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Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/19/2018 06:26:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Okay, as always with these modules, you don’t necessarily need Mists of Akuma to run them – all necessary information is provided, though personally, I definitely recommend them within the context of their setting. In this book, we get the stats for the Adeddo-oni. As far as other stats are concerned, we get two wielders of portable cannons, a powerful cursed shikome (hobgoblin, armor covered in prayer slips, who can broadcast radio waves and comes with notes on the Kodoma-Tachi chapter!) and more. As an aside: I have no idea what a leap speed is supposed to be – and the hobgoblin write up doesn’t specify. On the plus-side, we get 4 new tsukumogami, and the Fukō oni, who comes in two iterations. Once more, we also get a pretty potent legendary item, which. Once more, is sentient…and potentially thus rather troublesome. All in all, quite a bunch of new material!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Once more the powers-that-be recruit the PCs via a missive found in an unlikely place; with autumn in the air, the PCs must travel to Kyusokuna, and there, find Hanashichū Grove – preferably without running afoul of the local taboos regarding tech. To reach the grove, the PCs will have to cross a massive suspension bridge, where they will, of course, have to deal with rather potent adversaries (serviceable map included) – and they should better not tary. Becoming lost or falling off the bridge may end up being late…something that is rather frowned upon in Soburin. (As a German, I can relate…)

Once they have arrived at the designated spot for their clandestine meeting, the PCs met the nature-wielder, here on behalf of Lord Sukochi. The task sounds simple: End the troubles at Shibai. It’s not. All the monks of the titular temple have been found dead or missing, and an oni is haunting the village. The famous, cannon-wielding Mubō Brothers have been hired to deal with the issue, but they are deemed to be heretics and too incompetent to solve the issue. The PCs also hear that the settlement was founded by a potent wu-jen and yamabushi, and is considered to be a safe haven from the feared mists of akuma – loss of the area is not acceptable. (As an aside, yes, we do get random encounter suggestions.)

Once the PCs arrive at Shibai, they walk into chaos – a full-blown adeddo-oni attack must be thwarted, which is also the first chance to interact with the rather unpleasant cannon-wielders. Once the chaos has been subdued, the PCs will have a chance to start to loathe the brothers before talking to the mayor, who, after being initially dismissive, warms considerably to them once the PCs flaunt their mission. The fully mapped settlement is at the slope of a steep hill, with heights noted on the map – kudos! The mayor tells the PCs over tea (somewhat of a lost chance for Culture-checks…) about the situation – and indeed, the constant monster assaults represent a ticking timer…the PCs should better hurry!

Ultimately, they will have to investigate Róbai Shita temple – and worse, the brothers will try to smear their names when they set out for the temple. Speaking of temple: The place is fully mapped (2 levels) and, while the maps sport no scale, it is easy enough to assume the default 5-ft.-grid. The maps are rather detailed and can be cut up and used as hand-outs, which is a big plus. Somewhat odd, though: The ground floor of the temple has the functions of rooms noted, while the basement is wholly spoiler-free. Just an observation, mind you – I’m good with the presentation. While the exploration of the temple requires a bit of GM panache (in the absence of room-by-room-read-aloud text), the exploration should elicit a bit of creepiness nonetheless…and upon their return from the temple, the brothers will attack, trying to secure their spot as top dog problem solvers.

The battle will rage, but before one side can claim a decisive victory, the monstrous ukō intercedes with a whole array of deadly creatures in tow. In the chaos, the brothers should manage to get away…and even if bested, the monster seems likely to return. Thus begins a bit of an investigation, which comes in two difficulties – simple and hard; the added difficulty version in particular is something I’d recommend to add a further sense of urgency to the investigation; turns out that an ambitious couple has taken the yūrei-fū wind chimes from the depths of the temple – and, well, they are not necessarily going to just give up on them or their ambitions….and the brothers may pose further issues.

In order to stop the troubles that have beset the village, the PCs will have to venture down into Róbai Shita’s dungeon, which is as much dungeon as it is a colossal accumulation of tsukumogamis! Once more, we get basic room descriptions (no read-aloud text) as the PCs venture through the dungeon to the catacombs. (Once more, the dungeon has room names included, while the catacombs don’t; once more, the maps are pretty detailed and scale-less, but perfectly usable). Placing the wind chimes back where they belong will have the PCs duke it out with the undying monster once more – if they succeed, they’ll have saved the town, hopefully with proof regarding the plot behind the wind chimes and their theft!

It should be noted that the pdf does come with a handy 1-page list of local rumors, which add some local color to the proceedings.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty good, I noticed no big problems regarding the rules and structure of the module. Layout adheres to Mists of Akuma’s busy 2-column full-color style, which manages to fit quite a bit of material on a given page. Artworks are a combination of nice full-color pieces and public domain art, which, in combination, has evolved into a rather distinct style I personally rather like. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is probably the best in the Mists of Akuma-modules – the maps are detailed, interesting and can be used as cut-up hand-outs.

