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Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition D&D
by Darren P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2015 13:08:13

Pretty good if you are stuck for new monsters, ok presentation



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition D&D
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Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2015 08:10:20

A mysterious forest, legends about an evil soceress who vanished completely but might now be coming back... is this enough to get your party to go and investigate? If not, perhaps they just happen to be travelling through the forest or have been hired to check the place out - a few hooks such as these are provided but in essence the adventure begins when the party enters the forest, no matter how they got there. Just where the forest might be located is left to you as well - it may even not be in Midgard if you are not using that setting.

A brief Adventure Background lets you know a little about what is going on, and then we're off, beginning with an encounter with a treant with obscure motives, but who could be quite helpful if handled the right way. If the party are there by chance, however, this encounter might prove rather baffling as the treant assumes they know what's going on! Fortunately, if the characters are too puzzled, other forest denizens have been provided who have a good understanding of the situation and are prepared to help out - indeed it's suggested that you use them to keep the plot flowing if it stalls due to the party being unsure about what they ought to be doing.

This is a location-based quest adventure. Each location is described and the events or encounteres associated with them given in detail, along with applicable monster stats. Interestingly, many enounters are with creatures subtly modified from 'book standard' to suit the shadow fey feel, stirges that can hide in shadow and the like. There are some nice illustrations embedded in the text and, in a neat move, they are provided in an 'Art and Maps' appendix if you like to show your players what their characters see.

The assumption is made that the characters will seek to prevent the Dusk Queen (as the evil sorceress terms herself) from making a return to her former power: in this case there's a fine cinematic end-battle to be had. The 'Art and Maps' section not only provides a one-page floor plan of the setting, there's also a full sectional battlemap for those who want to use miniatures or pawns for the climactic brawl. And there's a little hint about things to come in the promise of a sequel to this adventure...

This is a well-presented scenario, a little forced in the assumptions made about what the characters will do perhaps, but enjoyable nevertheless - and if the threat posed is presented well and the eerie menace of the setting played up, successful characters should have a feeling of real accomplishment, of having prevented a genuine menance developing in the area.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
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Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/03/2015 01:00:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive, huge tome clocks in at 378 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages backer-list, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 367 pages of content, so let's...

...wait. I can't really convey the illusion of spontaneity here. Why? Because I have written and deleted this review 3 times as I'm writing these lines. This is quite literally one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, mainly because conveying my stance on Deep Magic is pretty ambiguous and prone to misinterpretation.

But let's start at the beginning. This book is beautiful. Thanks to one particularly helpful gentleman, I managed to pledge by proxy over him (didn't have the bucks when the KS ran...) and when this book's physical copy arrived in the mail, I was utterly blown away. Not only did I receive a massive, gorgeous stitch-bound hardcover, it was in gorgeous full color and sported some of the very best pieces of artwork I've EVER SEEN. The matte paper helps create an illusion of an "old" tome and the superb, copious artworks render this book so beautiful, it even mops the floor with quite a few Paizo-books. Yes, that gorgeous. The layout, with its parchment-look, its subdued, unobtrusive glyphs further enhances this. Deep Magic is one of the most mind-staggeringly gorgeous books I've ever had the pleasure to read and both artists and layout-artists have been up to their A+++-game. Kudos!

Then, I went on and started reading beyond the forewords and the introductory short story by Ed Greenwood and after them, yes, I was utterly blown away and totally in the mind-set for the things to come:

The first we see would be the respective magical traditions. Old time fans of Kobold Quarterly and Kobold Press will see quite an array of old favorites herein again - from blood magic to fool's summonings, quite a bunch of conceptual goldies can be found herein. At their very best, these new traditions are ridiculously inspired - new ioun stones and ley lines would be two such examples. The latter, for examples, can be tapped by casters with concise rules to tap into their powers - while very powerful, these ley-lines can not only make for interesting tools that can turn the tide of battle and e.g. prevent a TPK or provide unique, cool ways to execute narratives. The transient nature of ley lines and the option to burn them out/change their course places control firmly within the hands of the DM, preventing abuse. That being said, as a DM, I have to decidedly advise against making the numerous ley line feats available for PCs - their balancing is odd/non-existent, with no-save, no-SR 1-round blinding effects and the like not necessarily constituting good resources to place in player hands.

The fool's summoning tricks go a different way - beyond interesting, more risky, but also more powerful summoning tricks, a copious amount of spells receive flavorful modifications and reskins - which brings me to another point. These traditions sport unique effects, and the same holds true for chaos/wonder magic, with distinct, odd effects and abilities rendering the experience of playing the respective schools pretty interesting. Alas, not all of the traditions herein receive such interesting rules - in fact, quite a few of the traditions adhere to the following presentation: We receive a short fluff-text, spell-lists by caster/level and then, a sample spellbook, including preparation ritual. (And yes, rules for intelligent, living spellbooks can be found herein as well - they are pretty sinister and narrative gold.)Now don't get me wrong, I love the inclusion of these books, but all in all, the respective "schools"/traditions, at least partially, feel too rudimentary - there is not enough to set the spells themselves apart, no guidance to develop additional spells for such a school and some classes receive e.g. one exclusive spell for such a tradition - not much reason to pick a tradition. By providing a tighter focus, the traditions could have been infinitely more compelling, more specific...but...on the other hand, we for example receive a complete, new full-blown mythic path with the living saint.

What are living saints? Well, for one, they are chosen of god(s) - what I mean by this is that, like many a mythological leader of religious prowess, these guys experience a highly interesting phase of tribulations, wherein they are severed from their gods and besieged by the whole pantheon - essentially, all gods can tempt the saint towards their ideology and sphere of influence, proposing different spells etc. for obeisance and quests. This can also be used for interesting foreshadowing and over all, the mythic path, intended for divine casters, is pretty much a cool choice with plenty of narrative potential ingrained into the very fabric of the thing, especially due to the numerous spells sporting names of the saints, adding a cool narrative dimension and unobtrusive fluff to these miraculous powers. This mythic path is the first that actually feels like it could have originated in fiction, like it not only provides a rules-escalation, but an actually defining, narrative tool. I adore this path and the resonance of our own world's myths, with obvious references to Christian (sans the ideology, mind you - you can't be offended by this guy) narrative structures that are very ingrained into how we perceive certain myths, this path is a thing of beauty.

Vril, the unique pseudo-atlantean power-source introduced in Sunken Empires (inspired by Bulwer-Lytton's writing) also receives new specialists, both archetype, feat and spell-wise. Converting spells into vril-blasts, for example, is pretty interesting. That being said, careful looks into this system also shows us a couple of somewhat odd choices - the archetypes, for example, are separated and relegated to their own chapter - so instead of looking up e.g. vril magic, you have to know where what can be found. Yes, organization is neatly organized by crunch-type, but in a book this focused on awesome concepts, I think another solution would have been appropriate. Also odd - Ink Magic, in depiction pretty much a tradition, can be found in the chapter on rune-magic. Strange.

But this line of reasoning brings me to the first issue of this book, though it is admittedly one of preference. The traditions as such, as has always been the strong forte of Kobold Press, just BRIM with imagination. They provide iconic, well--crafted concepts that set the imagination ablaze. I know a couple of them from their original books and the fluff, usually, did in some way limit the respective traditions - whether it's the lost magic of vril, the blood magic of some limited tribes/traditions or the lost magic used to slow the progress of the Wasted West's Old Ones...there always was this implied scarcity, this alignment of crunch with philosophies, ethnicities and accomplishments. So the PCs have this powerful spell xyz, BECAUSE they have taken on caster zxy, because they have braved the ruins of Gru'tharkrr...

This book collects all of these traditions and breaks their spells into a massive, huge chapter, dissolving the lines between them and implying by its very organization a general availability not implied in singular presentations - essentially, we have a disjunction of fluff from crunch to a certain extent. Now this means that you have to search the spells in the lists if you want to make a specialist, but have an easier time when just browsing through the book, looking for spells generally available - hence, the implication is that these spells are available freely, akin to how spell presentation works in Paizo's big books. Now don't get me wrong, one could argue that THIS is exactly what this book tries to do, analogue to the big Paizo-books, where you essentially slap down the book and have a general extension of the arsenal. My contention, ultimately, is that this is balance-wise one of the decisions that shoot the book in its metaphorical foot.

In my first iteration of this review, I went through all of the crunch here in these traditions step-by-step - alas, this bloated the review to the point where it wasn't helpful anymore. (And if I'm saying that, with my tendency towards verbose reviews, you'll have an inkling of what a monstrosity this would have become - my guess was 20+ pages - and let's be honest, no one would read that...)

