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Gossamer Worlds: Ossuary Empire (Diceless)
by Trev W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2016 21:20:18

I like this realm. It has real flavour, and it is a place where the hashashin (the assassins) didn't perish.


The dead certainly testify to its potential dangerousness, and it is set up as a sort of tomb world in character.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Ossuary Empire (Diceless)
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#30 Haunts for Battlefields (PFRPG)
by Trev W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2016 21:12:57

These are great. The effects are particularly strong in their description.


I’ve started a new game, and some of these haunts will be great for the low-level players to investigate. As I later plan plenty of death, tragedy and upheaval, the rest of the haunts (and the more lethal ones) will find a place in my game as a means to add more to standard areas.
My favourites were the burning barracks haunt, as it perfectly fits with the game I am going to run, and the Circle of the Sacrificed, because that was really messed up. :D
The grave gasp haunt would be good to set up something else while the players are captured by skeletal hands, and Corrupted Earth is a good haunt for a TPK. It is brutal, and could dish out over 90 damage in 3 rounds.
The contagion haunt (due to grave robbing) is pretty much a read-made adventure on its own for why a village or town is plagued by filth fever. That was also great to read, and ready to use for a game.


The haunts of this compact product are excellent.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Haunts for Battlefields (PFRPG)
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The Secrets of the Divine: Death, Justice, Healing, & Madness (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/01/2016 03:43:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment of Rite Publishing's books detailing the unique pantheon of Questhaven along the unique servants of the respective deities clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Now if you're not familiar with the series, here's the basic summary: The deities in Questhaven are peculiar in that their true names are not spoken - instead, they have aliases like "Our Shifting Oracle of Genius" or "Their Mistress of Madness," with the precise epithet depending on your personal relationship with the deity. The deities sport favored weapons, domains and the like and concise write-ups and the pdf also offers unique options for the respective servants of the deity - often to the point, where the archetypes and feats provided radically change how a character serving the deity plays.


The first deity covered herein is, concept-wise, already very interesting: Our Mother of Many Ways is a chaotic neutral deity associated with jackals, badgers and the like - however, unlike most jackal-associated deities out there, she is not an evil creature - instead, the basic idea is to take the old adage of the thin line separating genius and insanity is represented and embodied by this deity. The vine of inspiration and its associated benefits, the manifestation of her favor and information on the holidays of the deity -all written in the compelling prose we've come to expect from the series. The deity also grants two subdomains for Knowledge, namely Prophecy and Inspiration, with domain powers allowing for insight bonuses to be granted to skill-checks or for or for relative flexible premonitions that allow you to act in surprise rounds or gain insight bonuses to AC/attacks, etc.


The deity also sports 3 new feats, one of which retaliates 1/day (not expended if the target saves) an attack on your person with a madness affliction (narrative gold!). Another allows for exactly one revelation with activation time of 1 full round or less to be used as a swift action - which can be pretty potent. Finally, feat number 3, is a high-concept one, allowing you to transform wine of significant quantities into ingested poison. While very circumstantial, I can see this being a cool plot-device indeed! (How did this one group take the fortress back from the ogres?) The write-up also contains, surprisingly, the Joyous Fellowship - a paladin archetype/orga that represents chaotic good followers that receive perceptive gaze (with a cut-copy-paste error referring to inquisitor levels), an aura of hope and, more interestingly, at 4th level an euphoria-powered barbarian rage in lieu of spells. The higher level auras are also rather distinct, allowing for the smite-powered extension of rage to allies, with chaos-based DR/lawful and apotheosis as well as banishment-powered smite. On a cool fluff-level, the archetype also features a fully depicted code of conduct - overall, a solid chaotic pala.


The second deity covered herein would be "Our Queen of Wisdom and Mercy", the shepherdess of contrition and mercy - enormously popular due to healing offered free of charge, but unsurprisingly none too popular among the clergy-in-spe due to the exceedingly high moral standards required by the church. The write-up of the feats this time around contains two feats, one of which is exceedingly interesting: Sister's Lace allows you, to, as a swift action, consume three uses of both healing and protection domain 1st level abilities to lace conjuration (healing) or harmless spells, either granting a significant long-term AC-buff that scales with your levels or charge a creature's weapon with healing, which is discharged upon being touched by the weapon - which offers some surprising, tactical tricks I haven't seen before.


The second feat, Healer's Grace, allows for the expenditure of domain powers to grant rerolls versus negative conditions based on the cleric's own Will-save - pretty powerful, but fitting one. We also get a new paladin, the Queen' Man - at 4th level, they can significantly enhance the casting of spells and provide a defensive shield that wards against conditions you can negate via mercies and high-level paladins can convert damage in a huge radius into non-lethal damage can be considered truly cool - that battle waging on the grounds of a misunderstanding? Well, these guys can make sure no-one dies! (On a nitpicky side, the archetype is once erroneously called "compassionate son" - but that's pretty much a cosmetic gripe.) The capstone similarly emphasizes taking conditions, damage, etc. of others, making the archetype's final levels predisposed to notions of heroic sacrifice, something I really like in the frame of paladins and, since this replaces spells, the power of the class feature seems justified. Furthermore, the archetype sports a number of unique and complex modifications of divine bond with a specific ward-creature that makes the Queen's Man a superb bodyguard for the target creature. We also receive a second archetype, the Harmonious Spirit warpriest, who receives a modified list of skills and proficiencies as well as several monk-related abilities. Automatic merciful spells, merciful extraplanar prisons to deal with vanquished foes and the like render this archetype rather cool for groups like mine, where murder-hobo-ing intelligent life is NOT considered behavior that's acceptable for good characters. The harmonious spirit also receives a code of conduct, while aforementioned paladin does not.


The third deity herein was one I've been pretty much excited about for a long time - the Reaper of Death and Rebirth, served by the Crematorium of the Grim Gatherer - and yes, this is an interesting component of the church: Beyond the usual death-related iconography and different takes on the religion, the addition of phoenix and rebirth as central concepts render this one a surprisingly fresh take on the death-god-trope. The archetype provided here would be the Ruiner fighter, who gets a specific ruin pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which can be used defensively, to make wounds that are hard to heal or cast curse spells - though I'm honestly hard-pressed to note a sufficient amount of spells with the cures-descriptor - a spell-list,. even a small one, would have been very much appreciated here. Additionally, higher level ruiners receive hexes, bonus damage versus cursed foes and the stalwart ability (not a fan - basically, evasion for Fort- and Will-saves) and high-level ruiners can prevent the very first attack in a full attack executed against them by cursed targets. Overall, a cool, if somewhat user-unfriendly archetype.


