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Bestiary II Stock Art: Grindylow
by Joe W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/22/2015 08:18:50

An OK piece of art. It can be acceptable for a minor spot piece, but a lot of other art here (including from purple duck) is better.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Bestiary II Stock Art: Grindylow
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: Pit Fighter
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/22/2015 04:32:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1/2 a page SRD, leaving us with a 5.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, for all who are dissatisfied with how Prestige Classes work in PFRPG - this series is for you.

The pit fighter as depicted herein is a full BAB-class with a good fort-save, d12, 4+Int skills per level - notice something? Yup, this one is based on the barbarian, whose rage (and upgrades) are solidly distributed throughout the class levels along the base lines of the barbarian. Fast movement is also maintained at first level and trap sense, DR...that type of thing's still here.

Where things become unique is with second level - here, the poor equipment ability enters the fray - the pit fighter may ignore the broken condition for one piece of armor or a single weapon for one combat. 4th level sees a bonus of +1 to damage and atk when wielding performance weapons, which scales up by +1 at 10th and 16th level. Performance weapons? Yup, for this class heavily uses the pretty cool performance combat rules from Ultimate Combat - hence also the importance of the 2nd level ability showmanship, which allows the pit fighter to treat any combat as a performance combat 1/day, +1/day for every 6 levels thereafter, with the DC being governed by the CR of the opponent. A handy table lists the DCs by current crowd attitude (yes, your phantom crowd can boo you...)

5th level nets a weapon trick - this translated to Improved Dirty Trick and the option to use performance weapons to perform these. Additionally, 1/round, the pit fighter can combine this effect with damage as though subjected to a regular attack, a theme further expanded at 12th and 18th level. 6th level provides synergy between rage and the roar of the crowd, with 14th level further enhancing this synergy.

The pdf comes with pretty creative FCOs for the core races and a sample half-medusa build for levels 1, 5, 10 and 15. Finally, the pdf does offer a brief non-performance combat-option...but quite frankly, why bother when that's pretty much the heart of the class? Especially since the variant non-performance showmanship can be cheesed to deliver infinite rage by having a crowd of followers gawk at the pit fighter's combat?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and has seen some streamlining - from font use to markers, the layout has been improved, so kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.

Carl Cramér's Pit Fighter is one of the most interesting Prestige Archetypes in my book - the dispersal of abilities and their synergy make the class feel well-rounded; from the get-go, we get rage, but the lack of rage powers means that the class remains distinct from the barbarian, n spite of the less intriguing first level. The lack of dip-exploits and cool synergy with performance combat makes this generally a neat option. I just wished showmanship had a slightly less conservative limit and that the variant rules couldn't be cheesed this easily. With these two being my only, minor complaints, this installment of the series scores a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: Pit Fighter
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Steel and Fury (DCC)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/21/2015 07:13:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, basically, this is a system that tackles the caster/martial-discrepancy...but this time, in DCC! The basic idea is that combat, in the hands of capable warriors, ought to be lethal. In DCC's rules, though, much like in most systems that grew out of d20, casters get insta-frys where martial characters have to slowly whittle down the HP.

This book then takes a different approach: First of all, the system here is based on so-called Mighty Deeds: Cutting open your foe and tearing the intestines apart, badass-kicking foe into the huge pit while yelling "This is SPARTAAA!" - you get the idea. However, this also means that there's a risk: On a natural 1 on both attack and deed die, you incur a mighty fumble. On a critical hit and maximum number on the deed die, you score a mighty critical, though! Generally, luck cannot be burned to effect a Mighty Deed and neither can deed rolls be affected by burning luck. However, you may burn luck to add to your attack roll. Of course, the judge has the last word with individual uses of deeds. Got that?

All right, so what this pdf thus does is provide a VAST array of tables - each type of attack is associated with a weapon/fighting style and sports 7 effects, from mighty fumble to mighty critical. Beyond that, a description and sample quote makes sure that you know what the maneuver entails. For convenience's sake, deeds from the core rulebook have been reprinted here - which imho is a great thing. Why? It Prevents annoying book-swapping.

The descriptions are inspired and visceral - to give you an excerpt from the 7+ result of Bone Crusher (which needs a two-handed blunt weapon): "Your blow shatters opponent’s sternum splintering ribs and collapsing a lung. Blow causes 1d8 points of additional damage from internal bleeding. Opponent must make a Fort save against warrior’s damage total (include extra 1d8 in total)..." And yes, the effects continue. Let me geek out for a second here - this is visceral, raw and awesome. I LOVE this! Decapitating strikes, defensive fighting - there are so many options herein I'd bloat this review beyond 10 pages, were I to comment on each individual one. Even options like using Stand your Ground as an unmounted warrior versus a mounted foe are covered.

"But wait", I hear you say, "this will be a horrible flipping mess to sue, right?" No. Such books live by their organization - and here, the book excels as well. The appendices contain handy condition modifiers, options for even grittier games, a handy table of mighty deed modifier by opponent HD, a blank mighty deed sheet for your own custom deeds...and a massive index that lists all mighty deeds by weapon, rendering this pdf easy to use.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of punctuation glitches, though nothing that impeded my ability to understand the rules as presented herein. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the book sports numerous neat original full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with each deed getting its own bookmark, making use of this book in its electronic version quick and efficient.

To me, this pretty much constitutes a friggin' homerun. I really love DCC's gritty aesthetics and lethality and this pdf adds spice to this: The vastly expanded deeds render playing any fighting class infinitely more compelling. When first reading these rules, I feared they'd increase lethality too much - and they kind of can...but honestly, neither me, nor my players cared. The payoff of "Did you see what I just did there??" versus being off'd (happened once in my playtest) in grisly manner led to an unanimous decision to keep this pdf.

What we have here, is perhaps one of THE absolutely required, must-own pdfs you can get for DCC. It vastly enhances the visceral, awesome flair of combat and makes martials feel more versatile and badass. One piece of advice: You may want to get this in print if that's your preferred medium - this sees a LOT of use in a pretty short time, being pretty much indispensable. A must-have supplement well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval - congratulations to author Marzio Muscedere! Oh, one more thing - since I consider this absolutely ESSENTIAL for any DCC-judge, I'll add my EZG-Essential tag to this...if a couple more books of this caliber hit my HD and you, my readers, want to see it, I will provide a full DCC-Essentials-list!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steel and Fury (DCC)
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Fehr's Ethnology Complete
by Ben B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/20/2015 08:48:53

This PDF clocks in at a 130 pages, including a whopping 129 pages of content. After a brief introduction, we dive straight in to the descriptions and supporting content for 12 player-character races. In brief, the twelve races in this book are: Avoodim: native good-aligned outsiders who failed a test in the process of becoming celestials Dhosari: monstrous humanoids with four arms and two legs Dragonblood: humans with a tiny amount of dragon blood in their heritage Erkunai: an offshoot of humans (they have the human subtype) that became a distinct race by making sorcerous pacts, giving them some built-in scaling summoning abilities Eventual: the lawful counterpart to tieflings and aasimar Ith’n ya’roo: monstrous humanoids with horns adapted to very cold environments Kripar: a subterranean race of solitary hunters Polkan: a centaur variant at a power level appropriate for first level PCs Qit’ar: psionic catfolk Urik: a mountain-based hooved race of fey creatures Xesa: Jungle-native Plant-humanoid hybrids that count as both types Zendiqui: destert-dwelling humanoids who continue to revere the elemental lords (the “old” gods of Porphyra)

Each race’s chapter starts with a brief in-character narrative before presenting the stats, and an overview of that race’s ecology, physical description, and society. The fluff is very strongly tied to Purple Duck Games’ [i]Lands of Porphyra[/i] campaign setting. If you don’t have at least basic familiarity with the setting, much of the descriptions in this book may not make sense to you on a first reading. That said, however, the fluff in this book is really compelling and detailed, and some chunks of it can be extracted for your own campaign setting. Purple Duck Games has taken a unique route with Porphyra. Most RPG companies, even those who regularly use the Open Gaming Licesnse, have been very protective in keeping their fluff closed-content. Purple Duck Games has gone the opposite route and made the entirety of Porphyra open gaming content, including the gods, nations, and the extensive fictional history. The declaration of Open Gaming Content in this book says simply “All Text”. After the general descriptions of each race, we get a big pile of supporting crunch. Each race gets a bunch of traits, feats, alternate racial traits, magic items, spells, and at least one full racial archetype. Also included are racial Favored Class Bonuses for many Paizo and Purple Duck Games classes. Finally, each race gets a fully-statted first level NPC. But while the fluff was fantastic, the pile of crunch in this book is of comparatively lackluster quality. There are some hidden gems, but a huge chunk of the traits, feats, and even the archetype class features are dull, simple number boosts. The races themselves are much better, for the most part, though a few of them could probably be modeled just as easily by refluffing existing races. There are small, full-color illustrations of all the species described scattered throughout this supplement. Short Term Use: If you are using the Lands of Porphyra campaign setting, this book fits perfectly into the gaps left open by the main campaign setting book. If you aren’t using Porphyra, but are at least familiar with it, you’ll probably still be able to get some use out of the wonderful fluff in this book. The editing is very good, though I did seem to notice a slightly higher glitch rate than usual for Purple Duck Games. The races themselves are well-designed and clearly explained, so you should be able to start using them right away. A couple archetypes have clunky or highly ambiguous rules explanations, but otherwise you should be able to use the rules in this book fairly easily. If you are planning on playing in Porphyra, this supplement earns an easy Short Term Rating of 5/5. Outside of Porphyra, though, it’s closer to a 4/5.

Long Term Use: If you are playing in Porphyra, the fluff alone earns a 5/5 Long Term Rating easily. Otherwise, though, the consistently mediocre crunch really drags this product down. Some of the fluff may be adaptable to other worlds with a bit of work, though, which combined with the base racial traits and a few interesting archetypes brings the non-Porphyra Long Term Rating up to 3.5. Overall, I’ll settle for a 4.5/5 Long Term Rating, rounded down to 4 for the purposes of this platform.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fehr's Ethnology Complete
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Legendary Races: Sphinx
by Elisa S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2015 13:37:26

This is the book I have been waiting for for years.

Sphinxes have always been my favorite monster, whether in D&D, Pathfinder, or otherwise. The one thing that I had always missed from 3.5 was monster progression tables; I had crafted and used some for all eight breeds of sphinx in D&D. For Purple Duck to sit down and write one for Pathfinder? My Nirvana, it arrived.