So, Deep Magic does sport, a HUGE chapter of spells, both new and old - all collated and organized by handy spell-levels. This chapter is where my first and second review-attempts broke apart. The first one due to my so far pretty jubilant review receiving a harsh dose of reality, the second because I realized that step-by-step analysis makes no sense, bloating the review. If that was not ample clue - not all is well here. It is only understandable that a vast array of authors will have diverging voices and different mastery of the system and yes, this does show herein. Now before you get the pitchforks, let me state one thing explicitly and clearly - the concepts of these spells are WONDROUS. Gorgeous. Superb. They are iconic. They feel like magic, not like some energy-colored damage-dealing vehicles. They manage to capture the elusive spirit of what magic ought to be and bring the "magic" back into a game often lost and sorely missed. I'd take the concepts of this book over those in Ultimate Magic and Combat combined any day.

The concepts.

For there is no way around the following statement, no way to sugar-coat it without outright lying. There are a lot of cool, functional spells herein. However, there also is a vast array of spells that would have desperately required the hands of an editor who truly knows rules-language and/or a capable developer. Name the issue and you have a very good chance of finding a representative of the issue herein, quite possibly in a spell that you absolutely love concept-wise.

This chapter almost broke my heart.

Any closer analysis shows ample problems, often to the point of rendering a spell highly ambiguous, unbalanced or downright inoperable - there are examples of authors obviously mixing up flat-footed and touch attack AC. Mechanics more closely related to 3.X-design. Spells that do not allow for saves which should. SR that is ignored when comparable spells allow for it. Contradictions between spell-block and its text. Faulty AoEs/ranges/targets. False spell-block formatting. Wrong save. Damage-escalation. You name it. Damage + no-save stagger at a level where it's ridiculous. Non-sense descriptor-placement. Balance is not even crying in the corner anymore, it is utterly GONE, evaporated into some nebulous dimension. Some author(s) seem to not get the distinction between material components, foci and divine foci. Unspecified bleed damage à la inflict " receives bleed 3" - bleed 3 WHAT? Hp? Attribute? What about a spell generating an AoE geyser-like effect that gets just about everything wrong you can possibly get wrong regarding AoEs? Racial spells that could have simply used focus as a limiting component instead of wonky wording-crutches that try (badly) to cut out other races? Sentences that peter off. Wording so convoluted I can't tell you how exactly a spell works. You name the glitch, it's here - and right next to it, you may see one of the coolest spells ever.

This massive chapter was one of the most heart-rending experiences of my reviewer-career. My first skip through it saw me exhilarated. Closer scrutiny brought disappointment, actual in-depth analysis...well, there's no way around it...pain. Now beyond the glitches, the balance-concerns herein may partially stem from bad design-choices and lack of rules-language development...but at least partially, they also have their origin in the simple fact that the book took the "soft" restrictions that served as a balancing factor before and took them away by smashing all spells into one big chapter. Where before, spells may have been "broken", but rare, the implication here is that they are freely available, exacerbating what might before have been a reward into power-escalation. Now yes, in face of the vast army of issues that plague this chapter, even a change in presentation in the proposed way would be a drop of water in a vast desert of issues and would do nothing to render the formal issues void...but yeah, that would be one exacerbating factor.

And one that extends, alas, to the next chapter. I am a huge fan of runic/glyph magic. Allowing non-casters to learn the powers of rues is one of the most-beloved tropes for me - whether clad in a pseudo-Scandinavian guise or via lovecraftian alignment with aboleths et al.; The very concepts of the runes are powerful, and intentionally so. But once again, stripping these of their fluff, of their direct place within the world, of the achievements required to learn them, renders them problematic. When you have to mimic the deeds of the gods to learn the rune Uruz and then, finally have it, it becomes okay if you can paint it on your shield for a 1/day +20 bonus to overrun/bull rush - chances are, your DM knew what was coming and planned accordingly. If the fluff context is taken away, a ridiculously powerful rune, accessible for 1 feat, remains - and suddenly, we see the system stumble under the weight of one of its foundations being eroded.

I'm not going to analyze the word of power-subchapter, mainly because I consider the base-system introduced in Ultimate Magic just not well-designed. On the plus-side, the awesome incantations pioneered by Zombie Sky Press back in the day receive a significant array of new ones and these tend to be pretty awesome narrative devices.

Alas, the sloppy rules-language of the spells also partially (but thankfully, only partially!) extends to the following chapter, detailing bloodlines and mysteries. What about tentacle-attacks that do not specify as what they are treated? Check. Flawed target/reach-nomenclature...check. Sp, Su and Ex, in some cases, seem to have been determined at random, rendering some abilities utterly opaque. You get the idea. Now yes, the problems are much less pronounced than among the spells, but they are still here. As an additional note - the options among these class options do not feel as though they were balanced among themselves, with power-levels ranging from weak to VERY strong. Still, overall, these options feel relatively operable and easily fixed and the concepts provided are often utterly unique and cool. On a footnote, wizards, oddly, have their arcane discoveries/focused schools etc. in the tradition-section in the beginning, ripping the class options associated with the traditions in half. The problems outlined here also extend, alas and much to my chagrin, to the chapter on archetypes. That being said, the archetype's main flaw remains the focus on the spells/traditions - you can't build a house on sand and these, as compelling as they often are, sometimes do just that - which is a pity, for here, much like with aforementioned class options, the imaginative potential is rather impressive..

The following chapters, thankfully, at least for me, redeemed the book, at least partially - a concise and utterly awesome chapter on the creation of homunculi/leastlings and simple rules for undead crafting as well as nice clockwork templates for familiars et al. make provide significant fun, engagement and narrative potential. Speaking of which - portrayed in glorious artworks, a significant array of iconic, cool NPCs - those that are here, are great and flavorful, but I can't help but feel that one per tradition would have been nice to see.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good. On a rules-level, they are BAD and ironically, deeply flawed. Layout, as mentioned, adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the artworks range among the most stunning I've ever seen in an RPG-book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the dead-tree copy ranks among the most beautiful books in my shelves.

Read this list: Wolfgang Baur, Creighton Broadhurst, Jason Bulmahn, Tim Connors, Adam Daigle, Mike Franke, Ed Greenwood, Frank Gori, Jim Groves, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Brandon Hodge, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Neil Spicer, Mike Welham, Margaret Weis. With this amount of creative potential assembled, does it surprise you that I consider this book the most inspiring spellbook I've ever read? Alas, even these titans can stumble. And they did.

This book could have been the ultimate spellcasting-milestone, a legend, a book that defines the very game we play, a whole new dimension of spellcasting. And it is - on a concept-level.

Instead, at least on a crunch-level, it is pretty much, as much as I'm loathe to say it, a wreck -not one that has sunk, but one that leaks. The lack of a rules-savvy editor/developer is readily apparent - there are plenty of glitches herein that could have been caught by even a cursory inspection.

And no, that's not just me being overly picky. I put this book before one of my less rules-savvy players, opened it on a random page in the spell-section and had him read spells. Inadvertently, he stumbled over an ambiguity, an issue.

Were I to rate this one the crunch alone, I'd smash it to smithereens - the very skeleton of the book is flawed and that radiates outward to almost all chapters, poisoning them as well. Allowing this book flat and without scrutiny at a table is an invitation for rules-discussions and balance-issues - at least if the players are halfway capable at making efficient characters.

Why am I not bashing this further? Because, while deeply flawed, Deep Magic is also deeply inspired - the concepts herein are staggering, setting the mind ablaze with possibilities, conjuring forth ideas for adventures, campaigns even. Quite a bunch of the flaws can be ironed out by a capable DM...and flawed though it may be, Deep Magic has A LOT of passion, heart's blood and soul oozing from its pages. The concepts of this tome, in the end, made it worthwhile, at least for me.

I'm not going to lie. My players will never get their hands on this book. But I will take the concepts, take the spells, fix them and reap the benefits of the exceedingly awesome concepts provided herein. On the one hand, we thus have a terribly flawed book that fails quite spectacularly and depressingly at becoming what it ALMOST achieved - being the best spellbook for any iteration of a d20-based system ever. On the other, the often flawed crunch does provide more great spell-ideas and concepts (as opposed to their execution...) than the APG, ARG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat combined.

Whether this book is for you depends very much on what you expect - if you want solid crunch, a book to just slap on the table and allow...well, then stay the 11 Midgardian hells away from this book. If, on the other hand, you're willing to work with it, if you're looking for inspiration and are competent regarding the design/balancing of material, then this is a scavenger's mithril-mine and a great resource to have - you literally can't open a single page in this book without stumbling over at least one awesome, iconic concept. The hardcover is also great to show off to non-gamer friends and make them marvel at the glorious artworks, layout and presentation.

How to rate this, then? I hate and love this book. I want to slap my seal of approval on it, in spite of its flaws. But I can't. Deep Magic has too many issues and I can't rate potential, as much as I'd love to. I can only rate what is here and its effects - which oscillate between "utterly awesome and inspiring" and "wtf is this supposed to do?"