Mike Myler’s “Scourge of Róbai Shita Temple” is perhaps the most easily plug-and-play module of all the Mists of Akuma-adventures I’ve read so far; it can be used in other contexts without major reskinning, which is certainly somewhat helpful. That is, however, also the weak spot of the adventure: While distinctly belonging to Mists of Akuma in style, themes and aesthetics, it is a slight bit less unique than my favorite, “Fangs of Revenge”, which I consider to be my personal favorite among the Mists of Akuma adventures.

That being said, I am not judging these modules by my taste, at least not exclusively, and this adventure is well-crafted…and easy to run. Where “Fangs of Revenge” can feel daunting at times and is aimed at experienced GMs, this one is much easier to run and represents a nice investigation with creepy locales, antagonists that the PCs will love to hate, etc. – in short, this is a very well-rounded module. The alternate suggestion for a more difficult investigation is very much appreciated as well and shows a level of extra thought that I certainly appreciate.

While this adventure doesn’t reach the tension of “Fangs of Revenge” or the covert-ops-assignment against the scorpion samurai, it is a module that should work well as an introduction to core tenets of Mists of Akuma, horror-gaming and, well, the leitmotifs of the setting. In short, I don’t have much to complain about here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. (Experienced GMs should definitely check out “Fangs of Revenge”, though – That one has potential galore and could be the start of a mega-adventure/series…it may be a bit too ambitious for its scope, but if you can write sequels, it’s amazing…)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
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Mists of Akuma: Cursed Soul of the Scorpion Samurai
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/17/2018 03:39:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Now, it should be noted that the module does not per se require the Mists of Akuma setting book, though it most assuredly is recommended; the adeddo-oni stats used are reproduced here, alongside new material, like the stats for the penanggalen (challenge 6), the challenge 4 scorpion ninja and, of course, the eponymous scorpion samurai. The legendary odachi scorpion’s tail is also included and is both really potent and really evil…it should not be too hard to make PCs not want to use the blade, in spite of its definite allure.

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

We begin this adventure in Yukinokyū, in the Kizuato prefecture, forced to the area by the uncommon spring weather. It is here that the PCs receive a secret missive from the benegoshi of Fuson on behalf of the emperor. (The missive is btw. represented as a nice, potential handout – though you have to cut it out of the page – having it on a single page would have been neat.) Anyhow, the missive is pretty peculiar, in that it requires that the PCs travel to the town of Kakasu, with the request and presence of the PCs needing to remain unknown. Thus, the PCs are supposed to take Hidaretei pass, which is a known hunting ground of ogres. Really cool: We get several nasty hazards for crossing the pass, from microstorms to stinking crevasses, this adds a bit of detail, and we do get a couple of random encounter suggestions. And yes, there will ultimately be a showdown on a nice little battlemap. (It has no scale, but I assume default 5-foot-squares.)

But wait! What if your players are smart and prefer forging travel papers to reach their goal? That option has similarly been covered in a sidebox – kudos! When arriving at Kaksu, the timing couldn’t have been worse, as the mists of akuma are approaching. The hustle to the settlement (which comes with a solid map) can once more include some nasty battles, and, as they arrive in town, the PCs need t be careful: They have to find Fūmiyutakana without alerting anyone – they’re sworn to secrecy, after all! (And yes, failure has consequences here!) Sooner or later, the PCs will find themselves at a restaurant, facing a test of their cultural knowledge – not showing the proper knowledge of etiquette may cast an unfortunate light on them – but ultimately, they will get a map concealed under dumplings, one leading into the forest.

Following the trail into danger once more, the PCs meet Yukari, who tells them about the deaths of various former servants of the Fuson family – and how they all had in common that they were part of the banishment of Hinjuku Nagaro, the titular scorpion samurai. The remainder of folks on the scorpion samurai’s death list, are currently enjoying the hospitality of lord Gabiru Fuson in Shinjitsu on Shōjiki Island. Secrecy is tantamount, for the trap is pretty obvious and the scorpion samurai has many allies – which is why outsiders, an unknown party, is required – secrecy must be maintained as the PCs are tasked to eliminate the disgruntled samurai – preferably before he completes his revenge-driven blood ritual.

Alas, as the PCs either travel on or try to return to civilization for the night, they’ll have to first face down deadly threats (once more with a solid encounter-map) – fun here: Terrain does matter and the bamboo squares can make for nice tactical tricks. Getting to the island has obviously more than one solution, and, indeed, more than one is mentioned. The mists do not let up – briefly after the PCs have landed on the island, the mists roll in – and with them, danger galore, as the populace barricades their doors and windows, leaving the PCs to fight in the tiny (mapped!) hamlet. Oh, and the PCs still have to maintain their secrecy…