So, the gritty: the main attraction in this book is, clearly, is the eight level sphinx racial class. A brief look will tell anyone familiar with d20 sphinxes that it heavily favors the gynosphinx's abilities and advancement. You can still RP a solid androsphinx with these levels, though. If you want to play a crio- or heiracosphinx, this can be done, but you will be substantially more intelligent than your contemporaries, and have access to neither the gore or bite attack of these latter two species, respectively. There is some slightly vague wording regarding how first level sphinxes receive bonus languages based on intelligence ("Sphinxes with an intelligence score higher than 18 can choose any languages they want, except for secret languages such as Druidic). So, with an intelligence above eighteen (possible with the sphinxes starting INT adjustment of +2), do I receive five bonus languages, or only one? If it's the latter, than any race with two racial languages and and intelligence of sixteen speaks more languages than a super intelligent sphinx. If it's the former, then you still receive no bonus languages unless you put an 18 base stat into your INT, and then you receive a bunch of languages. A strange mechanic, if you ask me. I would drop that right back down to 10. If you're good at lawyering your DM, it's a minor inconvenience.

For me, the bonus of this book if the maftet racial class. Is the sphinx too much beast for you? Need more thumbs, less claws, but still want wings and a semi-leonine body? The maftet has you covered. Expanded from the monster in Bestiary 3, maftet are dual wielding monstrous humanoids who are not much less powerful than sphinxes. They have a six level racial class, and are clearly designed with melee in mind (then again, so is the original monster). A dual wielding fighter or ranger maftet is an absolute terror. Oh, and if you want to play a maftet monk, enjoy your innate mage armor, in case you wanted to be harder to hit. Maftet have a slightly strange advancement after their class levels are done; they gain two additional monstrous humanoid hid dice during the rest of their normal class advancement (between levels eight and nine, and again between levels eleven and twelve). I'm not sure of the reason for this, but I believe it utilizes Pathfinder's core rules for playing monsters, taking into account that monster levels generally bring less "oomf" per level than standard classes. Again, slightly confusing, but hardly game breaking for people who can think outside the box, and a conversation with your DM.

The back of this book contains several original sphinx-monsters, including one that I wish so hard that Purple Duck had included as a sphinx racial prestige class: the moon-touched sphinx. These are, in essence, sphinx lycanthrope-therians (indeed, they acknowledge that those two templates formed the basis for this one). Essentially, moon-touched sphinxes are normal sphinxes that can take on a human form, an enigmon form (a playable humanoid race introduced in this book that bear minor sphinx physical traits), a maftet form, and a large bipedal sphinx hybrid form. It is quite intriguing as a DM, especially if the party is not expecting that terrible pack of heiracosphinxes to, say, follow them into town under the guise of human ruffians. Knock knock, monster outside your tavern door, for real. As a player, I would pay money for a prestige class that allows me to play as a moon-touched sphinx. I really would. hint hint, Purple Duck

All in all, this is generally as solid as all the other wonderful products that Purple Duck provides with just a few minor hiccups. Formatting is top notch, and I didn't notice any editing errors. All in all, I would buy this book again, if I had to, but I'm incredibly biased. Because sphinxes.

Sphinxes.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Races: Sphinx
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CE 6 - The Crimson Void
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/07/2015 06:54:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Campaign Elements-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving 20 pages of content...so what do we get here?

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple - we are introduced to a new deity, including all those things that accompany her. Lady Kala Môr is a neutral deity of Darkness and the Upper Air, whose portfolio also includes protection and secrecy - from clerical raiment to places of worship, we receive information on her cult in surprising detail, with thematically-fitting b/w-artworks complementing the material.

Kala Môr is classified as a minor power, and author Daniel J. Bishop provides a smooth system to make the status of a deity actually mean something - gods and goddesses are ranked as greater, major, minor, lesser or least - this rank becomes relevant in the event of a spell duel, where invoking the patron, the lower-ranked caster reduced the spell-check by one step on the dice-chain - a minor power's adherent fighting that of a greater power would hence reduce the dice used by two steps, to a d14. A god's portfolio can increase this by one step - if a power has a portfolio and the other doesn't and uses this in the invoked spell. Optionally, lesser and least powers may have caps in their spell-levels. This presentation and system are GENIUS - they take the unique features of DCC and translate them into a thoroughly smooth, simple and elegant rules-framework.

Now back to Kala Môr - the power is described as having been brought into existence as a result of the Crimson Void coming into existence, acting now as a kind of warden against That Which Lies Beyond - culminating one prophesized day in a nasty Götterdämmerung - but for now, sacrifices must be made to keep the void at bay. Now allies and foes are all nice and dandy, but personally, I enjoyed seeing individual definitions of what is considered sinful and, obviously, omens.

Judges will certainly appreciate that the pdf spills the beans regarding a crucial secret kept from even the highest clergy, though the inclusion of said information means that information, when handed out to players, should be redacted for maximum impact. Beyond the secrecy-themed spells, clerics may turn avian creatures.

So far, all neat and fine, right - but past the general concepts and information on the power, we are introduced to an array of temple-related NPCs - from fledgling aspirants to temple guards and wandering priests (dubbed "Stray Ravens") to finally, Lady Protector Osprey of the Hidden Temple. But hey, perhaps your players embrace the more...let's say shifty and dark aspects that make DCC feel so delightfully raw - well, finding crimson amulets and calling forth creatures from the void lies within the distinct realm of possibility, as no less than 6 sample creatures are provided - well, 7, really, since Crimson Demons turn into a highly lethal and aggressive puddle of slime upon being slain...

From void wolves to scarlet succubi, quite a few of these lethal adversaries have their very own b/w-artworks. Have I mentioned the immortal, unique spokes...entity of the Crimson Void, not included in the enumeration above? Yes, these things are intriguing!

Speaking of which - the fully mapped high temple is depicted in compelling detail, with a significant array of read-aloud text...and potentially massive options for your players: Want to shut down the Crimson void forever and render Kala Môr mortal? Possible! Heck stats for her as a mortal have actually been provided - though, obviously, this deed is only something very powerful heroes can hope to accomplish. Going one step beyond, presences for holy services, etc. are provided and beyond this, the pdf's main section closes with a distinct array of nice adventure hooks to get the maximum leverage out of this book.

Obviously, the book also sports an appendix that details Kala Môr as a patron, complete with taint, spellburn, etc. - the section here is well-balanced against existing patrons - no complaints. The superb fifth Campaign Elements-pdf, Silent nightfall (srsly, check it out, even if you don't play DCC) introduced demi-patrons and, for less scrupulous PCs, the Thing in the Void is depicted as just such a demi-patron, complete with taint, spellburn, etc. - once again, presented in a concise manner. My now gripe would be that I would have loved to see how this power's abilities change upon being unleashed on the world...but that is just me wanting more, really.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with several nice, original pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is clean and neat and the pdf provides the maps as high-res jpgs in both the regular AND a key-less, player-friendly version - kudos!

Daniel J. Bishop single-handedly has made me play more DCC - his penmanship is stellar, covering both glorious ideas, far-out concepts and managing to capture a sense of sword and sorcery aesthetics that set him apart. It also helps that he's not only a great author, he also knows his DCC-rules and manages to create, time and again, neat crunch to supplement his fluff. The Crimson Void is once again a testament of his glorious skill. While I personally prefer some of his other works over this, ultimately, I cannot field any proper and valid gripes against this pdf - it is absolutely great and we're honestly moving in pretty lofty spaces. (Get it, because of Kala Môr's portfolio? ... I'm sorry, I'll put a dime in the lame-groaner-jar...) This is a compelling and fun supplement and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CE 6 - The Crimson Void
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Unchained Monk Archetypes (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/28/2015 06:04:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 22.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Pathfinder Unchained has provided an intriguing array of options regarding variants of base classes, but, as often in a system this inter-dependent and connected, it should come as no surprise that the massive toolkit/modifications that are archetypes would result in some hiccups with these new options - so here we are: Archetypes, made available and functional with the Unchained Monk, so let's take a look at how Carl Cramér's take works!

The Drunken Master moves Drunken Ki up to 4th level, while drunken strength remains at 5th level -alas, like Everyman Gaming's take on the unchained archetype, this take also inherits the base archetype's sloppy nomenclature regarding the differentiation between the temporary drunken ki and the regular ki in the drunken strength ability. Note that this is not a strike against the archetype as presented herein, but rather against the base archetype - though personally, I would have loved to see this fix it. However, the Drunken Master trumps Everyman gaming's take on the archetype in one crucial way - Drunken Courage, Resilience and Firewater Breath have ALL been made archetype-exclusive ki-powers that you can take or leave. Drunken Courage now is available at 8th level, the DR gained by Drunken Resilience has been carefully increased in its potency and scaling and best of all, firewater breath is available starting 16th level, with damage-dice and save scaling accordingly with class levels, rendering the archetype more customizable than both Everyman Gaming's rendition of it AND the base archetype - KUDOS!!

The Far Strike Monk retains obviously the ranged flurrying capacity, bonus feat-array and first level fast throwing options, with the Shot on the Run modifications scaling at the levels we know from the base archetype. Invisible blade is a bit odd in that it becomes available at 3rd level, but substitutes the still mind gained at 4th level. Ki Missile replaces the style strike gained at 5th level. In a nice adaption, Trick Throw got moved down to 9th level, but at the same time, it does replace 9th, 13th, 15th and 17th level style strikes.

The Flowing Monk, as presented herein, maintains the core redirection ability and bonus feat selection. However, in an interesting minor modification, unbalancing counter's flat-footed exploit can now be mitigated via uncanny dodge, an ability that has seen a continuous devaluation since its inception - thus increasing its value once again. While I like this, I do think that a caveat for higher level monks in relation to lower level opponents being able to bypass this, would have been prudent -as provided, this is a rather situational nerf. Flowing dodge has been changed from being attribute-based in its scaling cap to being capped by level, which imho is more elegant. At the same time, flowing dodge's relatively small benefits could have used a subsequent upgrade in this iteration, with a minimum of +2 per adversary seeming prudent -after all, the draw at low levels is that Wis-mod tends to result in a relatively lenient cap. Elusive Target does sport a very intriguing mechanic here - replacing 3 style strike abilities - the ability's damage-negation and strike-redirection has been codified anew in a rather intriguing manner, with the scaling feeling right in ways the base archetype's did not. The Volley Spell base ability's issue with identifying the spell cast to be volleyed has been inherited from the base archetype, but the exchange for the 15th level style strike means that it enter play slightly sooner and has a higher chance of being relevant - nice one!

