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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 14: Lizardfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
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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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Advanced Races 12: Derro (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/17/2015 04:26:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Advanced Races-series is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, I'll come right out and say it -I love the derro as a concept and as adversaries. There is something downright awesome...add a slice of Lovecraftiana and CoC/ToC-fanboy yours truly has not much to complain about concept-wise. However, this pdf goes one step beyond that, providing thoroughly unique concepts like the "Imposition of the Will" - which hearkens back to a certain other infamous real life statement and represents the strange surges of fads and concepts that grip the collectively insane derro culture. Which also brings me to another component of the fluff - if you're like me and can't turn off your critical reading skills, you'll notice that the derro and their whole culture can arguably be read as a pretty black satire on mass media Web 2.0-culture - which fluff-wise provides the icing on the cake.

Now the central component of a derro would be the racial insanity, right? well, thankfully, this installment does provide some troubleshooting and concise advice for players who wish to play such a character and still retain the functionality of the group/character. The derro herein do receive full age, height and weight tables as well as favored class options for alchemist, bard, barbarian, druid, fighter, inquisitor, magus, oracle, ranger, rogue, sorceror and witch. All of the FCOs are thematically fitting and well-balanced and players also receive a nice selection of suggested, thematically fitting archetype/character concept choices.

Now I consider the RP-values of the ARG anything but functional, but even a cursory glimpse of the derro will show you that these guys are too strong for most groups - hence, as a player race, the lesser derro is introduced. These guys receive +2 to Dex and Cha, small, have a base speed of 20 ft., receive darkvision 60 ft., gain keen senses and light sensitivity and may cast ghost sound 3/day as an SP. They also receive familiarity with certain weapons and poison use. Know what? NOTHING to complain! Balanced between physical and mental, with solid tricks, this base race fits into EVERY campaign, even the most conservative of groups. Kudos! Now what this pdf does beyond that is interesting - it provides the racial traits to upgrade them to full-blown derro. Yes, this means that even high-power groups receive their due. Kudos! While there are cosmetic glitches in the presentation here (like Dex coming after cha or a "+" missing), these glitches are cosmetic and do not detract at all from the appeal of these base racial stat-arrays. Of course, either derro kind is mad and thus use their cha-mod for will-saves instead of wis and gains a minor madness. In Midgard, derro receive a status-penalty.

A total of 8 alternate racial traits allow a player to customize a derro to have less darkvision, but also no light sensitivity, better social skills when dealing with aberrations, chaos magic-synergy (see Deep Magic), more minor SPs, speaking to vermin. What about a mad obsession with a particular skill that increases all skill bonuses of +2 to the skill to +3 at the cost of an additional minor madness?

The Knowledge (Forbidden Lore) skill also receives a short introduction and then, we receive madness tables - 5 of them. Minor madness can point towards small objects, living creatures, delusions, physical effects -pretty awesome! Derro nomenclature is covered herein as well - fluff-wise, once again, absolutely awesome - and in opposition to the installment on gnolls, much closer to being a suitable player-race...at least so far.

A total of 6 new feats is provided - from the relatively standard verminspeaker (guess thrice what that one does...yeah) to gaining sneak attack +1d6 at the cost of more madness and a skill-bonus-feat to increase intimidate - and further boost that by taking wis-damage. Interesting! Cooler - what about being a compulsive hoarder who can scatter sharp objects as essentially a respawning caltrop array? Yeah, cool! On the metamagic-side, chaosfire makes for an interesting madness-influenced chaos magic and yes, there is a story feat - Pierce the Veil. Well, in order to fulfill that, you have to make contact with a cozy entity like good ole' Nyarly. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, permanent SPs wink among those completion benefits...

Two cool traits can also be found in these pages, as can 3 spells: What about the gleefully random madfire? And yes, facemelt and skullsplitter are just as nasty as you'd expect them to be. Magical fauchards, the dread weeping poison, ghost bolts, foul statues of hateful gods and dread staves also speak a pretty clear language...

The pdf also sports archetypes, the first of which would be the Fist of Madness, who may use derro weapons as monk weapons, receives a modified skill list and instead of stunning fists, these guys can transport confusing madness with their attacks. The ki the class gains (powered by Cha, which also governs the archetype's AC-bonus btw.) can be used to temporarily grant defensive boosts and miss chances. The archetype may also poach among ninja tricks and later unleash confusion-causing bursts. Their ki strike is chaotic and instead of causing death at high levels, these guys can instill permanent mayor insanities. The capstone is also interesting -permanent circle of protection: law may seem lame...then you read that they can manipulate gravity freely in this area. Yeah. This is pretty awesome.

The second archetype is a small one, the monstrophile ranger, who instead applies his empathy to monstrous animals, unintelligent aberrations, vermin and oozes and the ranger also receives a vermin, reptile or amphibian companion...or an ooze companion! GO CUBEY! Awesome.

