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Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
by Matt D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2016 12:23:42

Grest resource. As an older player looking tomreturn to playing, this was a perfect nostalgic re entry point.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
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Borderland Provinces Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/18/2016 09:50:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This book clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what kind of player's guide is this? The answer is simple: It's the type of guide you read because you want to read it. The theme is relatively simple - instead of just confronting players with a dry synopsis of the respective regions, this pdf is written to emulate a collection of letters/correspondences and documents of characters that are traveling the borderland provinces that will be the adventuring location for the players. The intriguing component with this approach is that this approach actually not only manages to shine diverging focuses upon the things going on and thus highlight different aspects of the regions:


We can get a glimpse of intrigues and politics through the motivations of nobility; we can witness a character fall to the devil opium and slowly sink into the clutches of demon-worship; we can see clerics fighting the heresies that spring up and realize the truth behind the supposed commoner. Each of the characters has his/her own narrative voice, with the letters of a barely literate knight using a more phonetic writing style full of at times humorous glitches, showing that the character in question probably had one too many jousting lances to the head (or used Int as a dump stat).


Via the letters of these characters, we move through the borderlands and accompany their triumphs and tribulations, their fear of the untamed wilderness and the draconic doom lurking right out there sinking slowly to the reader. unlike the quasi-early modern period, a sense of medieval structures is conveyed in a believable manner. The city of Manas, capital of Suilley, does get a full-page map for the convenience of players and the final page provides a collection of no less 8 heraldic crests, which help players identify the knights and holdings - when the GM describes the crest of a tower with a crown above it, the players will know to expect the Exeter province's holdings and retainers. Exeter? Yep, nomenclature is associated with central European nomenclature, with Aachen and Vourdon, as further examples, illustrating well the linguistic aesthetic.


In the hands of lesser authors, this could easily backfire, but t does not in this book. So yes, after reading this supplement, I sure as hell knew that I wanted to play in the Borderland Provinces.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard and the cartography and artwork in b/w are neat indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed bookmarks and the print copy is a qualitatively neat booklet with good paper - as we've come to expect from frog God Games.


I have become a big fan of Matthew J. Finch's writing and he delivers herein, creating a tantalizing atmosphere. Furthermore, he highlights the different, interwoven leitmotifs of the region in a compelling manner and makes you excited to check out the region and unravel all the plots and options I have seen in such guides. This is a player's guide well worth the asking price and a neat companion book for the big tome. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Borderland Provinces Player's Guide
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Borderland Provinces Journey Generator
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/18/2016 09:48:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review


One central component of any sandbox campaign worth its salt is the component of the journey - whether because wine and wenches await in a far-off place or because something needs to be delivered - whether a secret missive, a caravan or something altogether different. The problem that a GM does have here is that it is hard to come up with meaning full journeys - enter this book and its 2 different types of journey generation: Number one creates journeys focused on getting to the adventure, whereas the second generator creates journeys that represent the main meat of the adventuring experience in question. It should be noted that this book, obviously, focuses on the Borderland Provinces - hence, we get a total of 12 tables, one for each of the respective provinces and a table that features a variety of patrons and supplemental motivations for the patrons. The patron tables could have been a little more versatile, though: A lot of diplomatic missions, tasks for churches, etc.


The pdf goes on to provide a table of 10 simple journey details; for more complex journeys, 10 objectives, 20 locations, 10 groups and 10 immediate threats can be quickly rolled and combines. 14 general monster themes, 20 related objects and 5 possible complications allow for flexible modifications. The journey completed, 5 entries for the final wrap-up of the journey can add a final sense of unpredictability to the proceedings.


Beyond these basic setups, a quick price change table for quick trading makes for a fun and smooth trading rules array. Of course, the pdf also has a massive table to generate roadside inns, with name patterns, creature and item adjectives, creatures and items, etc. Basic descriptions of inns, religious hostels and a neat what's for dinner table. The book also sports 10 conditions and events to further add to the journey and the book concludes with 31 fully detailed sample journeys.


Conclusions:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has neither artworks, nor bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf is fully bookmarked and the hardcopy is of the usual high quality for Frog God Games print books.


I really like Matthew J. Finch's Journey generator and the tables to quickly generate locations to precise locations in the Borderland Provinces makes this a pretty useful book. But at the same time, it feels like it does fall a bit short - I am pretty spoiled by Raging Swan Press' absolutely legendary GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and regarding the details of the journey, I'd very much suggest taking this legendary book (#1 of my Top Ten 2014, just fyi...) to add all the evocative dressing you require to the basic journey generated herein, since this booklet simply doesn't have that level of detail. I was also pretty disappointed, for a journey-book depicting a specific region, to get no handy table of distances between places and projected number f traveling days by foot, horse or cart. This does not mean that this book is bad, mind you - it just means that it falls short of its own potential. While useful for the Borderland Provinces, the pdf could have been significantly more useful with a bit more room to shine and the lack of travel-distances decrease the usefulness of this one for me. A solid book slightly on the positive side, my final verdict for this one will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purposes of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Borderland Provinces Journey Generator
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Borderland Provinces Player's Gazetteer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/18/2016 09:47:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This booklet clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The Borderland Provinces Player's Guide took a rather brave and evocative step by focusing exclusively on the atmosphere created, on providing a book that conveys properly the unique flavor of the Borderland Provinces. At the same time, this book alone would some tables leave wanting the harsh facts, the breakdown of the lands to be found in this illustrious region and notes on the history of the place - after all, when you have lived here for a while, you will probably know a bit about this place, right?


So, as opposed to the player's guide, which provides the totality of the atmosphere and leitmotifs of adventuring in the provinces, this one focuses on instilling the overview information. To be more precise, we get a MASSIVE chronology of the lands here, with 3 different calendars! The hyperborean incursions, the rise and fall of Foere and the recent Suilleyn secession and imperial aspirations are noted and establish the basic, global dynamics.


Beyond the chronology of the respective regions, the player's gazetteer then goes on to depict the various regions, from Aachen to Exeter and Gaelon. Beyond notes on population and notable settlements, unique terrain features, humorously inappropriately named dark and brooding forests (Forest of Hope - really got a chuckle out of me!) to notes on trade and diplomatic relationships as well as trade and commerce - the tapestry woven here is great and the guide. More importantly, the gazetteer does provide information and inspiration...but does not dive into SPOILER-territory, retaining full functionality for its player-book-status.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports unique and original b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the hardcopy is a booklet of the usual, high FGG-quality.


Matthew J. Finch's pen is mighty indeed - the more I read from him, the more I love his prose and talent of weaving evocative worlds. This gazetteer is a great little supplement that delivers exactly what was missing from the Player's Guide. Which brings me to the one reason this does not gain the seal of approval: In my opinion, combining the two guides into one would have been the smarter move and made book-organization easier, but that may just be me. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Borderland Provinces Player's Gazetteer
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Rogues in Remballo Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2016 06:17:15

An Endzeitgeist.com


This FREE adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may want to jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs left? Great!