Without the superb concepts, the lore-steeped ideas, the downright inspired take on magic and its flavor, I would have gone further down on my scale. But, as a reviewer, I also have to take these into account, as well as the people out there who are like me and still can take a lot from this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 4: Dragonkin (Pathfinder RPG)
by David Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/22/2015 15:26:15

For the sake of full disclosure, I just want to point out that I'm still relatively new to Pathfinder (And somewhat to 3.5.) and that this and the 'Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire' are my first experiences with Kobold Press. However, Rite Publishing's 'In the Company of Dragons' is my first experience with 3rd party material. After going through this and the 'Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire' (PGttDE for short.), I just want to say this... Why the **** does Kobold Press have such a good reputation? I'm going to echo a lot of sentiments from Thilo G. simply because they bear repeating. I'm ALSO going to drag the PGttDE into this because despite what Thilo G has said in his review, you'll still need this thing to actually play a Dragonkin because they omitted the tables for starting ages, and height/weight. Yet, you actually need the PGttDE because this book omits a lot of race-specific feats and traits. And I REALLY hate that because I feel that 3rd party material should be able to stand on it's own, while this feels more like a pay-for plug to the PGttDE. My criteria for anything is simple, be it a movie, video game, or book is simple. "Is it worth what I paid for it?" Well, this thing cost me a total of $8.98, and the answer is a pretty hearty "No". I also seriously doubt I will be buying any more Kobold Press material in the future. (This includes their recently kickstarted Advanced Races compendium.) Well, enough of that, let's get into it, shall we?

First off, I can confirm what Thilo said is accurate. Whoever wrote this couldn't even bother to look up the Paizo-established OGL game terms. (And it's not like there's a FREE WEBSITE that contains that information and such an issue could be resolved in about a minute.) For example, under the Dragonkin Racial Traits section, "Armor" properly uses "Natural armor bonus" while JUST UNDER IT, the "Dragon Skin" feat adds a stacking +1 "to your natural armor rating". (This mistake is also repeated in "Improved Dragon Skin".) I know it's a minor nitpick, but it really does set the tone for the amount of effort used on this book. What ISN'T as minor is the fact that, in both this and the PGttDE, there is NO MENTION of what racial type Dragonkin actually ARE. I'm assuming Humanoid (Reptillian), but this is still a major oversight and it shouldn't take long for experienced players to figure out why. In fact, let's go over the racial traits, shall we? Dragonkin clock in at 9 RP, but there's a few weaknesses I'd like to address. I've already mentioned the lack of racial type, and I have no issues with the Slow Speed. (Although I WOULD like a racial feat that increases their base speed to 30ft, but that's more of a personal preference.) What does annoy me is that this race is meant to be a martial type and takes a penalty to Dex. Seriously? Dex? You're shooting this martial race in the foot here, guys. Dex is vital for ranged attacks (Especially since martials lack spells that hit Touch AC.) as well as Initiative and dodge-based AC. In fact, in the PGttDE, KP mentions a fighter archetype that uses SPEARS, a versatile weapon that's well known for being THROWABLE. (So, just run away from any Dragonkin troops. They can't run all that fast, and they can't hit with ranged weapons.) If it were me, they'd take a hit to Wis because even if their reputation is deserved, they're still a bit arrogant. At languages, this is where not having anything for a non-Midgard campaign rears it's ugly head because they can have "Dwarvish, Darakhul (Ghoulish/Undercommon), Elemental, Elvish, Infernal, Kobold, Minotaur, or Nuri" as bonus languages. Well, "Elemental" is made up of four different languages in core, kobolds use Draconic, (The Dragonkin's natural language.) Minotaurs use Giant, and I have no idea what the heck "Nurian" is. As for the Energy Resistance, it's actually underpowered by Paizo's custom race rules. While it's a choice of what element you want, Paizo's elemental-based races have a minimum of Energy Resistance 5 to their corresponding element. I'd bump this up to 5 because it's still not all that powerful. The last problem I have is 'Presence'. It's a +2 bonus to Diplomacy AND Intimidate, which is 4 RP and matches up with Skill Bonus. I'm not as fond of this as most players are only going to use one or the other. (Although, the thought of having Intimidate as a backup in case Diplomacy doesn't work IS pretty funny...) It also makes Fly a class skill, which matches up with Skill Training, but that allows for TWO skills, not one. Again, feels underpowered. I'd just tack on Perception because that's just how useful it is, and you're descended from freaking DRAGONS. Unobservant, they aren't.

Now, Alternate Racial Traits. Look, I get the idea that you wanted these to be thematic. However, the choices are limited and the elemental ones just suck. They replace Armor (2 RP) for an at-will cantrip (Paizo allows a 1x a day 1st level as a 1 RP ability under 'Spell-Like Ability, Lesser', so I can see a 3x a day cantrip as being 1 RP, maybe unlimited as 2 RP.) But, not all cantrips are created equal. At-will Prestidigation is obviously much better than most other at-will cantrips, depending on how clever the player is. 'Child of Flame' gives at-will Dancing Lights (Cantrip), but the race ALREADY HAS darkvision, and you can just use a torch if you need to read something. 'Child of Stone' gives at-will Virtue, which is a standard action to give 1 temp HP, which is a crappy deal in terms of action economy. (Really, keep the +1 Nat. AC.) 'Child of Storms' gives at-will Spark which... Sets Fine-sized items on fire. Okay, kinda useful, but it's a fire spell (Which means it'd be better suited for Child of Flames) and NOT worth losing the Nat. Armor over. 'Child of Water' gives at-will Create Water, and while very useful if the DM insists on tracking supplies like food and water and nobody is putting ranks in Survival, still isn't worth losing a +1 Natural armor AC. 'Elemental Master' trades the underpowered Energy Resistance and the natural armor bonus for... An even more underpowered Energy Resistance 4 instead of 2. Really guys? Really? 'Reptillian Cunning' trades the natural armor bonus (Are you sensing a theme yet?) for a 3x a day Speak with Animals, but limited to reptiles. Okay, it's kinda thematic, but dragons are to reptiles what humans are to primates. Instead of begging the alligator to not eat you, you could instead be hacking it apart and grilling it over an open flame because you kept your natural armor bonus AND because you're clearly the superior reptile. 'Scaled Strength' trades that +2 Cha bonus to give you a total of +3 Str. First, nothing Paizo does works with odd bonuses. Second, this is closest to Paragon (+1 RP) and Greater Paragon (+2 RP). Paragon gives a +4 to one physical/mental ability score for -2 to all of the opposite ability scores. (IE +4 Str would mean -2 Int, Wis, AND Cha.) while Greater Paragon gives +4 to one score, and -2 to a physical AND mental ability score. (IE +4 Str for -2 Dex AND -2 Wis.) Congratulations Kobold Press! Here I thought everything in here was going to be underpowered, but you've certainly surprised me! Really, I and pretty much anybody that wanted to play Dragonkin would've been MUCH happier if you had just made alternate stat bonuses so we could make good use of that Wizard Elementalist archetype you made. Something that boosts Dex and Int, but maybe loses some Str or something. Plus, the race as a whole wouldn't be pidgeonholed into a martial class. 'Unblinking Glare' has another odd-numbered bonus. In addition to being a cheap rip-off of Elven Immunities, I'd rather see an Immunity to Sleep effects and a +2 bonus to saving throws to resist Paralysis, like the dragons Dragonkin are supposedly related to.

Okay, onto feats! First off LOT of the feats have a BAB requirement instead of a level requirement. This means that if you're not playing an full BAB class, you can only get these MUCH later than a martial class, if at all. I don't like this, especially when they include archetypes for magic-based classes that get a 1/2 BAB progression. Why they didn't use HD or level is beyond me, and either requirement would've worked better. 'Dragonskin' adds +1 to your "natural armor rating', which I'm sure I complained about before. Not too bad, it's on par with a core (monstrous) feat that increases natural armor bonus by +1. 'Gutteral Voice' give you one of three languages as a free language, and that makes me wonder if the person making this was even REMOTELY familiar with the Linguistics skill, which would do THE EXACT SAME THING for a mere skill point. (Yes, Thilo already pointed this out, but it bears repeating.) 'Improved Dragon Skin' requires Dragon Skin and a BAB of +9 and gives you... +2 "natural armor rating" AND "DR 3 to one Energy Type" of acid, cold, electricity, or fire. Again KP, go to D20pfsrd and LOOK UP THE PROPER TERM. And also, hire an actual freaking editor. If you do have one, they need a stern lecture. 'Improved Flight' is a good feat. Like, a REALLY good feat. You need the ability to fly (Obviously.) and a BAB of +9, and "add +2 to your Fly skill ranks" (Do you EVEN know how skill bonuses work, KP?!) and increase your maneuverability rating by one step, up to perfect. Increasing your maneuverability rating lessens your penalty to Fly or gives you a bigger bonus, but either way makes a +4 difference alone. So, with a whopping +6 difference after all is said and done, this feat is as good or better than Skill Focus, and it's effects stack. 'Militant Commander' gives a whopping +10 Intimidate bonus to members of a lesser class and is thematic as all get out, but a +10 boost is MASSIVE and there's feats that make use of Intimidate in Paizo's own stuff. Really, this should be toned down by quite a bit. 'Spiked Tail' gives you a piercing tail attack that does 1d4+3 damage. Why? Why not just allow Dragonkin to use Kobold Tail Attachments as long as they're sized properly without penalty? I'd like that a lot better, really. Plus, it opens the door for some impressive multiweapon fighting. (Or TWF with a 2-handed weapon and a secondary weapon.) 'Sturdy Tail' gives a +3 bonus to CMD vs. Bull Rush, Overrun, and Trip Attempts and can be taken up to 3 times. Okay, do the effects stack? Do I chose one type of combat maneuver per use of the feat? I feel like something is missing in this entry. Finally, the thing that PISSES ME OFF more than anything else in a book, a plug to buy NOT ONE, BUT TWO other KP books! Here, I'll copy it directly "For more feats straight from the Mharoti Empire, including ones that grant a breath weapon and climbing claws, see the 'Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empire' (page 10). At your GM’s discretion, some dragonkin may also have access to feats found in 'The Book of Drakes.'" WHAT. THE. . KOBOLD PRESS?! It wasn't enough that I actually paid good money for this book alone, and NOW you want me to pony up for TWO MORE of these flaw-ridden, incomplete, pieces of garbage because you couldn't bother to cut and paste?! No. Go yourself Kobold Press. I'd rate this thing a 0 if I could.