The Shadow Antipaladin receives no heavy armor proficiency, smite law, an insanity/confusion-debuff aura, evasion and additional cruelties themed around insanity and sneak attack-progression. At higher levels DR enters the frame and the capstone renders the antipaladin into a constant source of insanity against all those serving law and order.

Finally, the pdf provides the new derro savant-bloodline, allowing for characters descendant (best not dwell on HOW) from the insane derro fetal savants. This bloodline is centered on knowledge and an entrancing gaze and receives a capstone for permanent enslaving of subjects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor glitches, the pdf can be considered very well crafted in that regard. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' two-column full-color standard and the artworks provided, while probably familiar to KP-fans, are nice. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Let's get one thing out of the way - derro are insane. they are nasty and as a race, an unpleasant bunch. They are also a race I would never have allowed as a PC-race. I just didn't want them "diluted" in their nastiness.

But unlike the installment on gnolls, this feels like it is intended for players - the archetypes universally have multiple interesting concepts going for them and do not require membership in odd cabals. They provide unique mechanical benefits. the pdf provides ample help for portraying the insane derro.

The new feats/content, in the vast majority of cases, is just cool. That, and the derro with their madness and fads, have a great rationale for why a certain derro might become an adventurer that helps a group/is a PC. Author Nicholas Milasich has improved SIGNIFICANTLY since the last pdf I read by his pen...and you can definitely see the writing of Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur in this pdf. This AR is a great read; it is interesting, balanced and provides an array of more than solid options. Yes, I could nitpick some of the minor hiccups, but they remain just that - in the end, this is quite frankly one of the most inspired, awesome supplements in the whole series. Good enough, in fact, to allow this pdf among the available PC-races in my own campaign and revise my stance on "No Derro PCs."

The final verdict, then, should come as no surprise: 5 stars + seal of approval. This exemplifies what the AR-series should be about, quality-wise.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 12: Derro (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 10: Gnolls (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/06/2015 06:09:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Races-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We kick off this discussion on gnolls with an extensive text on the nature of gnoll society and psychology, steeped in Midgard-lore, yes, but also more setting-agnostic than many similar introductions - the writing here is pretty much top-notch and the new deity/mask of a deity Nkishi - which are particularly nasty, being allied to were-hyenas and bouda. What's a bouda, you ask? well bouda are a new monster, a CR 5 div that is truly and utterly disgusting (and yes, here, that is a complement!) -with sickening smears, quick coup-de-graces and similar tricks, these creatures are pretty awesome and come with a pretty expensive flavor as well as a glorious artwork - I love them. Only...

Yeah, there's a caveat here. I can't, for the life of me, fathom why this cool creature is in a player's book. It simply doesn't belong here!

Gnolls as a playable race come with full-blown age, height and weight tables and receive the following benefits: +4 Str, -2 to all mental attributes. That gears them almost exclusively to physical pursuits AND enhances min-maxing. There's a reason most races adhere to a net +2 gain, with one attribute bonus allocated to mental and one to physical attributes. The rationale of 3.X that valued Str higher than the other attributes is no longer in place as a design paradigm, so consider this decision leaving me puzzled. Gnolls also receive scent, proficiency with spears, crossbows and bows (!!!), darkvision and +10 ft movement when retreating. They also gain +1 Survival when scavenging for food and drink and receive a -2 penalty to saves versus fear-effects. Overall, this leaves the race very lopsided - great for rangers and martial characters, less useful for everyone else. On a design-perspective, this is exactly the racial "profiling" towards certain career paths one should usually avoid, especially considering the massive +4 Str-bonus. Do you even know how high you could go with that at first level? Yeah. Take a look at that damage output. Urgh. Add to that scent and martial weapon proficiencies...well, you get the idea. While not utterly overpowered or worthy of true ranting, I do not consider this an example of good racial design - it exhibits all flaws usually avoided.

A total of 4 alternate racial traits are presented, including slaver-style weapon proficiencies, better intimidation at the cost of an uneven penalty to fear-saves and gnolls particularly adept at sniveling. It should be noted that uneven bonus-types can be found quite often in here. One trait is even more min-maxy - 20 ft slow and steady movement instead of the default 30 ft, but also +2 Con for -4 to Int. Now if you can't figure out how this can be easily gamed without even trying, I don't know.

We receive 4 favored class options for cleric, ranger, druid and rogue, all of which are solid. Beyond these, we also get new archetypes, first of which would be the Mowa (cleric) - this archetype replaces spontaneous heal-conversion with different spontaneous spell conversions and also gets a focus on intimidation and 4+int skills per level. Additionally, they receive a curse at 3rd level that allows them to prevent targets from sleeping. As an Su. Not as an Sp, as an Su. They do not receive medium armor proficiency, but do receive alignment channel as a first level bonus feat. Sooo...more versatile conversion, an op curse that fails to specify the action it requires to activate...or a daily limit. Free feat at level one. For medium armor proficiency? Really? Where's the balance here?