This pdf kicks off with essentially a highly detailed gazetteer of the city of Remballo, which is, btw., fully mapped in nice b/w-cartography. A pronunciation guide for the name, a full settlement statblock - all there. Relevant for this adventure would be to know that Remballo is essentially the home-base of the powerful Borgandy family, who is big in finances - like safe-keeping treasures for adventurers...for a price. I really like this notion, since the logistics of keeping a hoard of dangerous, highly volatile magical items is an often neglected component in adventures I personally like to emphasize.


But back to Remballo - from the local temples to the important tradition of toasting when gambling (also a nod to Chuck Wright, FGG's layout artist and a damn cool guy!) and an inn, this brief gazetteer is pretty well-written and compelling, painting a picture of a commerce-driven town in a time of turmoil, as the protectorate that once guaranteed stability crumbles and new power dynamics arise. But you want to know about the module, right? Well, we begin with one of several hooks - whether contacted by the Borgandy family, by the city watch or another hook, they will have to investigate the area surrounding Dead Fiddler's Square - a neighborhood fully mapped for your convenience. I love the fact that we get a GM and a player-friendly version of this map, though the player-friendly version sports numbers. Why am I not starting my usual rant? Because the numbers are deceptive - they do not pertain to the actual locations, but the number of stories of the houses! This is pretty brilliant and awesome.


The interesting thing here would then be one of the most concisely written investigation set-ups I've seen in quite a while - with a level of detail and a requirement for discreet inquiries and no less than 35 (!!!) investigation locales to check out, all with read-aloud text, mind you, the area is ultimately a glorious micro-sandbox that sports a level of detail scarcely seen in PFRPG-modules. In fact, this is further enhanced by the actual target area sporting an even more detailed room-by-room map - and yes, there is dungeon-exploration to be had as well - ultimately, the different hooks all tie together in a rather round climactic exploration that sports a truly dangerous adversary the PCs will definitely remember - oh, and I've failed to note that the conclusion, when handled properly, leads to connections with the Borgandys, the thieves guilds and the city watch, right? So yes, adventure galore to be had here!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't spot any glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork and maps are copious and thematically-fitting b/w.


All right, I'm gonna go right out and say it - a couple of Richard Develyn's (of 4 Dollar Dungeon) modules have all but ruined me for first level modules...because they're that good. When I nowadays read a first level module, it should better be truly remarkable and exceptional in some way. Surprisingly, this FREE module is just such a case. Matt Finch's free-form investigation is AWESOME. The level of detail provided generates an immersion I crave, a level of detail that makes the players feel invested, like they're actually walking the streets of Remballo. The sheer fact that it is relatively non-linear and detailed provides a level of realism scarcely seen, even less so in any free offering. I am quite frankly astounded by this component - usually, I have to sit down and generate x shops, x people, to make investigations not feel like "find the next action-spot to investigate."


This book's approach is glorious and I am of the deep conviction that we need more modules that feature this level of realism. In fact, I'd probably drool and slobber all over a complex investigation in a big city (like, mega-adventure-sized) with this level of detail. Have I btw. mentioned that there are none of the boring level 1-adversary combos to be found herein? Templated foes, multiclass'd enemies...NICE! The player-map depiction is also downright genius.


In one word: I love this module. I got it before the KS went live so I could playtest it and it ran as a stunning success - my players loved it and it proved to be a challenging, very rewarding experience. I can wholeheartedly recommend this module and will award it 5 stars + seal of approval - even if you're not interested in the module itself, it makes for a great neighborhood-sourcebook you could scavenge for your city, adding yet another level of usefulness to this pdf.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rogues in Remballo Pathfinder Edition
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Tome of Adventure Design
by John H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2016 04:10:16

This book is SUPER good. It's extremely well organised and cogent throughout, and fantastically system agnostic. Strong, coherent advice backed by comprehensive nested-random tables for creating dungeons, creatures, and adventures. There are other great things in here as well, but those three things...these guys nailed it.


This was the randomized prep book I was looking for.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Adventure Design
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Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/11/2016 09:30:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This HUGE AP/setting-supplement clocks in at a massive 437 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with pretty ridiculous 428 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, we begin this huge book by basically taking a glimpse at the region of the Sundered Kingdoms - wait, that's not the right way to describe it: The war-and calamity-torn Sunderlands receive a massive, stunningly detailed and well-written gazetteer that clocks in at 32 pages - from discussions on the local technology-level to area by area breakdowns of settlements and the like, we get a tremendous amount of detail here, including write ups for INNS as well as caravansarais...and it should be noted that this does not include the colossal 12-page, detailed history on this region in its afore-mentioned page-count. The level of captivating prose exhibited in these pages hearkens back to a time where immersion by means of detailed lore were more important: When e.g. the fully depicted, brief fable of a cat seeking a wife not only is mentioned, but in fact reproduced, that does enhance the believability of the area a great deal...and yes, settlements do get proper settlement statblocks.


But beyond these, the book is one about the eponymous cults - which not only provide stats for athames as well as some new domains for the respective cultist patrons - from classic Orcus and Tsathogga to Hastur, the entities of chaos and destruction and their dread obelisks of chaos that litter the landscape as dark monuments, as foci for the dread cults of darkness, come in a surprisingly detailed write-up that depicts a world teeter-tottering unknowingly on the very edge of annihilation by the forces of chaos, with twisted, evil versions of the Diplomacy-concept as a domain and the like adding a bit of crunch to the fray, though yet another shadow domain, for example, imho wasn't necessary.


The third chapter, then, would be the bestiary section and comes supplemented with both new hazards and common...and less common adversaries, including two spawns of demon lords and bone dragons, Similarly, the magic item chapter (including a cursed cowbell!) sports artifacts and wondrous objects galore, with aforementioned obelisk-powered items of chaos and unique items featuring prominently, already hinting at the things to come.


But you want o know about the adventures, right? All righty, so before we dive in, you should know that the previously released modules herein have been integrated into basically a cohesive storyline, a kind of meta-narrative not unlike those featured in Paizo-APs, making this not a collection of different adventures (though they can be played as such), but more of an arc connected by theme, if not by the necessity of sequential playing... Basically, you can play these modules as stand-alones or as connected pieces - they do not lose appeal by being separated from the overarcing structure.


Know, dear reader, that from this point forward, the SPOILERS abound! Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


We begin this tome's adventure section with Greg A. Vaughan's "Beasts Among Us", intended for 3rd level characters - uncomplicated, but savage, this module confronts the PCs with a massacred caravan and a trail leading towards a dread cult of bandits in the wilderness, happily butchering survivors - by stopping these brigands, the PCs can rescue one Kandrel, who was en route to the city of Endhome (of Lost City of Barakus)-fame and acts as a potential liaison for the powerful shipping magnate Lord Beval...provided the PCs can save him from the brutal fangs of the werewolf master of the brigands.


The second adventure, potentially to gather further influence, would be Patrick Lawinger's classic "Morrick Mansion" (level 3 - 5), which to this day remains one of my favorite 3.X modules released by Necromancer Games back in the day. Why? Because the module twists the traditional haunted mansion trope, detailed grounds and all, by making the primary antagonist of the module not simply a creature to be defeated - instead, as a kind of precursor to how haunts work nowadays, the adventure focuses on actually finding out how the calamities befell Morrick Mansion and breaking the mutation and insanity-causing chaotic curse that twists and changes the mansion grounds. From Grollek's Grove to finding out the truth behind the curse, the adventure is in probably its best iteration in this book. Kudos for saving this glorious classic for a new generation of gamers.