Now on the interesting side, there is also a universal archetype contained herein, the Phoenix Child...which is less of an archetype and more of a GM-based template that is applied to characters. Think of it as a kind of mythic path sans tiers that is instead tied with linear progression to the respective class levels. You see, these beings may be reborn in fire, but they also return from the grave with a list tattooed into their arms - this is the list of specific tasks the character has to rectify in order to be absolved of the sins committed in a previous life, with final death being the reward...though redemption thus gained is scarcely attained. Beyond various flame-themed abilities, this one is basically a power-increase, a narrative option...and made me immediately contemplate a campaign, where all PCs are Phoenix Children. Not suitable for every campaign and GMs should be aware of the additional power, but still, I consider this AWESOME.


The final deity herein would be Our Steely-Eyed Judge, the deity of justice and law - stern, fierce and vigilant, supported by a rather well-written Truth inquisition that includes a honesty-enforcing curse, with the two feats once again sporting a domain-powered lacing effect, which, this time around, offers for a kind of flanking curse and a limited retributive bestow curse (lacking italicization), which is nice. The write-up also sports the Thief-taker Slayer archetype, a specialist of urban tracking (with handy DCs/modifier-tables provided), including the rather cool generation of tracer-objects and high-level quarries and a talent that allows for the garroting of enemies and a non-lethal incapacitation talent that erroneously mentions the bounty hunter in another minor hiccup.


Beyond these option, we conclude this book with some truly intriguing pieces of fluff that elaborate the themes and concepts of Questhaven, including the crossroads of dream and some important pieces of advice some authors out there should take a look at - making fluff not read like a DVR instruction manual is something that would make my reviewer's obligations significantly more compelling...but I digress.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are the one component of this supplement that could have used some streamlining - there are quite a few punctuation glitches in here and references to the wrong class in some abilities, remnants of either cut-copy-paste glitches or revisions in the class-name's respective nomenclature. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf has nice artworks for the deity's symbols and more, most of it in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, so this one is pretty hard on me - I like just about all of the respective options portrayed herein, though the ruiner could really have used a list of curse spells by level. I also would have loved a code of conduct for the Queen's Man. Then again, the significant majority of archetypes and options here not only sport some awesome concepts, they also manage to use rather innovative mechanics and inspire to an extent that makes me come up with plot-lines by virtue of simply reading them - a feat not many pieces of crunch achieve. So yes, Steven D. Russell's latest collection of deities and related material must be considered to be inspired, though it also feels a bit rougher on the edges than what I would have liked it to be. Still, most glitches herein are ultimately cosmetic in nature - which makes me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the inspired ideas herein to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Divine: Death, Justice, Healing, & Madness (PFRPG)
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101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban (PFRPG)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/30/2016 23:40:24

This supplement clocks in at 51 pages, including 47 pages of content. After a brief introduction, we dive into 101 detailed encounters. A few general notes about these encounters: all of them assume you are using the Questhaven Campaign Setting. If you aren’t familiar with it, that’s okay, because this book gives you enough to understand it. In fact, this book could work as an introduction to Questhaven. Also, these encounters are not just brief collections of generic monsters. Rather, each encounter gets about a half a page of fluff describing the creature(s) motivations and place in the world. All the creatures in this book belong to a faction called the Fold of Mother’s Pride, which is a criminal cartel in Questhaven. Strung together, these descriptions can give you ideas for campaign plots even if you don’t use the stat-blocks.

The creatures in this book show the full range of the CR gamut. At the low end, we have a pair of CR 1/2 creatures: “Nightblood”, a CR 1/2 stirge, and “Kuruk Starshade”, a fetchling.
At the high end, there are three CR 20 creatures, including the nominal leader of the Fold, the “Reverend Mother Panthia”. All are provided with fully detailed stat-blocks and a sizeable backstory. There is also one CR 23 creature, a dragon who secretly controls the organization. This one does NOT come with a stat-block, but instead refers you to a stat-block in Pathways (which is Rite Publishings series of free supplements).
Short Term Use: The editing is very good, though there are a few more glitches than usual for a Rite Publishing product. The stat-blocks are all clearly laid out and easy to use, which is particularly impressive for the high CR creatures. It may take some planning to work the fluff of the organization into your campaign’s plot, but if you are just looking for a quick encounter, you can use the stat-blocks without the full treatment of the Fold of Mother’s Pride. Even if you do want to use the fluff, it shouldn’t be too hard to at least work some of it in to your urban adventure. Hence, this book gets a Short Term Rating of 4.5/5.
Long Term Use: Aside from functioning as an introduction to one chunk of Questhaven, this supplement contains enough information on the Fold of Mother’s Pride organization to base an entire urban campaign around the contents of this supplement. You could even adapt it to work in a big city in your campaign world, not just Questhaven. On the other hand, the specificity of some of the descriptions, combined with the dependency on some information being secret from the players, has the potential to limit the reusability of a lot of this content. All in all, it gets a Long Term Rating of 3/5.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban (PFRPG)
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101 Urban Spells (PFRPG)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/30/2016 23:39:02

DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my review. I received no other form of compensation, nor am I affiliated with Rite Publishing, Steven Russell, or Dave Paul.

OTHER DISCLAIMER: At the time of this writing, this product was released less than one year ago. Hence, all opinions expressed in this review, and in particular the Long Term Rating, should be considered TENTATIVE.
This supplement clocks in at 50 pages, including 47 pages of content. First comes a one page introduction, which reminds the reader of the Settlement Size Modifier mechanic from Paizo’s Gamemastery Guide (which was itself copied from WotC’s 3.5 DMG). Some of the spells in this book have their effects modified by the size modifier of the settlement they are cast in. There are also a handful of spells which depend on the other settlement modifiers described in the GMG.

