aloud text, while the latter has some.

    Spoilers for the modules below. Potential players beware and jump to the conclusion.

    … .. .

    Okay, module #1, the funnel, is an “escape the slave pens scenario”; it opens, among other things, with this set-up:

    “[…]These chains limit base speed to 20’ (DC 25 Reflex to either pick the lock or otherwise remove them). […]The gate on the bars of the pen is a DC 25 Strength check to break, or a DC 20 Reflex check to pick the lock.[…]”

    …nobody can tell me that this was playtested properly. Later, we have a bear, skeletons and a water spirit. This is literally the most boring, uninspired jailbreak module I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot.

    The Horrors of Hod, unfortunately, doesn’t fare much better: It feels like on of the really bad Lovecraft sword & sorcery pastiches that jam something ostensibly frightening into the context of the setting. It features spore zombies, but also a hell hound, darkmantles and similar D&D-ish critters. It feels like a regular fantasy dungeon with a few tangentially creepy critters thrown in. This module’s hook also has some tribal warfare angle that makes it seem like the world’s really small, but I’m not sure in that regard, since the book never specifies, you know, a scale. On the plus-side, saving a damsel from supernatural enemies is as classic as it gets, but the execution is so laughable. Since the dungeon itself lacks any real distinguishing features on a dressing or rules-level, the whole “turned into spore zombie” threat is lost. Even if you manage to evoke a sense of horror, that’ll be gone when you run into a bog-standard (haha) gray ooze. Oh, also always fun: Invisible line of death traps. You know, the “you walk there, take damage”-type. Also: Guess what? The lucidity rules the book introduces? Not used here. -.- Oh, and the boss? Same stats as standard critter, can only be killed by mcguffin. Why? No clue. This is super-sucky railroading and has logic bugs. I hated this adventure.

    Conclusion: Editing is, formally, decent. On a rules-language level, and regarding lore consistency, it is rather uneven. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, with a blend of original and stock b/w-artworks. Aesthetically, the cartography of the cities is the undisputed highlight of this book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The softcover is a solid book, with title etc. on the spine, though the front cover of my copy seems slightly blurred. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the hardcover.

    James Carpio, with contributions from Michael Curtis, Chris Lites, Colin Chapman, Mary Lindholm, Michael R. Smith, Walter Andrew Rinehart and Matthew Millman, has written a massive setting that has so much potential.

    Potential that never came together. I never felt like this world came together. Goodman Games’ Punjar-modules do Lankhmar-ish sword & sorcery on the upper weirdness/power-levels better. (Same obviously goes for Goodman games’ Lankhmar…) And if I want to play in a low-powered sword & sorcery world, ironically the World of Xoth by Morten Braten does an infinitely better job for DCC, even though it was written originally for D&D 3.X. What sets this campaign setting apart, its unique world, is unfortunately just a backdrop that might as well not exist. The entire unfocused presentation breaks this setting for me. The book introduces a ton of stuff that is not crucial to the setting, but leaves us without things that truly distinguish it from comparable settings.

    This setting feels like it’s suffering from a constant identity crisis: Does it want to be a dark, gritty tale in a savage world of gray moralities? Or does it want to be a goofy D&D hodgepodge of genres and planar themes? If you want to be gritty, then you also have to be somewhat outré, somewhat grimy. And ironically, the core modules released for DCC actually do a better job at conveying the vibe of sword and sorcery than this setting, much less the horrible modules included in this book. This setting lacks all grit and grime, and may be the most PG-13, playing-it-safe take on Sword & Sorcery I’ve seen. Unless you’re offended by (very few) artworks of female characters with exposed breasts (none exploitative, mind you), it’ll be hard to find anything to be offended by.

    …yep. I actually think that quite a few default fantasy settings are grimier and grittier than this sword & sorcery setting.

    Suffice to say, this is easily the most pronounced example of squandered potential I have ever seen. The lore started off so well, but at once point, it all started to blur together, with the discrepancies between sources managing to erode all of my desire to truly grasp all the nuances of the setting’s history. If I wasn’t a reviewer, I’d have shelved this book right then and there.

    I wish I did. At that point, I was still rather ambivalent about the book, but as I progressed to the atrociously-bad adventures and the lackluster bestiary, this remainder of goodwill also started to evaporate.

    I dove into this book wanting to love it; I took a look at the Appendix N provided herein, and started smiling. And it started so well. But…well. At this point, you probably guess that I can’t recommend this setting. In many ways, this feels like it’s either 100 pages to short, or 100 pages too long. The respective subsystems needed full integration or proper space to shine, and the world really needed some rules for things that set it apart, to develop its dragon-angle.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is not a super-bad book; but in many ways, it’s painfully vanilla and boring, and it has issues with its consistence and focus. I definitely hope that the module “A Faceless Enemy”, set in this world, fares better than the modules herein. Anyhow, rating.

    I don’t enjoy bashing this work, but frankly, I’d recommend every sword & sorcery setting in my library over this one. For some idea-scavenging, this may be worth checking out. If you’re relatively inexperienced when it comes to the genre, that is. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Tales From the Fallen Empire
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    Best Left Buried: The Deluxe Edition [BUNDLE]
    Publisher: SoulMuppet Publishing
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 10/13/2020 05:37:06

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This game clocks in at 152 pages, 1 page introduction, 1 page editorial, 1 page character sheet, leaving us with 149 pages (A5/ 6’’ by 9’’) of content. My review is primarily based on the offset-printed hardcover, which is a sturdy tome; it’s glued, but expertly so, and takes a lot of punishment. The paper is super-thick, glossy, and indeed pretty deluxe. The stark black aesthetics of the book’s cover show a white shovel on a mound of earth, and the book has its name and creators on the spine, making it easy to locate in the bookshelf. It should be noted that the book makes copious use of bolding, allowing the reader to easily parse rules-relevant information. I have also consulted the pdfs.

    I moved this review up in my reviewing queue because I wanted to cover this book back in spring, and then, well, COVID-19 happened, and I’ve been scrambling ever since. However, it’s now or never. Why? Because there currently is a kickstarter for Best left Buried: Deeper, a second edition of sorts.

    What do I mean with “of sorts”? Well, it has more content, streamlined presentation, etc. – but the content of this book actually remains valid. All Best Left Buried materials released so far remain fully functional with the new edition – so thinking of Best Left Buried: Deeper as an expanded edition probably makes most sense.

    Now, among my readers, the only people likely to be familiar with this game would be fans of the OSR, but Best left Buried can’t really be called an OSR-game anymore; the engine is radically different, using d6s, and taking some obvious inspirations from a variety of games, including Traveller. That being said: While I’d call Best Left Buried a rules-lite game in how easy it can be learned, it does differentiate itself from its compatriot systems in a crucial way: You can run Best left Buried for fans of systems like Pathfinder, D&D 5e and 13th Age without boring them or frustrating them due to a lack of options. How? Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s briefly talk about the setting, because it is quite important to contextualize the genre, because this is a genre-system in how it is presented.

    Best Left Buried is a dark fantasy/horror game, which, as many of you know, are my first loves when it comes to roleplaying. However, unlike let’s say most of the more recent LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) supplements, the game does not focus on a historical setting and all that entails; Best Left Buried focuses on bringing dungeoncrawling and horror together; it is very much a fantasy-horror game, focusing on blending the experience provided by many classic modules (or OSR gems like Matthew Finch’s Demonspore) with a focus on horror.

    If that sounds awfully obtuse to you and requires too much previous knowledge of RPGs, I have another summary pitch for you: Picture Darkest Dungeon without the repetition and grind, and with more options. If you’re as big a fan of Darkest Dungeon as I am, then this got your attention.

    Best Left Buried has three Stats (the ability scores, essentially): Brawn, Wit, Will. Brawn is physical prowess and toughness. Wit is the stat used for agility, both mental and physical. Will represents the intellect – recalling obscure factoids, reading body language, etc. Characters start with +2 in one Stat, +1 in another, and +0 in the third. The default assumption is that regular people have +0s in every score. Best left Buried has two values that measure your survival: Vigour (Brawn +6), and Grip (think of this as a combined mana + stamina + sanity); You begin play with 4 + Will Grip.

    Then, you choose an archetype (essentially a kind of class, but more freeform) – you get to choose from Believer, Cabalist, Everyman, Freeblade, Outcast, Scholar, Protagonist, Veteran. The Everyman archetype, in case you were wondering, would be the archetype that allows you to dabble in everything. These archetypes provide two abilities, and a drawback – if you’re a believer, you’re assumed to have the Guided by the Gods affliction, which makes you essentially convinced that the voices that talk to you are commands from above – Caitlín R. Kiernan’s Dancy Flammarion comes to mind. Cutthroats can’t make a heroic rescue; the dandyesque dastards have a harder time making Grip checks prompted by monsters or environments, freeblades have problems resisting the lure of gold, and protagonists don’t do well at lying – you get the idea. Like in most good dark fantasy/horror games, you have abilities, but also a drawback that is very much conductive to roleplaying. As an aside: Veterans start with an injury, which can, in what I assume to be a nod to Traveller, potentially result in death at character creation when e.g. using the random character creation tables in the back of the book – easily enough to mitigate by allowing for Injury choice, and unlikely, so a nice easter egg on a rules-level.

    Then, you choose weapons and equipment from a list, and you’re essentially already done. Character creation takes less than 5 minutes, and the archetypes come with suggested Advancements (you do get to choose one of those), but we’ll come back to those later.

    The base mechanic of Best left Buried is the Stat Check – you roll 2d6 and add the Stat’s modifier, if any. If you meet or beat 9, you have succeeded; below 9, you have failed. The target number is ALWAYS 9. You can, however, have the Upper Hand, this game’s equivalent of advantage – then, you roll 3d6 and discard the lowest die. Working Against the Odds is the system’s disadvantage – roll 3d6, and discard the highest roll. Against the Odds and Upper Hand cancel each other. If you have 3 instances of Against the Odds more than Upper Hand, a task becomes impossible; conversely, having 3 instances of Upper Hand more than Against the Odds means that you automatically succeed, because the task is trivial.

    Observation checks are 2d6 rolled flat against 9. Rounds are assumed to take 10 seconds, and initiative is determined by rolling a d3 and adding Wit (and later, miscellaneous modifiers), taking turns from high to low. Being surprised deprives you of your first Turn’s action. The terrain is split up in Zones – you can move one Zone per turn. Note how there is no concrete dimension given – this is intentional: 20 meters of open terrain might take as long to traverse as a cramped 1,50 m crawlspace. During the character’s turn, they can move and attack, move again, use an Advancement (more on those later), escape (Wit check), and enemies might finish characters. Other actions are also possible. If you fail the Wit check to escape, you must either stay in the zone, or a monster in it gets an attack against you.

    Attack rolls have a target number that usually ranges between 7 and 11, with a base target number of 8. Attack rolls are usually rolled with 3d6: If two of the three dice + the Stat used exceed the target number, you hit – and deal the third die as damage to the target’s Vigour. If two of the three dice + the Stat would not suffice to hit the target number, the attack does nothing. If an attack is trivial, you roll 2d6 and deal the higher die as damage. If the damage die against a target is a 6, it is a Critical Hit and the character or monster must roll an injury. Important: Monsters can gang up on you. You really don’t want that, as the horde will eliminate you; it’s also not an option for characters, which I approve.

    Dying reminded me of the amazing “Fear & Hunger” indiegame – when you’re reduced to 0 Vigour, you flip a coin. Tails, you die. Heads, and you’re unconscious and return to consciousness after d6 hours, but gain an injury and an affliction. In combat, a monster can Finish an unconscious character, which can only be prevented by a Heroic Rescue. To do that, another character must be in the same or adjacent zone – this might require a Wit check to come to the aid of the character. A Heroic Rescue has no downsides – apart from one: The rescuer loses their next turn.

    Characters can spend Grip to push themselves to Exertion, which lets them reroll a die, but you can’t reroll a reroll. Alternatively, you can spend Grip to cause an opponent to reroll a single die. Grip is also sanity – so there are Grip checks; this is a Will check against, bingo, target number 9. If you beat the check, you gain a point of Experience, but if you fail, you lose 1 Grip.

    While we’re on the topic of combat, let’s briefly talk about equipment: Weapons are classified as hand, heavy, light, long, thrown or ranged, and use Brawn or Wit. They have damage modifiers ranging from -1 to +1, and may decrease initiative by up to -1. Optional gunpowder rules are included. Shields increase the target number to hit you by one, as does basic armor. Plate armor provides more protection, but requires 2 Brawn and decreases initiative. Armor does NOT hamper spellcasting.

    Resting is required to replenish Vigour: Camping in an unsafe dungeon might well not replenish any VIgour; 6 hours of rest, single watch shift in a relatively dry cave with rations etc. nets 3 Vigour, and resting in a guarded base camp, on the surface etc. nets you 5 Vigour, while sleeping in a proper tavern replenishes 6 Vigour and 1 Grip. The game has easy rules for grappling, some conditions, and from encumbrance, drowning and suffocating, falling, etc., all of the usual suspects are covered.

    You level up every 8 experience points gained, and gain 1 Vigour, 1 Grip, and an Advancement when you do. And this is actually the entire system; a lot of these more detailed rules are not required to be known by the players at first, only the Doomsayer needs to grasp them. Oh yeah, that’s the name for the GM. I LOVE it: “Doomsayer, may …“ Most kickass referee-name ever.

    Okay, Advancements. Advancements are what one aspect of makes this game so incredibly compelling to me. Advancements are essentially like feats, class abilities, etc. Starting characters get one Journeyman Advancement for free. This means that even two characters of the same archetype with the same Stat distribution can play radically different. This is where my assertion that this game can engage fans of complex games stems from: You have more differentiation between characters than in some 5e classes at 1st level. These Advancements are very diverse: Ears of the Owl, for example, nets you the Upper Hand on Observation checks. Battle Frenzy lets you spend 3 Grip to enter a frenzy that forces you to attack the closest target, but nets you Upper Hand on attacks, and attacks against you are Against the Odds. The frenzy may be stopped prematurely for another point of Grip. Okay, cool. Extra Brawn, Grip or +1 to one Stat are also here. But that’s not the end. You see, some Advancements have one of 4 descriptors: Martial, Arcane, Holy, Devious. Once a character has taken a total of 4 Advancements, and if 3 are from one of these special types, they unlock new special Advancements. (As an aside, in one of the few unfortunate rules-relevant glitches herein, the overview rules state that 2 suffice, when all other sections clearly state that 3’s the magic number.) A character who has Battle Frenzy (Martial), Horde Killer (Martial), and My Shining Armor Gleams (Martial) would, for example, qualify to take the exclusive Martial Advancements. If you haven’t noticed: The names of the Advancements are AWESOME and ooze flavor, and indeed, apart from the boring Extra X Advancements, all do come with flavorful fluff. To give you an example:

    “Thaddeus spoke the name of his God, and his sword lit with cold licks of holy flame. It swung with righteous force and took the head of the Crypt-thing clean from its shoulders.” It’s a small bit, but it makes you want to take these Advancements. So yeah, there is a ton of room to specialize, but jacks-of-all-trades are similarly very much valid. Much like in more complex systems, there are a ton of possible builds, which provides something for this game that many rules-lite games lack: Replay-value for prolonged campaigns that derives its appeal not solely from the story, but also from the system used. Additionally, experienced Doomsayers can take abilities from complex games and translate them to Best Left Buried with relative ease.

    Injuries and afflictions are, in case you haven’t guessed by now, essentially just what the names suggest – adventuring is a dangerous job for a cryptdigger, and justifiably so. Cryptdigger? Yep, that would be the default name for the PCs. It’s also a component introduced in the Doomsayer-section that is important, so let’s talk a bit about that. Best Left Buried assumes the option to scavenge settings together, the hacking part so popularized by the OSR, with some neat ones noted, but there is a default region, the 13 Duchies of Lendal. These regions…were a surprise for me. You see, the regions are NOT hellholes; the world itself is pretty wholesome in comparison to many settings in the genre…and that’s where the nomenclature comes in. There are companies, organizations, which act as adventurer’s guilds of sorts – these share a few traditions (such as a special coin) and seek out Crypts. Not dungeons. CRYPTS. To dig them and potentially, well, encounter and potentially unleash things Best Left Buried. The cryptdiggers are exceptional beings within the world, but the Archetypes also render them damaged to some extent – and indeed, the general assumption of the game is that the murderhobo economy can help you climb the social ladder, at potentially ghastly costs. There is a reason why your character tends to have a failed career as a background… The fact that dungeons are, well, called CRYPTS also adds a sense of transgression to the very act of adventuring as tomb-robbing. This establishes a dark tone, but never drifts off into full-blown nihilism, instead focusing on, well great dark fantasy/horror gaming.

