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Heroes of the Advent Imperiax
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/09/2016 10:14:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the massive Porphyra Player Guides/region-books clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with no less than 61 pages - a massive amount, so let us take a close look at this book and what it offers!

As always, we begin with a well-written piece of introductory prose that establishes one thing from the get-go, in case the cover was not ample clue: Within Porphyra's patchwork regions, the Advent Imperiax is very much science-fantasy-country! The first thing that comes to my attention would be the dhosari and the erkunae among the races - those following my reviews or Porphyra will note that these races have been featured before in Feh'rs Ethnology. However, much to my pleasant surprise, the quadribrachial (4-armed) dhosari have been cleaned up - they now explicitly state their magic item slot rules and have been fitted with some restrictions to render them more palpable regarding their power; alas, compared to the two other, imho better balanced 4.armed races I know of (The Tretharri in Legendary Planet's Player's Guide and AAW Games damn cool Hoyrall), they still overshoot the powerlevel by means of their arms. That being said, this still is the most refined iteration of the race so far, so kudos!

The damn amazing Erkunae race, another favorite of mine from the ecology-series similarly makes a return here...and so do the half-orcs. Wait, what? That's supposed to be a new race? Well, yeah, because in Porphyra, half-orcs are actually half orc/half-elven. They gain +2 Str and Dex, -2 Wis, dakrvision 60 ft. elven immunities, +2 to Str-checks to break objects and sunder, +1 to Bluff, Disguise and Knowledge (local), count as both orcs and elves and also gain orc ferocity as well as weapon familiarity with both orc and elven weapons and proficiency with longbows, greataxes and shortbows...making them, as a whole, a very strong race - personally, I think they're a tad bit too strong and that less, frankly would have been more here. I also prefer the racial attribute bonuses to be half physical/half mental instead of generating a racial lopsidedness towards some pursuits, but that is a design aesthetic gripe -as a whole, I enjoy the fresh angle that half-orcs have in Porphyra.

Femanx would be a ruthless meritocracy of aliens that have exterminated the males of their species. They gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, suffer -2 to saves versus diseases, are Fey with the extraterrestrial subtype, get low-light vision and +2 to Perception, get a +1 deflection bonus to AC and CMD if their Cha is at least 12 and are naturally psionic, gaining Wild Talent at level 1 as a bonus feat. Additionally, 1/day, they can ego rend a target within 30 feet as a standard action, causing Cha drain, but also dealing Con-damage to the femanx; upon reducing a target to 0 Cha, the will of the being is broken and he can no longer distinguish between the will of the femanx mistress and his/her own. They also gain familiarity with nets, bolas, bowguns and Alien Weapon Proficiency as a prereq...more on that later. While they look powerful, the ego rending ultimately is a flavor ability (that should specify whether it's psi-like, supernatural, etc.) and the race does suffer from cold vulnerability...which makes it an interesting race I have no complaints against. Humans under femanx dominion get their own stats, including a drawback and generally can be considered to be a nice tweak.

Alluria Publishing's ooze-race, the squole, have been tweaked to be included here as well - they have been stripped of the ooze type and updated to conform to the half-ooze subtype and received some tweaks to their original iteration, including an increased blindsight range. As a whole, I was never a big fan of the mechanical framework of the race (My favorite ooze-race being Interjection Games' puddlings...), and am not too keen on this revision either, but from a balance point of view, the Advent Imperiax version is better balanced, tighter and more up to date with the evolved Pathfinder racial design aesthetics...so fans of squoles, take a look! What is this? You haven't heard about either the half-ooze or extraterrestrial subtype? There's a reason for that - both are introduced herein and presented in a solid manner, though they imho should be featured in the race-section -as written, their rules can be found after the powers, which is an unnecessary page-flip there.

It should be noted that alternate racial traits or age-height or weight tables are not included for the races here, which is an unpleasant oversight. The traits provided for the races, while solid, should denote their trait subtype, though I do assume "Race" as a default.

All right, so these uncommon races would be the main demographics in the Advent Imperiax...so what do we find there?? Well, at one time, a gigantic Femanx vessel traveled the lightless void between the stars...and its remnants, even after crashing, can still be found in the region known as Advent Imperiax, being the foundation for the three major settlements of the region. Beyond a full-color map, the region also provides proper settlement statblocks for these places. The region is governed by a triumvirate of two Myxiir and the Myxiax, the latetr of which is an honorary position, usually awarded to long-serving beings and mainly employed to resolve conflicts. Froma society point of view, the femanx have ties with the Opal Throne of Erkusaa and thus sport quite a few dhosari slaves; similarly, non-femanx in the realm tend to be slaves, second-class citizens at best - a delightfully cheesy nod towards 70s scifi aesthetics suffuses this aspect of the realms, though it is certainly more diversified and critical than you'd expect from the originators of the trope. From the capital of Myxhadriax to Yhadris-Fhas, the industrial center, to finally Yhadri-Izhaaf, the "gate" or trade city established as a kind of fantastic frontier's city, the metropolises are captivating places and employ a variety of cool settlement properties beyond the standard, handily reprinted from your convenience here. A total of 12 fluff-based NPC-descriptions with signature gear, but sans full statblocks, allow you to develop the aspects of the region to your liking and provide a general guideline.

Now, as always in these books, we also receive an array of crunchy class options, the first of which would be the 10-level faceless agent PrC, who receives d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and 6+Int skills per level. These beings require studied combat as well as a power point reserve and skills as well as feats gearing them towards a more Stealth-oriented gameplay. They may, at-will, detect psionics and gain metamorphosis 1+Cha-mod-times per day as a psi-like ability; at 5th level, two such uses may be expended for major metamorphosis instead and 9th level lets them expend 3 to duplicate true metamorphosis. The class levels of the agent stack with investigator levels for the purposes of inspiration, investigative talents, studied combat and studied strike, allowing for full synergy here. 2nd level provides full control over as which alignment the agent detects (awesome!) and also +2 to Bluff and Diplomacy along the option to employ Diplomacy to improve attitudes up to 3 steps instead of the usual cap of 2. The class also nets uncanny dodge at this level. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide an investigator talent as well as Urban Tracking. 4th level lets them expend a move action upon using studied strike or combat to create a distraction for Stealth. Additionally, the level allows for the expenditure of the metamorphosis psi-like ability (not properly italicized here) to grant herself a bonus versus hostile polymorph effects. 5th level nets Hardened Mind and improved uncanny dodge, 6th hide in plain sight and 7th increases metamorphosis-duration to 10 minutes/level (again, not italicized properly). 8th level nets the benefits of escape detection (raised and lowered as a standard action) and allows the class to use the shapechanging tricks as a swift action when employing studied strike/combat. 10th level makes the shapechanges permanent and also provides basically a Will-save version of evasion. I...actually really like this PrC! The psionic shapeshifting investigator? Yep, that's a PrC I can totally get behind!

Femanx cavaliers may elect to become LostHome outriders - proficient with light and medium armor and shields, and is erroneously, but descriptively called otyugh outrider in the proficiency-section...for they actually gain an otyugh mount. Yes, mount statistic provided. Yep, otyugh mounts at first level are exactly as nasty as you'd think they are...personally, I consider them too strong, but the fact that they can't be used for mounted combat until 4th level and the growthspurt there does help at least a bit regarding damage output. Teamwork feats are automatically granted to said mount and the character also receives Pack Flanking as a bonus feat and 4th level unlocks Mounted Combat instead of expert trainer. However, the class does lose the whole tactician sequence of abilities. 5th level nets a favored terrain that increases in potency every 5 levels thereafter, where also a new favored terrain is chosen. The archetype is locked into the new order of the imperiax, taking away the one central choice of the poor cavalier. The cavalier and her mount add +10 ft. when moving towards the target of her challenge and she also receives a scaling damage bonus. As order abilities, being a community defender and a swift tracker are gained and 15th level unlocks Act as One. On a plus side, this is a nice option for novices that don't have much experience tweaking mechanics: The lack of choices and relative power of the archetype makes this a solid pet-class option without much requirements for finetuning.