The third adventure is a new one and would once again be penned by none other than Greg A. Vaughan - "Shades of Yellow" (for levels 5 - 6). In the service of lord Beval, the PCs are sent forth to find Sir Bartol, a knight of esteem and renown, whose trail leads through hostile wilderness to the moor-bound village of Billockburne, where the PCs can unearth the truth about a seemingly-benign cult and hopefully save the knight's squire at least from an inglorious and horrific fate...but to truly stop the cult and put one and one together, the PCs will have to also stop a colossal, brutal nameless thing and clear the lethal chapel in the moors, where one of the dreaded obelisks has been partially excavated...Among the papers of Bartol, replicated as a handout that can be unearthed from these dread cultists, the PCs can heed a request for assistance in the Moon Fog Hills, where the next adventure looms...


...and that would be the legendary classic "Aberrations" (level 6 - 9) by Casey W. Christofferson. It ranks, by far, as one of the most underappreciated modules Necromancer Games released back in the day - a disturbing yarn of horror and weird, dark fantasy, this module has it all: Deformed giants, savage caverns, legacies of insanity and murder, a brutal meat-grinder of a mansion and the chance to duke it out with the spawn of a demon lord - this adventure has it all and, frankly, I can't really do it enough justice: If you enjoy DCC-style dark fantasy and challenging modules, this one will do the trick. Seriously, this is a true classic that only gains impact by its ties to the unobtrusive metaplot of this saga.


The next adventure, once again penned by Greg A. Vaughan, would be "Vengenace in the Hollow Hills", for characters level 8-9, and is a deviation from in theme and style from classic dungeon-crawling, instead focusing on the hexploration of the eponymous hollow hills with elven allies, trying to stop the tainted wildmen harrying travelers and military alike - all seemingly entwined with the horrors witnessed in the previous adventure. If the PCs are to stop this threat, once and for all, they will have to take the fort of the wildmen...easier said than done, though. The Tsathogga-worshipping foes will make the taking of Fort Rannick from the classic RotRL-AP look like a friggin' cakewalk in comparison. Dumb PCs will die horribly...so let's hope that PCs smart and lucky enough to have lived so far will have learned to act smart...


And then, there would be "The Crystal Skull" by Dave Brohman- one of the most obscure and rare Necromancer Games modules (which I gladly own), this is a massive mini-campaign in itself, ranging levels from 9th - 12th...though the challenges posed in this one are SIGNIFICANT. Smart PCs may have followed multiple clues throughout this saga, pointing them towards the massive city of Penmorgh and invited to the home of one wizard named Pearsey, who beseeches the PCs to undergo a complex series of investigations into the dark things going on within the city - every year at Midsummer, 3 girls go missing, their bodies to later be found horribly mutilated....he wants the PCs to stop whatever horrific ritual is going on...and the PCs, following the trail, will have put themselves in the crosshair of deadly assassins and unearth the secrets behind two eminent guilds of the city...thereby, probably, inadvertently freeing dread Mhaazoul, 666th son of Orcus and nascent demon lord - to stop the dread entity, the PCs will have to track it overland through different settlements, survive the machinations of the lethal minions of the demon... to the Tower of Bone. Which is impenetrable for them...to enter the tower and stop dread Mhaazoul, the PCs will have to pass the ruined, subterranean dwarven city of Durandel, successfully navigate its claustrophobic confines and finally infiltrate and beat the dread tower and its master. Oh, and if that is not enough: The previously unreleased secret levels-bonus dungeon for this one is also included in the deal.


A total of 11 pages of handouts and 40 pages of maps are provided in this book as well - though, if you're like me and expected player-friendly maps sans legends or the like, I'll have to disappoint you - this time around, the book features none of these.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, in particular for a book of this massive size. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks. The physical book, as with all FGG-books,. is a superb, stitch-bound hardcover made to last. Interior artwork is generally high-quality, though a precious few pieces taken from crystal skull didn't blow me away then and still don't. Cartography is a bit less consistent than usual - while some maps are drop-dead gorgeous or at least functional, there are also some maps re-used from a time when the 3.X bubble had burst and funds were tight -and it shows. Compared to the other maps, these look a bit less impressive and I really wish they had been redone. Similarly, I would have wished for player-friendly maps.


Frog God Games, at this point, is an institution - when they announced this book, I was honestly puzzled who they'd tie the respective modules I already knew together in a meaningful way...and they did. While the metaplot isn't too pronounced when compared to singular mega-adventures, the themes and leitmotifs can be found throughout, lending a sense of cohesion to the whole. Indeed, the respective adventures (with the first, as a setting of the stage and thus, being relatively simple) feel surprisingly in line regarding their themes and content - a feat, considering their patchwork origins.


At the same time, though, there is a bit of thematic whiplash regarding the finale - while I really like "The Crystal Skull", it is also the most traditional of the modules herein - where the adventures before focused on a delightfully old-school dark fantasy with ample of weirdness, the final mini-campaign feels grim, yes. Dark, yes. But also more traditional in its structure, plot and locales presented. Personally, the middle trinity of Morrick Mansion, Shades of Yellow and the superb Aberrations, represents the sweet-spot of this saga and, chalk it up to my excessive collection of NG-material, but personally, I probably would have used the likewise classic and pretty obscure "Vindication" rather than "Crystal Skull" as a culmination of this arc...but yeah. I'm complaining at a very high level here. And I can see why CS was chosen - it has the fitting leitmotifs and is a very good, diverse adventure that features socializing, investigation and plenty of chances to swing one's sword at evil.


The matter of the fact is that this massive book contains a load of brilliant adventures, with some true classics. The build-upgrades for the NPCs are more versatile and utilize some builds that go beyond the standard. The organization is excellent and the only true complaint I can truly voice pertains to the lack of player-friendly maps and parts of the cartography.


How to rate this, then? Well, since this has ample of tie-ins with Endhome and Bard's Gate, GMs wishing to run either can and should definitely take a look; similarly, fans of the Lost lands will consider this a must-have purchase anyways. If you already own the three previously released modules and have played them, things get a bit more complicated - while the two new full-length modules are superb (excluding the intro-module here), only you can decide whether they may the tome as a whole worth it for you. If, however, you haven't played the classic modules, then this turns into an almost immediate no-brainer, for the history and context provided in this tome render the iterations of the modules superior to their classic 3.X versions.


In the end, I will rate this 5 stars + seal of approval as an official rating for those among us who haven't played the classics. For guys like yours truly, this still is a very good book, though perhaps one that should be closer to 4.5 stars. In the end, my official verdict will obviously be the former - this is, in a nut-shell, a collection of great material for those among us who like our fantasy dark without diving off into the grimdark spectrum.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Pathfinder Edition
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Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/28/2016 10:55:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive rule-book clocks in at 144 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page list of tables (important!), 6 pages of supporter-thanks, 1 page legal appendix, 1 page note-space, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 130 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Ähem. I feel old. ;) This is my birthday-review, my present from myself to myself, so please bear with me regarding the obvious deviation from my usual standard regarding reviewing. Kidding aside regarding age and the like...when I started playing, believe it or not, you young 'uns, the game didn't have that much to do with math. Sure, we needed it. But in contrast to taking hours upon hours to properly calculate the statblock of high-level foe xyz, those were simpler times. Heck, for the first 6+ years of my playing career, I didn't use any kind of battlemap...go wrap your head around this!