Silent Howlers are rangers of a specific secret society (with awesome fluff!) that cast spells via int from the sorc/wizard-list. Apart from that, they are locked into their first favored terrain, gain poison use, can move freely through crowds and perfectly blend and go undercover in masses. So here are the issues - so they cast sorc/wiz spells: With arcane spell failure or without? Also: Where's the balance for receiving access to arguably the most powerful, versatile spell-list EVER? I like the concept, but poison use is better than endurance, sorc/wiz-spells are better than ranger spells and yes, the slight modifications of camouflage et al. are solid...but still, this archetype feels like it can use some clarification and gentle prodding with the nerf-bat.

The Wasteland Stalker ranger replaces spells with a unpenalized (level-wise) animal companion and is locked into the ranged specialization; The archetype also receives wasteland benefits. This one is...boring. There's nothing cool here. Everything this archetype does can be done without it. It lacks a raison d'être.

The same can thankfully not be said about the new equipment provided: Posioned bolas, beetle carapace armor, musk bombs, fans to create dust clouds for ambushes and mewling horns - these items are interesting and compelling, though I would have preferred the beetle carapace as a material instead of being locked into an armor. The 5 new feats allow you to selectively ignore difficult terrain in certain terrain types,gaining a bite attack (properly codified!) or better Stealth in certain environments. On the problematic side - unlimited daily AoE-demoralization-howls need a nerfing - hrad. And, since they can be enhanced by allies, why not codify them as a teamwork feat? Also: A cap is very much required here - or at least a caveat that a creature can't be affected again after being demoralized by the howl - some sort of balancing. The final feat allows you to become undetectable by tremorsense -which I applaud in theory - the sense needs some countermeasures. However, flat-out becoming undetectable is simply not smooth design - why not go for simply allowing a Stealth-check with a significant bonus?

A total of 9 magic items are also part of the deal, allowing gnolls to pose as humans and otherwise providing an interesting array of fetishes - all of which have at the very least iconic imagery going for them, some even sporting unique benefits - nice jobs, also since it gels well with the base concept.

The pdf closes with 7 new spells - superb tracking via a creature's blood, searing winds, better bites by dislodging jaws, hydration, generating sand traps and putting weak creatures into a slave's stupor - once again, nice.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while the rules are not always perfect, no basic issues with the rules-language cropped up. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. Artworks deserve special mention - they are GORGEOUS.

Mike Franke and Chris Harris deliver per se a book I'd recommend...were it a DM ecology. To be honest, this book felt pretty much like it had an identity-crisis: The inspired fluff, the savage magic items - all of it screams "I am a DM-book!" and this impression is further cemented by the inclusion of a cool monster. How many parties will tolerate a gnoll walking around with a fetish of elven ears? Yeah. Exactly. This confused focus, alas, extends to the crunch: While making a monster melee/caster-centric is valid practice, for a player race, it simply isn't good design. And no, I'm not harping on this due to the power-level - lamia and shadow fey from the same series could be argued to be stronger. I'm harping on the whole built because it is a flat-out invitation to min-max certain builds, while others are simply inefficient when compared to regular races. Why ever go for a gnoll sorceror? Yeah.

This strange, confused identity is also reflected by another fact - unlike most AR-installments, the racial information is simply...not as extensive. Whether it's traits, alternate racial traits, feats or archetypes, the book simply doesn't offer that much and what's here in these departments could either sue some fine-tuning, feels bland or both. Like it's an after-thought, something to get over with so one can devote time to the cool spells, magic items, etc.

Or the write-up on a secret society that shouldn't be in a player's guide...much like aforementioned monster. Now don't get me wrong, if the new racial material had some sort of synergy with the monster...a transformation of sorts...whatever...then I'd kind of understand it. Or as a companion. I'd get that. But like this? Weird indeed.

And then, there is simply what I'd call the "fluff-failure." Know what the grand achievements of AR: Lamia and Shadow-Fey were? They managed to make races of arguably despicable individuals playable - by depicting the culture and its outcasts, the mentality. They opened NPC-races for players and did that without forcing the race towards a certain class or class-type. AR: Gnolls does no such thing. The gnolls herein are pretty much the almost universally despicable race we all know and love to kill. They are geared towards brutal savagery and their class options reflect that, one and all. If you take the secret-society ranger away, we get an OP xenophobic cleric and a bland ranger. The items, while awesome, also push them in that direction. The gnolls here don't feel like a race I'd play - because this pdf leaves them pretty much one-dimensional.

Now this is especially baffling due to one thing: Kobold Press, and the Midgard Campaign Setting has done better. This is actually a huge step BACK for the depiction of the whole race. What do I mean?

