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Campaign Kits: What Lies in the Shadows Under the Trees
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2017 05:40:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Campaign Kits-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, what are campaign kits? Basically, they are backdrops and encounters that you can insert into your campaign; in previous installments, we had the skeleton of a village, loosely tied to a theme. This theme is represented in more detail by a collection of more detailed encounters that provide a tad bit more detail - haunts, traps and statblocks for these brief adventure/sidetrek-sketches are included. This installment differs a bit from previous installments of the series - instead of focusing on encounters that are intended for the use with pretty much any forested terrain.

This time around, the encounters contained here will range from level 1 to level 6 and have not hub to tie them together - think of this instead as a general sidetrek-encounter-collection. Got that? Great!

In order to go into more details, I have to start with SPOILERS now...thus, potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first locale/encounter-sequence takes place in an ancient fey burial site and features the altercations with a leaf ray and a jack-o'-lantern, with options to put the spookyness to rest. At level 2, we have a little safari scenario that can result in an evil druidic item to be found and destroyed. The second level 2 scenario presented here focuses on defending a caravan versus roving goblinoids.

More interesting would be the level 3 encounter up next, which is an interesting twist - the PCs encounter a man who asks them to help prevent further disappearances of loggers; what might first look like an opportunity to save a damsel in distress...who turns out to be a rather pissed off dryad who is NOT in a good mood...including her enslaved humanoids and assassin vine...

The next level 3 encounter would be a hunting party scenario, complete with traps and moss trolls potentially trading places as hunters and hunted in the interaction with the PCs. The next encounter does have a sad dimension to the proceedings - the PCs happen upon a down on his luck ringmaster and the tiny, dilapidated circus he owns...and, as they take a closer look, they are attacked by the unleashed beasts, as the sad ringmaster tries everything to feed his hungry dire wolverine, owlbear , etc. - if you enjoy a melancholic downer-encounter once in a while, this certainly delivers.

The encounter for level 4 would be "Don't Open the Gate!", where the PCs stumble upon an evil acolyte trying to open the very gates of the abyss, conjuring forth demons - pretty straightforward. The level 5 encounter centers on the plight of a druidess, who has a bug-issue, powered by the evil magics of a hostile witch - an extermination job for pros! At 5th level, the PCs can also be hired by saddened folks who think that local brownies have turned evil - though the culprits for the recent deaths, as it turns out, would be fire drakes.

The level 6 encounter speaks of a mist-shrouded tower in the forest and braving the locale will require the defeat of a wood golem as well as the besting of Twigsnap, gnomish necromancer par excellence. As always, we get stats for the creatures and NPCs encountered in the respective encounters.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a very nice, aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard and the pdf features some really nice full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kalyna Conrad's collection of forest encounters is fun, diverse and hits some nice notes in some of the respective encounters. Not all are mega-interesting, but for what they try to do and the relatively fair price-point, I can see these work as an expansion for the sidetrek-folder of most GMs. I generally like the options here and they certainly are worth the low asking price for the convenience of the stats, the set-ups, etc. - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. Nice one!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits: What Lies in the Shadows Under the Trees
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Campaign Kits: Maidenhill and Her Many Secrets
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2017 05:35:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Campaign Kits-series clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is a campaign kit? The simple reply to this question is that is somewhere between a dressing file and a sequence of encounters that can be developed into basically a collection of different little modules. We get the small city of Maidenhill, with full-color map (alas, sans key-less version, but since it has no SPOILERS, I'm okay with it) and settlement statblock - Maidenhill can easily be placed in pretty much any campaign setting: You just need a forest and a river.

The city itself is pretty sketch-like and basic in its depiction - it basically acts as a kind of everyday village backdrop for the encounters/adventure-sketches presented herein; we get 2 level 1, 2 and 3 encounters/modules as well as 1 for levels 4, 5, 6, and 7. Why am I using these brackets? Well, the respective sections do provide the required statblocks to run them in appendices, but as a whole, these scenarios are basically organic little sidetreks - they are basically starts and set-ups for modules, but still require the GM to steer the respective adventure and build upon it.

Okay, got that? Great, so let's take a look at these, so let's dive deep into SPOILER territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the angles for the level 1 would be that transients have been going missing - travelers, homeless...but why? Is the mayor involved? What about the rumor that a local vampire is covertly living here, tolerated for as long as he leaves the locals alone? Fact or fiction - the GM decides. The second one has the PCs hunt down a particularly nasty wild boar that has attacked a supply train...which yields not only a reward in food, but also in bacon.

At 2nd level, we have an investigation of a mill haunted by ill-fortune, where components of the mill can turn out to be pretty dangerous traps...and pugwampis need to be purged from the building. The second level 2 scenario. The second scenario is pretty hilarious - and focuses on an elderly lady cursing the male population of the town with baldness...and it turns out the old lady did have her reasons for doing so!

At 3rd level, PCs will get a chance to solve a brief trail of clues for a little investigation after a robbery; and the second of the little encounters would be a minor goblin extermination. The level 4 set-up deals with the logging community aspect of the settlement and requires that the PCs catch an elven anti-deforestation activist. The level 5 encounter builds upon a very important component for the peace and morale of any frontier town: Namely, the PCs are asked by one of the prostitutes of the settlement to help them - two of their profession have been killed and the trail leads to a rather nasty, religious bigot. At level 6, the pdf offers perhaps the best of the angles - there is a tragic mansion out of town, one haunted by the spirits of tragedies past...but in the past, these spirits, also represented by nice haunts, have remained contained to the place...but now, an infamous highwayman has taken up residence in the mansion...and in order to restore peace, the PCs will have to deal with this intruder.