    The Doomsayer section also provides the usual suspects – deities of the setting, advice for running dark games (including the very prudent one that NOTHING BEATS COMMUNICATION). Advice for making traps have sense, for crafting monsters (not some generic entry, but unique critters…), you get the idea. It is here that the eminently hackable nature of Best Left Buried comes to the fore for the doomsayer: Much like with Advancements, it’s very easy to e.g. add certain special abilities from Pathfinder, 5e or another game by distilling them down to the basics, perhaps combine them with one of the many critter-generators popularized in the OSR. In many ways, Best Left Buried manages to have its cake and eat it, too. It should also be noted that the game does offer a “nice” version where Grip can be replenished more easily, thus partially negating the downward spiral theme, so if you want the game less gritty, you have the option.

    Resting tables, mishap tables, setting information, and a brief introductory adventure (2 levels, and it features a deadly MOTHBEAR!) complement the section. The module also involves cat mummies, degenerate goblinoids, and paranoid madmen. Just saying…

    The appendix section also sports rules for demi-humans, i.e. elves, dwarves, etc., including unique afflictions.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the game is very tight as well, but does have a very few components that slightly mar the experience. Not to a degree that would become too problematic, though. Layout adheres to a crisp, clear 2-column b/w-standard, with a TON of cool b/w-artworks by Ben Brown – these generate a holistic, unified atmosphere that perfectly complements the prose. The cartography is b/w and provided by Patrick Eyler – it is neat, but player-friendly, key-less versions would have been nice. The deluxe hardcover is a sturdy, high-quality tome, and compiles the Doomsayer’s Guide, the Cryptdigger’s Guide and the Expanded Character Options; its main downside is that it has neither a ribbon, not does it stay open when put flat on the table, which makes actual use at the table a bit more cumbersome than it should be. I can’t recommend the pdfs as highly as the hardcover, though – the pdfs lack bookmarks, which makes navigation supremely annoying. If you want to for the pdfs only, I’d suggest rounding down.

    I’ll come right out and say it: Zachary Cox’s Best Left Buried is currently my favorite rules-lite game. BLB play smoothly and swift; it’s super-easy to explain and has a low barrier of entry, but at the same time, it offers a ton of means to differentiate between characters. The rules are smooth and almost perfect regarding the ability to hack other systems and integrate pretty much whatever into the game. But where this REALLY sets itself apart, is with its abilities to sustain long-term campaigns. Even though it is a rules-lite game per se, you still get to feel like you’re playing a NEW character when your cryptdigger bites the dust, because you actually do. The Advancement system allows for a TON of different options, and while spellcasters can probably toast some serious enemies, they pay for these capabilities with Grip. Same goes for your barbarian-like guy with Battle Frenzy. This tapping into the same resource is an important balancing tool. Best Left Buried manages to provide MEANINGFUL character advancement, but injuries and afflictions also generate this wonderful spiral of escalation that characterizes so many dark fantasy/horror games.

    Is this game perfect? No, but I LOVE it to frickin’ bits. To the point where I’d e.g. rather use this system to play the old, non-historic LotFP-modules and many similar adventures. If you love your fantasy gritty and horrifying, your heroes flawed and/or tragic, then this game delivers in SPADES.

    My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, and I’d usually round down for the respective comfort detriments of the book not staying open and the pdfs having no bookmarks. But frankly, I don’t want to. This book hits its tone so perfectly, it deserves rounding up and gaining my seal of approval. Note that, if dark fantasy or horror gaming is not something you’re as fond of as I am, you should probably round down for these comfort detriments. However, as far as I’m concerned, this also gets my “Best of…”-tag for how incredibly well it nails its theme. If you like dark fantasy/horror gaming, you owe it to yourself to check out this game – particularly if you want to teach roleplaying to new players.

    If the Soul Muppet crew doesn’t totally drop the ball, then Best Left Buried: Deeper may well become one of my all-time favorite games. ...and the deluxe version I’ve reviewed here? It may very well become a collector’s piece. Just saying.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Best Left Buried: The Deluxe Edition [BUNDLE]
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    Book of Beasts: Magus Codex (PF 1e)
    Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 10/07/2020 11:18:13

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    The second pdf in the series of NPC Codex books released under the Book of Beasts-line clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 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.

    Okay, in case you didn’t know, the presence of the word “Codex” in the title implies that this book focuses on crunch and statblocks, though, unlike most such supplements, the statblocks provided here, more often than not, actually do come with a bit of flavor, offering notes for a sample NPC, and where sensible, some brief notes on the NPC in a combat encounter or even some roleplaying tips regarding the NPC in question. Nice.

    The book contains one magus-build for every single level, ranging from level 1 to level 20. The builds for level 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, and 16 are the statblocks that do not come with the flavor information for a specific NPC, in case you were wondering. The builds do offer tactical notes for running them before and during combat, and where applicable, base statistics are provided. Spellbooks are also noted in the gear where applicable for non-spontaneous magi – if you’re like me and loathe fleshing these out, that’s a big plus.

    Now, as for the builds, we might begin with al elven magus at level 1, but after that, the builds quickly go more unconventional routes regarding the combination of classes and races, and the individual builds. The level 2 magus, for example, would be an oread shock trooper for the shaitan armies. There are no “statted up” builds herein, by the way – each level gets its very own build, no easy progressions of one build provided for several levels, as one often gets to see in codices.

    The versatility of the builds is pretty interesting: At level 3, we for example get a hobgoblin that is supremely maneuverable and good at getting into melee, but not as good at getting out of it, as the build has no Acrobatics – an intended choice to make these raiders feel like a hard-hitter and not a guerilla fighter. The gnomish wild skirmisher is a different take on the concept, an eldritch scion’d magus with clever bloodline powers working in tandem to offset the less impressive base damage this one offers. It’s more trick-based, as befitting of the theme – though I probably wouldn’t have called the build skirmisher.

    The elf-raised half-elf moon knight does the whole elvish knight angle well, with the sample NPC never managing to meet his elven sire’s approval. What about a goblin with a really fiery build? Blargg Firespitter as the sample flavor works as an adventurer-exterminator for a dragon, by the way. Love that concept!

    The level 7 back alley avenger Lauren Nightfire made me flash back to Arrow; short of a vigilante-dip, this is pretty close to what you’d expect, with slow, alter self, web etc. giving off a low-key magic vigilante style, supported by excellent Ride and Stealth skills. For a more classic blade dancer-ish build, the Aerobatic spellsword (spell dancer level 8) is a classic agile, skirmishing high-threat-range build. The tiefling helltouched archer instead presents a ranged combat-centric magus build.

    The wyvaran build at level 10 focuses on aerial assaults supported by spells, while the level 11 weaponbreaker combines high-crit with, well, you guessed it, sunder. The hailstorm harrier staff magus is pretty disruptive and also based on aerial superiority (and has a minor typo in the tactics section – “spellcasting” instead of “spellcaster”). The dagger-throwing ratfolk magus with its skirmishing tricks is pretty interesting, the NPC information hinting at the local Ratfolk Collective, which is an angle that makes sense for them. Nice!

    Beyond that, we have a powerful level 14 hexcrafter as the final archetype’d build; levels 15-20 are all straight magus builds, though the focuses range from samsaran scholar and a halfling magus by class, burglar by trade to the classic retired adventurer, an ifrit general, a wyrwood elder, and finally a dwarven dealmaker with the forces infernal at level 20 – in case you’re using AAW Games’ gitwerc, this one is a great addition as a mighty ally to the agents of HEL. Just sayin’…

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are both rather impressive; while a few formal hiccups may be found, none of them compromise the builds in a significant manner. Formatting is generally just as tight: Italics are where they should be, and the same goes for bold components. Nice. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a black border on one side; it looks elegant and distinct. Artworks are full-color pieces and well-chosen, though they will be familiar to most 3pp-fans out there. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

    Dale C. McCoy, Jr. delivers a series of unique, well-wrought builds with some cool character nuggets thrown in. The builds are distinct enough to feel as though they have organically grown. Want 20 distinct magi? For a super-fair price point? Then get this pdf. The bang-for-buck ratio is very strong here, and the fact that we get distinct builds for every level, instead of just progressions, is the icing on the cake. Inexpensive, convenient, cool – 5 stars + seal of approval. If you need some neat magi, grab this.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Book of Beasts: Magus Codex (PF 1e)
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    Knave
    Publisher: Questing Beast Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 10/02/2020 09:44:47

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This game clocks in at 7 pages, laid out in a horizontal 3-column style that crams a lot of information on each page.

    This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreon supporters.

    So, what is Knave? It is essentially a very rules-lite toolkit that is designed for general compatibility with OSR-games; the first column of the first page makes the basic design-tenets of the game pretty clear, and character creation is a straightforward manner.

    Knave knows the classic 6 ability score, each of which has two related values, a more complex approach than what some games offer: These would be the defense, and the bonus. For each ability score, you roll 3d6. The lowest value you roll is the ability’s bonus. To determine the ability defense, you take the lowest roll and add 10 to it. Say, you rolled 1, 6, 5, then you only have an ability bonus of +1, and an ability defense of 11. You get to switch 2 ability scores after rolling the dice.

    Strength is used for melee attacks and saves regarding physical power; Dexterity for poise, speed, reflexes, etc. Constitution deals with poison, sickness, environmental influences, etc. Intelligence is all about concentration and precision, wielding magic, recalling lore, crafting objects, etc. …No, I did not fail to mention something. In a somewhat odd deviation from the standard, Wisdom is the governing ability score for ranged attacks, and it deals with perception and intuition. Charisma deals with persuasion, intimidation, etc., and Charisma bonus caps the number of henchmen at a point.

    Saving throws are based on ability scores: To make a save, you add the ability bonus to a d20, and compare the value with 15 – on a value GREATER than 15, you succeed. If the save is opposed by another character, the difficulty of the save is instead the enemy’s defense score. As usual by now, there is an advantage and disadvantage option to modify results. Roll 2d20, take the better, or worse, respectively. Advantage and disadvantage also apply in combat.

    A PC starts with 2 days of rations and a weapon of the player’s choice, and you get to roll on the starting gear tables. PCs have a number of item slots equal to the Constitution defense. Most items take up one slot, but some take up more. Armor has a defense value, and it has a defense value of its defense minus 10. An unarmored PC has an armor defense of 11, and an armor bonus of +1.

    Knave has no classes, so you roll 1d8 for starting and maximum hit points. A PC’s “healing rate” (per rest – this is explained later in the pdf) is 1d8 + Constitution bonus. Exploration speed default is 120 ft., combat standard speed is 40 ft. Then you add fluff, et voilà. Done.

    Reactions are rolled with 2d6, and we have the 5 classic attitudes (hostile -> Helpful); creature morale is usually between 5 and 9, and rolled with 2d6: On a roll greater than morale, the monster tries to flee. Hirelings are also subject to morale rolls. Initiative is determined with a single d6 roll: On 1-3, all enemies act first, on 4-6, all PCs act first; this is rerolled every round. Each round, a character can move their combat speed, and take one combat action. To make an attack, you roll d20 and add either Strength bonus (melee) or Wisdom bonus (ranged) and compare that with defender’s armor defense. If the roll is greater, the attack hits. The game notes an alternative, where the defender gets to roll a d20 and add armor bonus, making that part a contested roll (opposed roll, in the system’s parlance). These opposed rolls are also used for stunts, such as disarming, doing extravagant stuff, etc.

    On a successful hit, you roll weapon damage. If your weapon is suited for the enemy (such as attacking a skeleton with bludgeoning weaponry), you get an additional damage die. On HP 0, you’re unconscious; on -1 HP, you’re dead. I noticed advantage in combat before – when you have that, you can gain the standard benefit, or make an attack AND a stun attempt.

    If an attacker rolls a natural 20, or if a defender rolls a natural 1, the defender’s armor loses 1 point of quality, and they take another die of damage; the inverse is true for the weapon of the attacker, though on such a fumble, the attacker takes no damage. Items reduced to 0 quality fall apart. Okay, so what if both roll a 20? Or what if both roll a 1? Nothing?

    PCs gain a level at 1000 XP, and suggested standard values for XP awarded are provided. Upon attaining a level, the PC gets to roll their new level in d8s; if the result is less than the previous maximum, the old maximum increases by 1 instead; otherwise, the new roll is the new maximum hp. Additionally, defense and bonus of 3 ability scores of their choice are increased by 1. Abilities cap at 20/+10.

    The character generation also includes a whole page of dressing and starting gear: These mostly are 20-entry tables with one-word tidbits: Physique, face, skin, hair, clothing, virtue, vice, speech, background, misfortunes. Alignment follows the single-axis paradigm, and the starting gear tables do their job. Another page deals with equipment and uses slots and quality as pretty nice limitations. The default currency is copper, but that’s easy enough to alter, should you so choose.

    Okay, re magic: In Knave, you can only cast spells of your level or less, and spells are cast out of spellbooks, which must be held in both hands, the spell read aloud. Each spell book can only be used 1/day, and each spellbook holds only a single spell, and thus takes up an item slot. This is the option that maintains compatibility with the standard 9-level spellcasting of most OSR games. An odd choice here is that all spells, be they a level 9 spell or a level 1 spell, take up the same spellbook; it rubs me the wrong way, but I get it – it’s a conscious choice for the sake of keeping the slot system simple. Spell books may not eb copied, transcribed, etc. – like in DCC, the only option here is to quest for it. Quick conversion guidelines for most monsters are provided.

    The remainder of the pdf, is, somewhat to my chagrin, made up of 100 level-less spells; these last for caster’s level x 10 minutes if ongoing, and when referencing item, they mean hand-held ones; when mentioning objects, these may be up to human size. Successful saves negate their effects. Now, I do enjoy level-less spells, and I’m particularly fond of “Wonder & Wickedness” by Lost Pages, but the framework provided for the spells here is a but too basic for me. To give you an example: “Time in a 40ft bubble slows to 10%.” Okay, love the idea; getting some concrete rules for this would be even cooler. As written, most GMs will have a hard time improvising how this works in combat. Or Spellseize: “Cast this as a reaction to another spell going off to make a temporary copy of it that you can cast at any time before the spell ends.” It doesn’t take a genius to note that the game usually has no reaction, so the timeframe when you can cast this is opaque at best (next round? Turn? Out of initiative order?). And don’t start with that “rulings, not rules”-nonsense-excuse often fielded for wonky design; Knave generally is very precise, and the spell literally needs one word to be precise, and the majority of rules language herein is very much precise. As a whole, the level-less spells are easily the weakest part of this system.

    Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, there are a few minor nitpicks to be noted, but as a whole, can be commended. Layout adheres to a no-frills three-column b/w-standard, and the game comes with a character sheet pdf and with a docx-version to encourage you to hack the system – kudos for the latter in particular. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

    Ben Milton’s Knave is a skeletal take on a rules lite system that can be used with relatively few tweaks with most OSR-games. While it looks pretty unimpressive on paper and doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it plays rather well indeed.

    As a private person, I did not like this game. I am not a fan of the swingy results of opposed rolls. I do not like that only the worst roll in character creation really matters. I don’t like that almost all character progression is gear game, and that Constitution is easily the most important ability score; why Strength can’t be used to determine slots RAW is beyond me. I don’t like that Wisdom is the ability score for ranged combat, even though I get the design decision that required this change in the simplified system presented. As a whole, there are many design decisions here that do exactly what they are supposed to do, but that rub me the wrong way. There are no real tactics in combat or serious character growth (as opposed to gear growth) that are the result of this system; what’s here is here in spite of it, imported via e.g. spells from other rules-systems. By design, mind you. The game notes no magic item guidance in its content, and e.g. a handy haversack or similar item imported to the system wrecks the slot-balancing. How would magic swords and their bonuses interact with the attacks? Some guidance for adapting magic items would have been nice.

    I totally get why so many adore this game. It is precise (for the most part), inexpensive, and presented in a succinct and concise manner. The designer’s guidelines throughout do a good job explaining design decisions to laymen. As a reviewer, the one thing that’s missing from this is…a reason to play this particular game. Unlike other ultra rules-lite games like Into the Odd, there is, by design, no implicit setting, nothing unique like Arcana that would drag me; there is no focus on special weaponry, magics, etc. – because it aims to be a generally-applicable rules system that can be used with all OSR games – its biggest strength and biggest weakness.