Dreads may choose the new proving mindlock terror to mind probe foes and investigators may become masters of disguises via the appropriate talent. Absolutely something I REALLY wanted: The machines spirit for the shaman, which is basically the Warhammer 40 K guy who talks to the ghosts in the machine, with full technology guide compatibility and appropriate spells and hexes. Plasma shields. Channeling energy to "heal" machines or clockwork/robot entities? The gearforged and robots will love you! And no, I have no issue with plasma damage, consiering that the fire/electricity-blend has been around since 3.X and its relative power as a composite energy is properly taken into account in the balance of the option. The metaphysical rogue receives only 6+Int skills per level, but does receive Autohypnosis as a class skill -and if you know that skill, you'll realize where this goes: Yep, it's basically a decent little take on the slightly psionic rogue. The dread archetype herein would be the Questioner, whose proficiencies (flails, hammers, saps, whips...) and ability to cause nonlethal damage basically make them a sufficiently neat take on the psionic torturer/inquisitor. The primeval rager may only be employed by squoles, since its mechanics are reliant on the elemental composition trait - nice way of tying a racial component into an archetype. The sworn guardian brawler would be a solid take on the bodyguard trope. None too complex, but functional.

Now the pdf also contains a plethora of feats - though frankly, I am not sold on all options herein. there would be, for example, the utterly weird Alien Weapon Proficiency. Which renders you proficient with an alien weapon. The only reason why this is not an exotic weapon would probably be to lock the weapons beyond the confines of the feat more securely and prevent exotic weapon specialists from employing too many of the alien weapons, but ultimately, I think this feat may be unnecessary. The pdf also features options for the races to enhance their signature abilities, including gaining fortification for squoles, better ego rending for femanx, rendering foes struck critically via devastating touch shaken or sickened...there are quite a few solid options here, though my favorites here would pertain the synergy of technology and psionics: With the right feat you can affect constructs via mind-affecting powers...which is VERY strong, but locked behind enough feats and requirements to make it feasible sans being overpowering. Weaving secret messages into bardic performances similarly is a damn cool one. The psionic focus of the supplement continues, just fyi, with additional psionic powers: A HD-based aura of intimidation, a touch that may only affect living psionic beings and damages them, leeching power points and a concussive weapon fo force may be nice...but where the pdf basically enters the "must have for some campaigns"-territory is the nice streamlining of no less than 10 spells dealing with technology etc, all converted to psionics with appropriate augments. Kudos!

The pdf does not even remotely stop there: Instead, the book continues to provide items for us: From otyugh dung as fertilizer to the unique herbalism associated with the extraterrestrial Jhoila tree, this section provides some seriously flavorful options. Similarly unsurprising, but very much appreciated would be the array of drugs provided here: They all obviously have somewhat medicinal uses...but also nasty drawbacks. The aforementioned alien weapons provided are on par with nice exotic weapons and have some cool properties: From the hooked miniature version of the branches of aforementioned trees to daggers with springloaded spreaders that are hard to remove, I have no issues here. The theme of technology is further enhanced herein as well, with 2 suits (including an exoskeleton and a simpler skin suit) and a neat array of weaponry provided: From gravity gloves and hammers to stunstaves and basically stunning phasers that deal nonlethal damage and electrocuting nets, the weaponry featured here is fun and neat. In a nice twist, we actually get some neat full-color artworks for several of them - cool! The pdf also contains natural healing enhancing pods, checkpoints that may detect items, auras, etc. tear gar [sic!] - should be "gas" as per the item description grenades, slave collars, sensory deprivation tanks, stasis coffins...notice something? These items and weapons basically are the "oppressive, dystopian scifi regime"-toolkit par excellence and I love them for that - so much cool ideas here...

Psionic weapons and items can also be found - like suits that allow you to phase out of grapples, manacles that punish escape attempts, psionic femanx skinsuits that allow for the limited sharing of psionic/metapsionic feats among the legionnaires, periapts that allow for the detection of psionic beings presents...or what about a weird liquid that sharpens your perception and nets you fast healing, but also makes you vulnerable to light? Oh, and have I mentioned the disturbing monolithic terror engine? It becomes more awesome still: We receive several unique femanx vehicles, from wastecarriers to repulsor sleds and the repulsor field engine as a new means of propulsion comes with its special array of mishaps. I love these vehicles! Speaking of loving something: The pdf concludes with tables upon tables that depict and collate the items available in the Advent Imperiax, with prices and by category, providing a massive, concise shopping list for the GM. Such locally available lists add further depth and identity to regions - so kudos for that. Finally, the pdf offers a CR 5 metaphysical rogue, a CR 10 faceless agent, a CR 7 sword guardian and a primeval rager, a CR 9 questioner, a CR 11 shaman and a CR 6 LostHome outrider. All characters provided come with some nice NPC background to supplement their statblocks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect - there are some minor formatting hiccups here and there and while rules-language is concise as well, some cosmetic hiccups are here. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column standard with Purple highlights and the pdf sports several nice, original pieces of full color artworks and the piece of color cartography's neat as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Treyson Sanders is a very technical designer - he has a gift for finding niches and filling them and this one shows that. However, it also represents a great development towards high-concept ideas. In short, this is a glorious 70s-scifi-cheese toolkit, if you wish to employ it thus. Still, I couldn't help but wish this was two books. Why? Because, while the races adhere to roughly the same power-level, they, the class options and feats just didn't elicit total excitement from me - they are good and can be considered to be roughly n the 4 stars-range, with the PrC being my highlight here.

However, as soon as you go to the vehicles, the items and the psionics/technology-crossover bits, the book suddenly becomes frickin' amazing. The blending of psionics and technology is lovingly crafted, thematically extremely concise and will see ample of use in my games. Beyond that, this section provides basically an amazing scifi-dystopia-toolkit in checkpoints, enslavement devices and worse, allowing you to use the material herein in a much, much darker context...again, something I will definitely do. In short: Of all Porphyran "Heroes"-books, I have never encountered this much material that really made me want to use it, even outside of the context of the region. This second section is amazing and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval - come on, there's even herbalism and drugs in here! And vehicles! WTF! Alas, I am in the annoying position of having to rate the book as a whole and while I consider about the half of it as a must-buy recommendation, the rest is nice, but falls a bit flat in direct vicinity of so much awesome. Okay, let's do it like this: If you are neither interested in psionics or technology, you may consider this ~4 stars and probably should get one of the other books in the series; if you're like me, however, and primarily interested in the item/psionics-technology-synergy, then you definitely should get this guide. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars...and though I cannot round up for the purpose of this platform, I can add my seal of approval to this book for the awesomeness that is within these pages.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Advent Imperiax
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4Saken
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/26/2016 07:06:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 97 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover (though this also contains the crucial percentile chart called Master Table- nice use of space!), leaving us with 94 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. The review is based on V. 8 of the pdf.

The open-source 4C-system is usually used for superhero roleplaying may be open source, but tying it to the horror genre? Can that work? Well, to begin, I have never played the 4C-system prior to getting this book - probably because superhero comics and roleplaying aren't as popular here in Germany as they are in the US. Anyways, I'll thus treat this book as a stand-alone system, so can this explain how the game is supposed to work?