Finally, for level 7, we go full circle - remember that level 1 hook about the vampire hiding in the settlement? Well the highest level set up is all about taking down this vampire alchemist and his spawn. The pdf also feature a bunch of statblocks for the beings featured herein and two smaller maps for locales featured herein beyond the town map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice, aesthetically-pleasing 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf features really nice, picturesque full-color artworks. Cartography is decent and functional, but not as impressive as the artworks.

Kalyna Conrad's Maidenhill makes for a great little base between big adventures; it is a change of pace in as far as it is really, really down-to-earth; even the traditionally more scary set-ups are relatively benevolent in their resolution,, evoking the equivalent of a fantastic small-town's tasks. This campaign kit does not sport world-changing events or the like; instead it acts as a nice grounding between bigger tasks and adventures. While the town could use a bit more detail in the beginning and a handy summary of key personalities or the like, Maidenhill makes for a great little home away from home for adventurers. It may not be a spectacular book and a little bit too idyllic and picturesque, but it is a very useful and inexpensive one for the amount of content provided. Hence, my final verdict for this neat little offering will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits: Maidenhill and Her Many Secrets
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
by Ben D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2017 10:27:10

This is a fun adventure for the vs. Ghosts game. A note to anyone getting started with the game. I'd use the adventure Ghost of Pendergrass first, and put the town of New Hope near the old Pendergrass logging village. After the players complete Ghost of Pendergrass, the parks committee can begin cleaning it, and expanding it as a living history tourist destination. This expansion could be the lead into Ghost of New Hope. Just my two cents.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
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vs. Ghosts
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/16/2017 17:28:33

"Hey JD, here's another game that uses playing cards for a randomizer instead of dice! You're gonna give it a high score, aren't you?"

"That's not true, come on!! There's plenty of...okay it is true. I give high scores to all playing card based games. BUT THAT'S NOT THE ONLY REASON WHY"

I've been a fan of the "vs" series ever since it was printed on quad-fold, 4" x 4" glossy paper with pulp cowboys on the front panel. It's fun, it's light, and it's simple. Traditionally it has relied on your group's knowledge of and love for the source material to make it really sing. vs. Ghosts looks to action-comedies like (but not limited to) Ghostbusters for it's fun, and it does a lot of things right in making it work. The system is based on the flip of a card - players can also supplement this with bonus cards they have in hands, though replenishing those cards is much rarer than card flips. For a rules-light system it's fairly good. In terms of what characters actually do and how the opposition is portrayed, it nails something that even the venerable Ghostbusters RPG from West End Games didn't always remember, which is that the comedy in horror-comedy normally comes not from the monsters, but from the absurd actions of the protagonists. The ghosts, demons, eldritch beings and cultists in the Ghostbusters films are not overtly comedic (okay, that one guy's accent is pretty funny), it's the reaction of the mundane world to them and the actions of our heroes that bring the comedy. Hence, the ghosts and spirits in vs. Ghosts are presented in a faux-Victorian manner, and the characters and NPCs are presented in broad, cartoony pictures and statistics. Yet the scenarios are largely serious! This demonstrates that vs. Ghosts understands its genre, and presents a bullseye for the players to target. The GM gives a "serious" horror scenario, and our heroes the exorcists (Repossessed), mad scientists (Ghostbusters) or whatever (Scary Movie) go loping in to blow up the bar mitzvah and try to get paid for it at the end.

The areas I would suggest for improvement would be to urge some caution in the use of comedic stereotypes, or suggest ways to subvert and reimagine the stereotypes. We aren't limited by a 22-90 minute presentation format, so we have the freedom to make comedic stereotypes more interesting than television or film. Also, although this is a game that claims to be open content, it literally says "all material" here is designated Product Identity. Oh, uh, okay. You know, you can just copyright your game book if you want? Oh well, nobody pays attention to that stuff but me anyhow.

All in all, you get what's on the cover with vs. Ghosts. I recommend it!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts
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Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/24/2017 04:11:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This item-book clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf was moved forward in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

One thing I really enjoy about 5e would be the assumption that magic weapons and equipment is rarer and more wondrous. Conversely, this does carry some issues when looking at the equipment available for low- to mid-level characters, though, namely that the pretty restrictive array of tools and weaponry available restricts the customization options available and thus, player agenda. the pdf's reply to this conundrum would be the inclusion of special types of items - the first of these would be the succinctly-named "quality" item. Following 5e's pretty hand-waving item creation rules, the pdf does not seek to impose a linear system for the creation of such items and instead suggests percentile chances, narrative angles and the like, emphasizing GM-control.

Beginning with quality armor, we receive a brief table that lists them alongside whether they can be applied only to shields or armors or both - here is also a cosmetic glitch, a ")" that does not belong and should have been caught, being pretty obvious. Now each armor may only have one such quality feature and they actually allow for some interesting operations: Basher shields, for example, may be used to inflict 1d6 bludgeoning damage and, when shoving with them, they can inflict damage. Now, as a nitpick, I'd love to know how this interacts with TWFing and whether shields generally are treated as regular martial weapons or not. Granted, this is only relevant in some interactions, but yeah. Nice: There would be durable items that not only gain advantage on saves to avoid destructions, they also have a 50-50-chance of avoiding destruction, even when they'd fall prey to it.