Worse, once the PCs, hopefully disguised, ask around, they’ll soon realize that the scorpion samurai is pretty much a local hero here, which complicates matters further. Yukari has set up 3 targets as bait, three chances to catch the scorpion samurai…however, depending on how the PCs fared, one or more may already be dead…so let’s hope they didn’t blow their cover! Ultimately, the PCs should definitely manage to prevent the final sacrifice, for its none other than Chijmatsu, lord Gabiru’s daughter, that will cement the power of the scorpion samurai once and for all – in order to stop her sacrifice, the PCs will have to venture to Ikatteiru cave and stop the dread ritual before the woman’s soul is ripped from her body. While the cave is mapped, in an odd choice, the actual cave floor lacks a grid otherwise present on the map. There are further complications: A penanggalen hell-bent on revenge; a draconic ally…and the significant power of the deadly scorpion samurai. Suffice to say, the finale is challenging indeed...and it has some serious potential for further adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in the first two Mists of Akuma modules and the stats are solid – not much to complain here. Layout adheres to the somewhat cramped 2-column full-color standard of the series, but manages to fit a lot of material on a given page. We get a blending of original and public domain artwork and the cartography is in full color and solid, though the final map’s glitch is a bit annoying. Plus-side: The background story of the scorpion samurai is presented, hand-out style, on two pages – nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler’s yarn here is a great example on how to make a high-octane railroad that doesn’t feel like one. The module is, structure-wise, pretty linear, but still provides means for the PCs to jump off the rails. The espionage angle adds further complications to the PC’s task and can be played up for some rather remarkable scenes, all while enhancing the themes of mistrust and paranoia that work so well in Mists of Akuma. In short, this is a great example on how to do a good, rewarding linear scenario that doesn’t feel constrained. Frantic, busy and intentionally opaque in some regards, the scenario, as a whole, is certainly well worth playing, particularly for the low asking price.

It is also a scenario that works rather well on its own: Unlike the (imho superior) “Fangs of Revenge”, this one is less steeped in the peculiarities of the setting. We don’t have a revolution, a vast cadre of NPCs, etc. – while this makes this module less unique, it also renders it easier to run than the somewhat challenging yarn of Fangs. They are two different breeds of module, but ultimately, both are steeped in the themes and atmosphere of the setting – and both are better off for it. In short: This is a well-made module for a fair price-point. It is easier to plug and play it than Fangs, but also doesn’t carry the same level of oomph and impact. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Éndzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Cursed Soul of the Scorpion Samurai
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Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/16/2018 13:31:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th – 8th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

It should also be noted that the pdf contains a wide variety of stats for creatures; from the Mists of Akuma CS reprinted would be the hebikontorōra, the adeddo-onis, the tikbalang and the gaki – though the latter has a name and is called “chief”, the stats of that individual are identical to the standard gaki.The pdf also provides the stats for the oni bengoshi Xiqzoxix. It should be noted that the stats for the eponymous sovereign of storms are new and that a particular, new tsukumogami can also be found within. In short: While there is some overlap with the campaign book, this makes handling the module more convenient.

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! It is a dark and stormy night as the PCs are traveling the haunted landscapes of Soburin to be contacted by xiqzoxix, who holds a blade to one of the PC’s throats. Despite of the, oni-typical, rather hostile introduction, the creature actually has a quest for the PCs, namely to travel to the remote settlement of Tuskisasu, which has recently been taken over by Obiemashita, who is growing in power. EDIT: Once more, I was not aware of a gender-neutral pronoun employed herein. My apologies if anyone has taken offense. Anyway, the oni offers quite a hefty reward.

At first, the intruder seemed like a feral child, the entity soon grew and has since elevated the bakemono and shikome to unbecoming status…and in Soburin’s rigid hierarchies, that alone should elicit a gasp. Anyhow, in order to find the village cloaked by ancient magics, the PCs will have to travel 100 pages North, and throw a handful of rice over their shoulder after every 25 steps, and that’s only the first part of the ritualistic approach to unveil the village – it is small details like this that make the module feel more organic – nice means to highlight the strangeness of magic.

When within the settlement (which comes with a small map – I wished we’d get one in proper hand-out size), though, the PCs must exert caution – while they get an item, which, when affixed to the yai lord, will influence the future of Yōna, the local oni warlord, currently firmly under the yai sovereign’s control….so yes, some subterfuge will be required. As the PCs approach the settlement, they will have a chance to save two inhumans from the hidden village from the ravages of a tikbalang, thus allowing the PCs to get some potential information and help…while leaving them to die has consequences of its own.

Filled with pretty much a who is who of the more monstrous and not too popular races of Soburin, the settlement may once have been considered to be a jewel – but the chaotic rulership of its new sovereign. The PCs get to witness the local issues first-hand, with (hopefully!) the saved individuals at least deflecting some level of scrutiny. They will need a place to stay low and an abandoned machineshop may provide just that…and if you have that component to drive home, a particularly brutal storm may help you. It should be noted that the shop is pretty free-form apart from the 3 traps provided for it. Once the PCs have secured the place, they will have a nice place to base their further operations on...and, more importantly, take a long rest, which they probably require at this point.

