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Advanced Races 1: Tieflings (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2013 03:19:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first advanced races-supplement is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1/2 a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


We kick this pdf off by an expertly written introduction to Tieflings in the context of the Midgard campaign setting as well as, of course, the Tiefling's racial traits - I'm not going to rehash them here - suffice to say, they are not modified in the Midgard setting - at least on a basic level. That is not to say you may not modify them - there are 6 alternate racial traits for you to modify the tieflings: You may replace skilled with getting +1 to skill checks when in the presence of other tieflings/half-fiends (even if they're hostile!), replace their sorcerous aptitude with +2 to caster level checks, replace the usual spell-like abilities with cause fear Another trait replaces skilled with +2 to Bluff checks to lie and +2 to Sense Motive to discern lies. Marilith-descended tieflings can replace fiendish resistance and spell-like abilities with +2 to CMD and may deal 1d3 points of constrict damage with grapples that increases by +1d3 for every 5 levels. Alternatively, you may play a tiefling with sheltering wings that can be wrapped around their bodies as a swift action for +4 to AC, but also - 4 to atk. Now this is the one of these traits with the coolest imagery - but also the one where the benefits are a tad bit overpowered for my tastes: stacking with fighting defensively, especially at lower levels, makes this an extremely powerful option for tanking characters, especially when coupled with heavy armor. And yes, the wings are very obvious, but seriously - crunch-wise, that's imho too strong, even when replacing fiendish resistances. Attacks should either not be possible or movement limited. I also consider the lack of bonus to fly skill checks/gliding options a bit of a pity.


On the racial feats side, we get 8 new feats: Increasing base speed to 35 ft, +3 to bluff skill checks or intimidate checks (the latter you can take twice, but suffer -2 to bluff the second time),1/day reroll damage against good foes, +1 to a save of your choice or +2 CMD and CMB via a tail, increase one of your resistances by further +5, and a feat to grow wings - unlike the alternate racial trait, these only offer +2 to AC, -4 to atk, but if you also have the trait's wings, you get +4 to fly-checks - which is nice, I guess, but honestly not that great a payoff for a feat since the feat's bonuses don't stack with the wrapping wings of the alternate racial trait.


Next up are the archetypes - fighter may opt for the Damned Defender, a fighter with threatening glares who gets a slam attack that may slam foes back. Hellcaller sorcerors can call demons and devils sooner than other casters. The archetype also comes with notes for demon, devil and daemon-summoning hellcallers. Bards may opt to train as Master's Ambassadors of the dread master of Demon Mountain, temporarily charming foes and coming with bombastic entrances. Somnambulist wizards can make sleeping creatures their puppets, keep sleep spells viable throughout the levels and prepare restful sleep as a wizard's spell. Redemption seekers are good clerics who can cast a domain spell at +2 levels when prepared in a domain slot and loses two domain slots when preparing the spell. Okay. So what does that have to do with a) tieflings or b) seeking redemption? This has got to be one of the flimsiest archetypes EVER.


9 new spells are next, from implanting suggestions in the mind of the sleeping, making shadow fey friendly, a spell that makes it possible to forego the improved familiar feat when calling a demon/devil to serve you thus, modify ley lines, fire rays that are particularly deadly for elves and elfmarked or conjure forth acidic rain or extremely lethal vampiric fog. Oh, and there is a spell to direct the sleeping great old ones towards your destination - not fast, but still...ouch!


Speaking of ouch: David "Zeb" Cooks excellent article on tieflings, written mostly in IC-prose is interspersed throughout the pdf - and it was originally 5 pages, so if you already had that one, you'll be getting some content you're already familiar with. Still, I love the article and its take on Tieflings - though what I honestly don't get is why this pdf failed to address the original one's GLARING balance issues, namely a table of alternate racial abilities that can be taken from a d% table in exchange for their spell-like ability. I love the idea that it's not necessarily under the tiefling's control and overall, the balancing is nice - with two exceptions that stand out like sore thumbs: Shadowsteel AUTOMATICALLY lets you ignore the first AoO you incur EVERY ROUND. No limit - no chance to ignore it - flat-out no-dice. Broken. And then there is heartseeker: Always do max damage on confirmed crits. Yeah. Right. I'm not going to dignify the existence of this horrid piece of brokenness by elaborating how easily this can be abused to death and why it's insanely OP. +1d6 sneak attack damage also feels excessive to me.


We also get new items - infernal stink bombs, tiefling booze, a shadowstepping cape and a gem that lets you lesser geas good creatures.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a couple of minor glitches like words not properly printed in bold letters etc. Layout is beautiful and adheres to Kobold Press' gorgeous Midgard 2-column standard and the full color artworks are a sheer joy to behold. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, let me get one thing out of the way - this is a Midgard supplement through and through. While the content herein can be reappropriated towards other settings, you'll lose a lot of the specific cool nudges here and there in the process - this is all about Midgard. Defiantly and proudly so. Amanda Hamon has crafted several options herein that are neat indeed regarding their fluff and all those little story tidbits woven into the crunch are neat indeed. That being said, when not using Midgard, you'll lose some of the crunch: What use is a spell to direct Great Old Ones if your world doesn't feature them? The same goes for the shadow fey charm. That being said, it is said options and the ley line modifying spell that made me grin and enjoy the content - thus me feeling the need to mention this.


Now I wouldn't harp on a couple of setting-exclusive options - in fact, I tend to love those, but the thing is: The crunch, once you take the fluff away, more often than not feels just...Well, sorry to say it, BORING. +3 to a skill-check? Wow, never have seen that one before. /sarcasm.


Sorry, I try not to get asinine, but seriously - that is not compelling design. Why not play with the tiefling's racial traits? Lowering/shifting resistances, improved defenses versus the creatures of the lower planes, angel-killing options...something like that, something that truly ties in not only fluff-wise, but also in the crunch of the race? As written, the options are rather generic in their benefits and could have used a closer tie to the tiefling's racial abilities. And then we have the issues: The defensive wings are simply broken as written (I can get behind the feat, but the ones from the racial trait...REALLY?), allowing for much too easy tanking at low levels and then there is the inclusion of David "Zeb" Cooks article: 1:1 from KQ #6, without fixing the evident and glaring balance issues in the one piece of crunch said article featured. Yeah - max damage on every crit. Always ignore the first AoO every round -no roll, no acrobatics, no CMB/CMD-interaction - nothing...Come one, that's simply so much less in care and quality than I've come to expect from Kobold Press.


And it sucks - really: Amanda Hamon has written a supplement that, in combination with said article gets a 5 out of 5 on the fluff - it's glorious. But the crunch falls flat on its face, offering boring, bland bonuses even when used in Midgard, featuring balance issues here and there. When used in a setting that's not Midgard, you'll lose some of the coolest pieces of content herein. And the archetypes feature too many one-trick ponies, they are simply not that impressive and often show a distinct lack of unique abilities/cool options. The Damned Defender gets a 1d4 slam that upgrades to 1d6 at 17th level. Wow. That just plain sucks on a damage-scaling perspective. I like the archetypes' idea of tying said slam to dropping foes prone and moving them - but the execution! In PFRPG, that kind of stuff is DONE VIA SPECIFIC COMBAT MANEUVERS. Not via "attack results in ref saves". The two archetype that are a hit would be the somnambulist, especially when tied to the Midgard-fluff - and the ambassador of the Master of Demon Mountain: Both are mechanically and fluff-wise well executed.


sigh As much as I LOVE the fluff, I can't recommend this pdf. Fans of Midgard should get this for the fluff alone and the neat mundane items (The magic ones once again are boring - a cape to shadow jump? How many times have I seen that one again?) and awesome (very specific) spells. Beyond Midgard, though, I don't see so much use here - and crunch-wise, DMs should take heed whether this one should be allowed or not.