Well, we begin with an explanation of the basics - much like Basic, we use D%s to determine success or failure - the higher you roll, the better...though 00 and 0 mean 0 here, not 100. PCs are known as Survivors and NPCs are designated as contacts. The master table mentioned is used to determine whether something attempted is a failure, close call, successes or exceptional successes (also called Aces) - at one glance, you can look at the table and determine the result, making the process of playing relatively simple and fast-paced. Rows can be seen on the master table and sometimes, there would be row steps that determine how the master table is consulted. Skills change that, just fyi - basic skills provide +1 Row shift (RS), expert skills +2 RS etc. Players begin with 4 skills and may gain more. This would btw. be as good a place as any to mention that each chapter is headed by a nice, flavorful piece of fiction - kudos for the mood-setting.

After a nice piece of introductory prose, we dive into the character generation: First, you determine a background, which modify the Measured Traits (basically the attributes), contacts known and the skills of the character. A random table is featured, if you prefer to randomly roll these and some of them do have sub-choices: Believers may opt to become parapyschologists or psychics, for example. These generally also allow you to exceed the usual cap of 19 for your trait.

Very nice in comparison to other horror rpgs: The inevitable loss of control that you will experience due to fear/insanity can be chosen in advance - this would be the so-called instinct. Instincts confer bonuses and penalties and determine how the survivor handles orange or red levels on the master table of stress: From bargaining and fainting to going berserk, martyr-complexes and concealing a monster beyond your charming façade, the array of choices is nice, but most assuredly can use further expansion - a good thing, in this case, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Next would be traits: AT character creation, you gain a total of 60 points to distribute among your seven Measured Traits: No such trait may be less than 01, none higher than 19 unless modified by an appropriate background. The measured trait would be Melee (M), Coordination (C), Brawn (B), Fortitude (F), Intellect (I), Awareness (A), Willpower (W). Beyond these, there would be Figured Traits: Life is equal to M + C + B + F. When life is reduced to 0...well, guess what happens. Luck is I + A + W and can be used to improve checks and stave off death. So far, so simple.

Skills are next: They are associated with measured traits and when you're using a Measured Trait associated with a skill you have, you gain RS. If you choose a skill twice, you become an expert, increasing the RS. Specialization allows for further RS pertaining a subtype of uses of the skill. Melee covers close combat, shielding, unarmed combat, for example, while Intellect covers significantly more: Lore, Knowledge, Mechanic, Medicine, Politics, Craft, Interrogation, Investigation, Science, survival - the inequality between Measured Traits here obviously helps balance them amidst themselves.

Now that the skills are taken care of, we move on to gifts: These have three designators: Natural, paranormal and psychic. Some backgrounds provide gifts, while others don't...but each Survivor receives one gift at character creation. These range from alertness to analytical minds, being lucky, having a kind of personal magnetism, immunity to a narrow field or being brilliant beyond one's time. What about clairvoyance, spirit guides or pyrokinesis. Finally, akin to Shadowrun's connections, we determine the NPC contacts of the respective survivor.

Survivors advance by typically gaining +5 life after an adventure...but also -5 luck...sooner or later EVERYONE's luck runs out. Alternatively, the life increase can be foregone in favor of gaining a new contact or replacing a lost contact...or negate lingering physical or mental trauma.

The next chapter illustrates how the Master Table is utilized - with play examples that illustrate the process rather well. Considering the simplicity of the matter and the fact that I covered that aspect before, let's take a look at combat, which works as follows: The director determines the actions for all NPCs under his control; then, the Players announce the actions for the Survivors. All declared defensive maneuvers are taken; then, all beings act in order of their Awareness trait, from highest to lowest. Coordination or Menace (mostly BBEG-material) ratings are using to break ties. Players may spend luck to act sooner - 5 Luck lets them jump ahead by one step...but only for one round and then, the precious luck is GONE.

The use of defensive maneuvers in combat, whether blocking, hitting or escaping, is pretty simple in theory and practice: They use RS, the color-coded results of the Master Table and still allow for meaningful options. A full day's rest regains Fortitude score Life, though lethal damage only heals after other damage has healed and require Medicine to heal properly. Similarly damaged Measured Traits only heal slowly.

Sometimes, the strength of substances is required to determine successes, which is why a handy table features just that. Weapons have a damage-bonus, a skill type used in conjunction and weapons have a rate of fire and a shot number before reloading is required. Armor is also covered...and yes, the book covers archaic and modern weapons and shields - so whether you prefer the medieval or contemporary context, the game's got you covered.

Directors will also appreciate hazards being noted (thankfully for us Europeans, Heat etc. also come with Celsius-ratings...Fahrenheit makes no sense to me and is a pain to convert) - from falling to poison, the basics we have come to expect are covered...but how is fear covered? Well, once again, we employ the Master Table and the surprising simplicity of the system works well in conjunction with the fear roll - the higher a Menace score is, though, the harder it will be to actually resist the respective threat. You may spend a TON of luck to remain in scenes...but do you?

Anyways, the book also provides several sample menaces, from the classic grey aliens, to parasitic infiltrators, hell beasts, seducer demons, ghosts, chupacabras, mad cultists, vampires, werewolves - you know, basically the classics, though several sample NPCs/stock characters and animals similarly are compiled for your convenience. Considering that horror is the trickiest genre to pull off in roleplaying games, the pdf does provide some pieces of advice for the director/GM.

The pdf also provides two introductory scenarios - both of them feature nice b/w-maps and even a handout...oh, and there's another thing you may note: Both are actually...drumroll INTERESTING. They don't suck. One focuses on a fateful trip and provides menaces of a distinctly supernatural bent, whereas the second, themed around sleep, feels very much less action-centric and closer to the investigative horror side of things, with a more subtle bent...at least, for a while. For introductory scenarios, these do their job rather well.

The pdf concludes with a handy index and a nice character sheet.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard in b/w and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The cartography's neat as well, though I would have loved player-versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Don Walsh, with additional input from Mark Gedak and August Hahn and fiction by Perry Fehr, Anthony Torretti and Dan Newton, deliver a book I didn't realize I wanted. You see, I love GUMSHOE, but am not always sold on the failing forward aesthetic or the simplicity of resource management, in spite of the cool tricks the engine provides; similarly, I adore being butchered in Call of Cthulhu, but find myself wanting, at least for longer campaigns, for a bit of more staying power. This system falls pretty neatly in the middle: Your characters will be pretty capable, but luck still plays a crucial factor regarding results garnered. The cool thing, at least for me, lies in the middle ground: The RS-mechanic on the Master Table makes translating GUMSHOE scenarios pretty easy; similarly, CoC-modules are relatively easy to adapt, both being d%-based, which opens a huge array of awesome material if you're willing to do some minimal work. The system, as a whole, generates characters with a minor, fighting chance, but still vulnerable enough.

The one issue I see here is somewhat akin to most such systems I encounter - there are some components of horror gameplay I'd love to see expanded; the obvious first would be sanity and luck-development over time, the second would simply pertain more supernatural tricks and hazards to throw at the survivors. This is NOT intended as criticism, mind you, but rather as an expression that I'd like to see this RPG expanded - there is some serious potential here and while it will not (yet) replace my horror-favorites, I definitely can see myself playing this. Moreover, much like aforementioned systems, this system is easy to learn - reading the rules once was sufficient to grasp EVERYTHING, making this a viable option for less experienced players and GMs, particularly thanks to the didactically smart presentation, which undoubtedly shows some of the experience of Mark Gedak in the teaching circuit.

All in all, this is a nice, inexpensive, simple to grasp RPG and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval...I'm looking forward to seeing more material for 4Saken!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
4Saken
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Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 2
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/18/2016 17:01:37

Even as a long-time GM, I found Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Vol 2 helpful in improving my skills. The author explicitly states ideas that I may have stumbled upon intuitively and only half grasped. For example, the section on the use of Killing Fields at different tiers of play was able to put to words vague ideas that I'd used in the past. This book ranges from helpful tidbits, such as compiling your own bestiary from monstesr found in published adventures, to ease your campaign prep and provide continuity between adventures, to an explanation of how to create an unusual session by disrupting the meta-strategies that players develop.