Hamatulatsu Masters are represented herein as well - and might offer an issue. I'm not sure whether Hamatulatsu as a term is a closed IP-name or not, so I'd advise the Purple Duck Crew to double-check that. The ki-pool abilities of the Hamatulatsu Master are now gained earlier alongside the ki-pool, though they still replace Still Mind -not sure whether this is thus intended for 3rd level or whether it should be fourth - the ability does not specify Infernal Resiliency is gained at 5th level.

Next up would be the Harrow Warden, whose idiot strike remains in effect and Mute Hag Stance gained at 9th as established in the base archetype. However, thereafter, with both Big Sky Stance and Eclipse Strike being redesigned as ki powers - surprisingly, with the former potentially being available as soon as 8th level as opposed to 11th level in the base archetype - interesting choice, though one I can still kind of get behind, in spite of my dislike for the immunities the ability grants in the first place. Once again, I'm not sure whether "Harrow" is closed IP, so rebranding this as "tarot" or something like that may be required.

The Hungry Ghost Monk, as envisioned here, retains Punishing Kick as a basic 1st level attack-option, but modifies Steal Ki (gained at 5th level in lieu of purity of body)- the ability now allows for the shaking off of diseases the monk suffers from. Alas, much like Everyman Gaming's take on the archetype, this one does not deal with the base ability's failed kitten-test for replenishing a limited resource. The further abilities of the archetype have been redesigned as ki powers, an approach I enjoy, though, alas, much to my chagrin, the base archetype's kitten-issues haven't been fixed here either.

The Kata Master-archetype has been wholly redesigned - the archetype now has a linear progression of deeds far beyond what the non-unchained variant offered and, indeed, Cha now becomes the governing attribute for AC-bonuses. This decreased MAD over the base archetype does mean that (improved) evasion is replaced with (improved) uncanny dodge and instead of getting a ki-point, the panache-pool can be used to act as ki starting 4th level, in an interesting take also expanding the critical threat range of ki strikes. Furthermore interesting - a total of 6 different deeds are codified as optional ki powers for the kata master to take (or leave) and at 5th level, an Improved Critical applying to every weapon and unarmed strike emphasizes the focus on precise strikes implied by katas. The original kata master is a plug - it can be used to craft some nasty synergy-tricks...which is not bad, but it doesn't do a good job at representing the concept. This radical redesign is just what the doctor ordered - while a bit crit-centric for my tastes, this redesign actually FEELS like a monk focusing on kata - kudos and two thumbs up for going the extra mile!

The Ki Mystic for the Unchained Monk as envisioned here gains the base archetype's earlier ki-access and mystic insight at 5th level is retained. The latter abilities provided by the base-archetype all have been rewired as archetype-exclusive ki-powers with sensible minimum level requirements - kudos for allowing this flexibility.

The Maneuver Master monk's flurry of maneuvers, as imagined here, still retains a cap on maneuvers to be executed per flurry (unlike Everyman Gaming's take on the concept), but the cap scales with levels, allowing for up to 3 maneuvers per flurry and thankfully ignoring the base archetype's penalty to CMB. Maneuver Defense and Meditative Maneuvers can be found at 3rd and 5th level, while the three high-level options once again have been redesigned as archetype-exclusive ki powers - and odd decision in the latter two cases since the abilities have no connection to ki or ki-expenditure.

The Martial Artist as envisioned here, retains Pain Points at 3rd level and 4th level nets the usual fighter prereq-trickery and exploit weakness. Obviously, the other abilities, from extreme endurance to the physical resistance-tricks, replace the follow-up ki-powers gained over the levels - a solid take on the concept, though personally, I prefer Everyman gaming's switch of Exploit Weakness as an active ability to 3rd level. Also odd - the archetype retains Ki Strike, which it can't use.

Monks of the Empty Hand herein are covered in a bit more detail than I would have expected - Catch Off-Guard-interaction is actually explicitly pointed out, while the ki-pool's bonus abilities are relegated to 4th level and ki weapons being moved to 4th level as well, scaling akin to the base archetype's ability, replacing a total of 3 ki powers. Solid!

Monks of the Four Winds move slow time to 13th level, while Aspect Master and Immortality retain their places at 17th and 20th level, replacing a style strike and the capstone perfect self. While I don't really like the base archetype, the unchained version still is solid.

Monks of the Healing Hand codify all of their healing abilities as ki powers, with level-scaling and availability adhering to sensible principles and the capstone retaining its AoE true resurrection.

The Monk of the Lotus as presented here goes beyond the usual -while Touch of Serenity is retained at 1st level, 5th level sees a replacement for the style strike deals nonlethal damage with touch of serenity, rendering the archetype infinitely more feasible - kudos! Level 9 may be a bit beyond - creatures targeted by touch of serenity may only move or talk - yes, this actually allows you to lock down foes and come to nonlethal resolutions. Touch of Surrender and Touch of Peace replace the respective style strikes at 13th and 15th level, with learned master retaining its position at 17th level - I wholeheartedly enjoy the expansion of this archetype - it renders it more worthwhile and versatile. Kudos!

Monks of the Sacred Mountain, as presented here have Bastion Stance, gained at 3rd level, codified anew as a more flexible scaling that improves at 9th and 15th level - this minor modification is nice, though I'm still not sold on the base archetype's sacrifice of evasion and its improved brother for the relative paltry benefits it nets, but that's not something I should fault the unchained-conversion here, for - the scaling in the otherwise very strong bastion stance already is a step in the right direction in my book.

The Monk of the Seven Winds retains Lightning Finish and replaces the 5th level style strike with Endurance - bland. 9th level locks you in Defensive Spin as style strike choice and 17th level locks you into Flying Kick and Sirocco Fury is gained at 13th level, replacing the 13th and 15th style strikes - though I wished this got the italicization of duplicated SPs right.

Carl Cramér's interpretation of the Unchained Sohei allows for flurry of blow with non-monk weapons and retains the stunted cap of unarmed strike damage. Monastic Mount's benefits are gained at 3rd level and eliminated fast movement, with Ki Weapon being paid for by the stunted unarmed damage growth and gained at 4th level. Weapon Training is gained at 5th level. I like the expanded benefits the new scaling offers and the slight change of focus here.

Spirit Master monks move Spirit Combat to 2nd level (GOOD decision - sooner, active signature ability!) replacing evasion instead of the base archetype's maneuver training, while resilient soul remains at 3rd level, though it still replaces still mind, which is situated at 4th level. Diamond Strike is kept at 5th level and replaces the style strike there instead of the base archetype's purity of body. To offset this slight power-gain, the archetype moves Spirit Burst to two levels later, to 9th level, where it consumes the style strike gained there. At 11th level, Carl Cramér introduces a new ability - Stalwart. This is mettle (i.e. evasion for Fort- and Will-saves) by another name and constitutes one of my pet-peeves. I always hated this ability in all of its guises, but I have to grudgingly admit to being somewhat okay with it at this high a level...and it replaces improved evasion, so at least the archetype does not become an omni-saving monster. So yeah, a grudging "kudos" from yours truly. Spirit Flow is moved down to 13th level, which, in spite of the massive 6-level-jump, makes sense to me, as the original archetype's level 19 is too late for the ability to do much. Purifying palm remains at 15th level and the original archetype's capstone now is moved to 17th level - in case you've been watching carefully - yes, these replace the style strikes.

The Tetori, as one archetype that does not translate easily to the Unchained monk, receives a massive overhaul that completely rewires the archetype - essentially, we have a replacement of all ki-powers with tetori grappling techniques. I generally like the notion here, though I do consider Alexander Augunas' move of graceful grappling to 1st level more than the delay of tetori tricks featured here. On the plus-side, high-level constrict is a cool idea, though a glitch calls Iron Body constrict as well. All in all, a solid take on a difficult conversion.

Next would be Carl Cramér's Terra-cotta Monk - whose Trap Intuition receives an upgrade - it now only eats the second level bonus feat instead of evasion. Stone Grip paid for at 5th level with the style strike and trap dodge replaces the style strike at 9th level. Conversely, Sudden Adit replaces the one at 13th level, Petrifying Strike replaces the style strike at 15th level and rainmaker eats the style strike at 17th level. This one changes the base archetype in quite interesting ways - it gets rid of the non-sense loss of evasion of the base archetype, which I never got in the first place, so kudos there -I think this iteration does the concept better justice than the base archetype.

This pdf's take on the unchained Wildcat gets Improvised Weapon Mastery at first level, once again with Catch-off Guard caveat. The ability-distribution and payout of gained abilities versus ki-powers substituted make this a generally interesting one, though the ability-replacement forgot the 4th level ki power, which is obviously useless sans the ki-pool that is eaten by Brawler Maneuver Training. On a nitpicky tangent, one could also complain about the absence of ki strike being replaced, but that depends ultimately on whether you consider that a part of ki-pool or not.

Okay, so here we go - the Zen-Archer: The ranged Flurry of Blows gets the very first much needed caveat - a prohibition on combination with Manyshot and Rapid Shot -KUDOS!! In case you're not guessing this by now - the archetype spans almost two pages in its iteration herein - and has been massively redesigned. Let's e.g. take a look at Perfect Strike- still gained at first level, obviously, but at higher levels, the Zen Archer may expend ki to use the unarmed damage dice-size for her arrows - yes, that's up to 2d10. Furthermore, 12th level allows for Perfect Strike arrows to be rolled THRICE and take the highest result - yup, moved up two levels. 16th level lets them act as ki-focus....It#s the evil damage-output... The base archetype features for a reason in A LOT of evil builds and while the prohibition on multi-arrow-firing does take a bit of oomph away, this still is nasty. That being said, the dispersal of abilities and scaling at least means that the character has a good reason to keep leveling in the class. And 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter nets my favorite component of this archetype - so-called Style Shots. Completely new, these allow you to temporarily stagger foes, cover allies etc. - with higher levels allowing you to execute more Style Shots per round, with this ability replacing style strikes. Trick shot is moved to 13th level and, in an interesting decision, some monk class features lost can be taken as ki-powers. I do not think this archetype fits into all groups - it can be pretty nasty regarding its output - but at the same time, it is an infinitely better take on the concept than the base archetype, being more distinct and, with the focus on Perfect Strike, closer to the serenity implied by Zen Archery.

The pdf also covers some racial archetypes, the first of which would be the contemplative, whose awaken divinity ability remains at 1st level and spurn tradition can still be found here. Know the Unseen Disciples has been moved to 9th level, where it replaces improved evasion.

