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Fantasy Stock Art Subscription by Brett Neufeld
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/14/2016 21:44:45

Brett's sea creatures are quite nice, and I could see an aquatic adventure or even Bestiary springing from his creations. Clean lines and fresh ideas.

The producer-friendly stock art license is a very attractive feature. Since these art pieces are being produced throughout the year, you get fresh art that has not necessarily been used in a product bfore you get the chance to draw from this fresh, clean supply of art. You usually get a minimum of line art and color, with frequent greyscale included as well. This helps fit the art to your product.

While some pieces may not fit your setting, at a current sale price of $75.00, you are paying $1.44 per piece, which is a bargain basement price for pretty terrific art. As "imagineers" surely some kind of inspiration will come from most of these pieces, making the 3-4 for the price of 1 a real bargain.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Stock Art Subscription by Brett Neufeld
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Fantasy Stock Art Subscription by Jacob Blackmon
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/14/2016 21:42:50

Jacob's creatures are always interesting. His depiction of non-caucasian heroic figures attracted me to his work, and I look forward to every one that comes out as he continues to improve his craft.

The producer-friendly stock art license is a very attractive feature. Since these art pieces are being produced throughout the year, you get fresh art that has not necessarily been used in a product bfore you get the chance to draw from this fresh, clean supply of art. You usually get a minimum of line art and color, with frequent greyscale included as well. This helps fit the art to your product.

While some pieces may not fit your setting, at a current sale price of $75.00, you are paying $1.44 per piece, which is a bargain basement price for pretty terrific art. As "imagineers" surely some kind of inspiration will come from most of these pieces, making the 3-4 for the price of 1 a real bargain.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Stock Art Subscription by Jacob Blackmon
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Scholar of Paletius
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2016 08:12:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is the Scholar of Paletius? Well, in spite of the name, these folks do not need to worship Paletius, god of knowledge, though obviously, many do; from a mechanical point of view, the pdf offers a prestige archetype built from the chassis of the wizard and the collegiate arcanist. As such, we receive a full caster with 2 + Int skills per level, d6 HD, proficiency with quarterstaff, club, dagger, morningstar and sling. They suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing armor etc. The class receives 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves.

At 1st level, scholars receive an arcane bond with either an object or creature - creature would net you a familiar, objects must be chosen from amulet, ring, staff, wand or weapon. Items must either be worn or held to have an effect. Bonded objects allow for 1/day casting of a spell not prepared. The class receives Spell Mastery at first level and at 4th level, when spending a total of 24 hours studying, the spells mastered may be changed - and she may apply the benefits to up to Intelligence modifier of these. Additionally, as a restriction, the spells thus chosen may not exceed the total of Spellcraft ranks. At 8th level, scholars may lose a prepared spell to cast a spell selected with spell mastery, allowing for basically a quasi-spontaneous conversion of flexibly chosen spells...but thankfully only 1/day, +1/day every 4 levels thereafter. At 10th level, any spell mastered via Spell Mastery can be cast 1/day, even if it has not been properly prepared...but no metamagic-modifications.

The scholar begins play with a spellbook and casts arcane spells as a prepared caster, with Intelligence as a governing attribute. Second level nets the class an aura of good akin to that of a cleric or paladin and 3rd level unlocks Halcyon Magic: At this level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class chooses a druid spell at least 2 spell levels lower than he could cast and treat it as though it was a wizard spell. However, the unlocking has another prerequisite: In order to choose a spell, the scholar must have a number of ranks in Knowledge (nature) equal to twice the level of the chosen spell.

At 5th level, spells with the good-descriptor are cast at +1 caster level, but preparing evil spells requires twice the number of spell slots to prepare. 6th level allows for the option to prepare a spell into an arcane spell slot with 1 minute of preparation, with 13th level allowing for this as a full-round action (which should imho provoke AoOs) - basically, you leave open slots to add flexibility to the class. 7th level add a number of rounds to the duration of good spells equal to 1/2 his class level - nice: Instantaneous, permanent or concentration spells are not affected by this ability. Nice catch. 9th level nets a constant protection from evil. At 11th level, the scholar adds +2 to overcome the SR of evil creatures/objects and checks to dispel evil spells or effects. 14th level unlocks holy arcana, adding the domain bonus spells of one domain of his deity to his spell list and spell book, treating them as arcane spells. At 18th level, 1/day when a spell or supernatural ability allows for SR and targets a scholar's ally, he may, as an immediate action, redirect the effects to himself. Up to Intelligence modifier allies may thus be protected. All applicable saves, possibly more than one, must be succeeded and the ability has a range of 30 feet. 20th level, finally, brings timeless body.

The pdf's favored class options cover some unconventional races: Anumus, Elf, Gnome, Half-Orc, half-Rakshasa, Human, Kitsune, Nagaji, Oakling, Orc, Polkaan, Ratfolk, Samsaran, Tengu, Tiefling, Xax and Xeph are covered. The FCOs are well-balanced - no issues.