    For me, as a person, I probably won’t touch this game again; It’s fun enough to play, but I, as a person, either look for something rules-lite and distinct, with a strong theme and focus for shorter games, or something with more serious differentiation options for longer ones. For me, as a private person, my very subjective internal rating for this would be 2 stars, won’t play again.

    My criticisms and personal dislikes aside, this IS a good game! It can be fun to play, and just because it’s not for me doesn’t make it bad, and I’d be unfair to bash this game for things that might well be features for you, even though they don’t work for me. Even though this may not be for me, I do hope this game thrives for what it does.

    As a reviewer, I consider this to be a 4-star file; it leaves a few things open and could use a few unique selling propositions to set it apart, but if you’re looking for a minimalist, class-less OSR-compatible game that focuses on gear, then this delivers big time.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Knave
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    Sentence of the Sinlord
    Publisher: Legendary Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 09/24/2020 08:39:32

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This massive module clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages introduction/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 84 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.

    So, this module is intended for level 20 characters, and mythic ones at that…mostly, that is. You see, the introduction of the adventure actually lists difficulties by mythic tiers, and these assessments are VALID. And yes, the module can be tackled without mythic powers, but that makes it one of the hardest modules ever, and means that pretty much every single battle risks TPKs. Still, if you’re like me and want a combat-puzzle par excellence, this might be worth contemplating. I generally recommend it for mythic tiers 1-5 for the best results; sans mythic tiers, it is ULTRA-brutal. The module also makes use of a TON of books and assumes serious PF1-familiarity. Then again, it’s a capstone – and not just for an AP. In a way, it’s a loveletter to the system and to what only PFRPG delivers with its intricate, strategic combats.

    And to Golarion.

    Much more than any other Legendary Games supplement, this makes a TON of use of the setting; from Castle Korvosa’s cellars to obscure metaplot references, the module features A LOT of little tidbits that the savvy fan will notice and appreciate. But how? Well, here’s the thing: While Legendary Games can’t well use Paizo’s IP, the renamed components are VERY CLEAR, and in the beginning, a handy list of terms/names is provided. With these, the module is one name-exchange away from being pretty much a module steeped in obscure Golarion lore. I love that, particularly considering that it’s an alternate post-finale-ish module for Return of the Runelords.

    At this point in time, PF2 and the AP are old enough that the existence of New Thassilon is not a SPOILER anymore – but this module poses a question: What if? What if the final runelord Sorshen (here genderswapped as Kazsethil, the fellow on the cover) had a bid for global dominance like the others and stuck to evil guns? That one phenomenal bid for all or nothing, that bookend to the age of rising runelords? This module follows this train of thought, and I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that the module’s structure and challenges, to a degree, remind my of ole’ Karzoug and Xin-Shalast, and similar high-fantasy scenes from various APs. In fact, it almost feels a tad bit more audacious, more willing to embrace ultra-high fantasy – and that’s a good thing, for structurally, this is a kind of dungeon with a planar theme. In a relatively clever bid, it does not try to limit the capabilities of the characters, which is a good thing. Indeed, the module walks a good tightrope when it comes to making the party actually explore the dungeon instead of bypassing it – so kudos for that. While I personally prefer event-driven/grand scale operations in high-level gameplay, this does an admirable job when it comes to making an ultra-high-level group actually crawl through a dungeon, so kudos there.

    While we’re on the topic of structures and formal criteria: The module has hyperlinks for less commonly used spells, etc., we have read-aloud text, etc., and while I haven’t reverse-engineered all statblocks herein, I did the math for a couple, and was actually duly impressed. While there are glitches here and there, these tend to be in sections that matter less, like a ranged weapon for a melee-focused combatant, etc. Unless you’re diving into the nit and grit of the numbers, you won’t run into issues on the rules-front GMing this.

    I own both the pdf and the PoD-softcover; the latter has no name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer. And which brings me to something I usually don’t mention in my reviews. Ever wondered why there aren’t more high-level modules? I mean, okay, they are hard to run, and harder to design…but that’s not all, right? Right. You see, high level adventures tend to sell not particularly well. They’re a small subsection of a subsection of the market, and this module, in many ways, feels like fan fiction that managed to get published. WAIT.

    I do NOT mean that in a disparaging way! Not in the slightest! Some of the best Ravenloft material ever written was penned by fans! And in many ways, this module reminded me of the good ole’ Kargatane and Fraternity of Shadows, save that its content, well, is for Golarion. What do I mean by that? Well, for a Legendary Games book in particular, the shoestring budget is somewhat evident. The maps are not impressive, at best okay and certainly are not as strong as many Michael Tumey has made in the past, and no properly-sized keyless player-facing versions are included, and the maps have 10-ft.-grids, which is a HUGE pain in a game where pretty much all abilities are based on 5-ft. grids. So yeah, you’ll have to redraw all maps. That SUCKS. I hate it.

    The majority the full-color art will be familiar for many GMs; particularly the layout irked me a bit: The lower border is reminiscent of the Horror-plug-ins in style (which is nice), but out of some strange glitch, the lower page border and the red seven-pointed star are very pixilated, which makes the lower border look messy. As a consequence of the pixilated lower border and the less than appealing maps, this is not an aesthetically-pleasing module. These rough edges also extend to the editing part; while the module can be run in a clean manner, there are quite a few hiccups, including rules-relevant (but minor) ones that do accumulate throughout the module.

    And yet, it does have something that many, many published adventures lack. An audacious love of the subject matter that oozes from every damn page of the module. The tactics and builds themselves help running the complex encounters, and from creature choice to scenes, the module pulls no punches.

    Heck, if you want to hear this module’s whole appeal made awesome-cheesy metal track, listen to “Beast in Black – Unlimited Sin” – the back cover’s tagline is by no accident an indirect variation of that song’s chorus. Picture the bombastic melodies and synth blasts of that track made module. That’s this adventure. And I mean this as someone who adores this track. This pumped up, hyper sense of epic conflict? Yeah, that’s the tone of this module down to a “T”.

    Okay, this is pretty much 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 first combat pitches the party, as they try to stop Kazsethil, against two elite guardian troops (CR 18), a draconal agathion (CR 20) and a CR 20 paladin. Yep, you heard right – Kazsethil, as the runelord of lust, has a surprising variety of devoted minions in the highest echelons of power, including characters that can be made to see the error of their ways; the module also spends quite some time explaining the individual character’s reasonings and how they may or may not remain loyal – for example the CR 21 nosferatu sorcerer, who may well be aghast when he realizes that he’s nothing more than a disposable guard dog…

    From here, the trail leads to the Crimson Ziggurat (including notes on how teleportation’s a bad idea through a pillar – and we then turn to the paradisiacal gardens of the runelor…äh, pardon, “sinlord” – essentially the “high-level plant/beast”-level, where the party has a chance to face off with a giant swarm-blooded 18-headed mythic hydra. CR 23/MR 8. This build…made me cackle with GLEE. Glee, I tell you!! It’s such an EVIL build. Love it. Of course, the PCs may also run afoul of an ancient paradise dragon and 4 planetars. You know. As you do. Just one further encounter. Oh, and yes, mythic dimensional lock and mythic guards and wards in place.

    To make that abundantly clear: I am smiling a very wicked smile as I’m typing these words. And that’s the start. From here on, we venture into Kazsethil’s proper dungeon, where highly volatile damaged portal tables: What about a massive miniature city that acts as a kind of imprisonment focus? Or a stone colossus that is the prison of a frickin’ INFERNAL DUKE? Heck, his concubines are CR 18 succubus mesmerists (yes, PLURAL), izfiitar proteans. Oh, and super high-level vampires, infernal champions and more await en route to the catacombs, where familiarity with Thassilonian magic and its themes is truly rewarded. Here, the eldest lamia, hemodynamic clockwork fiends and psychic lich arcanists await alongside soulbound warmongers. No, that’s not the level’s boss encounter.

    See what I meant with “this module does what only PFRPG delivers” – in many ways, each combat herein, to some degree, is a brutal test of strategy, power, and genuine system mastery skill. The trompe l’oeil magus kensai that wields the sword of lust being one particularly noteworthy monster of a battle. The sepulchers of the other runelords, represented by runeplated akaruzugs, even have a whole page-table of infused attacks/custom SPs. And then, below, there is the Shining Elder, the creator of rune magic (CR 26/MR 10; and if that looks too puny for you, guidelines to ramp the fellow up to CR 30 are included…) – defeating this ally of Kazsethil may well restructure the order of magic (a perfect explanation for changed rules if you’re planning on transitioning to PF2, introduce Spheres of Power, akasha or Grimoire of Lost Souls or something along those lines in your next campaign!).

    Oh, and all of that? That’s but a prelude in comparison to the true finale. You see, Kazsethil seeks to merge with the very fabric of nature, becoming essentially a cosmic law – and he’s not dumb enough to face the PCs alone. Colossus. Advanced elohim. Runeslave Runegiants. Sinspawn champions. A full-blown, fully statted ultra-high level adventuring group. Oh, and Kazsethil. Good luck. Your players will need it. All those tricks, all that experience? The party will need it. Desperately. (As an aside: If you wanted to use Spheres of Power in your next campaign, the book has you covered, and the whole “creator of magic/paradigm change" has help for adjusting the boss there…)

    The module concludes with an alternate 8th sin (doubt) and items/artifacts as well as a feat and aforementioned hemodynamic construct template – and the rune of transgression spell.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules language level; on one hand, the highly complex high-level builds are better and more inspired than I expected to see, but there also are quite a few minor hiccups, though none that truly impede the module. Layout, as noted before, is weird – the pixilated lower border really irked me. In combination with the lack of player-friendly maps sucks; the maps aren’t particularly impressive, and use a 10-ft.-grid, which makes running tactical combat in PFRPG a huge PAIN. You’ll need to redraw all of them for 5-foot-squares, as the module really requires that level of tactical precision in combat. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover, as noted, doesn’t have the name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer.

    Oh boy. Matt Daley’s “Sentence of the Sinlord” is a really tough cookie for me to review. Because it is, in many ways, a pretty flawed adventure; the requirement to redraw maps alone, and the lack of player-friendly maps, is a pretty big downside, particularly considering how tactical this module is. How finely-calibrated the combat encounters are to push the PCs to the limits and beyond. This, all on its lonesome, would usually sink the module on a personal level for me.

    The shoestring budget is very much apparent, and in some ways that are not only not as aesthetically-pleasing, but frankly inconsiderate. The map-redraw situation alone is a big no-go. I should punish this module for it and rate it down to the vicinity of the 3-star region. And yet…

    …to say it with aforementioned song: “Unlimited Sin, Unlimited Power – that’s the price you must pay” – that was my credo when I prep’d this. But why would you bother dealing with that, when there are so many other modules out there?

    Well. There are almost no adventures out there that deliver what this one does – this level of challenge, this level of audacity and full-blown embracing of apex-level combat action. In many ways, Sentence of the Sinlord is a resounding success that OOZES passion from every page, testament to the love that the author professes for the game and setting in the introduction.

    If you are like me and value substance over style, value ambition and creativity over perfection, then this may well rank among your favorite modules for the system. Heck, with the sheer number of ultra-deadly high-level builds herein, this module could be scavenged for super-enemies and campaign endbosses for years.

    In a way, this reminded me in some ways of Coliseum Morpheuon, save that it was built with PF’s by now increased power-level in mind. And that is a high, very high compliment. Since Rite Publishing has gone semi-dormant right now, feeling this vibe once more made me smile from ear to ear. I know that Steven D. Russell (R.I.P., my friend) would have approved of this module.

    As a reviewer, this leaves me in a precarious position: As a person, I’m saying “screw the flaws, I’ll fix the downsides, this is too cool”, but as a reviewer, I genuinely should trash this module. I don’t want to.

    So, once more: This is a flawed module. This might be a 3-star module, perhaps even a 2-star module, for you; if you just want pretty original art and maps, this is not the module for that. If you want an audacious, deadly, tactical love-letter to Golarian and the age of runelords, then this will make you smile from ear to ear. As such, I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. And since I, as a person, really loved this, it does get my seal of approval. I want to see the author write more modules. I’d love to see if he can maintain this level of energy throughout a whole campaign. There is a joy here that is impossible to fake, and if you want to see more, more high-level modules, more adventures that dare to be this deadly, this difficult, this joyously high fantasy in the best of ways, then please get this adventure. This deserves a spot in your collection, in spite of its flaws.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Sentence of the Sinlord
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    Star Classes: Solarian
    Publisher: Legendary Games
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 09/23/2020 13:17:39

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 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.

    So, this supplement begins with a discussion of components that the supplement defines as problematic at the table – these are, for one, MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependency) of Charisma, Constitution (though to a lesser degree due to how SFRPG operates), and Dexterity/Strength, depending on the build; this is a factor that could ostensibly be deemed to be intentional, though I do agree that the solarian suffers from needing to split their focus thus. The second factor is a BIG one, and one that is impossible to dispute – the solarian has dead levels: On level 5, we have a resistance increase for solar armor, on level 15, we have the same + 1d6 for solar weapon. That kinda sucks and is really not fun. One of the things that PFRPG improved over 3.X was to make most levels fun and unique. So yeah, filling these? Great! All for it!

    This supplement operates under the central premise of making the solarian more powerful, so that’s something to bear in mind here.

    As such, the supplement begins with abilities suggested to even the playing field a bit for the solarian – these include number-tweaks like expanded proficiencies (heavy armor, longarms, grenades – oddly all capitalized, as though they were feats; indeed, quite a few abilities are presented thus, deviating from formatting conventions), making Strength or Dexterity key ability modifier, use Charisma instead of Dexterity to determine AC, use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine Stamina gained, or using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity to calculate attack rolls with solar weapons or blasts.

    Regarding flexibility, upgrades suggested are making them learn a harmonic revelation or both of a photon and graviton revelation. The suggestion to provide an additional manifestation or strengthened manifestation at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter (highly recommended – it kills the dead levels), or an ability that lets them retrain a stellar revelation when using sidereal influence. (Also an ability I’d recommend – makes the playing experience more versatile, and sidereal influence’s level and time-requirements prevent abuse) Good call here: The supplement doesn’t simply leave the GM alone with the new material, and advises caution regarding use of too many “substitute Charisma for X” type of abilities. The suggested tweaks, as presented, provide some customization options, but leaves the control firmly where it belongs - in the GM’s hands. While slightly more guidance would have been appreciated, but what we do get here is already something I very much appreciate.

    Speaking of things I appreciate: Easily one of my least favorite things about SFRPG in the beginning was, that it simply didn’t offer that much regarding compelling lore pertaining to the respective classes; I still think that the Pact Worlds book could have done more there. Anyhow, the supplement provides quite a few cool lore justifications for the existence of solarians, which include cosmic radiation (cool for a somewhat comic-book-like feel), being an agent of fate…and one I’m particularly fond of, where notions of absolute moralities are dissolved. As someone who has always been vocal about hating alignment systems, particularly within the complex realities of more advanced civilizations, that one struck a chord with me. 6 of these complex explanations are provided, and I genuinely liked all of them.

    The pdf then proceeds to provide the stellar beacon archetype, which grants alternate class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level: At 2nd level, we have a means to gain stellar mode – and if you already are a solarian, you gain 2 points of attunement per round, rather than 1. This is a potentially very strong change, as it decreases the speed to become fully attuned by 1 round, unlocking zenith revelations sooner. Considering that the payoff is a single stellar revelation, this is a very powerful option, particularly when combined with the basic notion of getting more flexible revelations, as suggested before. 6th, 12th and 18th level provide a stellar revelation – so no change for solarians? Well, not quite: If you are a solarian, you can choose zenith revelations at 12th and 18th level instead. At 9th level, we have the Inverted Being ability, which lets you choose one revelation of equal level and opposite attunement for each one you possess. By meditating 10 minutes and spending 1 Resolve Point (not capitalized properly), you can exchange any of these revelations for their opposite.