The Gray Disciple's fade from sight remains situated at 4th level, but all other spell-like abilities, including the earth gliding, entombing, etc., all have been redesigned as ki-powers, with earthen thrall being reduced minimum-level wise to 16th level to act as a potential alternate cap-stoney-high-level option that renders the archetype pretty flexible - I really like this modularity that allows you to customize the archetype beyond the non-unchained version's linearity.

The Ironskin Monk Hobgoblin archetype has some odd hiccups - the flurry of blows ability, for example, explicitly states that the archetype can execute it in light armor, when no line of the regular flurry of blows of the unchained monk prevents flurrying in ANY armor. Iron Skin and the bonus feat-list are retained, as is resilience. Ki-pool remains at 4th level and staggering blow at 5th - as a nice note: The DR the archetype can get explicitly stacks with diamond resilience as presented here. Like in Everyman Gaming's take on the archetype, surefooted is moved down a whole 4 levels to 13th - which may be a bit much for some groups.

Catfolk Nimble Guardians are subject to quite a modification in comparison to the base archetype, gaining Cha to AC and CMD and later increasing this bonus, making the archetype more Cha-focused, while also allowing them to substitute Cha for Wis for the purpose of Style-feat prereqs. Defensive Aid is gained at 3rd level and replaces, slightly odd, the 4th level ability still mind, with 5th level netting Defensive Mastery. Now here, thing become interesting - at 10th level, feline guardians do not lose their Dex-bonus to AC versus invisible attackers, nor are they caught flat-footed, as long as they have at least 1 ki point - this is actually great as it a) capitalizes on the trope of superb feline senses and intuition and b) emphasizes the guardian aspect further - a valid trade for the 10th level ki strike. Guardian Feline is gained at 13th level and replaces tongue of sun and the moon. Kudos and two thumbs up!

Oread Students of Stone are modified in that they no longer gain a bonus versus crit confirmation, but instead light fortification - interesting! Strength of Stone has also been significantly rewired, allowing for the gaining of scaling, ki-powered DR - kudos for rewiring Strength of the Stone thus! With Bones of Stone obviously thus rewired in the previous ability, the further upgrades replace improved evasion with better fortification, while 13th level nets soul of stone and 20th level keeping the capstone. The rewired DR makes the archetype more feasible - nice one!

The Vanara Treetop Monk has, oddly, Branch Runner mixed into Wood Affinity, though this part of the scaling ability is moved down to 3rd level, while freedom of movement replaces tongue of the sun and the moon at 13th level. A solid take on the archetype.

The Underfoot Adept's Underfoot Grace here has been redesigned...alas, here applies "If it ain't broken..." - the ability as presented scales your effective size, which is a good idea, but getting rid of the scaling of the base ability and granting level 1 full speed Acrobatics through threatened areas is pretty nasty and means that dipping into this archetype is MUCH too tempting. I really don't understand why the base archetype's sensible anti-dip scaling was done away here.

The Human Wanderer retains Far Traveler and long Walk, but oddly, the latter replaces still mind as gained at 4th level, not 3rd. 5th level nets Inscrutable, which oddly has been mixed with Light Step - an odd decision here - doubly so, since the ability is (EX/SP), when both base abilities are SU and obviously, the benefits are more mystical than mundane and the ki-powered SPs are obviously just that, something I never got in the original abilities. Still, a tad bit odd. Finally, the Disappear Unnoticed and Free Step abilities have been moved to 17th and 19th levels, delaying their acquisition significantly. Over all, a nerf I'm not sure the archetype required.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good -while I noticed some very minor hiccups, the Purple Duck crew did a good job here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no art but the cover, but needs none - I'd always take content over bling. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

When I saw this pdf, I wasn't particularly excited - checking unchained archetypes for consistency is a horrible pain in the behind and takes FOREVER. Furthermore, Alexander Augunas, one of the most reliably good designers of complex crunch out there has already taken the concepts and covered the archetypes. So no, I did not look forward to Carl Cramér's archetype-conversions herein. Well, I should have. While I won't lie - this review was grueling to write and research - the content here is very, very interesting.

What do I mean by that? The design-philosophy utilized herein differed from Alexander's in some key aspects. Everyman Gaming's Unchained Archetypes have opted for a very conservative paradigm, to which the individual archetypes are subjected. Subsequently, though, Alex genius as a designer did not have its usual space to shine, only breaking through when abilities required a radical rewiring.

This pdf, in comparison, did not establish a paradigm - instead, one can see how each archetype was hand-crafted and, when required, significantly modified to fit with Pathfinder Unchained. The intriguing part here is quite frankly this courage to play with the archetypes - to move abilities around -and to make some boring, linear archetypes more modular by codifying their class features as ki-powers, thus allowing players to select or ignore them. This level of choice, which the original archetypes did not provide, does result in overall more valid, more fluid designs and potential character concepts.

At the same time, a greater willingness to take risks obviously also translated into some minor hiccups I'm not 100% sold on and a less streamlined experience. If a 3rd level ability replacing a 4th level one via the application of an archetype annoys you on a design-aesthetic level, this pdf does sport cases like them. Personally, I don't mind much and instead enjoy the fact that the lack of a paradigm was translated into a higher playfulness with style strike-replacements and similar modifications of the base archetypes.

In fact, several of base monk archetypes I have always loathed, have simply a BETTER feel in Carl Cramér's Unchained take on them - most of the time, the archetypes now better represent the intent of their concept - and that is something that's worth a lot to me, something that does mitigate some of my more nitpicky complaints.

To cut a long ramble short - this pdf is MUCH better than anticipated, and personally, I actually even prefer it over the more streamlined approach of Everyman Gaming. If you're an experienced GM, you'll probably enjoy this pdf a tad bit more due to the ability to iron out decisions you don't like and the more variable frame-work. If you prefer a holistic, unified feel, Everyman Gaming's two pdfs may be more to your liking. But I'm rambling. My final verdict for this pdf will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin - kudos for a job done beyond what's expected and going the extra design-mile!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Unchained Monk Archetypes (PFRPG)
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Heroes of Azag-Ithiel
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/09/2015 03:45:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of Purple Duck Games rather evocative Player Guides/setting books for the regions of the Porphyra campaign setting clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 52.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As has become the tradition with this series, we begin with a rather nice piece of introductory fluff before delving into the racial variants that inhabit the lands depicted - and here, Azag-Ithiel, also known as the Newlands. The first of these variants would be the Forgeborn elves, who get +2 Con and Int, -2 Cha, low-light vision, elven immunities, +2 to CL-checks to overcome SR and Spellcraft to identify items, +2 to all Craft and Profession-checks, +2 to Appraise, +1 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) and familiarity with long- and shortbows, warhammers and all "elven" weapons and forgeborn elves with Int 11+ get comprehend languages, detect magic, detect poison, read magic as 1/day SPs. And yes, these elves are pretty much the tinkering, highly industrious gruff elves that value tradition...wait. Yes, these guys are essentially closer to dwarves than to elves, providing an uncommon take on the trope. All in all, I think the race is a bit high on the skill-bonuses, but that is me nitpicking - these guys will break no game. They also get a nice trait.

After the Porphyran variant of Half-elves (a solid variant, btw.), Half-Ogres are next. these brutes get +4 Str, -2 Dex and Int, low-light vision, darkvision 60 ft., +1 natural armor AC, +2 Climb and Intimidate, count as ogres and may 1/day get +2 Con and Str, -2 to AC in a frenzy that can be activated as a free action and lasts for 1 minute. I am NOT a fan of lopsided races that provide an attribute bonus of +4 to any attribute....buuuuut, as far as the concept of the half-ogre is concerned, you know, I'd actually allow these guys in my game, depending on the character concept. Just be aware of the slightly increased Str-maxing capability.

The variant of the half-orcs was a huge surprise -+2 Str, +2 Dex, -2 Wis, darkvision 60 ft., elven immunities (no, that is NOT a typo), +2 to Str-checks to break object and sunder, +1 Bluff/Disguise and Knowledge (local), 1/day fight on after being reduced below 0 hp and both elf and orc familiarity and counting as both orc and elf - yes, these guys are well-adjusted, socially apt elf/orc-hybrids and I absolutely love the twist on this tired old trope. At the same time, I wished the race got a bonus for a physical and mental attribute to gear the race less towards the more physical pursuits. The trait that nets minor bonuses to allies is also nice.

Kobolds in the Newlands get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str,a re reptilian, small humanoids, get darkvision 60 ft, +4 CMB to trip foes, +1 natural AC, treat perception and Stealth as class skills, detract 5 from the penalty when moving stealthily, -10 from the sniping penalty and have a unique ability: When two kobolds occupying the same square assault the same target, they are treated as if they are flanking the target. There is an issue here, though: RAW, this is an illegal move.

The PRD specifies:

Ending your movement: You can't end your movement in the same square as another creature unless it is helpless.

Accidentally Ending your Movement in an Illegal Square: Sometimes a character ends its movement while moving through a space where it's not allowed. When that happens, you put the character in the last legal square it occupied, or the closest legal position.

Now granted, this is a cornercase and you can simply make both characters use the rules for squeezing and hence, I won't bash the ability, but those of you keen on rules-integrity, I figured I'd mention this problem.

The next race here would be the two-headed taddol, depicted as nomads with a possible dwarven ancestry. They get +2 Con adn Wis, -2 Int, are medium and count as both elves and giants, have low-light vision, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Will-saves, +4 to fort-saves vs. disease and poison, do not lose their Dex-modifier when climbing or using Acrobatics to cross narrow/slippery surfaces and get two favored classes at first level and gain either +1 HP or +1 skill point when taking these. They also get +4 to Perception and a trait allows them to track well in mountainous terrain. This race feels, slightly, on the strong side of things - with quite a few pretty high skill bonuses and the relatively powerful dual favored classes, they feel like they get a tiny bit too much, but then again, I'm pretty conservative regarding races.

The final race would be the tengu, who get obviously the tengu subtype, +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, +4 Linguistics (+1 language learned per skill point invested), primary natural bites (1d3) and 2 claws (1d3 as well) and qualify as having the Improved Unarmed Strikes for the purpose of prereqs. The tengu also get poison use and +2 to Bluff and Diplomacy, with the option to shift attitudes up to 3 steps. A trait allows for easier squeezing here - interesting!