Here, the main meat of the module begins – we get an interesting vista of the strange settlement, but the fully mapped fortress of the oni lord is where the true showdown will happen: There are 7 circles that the yai sovereign uses to control the storms, and the downside of his chaotic edicts is that the guards show less discipline than they should. The PCs will have to destroy the 7 magic circles, as they explore the de-roofed fortress with its bone doors, poisoned railings, etc., all while harried by Obiemashita, who harries them in attempts to learn their tactics as they dismantle his circles. Whether or not the rightful ruler of the settlement is reinstated, or a new lord rules, defeating the yai sovereign will net the PCs some leeway…and the option to acquire an amazing blade, the Katana of Rizushi Kentaro, actually a spiteful takara tsukumogami, which is, in itself, already a nice angle for a subsequent adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. While there are a couple of hiccups, they don’t necessarily compromise the atmosphere of the module. Layout adheres to the pretty busy 2-column full-color standard of Mists of Akuma, which fits a surprising amount of text on each page. Artworks are a combination of full-color pieces and modified public-domain-art, the latter fitting on a meta-level really well with one of the themes of Mists of Akuma. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This module, ultimately, makes for a good convention scenario: The brisk pace the module sports and its pretty linear structure lend itself well to such environments, with particularly the final reminding me, in a good way, of the Onimusha-franchise. That being said, I found the adventure to feel, ultimately, like a hurried piece that suffers from its self-imposed limitations. The PCs are expected to do some investigation while in the wondrous city, but that aspect is somewhat underdeveloped – on the one hand, the module implies the need for a homebase to gather information from; on the other, RAW, there isn’t that much to be found here; the investigation per se is an afterthought, when it could have been a really rewarding part of the module.

As written, the PCs can explore a series of cool, but mostly fluff brief vignettes that ultimately don’t contribute much to their goals. This feels like it could have carried, you know, PCs facing a difficult mission; with the unearthing of clues, gaining allies, etc., all so they could gain advantages in the final assault. Instead, the investigation and the biggest strength of the module, the unique and wondrous settlement, become basically backdrops on the way to a challenging and per se fun boss fight. With 10 more pages, and consequences for how they tackle the investigation, this could have been an amazing module, but, in its current form, it leaves me somewhat disappointed at a high level.

The module sports a cool finale and unique backdrop, but it falls short of what it easily could have been. As presented, I’d consider this to be worthwhile as a convention scenario. Beyond those confines, it can use some GM-work to flesh out the way to the finale and locale. In the end, I consider this a somewhat mixed bag, with my final rating clocking in at 3.5 stars. If you’re looking for a convention scenario, round up. Otherwise, round down. My official verdict will reflect the latter rating, since I assume that most GMs are looking for material for non-convention contexts.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms
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Mists of Akuma: Fangs of Revenge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/16/2018 13:27:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 6th – 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

The adventure contains a rather extensive stat-section, providing full stats for the adeddo-oni and the hebikontorōra from the Mists of Akuma book, but also stats for potent factory workers, a hengeyokai ninja and two true hebi hengeyokai – as well as the template to create more of these fellows. As an aside, the picture on the page depicting the template, while a bit cheese-cake-y, is up my alley, in that it looks very Conan-like; scantily-clad woman + threatening serpents = win (sorry, I just like my Sword & Sorcery…)…but I don’t think it fits Mists of Akuma that well. That just as an aside, though!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The city of Samon is an important industrial center, and when the PCs are summoned by the benegoshi, they’d better heed its call – to do otherwise would equal a death sentence. But things are less simple than what the PCs may expect to find – as much can be gleaned from the NPC-section provided for the GM: We get 3 pages of bullet point motivations, goals, etc. (as well as pointers towards which stats to use, if in question), allowing for an easy way to get an overview of the plot. Similarly, a nice, isometric map of the city (looks like a modified public domain source and is thus surprisingly atmospheric!) and a brief overview of the city help contextualize the proceedings for the game – for Samon’s architecture is very much defined by foreign influences (allowing you to dive into the (fear of) progress/xenophobia angle and the railroads that the city sports make for a great way to have players into Japanese history (or, well, history as a whole), capitalize on the fear and superstitions surrounding that invention.

Anyways, the PCs are summoned to a rather disgruntled lord, powerful only in station and overshadowed by the importance of both the Taizuki Rail Company and the fudōsoge training facility nearby…and, as the posters the PCs probably saw highlight, a worker’s rebellion certainly won’t help his status…To add to the heap of issues, animal trickery is on the rise, so hengeyokai, kami, etc. may also be at work. He also mentions nine arrows, perverts…and falls promptly asleep, being addicted to black smoke, leaving the PCs with a rather daunting task ahead. (It should btw. be noted that the pdf sports a nice handout of the summons!)

