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Deep Magic: Ley Lines
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/20/2016 08:01:57

Ley lines are channels of magical energy that criss-cross the land - many people in the real world believe they exist, so it's reasonable to suppose that you can find them in worlds where magic is real! Here, they are accessible to casters of both arcane and divine magic. Details of where they are to be found (along with a note on their presence in the Midgard Campaign Setting) and how they are detected are accompanied by notes on how they are actually used - basically, a caster taps into ley line energy to provide a burst of power to the spell he is casting at the time. The effects can be a bit unpredictable, but a caster can 'lock' a particular ley line to get rather more consistent results.

If you do use the Midgard Campaign Setting there's a map showing where the ley lines are. If you don't use it, the map will serve as an example of how to distribute them across the surface of your chosen campaign world.

Tapping in to a ley line requires specialist knowledge, provided by taking the appropriate feat (or by studying with a geomancer during downtime), and a die roll to measure the level (if any) of success. Random effects can be obtained even from a 'locked' ley line if the roll to tap the line is not very good. Several tables, based on how powerful the ley line is, are provided to supply the random effects... and if the roll is really bad the caster can suffer backlash effects!

There are two feats to choose from, as well as the geomancer arcane tradition for those who want to immerse themselves in the study of ley line magic. Unlike many traditions, it is not a specialisation of itself, but intensive study of how to use ley lines irrespective of what sort of magic is being cast. Some practitioners of magic rather look down on geomancers due to the nature of their studies - but I can see how it's a potentially useful discipline, especially as they appear to be the only people with the ability to lock a ley line to themselves.

We then come to a collection of ley spells, which are available to druids, sorcerers, warlocks and wizards. Apparently despite the 'pure energy' nature of ley lines, other spell-casting classes do not have access to these spells - it's not clear whether or not they can access the ley lines themselves given the appropriate knowledge. Each spell has a full description and the necessary game mechanics to use it.

This is an interesting and nuanced exploration of ley line magic, which should make it straightforward to introduce it into your game.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Ley Lines
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Deep Magic: Illumination
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/18/2016 08:40:03

Invented it is said by the shadow fey, illumination magic mixes astrological observation with an elemental-style manipulation of light and shadow to track the paths of fate and control light and the absense of liight. At its most practical level, it uses the stars to predict when danger is near, and then draws on the power of darkness to attack their foes. It's an obscure school of magic, barely known outside the shadow realms.

The work opens with the abilities granted to practitioners of this school of magic. Whilst it is necessary to be able to see the stars frequently to gain various powers, many of them actually work best in total darkness. There's a single feat - Star and Shadow Reader - which enables the mage to track and interpret what's going on in the stars, and a spell list followed by details of each spell and the game mechanics necessary to use them to effect. Spells are practical and in the main offensive, as in designed to be used in combat. There's quite a necromantic flavour as well, which some people may find off-putting.

A fully-developed NPC illuminator (as practitioners of this school of magic term themselves) is also provided. She's quite intriguing and an encounter with her would make a good way to introduce illumination magic into your game.

It's quite an inventive form of magic with considerable potential. There is little background to how it came to be and how it interacts with the rest of magical knowledge, you will have to figure out how it fits into your world and its cosmology, but it is a neat way to combine the concept of reading fate in the stars with some practical in-game application.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Illumination
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Deep Magic: Void Magic
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2016 07:24:18

Many creation myths speak of the universe coming into existance when some all-powerful being spoke words into a void - what if that void's still there and you can find out some of the words that will bestir it into doing something? That's what void magic is all about. Sounds tasty... but those who look into the void tend to go mad, so beware!

The school of void magic hinges on being able to master void speech. It's pretty dangerous, after all the void is a big nothing, oblivion... and by using void speech you give oblivion a form. It's pretty nasty even when not mixed with magic, and the written word is not much better. Expect bleeding eyes and the very paper degrading in front of you. Even when used with the best intentions, void magic tends to nasty consequences. It's hard to learn although apparently aboleths are quite good at it. Void magic spells are also hard to learn. You don't pick them from a list, you have to be taught them by someone else or find them in a scroll or captured spellbook. For those using the Midgard Campaign Setting there are some notes on the best places to find those who can speak void speech and who might know some interesting spells.

Still want to dabble? Only wizards are able to learn void magic, and there are a couple of feats to aid them. There's also an arcane tradition,, the Void Speaker, that you can follow. Next we get a very short spell list, a couple of cantrips then one or two spells at 1st to 9th level, followed by their full descriptions and necessary game mechanics. That's pretty much it, although Void Speakers have the ability to weave a few words of void speech into any spell and cause temporary insanity as well as whatever the spell is supposed to do - nasty.