As someone with limited exposure to DCCRPG and even less familiarity with its published adventures, I felt that I wasn't able to utilize every kernel of wisdom in this book. The author states early on that he doesn't want to spoil any DCC adventures, and I can appreciate that, but the text is liberally peppered with references to DCC adventures as examples, yet doesn't provide any description for those of us who haven't read the adventure -- we merely get a name. A handful of TSR D&D adventures are referenced, and these were generally accompanied by a few sentences to either jog the memory of those of us who haven't played the adventure in decades or who have never played it. This work would have benefitted from the same treatment of the DCC references. An exhaustive description of the adventure isn't required, but the reference should be tied to the text with a short description for those of us who aren't familiar. If spoilers are a concern, perhaps the descriptions could be separated into sidebars with clear spoiler warnings.

Overall, this book is filled with solid advice that is applicable to any OSR GM, and to DCCRPG referees in particular.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 2
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The War Mind
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2016 05:16:16

A cool class. Comes with a nice clear table, neat abilities, thought-out favored class bonuses, and a sample character. I can see some fighter villains being augmented by this class.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The War Mind
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Hybrid Class: Armjack
by Timothy M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2016 15:17:10

The class is functionally, a Fighter with Bardic Performance, more skills and a better list, and the bard's saves. This may appeal to some people, who look for crunch instead of flavor-

My biggest issue is honestly that you only get a little bit more than a Fighter who took the Bard VMC other than your feats. There are no flavor mechanics, everything is numbers, numbers, numbers. +1 here, +2 there. I do realize this is Pathfinder, but there are plenty of books even in this same publisher which make the archaic PF system work for a storytelling medium.

Kineticists of Porphyra 1, 2, 3, Legendary Kineticists, Samurai of Porphyra, Warlord (Path of War, Dreamscarred Press), and most notably Legendary Classes: Kinetic Shinobi.

I won't deny that it is powerful, but it does not innovate. I cannot recommend it, so I have given it two stars. It is worth the $3 for Purple Duck enthusiasts, but otherwise I would only get it on a sale.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Armjack
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Hybrid Class: Armjack
by Alicia C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2016 14:17:59

I like the level of detail included in this hybrid class. An armjack would be a lot of fun to play in both a campaign of wide, sweeping battles, or a dungeon crawl with close associates.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Luminary
by Alicia C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2016 14:16:31

What an interesting hybrid class! Well written and balanced. I think this will be a lot of fun to play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Luminary
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Vigilantes of Porphyra
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2016 21:48:28

There's a lot of cool stuff in here, but it feels kinda limited. I'm used to KOP stuff, so it felt like there was some lacking content, even if the stuff inside was pretty good.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Porphyra
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Stock Art: Crowolf
by Stephen C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2016 15:17:26

The only issue with this is that the stock-art license and the artist name are not included within the downloaded file, meaning I had to come back to this page to check them. Otherwise it's really good quality work.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Crowolf
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Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/16/2016 18:35:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Dispatches from the Raven Crowking collection of blogposts, miscellanea, new material and the like for DCC clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this book with an essay that discusses roleplaying games under the criteria of the eponymous three Cs, but not before making clear that, what follows, is not intended as a cure-all or as a universal truth - it's been a while since I've seen a subjectivity clause in a GM advice section and I won't lie - I consider its inclusion refreshing and professional. Anyways, the following essay can be pictured as a concise and pointed breakdown of the three Cs, so let us begin: Ultimately, more so than in our daily lives, roleplaying games are exercises in free will and choices; much like our reality and social structure imposes a certain degree of rules upon us, so does a given roleplaying system. Once you realize the importance of choice, it becomes pretty apparent why both highly codified games like PFRPG and those that feature a minimum of rules enjoy their popularity: Either by means of simply providing a huge and fine-grained array of diverse options or by requiring none of them, choice is facilitated. However, this is only the system; the practice of roleplaying similarly is informed by choices and this extends to fudging - or not fudging, dice, a theme covered in a separate essay, but one that I feel ties directly into the 3 Cs.

The pdf makes a pretty vehement stand (unsurprisingly) in favor of letting the dice fall as they may and point a single fact out: If you roll the dice and disregard the result, why roll at all? At first glance, this may generate some anger or seem infuriating, but there is an intriguing meta-point here: If the module/system/engine you utilize features a choice and you decide via the dice, what does it say about the game when the results are ignored in favor of an optimum narrative? The pdf does take a stab at the design philosophy of 3.X here and, to a certain degree, I concur: As soon as you do not emphasize challenge, but rather a fixed and relatively likely success and then proceed to streamline deviations from said behavior away, you eliminate not only your own choice, but that of the players as well. More importantly: If a module or given supplement's options feature a lot of information that is bound (and assumed) to be ignored in favor of an ideal scenario, what does that say about the design? The problem here directly taps into the consequences of actions and the impact and severity they ought to have.

At the same time, I think the argumentation does undervalue the aspect of context - herein, context is defined as the world and the game itself; i.e. the environment in which the respective rolls are made. A context depicts the framework in which choices are made and making no choice is a choice in itself - to use the tired old quote "Sometimes the only way to win is not to play." - Replace "win" with "choice" and you have the paradox, for not choosing is a choice.

Here, the pdf imho could be a bit clearer: It identifies a crucial, immersion-hampering issue with quite a few roleplaying games, but fails to draw a truly helpful conclusion from it, instead opting for an enumeration of virtues of DCC and a more hardcore gaming aesthetic. A distinct issue that more codified roleplaying games have featured time and again lies in a sense of entitlement that has crept into the respective systems: Players demanding certain results; XP after this many encounters, levels after Y more, an availability of certain options because they are "official" (never mind how sucky many of 3.X's official WotC-splatbooks were...) and at the same time discouraging 3pp material. The second paradox in this development is, ultimately, that the people demanding such design-philosophy deprive themselves of the option to be surprised in favor of a streamlined experience; similarly this idealized streamlined experience needs to be reflected in "official" modules and supplements. This necessarily implies an ideal structure and sequence and as such, the fudging of dice to not deviate from this scenario suddenly becomes significantly more appealing.

What do I mean by this? Well, I have nothing but the highest respect for Paizo's module catalogue as a whole. There is a significant array of creative and downright brutal modules out there for Pathfinder that, if you do the math, will grind PCs, even minmaxed ones, when played properly. To have the industry leader put there out is a refutation of the premise that the adventure design philosophy is solely to blame. Instead, think carefully whether and how you fudged dice to spare a player making yet another character with complex rules, not wreck your metaplot, etc. It is, at least upon closer examination, not the module's fault or the fault of a design philosophy, at least not alone - it is a mindset, a capitulation before an internalized entitlement by both players and GMs that drains away subtly the achievement of having bested some of the more lethal modules. And I know, that even though I pride myself on being a killer-GM, am tempted to fudge the dice once in a while. But the clumsy lich, the TPK, the multi-criting halfling monk...perhaps the weirdness and uncommon quirks of fate that arise by virtue of the dice, deserve to be heard, deserve not to be fudged over. Perhaps GMs, just like players, have become a bit lazy and don't want to go off the rails anymore.