All in all, at least for me an utterly disappointing offering, in spite of the great fluff and beautiful art -and evidence to the contrary; the author CAN create awesome crunch - there are some instances in here... and hence my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 1: Tieflings (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/19/2013 11:53:48

Nasty fellers, necromancers, aren't they? Disturbing the dead, surrounded by decaying undead...


... OR ARE THEY?


Some of those who practise the magicks we know as necromancy are decent upstanding members of the community using their knowledge and skills to the benefit of their fellow sentients both living and dead, and potent indeed their powers. Here, should you wish to play a nice necromancer, is everything that you need to know. Studying the cyclic nature of life and death and respecting those who have passed on to the other side, their powers include some healing as well as the ability to control undead and, at higher levels, create them in a manner that honours the dead raised rather that the abusive practices of your common-or-garden evil necromancer.


They are provided with their own spell lists (given here, along with some newly-designed spells) and can cast any spell they know at will, being restricted solely by a limit of number of spells per level that they can cast per day. There are a couple of new feats and an archtype (Grave Bound) which allows the white necromancer to have an undead companion - various ones are possible including ghosts, mummies and even vampires. A second archtype is the Necrotic Healer, who heals by taking others' pain into themselves in order to heal it.


Some intriguing possibilities here... and just watch the other players' faces when you announce that your new character is a necromancer!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
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Dark Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2013 11:46:19

If you ever thought fey were nice, with pretty dresses and butterfly wings, forget it! Foul and grim, more like...


... and here's a collection of information about them, set in Midgard but easily portable to the campaign world of your choice. Fey congregate in 'Courts' which are not so much geographical but based around the person of their leader, so you can put them wherever you please.


There is a bestiary of malevolent fey, beings who will delight in harassing the characters at any opportunity. Each comes complete with illustration, full game stats, descriptive material about how they behave and - lifting the curtain - designer notes as well. There are a full eighteen of them from the nasty little Aridni who associate with slavers to the Zubnaya, another nasty little flying critter that buzzes round your ears lashing out with a spiked chain. Some are larger, all are vicious and best avoided (or culled!).


Next comes a 'fey animal' template - the fey often amuse themselves by acquiring ordinary animals and... twisting them. Then come the lists - fey by type, fey by CR, all you need to select the most appropriate one for your needs.


A fine array of the foul and grim side of the fey.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/04/2013 12:38:37

If you are not one of the Darakhul, you are food.


A chilling introduction to this subterranean people, who are more than mindless flesh-munching ghouls, yet encompass that very nature. Herein are all the details to play one, although I cannot imagine wanting to do so by choice... they certainly make for a potent enemy and GMs who prefer real depth to their adversaries rather than using them as mere cannon-fodder for the party to slay will find plenty of use here.


There are, however, several suggestions for ways in which a Darakhul PC is actually viable and enjoyable to play; a worthy challenge for the keen role-player seeking new depths and angles to explore.


For these are no ordinary ghouls. They have a thriving below-ground society in Midgard and even have occasion to venture onto the surface (and not just in search of fresh meat for the larder, either). When doing so, most disguise themselves using a cover identity that allows for all-enveloping robes so that people encountering them do not instantly realise what they are dealing with.


Whether you are looking to play one or are designing some exceptional foes, there are feats and traits and archetypes ready for you to use as well as a section entitled Ghoulish Magic and Miscellany packed with useful things and spells and more.


Thought-provoking.... even if I think I'll stick to fighting them rather than being one!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 6: Expanded Gunslinger (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2013 07:33:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This supplement is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page advertisement and 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We kick off this supplement with new firearm-themed traits - 8 to be precise. And they actually are interesting - most of them have options to be used in black powder-less campaigns and two in particular stand out: Kobolds and halflings may opt to be scavengers and thus ignore the penalties of the broken condition of firearms, though increased misfire chance still applies. The other one would be Gun-shy: Taking a cue from one iconic trope from countless movies, taking this trait makes you take a -2 penalty to atk with firearms and automatically become shaken (but not frightened for further shots) when using a firearms - in return, though, you get a massive +4 bonus to confirm critical hits with them. Plain awesome - two thumbs up!


Next up are 11 new feats and while many utilize grit, not all of them do. Being more pain-resistant as long as you have grit (bonus to saves), you may also heal yourself 1/day by spending 1 point of grid for 1d8+class level hp. Covering Fire is also BRILLIANT - when succeeding a touch attack as a standard action against a foe, you may opt to deal no damage, instead granting an ally (or more with the improved version) a +4 dodge bonus to AC for a round. Disabling devices via well-placed shots is another absolute winner. Also rather neat - as a full-round action, you can threaten all squares within 30 ft. for a round - a nice take on the trope similar to LRGG's overwatch, but more limited. Free stare-down intimidates have been done before, though there's nothing per se wrong with that. Steel Fury is also epic - 1/round when suffering firearm damage, you get 1 round of rage or one point of grit - finally something for gun-toting barbarians! Monks may opt to adopt the Thunderous God Stance, which is a style in all but name (instead being a combat feat tree): This style allows you to wield your firearm as a bludgeoning weapon and mix unarmed and firearm attacks in flurry of blows. The follow-up feats allow for quicker reloading via ki and stop provoking AoOs as well as essentially making a 30 ft. whirlwind attack with a firearm, applying precision damage etc. only to one of the targets. The latter feat would be overpowered, were it not for the MASSIVE requirements that even the playing-field - hence: No complaints. Finally, there's a feat that allows you to use intimidate and diplomacy via firearms -the only one of these feats I wouldn't consider excellent - and that saying quite something!


Next up are new archetypes, first of which would be the Black Hat for the Gunslinger-class - essentially a Malefactor light for gunslingers, these individuals are master of psychological warfare and jinxes, causing bad luck, mishaps and even potentially making enemies fumble for grit-expenditure - neat one! Barbarians may become Black Powder Reavers now - which nets a weaker rage, but also the amateur gunslinger feat while raging. When in rage, moment of clarity is required to reload, may use firearms sans bullets (with a greatly reduced range - though the ability does improve) and a limited fixed amount of deeds and feats. Again, neat!


Oozing flavor and offering something for those who hate blackpowder in their game, Coilgunners have salvaged their weird weaponry from ancient civilizations and use these mysterious coil guns with their alchemical ammunition. Being more scholars than killers, they get grit not from killing, but from scoring crits or suffering misfires. The archetype also gets 3 exclusive deeds that replace others from the gunslinger list - allowing you to electrically overcharge your coilgun, dealing electricity damage instead of piercing damage. While mechanically not as exciting as the first two, this one is high and iconic in concept and hearkens back to pulp-themes. Whether introduced via Azlant or Ankheshel, this one is a winner.


Witches may now opt to become Futurists -diminishing their spellcasting for the option to deliver hexes via bullets and for an area of study: alchemical, natural philosophy or mechanics - depending on the discipline chosen, we get different benefits and bonus spells - neat! And if you want to go the other way round and want a gunslinger with minor hex-access, the Hexslinger from RiP's "Secrets of the Gunslinger" has you covered - I love it when 3pps don't overlap!


Gunfighters are essentially fighters with a focus on guns - more reliable and wealthy in feats, but less flashy than the gunslinger - especially neat for anyone who doesn't like the gunslinger's mechanics. Hellfire Preachers could have come from my favorite italo-westerns - disillusioned with the gods, these clerics lose some of their supernatural powers in lieu of the ability to shrug off divine spells easier and hitting foes with massive mortal wrath at higher levels - iconic indeed and once again, both high in style and execution.