Now, it should be noted that none of the races come with favored class options or age, height and weight-tables, though due to consisting of variants, I'm not going to strictly hold that against the pdf. Still, I think for Half-Ogres and Taddols especially, including the age, height and weight-material at least would have been nice.

Azag-Ithiel receives a beautiful full-color map featuring the iconic porphyrite borders between lands -and it is pretty much an interesting place - breathing a certain American frontier's spirit, the lands of Azag-Ithiel are defined against more conventional regions by the unifying ideal of freedom - governed by the All Races Senate, every creature of the realm has a voice and regions send senators and provide elections - the region is, in one word, incredibly progressive for any kind-of medieval fantasy, a decision I personally like. The lands of Azag-Ithiel are further fleshed out by means of various settlements, all of which are provided with proper settlement statblocks - from the Metropolis of Paradigm to Khambir and Low'Enath, the settlements covered run the gamut from enlightened to being an utterly dangerous place - nice!

We do not end the pdf here, though - an assortment of class options is provided for character customization. And surprisingly, I did end up enjoying quite a few of them: Alchemists can slightly upgrade their bombs with piercing damage and high-level alchemists using explosive missiles and fast bombs may now combined the benefits of the two for iterative bomb-missile attacks. Barbarians dealing more damage with their fists while in rage is nice and I also like the option to ignoring scaling increments of difficult terrain - though the rage power refers to itself by an incorrect name in the special-line. Increasing the animal fury's bite attack's damage may sound nice - it's even cooler when you realize that this talent nets multi-headed characters a second bite! It also allows, via a follow-up ability, to execute a two-head-rend -nice. A valid bardic masterpiece that makes all allies less likely to die from damage and provides healing - the wording here, wrestling with an admittedly complex concept, is concise - kudos! Rangers can choose the relatively nice new polearm and thrown weapon styles, magi get synergy with primordial mystics and rogues can choose to expend ki to temporarily gain combat maneuver-feats and may increase poison DCs via sneak or hamper concentration DCs. Solid.

The pdf also provides a new base class, the pimordial mystic, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, scythe, sickle, shortspear, sling and spear and light and medium armor, but may not wear metal armor. They also constitute an alternate class for oracle and sorceror and receive 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves as well as Cha-governed spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level. At 1st level, the primordial mystic chooses an elemental attunement - he gets +1 CL when casting spells with the associated elemental descriptor (see handy table provided) and at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the primordial mystic receives an additional spell from his attunement. 3rd, 9th and 15th level provide access to a revelation from an associated mystery, using his primordial mystic level as oracle level. While the progression of the gained revelations is locked, this makes it possible to qualify for the revelation-based feats, obviously - it should be noted that energy resistance is explicitly forbidden from being gained thus. The classic elements or elemental attunement are pretty well balanced among themselves.

Beyond that, the class gets a primal pool of raw elemental energy at first level equal to 1/2 class level (min 1) + Cha-mod. Such a primal charge can be used to increase the CL of a primordial mystic spell cast by 1. The ability also ties in with the new spells presented herein, which sport essentially new abilities that can be added to the spell's effects at the cost of primal charge expenditure. Not only are some elemental attunement revelations powered by this resource, the charges can also be expended, starting 4th level, to assume elemental shape, with obviously scaling efficiency. 5th level and every 5 thereafter provide resistance 5 to the attuned energy type. 7th level nets Elemental Spell without increasing the casting time, while 13th level makes the application no longer increase the level. The capstone nets several powerful defensive capabilities -solid. The spell-list of the primordial mystic may be limited, but it is powerful -which is a good thing here. All in all, I like the framework of the class, but I wished it did slightly more unique things with its elemental tricks.

The 10-level Hulking Marauder PrC gets d10, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor, medium armor and shields as well as full BAB-progression and good fort-saves. Gaining Rage at first level and rage powers at 2nd, 5th and 8th level and may execute longer charges. 2nd level nets uncanny dodge. 3rd and 7th level provide armor training, with the latter adding in heavy armor proficiency. 3rd level provides immunity to fear, 6th improved uncanny dodge and 9th greater rage. The 5th level ability is interesting - When hitting with a melee attack at the end of the charge, the marauder can spend a swift action to automatically threaten a crit. The crit still has to be confirmed and the marauder can, thankfully, only use this 1/2 hulking marauder level times per day. The capstone allows for the combination of a full attack or vital strike with the end of the charge - ouch.

The Lithic Guardian PrC gets d8, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 6/10th spellcasting progression. The PrC stacks its class levels with classes gaining animal companions and can turn said companions into special lithic creatures, netting them the lithic guardian template for 1 hours per class level, to be spend in 1-hour increments. 2nd and every 2 levels thereafter also provide a "Favor of Stone" - these are only gained by the companion while in lithic creature form, with some obviously requiring actions to initiate. These include earth glide, better combat maneuvers, the Freeze-special ability, etc. While there are some minor oversights here (like spiked hide damaging only creatures attacking with natural weapons, when it should specify natural MELEE weapons as opposed to spines shot etc. and that it applies to unarmed attacks), this list is pretty nice. 3rd, 7th and 9th level providing scaling DR and 3rd level allows the lithic guardian to 1/day spend a standard action to grant herself +2 natural armor, -2 Dex for 1 minute per class level, +1/day at 5th level and every two levels thereafter. This would suck on its own, but is also allows for the use of a single favor of stone granted by the animal companion. 10th level provides 2 favors and infinite stone form.

The pdf also provides archetypes - the forgeborn Crystalline Chemist is a bomb specialist who adds better AC to mutagens, but at the cost of sonic vulnerability. Fist of the World Rangers bond with companions and generally can be considered more fighter-y rangers that can switch around weapon-specific feats and get racial weapon training. Shieldsworn Sentinel bards may quell emotions and receive scaling shield bash damage (NICE!) and quite an array of bonus feats, including a sworn community and improving it with arcane bond and better arcane armor. Student of the Forge fighters would be expert craftsmen. It should be noted that base-class, PrCs and archetypes feature sample NPCs for your convenience.

The pdf also provides an array of feats, allowing for increased primal pools, extension of racial qualities and e.g. the synergy of Elven Battle Training with Orc Weapon Expertise. Better two-weapon defense is also neat. I'm not perfectly sold on free application of the lithic creature template to all summoned nature's allies. An interesting feat would be one that awards you taking all those crappy +2/+2 skill bonus feats, further increasing their numerical bonuses -nice to see the few concepts where they make sense get some love. Indeed, a theme here seems to actually validate the selection of Alertness et. al. by providing thematically fitting, powerful follow-up feats - like Unearthly Perception: 1/round, when INTENTIONALLY examining an area, roll Perception twice and take the higher result. This is infinite double-rolls/better results, available at 6th level for anyone with Alertness of Skill Focus (Perception) - and don't get me wrong, I LIKE this notion, I really do - but I'm uncomfortable via the unlimited application. A daily cap, scaling, a cool down, something like that imho would be nice here...but then again, this may just be the feat you've always been hoping for. Executing AoOs with primary and secondary hand is also interesting, though the feat's second half seems to be confused whether it is two attacks, as mentioned once, or one attack, as implied half a sentence later. The wording of the second half is kind of jumbled here, with quite a few exception-clauses that may or may not be intended - this looks like it's been revised at one point, rendering the feat somewhat confusing.

The pdf also provides quite an array of elemental-themed spells that generally can be considered interesting, at least as far as elemental spells are concerned at this point - however, while most can be considered to be rather nice, there are some hiccups to be found here, with e.g. tidal thrust, referring to the cleric class instead of the druid-class in the text and failing to specify which attribute substitutes the CMB-calculation for the primordial mystic (obviously Cha, but all other classes are listed...) - while both are evident glitches and do not impede the use of the spell, I consider them distracting. On the plus-side, I really, really like that MANY of the spells utilize primal charges for more intriguing secondary effects.

The book also provides a significant array of magical ostraca and some items that interact with primal charges. Beyond that, I am thoroughly IN LOVE with the incredibly handy lists of gear available, sorted by category - the tables add effortless local color in game by virtue of availability and may even spark quests. Yeah, happened in my own game, when my players were annoyed that a magical liquor wasn't available locally, they started opening trade-routes... The mundane equipment provided allows for the application of barding via a complex stitching procedure to creature otherwise not eligible for barding, an essence to provide Will-save rerolls, tripping arrows and different war paints, ending the book on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed some hiccups, the majority of the book is indeed a clean and comprehensible work. On a rules-language level, the book is actually more precise than I anticipated, with quite a few complex concepts juggled and relatively few issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 2-column b/w-standard with nice, original full-color artworks and cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Unless I'm completely mistaken, this was the first book by Treyson Sanders I've reviewed and he has done a surprisingly good job - the book has identified several niches that are not well-covered in the rules and proceeded to provide options for them - while my personal tastes consider quite a few of them too powerful, this depends ultimately on the campaign you're playing and what you want to do with the characters - if, e.g. Alertness would NEVER be taken by any character ever in your game due to not offering enough incentives...well, here you go. The flavorful information on Azag-Ithiel was well-written and I found myself wishing, we got more information on the lands - this installment in the series has obviously been more crunch-heavy than previous ones. Personally, I wished the fluff was more extensive, but that may hearken to an issue I have as a reviewer here: Both me and my table are pretty much bored out of our minds by yet another elemental-themed class.

That being said, I actually like the idea of supplementing spellcasting with expenditure of a limited resource like primal charges - while I'm not sold on the balancing of all individual spells, with some primal charge bonus effects going clearly beyond what can usually be done with a spell at a given level, the system itself is intriguing and rewards player-agenda - which is nice indeed. At the same time, I found myself wishing the pdf had spread access to primal charges slightly further to diverse classes, granted more to the mystic and instead had nerfed the potency of the diverse bonus effects for a cleaner balancing. The system and spells won't break your game, but I'd still encourage GMs to carefully contemplate them.

It is evident that this is the "big" concept herein, with the two PrCs being pretty generic in my book; I've seen their like done before. The archetypes and feats once again provide some definite stars, though. And I love the lists and quite a few of the items. The racial variants generally are solid and while I like some ideas used, I also disliked some design-decisions there.

So, how to rate this? See, that's the difficult part - while personally, I'm simply not that blown away by yet more elemental spells, I try to award ingenuity (water being e.g. associated with nonlethal damage) and the primal charge tricks are pretty cool. At the same time, I did stumble over a few problematic wordings and some options that are definitely on the strong, depending on your campaign, potentially even on the OP end of things. In the end, I do consider this to be a mixed bag and slightly less intriguing than the previous installment, mainly due to Azag-Ithiel feeling more opaque, less defined than previous regions provided in Porphyra, some of which still rank among my favorite region-books/PGs out there. (Get Middle Kingdoms & the Siwathi Desert!)