And I understand - unlike the text, my personal observation pertaining the issue stems from a deep love of both OSR-gaming, PFRPG, GUMSHOE, 13th Age and a ton of games more and in some of them, character generation is significantly more work than rolling 3d6 6 times and be done with it. Fudging is not bad per se. So let me propose an experiment: Get CoC or a similar rules-light system...and play a module with the distinct, purist mindset that everyone will die or become insane or worse. Play it. Let the dice fall. If you're doing it right, your players will have fun. Then return to your regularly scheduled game and play...and when next time the context is right and you're tempted...don't ignore that die roll. It doesn't have to be the infamous deck of many things...but still. Let the BBEG die ingloriously as the rogue backstabs him with a lucky crit; let the paladin be eaten by that gelatinous cube. If anything, there is fun to be had in failure and chaos as well.

And yes, this may have deviated quite a bit from the thesis of this pdf, but I considered it important to convey, for these observations and their clarity ultimately resulted from me reading the book and finding myself both agreeing and disagreeing - and this type of thought-provoking dialog, in lack of a better term, is exactly what I expect from such a book.

Another essay herein pertains the epic endgame - and the considerations you should make when planning the like: Why has no one else attempted it? The risks involved, etc. - think of it, both from a player and villain perspective: Every Bond-villain ever? Thwarted in the endgame. Throwing the One Ring in Mt. Doom? Endgame. By thinking about the scope and implications, one can lend a better sense of the stakes and gravitas involved to the proceedings. Beyond this, there is also an expansive Appendix N-section, which talks about Edgar Rice Burroghs, Sterling E. Lanier's Hiero's Journey and the impact both can have on a given campaign.

There is more than game theory to be found herein, though: If you are looking for an intriguing environment, you will find one with Shanthopal and the background provided for the Golden City, breathing the spirit of the fantastical blended with sword & sorcery, breathing an evocative spirit that only made me wish to hear more. Kudos!

On the utility-section, DCC judges will be happy to realize that the advice articles herein are useful indeed: Both regarding 0-level funnels and the transition to 1st level and the use of patrons within the game (and the modifications/expansions the author has brought to the concept) are discussed alongside relatively extensive lists of books to consult and check out, both released by Goodman games and 3pps. Similarly and more importantly, the emphasis to end the "generic orc/haf-dragon/etc."-syndrome, how to capture the weird and fantastic and slowly generate a DCC world and aesthetic are covered in quick, precise and well-reasoned terms, showing the author's understanding of the themes of DCC.

Alternate rules-wise, spontaneous spell learning with a significant risk factor is provided, though personally, I'm not the biggest fan of that one...however, that may be due to aesthetics. To me, in particularly in DCC, magic needs deliberation and study or help; unlocking, even a risky spontaneity in that regard makes it feel cheaper to me and thus, less magical. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

The pdf also features several creatures - namely statblocks for ammonites for DCC: Swarms in three sizes and single, larger ones from Small to Huge size can be found in the book. Additionally, we are introduced to R'yalas, lord of the drowned one, a powerful ammonite wizard and thus closes the pdf with an adversary worthy of our good ole' Cimmerian friend.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly b/w one-column A5 format (6'' by 9'') and the pdf features some solid b/w-artworks. I'd suggest getting this in print, since the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment for the use of the electronic version.

Daniel J. Bishop's first collection of dispatches is an intriguing little GM-handbook, in particular for the weird fantasy and the sword & sorcery aesthetic, both of which I really like. His writing is precise and while I cringed HARD when reading Mother Theresa listed alongside people you'd consider heroes in examples for epic endgames and their achievement, that does not take away from the fact that I took something away from this pdf.

The writing herein is certainly opinionated, but it deserves being replied to in as far as its content manages to elucidate several not necessarily apparent conventions and structures pertaining our games. As a person, I think the WotC-bashing component is not always justified and the prospective buyer should be aware that this is very much written from a DCC-perspective; the more complex tasks more rules-intense systems demand make the subject matter more complex than the book manages to depict or even acknowledge. This remains the crucial one flaw of this book's formal essays: While it extends its reach beyond the confines of DCC and provides a valid opinion piece that certainly is thought-provoking, it does exhibit a certain ignorance, whether willful or not remains irrelevant, regarding the different requirements and dynamics of systems with a higher degree of complexity and the ramifications that result from these complexities.

It should be noted that this does NOT mean that this is a bad pdf - far from it; it just means that it oversimplifies a rather complex topic when reaching beyond the primary comfort and application zone of DCC and OSR gaming. Within the chosen paradigm and primary target audience, this should resonate; beyond these confines, it can improve the game, but requires some deliberate and thoughtful consideration of the theses and their consequences.

...

Or you just don't care about all of that and just are a DCC judge who wants some nice essays, monsters, ideas and GMing advice for your favorite game. In that case as well as in the above instances, I'd recommend this booklet, for you'll certainly find some nice inspiration and intriguing thoughts herein. In the end, considering target audience, scope and quality, I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 1
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Stock Art: Shadow Octopus
by Stephen C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/15/2016 12:10:27

This piece came in really handy for writing a sea-based module especially as Jacob Blackmon has a nicely generous definition of reasonably changes, allowing me to recolour the piece as I needed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Shadow Octopus
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Death Slaves of Eternity (DCC)
by Raymond S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2016 17:40:56

I will be running this game in a week. In the meantime, I've been reading it and this is an insanely good DCC module. It has so many things to recommend it. The zero level generator is great for a human only sword and sorcery setting. The tables for random loot and special items are interesting and well done. The plot is well thought out and layered througout the module. The monsters/encounters are good/twisted/cool. The potential patron/diety with a full write up as both are fantastic.

If you like DCC and you like a good sword and sorcery setting, this is a sure bet.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death Slaves of Eternity (DCC)
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Legendary Classes: Eternal Mage
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2016 04:00:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this eternal mage guy? The class gets d6 HD, 2+Int mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing armor (and gain no proficiencies there). They also get 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves - so, we have the classic full caster chassis, right?

Kind of. Spellcasting is radically different. Eternal mages draw their spells from the wizard spell list and are spontaneous casters - as such, Charisma is their governing attribute for spellcasting. An eternal mage begins play knowing 4 0-level spells and 2 1st level spells. Additional spells are exclusively gained via level progression and caps at 5 1st and 2nd level spells, 4 3rd, 4th and 5th level spells and 3 spells of the remaining levels. Unlike other spellcasters, high attributes do NOT provide bonus spells known. At 4th level and every even level thereafter, an eternal mage may replace a spell known with another of equal level, imposing a hard cap on retraining as well.

Now here's the thing: No spell slots, no spells prepared - eternal mages instead have a balancing mechanic called eldritch burnout: When using a spell or spell-like ability of 1st level from ANY class they possess (yes, ANY class!), they gain a number of eldritch burnout points equal to the spell's level. For every such point they possess, eternal mages take a cumulative -1 to their caster level for ALL spellcasting abilities they may possess, including SPs. For every 2 points of eldritch burnout, the DCs of all spells and SPs decreases by 1. At the end of each round an eternal mage suffers from eldritch burnout, he recovers 1 point of eldritch burnout. Eternal mages reduced to 0 caster level via eldritch burnout can't cast spells or SPs, but they still can cast cantrips.

Additionally, an eternal mage has a harsh further limit imposed on spellcasting: They may only maintain one non-instantaneous or permanent spell at any given time, with new castings potentially immediately ending the previous effect. At 7th and 14th level, this limit is improved by +1 effect in place at a given time. At 1st level, the eternal mage also chooses 3 schools: Abjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation - they may only learn spells of the universal school or the three schools thus chosen. So, that would be the limits imposed on the basic framework of infinite casting. An additional school is unlocked at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

Starting at 2nd level, the class gets arcane overdrive points equal to Charisma modifier + 1/2 level. (I am pretty confident that this should be eternal mage level and not general class level.) As a free action, the eternal mage may spend up to 1/2 class level of these points to ignore an equal amount of eldritch burnout incurred and when this reduces eldritch burnout to 0, the class instead regains 1 point of eldritch burnout. At 13th level, the eternal mage may mitigate 2 points of eldritch burnout per overdrive point expended. At 19th level, whenever such a point if used to reduce the amount of eldritch burn incurred, the eternal mage may freely add the "empowered, extended or persistent metamagic feat to it", which is a slight formatting/rules-language hiccup.