Ultimately, the PCs must investigate the proceedings in the unique city – which sports a rather cosmopolitan populace due to the demands of the heavy industry. There is an easy point-based mechanic for the Gm to track the potentially favor with the Fangs, as they go into deep cover – and here, we get the cool and diverse investigation that matters that I wanted to see in the yai sovereign.

Remarkable, btw.: We get a semi-isometric sideview of the rail company’s base, with the outer walls partially cut open; a really nice picture that does an excellent job at highlighting why I actually comment in a positive manner on how Mists of Akuma books employ the public domain assets in really cool ways. The module here, both regarding investigation and strategy for infiltration, are btw. really varied: there is more than one way to get into the good graces of the Fangs and infiltrate them…though PCs may well end up having to cause some havoc. Similarly, tailing suspects is covered and the pdf does cover several individuals…which may well act as foils as well as targets when the PCs start asking questions.

In the end, the PCs will be led to Chujiang gardens in the middle of the night – which btw. come fully mapped and here, the PCs will probably have a fight on their hand – one in a rather cool environment. EDIT: Here, I botched. I wasn't aware of one of the gender-neutral pronouns, sicne my professional environment uses a different solution. Mea culpa if anyone was offended!! On the plus-side, if the PCs botched their investigations, the aftermath of combat is a perfect way to fill in as many blank spaces as you’d require.

Let’s recap here: The PCs may quite well be fugitives at this point, considering their deep cover; the lord’s addiction makes him useless regarding support, unrest stirs and the mysterious 9th Arrow seems to have an alliance with Harold Itrikasu…oh, and guess what, rebellion is bound to strike! The PCs need to hurry to Tazuki Rail Company, as the streets are suddenly less than safe, courtesy of the uprising…and at this point, the true stakes should be somewhat clear: Unbeknown to most, there once was a serpent hengeyokai race (hebi), particularly vile and nasty; these had been mostly purged in the Kengen occupation, courtesy to a being from the Utamara bloodline absconding with a scroll containing names and guises. Well, guess who’s back and looking for revenge? Oh, one interesting component: Hebi can become stronger – requiring just a horrible sacrificial ritual, one that may well see the last descendants of the Utamara bloodline slaughtered.

The finale has the PCs enter the Tazuki Rail Company’s basement for a truly complex and interesting finale, with a ton of terrain features noted…and while the disruption of the sacrifice ends the module per se, it leaves Samon in shambles…and the PCs in a unique position: They may well be the only individuals who get what happened…and they may well have the tools to negotiate the future of the city and unearth more – the module is a perfect set-up for a sequel and modules to come, while remaining sufficiently self-contained.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, as a whole, pretty good. Layout adheres to the slightly cluttered 2-column full-color standard of the Mists of Akuma supplements, which cram a surprising amount of content on a given page. The artworks sport a blend of historic, public-domain works and the aesthetics of the series, making the visual style relatively consistent. Original artworks, as for example for the NPC-role-call, are somewhat more comic-like and not that great. On the other hand, there are some amazing pieces herein as well. The module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I would have enjoyed another battle-map style version of the map for the final battle, but the other maps are neat, particularly considering the fair price point.

Fangs of Revenge is superior to “The Yai Sovereign of Storms” in pretty much every way; it’s smarter, more complex and makes truly excellent use of the unique Mists of Akuma setting. The investigation and plots are grand and require a somewhat experienced GM to portray, but it is fascinating how much cool content is crammed within these pages. The book reminded me, in some way, of the Shin Megami tensei Devil Summoner games, of Vidocq through the lens of Mists of Akuma; this module highlights social tensions, racial struggles, complex intrigues and a snapshot in history, where things change, generating a sense of an evolving world where the PCs may be catalysts or motors of change. In short, this is a really nice module that is modular, interesting and sports serious potential for further expansion – it’s a module that can sell experienced players on the setting. All in all, very much worth checking out, my final verdict for this one will be 4.5 stars, with the map for the finale and the none-too-strong editing being the downsides of what may otherwise be one of the best modules Mike Myler has penned so far. Considering how enjoyable I found this module, I will round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Fangs of Revenge
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Frigid Reflections
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/13/2017 04:19:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The finale of the „Beyond the Glittering Fane“ adventure arc clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 ¾ pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with approximately 67 ¼ pages of content, quite a massive module!

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

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All right, still here? After their hard-earned triumph in the furious preceding module, the PCs are contacted by Knight-commander Erik Ullsteinnr, who shares a rather odd observation – some of the vanquished undead in the recent conflict seem to leave preternaturally cold shards of ice; his concern also has a personal dimension: An old friend of his, the dwarf Skimmr, may be succumbing to the stone touch; thus, the PCs set out towards the town of Utvikle, but en route, they are once again beset by potent foes, namely raiders that have succumbed to the dreaded rage fever! Pretty cool, btw.: Piloting the ship, the chance for the captain to die and information to relay during the journey have all been provided…and yes, sea serpent attack included. This continues one tradition I love about the whole adventure arc – instead of just glossing over transitions, the saga develops them properly, lets them breathe, and thus instills a sense of the vastness and wonder of Rhûne.