As for the archetypes, I'm going to skip over most of them save for the Dragonkin Elementalist. First, NO PLAYER is going to make a Dragonkin wizard because of the stat distribution. +2 Str? That's a dump stat. -2 Dex? That's needed for the pittance of AC they get and more importantly, used to aim ray spells. +2 Cha? That's a Sorcerer's casting stat. To be blunt, this whole Archetype SHOULD HAVE been made for a Sorcerer, which dragons are far more like anyway, and started with giving them something like Elemental Substitution for free at the first level. As for the capstone ability? A weak version of Fire Shield in their chosen element makes for a very crappy capstone, especially since a wizard should NEVER be in melee, even if they're trying to make touch attacks. Yes, they have a Dragonkin-specific Bloodline, but that would've made a better Wizard Archetype.

Finally, the thing that pisses me off ALMOST as much as the cheap plugs for other products. The absolute LACK of any kind of non-Midgard campaign setting materials. I can understand tying this into KP's Midgard campaign setting, but this book is SUPPOSED to be able to stand on it's own. Instead, it just falls over. How did Dragonkin come into being? No seriously, are they the result of crossbreeding between humans and dragons, making their own race? Or were they magically created from the lesser humanoid races and infused with draconic essence? (Feel free to make your own "essence" joke here.) Do they crave making their own hoard like dragons? Can they breed with other races? How do they interact with each other? What's their society like when they don't have their draconic masters ruling over them? What alignment are they most like? What gods do they worship, or are the dragons they serve their gods? And last but probably the most important, WHY DO THEY ADVENTURE? It's like they started copying the main points of the core race entries but got distracted halfway through and never went back to that. Some of this stuff may very well have been answered in the PGttDE, but again, this SHOULD be able to stand on it's own without making somebody feel like they NEED to buy another book in case they don't want all the other material that comes with it. And KP, if you're reading this, I'm not upset so much as disappointed. I've heard that you produce some top-notch things and that you have an awesome reputation. Really, I'd be happy if this was revised and rewritten so that the race didn't leave so much to be desired. All I want is to feel like I've gotten my money's worth out of this product, or maybe even made out like a bandit on it. As for anybody thinking about buying this? DON'T. SKip this, AND skip the Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire. You need BOTH books to have a semi-complete race. Instead, skip this entirely and go for "In the Company of Dragons" by Rite Publishing and play a real but surprisingly balanced dragon. Yeah, you have the problem of an adventuring party traveling with a dragon at high levels, but you also have the problems of a high level Cleric, Druid, Wizard, or any other class that things the laws of physics and the universe are only suggestions.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 4: Dragonkin (Pathfinder RPG)
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Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/12/2015 02:57:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The fifth Demon Cult introduced by Kobold Press' series details what could be considered the most pulpy tale in the series yet - when a disenfranchised aristocrat had to escape into the jungles and stumbled upon a hidden, ruined city, Josef Kortz would have not dreamed that the carnivorous white apes haunting the ruins would one day bow to him - and bow they do, for he is the summoner that commands the Great White Ape, his eidolon being akin to their tribal deity. Over years of study and careful planning, the mad master, now known as the New Father, has commanded the white apes in combat, subjugating all that dare oppose him and his simian slaves. Kortz and his powerful eidolon receive statblocks and so do his simian warriors, but that's not all - the awakened apes spread a dread condition, the spellscourge, which not only renders those infected into primal, degenerate and evil undead savages, but also allows them to devour magic. Yes, this pretty much could have been drawn from the pen of Rider Haggard or similar authors and yes, we get a sample couatl.

Now on the anal-retentive/nitpicky side, the template does sport a minor terminology hiccup, but none that would impede functionality. As always in the series, we do receive copious hooks to organize, potentially, a whole campaign with multiple choices for each general array of APL-groups and, as has become the tradition, the quality of these hooks is superb and diverse, providing narrative potential galore. Midgard-specific sideboxes help fans of the setting use the cult. The two new magic items, the unique staff of the father (okay, could have used some unique abilities...) as well as hides made from the white gorillas both are cool and diverse... the latter also allowing for the spreading of the dread disease.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover..of installment #4, which feels like an odd oversight. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

All right, I'll come right out and say it - I'm biased regarding this pdf. My childhood heroes were Conan and Solomon Kane; where other kids liked He-man, I was a fan of the tales of sunken Lemuria and Red Sonja remains one of my favorite heroines. I adore the pulpy feeling this evokes, the sense of ancient gravitas this evokes, the theme of disease and degeneration spread by the isolated apes - all of that sends my facial muscles smiling in a major way. I can't help it, I'm sorry, but for me, this hits all the right notes - this feels savage, brutal and inspired to me and captures my interest infinitely more than yet another bunch of hooded sops worshiping abyssal prince 386-b. This resounds with the themes I adore in fantasy, with a threat that is not one of a simplified morality, but one that attacks civilization and what we consider the foundation of society itself - and then adds the threat of losing magic for yet another nasty spike, merging themes of classic literature and amplifying them via the collective mythmaking we engage in while partaking in a roleplaying game session.

Now if the above left you cold and sent you shrugging away, I can understand that - I've seen the set-up before as well; however, the execution is significantly better than in most variants of the theme I've seen and personally, I absolutely adore this installment of the series. Yes, the supplemental material is slightly less pronounced than in the previous ones, but I can't help myself - I love this pdf. It showcases well the strengths of Kobold Press as a publisher - the narrative potential, the evocative dressing. Jeff Lee, delivers here and my final verdict, in spite of e.g. the layout-hiccup, clocks in at 5 stars +seal of approval; however, be aware that this is predicated upon my own personal preferences - if the basic idea does not appeal to you, detract a star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
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Demon Cults 4: The Hand of Nakresh
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2015 03:57:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 11 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The fourth Demon Cult the series offers would be the Hand of Nakresh - who is Nakresh, you ask? He is the forty-fingered simian demon-god of thieves, with his lower left hand reserved for his most daring of thefts - it is this hand that gives this cult its name. The leadership of the cult is firmly in the hands of the Five Exalted, which receive full-blown statblocks herein - a kobold alchemist, a gnoll trapper, a derro sorceror, a tengu cleric and a roachling sanctified rogue make up this illustrious party, which could pretty much be run as an opposing adventurer party,a rival group, should you choose to. Beyond the basics, you should be aware that the members receive background stories and minor, loving tidbits - like the roachling's mutation, which nets him 4 hands. Small special features like this and the superb equipment (yes, influences CR) set a group apart. Well done!

As always, the pdf does sport a significant array of exceedingly detailed adventure hooks involving the cult, grouped by rough APLs and once again, the hooks go beyond the boring default, establishing some rather cool and inspired ideas and providing enough fodder for DMs to base multiple adventures around the cult. Midgard-aficionados will be glad to hear that we receive advice for using the cult in Midgard. There is a new spell herein, a variant of mirror image, wherein the duplicates run in random directions if you move - I do like the concept and the spell is functional, but I would have liked to see interaction with damaging terrain - do the images running over such terrain ignore it? I assume so, but this conversely makes finding the true culprit easier.

The magic items sport a demoralizing aklys and a magic monkey's paw for luck - and an artifact. This one is a beauty: The Ley-line absorber can tie in with the agendas of some members, aiming to steal magic and absorbing it for a vast power-gain of the operator - now that is a high-profile heist!

"But wait", you say - "I don't use the Midgard-setting or ley lines!" Perhaps you are wary of the ley line magic rules or perhaps it doesn't fit your concept. Well, the artifact comes with a second version, one for ley-line-less settings! Now this is care! Oh, and then there is the new vehicle provided herein. Nothing I could write would drive home the awesomeness of the concept better than the one line before the devices' stats: CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee's cabal of master thieves is awesome - whether as a rival party, as high-class thieves or as elite criminals, I really, really like this installment. The writing of the fluffy hooks retains the significant quality established in the series and the artifact is a cool plot-device. While the new spell did not wow me and while I wasn't too excited about the solid new items (though I love the minimalistic style of the pulpy monkey's paws!), there is this level of detail of the characters I enjoy. We have nice little tidbits, resources worthy of such an elite force...and we have a CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB. Say it with me: "CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB." Hell yeah!