This pool refreshes after resting and also acts as the resource for eternal secrets, the first of which is gained at 3rd level. Unless otherwise noted, an eternal secret's activation is a free action and save DCs, where applicable, are equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod. As a minor formal nitpick: New eldritch secrets are gained every 3 levels thereafter, a sentence absent from the text, but evident from the table. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 40 such eternal secrets are provided. They range from gaining a familiar to being capable of spending overdrive points to increase the reality of a given spell...and if you want to go metamagic, you will need to do so via eternal secrets as well. Some overlap with an arcanist's counterspelling prowess can also be found herein and the secrets also allow blasting specialists to ignore certain amounts of energy resistance. t should also be noted that the class features a pseudo warlock blast tree, with progressively more potent shapes, allowing for the expenditure of overdrive points to generate unytped arcane energy blasts. The secrets also contain means to reduce eldritch burnout gained by 1. There also is a means to cause foes nearby to gain eldritch burnout as a standard action, recovering 1/2 the target's HD worth of eldritch burnout - smart, since that renders the ability scaling, kitten-proof and while I am not 100% comfortable with the 9th level move action variety, I can see why it's there.

Starting at 4th level and again at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the eldritch burnout is decreased by 1; in the case of a reduction to 0, the character recovers from 1 eldritch burnout at the end of his round

To sum it up - with eternal secrets, the spellcasting utilizes a cooldown period that can be modified/mitigated by a static, non-replenishing resource as a balance-mechanism. Starting at 6th level, the class gets an experimental spell -basically a spell wild card of any level except the highest level they can cast, which can be changed upon resting. Said spell increases burnout by 1, though- At 11th level the spell may belong to the highest level they can cast, but burnout increases by a further 1 in such a case. 17th level unlocks a second experimental spell.

As a capstone, the class may ignore the effects of eldritch burnout of up to 20 points, basically delimiting the caster level and DC decay of the class.

The pdf also features archetypes, the first of which would be the artillery expert, who would be the specialist for the untyped blasts I mentioned before. Instead of requiring the secret, they gain a modified version for free, with higher levels focusing the modifications of overdrive to instead enhance the respective blasting capacity. The second archetype is the dead eternal, who must choose necromancy and may select witch hexes as eternal secrets and with aracen artillery, the class can gain a specialized combo-secret that adds lesser artillery damage to the effects of hexes and the capstone providing not 1, but 2 grand hexes. The master specialist gains only 2 schools instead of 3, but gains +1 spell from the specialty schools at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 6th level providing the arcane school secret instead of the eternal secret at that level. Imho, this one may be slightly too powerful, considering that the archetype still learns additional schools at higher levels.

As has become the tradition with Purple Duck Games, the book contains a TON of favored class options, not only for the core races and the planar ones, but also for the variable and diverse cast that populates Porphyra. It should also be noted that these generally don't consist of the cookie-cutter variety...so yeah, kudos.

The pdf concludes with Alain Marcus, a sample 1st level eternal mage.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed some very minor hiccups here and tehre, though they do not influence the tight rules-language employed. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover. It should be noted that the pages are A5-sized (6'' by 9''), making this the briefest Legendary Classes installment so far. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Let me come clear from the get-go: The very concept of N. Jolly's eternal mage is something I loathe as a person. NOT because I am against infinite casters; far from it; but because the very framework of using spells in an infinite capacity is not something the system was built for; spells vary greatly in power and from AoE-damage to hard terrain control and debuffs, the game-changer effects in battles are usually this powerful because they are restricted. Beyond that, a world in which any type of infinite casting is possible radically changes dynamics; whether it's teleport-couriers, whole battalions of unerring magic missile firing mages or endless summoners who just replace their squashed minions. I don't want to play in such a game world; I don't want to GM it. It's quite literally one of the things that made me settle on Pathfinder as opposed to other systems. It doesn't fit with my personal aesthetics and it is the reason all the infinite or nigh-infinite casters I use are severely restricted regarding hard crowd control and the like.

THAT BEING SAID, I also really admire this framework. The talent of the designer is clearly evident in this class, with the restrictions and cool-down mechanic in game working surprisingly smoothly; while you can spam the same spell over and over if you make the build that way, it is regulated and discouraged, at least at low levels. If anything, I was surprised to see how well the class works at low levels, how smooth the cooldown-engine runs and how exceedingly important that reservoir becomes very quickly. I was also positively surprised to see the class not coming out as something broken in the classic definition of the word. While many of its drawbacks can somewhat be mitigated by sufficient spells in a can, it is nevertheless really impressive from a design-aesthetic point of view to see the class take a system designed as a limited resource and generating a complex framework that is basically infinite. I thought long and hard, and it is my fervent belief that this is probably as close to how you can make spells infinite as you can without breaking the game; this does not change the fact that the class is, system-immanently, built upon a wobbly foundation regarding spells and their power-curve. This does not change the fact that the introduction of these guys in a given world represents a paradigm-shift that modifies completely how the world works.

And this is where the pdf laves me torn like crazy; on the one hand, I, as a person, absolutely LOATHE the repercussions of this class; I'm into the nit and grit, believable worlds, internal logic, that sort of thing. On the other hand, I consider the engine of the class, even when I disagree in quite a few instances regarding the power of options (untyped damage, too much eldritch burnout reduction for my tastes, too many schools gained...) a thing of beauty; you see, if I wanted a less powerful eternal mage in my game, I could easily tinker with the engine and make a less powerful version of it. If the notion of casting infinite spells and the repercussions for the game world would intrigue me, I'd do just that. It's honestly no rocket science and dead simple...which bespeaks the quality of the engine employed.

Now, as far as rating this, I picture this as one of the instance where I can't possibly encompass all of my audience: On the one hand, conservative and simulationalist gamers will loathe the living hell out of this class. I do. On the other hand, I am absolutely positive that there is a significant amount of people who don't care about the minor peculiarities of in-game logic or just want to go full-blown high fantasy..or simply wanted an exhaustion-style caster. These folks will probably love the eternal mage to bits and consider me a spoil-sport of epic proportions for harping on "unimportant" details when the class works surprisingly well.

Usually, I'd thus settle on the middle ground considering an oscillation of these proportions; however, considering that the very notion, if its consequences appall you as much as they do me, you already know to steer clear of this guy. Which leaves the "like the idea"-crowd...and for you ladies and gentlemen, this class will be fun indeed; while pretty strong in its default iteration, a halfway competent GM can potentially nerf it without any hassle by restricting schools, decreasing burnout mitigation options or simply adding a damage-type to the blasts. As a reviewer, I have to take that into account...as well as the fact that, while built on a foundation on sand called spells, the class remains surprisingly stable; as long as the GM takes close stock on how unlimited (with a cooldown) availability of a spell will change his game, I can see this class delivering fun moments in games that enjoy the concept. While it will never ever get even close to my home-game, the class thus deserves a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Classes: Eternal Mage
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Monsters of Porphyra 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2016 08:26:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of the massive bestiaries for the Porphyra campaign setting clocks in at a massive 226 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page introduction (containing thanks for the contributing authors and contact information for the artists involved - kudos for providing that at such a prominent spot!), 4.5 pages of SRD, 1 page blank/back cover, leaving us with 215.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I have received this bestiary as an early access file and have been working on this review ever since; beyond that, this is a prioritized review and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons.

