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Demon Cults 5: Servants of the White Ape
by Luke M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/28/2015 15:46:30

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



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

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



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

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



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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