Noble Shootists use charisma instead of wis for their grit and also are rather adept at social skills - simple, yet effective. Noble Shootists also get two exclusive deeds to rally and buff allies when scoring crits and may, against flatfooted opponents, replace the damage her hit would have caused with a combat maneuver - thanks to the limits imposed, a great deed. The pdf also provides a sidebar on gunslinging in Midgard.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full color standard and the full color artworks are neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


The gunslinger has been blessed with some awesome 3pp supplements already and I was seriously dreading too much overlap when I set out to read this one. My fears, as it turns out, were completely unfounded. This is one of those rare little crunch-books that literally are all killer - there is not a single problematic piece of content herein - neither rules-language-wise, nor balancing-wise - instead, we actually get content that is high and iconic in concept and execution - author Crystal Frasier lives up to her excellent reputation and my exceedingly high expectations and delivers - appropriately, with a bang and fanfares. Fans of gunslingers (and everyone contemplating introducing ancient ray-guns from empires past into the campaign) are looking at a must-buy file they should not miss - final verdict? Easy 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 6: Expanded Gunslinger (Pathfinder RPG)
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Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/29/2013 05:58:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This mega-module is 130 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 123 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This mega-module Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur was originally released for D&D 4th edition, but I can't comment on that once since I don't have it - I only have the PFRPG-conversion done by ennie-award winning designer Ben McFarland. That being said - I'll break my usual format for adventure-reviews - to pieces. I'm not going to go through this step-by-step - the review would become redundant fast and extremely long to boot. Instead I'll just say one thing:


GET THIS NOW. Seriously. Buy it. Give it as a gift to your DM. If you're a DM, get this NOW. If you, for whatever reason, want to buy only one Kobold Press-adventure - BUY THIS ONE.


...
..
.


You're still here, aren't you? Ok, I guess I have to do better. First of all, let me address that this book features skill-challenges, i.e. obstacles your combined group can surpass by combinations of skill checks, with each player contributing (hopefully) something to the fray - they are designed in a way where even fighters will have something reasonable to do. Furthermore, above and beyond and a great help for DMs a bit weak on the fluffy roleplaying side, suggestions for the respective argumentations on why the skill in question works/doesn't work are given. Beyond these even, class abilities, spells and feats feature into the respective checks and get covered in a level of detail I've never ever seen in any publication - without bloating the book. And if you don't like skill-checks, you could still use these pieces of information as simple roleplaying guidelines. The same holds btw. true for incantations, which, while a part of the module, do not occupy a crucial role and can be abstracted rather easily. Ben McFarland has done an astounding job of translating the module into the context of Pathfinder-rules. It should also be noted that the module is relatively light on Midgard-specific fluff, i.e. it can be transported to Golarion or any other world you choose with minimum hassle - you just have to switch out cosmetic terms like "Zobeck" for another big city name and there you go.


And that's about it regarding the formal qualities of the crunch - next up follows a VERY BRIEF synopsis of what you can expect - and thus from here on out reign the SPOILERS.
Players, do yourself a favor and jump to the conclusion. You don't want this one spoiled, believe me. I'd actually love to play this, but having read it, that is out of the question.


All right, we kick off when Zobeck (or another big city of your choosing) experiences a swift occupation: One day, everyone wakes up and finds that the shadow fey now run the town - and who violates their capricious decrees has to contend with their harsh, humiliating repressing punishments. Turns out after some research and diplomacy with the envoy of the scáthesidhe (shadow fey) and some reading between the lines, that an obscure deal between the former ruling family and the shadow fey has expired and that they now consider the city their domain - with an almost unstoppable Statthalter on the way.


In order to reclaim mortal sovereignty over the city, the PCs have to research a ritual to send them off on the perilous journey towards the home of the shadow fey - and should they survive this journey into the very heart of shadow, they'll be surprised: The Scáthesidhe have made elitism a form of art and at first, the courts seem empty - those of too low status actually can't even perceive the upper ones of the layered, fey-glamour-clad echelons of the courts and in order to gain an audience with the queen of the fey, they'll have to first rise in status. From lowly goblin servants, lantern dragonettes and fey rakes to the higher echelons of court, the PCs will require all their wits and capabilities to survive the perils of the dueling season and slowly work their way up through a court enamored with the theft of memories, illusions and deception. Courtly intrigue and harmless and not so harmless pranks abound even before the PCs become aware of the existence of the Demon Lord of Roaches as a fixture in the court, of the various deadly factions (which include a celestial and old weaving crones that are more than they seem) or of the alluring courtesans and courtiers that can play a pivotal role in the rising through the ranks of the courts - if the PCs can manage to win (and keep) their favor. And yes, the affections of the shadow fey may very well turn out to be something rather problem-laden, as some of the numerous NPCs, both mortal and immortal that frequent the courts can attest to.


Even before the Black Prince's favorite quickling swordmaster challenges the PCs, even before the factions start actively recruiting PCs, we actually get a codified, complex and thoroughly rewarding rules-framework for the depiction of rising through the ranks of a court, a system, which when reskinned towards mortal courts, could be used for Song of Ice and Fire-like machinations. And I have only scarcely touched upon what there is to come - what about e.g. a hunting trip with the hostile and antagonistic Black Prince and a chase for the immortal firebird, represented via a cool, mapped mini-game? The very best banquet-scene I've ever seen in an adventure - easy to run, complex and thoroughly weird? A roach-like, loyal warrior who just wants to find a nice place to lay eggs - which have to unfortunately hatch from a body? The lists upon lists of events, intrigues etc.? The glorious maps?


What about the fact that the finale, when the PCs may finally get their audience with the Queen, requires them to find the insane Moonlight King in a maze of light and unique dangers and either kill him (in a fight that challenges brains and brawns) or convince him to abstain from the claim to Zobeck? Have I mentioned the potential to transcend the bounds of mortality in the aftermath of this module?


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are the one weakness of this module - while not bad by any measure, I did notice a couple of editing glitches that could have been caught and here and there a small conversion relic in places where their presence is not crucial in any way. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard and the provided handouts and maps should water the mouths of any aficionado. The artworks are original b/w-pieces that fit thematically well within the context of the book, creating a seamless, unified impression. The pdf is extensively bookmarked for your convenience, though I'd still recommend getting dead-tree for this one.


Wolfgang Baur and Ben McFarland are immensely talented designers and authors - that's no secret. But even as a fan of many of Wolfgang's pieces, I can't recall any one that blew me away like this one did. Not one. This is the 123 page refutation of the claim that social interaction in Pathfinder is boring, the triumphant sneer in the face of all who claimed that d20-based systems with their combat-focus don't lend themselves to social interaction, court intrigue or any scenario, really, that requires subtlety. "Courts of the Shadow Fey" is a legend, one I slowly digested over multiple months, because every single page herein had some idea, some spark that made me cackle with glee, a pervading sense of jamais-vu pervading the pages - more of it than in the whole catalogues of some companies. I have no doubt that this module will become one of the must-have-played pieces of Pathfinder with its complex sandboxy structure, its attention to details. Its inventiveness and its elegant, at times beautiful, at times creepy blending of themes serve to more perfectly evoke what being "fey" is all about, it redefines evil in the context of fey as a form of elitism that may very well be justified.