The first two pages of this bestiary provide an explanation on how to read the statblocks and use the creatures herein. We begin without much fanfare or ado with the very first monster herein, the Absinthian Hardwood - which makes a great example of what to expect in this book...or at least one example that highlights one facet of it: At first glance, we get a tree-like monster...but what does that have to do with one of my favorite alcoholic beverages? Okay, it does have a neat array of SPs, but depicting these trees in actual game is intriguing, since they usually do not fight; they let others do the dirty work. The tree grows sweet, aromatic fruits that are highly addictive and thus generate cultists of addicts pretty quickly; said cults are then tasked to spread the taint of these trees. Horrific in theme, the artwork provided for the tree reflects that nature. Another example for a great idea is the arbogeist - when a treant or similar plant creature perishes in horrific agony, these undead are created. That doesn't seem too novel to you? Well, the build itself has multiple unique tricks up its sleeve and rewards smart players with an exploitable weakness-section. But yes, there are cool plant creatures herein - one of my favorites being Rotwood: This powerful magical disease warps plants and wood and shapes the components into exceedingly lethal engines of destruction, infecting all it touches - equal parts puzzle boss, endgame adversary and ridiculously powerful agent of destruction, it breathes tons of creativity.

Porphyra, as a patchwork planet, is incredibly diverse and as such, its monsters should reflect some concepts beyond the common - and we do get some ideas here that are evocative enough to make you grin: Picture exploring a dungeon, when you suddenly see a gooey pool of resplendent slime that grows wing-like protrusions, glows and flies around? Yep, that would be Angel Jelly, positively infused and rather kind. We all know the trope of the gigantic intelligent turtle, ancient and benign, right? Well, enter the archaic one. At CR 18, these incredibly long-lived beings are consumed by a crushing ennui, bored literally out of their minds by an existence that has gone on too long, seeping corruption and taint through their very pores. Speaking of such powerful foes - be wary of small islands - there is a very real chance that it may actually be an extremely deadly apex-predator jellyfish that hunts by posing as an islet until creatures step on it...and then the nightmare begins.

Hybrid creatures and internal connections between critters have also been an easy means to generate a sense of cohesion - and this book introduces an intriguing cultural tidbit: Aranea mages, hating to slay their rivals, proceed with the custom of magically rendering them insane; the offspring of aranea thus punished and various spider creatures can be found within these pages. The barzakhi, aka astral masters, would be a new race that is remarkable for several reasons: They are enslaving interlopers from the realms beyond the mortal sphere, yes - so far, so classic...but they a) have significant psionic abilities and b) have heads that are pyramidal with a single eye on each side. What might sound goofy is actually pretty creepy and evokes a ton of the tropes we cherish from conspiracy theories and novels...with homebases of electrified spheres of alien metal, they also quote a classic of literature...so yeah. AWESOME. (As a minor nitpick - one of their abilities refers to an "Astral Noble" instead of an "Astral Overlord" - but this I mention only because it is the one type of glitch you are likely to encounter herein. Oh, have I mentioned that they EAT SPELLS and throw them back as blasts at you? Yeah, pretty awesome!

Now if you're like me, you'll enjoy a certain sense of "realism" in your games and, as I've come to realize, shortage scenarios, whether due to siege or generally a grim tone can provide some very intriguing results. But what do necromancers do when they run out of material? Well, they create beseiged undead, that's what. Taking for example a ton of human skin, stitching it together and filling it with sand may create slow undead, but the visuals are great and you still have bones and muscle tissue to make other monstrosities. Love this idea!

I also consider, at least to a significant degree, the type of animal-like beings that populate a world to be a pretty crucial component regarding the generation of immersion and the book does something interesting with those efficient predators: Take the centipede-like centioch - it's tail has no less than three stingers, each with a different poison. Beyond the mechanics, I certainly know that many a thieves' guild will try to get one of these...feed one huge vermin and get the chance to milk three poisons? Sounds like a smart deal...that requires capable assistance. Yes, I will have my PCs cart one of these things into a city. The logistics alone should be more than interesting to watch... If you're looking for a more companion-compatible creature, you may want to look at quillback crocodiles - powerful predators with defensive spines. Among the "should be goofy, but is not" hybrids, the crow-wolf hybrid manages to actually look pretty nasty. Colossal spiders that weave webs of crystal (some played Brütal Legend!) are pretty cool...as are the cricket-like daemons that feast on maximum bloodshed. (On another note - the artwork for these fellows is glorious!)

I am a big believer in the fact that some unique bosses benefit a bestiary - one of these herein would be the fallen demon lord Gu'Dabana the Choker: A 4-armed, white-furred monstrosity, eyeless with a rat's slavering maw and the ability to possess mortals. Oh, and he actually utilizes the EXCELLENT Assassins of Porphyra material, having his own cult of these professional killers. Since we're talking creatures of the Abyss right now: Demons fused with the signature porphyrite or bone-club-wielding, massive simian herds of the fallen can be found...but they miss out in levels of WTF when compared to the Carceratos devil: These things decapitate foes rendered helpless and then fuse the head and body with their obese form...both of which, eerily, remain conscious and in agony, only dying once the creature is slain. This damned if you do, damned if you don't-level of effective despair-generation feels perfectly devilish to me. Two thumbs up! And yes, unique devil included - Kram-Hotep, lord of the twilight pyramid.

If you're into classic folklore, you may wish to take a close look at the dread devourer worm - at CR 30, it is an incredibly tough, beyond tarrasque-level unstoppable monstrosity well worth of the legend. Regarding humanoids, we do get renditions of the races featured in the Fehr's Ethnology-series - including one of the six-limbed dhosari. While I am not the biggest fan of the race, the absolutely stunning artwork provided here most definitely deserves recognition. The pdf also features three new classes of elementals - death, metal and wood elementals, all of which do their theme pretty well. Now, if all of this sounds too focused on themes for you, let's take a look at the emph as a great example for a mechanically unique being: This incorporeal aberration may occupy up to 9 adjacent squares in any configuration; alternatively, these squares may overlap and increase the creature's density, acting as buffs. Very cool.

For all people with a phobia of clowns, the chaotic evil facada outsiders, themed around the suites of tarot, make for delightfully twisted adversaries. New giants are included in the deal alongside highly conductive cuprum golems or beings crafted from godflesh....wait a second. Yep, in case you were wondering: The good ole' godflesh golem from one of my favorite 3.X-books has been updated for PFRPG herein. Would you rather fight an animated, malignant gallows that can sense your hatred? And what about that doodle on the wall that just moved? Yes, these would be golems as well and they stretch the term and its meaning, but are distinctly golems still.

Shepherds of all things creepy and crawly will certainly appreciate the significant array of verminhive golems and speaking of creepy -the chorion hag's artwork gets my award for most disturbing artwork in the book: A corpulent, eel-like undulating form with bony, quasi-insectoid claws, blended faces and the ability to clone creatures in her bloated womb, this thing is a delightfully twisted perversion PCs will love to defeat. Remember when slimes and molds still were dangerous, when they multiplied upon being hit, again and again and again? Enter the hypermiotic template.

The interesting thing, though, is that even when a given creature, like the tired trope of the ice-burrowing worm, is featured, it has something going for it - in that case, no icy breath attack, but rather the option to spit forth highly corrosive salt, generating effects akin to acid pit. Fans of Eastern mythologies will enjoy the inclusion of the Kuchisake-Onna, the vengeful spirit of a mutilated woman. Folklore of only seldom tapped in cultures is used to great effect herein, with e.g. the Nang Tani from Thai culture receiving their own treatment - I wholeheartedly applaud the book for delving into these cultures and bringing some part of their rich heritage to the game. Take the obake; the classic oni was translated into a doddering old man, whose back has fused with a hive of wasps. Yes, that actually is frightening.