    This archetype is interesting in a couple of ways: For one, it allows for valid dabbling in the solarian engine for non-solarians. For solarians, it provides pretty much a straight power upgrade, in that it allows for quicker zenith manifestation access and an increased emphasis of the duality-concept at 9th level. It also puts me as a reviewer in a very weird position: On one hand, it is, pretty much by design, a VERY strong option, and one you’d be a fool to pass over, if it is allowed in your game. As such, it would be easy to complain about it being overpowered in the context of the solarian class as presented….and indeed, the quicker access to the solarian’s “finishers” is something that requires careful observation, as ALL future zenith revelations or those from other sources are balanced against requiring the set-up time being required. Getting rid of it can become problematic rather fast.

    On the other hand, this archetype’s intention is to let you get sooner to that “cool” stuff. The question on whether you’d consider this archetype broken or amazing is ultimately wholly contingent on whether you think that the solarian’s modes play as they should. Do you want the set-up period and play a grittier game? If so, then you should not allow this archetype – for your game, it might tip the balance in an unpleasant manner. You should also be very much careful with zenith revelations and how they operate when using it. If, however, your group is gunning for a higher-powered playing style, and if the set-up of zenith revelations struck you as bothersome, then this archetype will be a godsend, and operate consistently at its intended powerlevel. While zenith revelations still require some oversight, the archetype may well drastically increase your enjoyment of the solarian class in your game. So yeah, for certain games, this is awesome. I just wished that the book clearly spelled the intended design goals to allow GMs to make an informed choice there. An explanation there would have certainly made this more newbie-friendly.

    The supplement then proceeds to present two new solar manifestations: Solar amplification increases the DC of both stellar and zenith revelations by 1, +1 at 9th and 18th level, and the ability also nets you ½ solarian level as a bonus to maneuvers executed with stellar revelations. RAW, zenith revelations are excluded from this bonus; not sure that this was intentional, but I assume it was. Solar form nets +1 to all saving throws, which increases to +2 at 10th level (providing a bit of alleviation for the common save-complaint), and nets you twice solarian temporary hit points, with fast healing equal to your solarian level. The latter aspect is highly ambiguous regarding its verbiage – does the fast healing apply universally, or just to the temporary hit points? This needs clarification. Much to my chagrin, the pdf also fails to specify whether and how these interact with the solarian class graft.

    Unless I miscounted, we have 24 new stellar revelations. This book introduces a new category of those, so-called harmonic revelations, which count as neither photon, nor graviton, and are active in both attunements. While I get the design goal behind that, I also do think that these somewhat dilute the duality leitmotif of the solarian class on a rules level. I am not a fan of this.

    The vast majority of new revelations are harmonic ones, so I’ll just explicitly call out those that aren’t. Among the 2nd level stellar revelations, we have the means to get an additional solar manifestation, which, well, is kinda understandable, but once more, is future-proofing-wise perhaps not the smartest choice, considering that the class ability provides a scaling, constant benefit for the class. Amplified attunement nets you an insight bonus to EAC and KAC while graviton-attuned, while photon-mode nets you a scaling bonus to movement speed while photon-attuned. Both grow in potency at 9th and 18th level. Attunement Pool changes the attunement engine in an interesting manner: It lets your attunement grow to 4 + Charisma (should be capitalized) modifier attunement; when you use a solarian ability that would render you unattuned, you instead reduce this pool by 3. I really love this one. It’s a great investment for epic battles and unlocks some neat combos. Minor nitpick, though: Ideally, the ability should specify that you still can only use abilities that’d cause you to become unattuned if you have at least the 3 attunement required. It is very obvious from context, though. There is also a revelation that makes your solar weapon optionally a 60-ft.-range blast, which can’t be modified by crystals.

    There are 8 6th level revelations, the first of which nets you 1 attunement whenever you damage an enemy with an attack. … WTF??? Okay, so this completely delimits attunement. With AoE attacks of any kind, this’ll allow you to scale up to the maximum of even the expanded attunement scale very easily, very swiftly. Compare that broken piece of WTF-ery with +1d6 damage output increase for solar weapon or blast. Or the pretty nifty option to get a solar weapon for each hand, which also gets weapon crystal interaction right. A revelation that nets you plus Charisma modifier uses of limited use revelations, or additional means to target specific targets, excluding targets from AoE revelations – the majority of these options tends to fill a plausible and per se well-wrought idea. Not having sidereal influence end in combat is also an interesting take, and there are means to upgrade the solar manifestations. Higher level revelations include “spending 2 resolve points, you may cast Plane Shift” ([sic!] as an example of formatting hiccups), with the added benefit of working for space ships as well, increasing drift. The latter part here? That’s REALLY cool. Not so cool: SFRPG does not have “full-round actions”; one of 16th level harmonic revelations includes the option to spend 1 Resolve Point to maximize all damage a target takes (NO SAVE); for another point, you also apply critical effects automatically, and any hit is a critical hit. While this ability may only affect a single target once before you need a 10-minute Stamina-replenishing rest, remember that there’s a revelation that lets you affect a target + Charisma modifier times with this! Oh, and guess what? There is also one ability that renders the target utterly invulnerable until the end of your next round. It has the same caveat, but…again…can be prolonged with a revelation herein. No DR, no resistance – flat-out immortality! Fall into a black hole (a proper one), be subject to a god’s smite or a planet destroyer supergun. You can take it. Unscathed. Yes, it requires a full action (erroneously referred to as full-round action) and is high level, but seriously? When compared to the regular 16th-level revelations, these latter two provide ridiculous damage boosts or defensive boosts. And know what? Solarian is DPR-wise already pretty damn good. That wasn’t the main issue of the class.

    The book also provides 3 capstone revelations (one for each mode) – 1/week rebirth, a devastating proper mini black hole, and a mini supernova (that actually deals proper damage). I liked all of these, its glitches regarding action names and formatting notwithstanding.

    On the photon side, we have means to replenish charges, which can be problematic – if you’re playing a resource-heavy game, this eliminates any energy-shortage you can construct, provided the solarian has enough time on their hands. (It also would allow for evil empires to construct solarian batteries, etc.); for 10th level revelations, we have a nice Glow of Life for allies (with a limit) that I really loved, and a means to increase a ship’s speed – I LOVE this one and wished there had been more options here that focus on ship combat and general utility; as many solarian players will be able to attest, ship combat as a solarian can use a couple of unique tricks and meaningful things to do.

    The graviton revelations include a massive 10-hex extension of an aura that tanks ship speed (awesome), and a boost for defy gravity or gravity boost. See, these provide breadth, and that’s something the solarian can really use!

    The pdf also features 10 new zenith revelations, which includes moving struck targets around while graviton-attuned, Stamina replenishing while fully attuned (not a fan), or what about a light doppelgänger who can act as an alternate origin for your revelations and who can switch places with you? That is AWESOME and incredibly cool. Rapid manifestation is hard to stomach: While fully attuned to one thing, you decrease the action your revelation activation might take from “full-round action to a standard action”, standard action to move action, move action to swift action.” This doesn’t work with ones that let you execute attacks. Now, combine this passive ability with the ones for max damage or invulnerability. Or the others. Or what about the zenith revelation that all but eliminates the duality notion, which makes you no longer lose attunement in photon/graviton if you attune to the other, adding +1 attunement in both modes automatically at 17th level? These are presented right next to a zenith revelation that makes a creature striking you in melee take 1d6 fire damage per 2 solarian levels, Reflex save halves.

    The supplement also provides a full page-table of new weapon crystals – I genuinely liked these. No problems there. Beyond that, the pdf provides weapon mods – essentially modifications for weapon crystals that make the weapon count as cold iron, adamantine, change damage types, etc. At item level 8, targeting EAC seems pretty brutal, particularly for just 2,100 credits…and the level 18 true strike infusion bypasses all hardness, damage reduction and energy resistances – that should be scaling, numerical values, not a flat-out “I ignore everything.”

    The pdf concludes with 5 solarian creatures, which aren’t always perfect: The CR 13 hemeros aeon, the CR 2 reptoid, a CR 8 dwarf, the CR 18 void prophet, and the CR 11 corona dragon. The aeon has darkvision listed twice, and its resistances are both off by 3, though the latter is probably intended – resistance 13 as per aeon is less elegant than the value of 10 it has. Apart from minor hiccups like these, the statblocks tend to be usable, though.

    Conclusion: Editing is per se good on a formal and rules language level, though the same can’t be claimed for formatting, which is consistently off, and inconsistent in how it’s off. It kinda irritated me. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with neat full-color artworks that fans of LG will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

    Matt Daley’s Star Class book on solarians is frustrating for me, because the majority of its issues can be boiled down to presentation, fine-tuning, and context.

    On the one hand, we have a smattering of content designed to expand the options available for the solarian, within the context assumed by the class.

    On the other hand, we have a significant number of pieces of content designed to delimit the class and increase its power-level.

    These two categories of content are neither clearly divided, nor does the book really explain the vast impact the collective of the options herein can have on the solarian.

    Where a single revelation might make for an engine tweak that, in conjunction with the modifications to the core chassis, can fix the disadvantage regarding sheer numbers the class suffers from, the combination of all these tweaks escalates the power-level of the class significantly beyond its brethren.

    In many ways, this book feels like it was once two documents: “Solarian Expansion.docx” and “Solarian Power Increases.docx” – and both were just thrown together.

    Moreover, the hypothetical second document, “Solarian Power Increases.docx” suffers from losing its individual contextual frameworks: So, we have the core engine tweaks, got it. We have a power-boost archetype, got it. Then we have revelations designed to provide a power-boost beyond the power-boosts already established, and not all of these have been designed with the care they needed.

    All address these, to some extent, similar issues.

    Once you start combining all these options to enhance the power of the class, you’ll get a pretty darn brutal beast. And I get it. I can see the intent behind the individual tweaks.

    Functionally, the solarian is not a hybrid class in PF1’s style – instead, it is a frontline fighter with a bit of utility thrown in, perhaps 1/5th of its role in the party. But that utility is what people gravitate (haha) to – it’s what makes the solarian special. And it is the thing that this book obviously tries to bring to the prominence and put front and center. And I LIKE that per se, but wouldn’t that have suited an alternate class better? This feels like a desperate attempt to hammer a core chassis into a shape it’s not made for.

    I can also get behind the notion of broader applicability of solarian abilities that seems to have been the design goal with quite a few of the materials herein. Heck, I ADORE, and I mean ADORE the fact that this book sports quite a few tricks that allow solarians to be more useful in star ship combat. Same goes for the sidereal expansion (which helps re skills and breadth of options), or the notion (if not the implementation) of getting both solar weapon and armor – there is a lot herein I absolutely LOVE, particularly in the instances where the pdf expands the breadth of options, rather than the solarian’s already pretty impressive DPR.

    But on the other hand, this book’s fix-type options to increase perceived flaws in the solarian are not existing in a vacuum; rather than that, they offer for the means to combo them, and when you combo serious power upgrades, the effect quickly can become exponential. There are things that are a matter of taste (dual attunement) that should have some balancing caveat, sure. I wouldn’t call an individual revelation herein broken (with the notable exception of the max damage and flat-out immunity ones), but their combinations are frickin’ savage and OP in the context of any SFRPG game I’ve seen or run. Even if you use them without the further power-upgrade by class fixes and archetype. Combine all of them, and the result will be PAINFUL, not only equalizing with e.g. soldier math-wise, but transcending it.

    And it doesn’t have to be that way. In many ways, this feels like this, at one point, wanted to operate a bit like Legendary Rogues or Legendary Fighters: Explain a problem, present different ways to address the problem, and provide the means for the GM to reach an informed decision.

    This book has all the potential of such a stand-out supplement, one that provides means to customize the solarian in an informed manner, according to the requirements of your individual game. Think about it as such: Let’s say, you see a power-level issue. In your opinion, the solarian is -2 power levels behind a comparable class. Okay, so Fix A provides a +1, Fix B another +1. A series of stellar revelations provide anything form a power level increase of +0 to +2. Even with a simplified numerical sequence, the issue becomes apparent, when in fact, some of these would rather behave as escalating multipliers. The problem is that none of the individual increases are bad per se; you can see their intent, their tweaks, etc. – but when you combine them? Ouch. This needed context.

    Only, instead of providing context, warning the GM from the implications and power-level increases that individual pieces or combinations of the content herein can offer, everything’s lumped together, implying a parity of power and attempted synergy with brutal results that I refuse to believe is intentional.

    And that is a huge, damn shame. You see, even though the formatting here is a long shot from Legendary Games’ usual precision, this book contains GEMS. Components that had me smile from ear to ear. And yes, I’ll be using content from this book in my games.

    But as a reviewer? As a reviewer, I can’t recommend this book as presented. Even with the significant amount of formal glitches present, this could have been a 4.5-star offering, and certainly something that could have warranted a seal of approval. But the book requires that the GM not only carefully reads the entire book, they also have to carefully, meticulously vet the content and decide which of the perceived issues of the solarian class in game may or may not have sprung up in their game. And then understand the implications of allowing the content herein. And most importantly, the combos this content allows for.

    In short: You need a deep understanding of the game’s balance to prevent this book from catapulting the power-levels of the solarian off the deep end. If you do, then this book might well be one of your favorite solarian supplements out there. If not, then, well…you have been warned.

    Ultimately, I can only recommend this book in a very limited capacity; for most tables, this will not be worth the hassle of balancing its entire content versus the core solarian – and while I love many of its components in a vacuum, in conjunction with each other, they quickly become broken. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Star Classes: Solarian
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    The Undercroft #10
    Publisher: Melsonian Arts Council
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 09/14/2020 09:46:53

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    The tenth installment of “The Undercroft” (and final one prior to its only recent reanimation) clocks in at 34 pages (disregarding editorial, ToC, etc.). my review is based on the print copy, which is a staple-bound classic zine (6’’ by 9’’/A5).

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request for a prioritized review via a direct donation.

    So, let us start off with a winner: Sándor Gebei delivers Babel Square – a market square that would feel perfectly at home in DCC’s Punjar, Lankhmar, Shadizar or one of the weird metropoles out there, be they of a planar or more mundane variety; the veil is then, and sounds, sights and smells are noted. Various general types of activity by time of day are provided alongside 12 sample encounters, 8 rumors, 20 strange objects to be found, 6 unconventional payment methods (including temporary voice removal, memory extraction via leeches and more), and 7 interesting landmakrs and places add further to it – the only thing keeping this from being a perfect little set-piece would be the lack of a map.

    The second article is one of my favorites in the entire ‘zine’s run – it’s title is an edged, wrong-looking glyph-thing, for the sake of the review’s readability called “nameless taint” from here on out. For this is about a taint that infects characters if their players are interested, it is a corruption, wherein not even the abstract glyphs remain consistent, set against the backdrop of the occulted kingdom, fallen to the nameless taint; 4 items from this tainted realm are provided, all interfacing with the crisp and concisely-presented rules, and there are three spells that cannel the power of these horrible taints; the article also presents essentially a template that allows you to make husk-monsters consumed by this nameless taint, alongside two notable husks – high-level bosses, if you will. Oh, and the corruption of the characters has 10 long steps – that do provide serious benefits, but also erode your ability to understand names and the like. You lose your identity to it, but you might well learn to conjure the flailing shards of the nameless taint… Not only is the glyph angle cool and unexpected, the article by Luke Gearing also has SERIOUS Dark/Demon Souls-vibes, and is captivating enough to warrant translation into pretty much whichever system you’re actually playing. This one warrants getting the zine on its own, at least in my book.

    The shortest of the articles in this installment, Greg Gorgonmilk’s miscellany of 4 different magic items: The dead faerie in a lamp can emit light that not only reveals the invisible, it also renders stone transparent! That’s cool. Even cooler: Knocking on wood snuffs its light – but here, the item is less precise than it should be: Can others knock on wood? Or just the wielder? The item has a second little hiccup: It implies that the wielder must invest hit points in it: “The luminosity will last 1 turn for every (temporary) hit point invested by its bearer.” Okay, does this entail a process? Can the damage be healed? Is the hit point returned if the light goes out or is suppressed by knocking on wood? Not sure. This is an extremely cool item, and easy enough to salvage, but I wished the rules lived up to the cool concept. Tetrograts are miniscule, stationary golems that will decry “It is a lie” when a lie is spoken in their presence. A range for this effect would have been nice to see. The cloak of beards is made of regal…well…beards, and grants you Charisma 18, and those within 30 feet that fail to save against its enchantment are convinced that the wearer is a king of the noblest kind. Serious folklore vibes here – nice! The Quintessential is not an item, but a legend, of a despot who sought to vanquish all differences between people and turn them into a homogeneous neutral state. It’s a solid legend.