Still, especially for a first offering, this is damn impressive and shows talent in diverse fields. My final verdict for this massive pdf will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform - I most definitely look forward to reading more from Treyson Sanders.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of Azag-Ithiel
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Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 1
by Terry O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/30/2015 20:11:12

I've finally had time to read Vol. 1 of Dispatches from Raven Crowking. I think it is excellent! There is so much fantastic advice regarding game-running and adventure writing that I'm sure many people, both novices and veterans, can benefit. Daniel Bishop does a great job of using clear, concise language to make his points with just enough elaboration to flesh things out without invoking "yes, I get it already" skimming. My favorite 3 articles are "Choices, Context, and Consequences," "Prepare for the Epic Endgame," and "Devising Initial Adventures for Dungeon Crawl Classics." I often found myself nodding along in agreement, and saying things to myself like, "Oh yeah, good point," and "Crap, I need to that more often." Excellent reading all around!

The only (very minor) gripes I had was that I felt like "Shanthopal," "Learning Spells on the Fly," and "Ammonites" seemed out of place and somewhat incongruous to the adventure-running-and-writing advice that occupies so much of the text. Admittedly, "Learning Spells on the Fly" may be a necessary postscript to "Devising Initial Adventures" but the inclusion of the other two articles was a little jarring. As I said before, these are minor gripes. In a perfect world, with no resource or time constraints, I'd have loved to see Daniel go beyond the brief examples given, and "break down" in detail selected elements of his Purple Duck adventures to elucidate the concepts he discussed. I think this would have tied everything together nicely and made a more coherent collection, rather than including the aforementioned 2 or 3 articles. I understand that such things are often impractical, but "squeaky wheel gets the grease" and all that.

I hope that "Vol. 1" means that a second volume is in the works. I have great respect for Daniel's artistry with the DCC ruleset, and hope that a collection of house rules and/or rules expansions/interpretations will someday be present in a unified collection (e.g., the Peasant Deed, Learning Spells on the Fly, etc.). Thanks again Daniel Bishop and Purple Duck Games for the great read!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 1
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Gold Legionaire
by Sérgio T. d. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/29/2015 22:27:05

With regards to layout and art, this file has a well-done 2-column layout you might know from other Purple Duck Games products, and the one illustration's on the cover, which depicts Uriska Vanguard, given a background and shown at levels 1, 5, 10, and 15 in the book's back.

From now on, this review is going to be ridiculously rules-centric - I guarantee I am not neglecting to talk about flavor aspects, and instead am talking about all there are: this class is a Good-aligned, melee-focused combatant that has abilities for protecting allies (and a small measure of offensive support to weapon-using allies). The fact that the flavor about ends there may be regarded as the first problem. (I actually don't, because I might reflavor anything anyway, but "a class being 'just mechanics'" is a relatively common complaint.)

The class requires being Good, and has: d12 HD, full BAB, good Fortitude (it does gain other save bonuses, so it's not a glass cannon saving-throw-wise), and a base of 2 skill points/level (I'd call this a problem in any case other than Int-focused classes, but it seems worse here: it has abilities that directly reward investment in Dex and Cha, and is built for melee combat, which adds at least Str; even if you consider its class features mitigate the need to invest in Con, Int would be its fourth-highest ability at best). Its skill list exchanges the fighter's Knowledges for Diplomacy and Heal; with this class being billed as a defensive specialist, I'd say that, if for nothing else, errata is needed to add Perception (Uriska has it at -1 even at level 15). Its equipment proficiencies equal the fighter's.

I'll list the class' abilities; in all cases, "up to" refers to an amount that increases with level.

  • ability to reroll one's attack or save, or force an opponent to reroll an attack against oneself or an adjacent ally, once/day (once/minute at level 20);
  • ability to sacrifice up to 4 points of AC to give double that to a single adjacent ally;
  • 1 AoO/round against someone entering a threatened square, once/day for any given opponent;
  • Stand Still, Bodyguard, In Harm's Way, and Swift Aid as bonus feats;
  • ability to give a bonus up to +3 to attacks, weapon damage, AC and saves to allies (including themselves) within 30 feet who follow the legionnaire's battle plans (as a move, or later on swift, action);
  • up to a +4 bonus to attacks and weapon damage against someone who attacked a friendly (including themselves);
  • up to 4 points of diminished ACP and increased maximum Dex bonus in armor;
  • 1 AoO/round against someone who hits an ally adjacent to the legionnaire;
  • saving throw bonuses against various threat types picked from a list like a ranger's favored enemies;
  • ability to move at normal speed in medium and later heavy armor;
  • ability to make AoOs against 5-ft. steps and withdrawing by adjacent (not "within reach") opponents;
  • improving the aid another bonus to attack or AC from +2 up to +5;
  • level/2 bonus against others' use of Acrobatics and for using Stand Still;
  • Cha modifier extra AoOs/round.

You may or may not have noticed I listed these at random, not in the order they come for the class. Considering that the bonuses generally start from +1, is there any of those class features that looks out of place - as in, can you tell in what order they should be in, because some of them couldn't be given out at low levels? If not, I'd say this shows a character with this class doesn't grow enough as levels pass (obviously, this isn't a problem at low levels). On to specific comments ...

I'd say its +level/2 bonus against Acrobatics and for Stand Still is the big ability of the class, in that it, along with some other basic measures (e.g. reach weapon, enlargement), does allow the legionnaire about a 50% chance of preventing same-CR melee-focused monsters from moving past - higher for lower-CR monsters, so you may have a good chance of holding on to multiple lower-CR monsters. This assumes (generally correctly) lack of Acrobatics on their part; some do have it, but you usually can do the job; beware of close-in-CR extremely-high-Dex monsters with Acrobatics (because those can go through you at half speed near-automatically and may have high speed), and any close-in-CR monster with high Str and high Dex (assume you won't beat their CMDs). Lastly, some of your opposition may teleport past you at middle and especially high levels.

Swift Aid is generally only to be used if the party already gets competence bonuses to attacks or AC (say, from a bard); otherwise, at the level you get it, you already can use authoritative command (see next paragraph) as swift action to a give a bonus about 1 point lower, much more broadly applicable, to as many allies within 30 feet as are willing to follow battle plans.

The class has, starting at 5th and 6th levels, features for which the number of targets you can have at once depends on your skills (respectively, Diplomacy and Intimidate). Three things: A) somebody might arrive at those levels without having trained those skills; B) given that the class has MAD (multiple ability dependency), without Int being one of the directly-relevant abilities, training in both skills leaves the legionnaire with very little choice in skills; C) the ability that gives bonuses to attack enemies (though, to be fair, it's triggered by seeing allies attacked) relies on Diplomacy, while the ability that gives bonuses both offensive and defensive allies relies on Intimidate - those might appear reversed to some readers; also, while the latter does say explicitly that allies are under no obligation to follow orders from the legionnaire (if willing to forego the bonuses), the phrasing as "commands" and "orders" and indeed the name "authoritative command" might irk some and/or cause metagame/out-of-game concerns.

In those cases where an enemy can't for whatever reason (being a non-earth elemental, teleporting) be prevented from closing in on a legionnaire's ally, the latter has abilities that help adjacent allies. However: A) if an enemy bypasses the legionnaire by coming between the latter and their ally, the legionnaire will have to (when able) to move for those abilities to start applying; B) the legionnaire confers no resistance to area effects (not just the ones that allow saving throws) other than the bonus of up to +3 to saves, so trying to protect adjacent allies may increase the party's vulnerability to area effects; C) design intent seems to assume that the gold legionnaire has allies that are, so to say, crunchy and filled with ketchup, which is why somebody else's dedicated to protect them; however, the AC bonuses it can confer on adjacent allies, for example, at level 10 form a total of +5, and at level 15, a total of +10 - if the allies really are crunchy and filled with ketchup, they'll still be easy to hit after those bonuses (although no longer 100% guaranteed); the fact that it can facetank a hit/round after knowing it'd hit with In Harm's Way does help (facetanking a bite can guarantee an ally won't be swallowed, for example), but the legionnaire seems to still be at its best away from allies holding back enemies with Stand Still when that's an option; alternatives here could've been parrying attacks against allies with opposed attack rolls (more readily comparable numbers), or just giving adjacent allies miss chances (simple, stops whatever percentage of attacks is considered appropriate no matter how low allies' initial ACs are). Also, it could have some ability to cover allies' retreats in cases where opponents already caught up to them.

Given what the class does and how (say, Stand Still), characters are encouraged to grow in size and get reach weapons, but some abilities only work on adjacent targets.

Retaliate allows you to, well, retaliate once an adjacent ally has been hit, but doesn't allow you to whack in the back of the head someone who just hit your ally on their opposite side - could this ability only require you to threaten the opponent, instead of both that and your ally being adjacent?

The file includes alternate favored class benefits, which include, among others: +level to CMD against 2 combat maneuvers; +level to Intimidate; +level/2 to AoOs; +level to AoOs against targets 2 or more size categories larger (on the halfling, which should benefit frequently even without figuring a way to be effective while using reduce person; that said, halflings do tend to be at a disadvantage with melee zone controlling classes).

Besides me considering the lack of Perception as a class skill grounds for errata, there's another (this one small) mistake: Uriska's level 15 version has intercept +5 (should be +7).

In closing, this class' level of effectiveness is about "what a fighter would be if there was a greater number of ally-protecting feats available", it can contribute in this capacity provided the adventure plays to its style (i.e. protect fragile allies from monsters who want to reach them in close combat and lack sophisticated methods of doing that), doesn't have any great variety of choices in play, its out-of-combat contributions consist of its skills (basically Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Survival) and the flavor aspects are extremely basic.

Out of the following scale:

1: no reason to even read this; 2: there may be good ideas inside, but it's unusable as-is; 3: usable, but unimpressive; 4: impressive; 5: I look at it and can't conceive how to improve it (i.e. I don't intend to give this ever, but who knows);

this class gets a 3.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Gold Legionaire
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Monster Advancement: Enhanced Fey
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/25/2015 03:02:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Monster Advancement-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

In case you haven't read my review of the previous Monster Advancement-installment - the basic premise of this series is simple: provide a concise, template-based toolkit to customize your creatures and make them more interesting than slapping a bland simple template on it - instead, the goal of these book and their achievement lies within the construction of a concise, big toolkit for GMs to use when crafting the respective monsters.