Better known tropes also feature herein: The narwhale, for example - ho turns out to be a benevolent, intelligent being herein - with an accompanying masterpiece to call these creatures. Oh...and two-words: Jousting ostriches. Companion stats included. Speaking of whales, one word: Skywhale.

Want something unique and distinctly high fantasy: The qutrub. These guys would be lycanthropes...but instead of gaining an animal-based hybrid form, their alternate form is undead. Come on, you know there is a good story in here! Speaking of stories: This is very much bestiary in the format: Statblocks upon statblocks...but the creatures actually do feature notes on how they behave on Porphyra and more information than usual for this type of book; better yet, once in a while, we get excerpts from folklore, poems or simply legends pertaining the respective monsters, providing additional information for their use.

What's cooler than a motherf*** pterodactyl (2 cents if you got that obvious reference)? Well, what about one that spews lava and has scales of obsidian? Yes. Did you think the classic chimerae were bad? Mantigorgamera. Lavishly depicted, these deadly things are manticore-gorgon-chimera hybrids...and what sounds ridiculous is actually really, REALLY deadly. Less deadly and actually kind a cute: The Mark 1 Mulitpurpose golem roboter. If you're like me a fan of proteans, you should know that none other than Todd Stewart has contributed three new ones to this book...and they are awesome. What about aboleth-controlled cephalopods with stingers in their tentacles? Have I mentioned the 4-headed space mosquito swarms? No? Well, now I have. The vorpal vole? The 4 unique and new yaksha that not only provide great takes on their respective roles, but also cool builds?

While we're at builds - the book does contain monster-building advice and material from the bestiaries, expanded to CR 30, a massive glossary of monster abilities (including formatting notes), summaries of subtypes, uncommon feats used (including ceremonial feats), monster cohorts, familiars and animal companions (with page numbers). The appendix also features monsters listed by type, CR and terrain and role. Unusual spells utilized and taken from 3pps are also found here - all in all, this section makes navigation of the book easy, comfortable and quick.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no accumulation of significant issues; both on a formal and rules-language level, the book is neat and the statblocks I did reverse-engineer sported no significant issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' printer-friendly two-column standard with purple highlights. The different artists used this time around work to the book's advantage: While there is ONE artwork I didn't care for in the book, from Jacob Blackmon's signature style to old-school paintings and truly horrific pieces for the nastier critters, the artists complement the creatures in question very well. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked for your convenience.

Main authors Perry Fehr and Mark Gedak, with additional monsters by Russ Brown, August Hahn, Julian Neale and Todd Stewart have crafted one massive book here. But let me take a step back first: Mark Gedak has a patreon that has by now produced this book; the second of the massive Porphyra bestiaries. Book 1 was good; a fun and well-written bestiary and a quality-wise neat tome.

Against the usual trend, Monsters of Porphyra II blows its predecessor clean out of the water. Are you looking for mechanically creative abilities that provide a unique combat experience and tactical challenges? there are creatures for that inside. Want something owlbear-goofy but also cool? Included. Some creatures drawn from more exotic folklore? In here. Utterly unique creatures and cultures, campaign-endbosses, puzzle foes? All inside. No matter what you're looking for in a bestiary, from the wholesome to the horrific, from the fantastical and purist to the off-the-walls weird, this one delivers.

More importantly: There is no suck inside. I did not find a single creature that felt tired or bland; It's either the artwork, the unique signature abilities or the combination of both that add a sense of the "want to use" to these critters. I mean, it actually makes one of the most tired concepts ever, the ice worm, feel pretty creative. Similarly, when creatures from obscure 3.X OGL-books were upgraded, the upgrades often include twists and different flavors that render them fresh and distinct. The lore sections, prose and the like help render the back-to-back reading experience more fulfilling as well.

...

I have no formal complaints. There are some very minor hiccups here and there, but they are so few and far in-between and don't influence the functionality of the critters. For a book of this size, that is a true feat. Oh, and consider the fact that this one was made sans a huge KS-budget, instead thriving on continuous, dedicated work. It's one thing to have a burst of inspiration; constantly generating creatures with this level of quality is a feat. Magical beasts feel magical, dragons feel draconic; folklore beasts are close to their source-material or make it cooler than in our mythology. Animals and vermin feel effective and pretty realistic and like they make sense. In short: This is an absolutely stellar bestiary for a more than fair price point.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the bestiary formula; I prefer my creatures with a ton of back story, ecologies, etc. Blame it on my old-school origins. Most bestiaries I end up liking thus have a lot of flavor text. Monsters of Porphyra II does have a bit of it..but still is a bestiary. And guess what? It's probably as close to "I love everything" as a monster book of this size is ever bound to get. This is one of the best monster supplements out there in the 3pp circuit, with more inspiring creatures in it than I would have expected. As noted, book 1 was already very good...but it is here that the authors take a huge breadth of themes and topics, mechanics and go full-blown all-out. To me, not a single one of the critters herein felt phoned-in; they all feel like they were made with a passion that translates very well from the pages. After reading this book, I found myself sketching a sequence of adventures featuring a ton of the critters herein - and that is something that only rarely happens as far as bestiary books are concerned.

So yes, get this! Monsters of Porphyra II is a phenomenal resource of creative critters of all types, shapes and forms and deserves the highest accolades. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Porphyra 2
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2016 11:26:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? If AAW Games' critically acclaimed Rise of the Drow has taught me anything, then it's that modern gaming had lost some of its sensibilities; when the saga took the wonder of the 2nd edition's Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the general notion of believable environments and infused it right back into the subterranean realms, I was ecstatic. The underworld hadn't felt that alive, that wondrous, in a long, long time.

So, this little pdf can be considered to be something of a mini-dressing file: The idea is as follows: The things in the underdark need to eat, right? Well, fungi grow below and so, the pdf does contain subterranean spore groves for your perusal. in power-level, they are rules-interaction-wise mostly at the lower scale and the pdf works as follows: You have 12 entries to determine weird fungi; then, you determine the size of the grove with a d12, which also modifies all subsequent tables, so yes, size does matter here.

Next up, you determine the food value to be scavenged from the grove...and then the effects. Sure, the shrooms might be poisonous...but there is similarly a chance that one of 8 strange effects may kick in upon consumption. These range from mild hallucinations to bonuses to Cha or medicinal properties, and while slightly more precision here pertaining conditions, bonus types and the like, the basic functionality is there. A sample hazard table modified by the number and CR of PCs is included, with hazards and foes ranging from CR - to 7. A little table to determine fungal themed monsters is next (15 entries strong and pretty much what you'd expect) and 12 non-fungal sample monsters (standard underworld fare) can be used to include here.

The pdf concludes with a sample hazard - the CR 3 cyan fungus, which sends discus-like projectiles towards anything nearby when subjected to light. The fungus is awesome, though the rules-language for the attack and damage is a bit jumbled.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal level; on a rules-level, there are some minor deviations, but none that break the material. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard in A5-size (6'' by 9''). The pdf has a nice one-page artwork of a vegepygmy in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr's little pdf has the heart at the right place: The visuals are nice and while it does not reach the level of evocative wonder of RotD's fungal jungle, that's not the goal - this is a great fungus fields generator and it does not purport to be more than that. The new fungus is pretty cool and something I'll definitely use.

All in all, this little pdf is a fun addition to subterranean gameplay and particularly lower-level underdark adventuring will benefit from the quick and easy food generation tables here; for longer or survivalist treks through the lightless depths, this can be a boon indeed, though I found myself wishing it had devoted more time to the fungi and provided slightly more in that terrain, less to the pretty generic sample creatures encountered tables. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - an inexpensive, fun and very useful little pdf, but one that falls short of what it could have been. Still, whether it's Second Darkness, Rise of the Drow or the quasi-defunct Throne of the Night - subterranean campaigns will enjoy this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves
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