Why am I telling you this? Well, because this book basically represents the game I grew into gaming with; this is the old-school simple and distilled version of gaming. No looking up feats, no looking up complex interactions, no optimization. Different level-up caps for different classes. Fixed saving throws determined by level...next to no means to power-game and a lot of house-rules that continuously grew.


Okay, so what does this provide? Well, we already have the 6 classic attributes. Strength determines chances to kick open doors and modify carrying capacity, with melee to hit and damage modifiers ranging from -2 to +2 and -1 to +3, respectively. Fighters can use Strength for ranged weapons...if you follow the original rules. Constitution determines your chance to survive being raised from the dead...and nets you anything from -1 to +1 hit points per HD. High Charisma and Wisdom net you bonus XP (wrap your head around that!) and Dex, obviously, is important for all the thief tricks. Thief? Yup, once upon a time, it was thief, not rogue, ladies and gentlemen.


The classes provided herein cover the assassin, cleric, druid, fighter, magic-user, monk, paladin, ranger and thief...and yes, astute reader: Some of these are simply better than others. Why? Because back in the day, you needed damn good stats to qualify for some of them - which is still represented in optional rules. (Yep, that's where the "paladins are rare and all good-looking"-trope came from; Cha 17+ minimum. 18, btw., is the maximum you'll get with your 3d6...


Similarly, dual-classing and multiclassing are two different experiences, with dual-class characters requiring much more XP...but I digress. Non-human races often have an advancement cap for classes, but once again, alternate rules for this less beloved feature are presented. Oh, know what's also tricky: All classes cap HP at one point; depending on your class, you'll thereafter only get a single hit point per level.


While this may sound annoying, it's not - it keep the dreaded high-number mathematical breakdown all contemporary systems suffer from at bay. Oh, and alignment? Law, Neutrality, Chaos. That's it.


Okay, so item-purchases and equipment work pretty much as expected...but what about AC? There are two ways and two camps on how to handle the concept: Ascending and Descending AC. When you use descending armor as a rule, each character gets an unarmed AC of 9, with the lower results being better - a plate would net you -6 AC, for example. Ascending is pretty much the opposite and works like just about all contemporary systems in the d20-arena: 10 + value. Such stats are provided in brackets. So, whether you prefer one of the other, this book has you covered. Movement rate is similarly simple on ground and overland movement.


Swords and Wizardry, however, is NOT a simple reproduction - it streamlines and takes away some of the needlessly clunky components: Saves and XP, for example, both of which, frankly, have been sources of endless consternations among my players. ("Why is that a save versus spells and not deathrays?") So no, this is not simply an exercise in nostalgia. The round and its breakdown, swift and quick, is also presented in a concise manner - with multiple alternatives for specific tables. That being said, I really think a flat Attack-bonus would have been the simpler choice regarding attack rolls. Why? Because you have to consult massive tables dependant on the class to determine whether you hit or not. Sure, it's not rocket science...but it's a component I do not use in my OSR-games...boo and hiss, I use an atk-bonus. ;)


Still, do not take this is criticism on a formal level - it is just me stating a preference. Before I go on a further tangent or you stop reading - when using ascending AC, an imho easier to grasp table and one that does work well, and does the job admirably. Similarly, my games do have neutral clerics - an eventuality btw. also covered in alternate rules/referee-suggestions. Sample stronholds and information on hirelings complement this section...and then, there are SPELLS. A metric ton of SPELLS. They have a name. A range. A level. A duration. That's it. Simple and to the point.


This is where the referee section begins and it is this section alone that may be worth the download. Why? Because, beyond general and sound advice for GMs, the section actually sports multiple, nice dungeon-maps as well as tables upon tables you can use to generate creatures. Similarly, wilderness encounters and movement rates are covered...oh. And yes. Mass combat and siege combat. And unlike pathfinder's impotent, sucky siege engines (I house-ruled those so that PCs actually fear them), they friggin' kill you. Trebuchet hits you? You're DEAD. No, seriously. Game over, man. Game over. Call me a bastard GM...but I like that. Even Aerial Combat gets its section and is handled simply via maximum course alterations and minimum space between alterations - that's it. And while this may sound simple, it actually is a pretty ingenious system to make compelling dogfights.


And yes, before you ask, naval combat is here as well. These are the complete rules, so this book also sports an array of monster stats and advice on creating them - and if there is one thing that is a weakness of this book...well, alas, it's this section. You see, sans the massive math-laden statblocks, old-school games did tend to prosper in the fluff departments; where monsters had ecologies, societies, tactics etc. all spelled out in lavish detail, often inspiring the referee. You won't find that here. You only get the hard, cold and brief statblocks. That's it. The magic item-section on handing out treasure and the appropriate tables (yes, including cursed items) follow a similarly minimalistic approach - one suitable for the core book, yes...but also perhaps the one aspect where the book does not excel as much as in the previous sections.


The pdf, obviously, does feature a char-sheet, btw....and an impressive, very detailed index that makes using this book very easy.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard with a ton of new b/w-artworks that breathe the tradition of the classic - including ample wizards in pointy hats. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and yes, ladies and gentlemen...the Erol Otus cover alone may be worth downloading this. Unfortunately, I don't have the print version of this book...but I do own a ton of Frog God Games-material and they ALWAYS are great books.


Dennis Sustare, Marv Breig, Jason Cone, Allan T. Grohe Jr., Jerry Mapes, Bill Webb and Matthew Finch have created perhaps the best OSR-version for classic, fantasy roleplaying...and beyond simply being a highly customizable, easy to learn system, it affords for a great change of pace when you find yourself tired out by too many statblocks to crunch. This very much is not only a blast from the past, it is a great system to teach roleplaying...because it's simple. It's simple and elegant in its design without being restrictive. The "referee has the last call" rule trumps all and there frankly isn't much wiggle-room to power-game. This is delightfully easy to grasp and master and in presentation and quality a superb offering.


Oh, and it's FREE. As in: Doesn't cost a single damn dime. As in FREE. It takes the disparate classic rules and streamlines them without eliminating their wealth of options. Swords & Wizardry is, for traditional fantasy, my go-to OSR-rules-system and I wholeheartedly encourage you to check this out...who knows, perhaps you'll have an eureka effect as well; either because you haven't played a system this rules-light...or perhaps because you forgot how much FUN it actually can be. It's a different type of fun, when compared to the new systems, sure. But it is one I never want to miss, a type of game I'll always gladly return to. Get this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
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Lost Lore: Ecology of the Troll
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/22/2016 07:27:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Frog God Games' Lost Lore-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 4 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this pdf with a brief piece of in-character prose, setting the mood...and then dive into the genesis of the troll, here depicted in the telling of a legend, where mighty Eirik, lord of the North, instructed the dark sorceror Inghard to find a way to gain soldiers that would not de - and hence, in truly compelling prose, we accompany these two on the way to the doom that befalls the fools of stories such as this: The undying soon were to practice/become fleischtrollen (an interesting composite of German Fleisch = flesh and trollen = walk somewhere at a deliberate pace) - basically flesh-seeking shamblers. So yes, we have a rather unique background story here, on I actually enjoyed reading, though I couldn't help but feel that the "trollen" was probably intended to mean "the troll", but "troll" is a neuter and would thus get the -et ending. But I digress.