Calm-Tongue. The great gnoll philosopher who developed a code of honor and understanding. Who subdued the bloodlust. Introduced in Midgard Legends and one of my favorite characters in the book, this guy is essentially a gnoll Mahatma Ghandi (with less pacifism and more serene ass-kicking). So you have this awesome lore established. You have this code and tradition...and then ignore it?! WHY? Even when remaining setting-agnostic, introducing the philosophy and expanding on it is such an incredibly obvious way of making gnolls more accepted, more player-friendly, I can't fathom why this route wasn't taken. In one fell swoop, this would add an extremely interesting, complex dichotomy to the race that would vastly enhance its appeal - both for players and DMs, who suddenly would receive more roleplaying potential than they could ever hope for. Instead we get brutish savages. sigh

Now don't get me wrong. This pdf isn't bad. It has its shining moments. They simply aren't for players. Items, monster, fluff - mostly useful for the DM, including a simply savage and unpleasant deity that no non-evil PC will ever worship. All the player-content is, pardon my English, either design-wise too limited or bland.

How to rate this, then? For players, I'd suggest to steer clear - if you get this for balanced player's options for gnolls, this fails and is a 2-star book - players are better off buying Midgard Legends for their DM and asking him/her to copy the legend of Calm-Tongue. As a source-book/equipment-option-array, it is nice though, and it does not sport enough issues to be thoroughly whacked. hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, barely rounded up to 3 - for DMs.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 10: Gnolls (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 5: Ravenfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/02/2015 05:33:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was hired to develop this pdf, iron out the rough patches and provide some new and exciting options herein. I was paid for my work. That being said, I was assured that I should not, in any way, compromise my final verdict for any product of Kobold Press and continue to provide my often harsh criticism. So yeah, I obviously consider the new iteration superior. I post this review mainly to update my review of the first Ravenfolk pdf and to draw attention to its improved version - not many publishers would aim to improve a given book by this extent. Kudos!

This installment of Kobold Press' Advanced Races-series is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC,1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

All right, let's get one thing out of the way - I LOVE Tengu and I adore the Midgard Huginn - blending one of my favorite races with a distinct Germanic/Scandinavian tone, the fluff of this race is simply glorious. Idea-wise...but can the content stand up to the concept? Racial trait-wise, Huginn (or Heru/Heruti, as they are known in the South...) are now streamlined with Tengus as presented in the ARG. Fluff-wise, the insights into Ravenfolk culture, psychology, nesting as well as the unique concepts as conveyed per their intricate Feather Speech, which contains otherwise untranslatable concepts - this chapter is just awesome. Did you for example know about the Huginn rookeries and ghettos, about the tsar of Vidim using the Huginn as elite-soldiers and spies? We also get to know about the Huginn of Zobeck as well as those of Nuria-Natal before being introduced to the Ravenfolk's take on various adventuring classes.

A total of 13 alternate racial traits are provided, allowing you to flavor your Huginn as servants of Horus, Wotan etc. Huginn blessed by Wotan may for example learn to speak with the dead etc. beyond that, I have revised the claw attack these guys may get and added a feat-tree to render the claw attack granted a valid option for ravenfolk monks. Beyond these new feats, the old feats have, in my opinion, been vastly improved and made simply more exciting.

We also get new archetypes: Wotan's Doomcroaker-oracle has been revised to make use of the powerful and thematically fitting rune magic introduced in Northlands and Deep Magic for a more unique playing experience. Marc Radle's excellent spontaneous caster, the Shaman-class, gets new fodder with the Black feather, which nets the shaman not only relatively fast flight and the ability to assume avian shape, but also feather fall at will and the new corvid spirit guide. Sea Ravens are essentially huginn vikings that can forego basic weapon dice (i.e. dealing only str-mod damage plus similar modifiers) for free intimidates as and have been smoothed as well. Tomb Raven Wizards still make for superb foes of the undead, but a whack with the nerfbat has made them more balanced. The final archetype would be the Thief of Secrets is an acolyte of the teaching of Thoth-Hermes, whose bland flavor has been revised to grant them a type f pool that represents the whispers of Thoth-Hermes and allows them to succeed where other thieves may fail. Additionally, the archetype now has quite a bunch of unique benefits that set it apart - no more bland SPs. We also get 6 new spells -all of which have been brought up to par with Deep Magic.

We also get new pieces of mundane/alchemical equipment herein - from putty that allows Huginn to disguise themselves as other featherless, beakless humanoids, feather dyes and bleaches (with their meanings!), lozenges to alter voices, a guide of feather speech, a quill that may contain elaborate messages and a particularly effective cloak make for culturally distinct, cool pieces of equipment. On the weapon-side, we get beak razors, fighting spurs and wing razors - making bleeding more painful, working better with called shots (and having an alternate bonus if you don't use called shots) - all in all, cool secondary benefits to these weapons.