As in the previous installment, novice GMs do receive some advice on properly codified DR-stacking and researching the unique abilities sported by the modified fey featured herein and yes, there are obviously some thematic overlaps with the previous installment on undead - you will find breath weapons herein (again, with 3 damage-entries per CR), abilities that allow you to create fey with elemental themes and obviously, basic monster abilities like regeneration et al. are mong the tools a GM can add to fey via this toolkit.

Now if you think that this constitutes a carbon copy of the previous installment, you'd be wrong - obviously, the divine holy/unholy component is less pronounced here and mastery of animals and plants can be found in a multitude of cases herein. The general theme of luck/misfortune and curses also suffuses the modifications available within these pages. Intoxicating frolicking, commanding confused characters and euphoria-inducing abilities complement the themes of the fey further, while evasion and scavenging in bardic trickery, poison kisses and the like also feature herein. If, like me, you enjoy supplements and publishers actually cross-promoting, psioncis and pact magic-support will most certainly bring a smile to your face.

In the case of the optional flaws that reward PCs doing their legwork and the option for fey to go into dormancy, further options enhance the respective creature types further. Now if you've been designing monsters, you'll run into one issue: Fey traits pretty much suck. Not as bad as giants, but oh boy. Thus I pretty much enjoyed the fact that fey may scavenge in the properties and immunities of other creature types. Thankfully and unlike just about every monster book I've read, general suggestions to improve fey without changing the component of fragility and trickery can be found herein - though personally, I consider it a pity that no rules for super-illusion fey-glamers are provided.

The pdf also provides advice on properly using the template and 6 sample creatures made with the rules herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks beyond the cover art, but needs none. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Julian Neale had a tough task in this pdf - I'ma huge fan of fey and loathe how much they tend to suck in PFRPG and how the basic fey fail to convey the component of alien psychology that ultimately renders fey distinct and memorable. Well, the former is not fixed, but that is not the task of a crunch book; what is fixed, though, would be an array of problems regarding predictability when exactly that concept should be anathema to fey. The toolkit presented within these pages is fun, concise, easy to use and over all, a good addition to a GM's arsenal. At the same time, though, I found myself wishing more than once that there was slightly less overlap with the undead and, more importantly, that this sported a means for fey to expand their penchant for illusions beyond the capabilities and providence of mortals. It should also be noted that this toolkit does not cover the abilities traditionally associated with the unseelie - shadowtheft and changeling-making, undead mastery and time-control would not be aspects found herein, rendering the toolkit very much in tradition with the depiction of mainstream fey by necessity of design-assignment.

At the same time, though, I felt as though exactly this rendered the overall toolkit feeling slightly less encompassing than the previous one, even though it is longer. However, at the same time, this pdf actually tries to do what few pdfs try - fix something that is not working as it should. This is a pretty big deal for me, for especially novice GMs should certainly find some sound advice herein to make their fey last longer and feel more efficient...and magical. Hence, I can still award this 5 stars + seal of approval, for what is here, is rather great.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Advancement: Enhanced Fey
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Monster Advancement: Enhanced Undead
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2015 02:59:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the monster advancement-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

So what do we have here? Essentially, this pdf provides one expanded, massive, extremely customizable templatey toolkit to enhance undead (d'uh), but with a focus of skeletal champions and zombie lords, thematically - so no, VtM-fans, you won't find a huge array of vampiric powers in here, though the modifications within this book are generic enough to be applicable to just about any undead - the primary focus (and thus mechanical execution) simply is different.

Basically, the template provides one special quality per 3 points of CR, though capable GMs should have no issue playing with the pretty simple base mechanics. At the same time, though, novices are not left in the proverbial dark with the undead: Instead, what we have here, is a concise depiction of the thought-process behind the undead - from researching special abilities to an actually concise explanation of DR-enhancement (and any designer who tried to write one of those will appreciate the effort!), the explanations are nice indeed.

Now as for the content provided, we actually go one step beyond what one would expect - with e.g. support for Pact magic by Radiance House Press, we can see an example of commendable 3pp-camraderie. Beyond this instance, though, we have more than basic augmentations: Necrotic pustules for plagued undead, disease-causing breaths, auras of despair, soul devouring, ability drain - you name the basic, nasty tricks and they're here. However, even beyond these, especially GMs in horror-themed campaigns (or those of you fed up with certain tactics) will cackle with glee upon reading of undead that can temporarily shut down divine casting, those that act as dimensional anchors or negative energy breath weapons.

Speaking of which: Julian Neale is one of the few designers I know who is VERY MUCH into the nit and grit of math - so much so that his designs tend to look less impressive than they actually are in gameplay: Here, though, this predilection works exceedingly in his favor - if you're going for a breath weapon, you'll have a massive table for each CR from 3 to 20, sporting 3 entries - one with smoothed and pretty continuous output, one that is swingy and, if that's how you roll (or rather, not roll), one containing damage averages. That is above and beyond of what I expected - kudos for going the extra mile!

With Kyuss-style vermin-mastery, better undead control, gaze attacks, object-ruining claws, desecrate auras, telekinesis, flawless two-weapon fighting and a significant and upgradeable array of SPs, the undead herein can be made truly deadly and versatile. Following a design-tenet near and dear to my heart that rewards players for their legwork, flaws are presented as optional modifications, as are specific armors. Skill bonuses and subtype-acquisition are listed as further means of modification. Beyond simply providing this massive toolkit and leaving you alone with it, advice on actually using it is provided - as are 6 sample undead, including a lamia juju zombie inquisitor or a mummy cleric.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting, while not perfect, can still be considered pretty good. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but ultimately needs none. The pdf comes fully and extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

Julian Neale, as mentioned above, is a designer who quite frankly should see more exposure - his humble and often intriguing designs, with their unpretentious subtlety can be pretty much a joy to read, especially when tackling monsters etc. This pdf, then, plays his strengths perfectly - what we have here is basically a nice, complex toolkit that blends basic and more complex options and allows a GM to quickly and efficiently customize the undead that his players have destroyed time and again and bring the fear of them back. As far as I'm concerned, I thoroughly enjoyed this toolkit and consider it definitely superior to simply slapping a bland "advanced" template on a creature - this kit changes tactics, and often in a rather crucial manner. Every fan of the undead and horror GMs in particular should take a look at this. While you won't find inspiring fluff herein, the toolkit and its rules very much make for a fun addition that will keep the players on their toes. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Advancement: Enhanced Undead
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FT 2 - The Portsmouth Mermaid
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/18/2015 02:40:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 42 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

This being a review of a module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. You do NOT want to spoil this module, believe me.

...

..

.

All right, only judges remaining? Great! We begin this module in the aftermath of the superb first two DCC-modules in the series, 15 miles south of the Grimmswood wherein the PCs had ample challenges of the most peculiar and interesting kind. If you haven't read the first two modules, let me recommend them wholeheartedly.

So, Yuletide is upon the less-than-subtle named town of Portsmouth and the adventure takes place during the 12 days of celebration in town - the problem here being that things are not simple. In fact, the town, once known for the rich seafood that could be wrestled from the waves had seen a plunge of efficiency only rectified in the relatively recent history - unbeknown to the PCs, there is a power struggle going on between servants of Dagon and his esoteric order and Cthulhu cultists - but that only serves as a kind of backdrop and variant on the theme, for essentially, this is an adaptation most twisted of the Little Mermaid: Prince Manxus was saved from certain death by her and while she had lost her voice due to the deal with the Sea Witch and while every step on land hurts horribly, the mermaid has managed to capture Manxus' heart. Until the Dagonites intervened with the tantalizing hybrid Orne and a magical orb, seeking to seize control over the town. The timer is ticking and the fate of the town is at stake - as is the mermaid's very soul.

And yes, the tl;dr version would probably be "The Little Mermaid" in Innsmouth. Now, admittedly, this type of reductionist summary would not do the module justice. Why? Because this can be considered pretty much an impressive sandbox that presents the town in lavish detail, while also preventing a time-driven time-line of events that feature read-aloud text and the like. With rumors and signs of the hybrid-inbreeding associated with the very theme of Innsmouth, we have a significant level of detail an atmosphere, against which a judge can craft a tale most harrowing: The contrast of cthulhoid horror and the gothic horror elicited by the original fairy tale can be considered a truly stunning experience if handled with proper care.

Much like in the previous modules of the series, I find myself often wondering how to adequately portray the module, mostly due to one simple fact: This one lives by the details. The disparate themes are crafted together in a concise way that very much lives from the details, which ultimately also can be used to govern the investigation towards its conclusion. What level of detail? Well, what about mapped tunnels below the town? Street names? Aforementioned tables? Now don't get me wrong - this is a sandbox and as such, it does require some investment on behalf of the DM to properly pull off. At the same time, though, it does generate a compelling and unique atmosphere that deviates significantly from the goal one would assume a module featuring the theme of degeneration. Oh, and in which other module does it actually make sense to ally yourself with cultists of cthulhu on a mission of love? Yeah, pretty awesome. The conclusion of this investigation, though, ultimately will see its fair share of confrontation, so yes, if you're itching to roll some bones and kick some Dagonite ass in the name of love, that's part of the deal as well.

It should be noted that the beautiful full-color maps comes with player-friendly versions and even as high-res jpgs - nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to an elegant, old-school 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Furthermore, the module sports numerous gorgeous original b/w-artworks and the maps, as mentioned before, in player-friendly and high-res versions - kudos for going above and beyond.

Daniel J. Bishop has a wonderful style - he can write creepy, disturbing sword and sorcery material with a great pulpy old-school flair, yes. But the unique characteristic of his writing and what makes me actually run his modules, is that he can blend this with a subdued whimsy and a feeling for the mythological that is grounded in well-researched tasks and a broad basis of knowledge of topics that resound.

Arguably, the themes of this module should not work with one another, but their synthesis is so well-crafted and so compelling, it ends up actually working. That being said, this is not only a module - in fact, you could easily enjoy this module as a sourcebook of an interesting, disturbing town, providing a truly captivating look at yet another glorious facet of the world he's weaving. With optional tie ins and information on the repercussions of the first two modules, in case they have been played, this one becomes yet another triumphant installment in the series and further cements Daniel J. Bishop as an excellent writer whose adventures I very much anticipate with a baited breath.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FT 2 - The Portsmouth Mermaid
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Rangers of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/12/2015 09:34:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This take on rangers clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 1/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 3/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction (sporting a LotR-quote), we dive into the first archetype, which is pretty much a simple archetype for mounted-themed halflings that gets rid of the size penalties to CMB/CMD as well as favored enemy bonuses versus additional subtypes of humanoids - pretty solid.