The discrepancy between depictions of fat and emaciated trolls is explains and rationalized well in the section on physiology and the explorations of stages of life and sociology further expounds upon interesting details regarding this mythical species. For players intent on hunting trolls, glass sphere tips that can contains liquids and the regeneration halting trollkin-toxin should help - unless the poor sap is mushed to bits before by the large weapon introduced, the devastating troll maul. The pdf also sports 3 new feats for trolls - two to further increase regeneration and one for double rend damage dice - this one has to be carefully monitored and probably shouldn't be in PC hands - rend in PC hands is already brutal enough.


Interesting: The pdf also expounds upon the precise strategies a GM can use when employng trolls and elaborates on their tactics, which is pretty interesting. The pdf also sports G'Mash, the troll king - massive CR 19 barbarian 7/ranger 7 with a unique, huge-sized magical armor, which, while solid, is not that...wait...Huge? Oh, I forgot to mention that right? If you're like me, you always wanted trolls to continue growing, to potentially one day reach truly intimidating sizes. Well, this take on the troll assumes just that. Anyways, the deadly troll king ends the pdf on a high note, even though the final page being mostly empty somewhat galls me.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has an awesome piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks and while it needs none at this length, they still would have been nice to see.


James Thomas' prose is excellent -the legend of the trolls depicted herein resonates on a mythological level and makes sense; the pdf rationalizes the vastly diverging pictures and concepts of trolls, which is awesome from an internal consistency's point of view. The flavor of this pdf is awesome, though it admittedly left me wanting more and somewhat bemoaning the lack of discussion on subtypes etc.. On the crunch-side, as mentioned before the rend-enhancer feat can be problematic and sports very lenient prerequs (Namely, you need a rend attack...that's it.) and it being a combat feat means it's be a no-brainer for characters with ample access to them. I can't help but feel that just doubling the dice rolled feels a bit off. Similarly, the troll maul, as a weapon, is not that interesting. Where this pdf shines, though, is with its great prose, its concise ideas for troll tactics and uses etc. How to rate this, then? Well, what we have here is a rather brief, but sweet ecology that could have used a bit more to reach true greatness. Still, this is a worthwhile addition to your arsenal and well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Ecology of the Troll
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Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/14/2016 05:12:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The Player's Guide for Frog God Games' massive Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms-book clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This player's guide is very much interesting in its format - we begin each section with a paragraph of italics, excerpts from the memoires of fabled rogue Titus the Grey, while the main meat of each respective section elaborating on the fluffy bit of text before. Beyond a hex-sporting overview map of the lands, the pdf further elaborates on the diverse ethnicities of the region, with gorgeous b/w-artworks - from the Erskaeloi barbarians to the Ramithi. Travel, both on roads and beyond, is covered as well, with wilderness inns and roadhouses - 7 of them are detailed herein in impressive prose, with quite a few hooks and intriguing tidbits included. Similarly, which patrols to consider benevolent and which...not much better than bandits is explained.


Speaking of bandits and associated villains and scoundrels: Gnolls, orcs and ogres and their roles in the local environments alongside basic information on tribes etc. can be found here. For more civilized regions within these wild lands, a mini-gazetteer of 3 cities and 5 towns/villages are provided - the larger of which sport multiple sites of interest.


The final section of this little book is devoted to the lore, legends and places of mystery in the sundered kingdoms - beyond a brief primer on the cults (alongside a truly astounding piece of b/w-art), the haunted moonfog hills, where the Hyperboreans have been repelled by the wild folk, the ruins of Trevi (again, with a super artwork) and a brief recount of the witches of Southfell conclude this little tour through the Sundered Kingdoms.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. As always with Frog God Games print-products, we get a glossy cover and thick, high-quality paper. The true star here, though, would be the fantastic art: Artem Shukayev, Felipe Gaona, Brian LeBlanc and Marcin Rudnicki make this very art-heavy book a joy to hand to one's players.


This system-agnostic book pretty much epitomizes a good Player's Guide for me - no SPOILERS, yet a metric ton of intriguing flavor, awesome artwork and basic knowledge that makes these lands come alive from the get-go: Anthony Pryor did a superb job here. My final verdict will clock in at unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Player's Guide
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Lost Lore: Ecology of the Basilisk
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/01/2016 04:00:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in on 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 5 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so the first thing I actually noticed (and enjoyed) about this pdf is that it's actually written in character - so yes, the reader is basically diving into the field notes of Lady Daxitroniusilluminarious Jaedall - and know what? I really like the style in which this is presented: Beginning with a brief anecdote, we go on to properly classify the creature within the context of its history and physiological contexts - and yes, the tales do include e.g. the effects of reflective substances and basically applies the scientific method to the study of fantastic creatures - several spells and their roles and interactions during the study of this creature are properly covered, conveying a sense of authenticity to the subject matter I found myself enjoying - this does feel like a scientist properly studying the basilisk.


Similarly, the pdf goes on to explain psychology and societal norms of the basilisk and the respective life cycle, while also providing tips for facing these creatures and a brief list of useful spells. The pdf also contains two spells - one that provides limited protection versus gaze attacks (appropriate at 3rd spell level) and another that lets you telepathically communicate with petrified creatures. The pdf also covers a brief list of useful items to wear when facing off versus these lethal creatures as well as two new magic items.


The first of these items would be a mask that provides immunity versus gaze attacks, while the second is a robe that has a 50% chance of reflecting rays back...and unfortunately, the item is rather opaque: "The wearer is not protected from gaze attacks, but can instead reflect any gaze back upon the original attacker." Okay, HOW? I have no idea. Is this supposed to be automatic? I.e. wearer takes effect, attacker takes effect as well? Only on a failed save or also when making the save? What if the wearer can't see the attacker, but the attacker can see the wearer? Similarly, the reflecting back of rays is odd - it requires a ranged touch attack by the wearer, but I'm not clear whether this requires an action or not - spell turning, for example, does not require an attack, but is more limited. This item...does not work as written.


The pdf also offers a CR 7/MR 3 version of the mythic basilisk that gets a nasty petrification aura - nice. The pdf also provides an 8-level "Bestiary Class" for the basilisk - basically a means to play a basilisk. The class nets d10, 2+Int skills, proficiency with natural weapons, base movement rate 20 ft. and begins play as a small creature, growing to medium-size at 3rd level. To progress in this racial class, a basilisk needs to consume a limited amount of GP per level. The class provides multiple attribute gains and unlocks the petrifying gaze (with a daily limit, increasing uses and range) at 4th level. BAB-progression is full and the class gets good Fort- and Ref-save progression as well as significant bonuses versus trip and bull rush attempts. This is an okay monster class and using basilisk blood to revert petrification represents a nice balancing mechanism once the gaze gets into player-hands.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting generally are very good on a formal level, though I do not understand why the petrification aura of the mythic basilisk, as one example, is bolded. Apart from the one item, the rules-language is precise. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice piece of b/w-artwork. While a pdf of this length doesn't require them, the absence of bookmarks could potentially annoy you, though I won't penalize a brief pdf like this for their absence.