Armor with a once for day-cycle blessing of good fortune (deliberately not tied to resting mechanics), armor that helps making a good first impression...pretty nice. Taking a cue from mythology, there would be the mirrored shield that nets you advantage on saves versus gaze attacks. Another quality would be nimble, which helps when wearing armors that hamper Stealth and have a minimum Strength score. Resilient armor is one type of armor that a group will either adore or outright ban: You see, you choose one type of physical damage with these upon creation. The wearer may use his reaction to gain resistance to the chosen damage type, but only versus one attack. Now, this is a pretty potent option, but one that taps into 5e's restrictive action economy to work. Furthermore, it is based on the rock-paper-scissors-principle I personally enjoy very much in 5e's mechanics. Still, as much as I personally enjoy this, the matter of fact remains that some groups won't like this - hence me drawing awareness to this one in particular.

Soul armor is similarly an option that will polarize groups: A total of 3 times, the armor can prevent you from being reduced to 0 hp, instead resulting in you being at 1 hit point. The limits are harsh, thankfully: Only 1/encounter (insert all my rants ever regarding how per-encounter abilities make no sense in game...regardless of system)...and once the armor has saved you thrice, it will never do so again. Granted, this would still allow a character to gain another soul armor, so seriously restricting these is very much in the interest of the GM. At the same time, this very much represents a cool take on an ancestral armor that saves the hero while also reducing the potential for player frustration if your group tries to minimize PC death. At the same time, one that will be divisive would be stalwart armor, which allows you to use your bonus action to stay in place for one turn, but which also locks you in that spot, preventing voluntary movement. I am not the biggest fan of such abilities that deal in absolutes, though the cost of the bonus action can, depending on the class employed, be a steep cost indeed. As far as I'm concerned, I think that a scaling mechanic or one based on a save or advantage would have been more elegant. An armor that helps versus no thirst/starvation or supernaturally-caused exhaustion, but helps against the other types on the other side, should have universal appeal. Slight inconsistency: One type of armor is called "tastes bad" in the table, "bitter" in the text.

Weapons receive similar qualities, with ammunition, for example, getting the chance to be particularly accurate: "This ammunition confers advantage, allowing you to attack at long range without penalty, or to attack at short range more accurately." So, does that mean no disadvantage at long range AND advantage on the attack roll? Or does that mean it gets advantage on the attack roll at short range, no disadvantage at long range? The item's benefits are not 100% clear here, alas. The power of these pieces of ammunition is mitigated slightly by them not being able to be scavenged, but still, this one should only be used after careful consideration by the GM - inclusion of this ammunition will further increase the potency of ranged weapons. Very much cherished by yours truly: Dual purpose weapons, which have more than one damage type, allowing for, among other things, the representation of Kyuss' evocative favored weapon, to just note one example.

Macabre weaponry nets you advantage on Intimidation checks, but penalizes your attempts to hide the grotesque weapon. Protecting weapons are VERY cool and add a serious element of tactics to the game play: These allow you to forego your bonus action; if you do, you may use your reaction to impose disadvantage on an incoming ranged or spell attack. Very cool visuals of parrying rays and the like here and the deliberate choice and lost actions mean that player agenda is increased. Two thumbs up! Allowing a character to use his bonus action to attack again after missing with an attack is another interesting option, if one that represents a straight power upgrade.

Now, since I have complained about one piece of ammunition, it is only fair that I also mention one of my favorites herein: Tenacious ammunition is the classic representation of barbed ammunition: After being hit, you shouldn't move too much, for it'll cause damage otherwise...until it is removed with an appropriate Medicine check. I like this one very much.

The pdf does offer more than weaponry and armor: Tools may, for example, be particularly impressive, granting recognition and prestige to those that use them, helping in social situations. Efficient tools decrease the amount of time required for a given task and the good ole' manuals make an introduction of sorts: Instructional literature. Each comes in a set of 6 volumes, and you gain a +1 bonus per volume studied for the skill or tool in question, capping at proficiency bonus - sufficient and long-term studying of the whole set can net you proficiency in the respective skill or tool, replacing the bonuses granted before. The cool component here, obviously, is that the item speaks to the collector and can be used as a nice way of leading PCs to certain tasks...and due to the massive donwtime required to learn the proficiencies, it is unlikely the PCs will ever be able to cheese this item-class.

We can also find notes on toolkits that are particularly feasible for carrying around, and the pdf comes with suggested pricing and selling guidelines as well. The next section is very interesting as well: Between the special quality items and the full-blown magical ones, the pdf introduces so-called charms. Charms allow for a limited specialized benefit, which is, internally consistent, tied to the cycle of dawns. To give you an example: The charm of the defender can be activated as a bonus action when you hit a creature. Said creature must then succeed a Dexterity save versus DC 13 or restrained, with a success yielding halved speed. The restrained condition can be ended by the saves on subsequent rounds, but RAW, the reduced speed has no duration, though one round would make sense to me. Charms require attunement and are added in a relatively simply process to weaponry, armor, etc. and their benefits, unless explicitly stated otherwise, do not work in conjunction with magical items. RAW, more charms can be attached to one item, but the maximum attunement limit obviously still applies, preventing abuse there.

Armor that may change its precise look as an action, a charm that cloaks an item as useless or broken - the pdf has some cool tricks here. I am also really liking the charm that allows for the use of a reaction to teleport 30 ft. in a cloud of mist, negating the attack on a successful save for some nice ninja-action. A charm that negates the Stealth disadvantage on an armor also makes for a cool option...but the charm actually requires that you spend time doing charitable work to recharge it - cool angle! Spell trick charms can store level 1 and 2 spells and tie them to a condition, on which they are triggered, which is pretty amazing, though personally, I would have preferred a hard word-cap for the determining of the condition...but that may be me.