Even if I tried, I could have never conveyed the sheer scope and awesomeness of this module, cover all the ideas herein, short of copying about 90% of the module. This is the gold-standard of what an ambitious module should be like and while perhaps not recommended for novice DMs, this is incredibly good - almost painfully so. And much like its unconventional ending that resounds so well with the theme of returning from the lands of the fey, turning the last page of this book left me with a sense of loss that it had ended, that there were not another 100 pages of shadow fey waiting for me. If I could, I'd rate this 6 stars. I got this book this year, so it will feature on my top 10 of 2013-list. It's one of my favorite Open Design/Kobold Press-books released. It's one of the best adventure-resources out there, either as module or setting and in scope, quality and detail on par with Coliseum Morpheuon. I'll repeat it again: GET THIS. Even if you run Golarion, not Midgard. Want a break from Kingmaker? Get this. Run another setting? Get this. Don't have a group and want a good read that is inspiring? Get this. Need ideas for fey tricks, hazards etc.? Get this. This is my unanimous recommendation towards anyone who even remotely is interested in the topic of fey: WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GET THIS! Final verdict? 5 stars +seal of approval - this might be the best things Wolfgang Baur has written so far - I know I consider it the best one, and Ben McFarland has gone above and beyond to make this work in PFRPG. When do we get the courtly intrigue handbook for mortal courts?


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Tales (Pathfinder RPG)
by Samuel H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2013 21:37:18

The Kobold staff was awesome enough to give me a free copy of this product for winning their Castle of the Week contest, but I would have GLADLY paid for this product!


This book has something for everyone. It has an adventure set in practically every region of Midgard and has almost every type of adventure there is. From murder mysteries to dungeon crawls, urban adventures to wilderness treks, the authors have done an amazing job of making Midgard come alive. The horror stories, however, are the true gems of the book. They create such a palpable sense of dread and malaise that they are sure to become legends around the tables of many gaming groups.


I highly recommend this book, and I plan on using it to launch a new campaign set in Midgard!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Tales (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 5: Expanded Monk and Ninja (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2013 03:37:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After one page of cover art sans fonts (nice if you need a hand-out!) and further reading advice, we delve right into the new content for monks:


-Beast-Soul Monks gain animal companions at the cost of flurry of blows and stunning fist and may transform into an animal as appropriate for their style - i.e. a crane-style monk would get a bird as an animal companion and could learn transforming into an animal - usually in an analogue to the beast shape spells and with the exception of the mantis-style, which would work as per vermin shape.


-Clockwork Monk: Now if the name wasn't an indicator - this particular archetype is tied to Midgard's Gearforged race of sentient constructs and thus comes with some uncommon design-choices - for example the fact that instead of still mind, they get bonus hp and that they actually are proficient in armors etc. They can also choose a utility, which is included in their rebirth as clockwork beings - and ties said mechanic to some class benefits, making this a true racial archetype, not just one that had a race slapped on. The capstone transformation into an inevitable lacks bold letters for its name, though - a minor formatting glitch.


-Monks of the Compliant Rod Style are masters of combat with quarterstaffs and Bo-Staffs and may enhance the damage the deal via ki to progressively make their weapons count as bigger sizes regarding the damage dice.


-Monks for the Glorious Endeavour get only ONE weapon proficiency which may be exotic, but can't be changed. When wielding anything but this weapon, the monk gets severely impeded and unarmored strikes don't get as fast a progression. As an upside for these detriments, these monks may call their weapons to their hand by spending ki, get some bonus feats and may e.g. mix weapon and unarmed attacks in their flurries. Their chosen weapon also becomes more resilient in their hands and starting at 9th level, they can actually use unarmed strike feats in conjunction with their weapon. Beyond these levels, the monks may spend Ki to ignore set amounts of DR. As a disturbing nod for DMs, the Darkhul Hunger Monks are mentioned - and their idea is rather cool, though the entry is missing a blank space, combining two archetypes that modify the same class features.


-One of these being the hungry ghost, the other being the Monk of the Peerless Mountain archetype, who gets a different array of monk feats and is particularly adept at cleaving foes via kicks, not incurring the usual -2 penalty to AC and have abilities centered mostly on cleave - whether more movement, ki-powered rerolls or not even requiring the foes to be cleaved being adjacent thanks to ki.


-Inspired from my favorite Drake from the Book of Drakes, the Paper Drake Monks get DR versus bludgeoning, may reduce or enlarge themselves and may spend later 4 ki to turn into A SWARM OF PAPER CRANES. Yes. You read right. And while said swarm-form is only based on the bat swarm when an original one would have imho been cooler, the idea is AWESOME.


-The final new monk archetype would be the Six talismans Monk, who may imbue his ki in paper talismans for devastating effects - and I'd commend it. If only I wouldn't vastly prefer Rite Publishing's more complex Sutra Magic from Heroes of the Jade Oath. So yeah, nothing wrong here, I just prefer a more complex and less class-tied system.


So that's it for monks - what about Ninjas? Well, they first get 4 new master tricks -gaining elemental fist, elemental arcane school benefits at 1/2 level, turning to mist for 1 round powered by Ki - the latter getting a cool follow-up that allows the ninja to let him/herself be inhaled, dealing unarmed damage if the target doesn't manage to cough up the ninja - unfortunately, the rules-language is a tad sloppy here - first of all, the ability once refers to a monk, not a ninja - which is a minor oversight. Secondly, though, and more grievous - what happens if a ninja gets partially inhaled and runs out of ki? Can the target still attack the ninja? What about casters, do they still have line of sight versus wisps of ninja-gas? The ability is so cool, but fails to specify too much to be of any use.


After that, we get a new archetype, the elemental ninja, who gets an elemental arcane school in place of ninja tricks gained at 4th, 8th, 12th etc. levels and poison use. Okay, I guess, but not too exciting. The second archetype is the Mist Stalker, who replaces poison sue with the Shadow Strike feat and may detract concealment granted by clouds etc. - to the point where they get a limited blindsense in them while having at least one point of ki. Also okay, if a bit specific for my tastes.


After these, we delve into the section on new feats and unsurprisingly, we get a lot of new styles: Broken Mirror, Death Butterfly, Desert Scorpion, Eagle and Nightwave Style - though the feats aren't limited to them, including e.g. a feat that allows the bo staff to be sued as a reach or double weapon, one to affect undead with your paper seals as if they were living - which is weird, for the damage-dealing aspects, holding them etc. should work - blindness/deafness wouldn't, but still. Not sold that this works as intended. A damage upgrade for the paper talismans is nice, but imho should not be a feat and rather part of the archetype's array of abilities, but of well - the fact that it can be taken multiple times is nice for those wishing to specialize on the talismans. Gearforged monks may deal damage while grappling by shredding foes with their gears (cool!). What should come under very close scrutiny by any DM allowing it is the Coiled Strength-feat - requiring dex 13, BAB +1 and weapon finesse, it allows the character to use dex-mod for damage rolls instead of str when using flails from the monks weapon group - the weapon-type is limiting, yes, and 2 feats are a significant investment, but I still can see potential issues arising here. Combination Finish, on the other hand, is cool - increasing the DC by +1 when using punishing kick, stunning fist or elemental fist for every preceding successful consecutive unarmed strike during that full attack. "Finish him" indeed.


Speaking of cool - using polearms as help via acrobatic fighting styles also gets a well-crafted feat-representation as does the iconic one-inch punch. While the feat's execution is nice, it's the second take on the mechanic I know after Little Red Goblin Games' Heroes of the East 3: I prefer LRGG's representation of how the attack works over this one, but this feat's results - thus I'll combine them in my home-game - the joys of brewing... High level monks may also take a feat to use multiple stunning strikes per round.


But back to the styles: The Broken Mirror Style requires Shadow Clones or Mirror Images - netting you an additional one that may exceed your maximum and impeding foes by being more varied, allowing you to feint better. Even cooler, when one of these images is destroyed, via the feats that build up the style, you may make an AoO versus the foe - and if you crit with another of the style's feats, you gain additional mirror images. Uncommon and cool idea for a style


The Death Butterfly Swarm requires the use of elemental fist and deals an additional 1d6 acid damage in the round after the hit, as larvae of shadowy butterflies feast on your foe. Additionally, it allows for the use of stunning fists and elemental fists via a select array of weapons. Aforementioned damage can be extended further and deflecting projectiles can be done while armed and finally, you may spend uses of elemental fist to have your larvae hatch and erupt, dealing more damage and potentially nauseating infected foes.