Jeff Swank's ecology of the basilisk has me torn - on the one hand, I really enjoyed the prose of this supplement - the presentation of the basilisk as contained herein is more than rock-solid and evocative. The advice and inclusion of a mythic version was also nice. Still, at the same time, I couldn't help but feel that the pdf is a bit too short for its own good - what's here is pretty nice, but the pdf feels very constrained in what it offers - the basilisk-class, for example, while pretty well-balanced, feels a bit more tedious than it could be: I get the linear gaze progression, but why doesn't the player get any say when to get the attribute bonuses? As presented, it's 8 levels sans any player agenda, sans any choice. Boring. Secondly, the class requires you to look up basilisk natural attacks, since it does not provide the information for it...which kinda sucks. It's no deal-breaker, but neither is it comfortable. Thirdly, I was really missing an age, height and weight-table, particularly considering the size-increase: If you do play a basilisk...can he cross that rickety bridge sans it collapsing? Tables would have really helped there.


That being said, this is not a bad supplement and certainly, the well-written prose helps elevate this pdf to being a solid read. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since this is the first such ecology-style book in the Lost Lore-series.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Ecology of the Basilisk
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Lost Lore: Town of Glory
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/16/2016 04:55:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This little supplement clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so what is this?


Well, know how I love kingdom-building and consider Ultimate Campaign and they expansions released by Legendary Games pretty much one of the most awesome things ever? If you've been following my reviews, then this will come as no surprise. What may come as a surprise, though, is that I think that the kingdom-building-rules don't work perfectly in the highest and lowest echelons - as recently commented on the boards, I'm waiting for a supplement to add the mythic element to kingdom building at the high end of things. Similarly, at the low end of things, their expanded scope may surpass and overshoot their target by a bit - and this is pretty much where this book comes in: Town-building instead of kingdom building, intended primarily for characters level 1 - 8.


The cleverness of this pdf is pretty much readily apparent from the get-go - the sample town would be called glory and the pdf even sports a little box that awards stewardship over the town - and it is said town that features in the illustrating examples throughout this pdf. Towns have statistics: population, Food, Goods, Trade and Defense...oh, and the presence of skilled NPCs actually influences how a town fares, with an extensive list depicting for example the option of what you can do when you have a scholar on site. Similarly, a variety of spells and their actual uses for the town are detailed - nice to see such attention to detail here as well.


The math is rather simple and so is the system: Each week that passes represents a town turn, during which each player can make one standard town action. NPCs not assigned to buildings may construct buildings. NPCs may improve skills and population may fluctuate. Similarly, NPCs can be allocated to buildings to render them active for the following week.


In order to build a building, you consult its entry - prerequisite buildings and characters need to be fulfilled to construct it and not all characters can construct it, though once it has been completed these requirements can be ignored. Build points carry over between towns and the higher the skill involved in creation, the faster the building will be completed. Building-bonuses stack unless otherwise noted.


The town standard actions are diverse and you can also trade one in for 6 town swift actions; standard actions include, but are not limited to, leading NPCs, recovering from damage, operating buildings - the like. Swift town actions cover potion brewing, gathering information and similar, quicker tasks...and yes, helpful feats are discussed as well, as are free town actions like buying/selling, spellcasting and regular interaction. NPCs are not mindless, though, so certain shortcomings may influence their build priorities. Promoting unskilled laborers to skilled specialists is also covered. There is also a town growth check - a d20 with various modifiers that take death (and lack thereof) as well as resources into account - the higher you get, the better the benefits reaped.


The pdf also sports a simple, quick system for resolving how well the town fares against attacks: Enemy XP are tallied and divided by 100, rounded down - this is the Defense DC. To defend the town, roll 1d20, add defense and bonuses for unassigned soldiers - simple, easy to grasp and still leaves space for the PCs dealing with the bosses of the enemies. (We have to take the big guy down, if his value is added, the town will NOT prevail!)


Buildings are generally categorized in basic, intermediary and advanced buildings with correspondingly higher prerequisites and benefits. There is a slightly confusing type here, which produces two "town halls"-entries, one of which (the basic building) should clearly be "town walls." Other than that, the building-array presented is surprisingly concise.


The pdf also sports 4 spells, mostly object/tool-related as well as 4 brief, solid feats, which, while not brilliant, all work.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - apart from the one unfortunate glitch mentioned above, I noticed nothing glaring. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes without interior artwork, but needs none. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Russell Brown's town of glory is, in one word, as glorious as the title: Taking a cue from the genius downtime-system of Ultimate Campaign, this works in pretty much perfect conjunction with kingdom building at a lower level, though arguably, the system as presented here is perhaps even more streamlined. It's quick, easy to grasp and yet detailed...and it allows for what I really wanted for quite a while: Effortless low-level stewardship with a more pronounced emphasis on the human element - the importance of specialists means that the death of such characters will resonate more...oh, and yes, this works perfectly in conjunction with PFRPG's regular village statblocks, so feel free to start converting e.g. Raging Swan Press' vast catalog of excellent sample villages.


Presentation is concise and detailed and if there is one thing I regret about this pdf, then it's the size - I sincerely hope to see an expansion at some point...and since this is Frog God Games we're talking about: A low-level campaign detailing PCs acting as stewards for such a town would imho make for a pretty legendary experience - there are no modules out there with precisely such a focus apart from "PCs kill threats to town" - PCs kill threats and build town/get attached to NPCs/preferably with a good NPC-dressing generator for specialists? Never seen that done for PFRPG. I really want to play this, particularly in the grim Lost Lands! Pretty please? makes gooey eyes


This pdf surprised me with its elegance, panache and style - in spite of the somewhat unfortunate Hall/Wall-hiccup, this is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Town of Glory
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Lost Lore: Horses of the Wild
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2016 07:14:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content!


Okay, so I wanted to start this review with a Richard III-quote...but alas, the pdf already did that. What does it sport? Well, for one, it sports basic light horse stats...and 5 variants of light horses, specifically bred for different tasks and with mechanically-relevant repercussions. The heavy horse receives a similar treatment, mind you - and a horse can make all the difference: A steed of proper pedigree can help you dealing with nobility and certain breeds can make the difference between life and death, with excellent swimming capabilities, for example. The problem here is that these bonuses are pretty excessive...a bit too much, for my liking: E.g. +5 to Diplomacy when interacting with nobility is pretty hefty. (Though it should be noted that there are quite a bunch of horses herein that do not suffer from such an issue...)


5 sensible new animal handling tricks, including the much demanded Stealth-trick can be found in this book and we also get an array of feats: No more mounted archery penalties, intimidating from horse-back, better trampling, a mounted variant of spring attack and a high-level option to perform two-handed spirited charges are provided - the latter is pretty much insane: Not only can you dual-lance (ridiculous though that may sound), you add the damage together for purposes of DR-bypassing etc. Urgh. Not gonna get anywhere near my table.