The town of Utvikle, lavishly mapped, is certainly pretty, and while the map does have some explanatory notes, none of them represent SPOILERS, making the map actually a feasible choice as a beautiful player-handout. Kudos there! Slightly irritating: The poor dwarf’s name is annoyingly inconsistent throughout the module: Skimmr, Skemmr, Skemmir – while that sort of vowel change is pretty common in Icelandic, I am proficient in the language and the shifts here are not predicated on the regular grammar. On the plus-side, a detailed rumor table and a magical shotgun (Semmr’s Breiða Brótja – roughly: broad/spreading broken-maker) as well as a fully mapped tavern can be found: Huge kudos: The layout and construction of the Wild Breeze tavern has, as a whole, sensible placement of fires and rooms. At this point, the PCs will also encounter the first counter-measure of their BBEG – when frigus zombies led by a juggernaut of blind fury assault, the PCs will have a lot on their plates…

In the aftermath of the attack, the PCs will be contacted by the vitkarr – Jägare (or Jågare – the nomenclature is once more inconsistent), an ice ælf, who seems to know more about the undead – however, during the talk, there is a good chance that the PCs will be attacked by Vorskoi, the glacies vampire – and there is a good chance he’ll kill Jägare…though even if he does, the arrival of a valkyrie may allow the PCs to change the ice ælf’s fate…

The undead horde under the command of the glacies vampire are making their path towards the pale tower…and while the PCs may well choose to follow them, they do have a chance to arrive sooner by cutting through the territory of a mighty giant…and return to the psychosis-inducing pale tower, which may well be a return for some PCs! And yes, the pale tower’s unique effects are included for your convenience. Per default, this section is cinematic as the PCs hack through frigus zombies…but if you have the “Into the Pale Tower”-module, this would be a great way t restock a fully depicted dungeon.

Anyways, as the PCs reach Vorskroi, his machinations bear fruit and the gate opens to swallow the PCs and undead alike, transporting them to Niflæheim, home of ice ælves and realm of all winter! (And yes, if the glacies vampire did fall to the PCs, you’re not in trouble – the pdf provides solutions for this bottleneck!)

“Pff, winter survival is a cakewalk at these levels.” Oh boy, you WILL suffer if you believe that! The winter hazards presented here are BRUTAL. As in: If PCs aren’t smart, they may well be killed all off by the brutal weather! So yeah, turns out that traveling to a world of perpetual, supernatural apocalyptic winter is a perilous endeavor! Big plus for capturing that! Now, sooner than later, PCs that do not fall prey to having ice crystals grow on them etc. will find the ice ælves and their settlement…but their reception will be. Well. Cold. In order to be accepted, the PCs must complete 3 tasks (though silver-tongued PCs that drank deeply from Mimir’s well may manage to require less tasks…) – hunting flesks, gathering striking stones ( which is perilous, as the PCs may need to deal with a whole table of icicles waiting to impale them as they mine…) and purging gardens from a rot grub infection all are certainly tasks befitting of heroes.

The grand success and accompanying feast is rudely interrupted by none other than Níðhöggroth, the quasi-deific super-monster of the realm; guess what? Yep, they should frickin’ run. Ultimately, the trail brings the PCs to the ruins of the gelid glacier, where legions of the frostbitten dead await, guarding the ruins of the vast temple of Isa! Within the confines of this majestic temple, a variety of different tasks loom – we once again get a gorgeous full-color map (wished we’d get a player-friendly version to cut up and use as a handout as well…) and the challenges are interesting and breathe flavor: Bells that can emit deadly pulses of sonic energy, flavorful rooms and well-presented, deadly hazards compliment a rewarding dungeon, which focuses on a rather grand plan: Encased in ice, there lies Drittsekk (literally dirt-bag, which elicited a lol from me), bastard of Mhamnoch and super-powerful glacies vampire of Gargantuan proportions; and he may well be set loose, if the PCs bumble. In fact, eliminating the quasi-divine giant-thing may be a good plan…provided they can deal with the already boss-worthy chief in charge of restoring Drittsekk first. The module does provide warnings here: These foes in sequence are EXTREMELY potent and may be just what the doctor ordered against really powerful PCs, so if you usually find your players yawn at the challenges presented by published modules. Start smiling. Oh, it gets better.

Why? Well, if your PCs are so insanely strong they managed to take them down…there is more coming. Níðhöggroth is approaching and interrupts the combat with Drittsekk, to begin picking off targets one by one – the dragon is potent (and THANKFULLY comes with a second, proper and mythic version for all of us who are not content with a regular, deadly iteration) and makes for the last piece in a delightfully challenging, very rewarding final encounter.

However, the PCs are still stranded in the realm off eternal ice…and the ice ælves are running out of options…and thus, the module concludes with an event that may well change the dynamics of Rhûne, as the PCs lead the exodus of ice ælves to Midgard, hopefully escaping the wrath of the nigh-unstoppable dragon…for now…and changing the lands of Rhûne thus!