    The final article herein, penned by Ezra Claverie, depicts the ruins of the elven ship- and submarine yard/officer’s clubs; the tantalizing and strange default setting assumed by the author’s articles makes me once more wish for a fully realized campaign setting, but even without context, this is interesting – for against this backdrop, two creatures are provided – one horrific and subtle, the other weird and grotesquely hilarious, and both are unique and essentially puzzle-monsters – they are complex threats that are not easy to beat, but at least one of these things will need to be bested to enter “The Officer’s Rest”, the ruins of an at-once magical officer’s club, where strange mixology, magical frescoes and more may await. This article was inspiring in the best of ways, and while I wished that the creatures had been presented in a slightly less wall-of-text-y manner to parse more easily, they are unique enough to require preparation anyway. I’d once more like to reiterate: I really hope that we get to see a fully realized campaign setting in this strange post-imperialist world, ravaged by bio-mago-technical warfare.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and we get quite a lot of cool b/w-artworks. The stapled softcover is a neat classic ‘zine.

    Whereas #9 was all quantity, this issue focuses more on quality: Sándor Gebei, Luke Gearing, greg Gorgonmilk and Ezra Claverie deliver articles that I absolutely adored; heck, I’ve actually used the majority of the content herein in my games, often with blatant disregard for the intended system and some serious conversion work – because the ‘zine is THAT GOOD! Even when I do have nitpicks and complaints regarding rules-precision, these are few and far between, and the strength of the respective concepts? That’s formidable indeed. Add to that the VERY low price-point, and we have a definite winner here. Usually, I’d probably have settled on 4.5 stars for this one, due to its minor hiccups in the rules. However, I just can’t bring myself to do that. The majority of the articles herein simple deserve being called “excellent” As such, my final verdict will be 5 stars, and this does get my seal of approval; it’s one of my favorite ‘zines in the entire Undercroft.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Undercroft #10
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    The Undercroft #9
    Publisher: Melsonian Arts Council
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 09/11/2020 05:18:07

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    The ninth installment of „The Undercroft” clocks in at an impressive 64 (6’’ by 9’’/A5) pages of content, already sans cover, editorial, etc. My review is based on the perfect-bound softcover of the ‘zine, which, while meaty enough, unfortunately does not note its name on the spine.

    This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request for a prioritized review via a direct donation.

    This zine’s content is designated as OSR in a general sense – most of the content assumes LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) as a default system, but the degree to which the material is faithful to the system varies by author. However, the thematic fealty is evident: This is a ‘zine for mature audiences, and this issue in particular tackles sometimes puerile and sometimes horrifying, really dark themes. If you’re sensitive to such themes or easily offended, you might want to skip this issue.

    Okay, so first thing you need to know, is that this zine contains a surprising amount of classes, fleshed out until 10th level, with the first being Benjamin Baugh’s “Skinned Moon Daughter” – the skinned moon is a rare phenomenon in the north; daughters born under its auspice are…different. They spook animals, making for poor hunters and fishers, but they do change – born with a wolf’s stomach, they can subsist on carrion, undergoing changes as they indulge; ultimately, when maturing, they learn the song of the Skinned Moon, and can then proceed to coat themselves in blubber and fat, to eb swallowed by creatures, which they then control from inside for a month. The class gets d6 HD, has Wisdom and Charisma as prime requisites, may use one-handed and thrown weapons, and usually are clad in a beast, and thus wear nothing. The class caps at 10th level, and has a minimum Constitution of 9. I love this class for a narrative game, though it does require an experienced referee to pull off, as the beasts can potentially be vastly superior to the other characters. That being said, controlling a beast of more HD than the daughter becomes unreliable, so this needs to be considered carefully. Cool: Twins born under the Skinned moon can combine their powers, and being married to one comes with blessings…but also restrictions, making the class feel like something taken straight out of myth. As you could glean from the note on prime requisites, the class is balanced more for LL (Labyrinth Lord), OSE (B/X), etc. and does require some conversion when used in LotFP – or in Wolf Packs & Winter Snows, which seems like the perfect system for this class.

    The second class presented would be the Doctor, penned by Patrick Stuart. The class is essentially an archetype for the fighter class, using the chassis for attacks, HD, saves, etc. – however, the doctor may not cause LETHAL damage and no class features work while encumbered. The doctor can heal damage caused by trauma at the rate of 1d4 per 10 minutes of work. Additionally, in combat, the doctor can prevent death of a target of -4 hit points or lower: On the doctor’s and referee’s turn, you roll off with a d10: The doctor gets their Intelligence bonus to the roll, the referee the number of HP the target is under zero – there are three stages, and a doctor’s success moves up a stage, a referee a stage down. If the doctor triumphs, the target stabilizes at 0 HP; if the referee prevails, the target dies. 1/session, the doctor can identify a process or item – personally, I prefer in-game time to designate mechanics. Doctors also get a control hold that behaves like a garotte and inflicts d6 damage, with damage pausing only at exactly 0 hp. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, you get to roll a d6 and gain a new ability – these include e.g. getting essentially advantage on all saving throws versus magic, but at the cost of magic never working for you due to your rationalist outlook. You could be an atheist, immune to clerical magic – but also their healing, and incapable of keeping silent in the face of agents of the divine. I generally like these double-edged abilities, but couldn’t help but feel that, when used back to back to other classes in LotFP, this one feels very…special? Not in a necessarily bad way, mind you, but I couldn’t help but feel that it should have been a part of a whole array of such class tweaks. On its own, it feels oddly specific. I also am not the biggest fan of rolling for class features, as that can kinda wreck your planned character story, but that’s easy enough to rectify.

    Daniel Sell is up next, with pretty much the antithesis to this approach of the singular – “Everybody is an adventurer” replaces all default classes with a general class, the adventurer. Everyone starts with 16 in all saves, and a fighter’s experience and level progression, and a +1 attack modifier. Each level, you choose fighting, learning, or cunning. Fighting nets you +1 attack modifier d8 HD, -1 on poison and breath saves, and -1 to a save of your choice (can also be poison/breath); learning nets you 2 skill points, d6 HD, and -4 to “saves of your choice” – okay, how many? Two? Three? No clue. This issue also extends to cunning, which nets you d6 HD, “2 points lost from saves of your choice” (how many??), and 3 random spells from any class or level. You cast spells as you wish, with a MP (Mana pool); you calculate this by adding your highest and lowest ability score. Casting a spell costs the spell’s level in mana, and you recover 1 MP per hour of rest; if you usually wouldn’t eb able to cast a spell due to not meeting its level requirements, you pay double MP. Still, this means that you can theoretically cast 9th level spells at 1st level. I really dislike this system. It feels rushed, its eliminating of level caps makes magic-users frickin’ OP, and the ambiguous verbiage regarding save progression isn’t impressive. Odd, usually Daniel Sell’s designs tend to be precise and well-wrought. If you want a modular class engine for LotFP; I’d consider the system presented in Undercroft #4 to be superior to this one.

    The final class selection here in would be presented by Evey Lockhart – not one, but 4 new classes are provided, all with starting equipment noted, all with a theme of being broken, ostracized and volatile – if the world of her Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States series is ever fully realized, it’ll be these classes I’ll use to play in it. The classes are intended to replace the standard LotFP classes, but imho work well enough if inserted as a single class. The detached are numb and make for excellent tanks – while sedated by alcohol etc., they take less damage, are immune to emotion effects, and always act first when not surprised. Okay…so what if two detached participate in a combat? The fallen was once something more – and still has the Preacher-esque ability to issue command a limited number of times per day…and they can cast a few spells…exactly ONCE each. Not ONCE per day, ONCE…it’s the last dying fire inside, and each new level unlocks an additional exceedingly potent such spell. Pariahs are foreign, ostracized…they are a bit like a cross between specialist and fighter, potentially able to pick up Bushcraft and Languages quickly, and might be familiar with strange weaponry. Perhaps the most interesting of these new classes, though, would be the partners in crime. Yep, you get to play two utterly co-dependent individuals. The class acts as a variant skill specialist, and is pretty powerful, balanced by the fact that you have some serious baggage from the past…and, well, the fact that this co-dependency is really nasty. Playing these should render you really paranoid of AoE damage…that being said, the partners in crime are seriously stronger than the other classes; some minor tweaks and more things to do for the pariah and detached would have been nice.

    The supplement has more to offer, though – Barry Blatt, who gets the whole historic angle rather well, presents 101 uses for a hanged man, drawing deeply from medieval and early modern superstition, though the article’s title is somewhat misleading, as it instead can be likened to a brief occult research system, with the moss of dead man’s hair being of particular interest here, and modular steps provided; this may be me being a prick, but I wasn’t a fan of part of the article being outsourced to a blog, but yeah. As a whole, I enjoyed this, and I’d certainly love to see Mr. Blatt tackle an entire book of such step by step procedures for harvesting and applying strange substances.

    Luke Gearing provides something rather disturbing (and appropriately-illustrated by Sean Poppe) – The Sickness. It’s essentially a magical STD that transforms you slowly into a grotesque, slimy tumor thing of orifices and secretion – statted as a monster, btw. And yes, this is scary and one of the instances that needs to be handled with care. Speaking of such stuff…

    …was LotFP’s “Fuck for Satan” not enough of a screwjob (haha) regarding players? Are you fed up with your party and want to TPK them in arguably the most stupid and dumb way I’ve ever seen in a published offering? Okay. The ‘zine has something for you. Chris Lawson’s Cockdicktastrophe. It’s not a monster in the traditional sense. It’s a penis with penis hands, penis-eyes, etc., and if you are tired of warning players away from a locale, this is essentially a multi-page cut-scene without any player agency or stats. It’s just “everything becomes penis and fucks, you die.” It has an illusion of choice, but that’s it. I never thought ‘d say this…but I liked the penis-monster in FFS more. This is probably the worst article in the entire run of the Undercroft. I don’t see any serious use at a table, and even in gonzo tables, it has no agenda. Wasted page-count, imho. The comic-like artwork is kinda cute, though.

    Finally, we have the largest article herein, “Nine Summits and the Matter of Birth”, penned by Ezra Claverie; like the author’s other offerings, this one has a backdrop of a strange blend of the fantastic, horrific and colonial themes, and makes me really crave a fully-realized campaign setting. But before I go further: This is not for the faint of heart – the subject matter deals with anti-natalism, stillbirths, (forced) abortion and nihilism. In case that sort of stuff bothers you, consider this to be your TRIGGER WARNING. Oh, and SPOILER WARNING as well.

    … .. .

    All right, only referees around? So, we have essentially a micro-setting that is roughly Polynesian as intended backdrop, though changes to other settings are very much possible; this culture has developed a strange and much-ostracized tradition, the “Circle of Unbirth” – think of these individuals as fervent anti-natalists, including their 12 sacraments and ritualistic magic, which includes causing stillbirths, quench any form of sexual appetite, etc. – and in this region, rules by the 12 clans, these beings may actually be helpful. You see, an inscrutable entity with insufficient comprehension of the mortal sphere ( somewhat akin to the one in Rafael Chandler’s “No Salvation for Witches”), the Generative Authority, has tainted the land, and the article presents the tools to make an adventure out of the horrors that happen due to its meddling – births will result in zoa, i.e. from the monstrous births will be birthed more things attached to it – think of Human Centipede, save that the new things sticking to the old ones grow ever more in mass with every birth – a table of zoön mass in kilograms, with comparisons noted, is presented, including the associated HD. There are also subtables that let you determine the type of creature the zoön’s latest part resembles, usually represented by a 12-entry table (mammal table is only 9 entries); weird: table #3 (probably amphibians) is missing from the ‘zine – you roll a d6, and table #3 is just not there.

    What do you do with these monstrous births? Singular occurrence? Full-blown local or global apocalypse? All that’s up to you. Same goes for the role of the circle – are they an evil opposed to the cosmic evil? Truly DARK saviors in this time of horrors? The article provides some guidelines, but is, as a whole, about as uplifting as reading Philipp Mainländer. Unlike many comparable modules, I don’t see a way in which you can make this premise funny – it’s GRIMDARK in the most extreme form. It’s not my place as a reviewer to comment on the like, but even as an ardent fan of Ligotti and someone with pretty nihilistic convictions, I don’t see this being fun for my group. YMMV, of course. If you want to really out-edgelord someone, this toolkit will do the trick.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, but not as tight as usual for The Undercroft. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and the original artworks by Matthew Adams, Jeremy Duncan, Sean Poppe, Anxious P. and Cedric Plante deserve special mention – I particularly loved Cedric Plante’s stylized renditions of the skinned moon daughters.

    Benjamin Baugh, Barry Blatt, Patrick Stuart, Daniel Sell, Luke Gearing, Evey Lockhart, Chris Lawson, and Ezra Claverie really did deliver something here; it feels, in many ways, like a means to edgelord LotFP, and frankly, in many ways, it’s successful. This tackles seriously taboo subjects, with particularly Ezra Claverie’s adventure toolkit/mini-setting being pretty much the bleakest piece of RPG-material I’ve seen in a while. That being said, I think this may be the most uneven Undercroft I’ve read so far – the classes range in precision and power by quite a lot; then again, I’d used the moon daughters and Evey’s wicked classes in a heartbeat. Daniel Sell’s article disappointed me big time with its imprecisions. Patrick Stuart’s fighter archetype is per se cool, but uneven as well, with some abilities significantly better than others, and a sense of a global context missing; it feels like a teaser for a longer book I’d enjoy, but on its own, the doctor feels a bit forlorn. Luke Gearing delivers big time with his monster, and I’ve made clear that I really don’t enjoy the waste of a pages for a prolonged “haha, you die”-troll for players. That may be me.

    More so than any Undercroft before, this issue is a matter of taste; personally, I frankly didn’t like a lot of the content, with some aspects feeling rushed, tables cut, material on an external blog, instead of where I need it when I want to use the material at table and have the booklet before me.

    That being said, I can see people loving what I didn’t – I certainly know quite a few black metal fans who’d really get into the bleak adventure outline presented by Ezra Claverie; I can see people love Patrick Stuart’s doctor. And I can see an annoyed referee getting a kick out of the prolonged read-aloud “hehe, you die”-troll. I just can say that this issue…wasn’t for me.

    As a reviewer, this leaves me with the mechanical glitches here and there, which contribute to the overall notion of a rushed issue in comparison to earlier offerings. Still, it is VERY hard to not get something cool out of this ‘zine. Hence, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Undercroft #9
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    The Gem Prison of Zardax
    Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 09/01/2020 10:01:54

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This module clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

    This module was moved up in my reviewing queue as a patreon request to cover this and a few other modules and moved further up in the queue due to a direct donation requesting faster coverage of it and the other old modules released by the author.

    So, this is, thematically, a pretty radical departure from Zazrchov Kowolski’s usual fare – instead of the plausible low-powered dark fantasy we usually expect, we get a psychedelic funhouse dungeon, which is also represented in the artworks, which this time around, have been presented by Scrap Princess – and there are a LOT of them; many of the rooms get their own little artwork, and the new critters also get their artworks. Now, Scrap’s art is divisive, but I generally tend to LIKE the frantic energy they exude – however, it should be noted that this time around, the artworks are in full color, and personally, I don’t think the use of lots of colors suits the style that well. Artwork is subjective, but I figured I’d mention it nonetheless. On the plus side, the excessive use of bright colors in Scrap’s artwork might have been a deliberate choice to drive home how tacky the dungeon is supposed to feel.

    But I digress. As usual for Zzarchov Kowolski’s self-published modules, we get two rules systems – NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival) and OSR – the latter not adhering to a specific system, instead noting movement, AC etc. in relation to other creatures/items, etc. – AC “as chain”, that sort of thing. I am not a fan of this, preferring proper adherence to a specific system, but I won’t penalize the book for that, particularly because the rules don’t suffer – when e.g. picking locks and similar scenarios are concerned, e.g. percentile, x-in-d6 and similar solutions are noted. The module is designated for a party of characters for levels 3-6, and indeed, some experience and prowess is strongly suggested; the module can be rather brutal.

    The module lists the color of the walls for every room, and each room also has its little map right in the room’s description – and these room maps are player-friendly! Huge kudos for that! The supplement offers a random treasure and a random encounter table, and a book generator, and if you’re using NGR to play this (imho the better experience – plus, I really like the rules system!), there also is a spell generator here, with each component of the spell offering 6 variants, making use not only of NGR’s neat magic system and its versatility, but also providing quite a bit of bang for buck in that regard. Furthermore, NGR gets 8 fully-crafted spells in addition to this. The module color codes system-specific text – NGR text tends to be mint-green, OSR text a bit beige/greenish. The module does not feature read-aloud text. The treasure presented is also pretty neat, going so far as to e.g. describing mundane items like glass coins and the like; formatting of magic items does not adhere to the most common OSR-conventions.