It's an interesting concept but one possibly best confined to your NPCs (until someone steals a spellbook and starts leafing through it...). It reads a bit like a hasty summary of an idea that has been better developed, more is needed if you want to make void magic an integral part of your game. For example, what are the effects of studying void magic for any length of time? A mechanism for staying sane would be helpful after all the vague threats of it being dangerous to use, although the effects on other people are covered adequately. Even just wandering around muttering in void speech can make people frightened of you. (Wonder if that works on students?)



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Void Magic
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Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
by ES B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2016 15:58:32

There are some cool things in this book. However, I am quite irritated that it REQUIRES the purchase of "Tome of Beasts." For the price, the creatures not described in the official monster manual should be included in the product.

1 star = So, in order to use some of the scenarios, I need to spend an extra $30 to get the stats.

If you already own Tome of Beasts, it is 4 stars.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Book of Lairs for 5th Edition
by Patrick E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2016 16:55:28

Really good selection of one shots - highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Lairs for 5th Edition
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
by Patrick E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2016 16:52:46

Excellent - loads of well thought out monsters, fills in a lot of the gaps in the Monster Manual, both in terms of CR and concepts.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Rune Magic
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/14/2016 07:45:05

The assumption is made that you have a reasonable grasp of what runes and rune magic are, and already know that they are associated with people from cold northern realms (think Vikings in the real world), it dives straight in by explaining that you need a Rune Knowledge feat to use them at all, and a Rune Mastery feat to develop your skills. Thereafter, though, the contents are excellent with a lot of material to get your teeth into.

First up, the Rune Knowledge and Rune Mastery feats are given in full detail, then there's a fascinating run-through of the runes themselves. This makes it clear that learning rune magic is a slow and painstaking process: when you learn Rune Knowledge you get to choose just TWO runes which you can use (and Rune Mastery enables to use a single rune you know at a higher level)... fortunately you can take both feats multiple times. For each rune, you get a specific bonus just because you know it, and then you learn the effects of tracing that rune (standard and mastery levels of knowledge) - and there's an image as well so you know the shape to trace.

Next, there are several rune rituals to perform. These are associated with specific runes and there's the rather cryptic comment that once you know the appropriate rune, you can eventually master the appropriate ritual - no indication of how long that takes or what you have to do to master it. The rituals themselves are full of Norse flavour, fitting that mindset.

Then there are rune magic spell lists (for all spell-using classes) followed by the detailed spell descriptions themselves. Many again have Nordic themes or deal with cold, curses, and similar concepts, although there is no real connection with runes themselves otherwise. They do fit in well with the general themes of the magic in this book, however, so could work well for spell-casters of appropriate origin or as spells used by a character who also has the rune-using feats in his build.

These are followed by a couple of neat magic items. The nithing rod is rather fun, it's a kind of landmine you set for an enemy whom you'd like to curse. Once you have created it (and you have to know the individual, it's not a general purpose weapon) you set it up someplace you think your enemy is likely to pass, and when he does it not only casts bestow curse on him, it keeps on doing so until he fails his saving throw! They also curse anyone who tries to tidy them away, although then they only cast the curse once.

There's also a couple of conditions - snow blindness and hypothermia - and a couple of monsters which relate to the rituals earlier, which summon them. It helps if you have the full statistics of whatever is conjured up, after all!

Overall, this is a nice selection of material to bring a northern flavour into your game - it's good on the crunchy bits, the actual effects you can create using your rune magic, but a little short on the flavour that would put it all into context.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Rune Magic
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Deep Magic: Clockwork
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/13/2016 07:14:27

The concept of 'clockwork magic' first arose in Zobeck and then in the Midgard Campaign Setting, both published by Kobold Press, but of course the almost-magical qualities of clockwork go back to very early times - China about 2500 BC or the Greek 'Antikythera mechanism' that is nearly as old. Often used in temples to impress worshippers with their deity's power, or for navigation and timekeeping, it's still a bit mysterious if you don't know how it works. And of course, in a fantasy game we can add magic in as well. It's a plausible mix of magic and technology for the sort of cod-mediaeval worlds most of us use for our campaign settings... many of which have lost ancient empires to loot for inventions that have been lost as well.