Next comes the conventional tables of spells by class and level, with their abbreviated descriptions, following the same format as the PHB and most d20 supplements. There are spell lists provided for all of Paizo’s spellcasting base classes (no guidance for use with non-Paizo classes is provided). One thing of note is that this book is sparse on very high level spells: the sorcerer/wizard, witch, and cleric lists all top out at 8th level spells, while the druid is not given any spells above 5th level. If you mainly play at low levels, that shouldn’t be a problem for you. Even at higher levels, of course, there are plenty of lower level utility spells here you may want to use.
Let’s start with the weakest: this supplement contains a handful of 0th level spells. Boot Pebble creates a pebble in an enemy’s shoe, giving them a speed and dexterity penalty until it is removed. Other cantrips allow you to give someone else a penalty on knowledge checks, conjure an illusory sound of footsteps (with advantages making it non-redundant with Ghost Sound), keep clothes dry for a duration which depends on the settlement’s climate, or telekinetically lift and throw a stone for a single point of damage without the possibility of missing.

On the other extreme, there are a couple of eighth level spells. Can’t Leave Town, as the name suggests, prevents everyone in a small settlement who fails their save from leaving, or prevents everyone in a larger settlement from leaving through a specific exit. Wake the Dead, another eight level spell, can (among other effects) grant a Raise Dead to all dead humanoids in an area, but they die again after the spell’s brief duration ends.

Short Term Use: The editing and formatting are top notch. The effects of the spells are varied and interesting enough to use. Moreover, as no new subsystems are presented, you know exactly what you are getting and how it works. On the other hand, some of the rules language is needlessly ambiguous, bringing the Short Term Rating down to 4/5.
Long Term Use: One question you might have is “can these spells be used in a non-urban environment?” The answer differs for different spells in this supplement. Almost all of these spells are most useful in or near a settlement, but most can still technically be used in the wilderness (though with varying degrees of usefulness). Overall, however, David Paul has managed to deliver an incredible array of varied and unique spells-- an impressive feat given how many have already been published in the last sixteen years. The occasional interactions with the Settlement Rules, which are often under-utilized in Pathfinder supplements, is an excellent touch. Thus, this supplement earns a Long Term Rating of 4.5/5, rounded up to 5 for the purposes of this platform.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Urban Spells (PFRPG)
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10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/26/2016 03:24:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second inexpensive pdf detailing basic villages for the explicit use of being a base for kingdom building clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this little pdf with the village of Appleton, famous for its flavored gins - and we are introduced to two signature buildings as well as three rumors pertaining the village. The salt-selling and rather nasty place Borley would be situated at the opposite end of the alignment spectrum at CE and a place of hardships and dangerous tasks. Deepmarble, defined by the marble quarries, similarly has a theme of hard work, though less grim.


Eastdeer, suffused with snakes of all types and sizes - for the village is famous for taming, training and selling snakes, though I'm surprised the medical/alchemical applications of snake venom have not been mentioned here - still, by far the most interesting village covered so far. Lorhayven, blessed by hot springs and obsidian mining as well as an academy seems like an interesting place as well. Redhurst is a terraced village cresting a hilltop, a river circling its base - which is solid.


Lawful evil Seahollow has an obvious layout glitch, where the fluff-text has entered right in the middle of the settlement statblock in one painfully obvious formatting glitch in the sheep fleecer's village. Straywyn may sound elven, but is a predominantly dwarven town defined by its gem mine.


Summercrest once again would be a rather unique village, with wheeled huts constantly on the move, drawn by alpacas, we have an excellent example of truly evocative concepts here, one that really showcases how great these minimalistic write-ups can be - kudos here!


The final village, Swynford, is defined by moderately successful iron, coal and sulphur mining as well as the training of ponies and makes for a solid, though less remarkable settlement.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty decent, though the aforementioned formatting glitch is pretty nasty. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are surprisingly beautiful and full color - kudos there!


Liz Smith's second array of Kingdom Seeds sports several nice, minimalistic village-write-ups to base a kingdom building game on or to simply throw into your game when you need a village. At the same time, the pdf does showcase some cases where the villages truly inspire with unique concepts and ideas...though at the same time, some of the villages felt pretty common to me. All in all, for the low asking price, this is a solid little book, though probably not one that will make you gasp in amazement. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills (PFRPG)
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Book of Icons (13th Age Compatible)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/17/2016 19:18:50

If you've been struggling to use icon relationships and your players' icon rolls in your 13th Age game, this is the supplement for you. The first section is dedicated to providing more options on how GMs and players can use icon rolls. There's more structure offered than the rather free-form suggestions in the 13th Age core book. It also provides recommendations on how to introduce proxies (NPCs), investments (equipment), events, and thematic elements related to the icons. Icon rolls become more of a currency to be spent during the session, rather than a mechanic that's purely in the hands of the GM. If you haven't approached icon rolls this way, I highly recommend it -- my games changed dramatically when I introduced similar changes a while back.


Next, the supplement details 6 new icons, which are open for other publishers to use in their products. That's a nice touch, since the default icons in the 13th Age core book are Fire Opal Media's Product Identity, and can't be used by other publishers. I would love to see other products use these icons and perhaps add to the list. Each of the 6 icons have 3-4 variants, which can also represent different icons that are used simultaneously in your game. For example, you may choose to use The Order - That Which Provides as one icon and The Order - The Glorious Conqueror within the same game. The supplement offers alternative approaches to this, such as a single icon with different groups of followers, multiple icons operating under the same name, or simply making them different icons. It's sure to give you something to think about if you use these icons during the creation of your campaign setting.


Each icon section features random tables for proxies, investments, and events that can be used to "spend" icon rolls, with optional complications for those juicy 5's. This is a nice feature, and I would have benefited from a similar approach to the core book's icons to make my life as a GM easier.


Wrapping the supplement up is a section covering some NPCs, organizations, and secret agendas that can be paired up with icons to become fully fleshed out in your game. I particularly liked the format for the NPCs -- each is presented in a succinct stat block that offers everything needed to run them in and out of combat (when combined with the general creature table from the core book).


Numerous formatting issues, a few typos, and listing a contradicting number of icon variations in different parts of the book was enough that I dropped my rating to 4-stars. I can overlook an issue or two, but there were enough of them that I wanted to pull out a red pen and make corrections. It didn't prevent me from understanding the content, and I'll still be able to make full use of the book.