Where things get more interesting would be with two other feats for your mount: Sufficiently smart awakened mounts may learn to cast a limited array of spells from the master's list of spells, but only targeting itself. On a nitpicky side - that should be SPs...or the feats would need information on which key attribute governs the spells, that of the rider or that of the mount.


Now even more interesting, and possibly the most interesting component here: There is an option to take equestrian animal companions with specific bloodlines. To receive such a mount, the rider must give up a feat slot to gain a horse-bond - but the mount thus receives a bloodline, complete with associated class skills, bonus feats, bloodline arcane and bloodline powers that are governed by your level. Equidae Sortarius, for example can hide their auras and are great mounts for more subtle characters. Primal Beasts can grow as a capstone and are true powerhouses, while thunderhorses can unleash electrical bolts and blasts - come sing it with me: "Riders of the Storm..." >>....<<...Sorry for that.


We also get a sample bloodlined horse and 3 types of magical barding: One associated with light (including 1/day daylight) as well as animated octopus hide that can Snatch Arrows and pass the missiles to the rider. Finally, there is the obligatory pegasus wing-item. Solid, if a bit unremarkable. The pdf lists the types of standard barding's stats for your convenience.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no issues there. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' 2-column full-color standard for the series. The pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a slight comfort detriment at this brief length.


Rob Manning's little pdf proved to be more interesting than I thought it would be - while the bonuses some horse types grant you seem a bit excessive to me and while not all feats are as precise as I'd like them to be, the idea of feats for awakened horses is great...and magical bloodlines for horses? Now that is an awesome concept I'd love to see expanded in the future. Particularly if the latter interests, you, then this will be worth its low asking price. That being said, with its rough edges, I unfortunately can't go higher than 4 stars, though I do recommend you checking it out if the subject matter and ideas interest you.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Horses of the Wild
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Lost Lore: The Portalist
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2016 07:13:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This supplement of Frog God Games' Lost Lore-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


What is the portalist? The simple reply would be that it is a new base-class that gets d10, full BAB-progression, 4+Int mod skills per level, good Ref-saves, proficiency with simple and light as well as single-handed martial weapons and light armor, but not shields. Portalists receive +1 to initiative at 1st level, increasing this bonus by +1 at 7th level and ever 4 levels thereafter, but their signature trick, obvious, is the eponymous ability to create portals.


A portalist may create one such portal +Int-mod per day at 1st level, +1 every level until 5th, where the progression slows down to +1 every odd level thereafter for a maximum of 12 portals per day at 19th level. In order to create a portal, a portalist has to expend a swift action and designate a start and an exit point, with the start point being either his square or one adjacent to him and the exit square not being more than 25 ft + 5 ft/2 levels away. Portalists need to have line of sight to the exit square and the exit square must not be occupied - if it is, the attempt is expended and fails, though the ability does work against tiny and smaller creatures. Portals collapse immediately upon passing through or at the end of the portalist's turn and may only be used by the portalist that created them. Portals are loud and easy to detect, so no silent infiltration...which is a pity, concept-wise. This, alas, does leave me with some questions: Can you look through a portal to get line of sight? Can you cast through a portal when you have an action readied? Is a portal a Conjuration [teleportation]-effect? It should be. If so, at what CL? This becomes relevant for means of teleportation-suppression. Do you need a free hand to make a portal? The proficiencies suggest so, But I'm not sure.


Starting at 2nd level, the portalist learns a portalist trick - basically, the talents of the class utilized to manipulate the portals and, unfortunately, here, the wording falls a bit apart: Take Ally Portal. It's simple in concept: Take an ally with you through the portal. "A portalist may pull a single willing adjacent ally of the same size or smaller through his portal so the two of them travel together. The Portalist and his ally must exit the portal in separate but adjacent squares. Using an ally portal only expends a single portal." Simple, right? Nope. Does the ally have to expend the movement? If not, why not? Does the ally have to ready the move through the portal? No idea. At 2 uses of another ability, a portalist may, as a full-round action, create a portal, move through it, attack, and return to his origin and similar combinations with charge attacks and the like are possible. Another issue that came almost immediately up would pertain the portal combinations: Can multiple such special portal tricks be applied to the same portal? Could you e.g. combine aforementioned two tricks?


On the other side of things, making portals elemental blasts upon opening and immediate action evasion or ignoring the line of sight requirement for the exit portal are interesting options - as is e.g. a spider climb-style perching on ceilings and the like. The other abilities of the class, unfortunately, also sport some minor inconsistencies - when e.g. an ability talks about "rough" terrain and obviously means "difficult terrain." Combining attacks and portals receives circumstance bonuses at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter and 10th level provides basically the advanced portal tricks, so-called arch portals - and here we have per se interesting mechanics: Like accelerating in the initiative order past an opponent adjacent to which the portalist came out or contingency portals. The capstone of the class allows for one portal per foe in range of his ability and basically whirlwind attack at range 1/day.


The pdf provides 10 new feats that cover extra portals and similar basics, but also feature e.g. the option to combine readied actions with portals, +1 portal per successful crit after exiting a portal (kitten-proof due to 1:1 expenditure/reward-ratio) or an option to eliminate the place-swapping trick of transposition portal's AoO. There are also some rather weak filler feats here, though: +2 dodge bonus after porting (+4 at 10+ ranks in Acrobatics)? Yeah, right, let me waste a feat on that one...


The pdf also sports new favored class options for the core-races and a new skill use for Acrobatics: Porting onto big monsters - and this section, with plenty of skill modifiers, may be worth the pdf's low asking price alone for you. The pdf also sports a new weapon special quality, portallic - this is basically a duplication of flaming, frost...etc. - with one caveat: Each may only be used once per day and only after passing a portal. The Rod of the Portalist allows for 1/day use of any portalist trick, whether the wielder knows it or not.


The pdf closes with no less than 4 pretty inspired fluff-only sample portalist-organizations on a evocative high note.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with parchment-style background in full-color featuring solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Michael Kortes' portalist is a pretty awesome class in concept; thinking with portals and the ramifications for their use make for utterly unique tactical options and generally, the crunch manages to juggle even complex concepts rather well. Rather well, but certainly not perfectly - from minor violations of rules-language to some required information missing regarding the functionality of portals, this pdf, alas, is an exercise of "almost" getting it right. Basically, the class is functional, but requires some minor DM-judgments to properly work. That's not the issue - as provided, it is certainly not bad. However, the class, to me, feels pretty much like it does its best to miss its own target demographic.


So, you're the cool portalist guy, pretty MAD (Str, Con, Int or Dex, Con, Int), but you have the portals...and can use them, at 19th level 12+Int-mod times per day. At first level, 1 +Int-mod times. Yay? The problem is that almost all class features here are predicated on using a resource that is not only severely limited, it is painfully limited. My playtest confirmed this, alas. Once you take the crit refuel-feat and combine it with crit-fishing, you can maintain (provided you're lucky) a certain array of portals, but you'll still liable to run out of juice very fast - faster than comparable core classes. And once you run out of fuel, you're basically a fighter without bonus feats or proper proficiencies. Yay?