Finally, we receive 4 new magic items - Wotan's Whisperers are stone ravens that unerringly find their targets via the ways of the world tree (no tracking these!) and deliver their messages exclusively to them - which oozes the stuff of myths. The Sword of the Sea Raven allows Huginn to determine whether a vessel carries valuable cargo, whereas the Spear of the Sun Hawk is particularly effective versus evil, undead, can be whirled to generate true sunlight. Good huginn may does something that requires careful thought - they may throw the spear at a target and ignore any range penalties - the spear has essentially unlimited range, with only visibility limiting its range. Upon being used this way, the spear turns into a regular masterwork spear for 3 days, though. This is awesome! Finally, a minor artifact, the Thief of Many Things, a carved wooden raven. Whisper to the raven and it will steal something for you - something which will potentially endanger you, be not applicable to your situation or be just the thing you needed. Great storytelling potential here!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are now top-notch. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard for Midgard and the artworks in full-color and b/w are universally awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Author Wade Rockett has delivered a compelling supplement here and I'd be a huge hypocrite if I complained about the new material. That being said, of course, I love the new material and I hope you will enjoy it as well. In my opinion, this pdf is vastly superior to its first iteration, with scaling advice for the race. Where before, the fluff was glorious, but the crunch couldn't live up to it, I'm confident you'll agree that all new options and revised archetypes now are much more unique, versatile and interesting. To me, this is now a 5 star + seal of approval file and one I have begun using in my own campaign. So yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, I consider this by now one of the best installments in the series and if you already have the pdf, be sure to download the revised version - my changelog was pretty long. :) Otherwise, consider this one glorious ecology/racial supplement dripping in awesome fluff that now has much more going for it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 5: Ravenfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
by Joshua B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/31/2015 10:10:18

I definitely enjoyed this release. I tend to be a bit wary of lycanthropic PC's because of some "odd" experiences in the past, but this pdf definitely warmed me up to them. There's a huge amount of information here about how the werelions act, but also goes more in-depth about the race overall about the relationships to others within the Kobold's setting as well.

The race itself is interesting, being broken up into 2 kinds of werelions: those who were naturally born like them, and those who were cursed/turned into one. It gives some differences between the two (stats and culturally) as well, really fleshing them out. I definitely also enjoy the racial paragon class itself that enhances the natural abilities of the werelion itself.

All in all, I think this is an incredibly solid 3rd party race and has a lot of information for anyone looking to try out some new races. The pdf gives plenty on information to set it in any setting and the race itself seems pretty well balanced as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
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Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
by Tim M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2015 16:00:00

Simple and short. Maybe it's my netbook, but my PDF version didn't come with any live number links, which would of course have made the play much more efficient. Other reviewers seemed not to have this problem.

First time I've bought an adventure module in 2.5 decades. Certainly better quality than I could have gotten for the same price back in those days. (Even better if you factor inflation.)

Used this as a practical to aid in comprehension of all the core rules I've been reading for the last couple of days back on Pathfinder's site. It was a little too simple for my intended purpose; but it was nice to roll some dice after all that reading.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
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Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
by Theo W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/22/2015 23:17:48

I am usually wary of letting my players use any lycanthropic race, but after reading the Advanced Races book for Werelions I have to change my mind. Not only is the supplement well written and well arranged, it contains all the necessary and useful information a GM and a player would desire to make the most of any potential werelion PC or NPC.

The racial class options were really fantastic in my opinion. I could easily see using them for a variety of NPCs; and almost all of them fit at least one of my players style of play. Personally, I would have liked a few more feats, and mundane and/or magic items. The amount found fit well with the layout of other Advanced Races supplements and the Advanced Race Guide from Paizo however.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
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KOBOLD Guide to Magic
by Roger (. L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/22/2015 02:21:53
http://www.teilzeithelden.de

Feuerball, magisches Geschoss, Bannbaladin – allesamt verlässliche und berechenbare Sprüche im Arsenal zahlreicher Zauberer. Aber geht durch diese formularische Abbildung von Magie nicht der wahre Reiz von allmächtiger arkaner Kraft verloren? Der Kobold Guide to Magic verspricht, Magie im eigenen Rollenspiel wieder interessant zu machen.

Rezension: Kobold Guide to Magic

Fünf Jahre lang publizierte das D&D-Fanzine Kobold Quarterly diverse Artikel zum Thema Magie. 2014 wurden diese Essays in einem Sammelband zusammengefasst.

Inhalte Die zahlreichen Essays im Kobold Guide to Magic beschäftigen sich vor allem mit einem Widerspruch im Rollenspielhobby: Zauberei, so wie man sie aus Literatur und Film kenne, sei unwägbar, unerklärlich und allmächtig. Genau dieser Reiz gehe aber durch die Abstraktion und genaue Definition von Magie in Form von Regeln verloren. Scheint dieser Ansatz auf den ersten Blick doch sehr gradlinig, so gelingt es dem Sammelband, ihn auf vielfältige Art zu beleuchten.