Clockwork magic, then, has its origins in time manipulation, precision craftwork and machining, constructs and mechanical devices. Opinion is divided as to whether it was a devotee of a god with a suitable sphere (craft or time perhaps) or a tinkering mechanic who added magic to the steam or water power he was used to using to power his machines that first hit upon the concept. You may wish to establish your own origins for it, or just assume that it is known in certain circles in your world.

For clerics, and others of a religious persuasion, there are details of a Clockwork Domain and a couple of sample deities for whom it could be appropriate. Warlocks may seek out the Great Machine as a patron, and gain suitable abilities and access to spells from that connection. Wizards may choose to become clockwork mages, studying the school of clockwork magic. Each of these provides a framework for the individual character to begin to practice clockwork magic in some manner.

The rest of the book is filled with an array of spells that are in some way associated with clockwork or time in general, often with links into the fascinating world of constructs. There are other snippets scattered throughout: clockwork creatures you can summon and a nasty disease called rust that affects both flesh and bones and constructed beings.

Overall, it's an entertaining collection of magic. It could possibly have done with some items and gadgets to go along with the spells, but apart from that this makes a good starting point for adding a novel form of magic to your game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Clockwork
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New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2016 17:28:39

I really enjoyed this class. The powers are balanced and the art is fantastic.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
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KOBOLD Guide to Plots & Campaigns
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/08/2016 12:39:08

This book is for those who want to take their adventures to the next level: a collection of essays with titles like "When Last We Left Our Intrepid Heroes", "Action Scenes: More Than Just Flashing Blades" and "Using Cliffhangers Effectively" suggests that it's about adding a bit more zing and cinematic flavour to your plots... but there is more with other essays touching on using oral traditions, tone, plenty on adversaries and more. It's fascinating just to read through, but the layout makes it easy to return when you want some advice on a particular topic as well.

Appropriately, it starts off with James Jacobs on "Beginning a Campaign". This isn't so much about the plotting and planning that goes into starting a new campaign, it's more about what can start the actual playing of that campaign with a bang that makes the players sit up and take notice: this is no ordinary campaign but something really special. Thinking cinematically, start by building anticipation with a few teasers, a trailer if you will, for the game that you intend to run, and give your new campaign a compelling name. You may wish to release sufficient information to at least allow for sensible character choices after all. Discussion then moves on to that all-important first session. You want them to be panting for more. It's good to really understand both the characters and the people who will play them - indeed you may use the first session for character creation and not actually start play until the next one. Then there are more good ideas for how to actually get the game rolling as well. All excellent stuff and well worth reading however many successful campaigns you have under your belt.

Next up Jeff Grubb addresses the matter of "Other People's Stories". Even if you like writing your own materials, there's nothing to be embarrassed about using published material. Jeff is full of good advice about how to pick the right adventure module for your campaign, then how to file the serial numbers off and weave it seamlessly into whatever else is (and will be) going on. (Check out my adventure reviews, this is the way I approach them, as resources to enhance your own campaign, not a substitute for having one of your own). Or you may just appropriate elements for reuse in your game.

Then Wolfgang Baur writes about "Choosing an Ending First". Even the most sandbox campaign needs an objective, or it ends up more of a never-ending soap opera game than a plot-driven campaign. Goals are important, whether set by you or by the players, and some kind of a climactic event is always a good way to end a campaign properly, rather than just let it peter out. Plenty of good ideas to chew over here as you start to plan that campaign.

The next essay is "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" by Robert J. Schwalb. This is a thoughtful exploration of the thorny subject of running an 'evil' campaign, preferably without the characters turning into complete psychopaths. The main key seems to be open dialogue with your players to determine the precise nature of the game, what will and will not be acceptable behaviour. Another is that all actions have consequences... Interesting and thought-provoking reading, with plenty of ideas if you want to try out playing the bad guys.

Steve Winters then looks at "Otherworldly Visions" - ways in which to make it clear that the world of your game is not the real one outside your window. (Just in case the presence of dwarves and elves and dragons - or galaxy-roaming starships - hadn't already given it away, that is.) It's all about mood, images, conditions and events... and if you follow Steve's suggestions you might end up with some very weird worlds indeed!

Next is "When Last We Left Our Intrepid Heroes" by Clinton J. Boomer, in which he muses on how to steal...er, be inspired by... the tricks TV shows use to keep our attention week by week (or even during the ad breaks in the middle of a show). It's more than that, though, with ideas about using episodic formats, about building on things that happen (even, especially, when they are unexpected - just as showrunners pay attention to what the fans think and may even amend stories, bring characters back and the like in the light of what they say). And there's plenty more to glean from this essay, too.