Before I ramble on - there is nothing truly wrong with this pdf and while not all components blew me away, there is a lot that did incite my imagination to run with it. My final verdict will hence still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Now excuse me, I need to get my villains a new ride...

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 4: The Hand of Nakresh
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Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
by Luke M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/28/2015 15:46:30

Fantastic starting point with some new ideas for anyone wanting some secret temple/jungle/great ape action. A few more lackeys or minion encounters would of be nice, but serves as a nice outline for an encounter somewhere around 5th level. I was not disappointed, but would love to see how the original creator fleshed this out a bit more.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
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Demon Cults 3: The Cult of Selket
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/14/2015 03:38:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is the Cult of Selket? Well, if the gorgeous cover was not enough of an indication, the cult is a kind-of Egyptian-themed cult, wherein the dread assassins of the desert scorpions execute those that dare to violate the divine mandate of Selket's clergy - preferably via poison and a semblance of "divine retribution." The cult's cadre of leaders receives full statblocks - from the deadly current (multiclassed, btw.) leader of the desert scorpions to the eternal guardian (a nasty divine guardian gynosphinx, complete with sample riddles!) to the Daughter of Selket herself, the builds are nice to see and feel a tad more diverse than in previous installments of the series - good!

Now if you've been following my reviews of the series, you may have noticed that I'm a huge fan of the exceedingly numerous and detailed hooks provided, which generally are enough to utilize the cult in question for more than one module and potentially craft a whole campaign from it. This pdf's hooks are no less diverse and intriguing, with the sidebox detailing the cult's workings in Midgard falling in no way behind the great writing of the hooks - but the pdf does go one step beyond: What if your PCs actually work for the cult? Yup, while not as detailed as the massive array of hooks, the pdf actually manages to cover some basic points for the DM and present some concise orientation points. And honestly, I haven't run a campaign like that and would love to. Nice to see this series going the extra mile here!

Speaking of which - we also receive a special kind of CR 5 mummy, which is not only poisonous, but should also offer a nasty surprise if cocky adventurers should try to set it ablaze: Toxic fumes. Yeah, I like that. We also get stats for a scorpion swarm and a greater swarm summoning spell. A bracer that can net limited tremorsense and quickly apply poisons and two cool new traits are also part of the deal, as is the vermin subdomain of the animal domain - while I have seen the concept of the vermin-friendly caster implemented via other means, the absence of such a (sub-)domain option is welcome here, though, when compared to even the traits, this constitutes the one piece of crunch I wasn't that intrigued by.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee's Cult of Selket brings the series home for me - for the first time, I read a Demon Cult-installment and thought "Yes, I want to run these as is." Whereas the first two installments were certainly good supplements, this one feels just a tad bit more lovingly crafted - from the sample riddles to the builds to the supplemental crunch, almost every component of this cult feels like is has been polished to a shine, with little tidbits added here and there to make the whole thing feel more complete. If you've been doing this whole reviewing shtick as long as I have, you get a sense when a designer goes above and beyond, when heart's blood oozes from the page. This is the case here. You find all those small, optional bits that inspire, that make a difference between a good file and a great one. This is the best Demon Cult-installment so far and well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 3: The Cult of Selket
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Demon Cults 2: Doomspeakers
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2015 03:33:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 3/4 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So what are the doomspeakers? Are they the homeless persons with the "The end is nigh"-shields? Nope, and neither are they doom metal enthusiasts - in this context, the doomspeakers are the antipaladin champions that have drank deeply from the well of profanity that is the Book of Nine Dooms, chaotic demon-worshipers, one and all.

Know how often alignment doesn't work so well in my preferred mode of shades of gray morality? Well, even there, sometimes, you have people that just fit the alignment system - their ideologies match up perfectly. This is one such example. If you're tired by moral conundrums, these guys fit the bill - it doesn't get more evil. These are guys that do not even try to seem morally ambiguous - we have capital E level, vile demon worshippers here and their methods and ideology reflect that. Now, unlike the first installment, we receive a bunch of statblocks, not one - from Narn, a straight 16-level antipaladin build (also known for crucifying captured enemies and minions) to a savage level 11 gnoll antipaladin, the first two builds are nasty pieces. A somewhat tragic tiefling oracle (level 12 of the pit-born subtype, btw.) is a more diverse character - severely mutilated by ignorant townsfolk, her descent into utter darkness was traumatic indeed. Oddly, her type is wrong - she is stated to be a humanoid (elf, human), when obviously, she should be a native outsider. Finally, a gnoll cleric and a half-elven arcane duelist (level 8 and 7, respectively) complete this array of champions of evil.

Now in direct comparison to the first installment, the doomspeaker's hooks have been greatly expanded: Each APL-array receives a plethora of exceedingly detailed hooks - essentially, this provides enough fodder for the DM to potentially run a whole campaign centered on the doomspeakers - and honestly, some of these hooks are significantly more compelling than quite a few full-blown modules I've read - without this section, the doomspeakers would feel like a cardboard cutout cult; with it, they come into their own as a distinct entity. Fans of Midgard should be aware of the sidebox that contains information on the cult in Midgard. Kudos for the inspired writing here!

The supplement also sports 2 new magic items - the bone whip, which is nice and the primal doom - these items can be thrown at foes, conjuring forth the very worst fears of the target, with the save influencing the particular CR of the doom called forth. Nasty and a cool storytelling device. The pdf also sport a new spell, the Doom of Ancient Decrepitude, which temporarily ages all targets, including the caster, while in the area - a nasty debuff indeed, and one that can have fatal consequences - be sure to take a look at the SRD-page, btw. - the spell's text carries over to this page.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any truly significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee's Doomspeakers were the Demon Cult I was least excited about - it is a personal preference, but I simply enjoy less obvious black and white morality more. That, and I'm quite frankly burned out on evil demon cults that are evil for evil's sake. I was positively surprised by the rather intriguing hooks for the sue of the doomspeakers, which help bringing the straight builds for the NPCs into a given campaign - they provide a depth I honestly did not expect to find. At the same time, however, I couldn't help but feel like the Demon Cult could have used a tad more elements to set it distinctively apart. What remains here would be a very straightforward cadre of vile opponents, foes worthy of radiant heroes. In the hands of a lesser author, the doomspeakers could have been a textbook example of evil blandness, but Jeff Lee's inspired and exceedingly detailed hooks set them apart and improve this book to a point where I'm considering this to be a worthwhile addition to a campaign.

The unique spell and items further help establishing a unique identity and manage to do an admirable job within the confines of this pdf. Now personally, I would have liked a tad bit more unique tricks for the cult - more distinct, exclusive crunch to set them apart more. The primal doom, for example, is a great narrative device and adding some special qualities to the creatures called, perhaps via a modular template, would have been the icing on the cake. As written, this pdf remains a surprisingly good installment and clocks in at a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 2: Doomspeakers
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Demon Cults 1: The Emerald Order
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/27/2015 05:28:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

"A Demon Cult? Urgh." If that was your response, then you're pretty much like me and over-saturated by bland "doing it for evil's sake"-idiot-plot-device adversaries. Thankfully, Kobold Press seems to have taken up the mantle to make secret societies and organizations no longer suck and actually have a distinct identity - at least that's the goal. So can the Emerald Order fulfill it?

Well, for once, the Emerald Order is not actually a Demon Cult - worshiping Thoth-Hermes and having deciphered the secrets within the Emerald Tablets, the members have managed to attain increased magical prowess - alas, as per the truism, power corrupts and the Emerald Order, in the time-honored tradition of secret societies, is exerting significant influence of the bodies politic in the realms wherein they have established themselves. Guided in that endeavor are they by their fully statted CR 15 sample character, the middle-aged master of the order, who sports no less than all ten levels of the new PrC, but more on that soon. The statblock is nice to see, though AC the non-flat-footed AC seems to be off by 1 point - now the statblock itself remains functional for the DM and hence, I won't complain too much about such minor hiccups.