Mehrere Artikel stellen das Fantastische, Unberechenbare von Magie in den Vordergrund, das im Englischen treffend mit „Sense of Wonder“ tituliert wird, und behandeln, wie dies am Spieltisch eingebracht werden kann. Ein Essay beschreibt, wie kodifizierte Spruchlisten durch die Erweiterung um variable Ereignisse, abweichende Effekte oder schlicht farbenfrohe Beschreibungen weniger berechenbar werden können; ein anderer Artikel schlägt vor, fest definierte Elemente wie punktgenaue Reichweiten zu entfernen oder die Wirkung von der Qualität der verwendeten Ingredienzen abhängig zu machen.

Aber auch Vorsicht sei geboten: So erläutern andere Beiträge, dass Magie zwar nicht bis in ihre kleinste Funktionsweise erklärt sein muss, Zauberei aber dennoch in sich schlüssig und mit ihren eigenen, nachvollziehbaren Regeln versehen sein muss.

Auch die Vielseitigkeit im Einsatz von Magie wird im Kobold Guide to Magic am Beispiel von anderen Kulturen und literarischen Vorlagen ausführlich beleuchtet. So betrachtet ein Artikel Magie und Mystik der alten Kelten, ein anderer sinniert darüber, wie Kreaturen der vier Elemente – Vogel- Maulwurfs- oder Fischmenschen – Magie mit ihrer natürlichen Umgebung verquicken könnten. Robert Jordans Serie „Das Rad der Zeit“ dient in zwei Essays als Beispiel für befleckte Magie und den unterschiedlichen Umgang der Geschlechter mit arkaner Kraft.

Weitere Artikel untersuchen Literatur und Mythen auf ihre Archetypen und andere Klassifizierungen. Wie äußert sich die doch sehr subtile Magie bei Tolkien, angefangen bei Adepten bis hin zu den Istari? Woher kommt Magie, und in welcher Form wird sie angewendet, sei es in wissenschaftlicher Form wie bei Astrologen und Orakeln, sei es in Form der Kanalisierung spiritueller Energie oder der Änderung des Weltgefüges selbst durch Gesang und Formeln.

Auch die Probleme einzelner Sprucheffekte und Phänomene werden angegangen. So führt ein Autor Gegenmittel auf für den übermächtigen Teleportationszauber, der den Spielern die Erforschung der Welt vorenthält und für viele Probleme eine zu einfache Lösung bereithält. Ein weiteres Essay widmet sich der Quelle und dem Zweck göttlicher Magie, ein anderes den Hürden im Umgang mit Wahrsagerei und Prophezeiungen.

Wieder andere Essays untersuchen die Präsenz von Magie im Alltagsleben: Wie kann man mit Recht und Gesetz gegen über die Stränge schlagende Zauberer vorgehen? Welche Vorteile bringen Kabalen und Zaubererlogen, agieren sie offen oder verborgen? Und wie schlage ich den besten Vorteil für mich heraus, wenn ein Dämon als Preis für seine Dienste meine Seele verlangt?

Nutzen

Der Kobold Guide to Magic betrachtet das Phänomen der Magie im Rollenspiel von vielen verschiedenen Blickwinkeln. Bei jedem der vielseitigen Beiträge merkt man, dass die Autoren frischen Wind in die festgefahrenen Wege bringen wollen, mit denen Magie in unserem Hobby abgewickelt wird. Mir persönlich haben dabei besonders gut die Artikel gefallen, die die literarischen Ursprünge der bis heute präsenten Archetypen und Klischees untersuchen, so etwa die Eigenarten der Zauberer Merlin und Gandalf oder eben die verschiedenen Wege, mit denen Tolkien Magie in Mittelerde darstellt.

Obwohl die Essays ursprünglich in einem Fanzine für Dungeons & Dragons erschienen, betrachten nur wenige Beiträge die Funktionsweise von Magie in diesem Rollenspielklassiker. Tatsächlich haben die meisten Artikel einen ganz allgemeinen Ansatz, der den Einsatz in jedem beliebigen System ermöglicht. Auch sind die in den Essays beschriebenen Einfälle und Konzepte so gehalten, dass eine Runde nicht groß die Mechanismen des in der eigenen Runde verwendeten Produkts umschreiben muss, sondern diese Vorschläge stattdessen während der Erzählung im Spielfluss oder in Form neuer Elemente der Geschichte einbringen kann.

Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis

Der geforderte Preis von 24,99 USD für diesen Sammelband erscheint mir für ein reines PDF ein wenig hoch. Zwar erhält man ein umfangreiches Buch mit durchweg gut geschriebenen Texten namhafter Autoren, allerdings kann man für einen vergleichbaren Preis auch gedruckte Bücher in aufwändigerer Aufmachung erstehen. Den zum Zeitpunkt des Schreibens dieser Rezension auf knapp die Hälfte reduzierten Preis empfinde ich eher als angemessen. Erscheinungsbild und harte Fakten

Die Optik des Kobold Guide to Magic ist vor allem zweckmäßig. Neben dem farbigen Einband präsentiert sich das gesamte Innenleben in schwarz-weiß ohne Illustrationen. Sämtliche Texte sind einspaltig gesetzt, wegen des Buchformats von knapp über Din A5 aber gut lesbar. Zudem sorgen großzügige Leerseiten zwischen den einzelnen Abhandlungen für Übersichtlichkeit.

Alle Essays sind durchweg gut geschrieben und lesen sich flüssig und anregend. Jeder Beitrag vermag es, seine Ideen und Vorschlägen dem Leser gut zu vermitteln. Der vertrauliche Tonfall, der den Leser direkt anspricht, lockert die Lektüre zusätzlich angenehm auf.

Das PDF verfügt über Lesezeichen zu jedem Beitrag, der Text ist kopierbar.

Fazit

Der Kobold Guide to Magic betrachtet das Phänomen der Magie in all seinen Facetten, sei es die Quelle arkaner Kraft, der Umgang von Zauberern damit oder die Problematiken spezieller magischer Phänomene. Die jeweiligen Essays sprühen dabei vor neuen Blickwinkeln und inspirierenden Vorschlägen. Jeder Artikel dieses Buches ist anregend und flüssig geschrieben und sorgt für eine unterhaltsame Lektüre. Da diese Bandbreite an Ideen zudem systemunabhängig präsentiert wird, kann jede Spielrunde die Einfälle dieses Sammelbandes mit nur wenig Aufwand in ihr eigenes Spiel übernehmen.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Magic
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Advanced Races 9: Aasimar (Pathfinder RPG)
by Joshua B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2015 12:34:04

I definitely enjoyed this book. It adds a lot of interesting customizations towards Aasimars. Ranging from traits to feats to archetypes to new subdomains, there's a solid amount of content here.

While much of it is specific towards their own setting in the flavor texts, almost any of it can be used in homebrew settings or in Golarion as well. I'm a pretty big fan overall of what they've done here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 9: Aasimar (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/23/2014 17:35:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the advanced races-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So...shadow fey. I was not pleasantly surprised to see this book hit shelves, mainly due to LOVING shadow fey to death. "Courts of the Shadow Fey" is one of my favorite adventures...ever. And we all remember what a certain good drow ranger did to the beloved and fierce dark elves. So let's take a look and see whether this book offering shadow fey as a player-race ruins their appeal or manages to maintain it!

First of all, the write-up surprised me with one particularly smart decision - emphasizing the variety among shadow fey, thus denoting that they do not form a uniform species. Secondly, their mindset is pretty well explained, thus rendering actually portraying them as PCs easier. Oh, and quoting La Belle Dame Sans Merci? NICE!

The scáthesidhe receive +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, are of the fey type, light sensitive, receive +2 to stealth and always treat stealth and bluff as a class skill, can cast shadow jump as a spell-like ability once per day and reduce the penalties incurred for movement by 5 and for sniping by 10, making them born ambushers. If using the status-rules from the Midgard CS (nice to finally see these get some love!), they receive +2 status, more or less if belonging to a certain class. Very cool! There also are small shadow fey with a base movement rate of 20 ft. that also receive 1/day vanish as a spell-like ability.

The alternate racial traits cover a bite (getting primary/secondary natural weapons right!), poison affinity + detect poison, increased DC for shadow subschool spells and shadow-themed low level SPs, a hypnotic skin or dual resistances. Elfmarked descendant from the shadow fey may shadow jump and receive darkvision 60 ft.

We also receive FCOs for Battle Scion, Magus, Shadowsworn, Sorc, Summoner (with a minor typo - the "/" of DR in the wrong place) and the Theurge - nice to see some love for these KP-classes!

Now the comprehensive introduction to the Winter and Summer Courts and the very iconic factions thereof constitute another neat piece of fluff - particularly delving into the shadow fey's elitism and status-obsession making for nice, informative reading material. The take of the shadow fey on both Paizo and Kobold Press-classes is nice to see as well.

Now the copious traits delivered deserve special mention as well - first of all, they properly specify their trait-bonus-type, something many traits forget. Secondly, some of them are just damn cool - from ignoring status penalty to better moonlight tracking, they can be considered well-crafted and generally balanced.