We conclude this book with various magic items of ice ælves etc., faction missions for the power players of the setting and the frigus zombie and glacies vampire templates, which, as you may have noticed, are used copiously throughout the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se pretty good, though the consistency-hiccups, at least to me, are a bit galling and not typical for Rhûne supplements, which usually are pretty good in keeping ås and umlaut-studded äs apart. Most native speakers of English will probably not mind, but yeah. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a LOT of gorgeous full-color artworks, though fans of Rhûne will know quite a few of them already. Still, we’re talking about Paizo/WotC-level art here. This is a beautiful book, which particularly holds true regarding the maps. Now, if we also got player-friendly key-less versions for VTTs included in the deal, I’d be 100% happy, but oh well. Speaking of happiness: WE GET DETAILED, NESTED BOOKMARKS! Yes!

Jaye Sonia and Mike Myler joined forces here to write a satisfying conclusion to the “Beyond the Glittering Fane”-saga. That, in itself, is already a feat – you see, ALL adventures in the series so far, and in particular “Rune of Hope”, should be considered to be phenomenal adventures. They provide a wide array of different challenges, breathe the flavor of the setting and feel incredibly…unique. Fresh. Exciting. The first three modules (as the arc has two different first parts!) rank among my favorite underdog 3pp-sagas and frankly, constitute one of my favorite adventure-series all year. The lack of bookmarks, player-friendly maps and the couple of editing snafus did cost them my highest accolades, but it seems like Storm Bunny Studios’ crew is stepping their game up. The inclusion of proper bookmarks is a huge comfort plus in this module.

Now, if you enjoyed the former modules, this has the same level of depth and feels like a consistent continuation, though its focus is a bit clearer; the adventure provides ample variety, though not to the extent of Rune of Hope – instead, it focuses on telling a tale where the PCs get to truly influence Rhûne’s history and its focus thus has a purpose. Since the module does have a few formal hiccups, I will rate it 4.5 stars, but round up for the purpose of this platform. And yes, this deserves my seal of approval. As an aside: If you need some threats and hazards for a REALLY deadly icy wasteland…look no further than this book!

This is also a good chance to talk about the whole saga: It is DEFINITELY worth experiencing! The whole series ranks among the most diverse, multi-faceted adventure series I have seen in a while, and had me flashback in very positive ways to non-anthology-Open Design adventures: There is one consistent, strong story that provides a context for diverse, amazing adventuring. It is my ardent hope that we’ll get a chance to get this series in print, preferably with player-friendly maps and one final consistency editing pass, for the series, as a whole, is phenomenal and indeed, top ten-worthy. Plus, I really, really want the series in proper print.

Anyways, if you can see past the glitches that can be found in the series, then it will most definitely entertain you and yours! The quality of the penmanship throughout is excellent.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Frigid Reflections
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Mists of Akuma: Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk for 5E
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/28/2017 11:52:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting clocks in at 279 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with a massive 270 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Picture a colonial nightmare, for beyond what we saw in real life: During the Meiji-era of real world Japan, the feudal, isolationist Japanese culture was forced into accepting a new globalized world order; the analogue continent of Soburin, setting of this campaign setting, has seen a less benevolent interaction, one characterized by more than a century of oppression and exploitation. As such, the development of the new technology brought to Soburin did have radically different consequences for Soburin than for its real world analogue. Where Japan’s persecution of Christians and rigid caste system broke down, where the age of the samurai ended, in Soburin, the length and relentlessness of the oppression faced resulted in thoroughly different dynamics, dynamics characterized by the magic and technology that suffuses the world.

This era of oppression, however, has ended – but not in a revolution for freedom. Instead, it was the eponymous mists, the monsoon rains, the catastrophes that seemingly separated Soburin from the rest of the world. If you’re like me, then this will undoubtedly put a smile on your face – yes, this book is proudly inspired by my favorite setting of all time, Ravenloft. In fact, if I were to provide an elevator pitch for the setting, it would be “An even more messed up Meiji era Japan + Ravenloft + Steampunk.” If that is enough to sell this campaign setting for you, then go ahead – chances are that you’ll enjoy this.

So, we all know about the importance of honor, face, etc. – everyone who had to work with other cultures or who has been exposed to them from one form of media or another, will most assuredly encounter differences. Even between related cultures like the American and European cultures [plural refers to both – I wholeheartedly subscribe to the theory that there is a vast plethora of American cultures], different values and taboos exist, in spite of both being generally considered to be part of the Christian part of the world. Now, if these differences and potential problems already exist for related cultures, you can picture the issues when dealing with a thoroughly different culture and way of life. It is easy to get caught up in exotisms, xenophilia or xenophobia -and more often than not, roleplaying games tend to generalize “Asian” – cultures and throw concepts together willy-nilly. Beyond being potentially insulting, the problem I tend to experience in such a context has always been that such melting-pot catch-all settings tend to lack a sufficient stand-alone identity, that they feel wrong to me. There are precious few exceptions to this rule, with Rite Publishing’s Kaidan being one of my favorite examples.