This is followed by "Tricks from the Oral Tradition" from Kevin Kulp along much the same theme, only here it is traditional storytelling that's being picked apart for good ideas to apply as you devise and run your game. Pacing and timing, improvisation, presentation and more are discussed. Of particular note are the comments about making NPCs come to life by the way you have them speak - with hints and tips that will empower the least actorly of GMs to handle them with confidence.

Margaret Weis then discusses "Action Scenes: More Than Just Flashing Blades", beginning with the perhaps startling thought that they need to have a purpose, not just be there so as to have a brawl. Using examples from well-known novels, films and TV shows, Margaret shows how to use 'action' - by which she means combat most of the time - creatively to enhance or advance the game, actually contributing to and driving on the plot. Other types of action are also covered, however.

Then Wolfgang Baur is back with "Tone and Bombast" in which he discusses the relative merits of realistic and cinematic approaches. Above all, he says, don't be cautious, or small in your ambitions. Make things personal and visceral, perhaps even unfair, then make the imaginary headlines even worse... how would the events in question come over on the main evening news?

If you like adding complexity, a busy-ness that reflects the real world, try Ree Soesbee's "Branching Storylines and Nonlinear Gameplay" for size. Role-playing, after all, has always been about interactivity and character agency, so here's how to design plots that actually work well with that freedom of action. One of the saddest moments in role-playing was when a player asked me after a game "Did we do what we were supposed to do?" Ideally, there should be no pre-determined course of action, just a setting and events to which the characters respond, and which in turn respond to what the characters do. Find ideas for making that happen here.

One of Ree's suggestions is using NPCs creatively, so the next essay - "Crooked Characters: A Simple Guide to Creating Memorable NPCs" by Richard Pett is a timely one. It runs through the process, concentrating on what that NPC is like rather than what his stats are and providing several tables to roll upon to aid you in teasing out each NPC's nature. As example there are some dozen NPCs described in a few vivid sentences, many spawn plot ideas just by reading through them.

Next, Ben McFarland looks at "Fashioning the Enemy" and delves deep into the art and craft of creating memorable and believeable Bad Guys to oppose the party and drive the plot along. Start with what that villain wants to accomplish, and from there hone him into what he needs to be to achieve his goals - players lavish time on planning their character's development, and you should do the same with their antagonists. How did he come to be like he is? And what is his life like now? Who does he look up to, or fear? A good villain is worth his weight in gold to creating a good plot, oh, and don't forget the minions.

Wolfgang Baur again with "Pacing, Beats, and the Passage of Time" which looks at keeping a game moving at a speed that's just right for whatever is happening at the time, with a particular emphasis on the campaign level rather than what is happening around your table minute-to-minute. Fascinating stuff with ideas you may have never thought of before.

Then Kevin Kulp is back talking about "Complex Plotting". It's all about turning the player characters' actions into ripples that travel through that world, with unintended consequences, and keeping track of all those changes they've caused in a dynamic, living game world. Strew plot hooks about and let the characters choose which ones to follow up, perhaps even have several complete plotlines... I recall one game I ran where there were five plots, the characters concentrated on two, dabbled in another two and never even noticed the last one. The trick is not to develop anything further than an outline until you need it (else you get swamped).

Steve Winter next with "Sharpening Your Hooks", an in-depth look at the ways you can use adventure hooks throughout a campaign, not just to introduce the next adventure and convince the characters that they are actually interested in whatever's going on. Of course, it's not really a hook but the bait that attracts them in... and the adventure that each hook refers to need not even exist until some interest is shown, especially if the party is busy about something else at the time.

So far this book has been jam-packed with ideas for making a campaign go with a bang right from the start. What if despite all that advice and your best efforts, it doesn't? Zeb Cook to the rescue with "The Art of Letting Go" - a treatise in a few short pages on how to improvise, casting aside all that careful preparation and just wing it. It comes naturally to some people, but if you're not one of those, this gives you a starting point to give it a go. I know my best games have been no more than a few bullet points and a lot of outlines... and the worst the ones that were all written out ahead of time (it's almost the complete reverse when it comes to writing an adventure for publication, of course!). Improvisation at the table works best with a fair bit of planning in advance, which is then set aside once play begins.