With the number of posts I see on the 13th Age forums, Google+, and Facebook communities that express a need for more direction around icon relationships and rolls, I intend to recommend this supplement frequently.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Icons (13th Age Compatible)
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A Fly in the Ointment (Fate)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/14/2016 04:35:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module for Rite Publishing's Demolished Ones (Dark City/steampunk-crossover) clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 18 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


But before we do - please be aware that this is as much a thematic expansion and a kind of guidebook for such twists and encounters; thus following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump ahead to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great!


We begin this book with a relatively daunting task, if you're a new GM - adding a turncoat to a group. Since this is not as simple as it may sound, the supplement discusses the pros and cons of pregen reveals and lack thereof, guiding the GM through the process of selecting what seems most appropriate for the respective group. I mentioned the turncoat - appropriately named "Murmuring Guller," the discussion to follow helps the GM (and the player!) take into account the specific challenges required for the task at hand, namely guiding the game by being a subtle foil.


Similarly, the central problems of such a set-up fall by the wayside due to "The Demolished Ones" very set-up: Fixed identities and memories already have fallen by the wayside and similarly, gaslighting and the like is part of the assumptions - as is the handing out of concealed notes and similar means of contacting players sans explicit group-knowledge. Much like the downsides of the FATE-system, "The Demolished Ones"'s framework mitigates the most central issues that would spring from such an endeavor in other contexts.


That out of the way, we begin with brief scenario seeds - the first one being quite delectably detestable: The PCs awake in the city's reservoir and from the notes strewn around, it becomes pretty apparent that they, for reasons unknown, have poisoned the water supply. Now seven such poisoning mechanisms have to be found. However, this actually is an elaborate experiment by the master Dr. Black...whose experiment was subverted by Ma Puess by introducing a murmuring guller into the PC-group - whose task will be to have EXACTLY two such doses be unleashed into the water supply - not more, not less, which means that, while he must sabotage PCs that are too successful, at the same time, he must also help them to prevent the full release of toxins. The hunt trhough the tunnels, a race against the clock through Amnesia-like tunnels certainly makes for a compelling set-up and further twists are part of the deal...what if e.g. the players (or some of them) have poisoned themselves as well? It should be noted that both masters actually get full stats, thus providing a finished final boss, a conflict of morality...and potentially a means for the PCs to choose the "lesser" of two evils...


The second scenario begins similarly with a ticking timer: Two bank guards are dead, the employees are locked in an airtight vault within the bank and 1 hour of oxygen - and in 15 minutes, the place is supposed to open for business. Here, the guller inserted into the group is there to make sure the PCs perish in their current predicament, but the character does believe the rest of the PCs to be responsible for the deaths of kith and kin at the behest of master Mr. Ahnt, a rather...let's say unpleasant fellow, even as far as masters go. And yes, players killing players is part of the possible set-up. There also, obviously, are several NPCs potentially hunting the PCs - with chances to run and a return to criminal life being a crucial choice here - as brainwashed convicts, this experiment is about finding out whether the PCs can refrain from criminality. Similarly to the first scenario, we get stats for the master responsible.


The third scenario begins as the PCs awaken to the scolding of Sigmund, a psychologist in the local Sanitarium. The only issue is: The PCs don't seem to be insane (at least right now!) and neither do they seem to be drugged out to their grills, though everyone seems to assume they are. Oh, and a potentially lethal electro-shock therapy is waiting in the wings for the PCs - joy...a proposition they probably will not be too excited about. However, unbeknown to the PCs, the pyschiatrist scolding them is another patient, while one of their own is the true psychologist...and the murmuring guller. You see, the PCs are criminally, dangerously insane and the guller actually tries to keep them alive and locked away, while another master seeks to unleash them on the unsuspecting populace of the dome. The master in charge here also gets stats.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a neat 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features several nice original b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Robert N. Emerson's expansion/riff on the themes of The Demolished Ones is truly interesting - much like the Amnesia-games, they lend themselves to fast-paced, intense and thoroughly disquieting games that work best as one-shots. The concepts introduced are interesting and so are the visuals of the adversaries. Quality-wise, each of the 3 scenarios provides some thoroughly compelling, iconic moments and is worth playing. At the same time, the scenarios themselves, by virtue of the relative brevity of this supplement, must be considered to be basically skeleton-3-act-set-ups that require quite a lot of GM-work to get going, making me truly wish this book were a bit bigger, had the respective scenarios laid out in more detail.


At the same time, this book has to be commended - In case you don't know, I really dislike FATE. The only means I managed to derive joy from the system was via The Demolished Ones, as the setting's base assumptions justify and circumvent some components of the system I consider system-inherent problems. While it took me quite a while, I buckled up and returned to the world of The Demolished Ones with this book, and it turned out to be a fun trip - so yeah, kudos for managing that level of quality with what is provided herein!


My final verdict, ultimately, will thus clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Fly in the Ointment (Fate)
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Gossamer Worlds: The Black (Diceless)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/08/2016 22:13:58

This is one of my favorite settings presented for Lords of Gossamer and Shadow. This is the answer to the question, "Is there anything in the Gossamer Worlds that can really threaten a potent Gossamer Lord?" This vast, ultra-high tech setting is full of such threats, as well as setting vast and varied enough to peak the interest of any PC intent on seeing new sights.


The setting is so vast, however, that the ten pages of content barely scratch the surface. To use this supplement effectively, a GM will have to rise to the occasion and do a fair amount of prep work. However, there are handfuls of little details scattered throughout the pages you can wrap an entire adventure (or more) around. A nice touch is how the struggle between the Eidolon and Umbra has recently surged in an area, causing ripples through this entire epic setting.


I used this in an adventure and the look on my player's faces once they realized the sheer size of it all was priceless.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: The Black (Diceless)
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Gossamer Worlds: Ring of Fire (Diceless)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/08/2016 22:03:04

This is an interesting mash-up of a ringworld setting and a wild west frontier. For game masters that have problems getting their jaded players invested in the trials of people in Gossamer worlds, this is your setting. The Ring of Fire introduces a setting so desperate and a people so determined to survive, that anyone who has the slightest sympathy for the underdog would be moved.