    Difficulty-wise, this is clearly aimed at experienced roleplayers – you can potentially TPK the group rather easily, but as a whole, the challenges tend to be pretty fair; personally, I’d suggest this module for the higher end of its suggested level-range; tackling this at level 3 would be a rather brutal test of survival.

    Okay, so, there is one more thing to note: You need to do a bit of prep work, namely generate a couple of strings of dicerolls and put them on paper. Why? We’ll get to that. The module is billed as a puzzle dungeon, and it is not necessarily a simple one – there is a handout page of glyphs, and each room has a glyph. And the glyphs mean…well. There is a bit of a potential issue. The module does DELIBERATELY refrain from explaining its puzzle per se; the GM is giving ample information (which the player’ll have to deduce in actual play) to figure out how this is supposed to operate. It’s not hard, mind you – but for some GMs who are bad with puzzles themselves, but who have parties who enjoy them, this might be a problem.

    The intention, obviously, was to make a puzzle that the GM can’t cheat, that the GM has to figure out. As this was the author’s intent, I am not going to spoil the puzzle’s solution here. I thought about doing that, but since the module can actually be solved by brute-forcing it, I ended up deciding that doing so would not be in the spirit of the adventure. Note that, if the party is not smart, trying to escape might well require a sacrifice.

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

    … .. .

    Okay, only GMs around? Great! So, there is the eponymous Zardax, a wizard of bad temper and worse taste, who happened to come into possession of this nifty gem-prison (Ravenloft flashback right there…) – while rumors suggest otherwise, holding the gem aloft in moonlight will transport you into the entry room of the dungeon – and the former dungeon has been redecorated in the most tacky of ways, with walls painted in different colors, etc. – the obvious Zardoz reference implied by the name is certainly somewhat present in the aesthetics – if Zardoz had such a prison, he’d have probably done something like this with it.

    The extradimensional prison angle explains the diverse inhabitants: There are giant eyes firing lazzz000rz, protected by regenerating energy barriers, cat-headed elves, extraterrestrial ice-people trapped in a “scorching hellhole” 15 below freezing; they also think they are elves. Oh, and there are bosses – like the giant silver wasp, and Azoozl. The latter is essentially a lich who occupies 5 identical wraith bodies who share a pool of memorized spells and hit points – this one is pretty darn deadly if the party isn’t really smart. The wasp has a whopping 12 HD – so yeah, this is an old-school module that requires that the players play smart; murderhobo-attempts will cause TPKs here.

    Now, I previously mentioned requiring some pregenerated numbers: You need to roll a d20 thirty or so times, and jot down the sequence.; then roll d8, d6 and d4 twenty to thirty or so times, writing that down; Azoozl needs spells if playing this in OSR. The three smaller dice can be used for encounters and treasures, while the d20 provides the initial sequence of the prison’s twenty rooms, which does mean that this has some replay value for the GM.

    You see, the dungeon has essentially energy fields (portals, pretty much like the game) between rooms; most are reddish-orange, but designated cells have blue energy fields; at the center of each field is a copper plate shaped like a human hand, with the current room’s glyph (not the destination!) inside. Pressing the plate causes the portal to disappear, showing a random room based the sequence you rolled on the other side; such doorways stay open for 30 seconds, with a mist as a hint that it’ll close very soon – and being inside while it closes is not healthy. Here’s the crucial bit: As long as a sentient member of the party is on both sides of the portal, it locks itself in place. That is, opening it again will show the previous room, not a random one. So no, unless parties are pretty careless, they won’t be split – but the danger yet remains. I like that.

    As an aside – once you run out of pregenerated numbers, you’re supposed to start rolling; this way, the players a get a metagaming hint as to the structure of the module. Having the pre-prepared sequence of numbers conceals the random nature for a bit. Add to that a room where the exit is mirrored by +(- 10 and similar tricks, and we have an interesting brain teaser. (Minor hint for GMs stuck with the code: Take a look at the symbols of this one, and compare it to another room with two entries.)

    But how do you escape? Well, there is the exit portal guarded by non-hostile owl-headed warriors. Pretty decent chaps, really – they’re supposed to guard this place, as they’ve been tricked into providing their real names, but can shirk their duty and let the party leave…they just want a little “cannibaliscious feast” – if one party member volunteers to be eaten alive, they can get out. Trying to pick the lock of the exit portal is another means to escape by sacrifice and good roll: The door starts building up energy, which is potentially VERY lethal – and the chances to pick this are BAD. Still, theoretically, it’s possible. However, there is also one key hidden in the dungeon – said key can negate the lock’s magic…if the party finds it and realizes what it is, that is.

    Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language, while formatting could be a bit more consistent: The exit room’s NGR-rules, for example, aren’t colored, and same goes for the OSR-rules here. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard without much frills, and uses colored highlights in room numbers, with Scrap princess’ artwork presented in full color. The b/w-cartography is pretty basic, but also uses some color highlights – being player-friendly is a huge plus here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

    Zzarchov Kowolski’s “The Gem Prison of Zardax” is a nice change of pace; it is strange and does the funhouse dungeon with a twist angle very well; it’s dangerous, and clever use of the dungeon can seriously help dealing with the potent inhabitants of the prison: Players are rewarded for being smart here.

    I might catch some flack for this, but here goes: I don’t think that the dungeon does a particularly good job regarding its “puzzle” aspects. Since the module can be solved by brute-forcing it, there is a decent chance that the players might not even need to solve the code. Unless I am missing something, I am also pretty sure that the code can be interpreted in more than one way. Whether you consider that a feature or a bug, I’ll leave up to you – personally, I’d have preferred a code that is simpler, but which has just one solution. I’d also have preferred it if the players had to, you know, actually solve the code to escape.

    That being said, even if your players never decode the code/bother with it (happened in my test), the module still operates as a puzzle dungeon (in a lesser capacity), which is most assuredly a plus. As a whole, I consider this to a successful, if not perfect adventure, and thus, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Gem Prison of Zardax
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    Under the Waterless Sea
    Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 08/28/2020 07:38:33

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This module/setting/event book clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page credits, and one page is almost blank save for a single sentence, so we get around 46 pages of content here.

    This supplement was moved up in my reviewing queue as a patreon request to cover this and a few other modules and moved further up in the queue due to a direct donation requesting faster coverage of it and the other old modules released by the author.

    So, what is “Under the Waterless Sea”? Well, first of all, it’s a somewhat quasi-Polynesian setting/module (inspired by Hawaii or a similar place), situated on the Old Island, complete with its unique monetary system (food tokens, pearls, etc., with coin-conversion noted). A marketplace section of weapons and trade goods for sale is included, and there is a 6-entry expanded table of black market goods/adventure hooks. The main backdrop would be the place, which, in an illusion of grandeur, is called “city”, and 4 cool types of hired help are provided – including a warrior with a Kiwi. There, that’s it, 5 stars + seal of approval. …I’m kidding. But I do love kiwis to death. So yeah, cool. Puzzling, however: While these cool NPCs for hire come with names, the same doesn’t hold true for the remainder of the individuals; indeed, the surface world/setting; indeed, a name-generator is curiously absent from the book, so you’ll need to do some digging for proper names…an unnecessary comfort-detriment.

    A pretty huge plus, and not unsurprising if you’re familiar with the author’s previous offerings: This does contain not one, not two, but three of his amazing encounter tables, where you roll a d8 to determine “Where”, a d6 to determine “What”, a d4 to determine “Weird”, and get additional entries for triples, doubles and the maximum score. The regions covered are shallow water, twilight zone and midnight zone – bingo, this module primarily happens under water.

    As many of the author’s modules, it is written with two systems in mind – NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival) and OSR, with the latter not adhering to a specific rules system, something that I am not particularly fond of per se. AC is given with and in very general terms, e.g. “Level 4 warrior, very strong (18 or 18/00 if used), low charisma (6), maximum hit points”; critters get hit dice and note armor and damage in equivalents like “as leather” and sport a general idea of morale– you get the drift, you’ll have to hack this into shape.

    If you have the luxury of choice, I’d suggest running this in NGR, as it’s clearly the smoother choice: There are plenty of items from which new spells can be learned, and disassembling some weapons can net sages or wizards 4 new spells that have no equivalent in the OSR-rules provided. That being said, that does not hold true for the majority of other spells; then again, the NGR rules, well, are better. The Branding of Hydra, for example, can increase power levels of unarmed attacks of up to a d30, while the OSR-version…nets a 1d6 touch attack for 1 round/level. A particularly icky spell lets you store a spell in your excrement, with the duration somehow tied to bowel movement, which also somehow can be passed to other characters? I’ve read and reread this spell numerous times, and it still makes zero sense to me. Either way I read it, it’s broken, though – I strongly suggest not allowing that version. The NGR-version, while still just as icky, is mechanically precise. In a way, this is one of the aspects that we’ll return to again in this review.

    The module and premise is pretty dark in a nuanced kind of way, and certainly is not a module ‘d run for kids; while it can be run as a hack-and-slash, the adventure ultimately is based somewhat on shades of gray morality and can be run almost as a fantastic version of a Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now-ish manner. If the excrement spell example noted above was no indicator – this module does have a few components that can be considered to be mature: For example, there is an edifice that is shaped like a penis. So yeah, if the like bothers you, you’ve hereby been warned.

    Similarly, I can only recommend this module to pretty experienced GMs, mainly due to one important structural aspect to which I’ll come in the SPOILER-section below. The module sports no read-aloud text, and as far as level-range is concerned, this works best in the 1-8 level-range, depending on how murderhobo-y your players tend to be, and on how you run your game, the power-levels of your OSR-game of choice, and how you want to play out the whole scenario.

    The module comes with a stunning, isometric map in b/w of the region, and several maps of specific adventure locales in the classic top-down manner. Utterly puzzling to me: The pdf is a layered pdf, and yet, there is no way to turn off the annoying, immersion-breaking letters and similar indicators on the maps. Oh, and while there is a layer called “Guides and Grids” that’s turned off as a default, guess what doesn’t materialize when you click it? Bingo, a grid on the map. The result of these shortcomings, alas, is that the individual locales and relation between the mapped places, kinda remains abstract and hard to grasp – and the isometric map doesn’t help much there either.

    This module exists in print, by the way – it is part of Zzarchov Kowolski’s Adventure Omnibus Vol.1, a limited edition book, which I do own – and in said book, there is an additional map, an absolutely STUNNING top-down b/w-map of the main adventure location – but like the other maps, it also lacks a scale, so while it helps picturing the area in a concise manner and makes running this in VTT easier, the map hasn’t been included in the pdf-version.

    Okay, I’ve stalled for long enough, so let’s dive into the SPOILER-section. As always, I’d ask prospective players to steer clear and jump ahead to the conclusion.

    … .. .

    Okay, only GMs around? Great! So, beyond the “fun” aspects like a brewing religious war among the human populace, the big kerfuffle of the module actually has already happened. You see, recently, a new priest has taken controls of the local religion, and he’s a hardliner – a hardliner who didn’t take kindly to learning about locals consorting with the Deep Ones, whose cities lies on the slopes of the surface of the volcanic island where this module takes place. As such, the usual purges and unpleasantries resulted – and then, something else happened: Somebody, somehow, opened a portal in the ocean. When saltwater falls on the portal, it shrinks. It’s fortified. But when you go through it, well, then you’re operating under a different set of physics and restrictions until you once more touch the ocean’s surface. You can act, fight, etc. as if on land. And all effects originating from you ALSO behave that way.

    This section needs to be read VERY closely imho, because it is crucial to running the module. Essentially, the humans went through the portal, and brought bloody slaughter to a city of Deep Ones that was woefully ill-prepared to withstand the assault of such an army – and who proceeded to had to watch their underwater city BURN. The GM should think very carefully about how physics work in their game, because the module doesn’t really draw a clear dividing line. So, you could throw a fireball, okay. The targets would take fire damage. Okay. But the fire that springs from the fireball technically is no longer directly sourced from the aberrant set of physics employed by the land-dwelling invaders…and what about a target that operates under regular water physics grappling and dragging along someone who is operating under the aberrant, magical physics?

    Don’t get me wrong, the module does a solid job defining how things operate, but a clear and more pronounced set of guidelines would still have been very much appreciated for the corner cases. Think I’m exaggerating? Well, in the Deep One city, there are pockets of air, such as e.g. in a sorcerer’s workshop. These become pretty deadly traps RAW, as the module states that breaching the surface of the water here will, well, end the effects of the portal. Okay, got it. But the portal states that it’s the ocean’s surface that counts, and a bubble of air beneath the waves? Is that really the ocean’s surface? Same goes for the human holding cells that can be found. An argument could be made that any surface of the ocean would do, but then again, this would theoretically render air bubbles of mammals or divers pretty damn potentially lethal.

    Because this structural aspect regarding the basic premise of the module and the somewhat opaque spatial relation between adventuring locales, the module has another weak spot, but we’ll come to that pretty soon.

    You see, the module is all about squashing the last traces of deep one resistance, taking their mighty, penis-shaped tower (which does make sense for deep ones…) – there are victory points that are tallied for the human aggressors and the deep ones, with a variety of outcomes – and yes, the module does account for the eventuality of the party switching sides, which I most assuredly appreciated.

    The city has the spire, the labyrinthine apartments, the temple, the barracks, and the sorcerer’s dome as adventure locations, all mapped and keyed and suffering from the map issues mentioned above. There is a lot of adventuring to be had here, including the option to run afoul of a shoggoth, but all of them feel uncommonly sterile for the author. There isn’t that much going on regarding details here, and quite a few of the rooms are simply about mass. To give you an idea: “K.) a horde of 25 zombies sit in agitation, just waiting for their chance to eat the flesh of the living. Most are armed with stone maces, but a few have pikes and there are some with leiomanos as well.”

    That’s…not particularly interesting. Indeed, I was surprised to see how positively mundane the entire city feels; this sense of wonder one associates with an undersea city, the option of verticality in architecture, an evocative dressing table – anything. There are a few instances where a sense of the weird manages to suffuse the scenery, but if you want my opinion, then don’t bank on the module managing to elicit a sense of wonder here.

    Then again, that’s not the focus. The focus is WAR. And the horrors of war, even when executed against frickin’ deep ones; instead of a juxtaposition of the horror of civilization and nature, as in Heart of Darkness, we have a juxtaposition of humans committing the non-euclidean atrocities to the ones usually perpetrating them. That’s interesting. And the notion of burning a city beneath the waves is pure GOLD. A capable GM can weave a yarn here that will be remembered for years to come.

    The premise is absolutely genius. But the actual execution of the deep one city is not. This is particularly surprising, considering that the author is a master at wringing unique magic out of pretty mundane setups. Here, we have a magical setup that couldn’t be more exciting, and instead, mundanity is wrought from it, at least for the most part.

    Is this intentional? I can’t tell. I mean…it’s essentially Futurama/SpongeBob-logic, the war-module. It has a penis-tower. I genuinely don’t know.

    I can say, however, that this is one of the weakest sunken cities I’ve had in all of my years as a reviewer; without the genius premise and context, I’d be trashing this to smithereens. With it? With it, this mundanity serves to humanize the deep ones, and de-humanize the humans.

    …call me a philistine, but I’d rather have had wonder here. Unique dressing. Glimpses at a strange culture.

    Structurally, it’d also have been nice to get a series of missions for both sides of the war, some if/then-conflicts and gambles, some strategy. You know, “If the party takes the barracks, the shoggoth will be unleashed by desperate priests in x days…” – that sort of thing. Some events to spice up the free-form siege. I read the start and was thoroughly pumped – then I got to the actual city, and by the end, I was bored by the city itself. In play, the war scenario adds the tension, but quite a lot of that rests on the shoulders of the GM. The premise makes this work. But it requires work.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-langauge level, but not as tight as usual for the author. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with a couple of nice b/w-artworks thrown in. The cartography deserves special mention for featuring the awesome b/w isometric piece (and the awesome top-down map in the print version!), but the maps of the actual adventure sites are pretty barebones and their lack of player-friendly versions and grids limits their utility. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the pdf is layered as well, which makes printing easier – I just wished the layers let you customize the maps as well.