The Desert Scorpion style improves your CMD versus bull rush, drag, reposition and trip at the cost of 10 ft. of your movement (or 5 ft. if you already are slower than 30 ft.) and count as one size smaller, with all the resulting modifications to AC, damage etc. The follow-up feat allows you to not take a penalty to unarmed attacks while being grappled/grappling and even allows you to fight back at -4 when pinned. The final one offsets the decreased damage from the size-modification and allows you to follow up combat maneuvers with a free trip at -4.


Eagle Style, unsurprisingly, allows you to deal slashing damage via your attacks - and is BROKEN AS ALL HELL.: Why? because it allows you to, upon performing a dirty trick, to make a foe unable to vocalize or speak instead of the usual results of the maneuver. No save, nothing -lethal versus spellcasters. Plus, it does not specify how long that works - I assume as long as e.g. a trip-condition would last etc. - but how does one end it? Moving away? CMB? Don't know- Broken. The follow-ups allow you to follow crits with combat maneuvers and apply second dirty trick results when beating your foe's CMD by 10 or more - nice both. If only the basic feat wasn't broken.


The final new style is the Nightwave style, which adds wis to con-checks to avoid drowning and to swim-checks, can move unimpeded through watery terrain, deal slashing damage with unarmed attacks and take no penalty when fighting underwater. As follow-up, you may hold your breath longer, never run risk of inhaling a poison when holding breath and deal additional bleed damage versus foes that are unaware of your presence and use stealth to hide blood and bubbles underwater. The final one allows you to use elemental fist to hit all creatures adjacent to you with freezing cold, darkening additionally the water underwater and when used above water, it makes the air count as underwater for one round for various purposes - interesting design-choice there!


We also get 7 new monk weapons ,from sun and moon rings to wind and fire wheels and alos e.g. horse tail whisks, iron flutes, tamo canes - and even a farmer's hoe!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are still good, though not up to the standard we usually get to see from Kobold Press - I mentioned a couple of the minor glitches I found herein. Layout adheres to a per se beautiful two-column full-color standard that is sufficiently printer-friendly and the artworks are neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Author Jerall Toi has created a nice array of options here - and honestly, after checking out the monk archetypes, I thought we'd be looking at a 5 or 4-star file here - while they didn't blow me all away, I liked them well enough - but alas. Then the Ninja-section began and somehow, it feels like the pdf takes a nosedive from here - from the problematic master-trick to rather bland archetypes to feats that could have used some additional balancing, the flaws accumulated. Now don't get me wrong - this isn't a bad supplement by any means - but its flaws also mean it I can't consider it for the highest honors that some cool concepts like the Nightwave or Broken Mirror Styles would warrant - hence, as much as I don't want to, I'll have to rate this down to 3 stars - an ok, but not by any means perfect supplement.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 5: Expanded Monk and Ninja (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Adventures 6: The Buried Palace
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2013 09:53:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. All right, still here?


Imperial Marshall Karridoc Castellan of Valera, one of the most powerful men in the 7 cities, requests the presence of the PCs - for an uncommon task: Below a bathing house, recent tremors have unearthed an old ruin of the Valeran empire - one the PCs are to scour for works of art and similar valuable memorabilia of interest to Valera.


The module doesn't waste much time before dropping the PCs into the fray - and for a good reason. While usually buried palaces would elicit yawns from me, this one is expertly crafted: Unstable and in danger of collapsing, the PCs will have to contend with a constant dread of claustrophobia as the water from the bathing house trickles down and modify their fighting tactics accordingly - blasting this swarm of army ants with a fireball doesn't seem to be that smart when collapse is a real danger...


Via both terrain-features and crunch, a sense of desolation and decay is evoked alongside a very present fear of being squashed as PCs have to contend with creatures that feel at home in the ruins - whether the aforementioned swarm or violet fungi or one glass golem left from the days of old, the inhabitants of the palace will challenge even experienced PCs while feeling like they truly belong to the complex, eliciting a sense of organic wholeness seldom seen in modules, let alone ones with "only" 20 pages.


Worse for the PCs, the Boss-encounter is a delusional worm-that-walks that is in possession of a crucial piece of regalia the PCs will want to acquire. Here we also have a cool idea - while the foe is more than a sufficient challenge, his delusions may just prove to be the edge the PCs need, for they have a precarious situation on their hands upon return:


From frescoes and information gleaned in the ruins, the PCs can unearth a piece of information that may not only turn their former employer against them, but also make them some of the most wanted men and women (and humanoids, if present) that roam the 7 cities... What that is, you ask? I won't spoil that one! Suffice to say, clever reasoning and a touch of diplomacy and an aptitude for lying can help in the climax of the adventure, which should feel refreshingly different from the standard-fare one expects.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column standard in b/w with the read-aloud text being framed by orangeish/brownish colors. The artwork is nice and Sean MacDonald's cartography in b/w is awesome and detailed - though I wish player-friendly versions of the dungeon's maps had been provided. Their absence is the one thing that galled me about this module. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Steeped in Midgard-lore, yet easily transported into any given setting, The Buried Palace delivers a concise dungeon that makes sense, oozing looming dread and a sense of antiquity while not forgetting terrain, interesting creatures and a twist ending that your PCs won't see coming - at first. The dawning suspicions should enhance the tension that suffuses the pages of this module and makes it, from start to finish, a challenging, but not unfair and exciting module - one I can't believe author Mike Franke has crammed into a paltry twenty pages. I've read many dungeons that fail to reach this level of immersion with twice the page-count.


If by now you haven't guessed: I really, really like this module and the only reason I'm not slamming my seal of approval on it is the lack of player-friendly maps. In fact, I'd usually go for 4.5 stars due to that and round down, but honestly, that would be a disservice to this module and its more than fair price. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures 6: The Buried Palace
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New Paths 4: Expanded Battle Scion (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2013 09:31:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition


This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So. Another gish-class. I can't say I'm too excited by the prospect, but author Marc Radle has already created the revised Vanguard, which ranks among my favorite takes on the concept, so let's take a look: The Battle Scion gets d10, full BAB-progression, good fort-and will-saves, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in light, medium and heavy armor, shields and simple and martial weapons AND may cast spells while in armor from the very first level without arcane spell-failure chance - thankfully still specifying regular spell failure chances for spells granted by other classes. Starting at 4th level, Battle Scions get access to arcane spells of up to 4th level, which they cast as a prepared caster via Int at caster level battle scion level-3. Furthermore, starting at 4th level, they also count as fighter of battle scion level -3 for the purpose of qualifying for fighter-only feats. They are very much advertised, and correctly so, as a kind of arcane paladin-style class.


Thankfully, though, the class also gets some signature tricks to pull off - namely a deflection aura (that now also nets an additional scaling bonus to hit with force blasts) and more notably, the power to throw so-called forceblasts: Usable 3+Int times per day, these are essentially big singular magic missiles that automatically hit for 2d4 damage, scaling up to 8d4 at 19th level, making this essentially a warlock-style, force-damage slinging class. And here, the revision sets in, fixing the broken fact that force blasts were once automatic hits - they now require touch attacks - still powerful, but not overpowered. Two thumbs up!


Of course enhancing one's weapon via an array of magical qualities as a standard action is also part of the deal and makes for melee versatility as one would expect from an arcane/fighter-class.


The pdf also comes with an archetype called Force Blaster, which enhances said blasts - for once, the archetype delivers +2 uses via a bonus feat and also allows the blaster to do unique things with the blasts: First of all, the class may use move actions instead of standard actions to fie these blasts and at higher levels, fire two of the blasts simultaneously and even fire them as swift actions at level 11 and above. Finally, the force-blaster can deliver push and trip combat maneuvers via their blasts - and while now the force blasts have been nerfed to the point where I'd allow this archetype, ranged combat maneuvers still leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Still, the payoff is there and I hereby renounce my complaints about the archetype.