Back to the plotting with the next article by Ben McFarland, "Plotting a Generational Campaign". This discusses games that last for years, even centuries... in-game, I mean, not in real life (although games that last for years are a possibility). I did once design a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign that spanned time from before the birth of Christ up to the present day (never got the chance to run it, alas), but here you'll find ideas to make these long-lasting time-spanning games work effectively. Plan ahead, and know where you are going, yet keep flexible enough to let the characters take over and affect their futures. Relationships, alliances, deeply-felt emnities, all play a part, and remember to weave these into the characters' own histories.

Next is "Using Cliffhangers Effectively" by Amber E. Scott. It's jam-packed with ideas for using cliffhangers to effect in your game, making your players hungry for more... and back next time, eager to continue. You need to keep track of where everything (and everybody) was when you stop, and to make sure that all that anticipation is adequately rewarded when play resumes.

Finally there is "An Improv Adventure: The Journey from Here to There" by Zeb Cook. In it, he provides a complete framework for a simple adventure making use of many of the concepts discussed in this book, particularly his own notes on improvisation, of course. Use it as an exemplar - or even run it sometime.

So, there you have it. A book which any GM, irrespective of the system(s) they prefer to run, ought to have. Read it, study it, keep it to hand to dip into. If there was a degree in role-playing, this would be a set text for the GM module!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Plots & Campaigns
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
by Dwayne W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/07/2016 17:42:09

Amazing book and highly recommended! This is essential for any 5E DM.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
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New Paths 9: the Priest (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/17/2016 13:03:22

If you've ever had dealings with real-world ministers of religion - be it a father or a vicar, an imam or a rabbi - you know they have very little in common with the average fantasy 'cleric' apart from devotion to their deity. This priest is a bit different from the clerics you're used to playing, and wouldn't dream of picking up a weapon to further his deity's ends (spells, however, are a different matter!).

OK, so what do you get? Like any class, there's some descriptive text explaining what it's all about, the fundamental features of the class... and a rather good and dramatic drawing that suggests a spell is being cast. Then there is the usual game mechanical stuff: hit points, alignment, class skills and progression chart, then the class features are listed.

Spellcasting is a bit interesting. The priest has to prepare his spells in advance, but once he has cast a given spell it's not 'gone' - he can cast it again provided he's not cast his full allowance of spells at that level. The number of spells that can be prepared is a bit limited (and a high Wisdom doesn't help here although feats do), however the choice is wide - pretty much any cleric spell is available. The number of spells the priest can actually cast does attract a wisdom bonus. Priests also get a bonus 'cure' (if good) or 'inflict' (if evil) spell on top of the others they may learn. Neutral priests can choose which type (cure or inflict), but once made that choice is permanent. To prepare spells, the priest needs to meditate or pray for an hour, which should be at the same time every day.

Another neat feature is the Divine Gift. The priest can pray, asking his deity for a specific blessing on himself or the rest of the party - there's a list of benefits from which the priest can choose at the time of uttering the prayer. These include things like spell enhancements, the priest going invisible or being able to fly, and even calling down a divine intervention, allowing any one player to re-roll a single d20 roll with the addition of half the priest's level to the result - and still being able to choose which roll, the new one or the original one, to use!

The book rounds off with a couple of new feats and a nature-based archetype, the Chosen of Nature. They use the druid spell lists rather than the cleric ones. There's an interesting sketch of a rather punk-looking Chosen of Nature having a chat with a young fallow deer, too... although the best piece of art in the book is a white-robed fellow who really gives over the impression of having his God on his side. (Unfortunately it's not signed so I don't know which of the three artists credited is responsible.)

This makes for an interesting class, appealing to the player who enjoys getting into the role and playing a character using his powers in the service of his deity.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 9: the Priest (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/17/2016 07:50:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the Second Revision

This second revised installment of the New Paths-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my players.

The trickster class presented herein receives d8 HD, a now reduced 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus rapier, longsword, sap, short sword, shortbow, whip light armor and shields (excluding tower shields) and may freely cast spells while only wearing light armor and/or using a shield. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves and gains spellcasting.

Spellcasting of the trickster is slightly more tricky (I'll punch myself later for that one) than you'd expect: The trickster's spellcasting is governed by Intelligence and thus is prepared according to convention. However, spells prepared are not expended upon being cast - instead, the spell slot of the appropriate level is expended. Metamagic is handled as for sorcerors and similar spontaneous casting classes. High Intelligence influences the number of spells a trickster can cast, but not the amount of spell-slots he has - this is pretty important for balance, so bear that in mind. So, in summary, we have an actually working blend of prepared and spontaneous casting here for a surprisingly unique take on the old vancian system. And yes, concise rules for cantrips gained (often overlooked) and spellbooks (ditto!) are part of the deal here. This section is rather elegant - kudos here! Tricksters begin play with 4 cantrips known and 2 1st level spells and increase that up to 6 for each spell level, barring 5th and 6th, which cap at 5. 5 is also the maximum spells per day limit. Akin to the alchemist and similar classes, spellcasting caps at spell level 6.