A total of 11 feats are provided, some of which make use of status-mechanics, which is neat to see. Alas, not all feats can be considered well-crafted - Concealed Shot, which allows you to execute a surprise attack with a hand crossbow, while flavorful, utilizes an annoying per-encounter mechanic. Yeah, by now you know the rant by hard. Per-encounter abilities make no sense whatsoever. Next. Gaining DR 2/Cold iron (upgradeable to 5) is pretty cool and balanced via getting sickened on contact - NO SAVE. Now, while generally, I consider feats like Flicker boring (+1 to AC - yawn!), at least the bonus as racial is pretty uncommon - and it allows 9th level shadow fey to gain access to hide in plain sight via a follow-up feat, so that's a cool synergy. Full movement while using stealth for 7th+ level shadow fey is also part of the deal.

We also receive the new Order of the Swan for cavaliers to represent the rakish fey knights, a new familiar option, 3 shadowsworn talents (all of which are solid - mirror image, blinding and PINNING A SHADOW TO THE GROUND - nice, the authors know their mythology or have read the superb Van Richten's Guide to the Shadow Fey of Ravenloft, unrelated to KP's Shadow Fey...)

Wild-blooded sorcerors can take the shadow fey bloodline - which is solid. The Dread Hunter cavalier receives a powerful mount that advances as a cohort and utilizes stealth synergy with the mount - pretty cool. However, with potentially a shadavar or nightmare mount at level one, the archetype throws any semblance of balance out the window. It should also be noted that Dread Rider, which nets 1/2 level bonus to intimidate while mounted should probably specify it refers to CLASS levels; Additionally, the hunter may emit a debuff scream - which is nice, but the ability should probably be a language-dependent mind-affecting effect. The capstone upgrades the scream to confusion -per se a conceptually nice archetype with some minor flaws in the execution - and in need of a nerf-bat beating for the mount at low levels - otherwise the nightmare outclasses half the adventuring group and anyone who's seen a cavalier with a horse (which is NOT intelligent and needs to be commanded via tricks!) can get a good idea why this needs nerfing. The second archetype is the twilight envoy for the shadowsworn, who receives bardic spellcasting, trapfinding and access to the last-second save "Walking the Shadow Roads"-incantation - generally a cool variant on the shadowsworn.

We also receive 5 new spells, with 3 being chimeric transpositions that allow you to exchange special monster abilities and senses - weird, disturbing, cool. Black Swan Storm conjures forth a deadly storm of black feathers...and is pretty strong. As a 3rd level spell, it deals 1d8 per CL (max 10d8) and also decreases the illumination level around the target, granting concealment to the immediate vicinity - rather interesting and since it only affects one creature, nice. Shadow Jump, in case you're not familiar with it, represents low-level, short-distance shadow to shadow teleportation.

Beyond that, arrows that cause bleeding damage, balance-enhancing feather cloaks and shrouds for shadow fey prisoners make for cool items.

We also receive new creatures . the Razor Swan (with breath attack, sharp wings and a swan song - cool!), teh shadavar mounts and the owl-like stryx - which have human teeth in their beaks. Alas, I noticed some minor glitches in the statblocks. E.g. the razor swan's attack should be +6, not +5 (+3 magical beast, + 3 dex via weapon finesse) etc. nothing game-breaking, but still, slightly annoying.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good: On a formal level, excellent, on a rules-level there are some minor glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original artwork is neat.

Author-duo Carlos and Holly Ovalle have crafted an installment of the Advanced Races-series that made me groan when I saw it at first, only to have my negative bias dissolved for the most part. Power-level wise on a solid level akin to the plane-touched races, the shadow fey will not break a game. They manage to maintain their glorious fluff and thankfully, the authors get what makes them cool and enigmatic. Now while personally, I prefer the race as a DM-only race, the crunch provided herein, the information for players - all of that is pretty solid and makes playing these guys work well in the context of an adventuring group. Now that is quite a feat in my book! In fact, I was truly excited to see this level of detail and coolness, interesting rules-ideas etc. - this ranks as one of the strongest Advanced Races-installments. That being said, the supplement does sport some minor glitches and the cavalier archetype is in serious need of some nerfing to prevent the mount from being an utter show-stealer at low levels. Still, this constitutes a solid installment and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to these shadow fey not deserving a 3-star rating - the pdf is simply too inspired for that.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Zobeck City Map
by Erik W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/12/2014 12:57:57

This is a beautiful map of a medium sized city. Its got a variety of locations ripe for adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck City Map
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KOBOLD Guide to Combat
by Damon D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/09/2014 06:17:19

While by no means a bad book, the Kobold Guide to Combat is far from the series' best. Overall, it feels like the publishers were hard pressed for content. Many of the articles, while interesting in their own right, are either too broad or limited in scope, or are only tenuously relevant to fantasy role playing games. Having read most of the articles, and having skimmed the rest, I don't get the impression that the subject of combat justified the length, if the seemingly hodgepodge collection of articles is any indication. If you are a long time fan of the Kobold Guides, you can do a lot worse than picking this one up, but if you've never picked up a book from this series, I'd highly suggest checking out the Kobold Guide to Game Design, or the Kobold Guide to World Building, first or skip this one altogether.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Combat
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