The second archetype is the bonded scion, who makes his weapon an arcane bonded item and may enhance his bonded weapon, later even using his blasts to enhance his weapon to make it especially lethal against incorporeal foes. Where the blaster feels a bit on the strong side, the bonded scion feels a bit weak - especially the weapon-enhancement could have used some added versatility in my opinion.


We also get 5 new feats that range from extra blasts to enhancing arcane strike, the arcane aura and the arcane bond and make it even possible to awaken arcane bonds. The two rather complex feats that scale and add to the arcane bonded item's prowess are nice indeed and after that, we get what I consider a great additional offering: Legendary items, i.e. magical items that get stronger over the levels: The regalia of Gax the Great ( an homage to Gary Gygax?), the first Battle Scion: His armor, shield and longsword are depicted and allow the owner to e.g. expend spells for additional melee damage, dispel foes when striking them etc. - I'm a big fan of legendary items and the inclusion of them is, at least for me, a great benefit and should make this particular section also relevant for characters of other gish-classes.


The pdf closes with a handy prepared spell tracking sheet, though honestly, I don't consider said sheet to be too useful - a column for range, targets etc. would have gone a long way there.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, since the only glitches I found have since been ironed out. Layout adheres to a 2-column, full-color standard with original artworks (which are nice to look at, though not mind-boggling) and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


So...is this pdf worth its asking price? It ultimately depends. The battle scion is the third prepared gish-class I've read and its design-goal of delivering an arcane paladin can be considered accomplished. Though whether that's enough depends on the person you'll ask. The magus is essentially more on the casting-side than the martial side, whereas the battle-scion is the other way round - a fighting class with an array of arcane spells. And honestly, that's where I'm not 100% sold. To me the magus is a kind of paper-tiger - deadly, but also relatively fragile in melee, whereas the battle scion is much sturdier - and the battle scion may learn ALL spells from the sorceror/wizard-list. Only up to 4th level, granted, but still, that's quite a bit of flexibility when compared to non-gish martial classes. The closest analogue would probably be that the magus is a razor, the battle-scion (especially the blaster!) being more of a sledge-hammer.


The Battle Scion is intended as an arcane paladin and since the force blasts still are powerful, but no longer guaranteed damage with their required touch attacks, I consider this particular mission of the class accomplished. So yeah - great job by designer Marc Radle - and worth 1.5 stars, since the class no longer breaks the game at low levels, resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform since for the 5, I feel the class could have used some unique powers akin to mercies or do something more imaginative with its aura - that's complaining at a high level, though - this is the arcane paladin class of choice.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 4: Expanded Battle Scion (Pathfinder RPG)
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Zobeck City Map
by John R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/29/2013 00:35:58

The plusses: great detail, great artwork, high quality


The minuses: they mention it being great for viewing on an iPad -- it's not. The 4 panel PDF nature makes it so that it's impossible to view as 1 large map. It would be better if they distributed 2 versions: a 4 panel PDF and a single large jpg. Also, if ever there was a product that needs a "printed" version, this is it -- why isn't there a folded or rolled map version of this?



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck City Map
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Bonus Bestiary for 4th Edition D&D
by Dennis P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/23/2013 11:32:17

The Midgard Bestiary has quickly become one of my favorite 4e product. When I saw the bonus bestiary, I picked it up fairly quickly. Like the bestiary, the monster are well designed an interesting. I've used the Bagiennik and Dragonleaf Tree. The Bagiennik is a strange water fey that looks more like an aberration. They are described as mad healers who sometimes help and sometimes attack seemingly without reason. That description inspired an encounter where a small group of the creatures were healing a unicorn. While I designed the encounter with them as a potential combat, the PCs decided not to engage them. The PCs referred to the Dragonleaf Tree as a half-dragon treant. They provided a pretty good challenge for the PCs. In preparing for a session, I did find the lack of chart of monsters by level annoying. Here is the one I made:


Doppelrat Level 1 Solo Skirmisher


Witchlight Level 2 Artillery


Kikimora Level 5 Elite Lurker


Oculo Swarm Level 6 Skirmisher


Bagiennik Level 7 Skirmisher


Dragonleaf Tree Level 9 Artillery


Protostar Drake Level 12 Skirmisher


Salt Golem Level 15 Brute


Star Drake Level 17 Elite Lurker


Stuhac Level 18 Solo Brute


Andrenjinyi Level 19 Solo Brute


Chort Devil Level 22 Skirmisher
Strangling Watcher (Urochar) Level 22 Solo Lurker


As you can see the creatures are rather spread out in level. Unless you modify the creatures, you'll need another monster book but that isn't surprising giving that this is a bonus bestiary. If my players were lower level, I'd use the Doppelrat which can make copies of itself. As a beholder fan, the oculo swarm looks interesting. It even includes a level 9 wizard daily attack to summon the creature. I would definitely recommend this for 4e DMs.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bonus Bestiary for 4th Edition D&D
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Midgard Tales (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2013 10:49:26

Any ONE of these adventures has the potential to make legends about your characters... but a whole book-full? Starting with one for 1st-level characters and progressing level by level (with, for some reason, a whole bunch for 3rd-level characters) to the heights of 11th-level, these can provide the framework for a long-running campaign or be dipped into as you please.


Whatever, merely reading them - never mind playing them - puts depth and vivid life into the already delightful alternate reality that is the Midgard Campaign Setting.


The first adventure starts with a bang, with a dramatic in media res opening that leaves the characters in no doubt about what they need to do first... survive! Indeed, it's such a good opening adventure that I'm considering changing my mind about my campaign opener for the local group who want to play some Pathfinder...


Like all the adventures, the GM is provided with copious detail about what is going on around the party, who else is there and what they are doing - that even before you get to the bits about how they will react to likely character actions. The one thing the first adventure lacks is a good map... but as its setting is intended to be mind-wrenchingly weird, just cope with the confusion and pass it on to your players! Later adventures have better maps, fortunately.


This is not an adventure path book. It's not even a campaign. What it does contain is a collection of excellent adventures that each portrays some aspect of the rich and strange adventure playground that is Midgard. They're not even linked, they are discrete, stand-alone adventures... but each one takes you somewhere different, somewhere fascinating, somewhere that legends await to be written.


Enjoy this epic exploration of Midgard, go write the stories for tomorrow's fireside.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Tales (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard: Player's Guide to the Wasted West
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/19/2013 04:02:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This player's guide for the Midgard-setting is 33 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's dive in!


As has become the tradition with Midgard Player's Guides, we kick this book off with a fluffy, player-friendly introduction to perhaps the most feared region of the world of Midgard, the desolate wastes spawned from an arcane cataclysm, where Great Old Ones trudge eldritch symbols in slow-motion into the blighted plains, slowed and perhaps sleeping, but unvanquished as their warp and taint spreads even through the complex bonds that hold them. The Dust goblin-inhabitants and their major tribes as well as three Great Old Ones also get a short player-friendly write up, as do 3 of the strange plants that can be found in these wasted fields. the Seat of Mavros, god of war (including a table for battle blessings) are introduced alongside the Magocracy of Allain and we even get a neat full-page full color map of the city of Maillon before we leave for the haunted lands of the giants, where not only the eponymous creatures dwell, but where lizardfolk adorn their sacred black cypress with shrunken heads...