There are nice world-building touches that make this different from a stock western setting (aside for it being on a Ringworld, that is). The smattering of different cultures all fleeing eternally westward gives a GM carte blanche to introduce any elements they deem interesting. The author's introduction of the Gunslingers was a very fresh approach that just begs to be used as a plot hook. There is also the potential tie-in to another Gossamer World that could easily lead to other story arcs...


An excellent supplement. Whether you are GM for Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, a player looking for character inspiration, or just someone who likes reading about cool worlds, this is a good buy.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Ring of Fire (Diceless)
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10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills (PFRPG)
by Björn A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2016 04:05:52

Rite Publishing Presents 10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills by Liz Smith is part of series providing the GM with short town descriptions she can easily plug-in into her game. These settlements are intended to be used as PC bases, as foundation stones to use with Pathfinder's Kingdom Building Rules, but can as easily just be inserted into your setting, to fill empty regions between your big cities. And while they are written with hill terrain in mind, most of them aren't so specific that they couldn't be used with other terrain types as well.


The PDF consists of 9 pages, with 6 pages filled with actual content (plus cover, credits and OGL). Layout and page design is on a professional, high-level standard and I especially dig the artwork which would be worthy of any major publisher. Actual content are around half-page long descriptions of 10 settlements, ranging from Thorps to Villages. Each entry starts with the rule description (as seen first in Paizo's Gamemastering Guide), followed by a short description of the look and the economy of each town. The last one being something I especially like as this is often the main reason why a settlement is founded at all and it immediately creates imaginery. One thing I also like is that those settlements are very varied as far as their main inhabitants' race is concerned. A chaotic good thorp inhabited by half-orcs can excellently serve to play with the player's expectations (and if you'd rather have humans there, just change it, it's no big deal)


Each entry also describes one or two important locations and concludes with some rumors about the settlement or its inhabitants which, while they sometimes feel like created with a random generator (which must not be a bad thing), still immediately add potential plot hooks and ideas to develop own adventures. I mean what could happen if a caravan with a holy sword comes to a village ruled by a CE cleric? (just to give an example). Here you find a village ruled by a bronze dragon, you have ghosts in the streets, cats stealing magic items (for what reason ever) or simply wandering hamlets made out of wheeled huts. So what this products really is successful at is to spark imagination without losing many words. The GM will have to work, if she wants to use these ideas, but she'll have something to start with.


There are some things I have to criticize for honesty's sake. The main criticism is directed at the rules section of each entry. As it seems, the designer forgot to include the modifiers from Table: Settlement Statistics into the settlement modifiers of each entry. There is also one major layout error in the Seahollow entry where the rules section has been divided by the text description. Minor mistakes (at least I think it wasn't done intentionally) can be found in the rules sections for Starrywyn (Danger modifier should be -5 instead of +5) and Redhurst (being a thorp but using the magic item line for villages in the Marketplace section). I'm not the big rules guy, so this is nothing to put much importance in (maybe there are even reasons why there are so many items flowing around in Redhurst and why danger is higher in seemingly peaceful Starrywyn?) but if you're using the settlement modifiers in actual play, you should be aware that you have to recalculate the modifiers according to the rules.


This all said, I can recommend this product. If you are building your own setting or if you're using published settings, there will be empty places to fill and to do so, this product can be immensely helpful. This may not be obvious by the first look, but if you're taking the time to really read the entries, you'll find little, creativity sparking ideas helping you to really bring those settlements to live. So I'll give it 4 out of five stars (a half star removed for the rules inconsistencies, another half star because some of the rumors seem a bit to random for my taste), because while not perfect, I'll probably use all ten settlements in my homebrew (meaning that each if these settlements is worth way more than the 15 cents it costs, and that doesn't even count in the splendid illustrations)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills (PFRPG)
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Martial Arts Guidebook (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/25/2015 07:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Disclaimer: I was an IndieGoGo-backer for this book back in the day, but was in no other way associated with the production of this book.


This was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.


So, what do we get here: Basically, we get 6 schools of martial arts that teach so-called techniques. Techniques can be gained via a plethora of options: Number one would be the Martial training feat, which nets a character permanent access to one technique, which can then be used at-will. Alternatively, there is the Steel Discipline-feat, which nets 3+Int-mod Steel points per day, which can then be used as a resource to activate a martial technique. If the character already has grit, panache or kit or a similar resource, said resource receives an expansion and can then be used to activate a technique. Beyond that, one should realize that access to the school teaching the technique is considered to be a given requirement, putting the reins firmly in the hand of the GM, including a discussion on how to base technique-acquisition on roleplaying. Speaking of which: Technique-acquisition sans expenditure of feats via roleplaying also does sport a concise mechanic for such a means of introducing the material herein.


All of this should already hint at the dual focus of this book: On one side, this book is all about giving martial characters more interesting options, but it is also about providing a social context for martial characters. "But what if a character has no x feats to burn?" Well, you see, that's pretty much one of the truly beautiful components of this book: From antipaladin cruelties to gunslinger deeds, there are plenty of alternate class options to allow such characters to utilize the techniques introduced in this book, a component also supported via the new favored class options that are introduced with the explicit purpose of making techniques more easily accessible. This level of customization options btw. also extends to the techniques prerequisites, which come with 2 different sets: Essentially, just about everything regarding the acquisition of techniques is modular.


Okay, so what exactly do we get in this pdf's respective schools? Well, first of all, this is very much a roleplaying book, as opposed to being simply an enumeration of crunchy bits: Each of the martial schools sports a detailed, well-written introduction, concise pieces of information regarding the respective traditions, information on the respective training grounds, concise adventure hooks (including hazards etc.), boons to be gained from a positive association with the respective school...and new magic items - including nutrition-granting tea, for example. The schools also provide unique feats as well as sample characters - a copious, diverse array of them.


The intriguing thing about the crunchy bits here would be, to me, that they are ultimately perfect examples of Rite Publishing's virtues as a publisher in that they blend high concept fluff with interesting crunch. Want an example? Sure: The Wushin Mountain's diverse schools sport quite a few interesting feats, one of which ought to trigger all my hatred: Stone Swallower allows for the regeneration of ki, a limited resource. Why am I not frothing at the mouth and bashing it? Simple: For one, I love the idea that this feat requires the swallowing of stones for a unique visual. More importantly, though, the strict limitations of the daily uses of the feat render it powerful, yes, but also balanced.