The trickster also receives access to sneak attack and begins play with +1d6, increasing this by +1d6 at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, at first level, the trickster gains trapfinding. So far, so rogue-y, right?

Well, second level becomes a bit more unique, as the trickster gains a forte on which to focus, of which 4 are provided. Structure-wise, the fortes provide immediate benefits and unlock new abilities at 5th and 9th level. The first would be Acrobat, which not only provides skill-bonuses to movement-related skills and eliminates the need for running starts to get the associated bonus. Additional movement while not carrying heavy load or the like and no armor check penalty for Dex-based skills can also be found here. At 5th level, the trickster gains a scaling bonus to AC and CMD and may also act as though under freedom of movement for trickster level round per day, but only for movement purposes. The 9th level ability has been similarly redesigned - provided the trickster has at least 10 ft., he can dimension door as part of the move action expended, but, in a unique twist, the total distance he can thus travel is limited and capped with a daily max. The second forte is arcane accomplice, which nets a familiar, though the familiar receives Disable Device and Sleight of Hand as class skills and can deal sneak attack as long as it's within 30 ft. of the trickster - and yes, this means you can basically double-team on your own, greatly increasing the validity of sneak attack, though, for balance's sake, a familiar's sneak attack uses d4s, which proved mathematically feasible in my tests. 5th level goes one step further and nets the familiar all teamwork feats of the trickster as well as AC +2, while 9th level provides basically spring attack for the familiar, but only with regards to delivering harmless touch attacks - and yes, this is more versatile than you'd think.

The third forte is Beguile and provides +1 to DCs and +1 to rolls to overcome SR, scaling by +1 at 5th and 9th level - but only when targeting creatures that would be denied their Dexterity-modifier or that are helpless. At 5th level, when successfully feinting, the target would be denied his Dex-mod to AC for the next melee attack or spell targeting by the trickster, but only when performed on or before his next turn. 9th level decreases the required action to feint to a move action, a swift action if the trickster has Improved Feint.

The fourth forte is Spell Pilfer, which is easily the most unique of the fortes: As an immediate action, the trickster can make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) to identify the spell and, if successful, the trickster may attempt to pilfer the spell. The caster receives a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 trickster class level + Int-mod to negate the attempt. If the caster fails, he loses access to the spell known or prepared spell, while the trickster temporarily (1/2 class levels, minimum 1) adds the spell to his list of spells known. While the spell is pilfered, the original caster may not cast it, but the trickster may, provided he has an available spell slot. Only one spell (again, VERY important for balance) can be pilfered at a given time - pilfering a second spell, the previous spell immediately reverts to the owner. This ability can be used 3 + Intelligence mod times per day. It should be noted that tricksters can only pilfer spells they can cast, another VERY important limitation. Now you may have noted that Will-saves are pretty easy for most casters - thus, at 5th level, the trickster's Wisdom modifier is also added to the DC to resist the pilfer attempt. I am usually fiercely opposed to dual attribute-mods to anything, but considering that Wis is NOT a trickster's crucial stat in any way, in practice, this is not problematic. 9th level allows the trickster to pilfer spells above his casting capacity, but thankfully with the caveat that the trickster can't cast such spells - so no abuse possible. This is a very impressive ability in my book, since it makes spell theft work sans holes in the wording, sans abuse. Love it!

The new, fifth forte would be shadow, which nets a +2 insight bonus on Stealth checks in dim light or less and it also nets low-light vision and darkvision 30 ft. (Or +30 ft., if the trickster already has darkvision.) 5th level nets something unique - the option to 3* Int-mod times per day animate shadows of targets to attack them (cool). Shadow and darkness spells are cast at CL +1. At 9th level, the trickster can basically hide in plain sight while within 10 feet of a shadow other than his own and at that level, the shadow may use the trickster's sneak attack, which is a pretty cool revision. The revision of the shadow forte is more intriguing and unique. Kudos for making it more interesting.

Starting at 3rd level the trickster adds +1 competence bonus to Bluff, Disguise, Escape Artist, Sleight of Hand or Stealth, increasing the bonus by +1 every third level, though the new bonuses gained may be freely distributed among aforementioned spells. 3rd level also nets evasion and 6th, 12th and 18th level provides bonus feats from a limited list. 8th level provides uncanny dodge, 11th improved uncanny dodge.