After this disturbing journey, we're off to the crunchy bits and 35 traits await for the choosing and mostly, they are known fare - bonuses to saves, skill-checks, class skills etc. - though some vril-themed ones are neat and riding boars and swine is cool - if you didn't guess: Humanoids, more savage PCs and goblins especially get a rather extensive selection here. I'm also happy to report that I didn't consider any of the traits overpowered - not even the sinister one that allows you to 1/day sacrifice a sentient creature of equal of greater HD than you to gain +1d3 to an ability score for 3 hours.


Feat-wise, we get 12 new feats, which range from lame filler à la +1 to CMD and CMB to an okay item creation-feat that allows you to create charms to a feat that enables you to recall a spell of two levels lower than you can cast once per day. Feats to enhance slightly fire damage, better tracking versus creatures with the realms beyond or alien subtype, but not aberrations! The Alien-subtype...Wait. There is no alien subtype. Neither is there a realms beyond subtype. So which creatures do net the bonus? That's another issue I have with multiple pieces of crunch - most instead refer to "keywords" - a not truly defined term. Would mothmen, for example, count for the purpose of these abilities/feats? Why not simply make it aberrations and be done with it? This needlessly complicates what should be simple, not too exciting abilities. Or take the "Rebel of Allain"-feat: +2 to saves versus spells or effects with the "illusion, charm or dominate keywords". Ähm, ok, does Phantasmal Killer count? I know I'm nitpicking here, but these feats NEED clearer definitions - their focus is wobbly at best and when providing feats for uninspired +x bonuses, I'd at least expect to get concise definitions of what the bonus applies to. Sorry, but at least to me, the feat-section is uninspired, boring and fails to properly codify what the bonuses apply to.


I gushed about heritage feats in my review of the "PG to the 7 cities" and this time, we get 6 of them - most of them themed around the void beyond and netting spell-like abilities usable once per day - whether it is blink, invisible, entropic shield once per day or augury once per day. Unfortunately, the feats e.g. mention a "feat bonus", which at least via standard-rules does not exist. Speaking of which: getting less damage from energy is usually not called DR (as in the feat), but resistance. Faulty nomenclature is simply not helping here. Unfortunately, these heritage feats also feel a bit unbalanced and honestly, I'm not sold on them either, though at least they're not as bland as the regular feats.


After that, we're off to the new archetypes - first of which would be the Wasteland Summoner: These summoners can leech off the life energy of his eidolon, have his/her eidolon 1/day cast a spell as a spell-like ability and even temporarily borrow evolutions and later even split eidolons and incur ability damage to enhance his/her eidolon. We also get a new base form as well as 4 new exclusive evolutions. Magi may now opt to become Feywardens of Tintager that gain intelligent midnight blades as well as several abilities centered on fey and combating their tricks. Clerics may now become militant members of the order of Mavros, who sacrifice their channel energy for a variety of diverse effects like smiting wielders of the power arcane. Watseland Seekers (rangers) get a mostly boring archetype with a problematic ability: Automatic total concealment versus ranged attacks in wastelands and deserts? Depending on your campaign, that one's a game-breaker. Wasteland Druids don't get any proper nature bonds, but may choose some sinister domains and may use empathy with swarms and vermin - and that's just one of the neat abilities of this particular archetype. Wizards may opt to become Warmages of Tintager, with access to the Iron and Fire School and 2 arcane discoveries. Witches may now opt to become Servants of the Realms Beyond with 2 hexes, 2 major hexes and 2 grand hexes as well as 5 new familiars and 5 improved familiars.


Sorcerors can choose from one of 4 bloodliens: Ghoulish, Realms Beyond, Goblin-Blooded and Giant bloodlines. The Ghoul bloodline is nothing to write home about, but solidly designed, but the Realms Beyond bloodline once again is rather neat. The goblin-blooded bloodline is not as interesting and the giant bloodline would once again constitute an interesting take on the concept. We also get 3 new cavalier orders: White Knights are the defenders of Bourgund and may use retributive arcane attacks, intimidate foes and dimension door at high levels with a cool-down. Knights of the Black Rose don't serve Lord Soth, but rather are the defenders of Tintager - they are particularly fearsome and deadly in the saddle and against fey. And finally, there are the boar-riding goblin cavaliers of the wastes - and these guys win for both the cool imagery and the neat execution.


Next up, of course, are the obligatory spells, this time netting us 4 new ones: Summoning a whole goblin tribe, conjure a darkness that can't even be penetrated by darkvision, blast foes with laser-like annihilation rays as well as a spell to traverse the wastes more easily - these spells are universally winners.


The final page of the product features an animated hangman's knot (AWESOME!) and e.g. animated shrunken heads that can be consulted - 4 items, all cool, nothing to complain here.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed some flawed usages of rules language in the pdf. Layout is beautiful and adheres to the 2-column full color standard and both the b/w-artworks and the map are superb. The guide comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


The fluff is superb, as are the spells and magic items - but the crunch is of a varying quality - faulty rules-language, mostly bland traits, filler feats - whereas the majority of the archetypes, especially the glorious summoner archetype are awesome. In the end, it is this varying quality that hurts this guide the most - all in all, a solid product that fell short of what it could have been with slightly more inspired content and a tighter rules editing. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Wasted West
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Midgard Campaign Setting
by Bryan P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2013 15:50:59

MIDGARD CAMPAIGN SETTING REVIEW
(This is my 1st review.)
I’m a sucker for campaign settings. I have been since I purchased that first Greyhawk Campaign Setting with the charging knight on the front. I’ve used them as the foundation of my campaigns (Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Birthright, Golarion) and I’ve taken and ported elements that I liked from others (Ravenloft, Scarred Lands, Krynn). But despite my love of campaign settings, as with most things gaming, I’m pretty damned picky. If something doesn’t work for me, it usually [i]really[/i] doesn’t work for me.


Also, for the record, prior to a few issues of Kobold Quarterly and an Advanced Feats PDF or two, I had not purchased any Open Design/Kobold Press products prior to the Midgard Campaign Setting, so I’m not reviewing this product through the lens of a Patron, a Kickstarter supporter, or as an established fan of the setting. I’m also someone who initially avoided the setting as it seemed to me that in those dark days before the PFRPG was launched, the setting was fully embracing 4e. (Full disclosure, there is little in 4e that appeals to me.) This review is of the PDF (but I’ve ordered a hardcopy).


[B]WHAT COMPRISES THE MIDGARD CAMPAIGN SETTING?[/B]
The Midgard Campaign Setting is a gorgeous book. Layout is clear, yet attractive with full-colored illustrations & detailed maps (with a scale on each map!).


[b][i]Chapter 1: Midgard[/i][/b] presents the setting at a high level and introduces setting-specific characteristics. Most notable are the “Seven Secrets” that present some core fundamentals about Midgard, in particular, that dragons seek to rule in parts of the world, ley lines are a major conceit of the setting, and that while the timeline isn’t overtly fixed, it is assumed that the setting can change in significant ways. While that last bit may be old hat for seasoned gamers, I’ve rarely seen the “permission” to change the world so explicitly stated.


History, calendar, recent events, festivals, and planes are presented next. The history is detailed enough to present a sense of scope and backdrop without bogging down into textbook-style reading, the planes are flavorful and presented more in a tone of myth and uncertainty than a scholar’s treatise on their characteristics. Calendars, festivals, and recent events, which are often relegated to later chapters in other setting books, help ground the reader in the setting by showing up earlier than usual.


Finally, Ley Line mechanics are presented. These support the richness of the setting lore within the familiar framework of Pathfinder feats. Some subsystem details complete the Ley Line rules without becoming a burdensome add-on.