Now as for the techniques - there are a lot of them and a lot of schools to choose from: The dwarven-inspired Badger Style, for example, allows you to break free of grapples and even from being swallowed whole with penalty-less full attacks...and there is "Humble the Mountain" - which is just so awesome: If you hit a foe with it, you reduce the foe to a kneeling position before you, which, while not rendering the target helpless, makes for awesome visuals - and yes, flying et al covered as well. Scaling bonus damage based on BAB versus foes, ignoring DR and hardness may sound brutal, but ultimately, it is the limitations of the technique that render it mathematically feasible in EVERY game. What about a technique that allows you to retaliate against foes that attacked you before with increased efficiency?


The polearm-based Axe Beak style lets you add weapon qualities temporarily to your polearm. What about a mechanically valid way of spearing your foe with a thrown polearm, charging him and retrieving the weapon in one fell swoop? The two-hand-fighting/double weapon-centric trickery of Fox Style allows you to increase your weapon's reach and is surprisingly a style that allows for some unique tricks, while e.g. the Tanuki Style's Shadow Dodge allows you to use smoke pellets for pretty awesome dodge-then-retaliate moves. Otter Style martial artists may kick foes back to strike them with their ranged weapons or execute ranged disarms and perform melee attacks with crossbows and bows and even grapple foes with your bowstring, strangling them!


Now if all of this does sound too WuXia for you in style, you'll be glad to hear that Western martial arts are covered in this book as well: The first of these would be pretty much your swashbuckling/fencing-style school that allows its practitioners to on-the-fly pick up disarmed weapons, ignore difficult terrain, etc. - including using 5-foot-steps to charge or force movement (save negates) with each attack you perform: A simulation of binding weapons with reciprocal movement can also be found among the techniques here. Very interesting from a mechanical point of view: The stances of this school allow for the modification of your initiative score, providing different benefits depending on your position - and if that sounds like too much book-keeping for the GM, just follow the pdf's advice and have the player track initiative. It's definitely worth it!


The Third Suns (get it? "The first son inherits, the second is for the church, the third for the military...") would be pretty much Zweihänder-based martial arts for templar-style knights: Here, we get glory-techniques that can provide the stuff of legends: Brutal offense, at the cost of potential vulnerability, this style is all bout high risk/reward ratios and potentially, means to find a glorious death...or triumph...which would be as good a place as any to also comment on the rather impressive fact that, where a given technique overlaps with a feat, the techniques actually feature proper synergy/additional tactical option, showing a thoroughly impressive level of system-knowledge and mastery. The Halls of Ivy under the Oaks, then, would be an elven tradition that is basically the representation of the concept of bladesinging, blending magic and martial arts: As such, the techniques require the sacrifice of spells...or, via a feat, impose a temporary penalty on your Constitution-score. Now here's the interesting component: The sacrificed spell's descriptors actually change the effects of the respective techniques! Yes, this is as well-crafted as you'd expect it to be. Better yet, the techniques provided herein allow for the expert countering of magic (and crippling of spellcasters further enforced by new weapon properties), making the technique a great alternative to similar tropes. There is also a truly devastating aura at long range that can utterly cripple the whole opposition with unique effects per descriptor- but at a steep cost to yourself that will mean you won't pull it all the time.


The Martyred Arrows school, strongly aligned with a clan of gargoyles, allows for its practitioners to utilize the unique teachings to part winds, make trick shots to cripple the opposition or fire a last-ditch shot at an opponent right next to you sans AoO or penalty...potentially in combination with other school-techniques. And there is Marty's Arrow. Fire at a foe and save. If you make the save, you only are reduced to -1 hp. If you fail, you die. The opponent hit, however, also needs to save or die. If you choose to willingly fail your save, the opponent also takes bonus damage equal to your remaining HP. And yes, this is a death-effect. So, on one hand, I want to complain about this technique...but then again, I'm a sucker for heroic sacrifice last ditch shots and the scaling save means that even characters with a good Fort-save run a very real risk whenever they unleash this one...so yes, not going to complain.


And then, finally, there would be the Ludi of the Waiting Koi - the gladiatorial type school. The techniques here are visceral and intriguing: As an immediate action, you can e.g. lower your AC as a response to an attack, interposing an attack with a net, tanglefoot bag etc. for one of the best counter-strike representations I've seen in quite a while. Better yet, as befitting of the school, we actually get synergy with performance combat and negating immediate and readied actions targeting you via shields allow for unique tactical options...and yes, net/piercing weapon-follow-up combos are part of the deal.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with b/w-bamboo-borders and the pdf sports copious amounts of high-quality b/w-artwork, most of which is new. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.


Timothy Wallace, Matthew Stinson, William Senn, Ben McFarland, Mike Wise and Aaron Phelps took some time to get this book done - sure. But know what: the wait was very damn well worth it! When Path of War hit sites, I expected that one to eliminate the necessity, but then was kind of disappointed by Path of War's explicit focus on high-level gameplay, on fantastic power beyond the means of some tables.


The Martial Arts Guidebook's main difference from this system lies in multiple instances: For one, more than the crunchy bits, this is very much a sourcebook that grounds the disciplines in a concise narrative framework. The balance of the martial arts maneuvers here is impeccable - and it manages something I did not expect.


The Martial Arts Guidebook takes table variation into account in an almost unprecedented manner. The fact that you have not 1, not 2, but, depending on how you count, up to 5 (!!!) ways to introduce this book's content to your game means ultimately that, depending on your campaign, you can limit these or de-limit them. Want full-blown martial arts? No feat-tax, easy access. Want point-based mechanic? Available. Want feat-tax based techniques? You can have those as well. Even the most gritty of 15-pt-buy campaigns can use the content herein - and so can high-fantasy 25-pt-buy rounds: The system works organically and smooth in either and manages to display a thoroughly impressive synergy with feats - it is here the guiding hand of Ben McFarland as a superb developer of exceedingly complex material can be seen at work - even when limited resources can be regained, there is always a fair balance here, no power-creep - this book is NOT about numerical escalation, this book is about broadening the options, about making combat more interesting and diverse - and it excels at its goal.