The pdf concludes with a sample character who is presented at level 1, 5, 10 and 15 - Ulik Tomebound, the polkaan. The builds include spellbooks and halcyon spells are provided in green italics for our convenience - nice layout decision there! FCOs in the build have been added to HP, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly no-frills two-column standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carl Cramér's Scholar of Paletius is a pretty strong class: As a prepared caster with some druidic magic added in, more flexibility via Spell Mastery's improvements and at higher levels even domain spells, it certainly ranks at the highest echelon of the power scale. That being said, it should not be considered to be overpowered; the take on the sacred wizard makes sense and while personally, I would have nerfed the option a bit, I can't in good conscience really complain about the prestige archetype presented here. The class will probably not wow you with never-before-seen uniqueness, but its framework is more than solid and deserves being acknowledged. All in all, this is a good offering for the low and more than fair price point. Hence, I will settle on a final score of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Scholar of Paletius
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Samurai of Porphyra
by Timothy M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/13/2016 22:29:15

Alright, so I am going to do this review out of order because I need to talk about what really pushed this book from four straight into five stars for me.

The Order of the Pack.

So, the bottom line is that you get a Dog or Wolf... Even if you could not normally take one as a legal mount. While this means, yes, you won't be doing mounted charges until around 4th level, having the ability to take non-standard mounts immediately raises the bar, and the rest of the book does not disappoint.

All eight archetypes are succint, flavorful, and also competently made-

Blade of Two Minds gets two orders, in the vein of a Crossblooded Bloodrager or Sorcerer. However, they pay a much lighter price for this, which I applaud because it is so easy (and lazy) to just slap the same will save penalty and move on to the next one.

Then you have the Daimyo, who exchanges competency with Resolve for a much more powerful banner. They do still get resolve, but with weakened progression. They can be downright nasty though, with the human Favored Class Bonus.

The Kajiya is a master blacksmith, gaining greatly increased potency when wielding weapons they have made themself and the ability to use magic item crafting feats without caster levels! Kudos here, because it opens up several exotic weapons that might be otherwise neglected due to the price of enchanting them, such as Double weapons.

Next up we have the Kamen Blade, a sort of Vigilante-Lite Samurai who functions similarly to the Magical Girl's transformation. They eventually gain the ability to cast Bladed Dash as a Spell-Like, which is just plain cool in my opinion.

Next we have one of my favorite archetypes in the book, the Kyudojin - a Ranged Samurai! And again, the author really blows me away here because it would be simple to port over the Luring Cavalier... But instead, they make an archetype that truly feels like a master archer, possibly my favorite archery archetype in Pathfinder. And for those wondering, their challenge straight up works on ranged attacks. Interestingly, the author has chosen not to lock this to bows, so those interested in Guns, Crossbows, or other Ranged Weapons will find their choices equally valid!

The Lotus Exile is a true Horsemaster, gaining a slew of early-access mounted feats, and a horse with +2 inherent intelligence. While I am not personally a fan of using Horses as mounts, for those who have a love for all things equestrian this archetype alone is worth the cost of admission.

And then, the Seishin, an Oracle-Lite archetype! They gain several revelations from the Ancestors Mystery, and also the Haunted curse. While the cost of admission is fairly high, including challenge, the fact you can't access this mystery with VMC means that I can't fairly knock any points. It isn't an archetype for everyone, but I am sure that it will help someone with their character concept.

Finally, we end of this great slew of amazing archetypes with the Yamabushi, a Monk-Like Samruai who gains a Ki Pool, and more importantly... Unchained Monk Ki Powers! How cool is that?

With so many different archetypes, I have to say that there is something for everyone in this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Samurai of Porphyra
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[PFRPG] Player's Aid II: Monster Summoning Cards
by Landon B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/11/2016 14:24:03

I got this to go with a wand of Summon Monster IV in the hopes that having the stat blocks ready to go would help speed up game play. At first I balked at the thought of spending $7 for a resource that I could put together myself from the SRD...if I wanted to take the time to apply templates. But, as I started thinking about how long it would take to prepare all the stat blocks ahead of time, or to look up stat blocks online or in the bestiary (and considering that I had some store credit waiting to be spent), I decided to give this a try and see how it worked. I am glad I did, as just the SM II-IV lists would have taken at least a couple hours to put together myself in a comparable format, and probably would not have looked as good in the end.

Some things that I like about this product:

The stat blocks are clean and efficient, with no distracting fonts or wasted space.

Any left-over space is left as a "notes" area at the bottom, useful for tracking hit points of your summons.

The pdf is sized for standard paper. I was worried I would need to try to get index cards or some other size card to work in my printer, as I didn't see a page size listed on the file information. This does mean that you have to cut out the cards to separate them, but that is a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to use a regular printer. (Or you can just use them 4 monsters to a page, making for more of a condensed bestiary than a set of "cards," which isn't necessarily a bad thing.)

On that note , the cards are laid out so that a paper cutter set to 4.25 x 5.5 will cut them out perfectly.

The only "negative" I experienced, which can be easily fixed, is that there are very small margins. If your printer does not like to go right to the edge of the paper, you will want to tell it to "shrink oversized pages" to fit on the paper. This does not mess up the ability to use a 4.25 x 5.5 paper cutter, or hurt the end product.

Over all, I highly recommend this for speeding up the monster summoning process.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Player's Aid II: Monster Summoning Cards
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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.



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[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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