The pdf also sports charms that include the option to temporarily gain access to a skill or language of a vanquished creature and adding an Intimidation upon defeating a foe makes for an interesting option. Also cool: Making a melee weapon behave as a thrown weapon that returns to you or a charm that allows you to recall a nearby weapon to your hand...some nice tricks here!

The engine is pretty nice and is supplemented by 3 magic items: One that allows for charm-recharge (but crumbles thereafter), one for additional uses and a sash that allows you to attune two charms to it, which then proceed to grant their benefits/work in conjunction with all weapons/armor you're wearing. Nice!

The pdf concludes with a brief tour of the fluff-only set-piece of Zagoren's Curios Emporium, a magic shop, if you will, and his interesting shopkeepers alongside sufficient advice on how to integrate this into your campaign.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but slightly less precise on a rules-language level; as noted above, there are a couple of verbiage instances that could be a bit clearer. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ismael Alvarez' item options represent a worthwhile purchase for the extremely low and fair price point. Regarding the quality items herein, the pdf represents a bit of a hit and miss for games - not necessarily because the items are problematic, but because they represent different types of power-upgrades that may or may not be welcome in a given game. I'd strongly discourage allowing all types of quality items in a given game, but for cherry-picking, this represents pure gold.

Speaking of which: The charms as a concept and engine are amazing and definitely need further support: There is so much to be done with the cool concept and as far as I'm concerned, they should not result in issues in any game. While the minor hiccups prevent me from rating this as highly as the amazing gems herein would warrant, when I consider the low and fair price-point into account, this most certainly is worth getting. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4 stars and I'm signing off with a definite hope for a sequel.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2017 10:44:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at an impressive 146 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a truly impressive 139 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It has been a long time since Castle Falkenstein, beloved by many, has seen any proper support - which is, in itself, a surprise, considering its presence among many a favorite RPG-list...but it is also not surprising: Pioneering high adventure in the Edwardian and early Victorian age of an alternate world, it managed to miss both the rise of grimdark aesthetics and preceded the latter steampunk boom, which provided a slew of ill-conceived fads and sloppy prose - prose that would, had more people taken the time, paled before Castle Falkenstein's merits as a novel as well as a game. Castle Falkenstein's framing narrative of Tom Olam being stranded in this allotopia has always been a great selling point, at least as far as I'm concerned; it made reading the books a true pleasure rather than a just a joy.

This book takes up this framing narrative seamlessly, taking "previously unpublished" accounts penned by Tom Olam and converting them into the respective books - and thus we begin with prose, which represents the journey to find the missing manuscript of none other than Dr. Dolittle. It is hence that Tom Olam comments on the material found and retrieved, his work on the conversion...and fans of Castle Falkenstein will indeed notice the seamless consistence of the whole sequence.

That is, until the introductory rules-section begins. Here, we can clearly see the influence of the current age, and I mean that in the most flattering of ways. If you've read my review of Castle Falkenstein, you will notice that I am very much in love with system and setting...but my criticisms towards the system are profound. I consider myself to be a pretty experienced RPG-player, but the presentation of the rules was at times at obtuse and inconsistent as the prose and setting were inspired. The book, in short, suffered from what I'd dub "90s-itis" - an age where a lot of amazing RPG-books with glorious prose, particularly in rules-lite systems, were released, but often suffered from a less than stellar editing and inconsistencies in the rules. And yes, particularly in relatively rules-lite systems, that can really grind the game to a halt. Castle Falkenstein suffered from exactly this phenomenon, and while it certainly is nowhere near the worst offender in that regard when compared to my gaming library's relics, it did, from a current point of view, suffer in this regard. (Ahem, can we have a new edition? Please?)

Anyways, this book begins with PRECISION. Creatures in the Great Game are categorized as natives, faerie pets and things from beyond the Faerie veil, which can be things from other worlds, darker places...or pretty much any setting/trope you can come up with. Furthermore, we classify creatures in 6 different sizes and a handy table categories damage inflicted by creatures with an easy chart, separate entries for partial, full and high wounds and harm ranks included - including notes that wounds and size must not necessarily correlate. The same holds true for creature health and size, strength and size...and the pdf goes through the Castle Falkenstein abilities and notes how they apply to creatures: Flying/Running/Swimming speeds based on physique, for example, can be found here. Oh, and the book provides 5 abilities for use around, with and by creatures - Animal Handling, Animal Speech, Creature Power, Outdoorsmanship and Poison. All of these abilities are concisely presented and, while precise, still maintain the levity in theme and tone that made reading Castle Falkenstein's rules interesting and...well, less dry than in comparable settings. The book provides quick and easy creature creation guidelines and also spends a whole page talking about the ramifications of pets, sidekicks, animal companions - you get the drift. And yes, since Dolittle, Animal Speech, et al. is part of the parcel here, the book does cover, extensively, I might add, the role of intelligent animals in the Great Game - but only after a nice piece of prose, which keeps the overall flavor of the book consistent and high-concept...which btw. would be a term I'll return to! Have I mentioned the clockwork self-destruct mechanism codified in a side-bar?

Speaking of side-bars: Whenever you would begin considering the array of rules-clarifications provided start becoming dry, you'll find one of them: Like Beth-Ann, San Francisco's gigantic bear that was gifted to Napoleon. So yes, this book retains a very nice and inspiring reading flow, as far as the blend of prose and rules are concerned. I was talking about clarifications: TER (Thaumic Energy Requirements) for creatures are easily and precisely presented, codified by creature type...and both giant animals and familiars not only exist as concepts now - they have actual rules governing them!