The PrC covers 10 levels and is called Disciple of Emerald Esoterica. It requires 2nd level spellcasting and 3 ranks in some skills for relative early access, making the fluffy requirement of acknowledgment by the order to most important component. Formally, the PrC nets d6, 6+Int skills, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression and full spellcasting progression. The abilities themselves, sporting colorful names like "Key of Wisdom" and the like, deserve special mention -aforementioned first ability allows for the stacking with cleric levels for ability purposes or skill bonuses to wis-based skills that increase based on ranks akin to lesser skill focus-style benefits. Similar benefits are provided for arcane casters and oracles at higher levels (the latter working out surprisingly well re balancing builds) and beyond that, each level nets some sort of limited spell-like abilities than scale in their daily uses per day. Resistances can also be found herein among the abilities granted and disciples may, at higher levels, act in surprise rounds and later even learn e.g. final revelations, bloodline abilities et al. or, yes, grand discoveries. A basic glance will show you that this renders them accessible much sooner, which means that yes, imho you should keep this PrC out of player-hands...UNLESS you actually want them to enjoy those apex-level tricks for longer. It should also be noted that the order learns to chip away emeralds from the artifact-level tablets (which get a full write-up) to make a DR-granting ioun stone and that over all, its rules-language is pretty precise. Several SP-granting abilities sport a duality-theme, which is nice, but doesn't really mitigate the fact that these aren't as cool as e.g. the forewarned ability versus surprise rounds mentioned before - I would have loved some more esoteric abilities here - ironic, considering the focus of the order. And yes, the PrC, generally, can be considered rather solid.

Furthermore, disciples may create the Smaragdine golems, unerring trackers and magic absorbing sentinels - that, much like aforementioned leader, receive a glorious, high-standard visual representation in a beautiful piece of artwork. Where the pdf truly fills its role, though, would imho be in its numerous adventure suggestions involving the order, all grouped handily by APL - these range from kingdom-destabilization to polymorphing afflictions and should drive home rather well the diverse methods employed by this cabal. I loved this section and each, but one of the hooks has its first sentence bolded, thus allowing you to take in the premise of the hook at a glance! Fans of Midgard should also be aware that there is indeed a box helping you use the order within the context of said world.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches apart from one unimportant bolding missing among the hooks. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The original pieces of artwork are drop-dead gorgeous. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee's Emerald Order is a surprising first choice for a Demon Cult in that is feels more like an esoteric order as popularized by the pulp novels - the pdf manages to quote he themes of implied supremacy, of strange orders offering powers beyond the ken of the uninitiated and thus creates an organization that can be considered interesting indeed. Now while I'd be rather careful about allowing PCs to take the PrC herein, the added edge my provide interesting mechanics and while not suitable for every campaign, I can see an order PC working in some campaigns - rather well, actually!

Now this installment may not be perfect, but it is a more interesting book than I imagined - while I'd expect fame/reputation mechanics for cults and organizations intended for player use, as a mostly NPC-focused order that could potentially double as a player-expansion, I will not hold this omission against the pdf. I would have liked somewhat more detailed information on suggested resources at the order's command, on how they handle threats and the policies of the cabal, but that is my personal preference - there are a lot of ways to run such conspiracies and while a general inkling of the like is provided, the non-alignment-specific nature of the order (though they are strongly geared towards evil, the PrC is not...knowledge itself is neutral...) means that here, a bunch of cool choices and options at their behest could have been highlighted - don't get me wrong - this stuff is hinted at and generally covered, yes - I just wished the pdf was slightly more concrete and the same goes for the means of advancement within the order's hierarchy This is me nagging, though. The Emerald Order is a cool organization, one that oozes the spirit of pulp and classic weird fiction and for the low asking price, you receive a nice organization to throw into your games.

When all is said and done, this can be considered a good first installment of the series and one that makes me look forward to the other installments, which I will cover as well...and rather soon! My final verdict for this one will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform since it over all feels to me like it could have gotten slightly more out of the order's awesome visuals and style.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 1: The Emerald Order
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Advanced Races 14: Lizardfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/16/2015 04:30:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Races-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

So, with the lizardfolk getting shafted in the ARG (apart from being used as an RP-example), we receive a full-blown depiction here - following the ARG, the lizardfolk receive +2 Str and Con, -2 Int (though I would have preferred the second bonus to fall on the mental attributes for a more versatile focus) , receive a swim speed of 15 ft (including +8 to Swim checks) and a 1d3 bite and two 1d4 claw primary natural attacks. They also receive +2 natural armor, can hold their breath longer and get +2 to Acrobatics. Know what - nothing to complain about, apart from the subtype not being "reptile" but "reptilian" as per the official terminology. Yeah, I know - cosmetic gripe - distinct, solid and suitable for any power-level. Kudos! And yes, I am aware that the damage for the natural attacks is non-standard for the size, but this decision actually maintains the balance of the race, so congrats for knowing when to deviate from the rules to maintain balance.

Better yet, the lizardfolk receive a plethora of alternate racial traits. Want to play climbing lizardfolk? Just replace swim speed with climb speed and holding your breath with the option to retrieve small objects carried on their person as a move action via prehensile tails. Nice! Alternatively, they can replace swim speed with burrow speed.

Minor chameleon capabilities (only when not moving) can be found alongside deathrolls (with better grappling) - and yes, lizardfolk can be large (or small for that matter), but pay for the increase to large size with a hefty fine of their cooler abilities. I tend to be very weary of large characters, but they did work well in playtests, even though my min-maxy players did make their reach count. Gliding lizardfolk and poison bites may be among the options you'd expect to find, but what about a 1/day blood-gout from the eyes, frightening targets? With the correct descriptor as mind-influencing fear-based, btw.! Oh, and yes, there are lizardfolk that can run across water - with concise mechanics. There is one option I am not 100% comfortable with - replacing only the +2 AC bonus with healing 1 hit point per minute. Depending on your campaign/class-combos, the infinite healing could become problematic - when e.g. the lizardfolk has a class that can reassign damage taken to itself, only time is a limit to the healing capacities. That being said, the slow rate may actually make this work for most campaigns, so yeah - tentatively and with said caveat, but still - an okay choice. Should it become problematic, I'd suggest having it cap at con-score (not bonus) times 3 hit points per day.

As a nice support bonus, three racial subtypes that can be created with these traits are spelled out for the discerning and time-starved gamer. Favored class options for barbarian, druid, hunter, ranger, shaman, skald, sorceror and witch can be found and are solid.

Among the racial archetypes, we get the ambush predator rogue, with deadly ambushes (providing enough preparation), full-round actions during the surprise round and scaling, better holding of one's breath. Simple, yet thematically-fitting archetype. The primitive weapons master fighter not only makes primitive weapons not suck via an array of diverse, passive abilities - the archetype also may substitute one of 9 first fighter abilities whenever he would receive a bonus feat - and these are very interesting. Broken Weapon, for example, allows the primitive weapon master to deal 10 hp of hardness-bypassing damage to a weapon before he confirms a critical hit to have it automatically be confirmed - the ability is great on an idea-level, but why not simply use the broken condition for the weapon? Another issue that may crop up here would be the possibility of indestructible or regenerating weapons/artifacts - a caveat for weaponry like this to avoid abuse would very much be in order. On the plus-side, making poisons, diseases etc. stick longer to a weapon is downright awesome. What about boomerang-style hits versus secondary targets after a miss? Bleed damage or weapon-damage-dice-size-increase (avoiding the hornet's nest that is proper size-increase) or armor that damages weapons that strike it - the abilities are generally diverse and thematically fitting, providing a distinct identity that sets the primitive fighter apart from the barbarian.

The Saurian Champion cavalier receives one of 6 dinosaur mounts and a very interesting ability - at higher levels, these Acrobatics-using cavaliers may have their attacks originate from somewhere within the mount's space - pretty interesting trick and pretty sure I haven't seen that one before - so yeah, neat. On the minor downside, the mounts are powerful (including assisted flight) - but then again, that is possible for small druids via core-rules AND the archetype receives no order or the tactician-progression, so balance-wise I'm fine. And in practice, this archetype turned out to be surprisingly cool. - come on, who doesn't like riding and tumbling accross the massive dinosaur one rides? Sanguine Scale witches can deal spell level damage to themselves or helpless targets to increase the CL by +1 and at high-levels, may thus even add metamagic feats. At 6th level, hexes may be powered by bleed damage while, allowing her to extend the duration of them (or her spells) in a cool alternative to cackle. That being said, while the effect thus enhanced needs to currently be in effect, an explicit disclaimer that this cannot target instantaneous effects would have been in order.

The story-keeper Skald archetype prepares spells like a bard, but needs no spellbook, learning all spells via rote memorization (take THAT bastard DMs à la moi, how enjoy destroying spellbooks) and a couple of nice ranging songs modifications - which are neat, though the formatting of them could have been a tad bit more clear - the song looks like its own ability, not a sub-ability of the extended list. That is, again a cosmetic glitch. Varied spellcasting and neat aiding others. The Pestilent Savage barbarians receive disease-laden bites (including rules for characters sans bite attacks!), better saves versus diseases and toxins, better damage-output and a minor debuff aura make for a solid archetype.

A total of 9 racial feats allows for savage assaults, including, potentially, multiple vital strikes via natural weapons for truly devastating bursts of destruction - but at the cost of exhaustion. I would have loved this otherwise cool idea to sport a caveat that makes it impossible to use this feat when the character can't become exhausted - it is possible, after all. Better flanking attacks, sprints during the surprise round, being more inscrutable - all interesting. I even like the feat that renders you immune versus an array of detrimental conditions and charms, but at the cost of never benefiting from morale bonuses. Making the tail a secondary attack, stealthy swimming and leaping charges - solid designs!