    Zzarchov Kowolski’s “Under the Waterless Sea” is at once a genius piece of adventure that can run REALLY well, and a disappointment. How well this performs depends very much on how well the GM is able to depict either an outrageous war beneath the waves or a somber story about the horrors of war; the backdrop of the action, which should be suffused with wonder, is anything but; instead, the module relies almost entirely on its brilliant premise to carry it. And it does carry it – to a degree.

    In many ways, this should have been my favorite Zzarchov Kowolski module; it started off that way when I first read it. But then, it feels like it runs out of steam a bit; like the details never being able to live up to the level of excitement that the premise fostered. A good GM can make this a legend of a module; but I can only rate what’s here, and what’s here are a couple of unnecessary comfort-detriments, some oversights in dressing, and a general sense of lost interest in seeing the premise through to the end.

    If you are willing to put in the time to add unique cultural tidbits and dressing, then get this! If not, then I’d suggest getting one of the author’s other adventures instead. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    Under the Waterless Sea
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    The Stormbound PF1E
    Publisher: Cobalt Sages Creations
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 08/27/2020 11:28:55

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This base class supplement clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page introductory notes/editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 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.

    The stormbound class is an akashic base class, but all required information to run this is included in this pdf.

    After a brief introduction, we start off with the stormbound class. The stormbound is an akashic class that gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, and proficiency in simple and amrtial weapons, and while they are proficient with light armor, medium armor and shields, metal armor reduces the essence capacity of the stormbound by 2 to a minimum of 0, and the veils the stormbound shapes only require half as much damage to sunder and halve their hardness. Shields and armor made from veils are exempt from this rule, even if they manifest as metal. Chassis-wise, we have a ¾ BAB-progression alongside good Fort- and Will-saves, and Wisdom is their governing ability score for veilweaving, with the saving throw DC being 10 + the number of points of essence invested in the veil, plus the stormbound’s veilweaving modifier.

    The stormbound receives a unique veilweaving slot, dubbed the “Storm slot”; the stormbound receives an additional veil shaped per day, denoted via the +1 in the class table, which must be used to shape a Storm veil. Unlike regular veils, the stormbound cannot allocate essence to or from a Storm veil. At the beginning of a combat turn, the stormbound gains a temporary point of essence that can ONLY be allocated to a Storm veil, but doing so is a free action, and it lasts for 1 minute after the combat ends; re-entering combat resets the duration. The stormbound cannot stockpile this temporary essence: If they do not allocate it immediately, it is lost. When not in combat, the stormbound can spend a full-round action to meditate, treating this round as a round of combat; they can only generate this temporary essence up to half their maximum essence capacity, rounded up, minimum 1.

    So, you’re all familiar with my seething hatred of “per encounter/combat”-mechanics, but this one does a remarkably good job covering its basics – non-combat use is possible (so less temptation to try to cheese the engine), a concrete duration is provided, and meditation generally slows things down enough that the stormbound can’t quickly refresh or walk through the dungeon charged. Add the sidebar that explicitly provides a caveat to avoid fake combats, and this does a solid job at keeping the combat-related abilities in line. As far as veils are concerned, we start off with 1 (+1 Storm) and increase that up to 10 (+1 Storm); essence capacity starts off at 1, and increases by 1 every class level attained. Chassis-wise, this makes the guru a valid frame of reference, but we’ll see how that develops. At 12th level, this btw. increases by another additional point of temporary essence.

    The stormbound has the constant benefits of endure elements, and, as a free action on their turn, they may exempt up to veilweaving modifier + ½ class level (rounded down) creatures from the harmful effects of the Storm veils shaped; targets thus protected automatically succeed their saving throws versus Storm veils, attack rolls and combat maneuvers prompted miss the targets, and if damage would be incurred, it is reduced to 0; these properties also apply to the stormbound, even while they are unconscious, but while the stormbound is unconscious, the protection extended to allies vanishes. Penalties that do not have a saving throw to mitigate still apply. This is the so-called “weatherproofing” ability. Now, as you can see, this ability firmly situates the stormbound in higher fantasy confines; a level 1 stormbound will usually be able to reliably weatherproof with endure elements an entire party of allies, which does eliminate the struggle usually associated with low-level weather-threats, so if you’re planning on running the class in such a campaign, I’d advise caution. On a design perspective, when looking at the Storm veils, this could have been more interesting: You see, the Storm veils tend to cause AoE-damage that has no save and doesn’t differentiate between friend and foe; however, unlike comparable effects, it tends to have a decent range. This could have rendered the ability an interesting tactical decision to use if it involved some sort of strategy; since most stormbound will be able to exclude their party members from the effects from the get-go, that decision is lost. But I’m just musing right now.

    At 2nd level, and every 2 levels thereafter, the class gets a chakra bind, in the progression of Feet, Hands, Head, Wrists, Shoulders, Headband, Belt, Neck, Chest, Body, so essentially the vizier’s progression, with Hands and Feet switched around, and Neck and Belt switched around. This is interesting, in that Feet veils tend to gravitate, as a tendency, towards passives, while Hand veils are more offensive in focus; the same can generally be stated for the Belt vs. Neck, the latter having the rather popular gorget of the wyrm. The Storm slot becomes available for chakra binding at 9th level, and at 11th level, the stormbound can shape two veils in the Storm slot, operating like Twin Veil. Okay, but when you also have Twin veil, does that mean you can bind three veils to the Storm slot? Four? You see, while the effect specified by the ability behaves as Twin Veil, it’s not actually Twin Veil, it just functions as such, which means that the “same effect doesn’t stack”-clause does RAW not apply here. Pretty sure that this is a glitch.

    The stormbound gains improved essence capacity at 3rd level, 9th level, and 19th level, placing the stormbound between the radiant and vizier classes, for example – they get the second improved essence capacity as soon as e.g. radiant (9th instead of 11th level), but the final one later (19th instead of 15th level). The capstone ability is an outsider apotheosis with 3 damage immunities and quicker re-assigning of veils. Okay, I guess, but not that interesting. What is, however, interesting, would be that 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter net a so-called storm power. These are essentially talents, and where applicable, the saving throw is the customary 10 + ½ class level + veilweaving modifier. Storm powers have different power levels, with new ones unlocking regarding their prerequisites at 5th level, 9th, 11th and 17the level, with one storm power situated with a 13th level prerequisite.

    To give you an idea: We have a medium-range option to suppress Storm veils or dispel weather-controlling magics via opposed veilweaving checks (not the biggest fan of opposed rolls, but valid); the ability gets the clause for spellcasting right, and has a success criteria wherein, if you really beat the enemy, the duration of the suppression lasts longer. To avoid spamming this versus spells, it has a hex-caveat (applies RAW only regarding attempt to dispel spells thus!) that limits you to one attempt versus a given effect in 24 hours. The power also allows for the suppression of your own storm veils. Distracting current is a close range debuff, and you can invest essence to increase the penalties inflicted; once more, spamming is prevented with a hex caveat. Alternatively, we have at-will feather fall, and a power that lets you, when using a [Weapon] veil or natural weapons granted by the veil, use your stormbound level as BAB, making you a full BAB front line assailant, with an added bonus – you get to use veilweaving modifier instead of Strength modifier to determine damage with these. This is very, very powerful.

    Compare this one with being treated as one size category larger for the purpose of being checked or blown away by wind, and versus maneuvers that move you, and halved penalties for skill checks and ranged attack rolls due to wind. Or the one that lets you fire close-range icicles at will (with moderately-scaling damage output; +1d6 per 4 levels – which, however, can be increased with essence investment); sonic armor nets you class level temporary hit points as a move action, and when an enemy hits you in melee (important caveat!) while you have those, they take sonic damage equal to the current temporary hit points you have, and risk becoming briefly deafened on a failed save. For an essence invested, this increases by +3 temporary hit points. sigh This can be exploited for infinite healing via the usual transferal means. Making the armor more potent, but imposing a hard cap on this instead would have probably been the better choice here.

    Then again, some of you are rolling your eyes right now, so let’s move on to the actual healing storm power, namely soothing rain: Much to my joy, this one nets you pretty potent healing that reduces its effectiveness whenever the same target benefits from it within a 24 hour timeframe, and it can be selected multiple times, which provides a “buffer” of sorts before healing is reduced for each target. Unless you’re playing in a very large group, this amount of healing is okay. Storm lash nets you a lash of lightning – cool! Veilproofing…is certainly pretty at least in the wrong level-range. It extends the weatherproofing ability’s immunities to Storm veils for allies to ALL veils. This should be unlocked at a much higher level. A similar issue applies to a faster unseen servant with a Strength of 10 + veilweaving modifier and a fly speed of 30 ft. (perfect). Doesn’t sound like much? Well, this means you get perfect flight at level 1, bypassing the usual restrictions. You see, the unseen servant spell usually explicitly states that the servant can’t fly; that it can’t perform anything that requires a skill check. Special rules override larger ones, so while the unseen servant can’t succeed in anything like hovering, tight turns or the like, it can very much carry the stormbound or their allies around (which does NOT require a skill checks, and which the unseen servant thus probably can do due to the increased Strength!) , provided it does so in a way that doesn’t require a Fly check. This storm power should have been altered, or moved to the section with the 5th level prerequisites, or better, further. I am pretty sure that this is a glitch. Why? The 5th-level prerequisite power “Lifting gale” nets you at-will levitate AND requires that you previously take the at-will feather fall power. Why would anyone do this, when you get infinite unseen servants with perfect fly speed, and the explicit Strength required to carry most characters, apart from the full-armored fighter? Or the one that also requires the feather fall power, but nets you 20-ft fly speed with poor maneuverability?

    The internal balancing being inconsistent regarding these storm powers may also be seen in e.g. “Channel the Storm” – you gain ½ your maximum essence capacity that you can only invest in Storm veils. Hmm, let me think for a bit: Should I take this or at-will levitate? /sarcasm. Or the one that increases the radius of Storm veils by their base radius for each point invested in them beyond the first, treating further ranges as essentially weapon ranges, with the veils treated as having less essence invested in them at higher range increments? This is REALLY INTERESTING, particularly since Storm veils are close range, though one 11th level storm power lets you upgrade that to medium (and retain control whether you want them to be medium or close); compare that with the 17th (!!) level power for at-will control weather.

    The storm powers, as a whole, are weird. They seem to be based on hexes, but tie advancement to of their benefits weird components. If you, for example, made the bad call of getting at-will levitate, you’ll most assuredly be excited to hear that, at 13th level, you can activate it as a move action and move up or down once per round as a free action. Gamechanger, right? At 13th level? I tried pretty hard to deduce the reasoning behind some of the prerequisites imposed, as some storm powers make perfect sense in their context, while others don’t; some are clearly roleplaying facilitators, while others provide brutal mechanical advantages. And it drives me bonkers that I can’t see a pattern for the deviations.

    This also extends, to a much lesser degree, to the favored class options, namely the comparison Belaran vs. Ifrit. Belarans increase their essence capacity of Storm veils with the Fire OR Cold descriptor by +1/8; ifrit only get this benefit for the Storm veils with the Fire descriptor.

    This bothers me to now end, for the class does bring something extremely interesting to the table, namely that it focuses on soft/hard crowd control. The Storm veils, of which 12 are provided, are cylinders with a height of 50 ft. + 5 ft. per veilweaver level (or ceiling/ground) and a radius of 25 ft. + 5 ft. per veilweaver level. The cannot be sundered, and here’s the thing: The shaper is NOT immune to them (which also explains the “immunity storm power” available at first level); the storm veils generally focus on dealing energy damage, while adding additional effects; interesting here: there is an option that allows you to inflict essentially poison damage – which is codified as untyped in PF1e, but provides immunity for those with poison immunity. The Storm veils also provide pretty potent terrain control and debuff options; take, for example, “The Blizzard”, which deals cold damage and also fatigues targets on a failed save (no stack up to exhausted, but barbarian’s still cry), but also has the option to make the affected area difficult terrain via snowfall. When you stop the snowfall, it melts away at the end of your turn. That is an interesting effect. It should be noted that, while damage tends to look pitiful (1d3 etc. as a baseline), the damage caused is AUTOMATIC at the end of your turn; no save or the like to negate, which can make this rather deadly at lower levels. It should also be noted that the veils have a few more formatting glitches (lower caps saving throw, missed italics) than I’d have liked to see. And yet, I really like the idea of Storm veils. I have a soft spot for aura-based characters, and this has interesting options.

    It is, alas, a somewhat uneven array of veils regarding internal and external balancing. There is a pretty solid blaster-style veil, which doesn’t have ANY detrimental aura effects, and just lets you fire bludgeoning damage that can cause the target to catch fire, with essence investment as potential for more damage. Alas, for you powergamers out there, this thankfully at least requires an attack to hit, and only targets one enemy.

    Compare that with the veil that decreases visibility. Or that one, with the one that lets you generate banks of darkvision impeding fog that can be rendered more dense and even made into something akin to solid fog is sufficient essence is invested in it. (Which is a nice angle – these veils tend to have a threshold of sorts, where their benefits become more pronounced than linear scaling, often adding new options.) I was talking about internal balance being weird: The sirocco is essentially like the blizzard, save that it deals fire damage, and causes the sickened condition…and it has neither the barbarian lock power, nor the terrain control effect of the blizzard, but the condition remains until cured. The direct comparison here makes pretty evident that the blizzard may have overshot what it’s supposed to do. Compare that to “the scouring”, which has slashing and piercing damage as a baseline…but also reduces visibility to 30 feet, with essence invested allowing that to go as low as 5 ft. in 5 ft.-steps. This applies to all senses based on sight. The effect is interesting, even in its baseline, in that it breaks line of sight beyond 30 ft. – reliably. In short, it may not be much, but the Storm veils differ in utility.

    But in comparison with regular, damage-dealing veils, how does this fare? Let’s stick with the fire-based one, shall we, and compare it to the gauntlets of the storm: The conflagration lets you use your veilweaving modifier to hit instead of Dexterity with the ranged touch attack it requires, and deals a base of 1d6 bludgeoning damage; for each essence invested, the initial damage increases by +1d6; bludgeoning damage on odd-numbered points invested, fire damage on even-numbered ones invested. For every two points invested here, the saving throw DC increases by +1, and the secondary burning damage by +1d6. Okay, so for 3 essence invested, we’d have 3d6 bludgeoning, 1d6 fire, +2d6 secondary fire if the target fails its save. For the gauntlets, we have 1d6 cold, 1d6 sonic and 1d6 electricity damage, but ONLY as a melee touch attack, NOT as a ranged touch attack. It does have the energy versatility going for it, though. However, it does NOT not with the veilweaving for Dex-to-atk caveat, which should, at the very least, make difference of at least +4 to atk in most instances. The Gauntlets are only available to the vizier among the core akashic classes, who has a ½ BAB-progression; still since the stormbound can also gain these, and they start outperforming the fire stuff, this seems like a clear case, right? Well, that’s where the aforementioned threshold comes in: If this is too esoteric an example for you, let’s take a more clear-cut one: Polar snowshoes vs. the blizzard. Polar snowshoes net you a whopping 1d4 cold damage in a 10 ft. aura, +1d4 for every essence invested, and the ability to generate some movement-related benefits when used with chakra bind. While the blizzard has slightly less damage per essence, it has the difficult terrain option, the option to fatigue, when chakra bound, to be intensified – oh, and it affects AoE and doesn’t allow for a saving throw to reduce damage. The aura of polar snowshoes? Fortitude halves. And its AoE doesn’t grow, unlike the blizzard.

    Okay, one can still chalk that up to the Storm veils being class-exclusives, right? Okay, let us take a look the significant amount of non-class exclusive veils herein, for example winter’s somnolence, which conjures a scythe dealing nonlethal cold damage, lethal cold damage versus undead. It’s a weapon veil, so you can get full BAB with it, and use veilweaving to calculate base damage, provided you chose the right storm power. The hand chakra bind lets you add up to a +5 enhancement modifier that you can also use to instead choose a variety of special weapon properties, which are not properly in italics in the text. For undead, it bypasses all damage reduction, resistances and immunities, which is pretty nifty. A creature struck must also succeed a Fort save, or have its speed reduced by 5 ft. for one round (yes, all speeds and stacking with itself), +1 round per essence invested in hands; on a critical hit, it’s save or fall asleep. For each additional point of essence invested, we have +1d6 cold damage. The chakra bind to wrists expands upon the means to cause targets to fall asleep/reduce the target’s speed. Know where things become weird? “This bonus damage is multiplied on a critical hit.” Yep, the essence invested-based bonus damage is multiplied. For a scythe. That’s x4 without even trying. That’s a pretty good visualization of the subtle hiccups with the veils here. In comparison to other melee/atk-based veils, the damage potential here is insane. And this bothers me to no end. Why? Because the general ideas presented are pretty darn awesome, and there is some care here – it’s just…inconsistent? Take the storm gauntlets – these do not duplicate an error that was present in their original iteration (electric instead of electricity damage); but in another veil, we see exactly this hiccup.