Indeed, unlike in most bestiaries for roleplaying games, this is no mere accumulation of critters and stats; rather than that, we have vivid pieces of prose leading into the respective entries of creatures, elaborating upon them: Did you know, for example, that sphinxes are aliens, captured by faerie and thus particularly ill-disposed to their ilk? Did you know that true unicorns not only receive their bestiary entry, but also can act now as proper dramatic characters? And yes, this is still not the bestiary section, but rather the section leading up to it, telling us about the kingdom of Kongo in Castle Falkenstein's world, wild children and more.

Now the book does, obviously, begin a section clearly denoted as bestiary, providing creatures in alphabetical order, but unlike bestiaries provided for other systems and settings, the bestiary here takes its debts and associations with our own real world myths very seriously, retaining a mythology-enhanced plausibility: In a world where faerie is a very real force, it's not too hard to picture the existence of the amphisbaena or basilisks, correct?

Each of the creatures herein is not simply presented as a statblock, if you will - instead, the respective entries come with detailed ruminations on the creature, a brief cliff-notes version of it and detailed ideas for the host to employ the creature in question - often as basically a rather detailed adventure hook. The book's selection of creatures, as a whole, resonates very well with real world myths and contextualizes them properly in the allotopia of Castle Falkenstein.

Now, I have called this a bestiary and the moniker is truer than in pretty much every reference towards any Monster Manual-like book for other systems: Let me elaborate. Back before the period of enlightenment, when superstition and make-belief and the dogmatic realities constructed by the church still held sway over our cultures and science was indistinguishable from fantasy, there was a class of book called "Bestiary" - a zoological treatise on various creatures, both real and imagined: Think of this category as basically a category of literature resembling a blend of zoological encyclopedia and travelogue, one in which the fantastic and real blended into what we'd nowadays consider a form of magical realism, a representation of a form of weltanschauung that is in equal parts informed by a harsh reality and vibrant fantasy, by innocence and grime, if you will.

However, with the advent of a progressive secularization and ever more accumulating rebuttals to the world-views eschewed by organized religions, the scientific method began cleaving apart the previously existent "science" and founded the concept of a rationally definitive reality. Now, one accomplishment of this book is that it exists in the strange intersection between the grand psychological traumas mankind experienced in the transition to its (relatively) enlightened state and a more innocent or ignorant world-view when the world was defined by what we can now consider to be fantasies -in this strange no-man's land of transition that is quoted by Castle Falkenstein's allotopia, the question ultimately remains how this strange world, in this transitional phase, would behave if there actually was magic, if there actually existed faeries. Basically, if the medieval superstitions made the transition into a more enlightened era BECAUSE they turned out to be true...and what would happen if these moved with the times, how they would react to the transitional era in which Castle Falkenstein is set.

This is relevant for this book, because its sensibility is not merely that of a basic monster manual, but of a book that takes the established traditions of bestiaries and logically evolves them in a manner akin to how the core book managed to logically develop the campaign world under its chosen premises and contextualize the culture of these days. The book not only manages to retain the feeling evoked by the original Castle Falkenstein books, it progresses them organically and in a manner that bespeaks a deep and abiding love not only for the concept of the age of high adventure Castle Falkenstein depicts, but also for the magical realism and historicity demanded, nay, required by the setting.

This tangent may sound weird to you, but it carries more significance than me just listing critter upon creature and commenting on how they are well made; sure, I can tall you about hippocampi, hydras and the jabberwock - but what help would that be? We all have absorbed these mythological creatures via our collective canon of literature and media productions over the years - or so I hope. More interesting would be how they are depicted, how they are contextualized - as something more plausible and real than current-world cryptoids, as beings fantastic, yet real. The very existence of one such being can potentially radically change the ways in which aspects of culture and society evolved and it is the book's most impressive feat that it manages to retain the plausible consistency the beings require without losing their mythological impact and significance.

Scholars of mythology will smile, from kraken to mi'raj (also known as al-mi'raj or, more colloquially as "that weird unicorn bunny from myths around the Indian Ocean"), from monoceros to pushmi-pullyu to sapo fuerzo and yale - indeed, if you consider yourself a scholar of myths, even a casual one, you'll recognize many of the creatures...but chances are that several of the more obscure ones will surprise you indeed.

It should also be noted that a ton of regular, less fantastic animals receive their stats...but that, once again, would not even be close to encompassing the book, for there is also a chapter on characters and it is here that the ardent and diligently performed process of myth-weaving is exemplified even better: Obviously careful historic research and similarly careful thought has went into the respective representations of real life persons and fictionalized characters: You can find Black Beauty herein alongside famed naturalist Amalie Dietrich; Dr. John Dolittle is just as real here as Fantomas and Moriarti indeed has reason to fear M, the hidden paw. Dr. Jekyll and Mowgli are very real...and Mendel, understandably, is conducting experiments on faerie pets...with Auberon obviously interested in keeping the knowledge about DNA hidden...but why, what's his agenda? See what I'm meaning? We have a logical, and yet inspiring blend of fact and fiction, but one that very much is indebted to the concise realism of historicity as well as that assigned, constructed array of rules generated by the collective of mythology, literature and Castle Falkenstein's own established cultural pastiche.