[b][i]Chapter 2: Heroes[/i][/b]
Races, Languages, and campaign-specific Feats & Traits are up next. Here are many of the things that make Midgard distinct and they are the same things that foolishly deterred me from looking at the early Open Design releases when they were 4e-centric. Kobolds as a major race? Minotaurs as a player race – didn’t we already get that with DragonLance? Dragonkin, -er Dragonborn… can you see the eye-rolling from here? Except that it all works and deliciously, flavorfully, so. The dragonkin & kobolds tie directly to the setting conceit of empire-building dragons. The dragonkin are more akin to Arcana Evolved’s dragonman race than the 4e dragonborn fluff hyped by WotC (IMO, at least). Much as Paizo has done for Goblins and Ogres, dwarves and elves are familiar but varied slightly in their own unique ways. I’m still not a huge fan of Gearforged but they’re not omni-present in the setting. Centaurs, gnolls, and tengu get more prominence than they do in many settings. Every race is recognizable from Pathfinder RPG core concepts, but all have a distinctive Midgard spin to them.


The standouts of this chapter, however, are the Midgard Feats & Traits. Broken down by region, they are mechanically sound yet dripping with setting flavor from evocative names to concise descriptive text. These reinforce the cultural differences of the various regions while avoiding long stretches of description-by-essay. By not having to hit the “generic PFRPG” button that the PFRPG line has to do, these all feel very connected to the setting yet can easily be ported to other settings. They avoid the sometimes over-specific traits found in some of the PF AP player’s guides, but those are designed to serve a slightly different function anyway.


[b][i]Chapters 3-9: The Regions of Midgard[/i][/b]
The bulk of the campaign setting, it is also the part I will summarize the most as this review is lengthy as-is. Here are the sections where Midgard is painted in vivid colors and contrasts. Each chapter covers a particular region: The Crossroads, the Wasted West, the Dragon Empire, the Seven Cities, the Rothenian Plain, the Domains of the Princes, and the Northlands. With the exception of the Northlands, the names themselves are evocative and inspire further investigation. Yet all of the chapters have a structure and flow to them that encourages one to continue reading through – a feat most campaign settings fail to achieve. Plot hooks and adventure seeds are laden throughout and each region is distinct. Yet by pulling from Earth-based myth, particularly of Norse and Eastern Europe, it has a familiarity that allows the reader to quickly grasp the cultural concepts of each region.


Important game info is presented for each region: a more detailed map, population info, gods worshipped, etc. as one would expect. But it’s the little details that stand out. Details that are often hand-waved away in other settings are found here as well. Travel times & costs between various cities, trade goods, prominent castles, cultural tidbits, and relevant game mechanics all combine to form a rich, yet cohesive whole that can support a very diverse range of themes & playstyles. It’s a customized kitchen sink, not a generic one, and the setting is stronger for it.


Midgard is a darker setting yet is still a setting ideally suited for High Fantasy. Most settings chose to hew strongly towards the dark (WHFRP’s Known World) or the High Fantasy genre (Forgotten Realms), with only token attempts to support other genres and styles of play. Midgard strikes a great balance, making it easy for a GM to lean whichever way suits the campaign or players without having to drastically change the tone of the setting.


[b][i]Chapter 10: Pantheon[/i][/b]
Once again, my expectations were dashed with this chapter. Fantasy pantheons are a favorite setting aspect of mine and compared to a [i]Book of the Righteous[/i] or [i]Scarred Lands’[/i] pantheon, how could gods pulled from Norse, Eastern European, and Egyptian myth possibly compare?


As it turns out, pretty damn well. Forgive my soapbox-grandstanding for a moment, but gods should not be the top of the monster pyramid for homicidal players to slay. In a game where alignment provides a shorthand for a character’s morality and ethics, portraying the gods as relevant for something more than the source of a cleric’s power can be a difficult goal to achieve. Pages of backstory on a god’s personality might make for an interesting read, but often has little bearing on the playing of the game. Too often, there is little room for theological debates, heresies, or wars and a rich source of conflict and story/setting development is lost.


So how does Midgard avoid these pitfalls? Masks & alignment. See, some of Midgard’s theologians believe that the gods represent themselves differently to different cultures. Few regions agree which of their gods are the “masks” of another in a different region. One man’s Thor may, or may not, be another man’s Mavros. Also, most gods, being unknowable and beyond mortality, usually only have one alignment axis fixed (Law, Chaos, Good, or Evil) and the other is variable. The result is a world where the familiar mythological figures shorten the learning curve for new players and where mystery is injected back into fantasy RPG religions.


In short, it rocks.


Of equal import, rather than paragraphs and pages on a god’s personality, we get more practical, game-relevant info: expectations of worshipers, symbols, holy texts, shrines, priests, and interactions with other faiths along with standard domain & favored weapon info.


[b]WHAT SETS MIDGARD APART FROM OTHER SETTINGS?[/b]
I’ve considered writing RPG reviews of other products. However, with Midgard, I was [i]inspired[/i] to write a review. Honestly, that bugged me. What was it about this setting that made it stand out among the many I’ve read and used in my games over the years? I’ve been ruminating over it for a few days and these were my “Aha!” takeaways:




  1. [b]Seasoned, not saturated.[/b]

    This was the setting I shouldn’t have liked. It allowed for dragonman characters, gunpowder, clockwork/steampunk, and Earth-myth gods. All things I generally do not like in my FRPGing. But they’re placed in the setting in such a light-touched and organic way that the “coolness” outweighs my reservations. Limitations are placed in a way that seems plausible rather than forced. Most importantly, the writers understand that a little can go a long way and that it’s easier to increase certain elements to suit a GM’s game than it is to rip something out.


    I love the clockwork city of Zobeck and the fact that dwarves have invented gunpowder. But I still get to have orders of knighthood, witches in the forest, and all of the medieval tropes that I embraced when I bought that first Greyhawk campaign setting. It doesn’t feel forced and it’s not laden with anachronisms that break the immersion in the setting.




  2. [b]Rules serve the setting rather than the setting serving the rules.[/b]

    This is perhaps an unfair critique against other settings, and I’m sure it’s not true in all cases but it rings true to me. It’s how I felt after reading this book. I look at things like Ley Lines, the Mana Wastes, gearforged and the rest and it’s clear that they are there because the writers thought they were interesting and cool. They added to the distinctiveness of the world, the plot hooks, the adventure seeds – they added to Midgard’s character. They didn’t build a world to fit the Pathfinder RPG. They built a world and then built PFRPG rules that made the integration seamless.



  3. [b]“I want to run a campaign…here”. [/b]
    This is the first RPG setting where I could not only envision running a campaign in every region, I [i]wanted[/i] to do so. There were no regions that didn’t interest me, nowhere that I definitely wanted to stay away from, no place that didn’t “work for me”. I don’t know that anyone else will feel that way, but it was a first for me.


[B]WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?[/B]
Not a great deal, honestly. There are a few errors/typos such as the omission of the “Time Flies” optional rule while reference to it survives and things like races having a Favored Class rather than a character choosing their favored class.


While some will find it part of the setting’s charm, fans of elves and half-elves may be surprised at how elves are less common than in other settings. Halflings return to their Tolkein-esque roots and seem almost an afterthought.


After Paizo’s much-cheered revamp of gnomes into an interesting race, some might be taken aback at the dark circumstances of many of Midgard’s gnomes. However, it’s not a universal situation for the entire race, so again, season to taste.


There is little mention of orcs, and I’ve always had a soft-spot for orcs as one of my go-to bad guys. I hope that they gain some prominence in the setting if the line expands to regions beyond the seven described in the campaign setting.


[B]CONCLUSION[/B]


Midgard is a rich, vibrant campaign setting that should be in every fantasy RPG library. It’s familiar without feeling rehashed. It’s unique in a way that enriches the differences rather than overshadowing other genres or aspects of the game. It’s written in a way that provides a massive amount of info in manageable chunks and ignites the imagination.


Yes, it’s that damn good. Go get it now. 5 of 5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
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