    And the pdf does get these fine balancing aspects and utility concerns right in quite a few a cases: Traveling the planes and even planets (somewhat unreliably) via a utility veil? Cool! Or what about sabatons of the storm, which BUILD on Storm veils: You can make a trail of storm energy behind you – 1d4 electricity, 1d4 sonic, 1 d4 cold damage, plus movement halved for 1 round if affected, with the caveat that a target can only be affected once per round? Cool, right? Essence invested increases damage for all three…and outperforms the aforementioned gauntlets in damage dealt, but has a save to negate. This Is interesting While I consider 3d4s different energy damages sans essence invested a bit overkill at low levels, it’s contingent enough to render it a fun trap-option. Granted, it outperforms polar snowshoes by quite a bit in pure damage, but is has the movement contingency. This shows that these weren’t designed sans care; or take the robe of the worldwalker, which lets you choose two energy types from the usual suspects and grants resistance, alongside scaling bonuses to a whole array of checks and the like pertaining forced marches and so on – and lets you sleep in armor. Unlike e.g. frostbite halo, it doesn’t offer the same increase to damage with one energy type, though, and has the Body slot, more valuable than the halo’s headband.

    On the other hand, we have brume treads, arguably the most powerful Feet-veil; it lets you ignore the adverse movement effects of difficult terrain, and always 5-foot-ste, +2 insight bonus to Acrobatics; for each essence invested in this, the Acrobatics bonus increases by another 2, and you also get +5 ft. land speed; when chakra-bound, this also nets you full speed in armor, ignore movement penalties, etc. Compare that to coward’s boots. +5 ft. base speed, +5 ft. for essence invested. The chakra bind of coward’s boots nets you Essence of Movement – scaling dodge bonus to AC vs. AoOs, and per essence invested, a +1 insight bonus to Acrobatics. Brume treads outperforms this SO HARD, you’d have to be stupid to ever look at coward’s boots again. And yes, brume treads are intended to be available for all core akasha classes.

    Okay, so, this review’s already insanely long, so let’s talk about the archetypes: The Devotee of the Storm replaces the first level storm power with hunter’s spellcasting, but has a diminished chakra bind sequence. They lose essence capacity in favor or Endurance and a bonus vs. mundane storm effects, and later do not leave tracks and teleport between storms. The wind whisperer gets essentially an eidolon reskinned as a storm spirit minus evolutions, but with essence; these spirits veilweave via Wisdom, while the wind whispered uses Charisma; the storm is essentially outsourced to the pet, which gets its own essence capacity and pool of essence. The wind whisperer has half the essence at each level, rounded up, but veils shaped are divided among the pair, and the spirit also learns the chakra binds. This is very strong, as e.g. even the weatherproofing aspect is shared. Would not allow this one in my games.

    The pdf also offers two 10-level PrCs: The Storm Warrior gets full BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression, d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, and requires the new akashic Storm Scoured feat, which reduces the penalties weather imposes based on essence invested. The idea here is that of a warrior type character who gets limited access to Storm veils without actually becoming a full veilweaver, using a temporary essence engine. Interesting! The second PrC would be the Veilshifter at d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full veilweaving progression, ½ BAB and Will-save progression. This one is all about quickly unshaping and reconstituting veils, as wella s the ability to take multiple Twin veils.

    The feats contained herein include a feat-based option to exclude allies from veil effects, a feat to dabble in Storm veils, and several (Confluence) veils – these require that you’re able to form two specific storm veils, enhancing those. I really love the idea here, I just wished this had been integrated into the core Storm veil engine instead of being outsourced to feats, since the core class already has the multi-storm trick hardcoded into it. Rebalancing the storms and including this at higher levels? That’d have been neat indeed!

    The supplement also features 3 magic items: Imbuement gems allow you to outsource weapon/armor enhancement bonuses to these gems when forming akashic weapons/armor, and switch between the regular and these benefits. Yeah. No. There is a crook in three power-levels that lets you treat Storm veils as having additional essence invested in them. Finally, there is a totem that lets you expand the Storms to the radius of miles (!!), but weighs 5K lbs. – an interesting story item.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are…weird? On one hand, we have complex caveats caught, rules-language in complex scenarios performed admirably well; we have carefully vetted content…and then, we have some formatting hiccups. We have veils and components obviously very carefully balanced next to blatant power-escalation, which renders the class a very much uneven experience. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with quite a few nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

    Hel Kennette’s stormbound base class was an exercise in confusion for me; I have rarely seen a class with such complex and thoroughly INTERESTING framework, that shows, very well I might add, that the author generally knows what he’s doing. That being said, in the same way, this does feel like it’s one dev-/content editing pass short of realizing its potential. An additional set of eyes would have e.g. caught the VERY uneven balancing of the storm powers, which range from being powerful engine modifications to “almost fluff.” That being said, I was duly impressed by the concepts of the vast majority of veils herein, if not always their mechanical tweaking/execution. It’s exceedingly hard to design for akasha due to the sheer number of moving parts that the system offers. And this class certainly shows that the designer is capable.

    BUT. Beyond its internal balance re storm powers being off, it also pushes the power-level of akasha further; not in overt ways, mind you – it’s a lot of small components that work together, but which, as a whole, can eliminate some checks and balances. If your players have a pronounced enough degree of system mastery, this might well suffice to compromise the system. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to make a stormbound that is significantly less powerful than what the class can deliver regarding performance. The reliable AoE energy damage output is an interesting angle, but as a whole, I can’t help but feel that the class either underestimates, or willfully ignores what you can inflict with a properly-calibrated veilweaver. The significant degree of oscillation between a well-optimized stormbound and one made by the average joe/jane is what made this so hard on me.

    I can see this class not upset some groups and work like clockwork; I can also see it really being super-problematic. Comparing this to other akashic classes, it certainly can be very strong. Would I allow this class in my game? No. Do I think it’s problematic? Yes. Do I think it could have been vastly improved by applying the same care that obviously went into some aspects of the pdf to the entirety? Heck yes. But do I also think that this can be a fun supplement? That this can work without upsetting the game’s balance if the players are kind enough? Yes. If you’re running a high-powered game, then checking out this class may well be a pretty good idea for you and yours! Just be VERY careful regarding allowing everything here.

    In the end, to me, this represents a mixed bag. A clever class with genuinely exciting ideas that’s missing the final polish in power-level consistency, some finer rules components and formatting to really excel. This is incredibly close to becoming excellent in pretty much all ways – I can taste it! Heck, if I have the time at one point, I might clean up this class for my games, go with a fine-toothed comb through it and tweak it to the level it deserves to be. It’s like running a marathon, then stumbling on literally the last few inches. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, with a tentative recommendation under the caveats noted before. For me, personally, I’d round down, and I suggest you do the same if akasha’s meticulously-calibrated framework is as important to you; as a reviewer, though, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy, and tables enjoying high-powered classes and power-increases might get a kick out of this, which is why my official verdict will round up.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Stormbound PF1E
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    A Day Out at the Circus
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 08/24/2020 04:03:44

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 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.

    So, in case you’re new to these: “Eventures” are essentially mini-adventures that focus on events, as opposed to a plot, a confrontation, or combat; this makes them eminently useful as pre-prepared set-pieces that you can enter into the game.

    And frankly, a circus is a good call there. I mean, I can easily list 10+ modules that feature a circus; all of them have in common that something goes horribly wrong/sinister. And I get why. However, on a meta-level, this also means that the party of players will be on edge as soon as the word “circus” falls anywhere close to the in-game world.

    And this is where this supplement comes in – in it, we learn about the “White Tiger’s Crew”, and their circus; general hooks are provided to get the party to visit the circus, and a 12-entry whispers and rumors table adds further hooks to the fray. If all of that doesn’t suffice, the supplement also has a 20-entry minor events table.

    The crew, by the way, is not without their internal struggles and shades of grey decisions to be made when interacting with the party, but the supplement does not run the usual “evil/deadly nightmare circus” shtick. An important note: Whether the circus becomes fully evil, redeemed, or remains in an equilibrium very much might be up to the party. Particularly the tastefully touched subject of slavery is interesting in the context of this circus.

    The circus comes with an artwork/handout that depicts a flyer inviting people to the circus, and also features a really nice b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama of the circus grounds and the ship they use to travel. The map sports 6 keyed encounters. The respective acts are described, including an orc and goblin comedic act, blind jugglers, fortune tellers, clowns, a lion tamer, and yes, a freak show. The food cart lists a surprising amount of good alongside prices that are affordable for non-adventurers, and the eventure also suggests a variety of activities.

    Which brings me to one point of serious criticism for this supplement: There are no rules provided for any of them, even though PFRPG very much tends to solve the like with…you know…rules.

    The supplement concludes with a variety of adventure hooks that go beyond the actual visit to the circus.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules language level, the book omits several aspects that would be handled via rules in PFRPG. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and features neat b/w-artworks, a cool handout, and neat b/w-cartography. I am given to understand that you get high-res unlabeled maps via Raging Swan Press’ patreon, but I still consider the lack of player-friendly versions here a downside, though not necessarily a crucial one in this instance. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two iterations – one optimized for screen use, and one optimized for the printer. Jeff Gomez’ trip to the circus is a delightful change of pace for the trope. The circus feels plausible and organic, and taking a break from the “circus nightmare/massacre”-trope is indeed appreciated. There is, formally, nothing to complain about the supplement in that regard.

    As far as the PFRPG-components are concerned, it is severely lacking in actual crunch, though – and in this instance, the very activities that are supposed to, you know, entertain characters and players alike, don’t have any mechanical chassis to make them work. And yes, pretty much every evil circus module has some mechanics, so giving an atk-value for a dart throwing champion, an AC, some rules for competitions etc. wouldn’t have blown up the word-count beyond the scope.

    This remains the big downside of this supplement, and the only reason why I can’t rate this version higher than 4 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    A Day Out at the Circus
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    A Day Out at the Circus (5e)
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 08/24/2020 04:02:04

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 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.

    So, in case you’re new to these: “Eventures” are essentially mini-adventures that focus on events, as opposed to a plot, a confrontation, or combat; this makes them eminently useful as pre-prepared set-pieces that you can enter into the game.

    And frankly, a circus is a good call there. I mean, I can easily list 10+ modules that feature a circus; all of them have in common that something goes horribly wrong/sinister. And I get why. However, on a meta-level, this also means that the party of players will be on edge as soon as the word “circus” falls anywhere close to the in-game world.

    And this is where this supplement comes in – in it, we learn about the “White Tiger’s Crew”, and their circus; general hooks are provided to get the party to visit the circus, and a 12-entry whispers and rumors table adds further hooks to the fray. If all of that doesn’t suffice, the supplement also has a 20-entry minor events table.

    The crew, by the way, is not without their internal struggles and shades of grey decisions to be made when interacting with the party, but the supplement does not run the usual “evil/deadly nightmare circus” shtick. An important note: Whether the circus becomes fully evil, redeemed, or remains in an equilibrium very much might be up to the party. Particularly the tastefully touched subject of slavery is interesting in the context of this circus.

    The circus comes with an artwork/handout that depicts a flyer inviting people to the circus, and also features a really nice b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama of the circus grounds and the ship they use to travel. The map sports 6 keyed encounters. The respective acts are described, including an orc and goblin comedic act, blind jugglers, fortune tellers, clowns, a lion tamer, and yes, a freak show. The food cart lists a surprising amount of good alongside prices that are affordable for non-adventurers, and the eventure also suggests a variety of activities.

    As far as the 5e-version is concerned, the supplement makes proper reference of the 5e default stats, though purists may scoff at the use of “PCs”, which, as a term, isn’t usually employed in 5e. (And yes, one of my readers asked me to point out when a 5e-supplement uses this term; I won’t penalize a supplement for that, but I understand if that’s the pet-peeve of some people.) Annoyingly, the 5e-version suffers from the same shortcoming as the PFRPG-iteration: This huge list of fun activities for the party to engage in? They have no rules provided. Coal holding, ring toss, etc. – all sans rules, when presenting them would have been very easy.

    The supplement concludes with a variety of adventure hooks that go beyond the actual visit to the circus.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules language level, the book omits several aspects that would be handled via rules in 5e. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and features neat b/w-artworks, a cool handout, and neat b/w-cartography. I am given to understand that you get high-res unlabeled maps via Raging Swan Press’ patreon, but I still consider the lack of player-friendly versions here a downside, though not necessarily a crucial one in this instance. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two iterations – one optimized for screen use, and one optimized for the printer.

    Jeff Gomez’ trip to the circus is a delightful change of pace for the trope. The circus feels plausible and organic, and taking a break from the “circus nightmare/massacre”-trope is indeed appreciated. There is, formally, nothing to complain about the supplement in that regard.

    As far as the 5e-components are concerned, it is severely lacking in actual crunch, though – and in this instance, the very activities that are supposed to, you know, entertain characters and players alike, don’t have any mechanical chassis to make them work. And yes, pretty much every evil circus module has some mechanics, so providing an AC for ring tossing, an engine for the drinking contest etc. would have been neat.

    This remains the big downside of this supplement, and the only reason why I can’t rate this version higher than 4 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    A Day Out at the Circus (5e)
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    A Day Out at the Circus (System Neutral)
    Publisher: Raging Swan Press
    by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 08/24/2020 04:01:14

    An Endzeitgeist.com review

    This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 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.

    So, in case you’re new to these: “Eventures” are essentially mini-adventures that focus on events, as opposed to a plot, a confrontation, or combat; this makes them eminently useful as pre-prepared set-pieces that you can enter into the game.

    And frankly, a circus is a good call there. I mean, I can easily list 10+ modules that feature a circus; all of them have in common that something goes horribly wrong/sinister. And I get why. However, on a meta-level, this also means that the party of players will be on edge as soon as the word “circus” falls anywhere close to the in-game world.

    And this is where this supplement comes in – in it, we learn about the “White Tiger’s Crew”, and their circus; general hooks are provided to get the party to visit the circus, and a 12-entry whispers and rumors table adds further hooks to the fray. If all of that doesn’t suffice, the supplement also has a 20-entry minor events table.

    The crew, by the way, is not without their internal struggles and shades of grey decisions to be made when interacting with the party, but the supplement does not run the usual “evil/deadly nightmare circus” shtick. An important note: Whether the circus becomes fully evil, redeemed, or remains in an equilibrium very much might be up to the party. Particularly the tastefully touched subject of slavery is interesting in the context of this circus.

    The circus comes with an artwork/handout that depicts a flyer inviting people to the circus, and also features a really nice b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama of the circus grounds and the ship they use to travel. The map sports 6 keyed encounters. The respective acts are described, including an orc and goblin comedic act, blind jugglers, fortune tellers, clowns, a lion tamer, and yes, a freak show. The food cart lists a surprising amount of good alongside prices that are affordable for non-adventurers, and the eventure also suggests a variety of activities.

    Unlike in the other two iterations, I can’t complain about an absence of rules for the system-neutral version. When referencing classes, the supplement uses the proper old-school apellations. The supplement concludes with a variety of adventure hooks that go beyond the actual visit to the circus.

    Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules language level, I can’t complain about the system neutral version lacking rules either. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and features neat b/w-artworks, a cool handout, and neat b/w-cartography. I am given to understand that you get high-res unlabeled maps via Raging Swan Press’ patreon, but I still consider the lack of player-friendly versions here a downside, though not necessarily a crucial one in this instance. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two iterations – one optimized for screen use, and one optimized for the printer.

    Jeff Gomez’ trip to the circus is a delightful change of pace for the trope. The circus feels plausible and organic, and taking a break from the “circus nightmare/massacre”-trope is indeed appreciated. There is, formally, nothing to complain about the supplement in that regard, and in the system neutral iteration, I can’t complain about a lack of rules either, which is why this version gets a final verdict of the full 5 stars.

    Endzeitgeist out.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    A Day Out at the Circus (System Neutral)
    Click to show product description

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