Indeed, the research that went into this book is as evident as the obvious care and love that went into these adaptations - from Mme Pauline de Vere to Eliza Carpenter, the book presents a truly amazing array of beings for hosts to employ: And it also has no less than 10 dramatic characters, from true unicorn to paleontologist, from falconer to jockey. They universally are well-balanced within the context of CF's rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, particularly for a book of this size. The rules-language and prose is vivid and I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, with the artworks employing public domain stock art...which, for once, does actually enhance the feeling of the book more than original artworks would have managed. The artwork makes it feel...more consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.

So, the authors Mister Thomas Stubbins, Captain Thomas Olam and Doctor John Dolittle obviously are legends in our world as well as in others; the transcribing scribe, one mister J Gray may have so far received less universal renown, but one should indeed not remain silent regarding his accomplishments. I have read a lot of RPG-books, many with a quasi-historic context/setting; at one time, you begin to perceive the lines that separate the wheat from the chaff, the books that were made as tasks in opposition to those born out of true and honest passion and love. This book is such a book. From the rules-clarifications to every single entry, the vast array of in-jokes for history- and culture-buffs, the commitment to consistency... to both CF's style and its type of mythweaving, is not only commendable, but exemplary.

The first bestiary of any given setting, by any publisher or licensee, is a risky book and one hard to get right; more so in the case off a setting with such a distinct and hard to properly pull off thematic identity and theme as Castle Falkenstein. This pdf manages to accomplish exactly that feat with flying colors, providing excellence in all categories I can measure. How deep does the thematic consistency go? Well, look at the dinosaur section: Know why there's no T-rex inside? Because the first skeleton was discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902. I am SURE that someone is going to complain about that, but me, I applaud this adherence to truth, as it enhances the myths laid upon the history, as it adds a dimension, and, or so I hope, knowledge to those inclined to read...and pursue the handy bibliography included in the back. And yes, this big book is FULL with decisions like that and feels like it is extremely cognizant of its responsibility to the high concepts of the system.

In short: This is a phenomenal continuation of Castle Falkenstein, an excellent addition to this often overlooked gem of an RPG, a book that brings modern precision to the narrative gravitas of CF's mythbuilding and a book that makes me seriously hope for a 2nd edition, for more Castle Falkenstein books. This breathes spirit, love and soul in all the right ways, represents a carefully-constructed labor of love and is an amazing deal, even if you just get it for the purpose of idea-scavenging. In short: This very much represents a gem in Fat Goblin Games' library as well as among the books available for Castle Falkenstein and should be considered to be a must-have addition to any fashionable CF-host's library. Get this. 5 stars + seal of approval + candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Regardless of system, this is the best book J Gray has penned...eh...transcribed so far and sets an incredibly high bar for the product line.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Collection
by Ben D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2017 09:52:14

Avery nice collection of art. They are Public Domain, so you can find the same images elswere, but Rick has organized them by groups, and cleaned up the original art. This is a huge collection, and will be guarenteed to save you time when looking for art pieces for your own use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Collection
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Kristy C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:39:28

I'm new to the Castle Falkenstein World (I was only 9 when the books first came out on the market). I feel like it was fate that I began to run my very first game using this system at a time when Fat Goblin Games is bringing Castle Falkenstein back to the role playing community with new material to add to our adventures.

The book is written from the viewpoint of Dr. Doolittle, which gives this book even more value than just being a "monster manual." There is narrative written amongst the rules, as in the tradition of all of the other Castle Falkenstein books. The Memoirs of Auberon covers all of the fairy creatures and player characters you could ever hope to add to your steam adventure, but there really wasn't much in the way of animals or creatures from other magical mythologies present. For creating interesting encounters and battles for my players, I feel that Curious Creatures fills that niche quite nicely with creatures ranging from manitores to unicorns and everything in between.

There are also interesting new player characters available to play, you can even play as a Unicorn and a Beastfolk (hello, werewolves anyone?) The layout and art direction of this book is absolutely beautiful with tons of illustrations, decorative borders, and it is laid out in a very user friendly way. I think it is easily the most beautifully designed books from The Castle Falkenstein canon.

As a friend of the writer of this book, I want to tell you all that his passion for this game is incredibly apparent in all of the historical and mythological research he's done for Castle Falkenstein, in this volume in particular. Please give this game a try if you are on the fence, it is immensely fun to play if you are at all into faeries, magic, dragons, steampunk, Victorian culture, melodramas, and role play heavy gaming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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D20 Generator: Crazy Town Events
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/28/2017 19:48:47

There are only 20 events in this products. Some of them are great but most things you would see as headlines in the newpaper just replace man or woman with race and a few other descriptors. All of it together it is not worth .50 mabye .10



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
D20 Generator: Crazy Town Events
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The Gamemaster's Star Log
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2017 23:25:55

I'm a fan of the fantasy themed product, and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this. This is the book of forms with no tables whatsoever useful for organizing your campaign or novel either electronically or printed out and then put into a binder. What I like about it is that it's very clean. There's lots of space to put data in, there is a an orbital system diagram similar to what Traveller is giving you ..very basic for the old scout style orbit numbers. There is a form specifically for a moon or for a planet so if you want have a terrestrial planet you can have it, or as a moon for a gas giant. Again there are no tables or data other than forms to be filled out. Mostly for the large scale of the game...worlds, moons. No specific maps of cities or continents but they have a sheet of hex paper with larger hexes. If you're the type of person who likes to organize your stuff into a big binder this is perfect and as an extra bonus in my mind they did not put page numbers on it...for the blank forms.
The Web version has page numbers.. also with a nice theme starry background. So you don't have the problem some other products of this nature have where the page numbers are in there...organize the blank forms version how you want. If you want nice color pages...those have numbers. My printer is running now. Thanks a lot to the designers!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gamemaster's Star Log
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Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/23/2017 04:04:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this pdf very much represents a substitution - Castle Falkenstein's default mode to generate magic is obviously that of employing a standard playing deck of cards, which makes sense in two ways: For one, pretty much every household has one. Secondly, and more importantly, dice, in the era emulated by the game, were the common man's playing tool. A proper lady or gentleman would obviously play with cards. It is a cultural convention, much like playing bridge and the gender-divide in "proper" society between drinking brandy and sherry.