At the level, as a standard action, the trickster can cast a spell with a range of touch and deliver it as part of a melee attack, with the restriction of only working in conjunction with spells that have a casting time of 1 standard action or less. If the trickster hits, he also deals sneak attack damage in conjunction with the touch spell. Important: Misses mean the spell is lost, not held! This, combined with 3/4 BAB, is an important balancing mechanism...At least until high levels, for at 17th level, it is no longer lost - as a minor nitpick, while it is clear from the wording, it would have been nice to see the class explicitly specify that the trickster can hold only one sneakspell charge to avoid stacking them up. Spells thus delivered may also not be enhanced by metamagic and, have a crit mod of x2. 9th level provides ranged legerdemain, though the ability is thankfully MORE precise than that of the arcane trickster PrC, specifying how far you can propel stolen objects and increasing the required skill ranks to 5. At 14th level, the trickster receives Filch Spell, which allows the trickster to hijack spells requiring direction (flaming spheres etc.) as a move action 3+Inttelligence modifier times per day. 15th level provides Surprise spells - but unlike the imprecise original take on the ability, this one clarifies from the get-go how it works with magic missiles or AoE-spells. As a capstone, the trickster treats all sneak attack damage 1s and 2s as 3s and automatically confirms all crits when using sneak attack. Additionally, the trickster may add metamagic to sneakspells sans increasing the casting time.

It should be noted that the trickster, still exceedingly powerful, now has a suggestion to decrease the power of the class: The suggestion is to eliminate necromancy and evocation from the spells they can cast. While this may be a sound idea and a quick and dirty elimination of the blasting capabilities of the trickster, it only marginally addresses the issue of power - an alternate, more conservative spell-progression would have been a more prudent solution in my book and maintained the universality of character concepts one can realize - instead of restricting the options, reducing the resources available, especially considering the strong framework of the class, would have made sense to me.

The previously horribly broken archetype has been completely redesigned and basically been split into two mutually exclusive archetypes both of which feature diminished spellcasting to 4th level. The first of these would be the Dual-Forte master, who gains a second forte at 6th level. He is treated as -4 levels for this forte, .2 levels at 11th and use full level for the second forte at 20th level. Feat-exchanges further balance the archetype. The second archetype would be the forte master, who gains a further upgrade for the forte chosen - one ability is gained at 11th and at 14th level, with the respective abilities depending on the forte chosen. Acrobats can inflict sneak attack when moving more than 10 feet and maintain actions after using dimension door. Arcane Accomplices increase familiar potency and may teleport them to an adjacent square 1/day as a swift action. Beguilers get enchantment tricks, shadow masters darkness-related tricks that blend the dark with nice tricks and spell pilferers may now steal divine spells as well. And yes, these significantly powerful upgrades are further balanced by 2 lost feats in addition to the spellcasting

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch and precise, I noticed but one minor fringe case; other than that - all around precise and well done in both formal and rules-language departments. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports multiple gorgeous pieces of original art. The pdf comes with bookmarks in spite of its brevity - nice.

Marc Radle's trickster is interesting - it is a testament to how much we love the concept of a rogue-y character that the by now pretty broken (as in: too weak) base class continues to see truly excellent takes on the trope. Regarding customization options, both the talented rogue and in particularly, Legendary Games' absolutely brilliant Legendary Rogues-book provided options for the "mundane" rogue that retain their viability in the system. Why "retain"? Well, simple: You see, the rogue has been pretty much a casualty to changing design-paradigms in PFRPG - when the core-rules were releases, the value of a rogue talent was obviously set to about a feat or less, while later classes have increased the value of class-specific options - compare alchemist discoveries and rogue talents if you need proof of that...or look at the ninja's framework and unique tricks and you'll notice the paradigm-shift.

The trickster, however, is not a simple rogue redesign - it could be summed up as a magus/rogue-hybrid, but that does not do the class justice: Instead of cobbling together two classes, the trickster is a completely unique class. Let me sum up the unique benefits here: The trickster streamlines problematic arcane trickster class features, has a unique spellcasting-blend that plays different from standard classes while being easy to understand and it provides a balanced, strong means to represent the sneak attack double team as well as, most importantly, creating the AWESOME spell pilfer mechanic.