Basically, the class imho needs to do one of two things: 1) Nerf portal options and provide more portals per day to make the full BAB-chassis work. Or 2), make the class 3/4 BAB and provide significantly more portals per day. As written, the class plays great for short bursts and then becomes pretty much useless - and this criticism by the guy who is a huge fan of resource-management/attrition in my games and designs...so yes, I like that design-type, but it must remain feasible. Ultimately, the portalist has all the makings of an awesome class, but stumbles pretty hard and ends up being a good scavenging ground/base from which you can work, but needs more power to make its unique concepts work consistently. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: The Portalist
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The Lost Lands: Stoneheart Valley Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/09/2016 05:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive collection of modules clocks in at 192 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 11 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 177 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf kicks in with a blast from the past for me - a discussion on the upcoming Lost Lands setting and how different places in the world implied by all Necromancer Games/Frog God Games modules and supplements. If you're like me, this is damn interesting...but let me go back for a second.


When 3rd edition came around back in the day, I was kind of skeptical - but then again, after seeing the very real limitations rules-light systems can sport at one given point, I converted - also due to my players simply enjoying reaping the benefits of system mastery. So I went into the new system, bought books etc. - the whole deal. That is when I realized that balance was terrible and fluctuating - if you've been there during the "Sword and Fist"-era, you'll know what I mean. At the same time, I got modules and while there were some fine gems, WotC just didn't produce enough - and while I will never forget how my PCs defeated Ashardalon (upgraded to CR 38, epic etc.), most, but not all of the new school modules left me craving something, feeling like something had been lost in the process. It took me quite some time back in the day to grasp what the problem was - in the advent of massive statblocks, the things that provided the immersion into the world took a step back. In its place came very straight: "This is treated as spell x" descriptions that made the whole system more concise. Additionally, bestiaries went away from complex discussions on habitat, ecology, etc., instead providing almost only crunch, rendering books I used to love to read into something I read once and then used at the table - but never read for pleasure.


The increased size of statblocks also rendered modules simply less detailed - less space to devote to the respective areas and inhabitants, their tactics etc. While this changed over the course of 3.X and in PFRPG is less of a problem, mainly due to a vast array of superb modules, in 3.X's days, it made me feel as if the system was superb in its math, but also soulless. Then there was the issue with player-entitlement, which also became a problem during those days - or rather, the slavish adherence to CRs and a "balanced chance" in every encounter felt to me unrealistic and soulless - it detracted immensely from my sense of immersion.


On the plus-side, the OGL provided a whole bunch of interesting 3pps, so I was browsing shelves in my FLGS. I noticed two old-school looking modules there - "Crucible of Freya" and "Tomb of Abysthor." I bought them. I read them. I cackled with glee. Here we got modules that had line-of-sight-featuring maps of guard-fires, great cartography - and the balls to throw a CR 6 troll at a 1st level party, proudly, defiantly against the zeitgeist, stating that PCs acting dumb ought to result in death. This very philosophy of proper challenges and smart, detailed surroundings was glorious. Better yet, the modules were not afraid of not codifying everything - providing unique terrain hazards, additional encounters (heck, in ToA the PCs can avoid a whole level if they don't want to explore everything!). A couple of years later, I had almost everything Necromancer Games had produced and ordered every book I could get my hands on.


Then, PFRPG happened and I was complaining about Slumbering Tsar, about how much I wanted to see it and had graduated from forum-lurker to reviewer. The rest is history.


Here, for the first time, the free introductory module Wizard's Amulet, Crucible of Freya and Tomb of Abysthor are collected in one massive book, all updated for PFRPG. (And that's damn well and good, for ToA, for example, was nigh impossible to get anymore!) Furthermore, while the original modules utilized various pieces of content from the Scarred Lands Creature Collection-books and the Relics & Rituals-tomes, this revamp sports completely new takes on the respective topics, without these old pieces of content. And yes, this does extend to a point where the crunch can influence the fluff and actually, rather than restrict the narrative capacities of the module in question - see for example th "sorceror's amulet"-sidebar. Better yet, some of the more significant encounters actually come with different tactical suggestions and conditions based on the difficulty level you're aiming for, making this book worthwhile even for less experienced players. (Though people, when you go for FGG, you might as well go hardcore - it's what makes winning awesome.)


Additionally, it should be noted that this is no lazy repackaging - new encounters, mapped mini-dungeons, copious amounts of superb b/w-artworks - there's a lot of new material and the inclusion of e.g. the APG-classes in builds does result in a very organic, defiantly pathfinder change of the basic modules. What about a misanthropic druid who has developed a wand to control stirges, for example, with a hilarious picture of the poor guy being annoyed by the bloodsucking pests. Ruined waystations and monasteries breathe a significant sense of danger and desolation.


And yes, the CR20+ slightly cthulhoid adversary of ToA, who belonged to a now IP-protected species has been replaced with a rather cool multi-class build...of what race? No, not going to spoil that...


On the crunch-side, the book does sport new takes on archetypes and prestige classes for the foes, numerous magic items and a variety of non-standard creatures to be encountered within these pages.


What is this module about? I'm not spoiling that. This is a piece of roleplaying history that one should experience for oneself. Just one hint: Beware the font and its endless skeletons...


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks herein are glorious, especially the new ones; some original artworks have been used as well. The cartography is neat as well, I just wished we had player-friendly versions for them.


I'll make this short - Bill Webb and Clark Perterson are legends for a reason. But Erica Balsley, Greg A. Vaughan and Skeeter Green as contributing authors should be proud as well. Developers Skeeter Green and Ken Cliffe have taken this collection and made it more than the sum of its parts, rendering this book more than the sum of its parts.


This is a defiantly old-school mega-adventure, a mini-setting-sourcebook and enough adventure material to provide enjoyment for quite a while. Finally, if your players think they're hard - back when I ran Ravenloft campaigns, I played these modules with the following stipulations:


-all damage-dealing magic causes madness checks


-max one starting piece of magical equipment


-+ DR 10/special material or DR 20/special material to all supernatural adversaries, with special materials to be determined by research


...and much more. Yes, a lot of PCs died. They still talk about the experience with a gleam in their eyes and when PC upon PC sacrificed himself to buy some time in my modified finale...well, let's just say that this was simply glorious. If you're interested in that, drop me a line.


Back to the review: I have not SPOILER-tagged the module for a reason - this is less about the story, more about the atmosphere. About the feeling of this massive book. About the freedom, the non-linearity, the sense of danger and a world that has turned forward, a feeling that what little civilization is there, it's in danger. This is a document of roleplaying game history, carefully and respectfully refreshed to the PFRPG-rules and one of the books that should grace the shelves of all PFRPG-DMs -beyond being a great old-school module, this constitutes the best iteration of the material so far, both in production values and builds. That being said, Frog God Games has since back in the day raised the bar by quite a bit, so while this module is still great and awesome, it has aged a bit when compared to some of the glorious modules FGG has produced in the meanwhile. And if your group has played the original modules, this may be the better version, but for me, personally, I wouldn't play this massive array again and instead use the new content as supplemental wilderness encounters. What I'm trying to say is - if you already have the originals, this is optional, not mandatory. If you don't have them, though - this is literally roleplaying game history.


My final verdict will still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - this is a book that every group that liked old-school should have played at least once.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Lands: Stoneheart Valley Pathfinder Edition
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