Let me reiterate this: On one hand, this is a thoroughly inspired book of crunch - but on the other hand, reducing it to this component would be a disgrace to the book; it is so much more. The styles presented here do not exist in a vacuum, though you can sure use them as such. Instead, the detailed information on the schools in this book render the techniques simply intriguing, organic components that can guide full-blown adventures, with sample NPCs and hooks galore. I did not expect to like this book and absolutely feel in love with this book, particularly since the options provide amply unique gambits and tactical options that can be introduced singularly or as complete packages into any given campaign sans unbalancing the material. Let's sum it up: Great fluff, great crunch, potentially perfect synergy with just about any Pathfinder-campaign...what more could I ask for? Well, simple: A sequel. The techniques provided in this book are brilliant and even if you take the crunch away, you'd get a thoroughly inspired book, one that has me wanting more. Whether Conan-esque grit, high fantasy WuXia or a more martially bent Western setting, this book delivers in spades - 5 stars + seal of approval and nomination as a candidate for my Top ten of 2015!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Martial Arts Guidebook (PFRPG)
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Gossamer Worlds: The Otherlands (Diceless)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2015 03:21:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, we begin this installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series with a warning - the theories herein are considered heresy by the established Lords and Ladies. You see, among the vast plethora of worlds and realities accessible, or so goes the hypothesis herein, there are some that may be considered...semi-sentient. Or at least "alive" in the broadest sense that the reality grows...like a plant...or a tumor. From a seed of contact, a chrysalis springs, ultimately leaving only a husk reality behind - or so goes the hypothesis.


You see, the otherlands constitute a kind of template, a kind of change - the reality does not overwrite completely a given world, but changes it into something creepily uncanny. The pdf uses a combination of "fey" and "alien" to describe the phenomenon and I am inclined to concur. Denizen-wise, we receive information on a few of them - the shining ones, which may or may not be the origin of fey myth; the Umbra-touched scattered ones and the hungry ones, which may be the origin of ours fear of giants, man-eating ogres and the like. The most powerful agents of the otherlands, though, remain the emissaries - we receive the full stats of such a being, the disturbing lady featured on the old cover. Finally, following the theme of otherness, doppelgängers are covered - spirits that may assume the guises of others, further cementing the theme of something subtly wrong with reality.


From Tír na nÓg to the underworld, some examples are provided herein as well and, as always, we conclude this brief sojourn into the weird with a list of the world's properties and advice on how to use it.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.


Matt Banach's Otherlands resonate with me - you see, neither jump-scares (which just startle), nor more traditional horror tends to do it for me. I'm not afraid irl of physical confrontation, nor of accidents, flights, water...you get the idea. The imagery of a raindrop falling in reverse, vanishing in the clouds? That's the stuff my nightmares are made of I still consider Koji Suzuki's Edge to be one of the creepiest books ever - what if Pi stops behaving like it ought to? ...You may now resume laughing at me, but to me, this wrongness is the stuff of my nightmares.


Otherlands taps into this type of uncanny wrongness and does so in a great way...but at the same time, I think it does not follow through with its awesome concept - so, you have this invading reality...where are the modifications on how powers, perhaps even Umbra and Eidolon, work? Dissolutions of a Lords'/Lady's powers? Essentially, this book provides a seed from which one can craft more and it does so admirably. At the same time, it falls short in that it does not provide a concise means to have these effects provide mechanical repercussions beyond the inspired fluff.


My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4 stars - a conceptually awesome pdf that "only" manages to be good on its own and needs the reader to come fully into its own.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: The Otherlands (Diceless)
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Pathways #54 (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2015 04:18:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rite Publishing's Pathways clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 12 pages advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I usually don't do free books anymore, but since a patreon asked me to cover the current Pathways, here we go.


After Dave Paul's well-written editorial, we begin with Rite Publishing's mastermind Steven D. Russell providing a new template, this time around the CR+2 dread phantom armor template, which is, in the tradition of templates with the "dread" prefix, an actually badass, properly deadly version of the concept featured, including a dread curse to negate armor and equipment-based bonuses...OUCH!


One of the most prolific and constantly high-quality-delivering freelancers out there, Mike Welham, has a collection of truly unique items up his sleeve: magical snow-globes. Whether strange snowmen or avalanches, the copious array of unique effects that always transcend being paltry spells in cans render this item category interesting indeed: A well-crafted and truly fun article.


Dave Paul's subterranean spells receive a second showcase in this pdf, but this time around, Creighton Broadhurst's table does warrant special and more in-depth mention: There is a massive potion-generator allowing a GM to create a huge array of different means for GMs to create all kinds of odd and diverse alchemical potions, including mechanically relevant options alongside those that are...cosmetic, but interesting. An inspired collection of tables here and one followed up with 20 things to loot from a wizard's body.


Andrew Marlowe also has some new material for us with Winter's Chosen - an article containing 9 new feats for the chosen of winter - including a cool-down, short-range breath weapon. While the former is a bit OP in some campaigns, this chapter still is inspired...why? Well, there are, for example, feats which utilize a specific weapon enchantment, which allow you to perform additional attacks with unique effects, but at the cost of suspending the item's enchantment for some time - I haven't seen that one before and actually enjoyed it! Oh, and the flavor was great...so yes, I'm using these for my NPCs... Oh, and the chapter also sports new equipment tricks and 3 wondrous item tricks - cool! (...get it?...Sorry, will punch myself later...)


Next up would be none other than Adam Meyers, the man behind Drop Dead Studios, the man who crafted the legendary Spheres of Power-system with a cool interview that you should read...and then, we close the issue, as always, with a best-of of my own reviews and the Path Less Traveled-comic by Jacob Blackmon.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed some minor hiccups, none were too serious. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf's cover art is awesome.


This installment of Pathways, while briefer than its predecessor, does have some truly neat features - whether the template, Creighton's potion-generator, Mike's snowglobes or Andrew's feats - each of the components warrants downloading this one...after all, know what? This one is FREE. It costs zilch, nothing - and it is damn well worth each MB on your HD. Seeing that there's literally nothing to lose in checking this out, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways #54 (PFRPG)
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Lost in Dream (Fiction)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2015 02:45:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


I'm going to deviate a bit from my usual standard here, since Lost in Dream is a fiction book - at 273 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of editorial 1 page ToC, 1 page author bio, 1 page back cover, this one leaves 266 pages of content, so what do we get here?