The Greenrunner can influence the attitude of plants and are locked into certain terrain types - they also need to get a plant companion. Again, a simple, yet flavorful option. Moon-Rangers would be rangers with a more esoteric bent - using a combination of their increased Sense Motive and spells, they may see past magically disguised alignments in a way that scales appropriately with the skill of the opposing creature. Nice! In lieu of Endurance, they get orisons based on Wis from the cleric-list and they also get access to ranger spells at the usual reduced level -3 instead of ranger spells. The class also offers an interesting mechanic, which allows for the increase of CL by 1 for wis-mod rounds - of either the ranger or his allies.

Only issue: The range of "allies" is not specified. Do they need to have line of sight? Line of effect? How many allies? They can also set up ambushes via Stealth - these grant allies and themselves a bonus to atk, saving throws and Stealth checks, with the bonus granted depending upon the check's result. Problem: Can the ranger take 10 or 20? How many allies can benefit from one such plan? Granted, neither ambiguities break the game, but they are annoying glitches that could have easily been avoided.

The Purple Sage Rider begins play with a free mount and upgrades that to mount at 4th level. Instead of favored enemies, the rider receives a scaling bonus to an assortment of skills that pertain infidels, i.e. followers of a certain deity. Beyond these, amateur gunslinging and abilities that interact with the unique porphyrite borders of Porphyra make for cool options. (In other settings, I'd suggest substituting either magical borders like the mists of Ravenloft or terrain borders).

Now Iron Gods-fans and people enjoying the technology-guide may enjoy the less than subtle Space Ranger! - quoting excessively early scifi, they get unarmed combat, firearm proficiency and a ranged combat style. More importantly, he begins play with an HEV suit with vacuum protection and flying capability as well as an utility belt that has significant carrying options and sports a bunch of items from the get-go. The suit has a laser pistol and a drive that can drain the ranger's constitution to refill a battery on a 1:2-basis. The suit also sports an augury and some detect-capability. This eats not only spells, starting equipment and wild empathy, but also woodland stride. The first terrain choice would be vacuum (normally not on the list), with higher levels upgrading the suit. I enjoy this archetype more than I expected, though I think that feats like technologist etc. could have been used to further emphasize the unique take of this archetype. Beyond that, I'm not sold on unassisted flying at 1st level - some limit that scales up to proper flying would be imho cooler and less problematic for some campaigns, perhaps with the 12th level upgrade increasing that to jetpack levels. The suit could also have used a better dispersal of abilities among the levels - as provided, it still makes the archetype too good for low-level dipping in my book - and indeed, with spells etc. gone, that's the most efficient way of sing this one.

The pdf also provides arm-cannons and double-barreled arm cannons as well as melee sap-drainers. 3 sample plant companions as well as info for interaction with the Xesa-race are provided. The pdf sports two new feats - one that prevents you from being considered helpless while sleeping, bound or unconscious, with the odd sentence: "Rogues cannot sneak attack against you when you are helpless, unless they could otherwise do so." I literally have no idea what this means or how this component of the feat works.

The second feat is just as confused: "As a standard action, you can parry melee attacks with a bow or crossbow, granting the benefits of fighting defensively while drawing a melee weapon, and still receiving a move action. You bow does 1d4 points of bludgeoning damage."

This makes no sense and shows that the author does not understand how fighting defensively works. First: Fighting defensively =/= Total Defense. Fighting defensively is executed as part of a standard action or as part of a full-attack action, thus doing exactly nothing to diminish the move action a character has or doesn't have. Dropping a weapon is a free action. Sheathing a weapon is move action. Drawing a weapon, if combined with a move and executed by a character with a BAB of +1 or higher, is a free action. Furthermore, the feat should not lock the bow to arbitrary damage, but specify that using it as a melee weapon deals this amount of damage. These two feats are sloppy and unbecoming of the content provided so far.

On the plus-side, the 3 magic items are solid and nice - herb-pouch with charges that requires some healing knowledge, terrain-coded stones and reforged blades - okay. The spells herein are a mixed bag - a variant of cure for plants only, one that increases "The former effect increases the herbal potency of a plant, so that a Craft (alchemy) check to use the plant’s properties will be increased by 1 per casting." So one could stack that up? If so: Broken. If not...huh? Herbal potency? Wut iz zis? Please specify! A risky calling of undead to answer questions is pretty cool, but probably won't see much use at tables. Calling an alignment-dependent companion for one task is nice and a plant-themed aspect is okay.

The pdf also sports one sample level 9 moon ranger with two regional traits. The sample character uses the wrong HD - rangers have d10, not d8.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid on a formal level. On the rules-language level, they are just as varied in quality as almost always with Perry Fehr's crunch-centric offerings - partially great, partially horrible. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports the cool color-artwork.

This is frustrating to say the least. I really, really want to recommend this pdf is a more glowing light - the concepts for the rangers are solid and cool and technology-guide synergy is pretty cool as well. The archetypes once again show that author Perry Fehr can execute proper concepts and complex crunch. And then, sloppiness sets in - the two feats are glaring wrecks - how they got past any editing, I don't know. The spells and other supplemental content ranges in quality from okay to nice and the incorrect HD are another hiccup.

This installment could have easily been 4.5 stars, perhaps even a close 5, but the rough edges and partially glaring glitches, drag this down to a point where I can't rate it as high as I'd like to. While I still consider this pdf worth the very low price-point (if my complaints above did not annoy you, go for it!), I can't rate this pdf higher than 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Rangers of Porphyra
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Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/22/2015 03:38:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion to Purple Duck Games' great system of covenant magic clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

We begin this pdf with a handy page of FAQ regarding some of the more peculiar questions of covenant magic that did not arise from issues, mind you, but rather from the system's admitted complexity. With a concise definition of occult spirits, the pdf does provide a nice list.

I do assume familiarity with covenant magic for this review, so in case you need an explanation of the concepts, I'll refer to my reviews of the original covenant magic pdf and its expansion.

We begin with a total of 6 new influences for mediums to choose from, with Dark Hedonism constituting the first and providing future-proof support for the Monsters of Porphyra II patreon project, though remaining perfectly functional without that - the focus here, obviously, lies on trickery and enchantment. The more benevolent Elysian Blessings influence provides a surprisingly diverse array of trance SPs that center around the theme of freedom, with covenants allowing for resilience and a focus on themes identified for azata.

Faith Slayers can be considered not only atheists - they are the true foes of the divine, engaging in pretty despicable acts with a theme of self-buffing and a latent Übermensch-style ideology suffusing the spell-like ability and covenant choices. I do consider this one slightly problematic in that it is codified straight as evil, with the capstone making this abundantly clear - while I realize that fanaticism never creates a helpful breeding ground, I have seen my fair share of religiously motivated hypocrisy and issues in real life - when taking this up to the n-th degree, one can easily construct cases in which direct and violent opposition towards deities in a magical setting does not need to be evil - imho, we have a lost chance for a shades of gray duality here, instead opting towards the general concepts espoused by the asura.

The Kyton Enlightenment on the other hand is more versatile than the oftentimes reductive depiction of kytons in mainstream PFRPG. Why? Because BDSM in most mainstream media, including PFRPG is codified as evil, as something to revile, as something inherently sinister - and I get why. That being said, I have always considered this to be a pretty much massive flaw, an undue reduction of a variety of compelling concepts - the self-flogging martyr achieving spiritual ecstasy through pain, the yogi - one can field ample examples wherein the concept of enlightenment through pain need not be connoted with evil and thankfully, the kyton enlightenment influence, while retaining the somewhat sinister theme of kytons is not coded as evil - nice!

Guardians of the fallen can elect to choose the new Sacred Duty enlightenment, associated thematically with psychopomps and thus can be pictured as slayers of undead, with a hex-like cap on the otherwise extremely powerful harm-only heal Spell-like ability. But all of these pale in awesomeness when compared to the qlippothic redeemer: Know how most qlippoths try to end all life yaddayaddayadda? Well, these guys are more constructive! The souls of chaotic evil beings flood the abyss and generate demons, right? So how can the qlippoths stem the tide, hope to regain their supremacy? Well, what about converting those pesky psychos and leading them on a path of redemption? I.e. doing the right thing for the most wrong reason possible? This enlightenment is GLORIOUS -related to an evil outsider race, it is predisposed to work well for good and neutral characters, mirroring in SP and trance covenant selection a theme of redemption and kindness. The roleplaying potential of these guys is VAST and the great full color artwork of one of them is ncie to see as well.

The Technophobe archetype is great for everyone using the Technology Guide, poaching in remove radioactivity and similar tricks - essentially, these guys can be considered the anti-technology mediums - solid!

We also get a diverse array of new covenants, ranging from least to superior - from magical khopeshs to strikes that temporarily neuter the ability to cast divine magic (with a hex-like 1/ 24 hours-balancing caveat), grant yourself regeneration (with means to offset it) or a stun-inducing gaze attack that also helps you take down those pesky demons. All in all, the respective places in which they're gained make sense, with superior covenants providing massive benefits, with least covenants provide nice imagery and solid low level options.

The pdf also provides statblocks - a medium 4/ranger 1, an animist druid, a tiefling, dwarf and green hag medium, even a tengu and a high-level CR 17 foe. The pdf closes with 3 minor pieces of errata for its predecessor file - which imho should have been updated in that file instead of featured in this pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues. layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly 2-column standard with a nice page of full-color artwork featured as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Julian Neale is one of the designers that deserves more attention than he gets - his designs tend to be not too flashy, that is true. But they have a very humble elegance in many instances and this is no different. Oh well, wait, it is - actually, here, Julian has went all out - the concepts as presented herein began pretty solid, if unremarkable and then, BAM, the qlippothic redeemer. This influence alone is worth the asking price for the vast myriad of narratives one can weave from the theme - I can literally sketch a whole campaign based on the concept introduced herein. Yes, this is awesome. The solid technology-related archetype is a nice bonus and the covenants provided are diverse as well. While I am not a fan of all design-decisions herein, with especially the amount of apotheosis-capstones boring me at this point, this does boil down to personal preference more than any true and valid gripe I could field against this pdf. In the end, this is an inspired expansion and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
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