Where am I going with this history lesson/comparison? Well, the trickster is stronger than the vanilla rogue - no doubt. It frankly SHOULD be - there are three classes that need versatility/power-upgrades: Rogue, monk and (versatility-wise/unique class feature-wise) fighter. The trickster is stronger than the rogue can deliver solid damage - much like a magus, this class is a glass cannon, though one that also is a rather good face/skill-monkey. Personally, I very much welcome the decrease in skills per level, though this in no way decreases the potency of the class.

Here's what I really like here: Marc Radle has actually listened to the feedback of the first revision and improved the file significantly. The new archetypes are balanced and do fun things and the totality of the trickster can now truly be called a great little class. The second revisions improvements catapult this to the rating-echelon of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
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The Wreck of Volund's Glory (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2016 02:25:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for 13th Age clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The first thing you need to know pertaining this module is the structure: Wade Rockett's excellent icons (first introduced on the Kobold Press blog and in the 13th Age Deep Magic book) have a hand in the action going on in this module - they determine the approach to the item the players are after. And it should be noted that the items actually come with suggested abilities. The module can be played in a 4-hour slot, but can be hastened to a 2-hour high-intensity action-romp, with proper guidelines provided - I actually tried it out and it works!

This being a review of an adventurer-tier module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should steer clear and skip ahead to the conclusion.

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..

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All right, still here? Great! Okay, so I already mentioned that the module obviously has a significantly modular structure, right? Well, the module is all about recovering the aforementioned item of power from a dwarven airship that has crashed in the desolation of the tainted Wasted West, which is now inhabited by the deadly, undead former crew. Depending on the icons the GM chooses, you may choose a rival faction of adversaries - a total of no less than 5 such teams are provided: From Mharoti explorers to shadow fey and minotaurs or derros, the teams come all on their own, handy cheat sheets, including notes on their size depending on PC group-size. Beyond that, befitting of the horribly-mutating nature of the wasted west, the module provides suggestions for reskins of the creatures herein. As a whole, the set-up provided for the GM allows for a significant replay value and the option to easily add in more groups if the players have too easy a time when dealing with the adversaries.

The module's actions begin with the ramshackle town of "Small Comfort", ominously named and the fully mapped, and it is here a portal with blow open and potentially render the small and desolate place a full-blown battle-field between the adventurers and the rival team. Pressing forward and potentially leaving ruins behind, the PCs will descend into the deathless defile, where a village of the notorious ghost goblins rests and allows for either diplomatic or lethal problem-solving. Beyond these, PCs will have a chance to eliminate another group of rivals and, when finally reaching the eponymous, crashed Volund's Glory, the PCs will have to eliminate the dread undead that once were the crew to claim their due.

The copious appendices also include an array of neat adventurer-tier magic items and yes, we get brief icon sketches, enough to run it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The cover artwork is also represented in this book in a gorgeous full-color page.

Wade Rockett's "Wreck of Volund's Glory" is perfect for quick, fast-paced no-frills convention play; think of this as a kind of highly modular, fast-paced action romp through a kind of post-apocalyptic environment. With speed, evocative backdrops and a high-paced set-up, this module is all about presenting some of the highlights of the evocative Wasted West. The module itself is pretty simple, but, like a good action movie, it works exceedingly well...and turns out different in every time you play it, which is pretty cool indeed. Ultimately, this renders the book a fun, fast-paced action-module well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Wreck of Volund's Glory (13th Age Compatible)
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Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/08/2016 01:52:12

This is an amazingly well done book that gives a broad swath of new options for your 5th edition game. First of all, the races are amazing and varied; kobolds, bird people, playable and undeadare among the different options, and they are done well! The reason I got this book, I admit, is for the minotaur, as it is my favorite class, and I remain thoroughly impressed with the way that they balanced the minotaur as a class option. The other races get equal attention, and some of them are even given racial ability choices in a manner similar to pathfinder (in that you can swap out racial abilities you don't like for ones you do).

Whether or not you play in the Midgard setting (as I'm sure that the architects of this book are hoping) then this book is essential, as it presents options that are inherent to that setting. But if you don't, it is still an amazing book of options.

Did I mention the backgrounds? There are more backgrounds that expand the choices even further, and give an excellent insight into the Midgard setting, as well as a professional example of what a background could be, given that they are meant to be personalized.

The art in this book is equally impressive, driving home the care and quality that was put into this product. It also helps in the immersion of the setting when you have such detailed pictures that show you what your character might look like.

All in all, this book is nothing but net. Get it if you love 5th edition fantasy. 5 Stars and my royal seal.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
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