Before I dive in: This review was moved up my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.


This being a fiction review, I am going to deviate in one crucial point from my usual shtick as a reviewer - I will not tell you explicitly what the story is about. Instead, I will try to give you a general idea and analyze the respective characters and plot according to my skills. Lost in Dream, first and foremost, is a novel set in the Dreamlands also shared by the legendary Coliseum Morpheuon; and yes, I purposefully evoked the Dreamlands here, not the Plane of Dreams - this is, very much in its tone and originality, a novel seeking to evoke the sheer wonder and grotesquery of H.P. Lovecraft's legendary story - and it actually succeeds in this endeavor for the most part; unlike it, though, we begin in medias res in the company of a man called Rube (probably not coincidentally named akin to the famous Cartoonist...) and his daughter, as they're standing aboard a vessel of the dread Denizens of Leng, watching a titanic sea monster gobble up telepathic whales...but as so often in dreams, things are not as they seem.


You see, one of the big strengths of this novel lies in the way that the prose, by omission and misdirection, manages to captivate the fleeting, opaque and unstable nature of dream itself - without, surprisingly, becoming annoying. An example: Rube's daughter (and no, that's not a SPOILER - it's the first chapter...), isn't with him, his initial conversation a lull, a phantom conjured forth by reality, more so than perception in general, being fluid.


Which brings me to a second and most important point concerning this novel: Lost in Dream is a gaming novel...and it isn't. You know what they say, the old maxim, that authors should not play RPGs too much to avoid them and their rules creeping into the subject matter, limiting the perspective. (Exceptions to the rule exist - Clinton J. Boomer's novels, for example - though even he deviates in his writing from RPG-y rules and utilize his own setting instead...)


This is and is not true I tend to agree with this notion, mainly due to my intense dislike for most novels, whether they're published for the Forgotten realms, Pathfinder or any other such established setting. Most, not all, mind you. The dislike for this type of novel usually stems from two components: 1) If you're writing for a game system, even implicitly, you're expected to adhere to the system's limitations and as such, e.g. Vancian casting and similar limitations need to be taken into account. 2) While such limitations make for great gaming, in most novels, they fail pretty hard to evoke a sense of tension that drives forth the plot. Similar observations can be made regarding creatures and characters. Ultimately, it is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't"-Catch 22 situation....which brings this rambling excursion full circle.


If you're familiar with the way in which the fluid reality of the realm of dreams is handled in game, you'll also realize several important key factors. For one, the limitations, by virtue of the power of dreams, hopes etc. to shape reality and fuel the narrative, are less pronounced. Secondly, their singular focus and obsessions, in this book, Rube's search for his daughter, becomes less a one-note character motivation and takes on another dimension, one that ultimately shapes the very journey from the shackles of the dread Denizens of Leng to the inevitable conclusion.


Beyond these, one should not be remiss to mention "Jax", the blue-skinned fellow traveler that shakes Rube out of his initial contemplation. Where Rube is the straight man, Jax takes the role of the planes-wise mentor...and it is more often than not that his dialog made me smile: Beyond the scathing sarcasm employed by the good man, his utilization of time-honored insiders like the adored "berk" made me conjure up fond memories of Planescape and all the adventures embarked upon in that context.


The onomatopoeia utilized in the planar slang of Jax does its fair share to entertain the readers, while also cementing the basic feeling of uncanny estrangement (more in an Entfremdung-kind of way, if you're familiar with the literary concept) that is also mirrored by his oscillation between high-brow sentence structures and less refined minor profanities, always creating a picture of someone not 100% used to thinking and speaking as we do...and hitting a stride regarding my own personal predilections.


Which also brings me, personally, to the biggest surprise regarding this novel: You see, gaming novels, particularly those straying deep into the weird and fantastical, tend to lose on one end of the spectrum: Either the threat falls apart and becomes unbelievable, as the heroes nuke the fridge (like Dresden Files' Changes threw the whole premise of any balance or credible threat of...anything to Harry out...) while maintaining the high fantasy aspect. Or, personal, deeply human components take the upper hand and ultimately make you consider them respective protagonists unsympathetic by virtue of them not "getting their act together" when so much's at stake. In a minor way, Rube does fall into the latter category in a minor way...but then again, it is his humanity, the theme of his obsession, his quest, which ultimately fuels the plot of Lost in Dream.


On a character-perspective, the respective protagonists are solid and do their job of serving as a means for identification well; the true value of this book, though, does lie in its absolutely exquisite and inspired world-building, which does render the overall experience of this book rather pleasant. Now, I do know how this sounds, when ultimately, it shouldn't: This is not 2312's plodding and detailed world-building and neither does it feature bland characters that are only tangentially there to justify the world-building: The protagonists very much remain crucial - once again, also thanks to the unique set-up and world provided. If the world is shaped by desires and dreams, one should expect the reality to adhere to them and their fictions - it is thus in a positive way, somewhat akin to Silent Hill 2's narrative, that one can analyze components of the novel as to their respective actions regarding the protagonists...though here, discrepancies are not only existent, they make sense: After all, this is a collective narrative of a reality, not one tailor-made to punish one character.


If all of this sounds too high-brow of an analysis or too plodding, I should not be remiss to mention that this book's overall plot pretty much is a tour-de-force, making this a page-turner, if you will: There is action galore and the pondering I embarked upon above do not represent the focus of the book - they are merely a product of it. It is very much possible to read this as a straight, fun and extremely creative action-laden narrative, should you choose to - though you'd miss out some of the more subtle components of the subtext.


On the formal side, the book comes with a pdf-version, a kindle-version and an epub-version; I used the former to read it and its bookmarks and one-column standard made it easy to read.


Ultimately, this novel is a great read, though one that made me wish it took a bit more time here and there, dived deeper into the psychological ramifications of dreaming and their effect on world, had sported a slight bit more subtle symbolism - but then again, I am a difficult audience to say the least. This book still can be considered an excellent read and a furious debut for author Matt Banach. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost in Dream (Fiction)
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