3 magical items, from a dinosaur-transformation skin to enchanted, minor con-damage dealing claws to a sight-enhancing mask, nothing to complain about here. 6 new spells, from affliction-suppressing brumation to inflicting cold susceptibility to targets to haruspex-style divination and a size-increasing dinosaur-like state of savagery. The star, though, would be the positive Waste Not spell, which provides bonuses for eating the remains of fallen allies. This one was LONG overdue. As any anthropologist can attest, cannibalism's taboo and stigmatization is a cultural phenomenon - while in our culture it is consider vile and the source of quite a few nasty myths that have enriched our cultural collective consciousness, in some societies, it actually denoted an explicit and distinct honor - and seeing this, in a non-evil way finally represented, is pretty great in my book.

As you may have noted, this pdf, alongside the former, belongs to the new school of Advanced Races-pdfs, with a more distinct focus on crunch, less so on fluff - hence, you won't find notes on child-rearing egg-laying or the like herein (imho a pity), but at least we do close the pdf with a nice, short and sweet fluff-only summary of a sample lizardfolk tribe.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no truly grievous glitches herein. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork ranges from gorgeous full color to solid b/w.

Steven T. Helt, Stephen Rowe and Dan Dillon have established a pretty high quality standard for their work - one that here is reflected in one of the most refined Advanced Races-supplements to this date. While fluff-wise, there isn't much to be gleaned from this pdf, the mechanics are interesting - with a coupe few hiccups, the overall presentation is professional, balanced and interesting - the options provided belonging firmly in the subtle school of design. While most of them will not elicit immediate jubilation, they provide mechanically-relevant, intriguing alternatives. If there is one thing I can fault this pdf for, then it's that the format and design did not manage to render me jubilant about one given component - the pdf does not provide an obvious star, an OMG-how-awesome-is-that-at first-glance-crunch or cultural tidbit. What it does provide is a balanced race that should fit into any campaign and a damn cool dino-riding cavalier who is more interesting in play than the crunch would make you think on the page. While not perfect, it does not sport downright broken options and can be generally considered a well-worth addition to just about any given campaign. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, with the rare minor issues not being enough to rate this down - hence, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 14: Lizardfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 14: Lizardfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2015 18:21:31

Advanced Races: Lizardfolk is one of my favorite entries in the series. The racial options are both flavorful and comprehensive of every lizard trait I can think of. Want to build a lizardfolk PC from a tribe of desert-dwellers who have developed the ability to spray a stream of hot blood from ducts near their eyes? You can do it! Want your lizardfolk PC to be excellent at climbing, and can blend in with their environment? Done! Want a lizardfolk cavalier who rides a dinosaur? That's in there too, complete with stats for a half dozen appropriate dinosaur mounts! Advanced Races: Lizardfolk moves the race out of the bestiary and into the ranks of player characters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2015 07:05:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Races-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This installment kicks off with a short, general look at the race of werelions and does sport a short box of their role within the Midgard campaign setting, though you should be aware that the level of detail provided is far below what one has seen in similar installments of the series - which is somewhat a pity, since lion prides as a social union and their adaption to humanoid cultures would have made for an interesting playing ground, which the pdf only touches upon.

Rules-wise, natural werelions receive +2 Wis, -2 Cha. In shifted form, they utilize the stats that are higher - base or animal. In hybrid and animal shapes, they also receive +2 to Str and Con. Werelions are humanoids with the shapechanger subtype. They are medium and receive a 40 ft. base movement speed. Per default, they are not infectious and they receive a penalty to all social interactions when dealing with other lycanthropes. They can change shape as a move action, with equipment melding into animal, but not into hybrid form. For balance's sake, only lesser lions are available for low level shapechanges - more on that later. In hybrid form, they receive a 1d6 bite attack and two 1d3 claw attacks - both fail to specify whether they are considered primary or secondary attacks. And yes, I am aware how such interaction is usually handled, but I maintain that the pdf should still list that for convenience's sake. They also receive low-light vision.

Now the scaling of this rather strong race can be handled via two methods. First of which would be a kind of racial paragon class - any time after 5th level, they can gain a level in their racial class as a favored class, receiving +1 BAB, +2 Fort-saves, skill points equal to the character's favored class 1d8 HP. The level also nets them the option to shapechange into full-blown lion form, +5 natural armor in lion shape, animal empathy with lions, DR 10/silver. They also can choose alternate favored class options for +1/2 increased AC or +1 DR/silver instead of their favored class bonus - both VERY powerful when compared to other FCOs.

The racial paragon-level, when compared to similar creature builds, feels pretty strong - especially since the base creature already is very strong. It also is exceedingly, terribly clunky. It's essentially a single prestige paragon level, crammed into a character's regular progression without rhyme or reason or a proper presentation - don't get me wrong - it is functional. But from a design aesthetic perspective, there are A LOT ways to handle this more organically without introducing a make-believe mechanic that does not exist in regular PFRPG. This feels like a work-in-progress list of stuff the race ought to be able to do, crammed into a thoroughly inorganic way right into the heart of the class/race-progression - and that's before the confusing, non-standard presentation comes into play. Urgh.

There is also the option to render a werelion as an infected lycanthrope via a CR +0 template that nets +10 ft. enhancement, shapechange (akin to the non-upgraded natural werelion's, though it does require constitution checks) and the same attribute upgrades when changed. In a different take, the race receives a penalty to all die rolls on failed attempts to change. On nights of a full moon, the checks to assume human form become much harder, whereas those to change into animal/hybrid form receive a significant bonus. They also suffer from the curse of the hunting moon - 3 nights a month, they uncontrollably change (which somewhat contradicts the above assertions of implied control) they need to hunt down...something. Oddly, the ability references a reduction of penalties... which probably refer to the significant problems the race faces when living through full moon nights without kills, but a slightly crisper pointer towards that would have helped. Akin to natural werelions, at 6th level they can receive a similar upgrade to their power-level, increasing their template's worth to CR+1 - which may be nice, but DOESN'T HELP PLAYING THEM.

Okay, let's get this out of the way - this is 3.X design-philosophy in anything but name. The races are STRONG already - adding the respective paragon-levels, we receive what amounts to an ECL jammed in at higher levels to create a semblance of balance that is simply not there. Even when compared to the exceedingly strong lamia, the werelions remain too strong in my book. Worse, they don't necessarily excel at what they set out to do - the penalties for failing to hunt ANYTHING are laughably lax and nigh impossible NOT to fulfill for just about any character - yes, this includes warriors et al. Unfortunately, this also renders the very notion of lycanthropy being a curse, of becoming a monster, essentially ad absurdum. This whole racial presentation is utterly baffling to me - it violates just about every way in which racial presentation is usually handled and does so without introducing a mechanical consistency/balance that would warrant it.

Werelions also get age, height and weight table and aforementioned lesser lion statblock is provided herein as well - which somewhat conflicts with the templated approach. As for rules-options, sorcerors may choose the new lion-blooded bloodline, including natural spell and the option to wildshape into scaling leonine form. The sorcerors may also spontaneously convert transmutation spells into a temporary bonus to atk and damage that do not multiply on crits - I just don't get why it is SP. It think it should be Su or Ex since it explicitly states that it can't be dispelled anyways. And becoming a huge lion as a capstone is pretty cool, but also not a reason to take the bloodline - for most sorcs, the melee focus will be a very, very bad idea.

Generally, a conceptually pretty nice, though not by any means perfect bloodline that had me flash back to one of my favorite Solomon Kane comics. Inquisitors may elect to become Ndau, or hunting lions. When these inquisitors slay a prey and consume part of the body (which they can either do slowly or rushed), the inquisitor receives a bonus depending on the organ consumed. The prey needs to be sentient and yes, the ability is kitten-proof! The higher the level, the more parallel benefits can be maintained - a total of 9 benefits are provided and yes, rushed and ongoing benefits are totally different - nice! (And it better be, since it replaces, spells, domains and judgments...) Ndau also receive woodland stride, quarry and a capstone that further enhances their tricks. Know what? I really, really like this archetype - it fits rather neatly with the concept and its bonuses make sense. That being said, the lack of spells also means that the class damn well could have used an additional power-gain - it is flavorful, yes...but it could use a power upgrade.

On the favored class options line, we receive one for barbarians, bards, druids, rangers, rogues, sorcerors, oracles (3 mystery-specific ones!), witch, battle scion, shaman and spell-less ranger. I really liked these, in spite of the formatting being obviously non-standard - special FCOs for archetypes/class features are a neat idea that ought to be explored further. Kudos for that, in spite of the presentation botch.

A total of 8 new racial feats allows you to improve your lion forms sans taking the racial level, gain (DM approval-based) infectious lycanthropy or faster transformation. Making your lycanthropy harder to remove will also be on the must-have list for quite a few characters. That being said, the AoE-demoralization roar and the +10 ft. when withdrawing/running/charging-feat can be considered a tad bit too strong in my book. I absolutely LOATHE the feat that lets you detect shapechangers per Perception - not due to mechanical issues, but rather due to the fixed DC that does not account for Disguise. Yes, it can be thwarted by certain spells, but still - why not take disguise into account? Seems only fair, doesn't it? As far as overly specific detects go, still not a bad one, in spite of my personal antipathy towards the concept.