Anyways, this, at least in Europe, does present an interesting occasion to watch the changing of values ascribed to cultural artifacts in action: At least where I'm coming from, playing cards lack the luster and glamour of high-stakes poker games. Instead, the first association most people have is that of old farmers and craftsmen sitting down at the rural pub to play a game of Schafkopf or a similarly simply game, while drinking beer and discussing politics, complaining about wives, sons, daughters - you get the idea. The glamour and bling once associated with cards, at least as far as I'm concerned, has not made the transition to our contemporary culture.

Now Castle Falkenstein is a very immersive game once you understand how it works; but the clash of connotations of the cultural artifact employed in play with the assumptions of the game does present the experience of a disjoint. Insert this simple little pdf. Before you start: Yes, I am very much aware that the heyday of the use of Tarot began pretty much at the end and after the era of Castle Falkenstein, but at the same time, the allotopia it represents does feature ample fey and supernatural beings, so it makes sense to me to assume that the Tarot deck gained traction sooner.

One more thing: If you're even remotely interested in occultism, you may know that there are different Tarot decks - this pdf assumes you'll employ the most commonly used and widely dispersed deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. If you have no idea what I'm talking about here, but own a tarot deck, chances are extremely high that you'll have just that.

So, what are the mechanics? The playing card suites are replaced with tarot suites - Hearts with Cups, Spades with Swords - and the emotional harmonics are also included in the table. The minor arcana values can similarly be gleaned from a table and should present no challenge regarding implementation for anyone.

And this is where things get really interesting: As anyone who ever held a deck of Tarot cards knows, the deck does feature the suite of Major Arcana, 22 numbered cards, ranging from values 0 to 21 that have unique meanings and symbolisms. If you've played the fantastic Persona-JRPGs, you'll know these from your social links. There are two ways of handling major arcana - first, the simplest choice would be to treat them as a full draw from the Sorcery Deck, though one that does not provide Power Gathered, and one that results in the usual 2-minute cooldown. This is particularly suitable for games that wish to emphasize the unreliable nature of magic and that aim for a less magical style of gaming.

The second, more chaotic and interesting option would be to allow a sorceror who draws a major arcana card to continue drawing until a minor arcana card is drawn and added to the hand, gathering power. The host may, obviously, limit the total amount of major arcana cards that can be used in conjunction with a given spell. This option is obviously best for games that want to emphasize the somewhat chaotic, but powerful and unpredictable nature of magic. As a slight presentation guffaw: The table noting the effects of the major arcana cards precedes this text, but the text ends noting that the effects are as follows - in layout, that was obviously switched around. And yes, that is, at best, a cosmetic hiccup.

Now, what about those major arcana effects? Well, the fool's effects would be pretty much the most pedestrian, mirroring the effects of a Joker in a regular playing card game. The other cards are significantly more interesting: The magician, for example, grants control over one knot of energy, allowing the sorceror to convert the suit of a card to the suit of the spell. Similar card suit conversions, modifications of numerical values, harmonics entering the deal...very interesting. Oh, and selfish spells may backfire in the face of the justice card, you may attract unseelie (or seelie) farie and quicker gathering can all be found here. Basically, instead of having one unique effect based on cards, you have 22. This very much changes the dynamics of Castle Falkenstein for the better, for it makes casting as a whole more evocative, exciting and versatile - it adds a ton of spice to the proceedings.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - apart from the sequence, hiccup (which is cosmetic at best), I noticed no glitches in either formal or rules-departments. Layout adheres to an easy to read full-color two-column-standard, with the massive major arcana table being one-column. The pdf sports a nice piece of full color art beyond the front cover.

J Gray's Tarot variation is, dare I say, my dear readers, a stroke of genius. For one, we associated Tarot more with the era Castle Falkenstein emulates than regular playing cards, so that, in itself, would already constitute an improvement regarding immersion. However, and that is more important to me, the inclusion of major arcana cards with a ton of unique effects makes spellcasting as a whole infinitely more interesting, less predictable, and ultimately, more fun. Now here's the thing: This costs a single buck as per the writing of this review.

It is perhaps one of the best Dollars you can spend regarding RPGs. This humble pdf is GENIUS. I mean it. In 3 pages you get a system that is so easy to implement, it can be done by anyone. You need one page of those three printed out, that of the major arcana effects. That's it. This little pdf does not only provide ONE really, really good system that not only enhances the immersion in the game, but also represents a glorious expansion of the rules. You actually get TWO. No matter what type of game you're playing, one of them will fit the bill and oh boy, both are extremely interesting and enhance the game in a pronounced and amazing manner.