A total of 5 different traits (all specifying their proper trait-type!) can be found herein - and are universally just oozing fluff. Two spells would be next: Predator's Gaze nets you a gaze attack that renders a target flat-footed AND cannot move from their current square. Rather powerful, but also extremely interesting - but it suffers from confused mechanic - the spell has a duration of 1 round +1 round/level. It can be activated as a swift action, whereupon the target of the gaze has to save - got that. The target can't move from the square and is flatfooted on a failed save for one round, got that. But how long does the "no movement"-part last? Also one round? For the full spell's duration? Is the gaze discharged upon use? Can multiple creatures be rendered unmoving by the same spell? Depending on the answers to these questions, the spell may be either strong or utterly overpowered.

The second spell would be Hunter's Discerning Sight, which allows you to determine alignment components, falsehoods etc. - essentially a combo-detect spell. Okay, I guess. The pdf also sports 2 new magic items - one that enhances claws and one that allows the wielder to activate rings, wands, potions, staves and wondrous items melded into your form - which is very powerful, though thankfully the pdf mentions that the items still provoke AoOs etc. - but can they still be disarmed? Stolen? If not, then this needs fixing... If a character owns both items, the former allows claws to utilize the enhancements of weapons.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally pretty good - there are almost no formal, true glitches; rather than that, we receive a couple of non-standard formatting instances that may catch you slightly off guard and make the content more difficult to grasp than it ought to be. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full color standard and the pdf does sport downright gorgeous full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben McFarland and Brian Suskind are obviously talented designers and Ben in particular was the reason I did not cringe at the thought of reviewing this pdf - he has proven time and again his ability to handle complex concepts. Ben, my man, I'm sorry. I love your other designs, I really do. But what has happened here?

This pdf feels very much like a half-baked work-in-progress book. The solutions for the scaling of the race, while well-intentioned, just don't work within the frame of the Pathfinder-rules. The callback to what amounts to templated ECL-races directly contradicts how races are handled in EVERY other publication.

Now don't get me wrong - while too powerful to fit into every campaign, the werelions generally can be considered a powerful race that can enrich a given campaign - of that I have no doubt. However, there are a couple of instances in the base racial traits, wherein the power of the werelions could have easily been scaled in easier and more versatile ways - specifically, in the upgrades for the natural and infected werelions. First, racial paragon levels would have benefited from coming with a proper table - as a kind of racial paragon PrC...or alternatively, as something that spans multiple levels...or as feats. (Eric Morton's Animal Races-series uses racial feats pretty well to grant otherwise powerful abilities with a concise scaling mechanism...) The amount of benefits gained is more than significant and stretching them over more levels, feats, fcos...whatever... would have made for a slightly smoother experience in my book.

Yes, that can be chalked down, at least halfway, to a matter of design-aesthetics. The new content provided beyond the imho broken base racial presentations ranges from downright brilliant/innovative (class ability-/Archetype-specific FCOs? Cool idea!) to problematic (spells...) and the minor formatting issues would be another strike against the pdf.

And then, there would also be the missed chance with the relative lack of fluff - information on individual takes on classes, relationships with other races etc. The like can't be found herein, rendering this pdf more crunch-centric than previous ARs. This constitutes a missed opportunity in my book, especially knowing how good Ben McFarland is at crafting awesome cultures/fluff and considering the tabula rasa nature of werelions, who have not yet been covered by similar publications.

Some of you might not care about the wonky level-insert. About the relative lack of fluff. About the exceeding power-level of the race. For you, this may be a 3 stars-file. But as a reviewer, I can't let this pdf stand at that point - for people emphasizing fluff, for those looking for elegant fluff that seamlessly works, for those shaking their heads at the thought of the crammed-in racial level... this pdf simply does NOT deliver what it easily could. For you, this is a 2-star-file. My final verdict will clock in in-between, at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a teeny, tiny margin to 3, but only since a capable DM can properly make what is in here work smoothly.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
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Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
by Guntis V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2015 15:13:07

I've already read a bunch of books on GMing and related topics. All have been good - but this one is outstandingly best one!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
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Wondrous Items 3: Magic Mirrors
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/11/2015 04:47:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

his installment of the Wondrous Items-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

"Mirror, Mirror" - not only are those two words an utterly iconic component of Snow White, they also are the title of two of my favorite power metal songs (Halloween and Blind Guardian, for those so inclined...). Beyond this utterly useless factoid, I was always stumped by the relative lack of magical mirrors among the magical items for any d20-based supplement. A brief glance at real world mythology renders this oversight even more stupefying. Enter this supplement by Kobold Press - but will we get items worthy in concept and execution of the iconic premise?

Well, first of all, the issues of portability and magical solutions for this issue of logistics as well as claiming ownership for a given mirror are covered in concise rules. After that, we immediately receive the rules for the respective mirrors - and a short glance at the item's weight-lines does show that one ought to take them seriously - not all mirrors are small, hand-held devices and weight-lines of 70 lbs., for example, demand creative solutions if the PCs want to benefit from the mirrors.

Alas, a look at this line also shows that the very first mirror already has a typo - alas, not the only one herein - a weight of "5 3 lbs."[sic!] for a handheld mirror seems excessive and makes me believe that the 5 constitutes a typo, not the blank space. But what does it do? Well, here, I am grinning again - you throw it into a designated square and determine the height at which the mirror is supposed to float. Henceforth, the mirror is treated as your line of effect, effectively ricocheting your missiles towards enemies that have cover. A similar mirror also exists for rays, magic missiles and line-shaped spells, btw. Generally, I am not sure whether this mirror is supposed to also negate total concealment of magically granted cover or not, constituting a minor nitpick against it, but seeing how it generally sports well-written rules-mechanics for such a complex rules-interaction, I am willing to consider this in dubio pro reo and assume that it ignores all types of cover and not total cover etc. and chalk it up to magic.

A looks-enhancing mirror with a charm effect is pretty basic, but there are also less conventional mirrors to be found herein - take a mirror that can store diseases, poisons and curses to be negated at a later time - but also the option to unleash said affliction son unwitting people looking right into the mirror. Generating a flank-enhancing hazy duplicate of the owner also can be considered an interesting idea/effect. A mirror that can be used to empower rays or create a somewhat mutagen-y distorted image of the creature peering into it, granting physical bonuses at the cost of temporary penalties. What about a mirror that can create a ghast-doppelgänger of a creature that had the unfortunate honor of being reflected in its surface? Yeah, pretty much narrative gold there. Paired mirrors that can be sued to create temporal stasis when placed opposite each other should also be commended - the effects of mirror-contractions have always fascinated me, so yeah - interesting imagery and quite some interesting narrative potential, also due to the trap/trick-component inherent in the unique behavior of the mirrors.

Among the most powerful of mirrors, journeying into an alternate reality is a classic, almost artifact-level item that not only supports a MASSIVE amount of interesting plot-lines, it also can be used for great effect to negate an almost-TPK...or even a TPK in progress. A mirror that records identities and allows you to assume them is also damn impressive as far as cool plotlines go.

On the more offensive side - what about a mirror that can be struck against a solid object, unleashing multiple silvery blades which can be animated? Or a mirror that can store sunlight, to later act as a way to combat the creatures of the night? Retrying failed int/wis-based checks at the potential cost of one's sanity should also be considered as a smart, flavorful choice. Memory storing, eavesdropping...being turned into a hideous gargoyle, being targeted by a terrible jealousy - the mirrors herein carry, much like mythic Narcissus, their risk for those not careful. That being said, emitting shadowy duplicates or instant-changes of clothes make surprising sense and can easily provide some neat hooks.

Catching rays, mirror images, mirrors acting as relays, mirrors that can store summoned creatures in stasis and soul-storing - a significant array of nice tricks is available here. The final page also has nice lists of the mirrors by price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect - there are some minor glitches to be found herein. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Mike Welham's magical mirrors are surprisingly complex items that dare to tackle highly complex rules-interactions and iconic narrative tropes. Now not all of the former rules-tricks work perfectly or completely smooth, but unlike quite a few pdfs attempting this level of complexity, the book manages to render all items operable. Sometimes with a couple of rough edges around the corner-cases, granted, but that is, at least in my book, offset by the significant array of mirrors that are NARRATIVE GOLD. From the potential campaign-savers to exceedingly smart traps that reward brains over brawn, it is with the wholly unique benefits that this pdf shines. Where things get full-blown odd and far out, this installment starts becoming utterly fun. The best of magic items can spawn ideas for whole adventures or campaigns and this pdf does sport numerous of these iconic examples of their craft - enough to counteract the minor blemishes the pdf has. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wondrous Items 3: Magic Mirrors
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