This is, in short, perhaps the best buck you can spend to vastly improve a single system, to breathe fresh air and versatility into a game, that I have seen in a long, long time. The simplicity is genius, the price can't be beaten, the results of using this and the joy it brings go far beyond what the humble price tag would make you think. This is a true gem of RPG-design and bespeaks the author's palpable love for the system. if you're playing Castle Falkenstein, then this is very much an absolute no-brainer. Concisely presented, thoroughly amazing and exceedingly concise, this receives my EZG Essential-tag for Castle Falkenstein. Moreover, the easy integration, added variety and fun this brings to the table make it one phenomenal offering, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and qualify this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016 for being exceedingly impressive from a design perspective. Make your game more magical NOW and get this gem!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
by Richard W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/23/2017 03:30:20

I'm a big fan of Rick Hershey's work, and use it extensively in my products. I've already picked up all of the smaller fantasy art packs, and many of them include figure illustrations, which I find to be very versatile pieces (they can be used for archetypes or NPCs, or as general art, and because they don't have a background they don't need to be precisely aligned with the text, which makes the layout work much easier).

This subscription consists entirely of fantasy figure illustrations, and it's slowly filling in the gaps left by Rick's earlier art packs. For example Rick has already released a couple of dwarf packs, but no elves - until now. Similarly, many of the traditional class concepts have been covered in earlier packs, but there was no bard until now.

Overall this is proving to be a very useful addition to my collection (I'm already using five of the pieces in my current project), and I'm looking forward to seeing what gets added next.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
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DNA - The Buried Zikurat OSR Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:10:17

Originally posted: http://punverse.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-buried-zikurat.html

Overview: The Buried Zikurat is the second part of Kevin Watson's Haunting of Hastur series. It's for a party of characters level 6-8. It has an implied setting, but is easy to import into any game. A zikarut has been discovered by a clay mining operation and the pc's are hired to investigate.

Layout: Each room of the zikarut is presented in a simple and useful layout like this:

Number - Name of Room Ingress/Egress: how to get in and out of the room and where it leads Description: Detailed description for the DM. Players: Descriptions for players: Lore: History of the room. Not all room descriptions feature this.

Crunchy Bits: 1 new monster (Nexus Guardian), 1 new spell (Destroy Stone), 3 new magic items (Boots of Formene, Cloak of Formene, Ring of Elvenkind)

Thoughts: This adventure is full of puzzles/riddles. This is a nice change of pace from most published adventures I see, which are light on encounters like that. However, if those aren't your players' style they can just fight nexus guardians to get past locks.

I like Kevin's take on elves. In particular the Formene's are an interesting version of "dark elves." They live underground, but they are definitely not Lolth-worshiping spider-kissers.

Overall, I think this is a fun adventure with a nice connection to otherworldly horrors. It's got a mythos vibe, but it is not a beat you over the head with tentacles while you're looting the random dungeon experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNA - The Buried Zikurat OSR Adventure
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DNA - The Buried Zikurat Pathfinder Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:10:00

Originally posted: http://punverse.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-buried-zikurat.html

Overview: The Buried Zikurat is the second part of Kevin Watson's Haunting of Hastur series. It's for a party of characters level 6-8. It has an implied setting, but is easy to import into any game. A zikarut has been discovered by a clay mining operation and the pc's are hired to investigate.

Layout: Each room of the zikarut is presented in a simple and useful layout like this:

Number - Name of Room Ingress/Egress: how to get in and out of the room and where it leads Description: Detailed description for the DM. Players: Descriptions for players: Lore: History of the room. Not all room descriptions feature this.

Crunchy Bits: 1 new monster (Nexus Guardian), 1 new spell (Destroy Stone), 3 new magic items (Boots of Formene, Cloak of Formene, Ring of Elvenkind)

Thoughts: This adventure is full of puzzles/riddles. This is a nice change of pace from most published adventures I see, which are light on encounters like that. However, if those aren't your players' style they can just fight nexus guardians to get past locks.

I like Kevin's take on elves. In particular the Formene's are an interesting version of "dark elves." They live underground, but they are definitely not Lolth-worshiping spider-kissers.

Overall, I think this is a fun adventure with a nice connection to otherworldly horrors. It's got a mythos vibe, but it is not a beat you over the head with tentacles while you're looting the random dungeon experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNA - The Buried Zikurat Pathfinder Adventure
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DNA - The Buried Zikurat 5e Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:07:26

Originally posted: http://punverse.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-buried-zikurat.html

Overview: The Buried Zikurat is the second part of Kevin Watson's Haunting of Hastur series. It's for a party of characters level 6-8. It has an implied setting, but is easy to import into any game. A zikarut has been discovered by a clay mining operation and the pc's are hired to investigate.

Layout: Each room of the zikarut is presented in a simple and useful layout like this:

Number - Name of Room Ingress/Egress: how to get in and out of the room and where it leads Description: Detailed description for the DM. Players: Descriptions for players: Lore: History of the room. Not all room descriptions feature this.

Crunchy Bits: 1 new monster (Nexus Guardian), 1 new spell (Destroy Stone), 3 new magic items (Boots of Formene, Cloak of Formene, Ring of Elvenkind)

Thoughts: This adventure is full of puzzles/riddles. This is a nice change of pace from most published adventures I see, which are light on encounters like that. However, if those aren't your players' style they can just fight nexus guardians to get past locks.

I like Kevin's take on elves. In particular the Formene's are an interesting version of "dark elves." They live underground, but they are definitely not Lolth-worshiping spider-kissers.

Overall, I think this is a fun adventure with a nice connection to otherworldly horrors. It's got a mythos vibe, but it is not a beat you over the head with tentacles while you're looting the random dungeon experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNA - The Buried Zikurat 5e Adventure
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