Another potential issue that this campaign setting faces, would frankly be the pitch: Ravenloft Japan with steampunk. Okay, that can be pretty amazing…but can it surpass the conglomerate of its components, or will it remain a jigsaw of pieces that do not really gel well together?

Well, in order to analyze that, let us being with the rules and analyze them from the ground up. It should be noted, that approximately 100 pages of this massive tome are devoted to player-facing options. As such, I can’t analyze them all without bloating this review far beyond what would be useful. As such, I will instead focus on providing an idea of the respective options.

All right, the first thing you need to know, would be that Mists of Akuma sports two new scores – they behave at once like attributes and differently from them. These would be Dignity and Haitoku (“haitoku” translates, unless I am sorely mistaken, to corruption, immorality, lapses of (social) grace) – from this constellation, you should realize that they are indeed kind of entwined. A new character begins play with a dignity score of 10 and a Haitoku score of 10. At the GM’s approval, a new character may choose to have a Haitoku score of up to 15, and it should be noted, that both the new backgrounds featured herein, as well as the PHB-backgrounds modify these scores. Speaking of the PHB-backgrounds – they have been translated to their cultural equivalent in Soburin without eating up too much real-estate, page-count-wise. I digress. After character creation, an increase in one of these attributes results in a decrease of the other by an equal amount. For creatures lacking either score, Charisma acts as the stand-in for Dignity, while Wisdom is used for Haitoku.

You will probably have already deduced that, but yes, Dignity is pretty much how a character is perceived regarding ideals/behavior/etc.; it can be pictured as a combination of honor, face and reputation, if you will – and dignity has overlaps with Charisma. Breaching etiquette can call for Dignity saving throws, which also may be called for to resist Haitoku-based abilities and it governs e.g. the ability to gain travel papers, show the appropriate etiquette, etc. But it is also an important, metaphysical concept. More on that later. Haitoku, on the other hand, is both the measure of Intimidation, the depth to which a character is willing to go; while obviously connotated with evil, it also represents the measure of the character’s spiritual perseverance to unlock e.g. the power of magical items. It allows the character to fight back from the brink of death – in short, it is not necessarily evil – more a measure of the uncompromising drive of the character to do whatever it takes. It should also be noted that the breathing of the mists of Akuma requires a Haitoku save. It should be noted that Dignity cannot be substituted here – the higher your Haitoku, the higher the chance you’ll be able to resist the mists. At least, that’s what the rules of the Haitoku attribute state. The rules for the mists themselves, unfortunately contradict this, calling for a Dignity saving throw instead to resist the effects of the mist – which makes less sense to me: Considering the tone of the setting, I think Haitoku may be the more sensible option. Haitoku can btw. also be used to resist mind-bending horrors as a kind of sanity-save.

(If you need an example to illustrate the concept: Shishio from the classic Rurouni Kenshin anime would imho be a good example for a character with a high Haitoku score – he managed to claw his way back from death, is willing to put allies and whole landscapes to the torch and still retains a somewhat sympathetic character. Oh, and stop after the Shishio arc. Everything after it is really bad filler.)

Okay, now this tapped into the eponymous mists, so let’s take a look at them: As mentioned before, the rules do contradict those presented by the attributes, which is a bit of a bummer. The pdf provides 2 conditions: Hated puts you at disadvantage regarding Charisma- or Wisdom-based checks against humanoids who do not have the condition, simulating the practice of cultural ostracization. The Misted condition comes in 8 levels and a creature always has a number of permanent misted levels equal to the creature’s Haitoku modifier. While examples are provided for the effects of each step, this remains thankfully open for the GM to tweak. The misted progression can be pictured as a kind of dark powers-corruption, beginning with relatively subdued effects and increasing them to pretty serious benefits – though stage 8 represents full-blown transformation into an oni – and as such, NPC-dom. The saving throw to resist exposure to the mists would be Dc 8 + 1 per previous save in the last minute – failing the save means that the character accrues 1 point of Haitoku, which, however, does not reduce the character’s Dignity…oh, and it can raise a creature’s Haitoku above 20.

The astute reader will have noticed that running from the mists will be a more than popular tactic – after all, the Haitoku modifier governs the misted stages! Prolonged exposure can make you go oni VERY fast. There also would be a skill associated with Dignity, namely Culture. You can choose it instead of any other skill proficiency you’d gain from class or background. This allows you to avoid social faux-pas, insulting gifts, etc. Religion-wise, Soburin lacks true gods per se – as such, mythical beings like the Imperial siblings, yai sovereigns, etc. are representations of the divine, with the practices of placating the kami being the most prominent remnant that remains of Soburins Shinto-analogue.

Since we have already touched upon backgrounds, let us take stock of them: There are 8 new ones: Disgraced amputees can begin play with augmetics, for example. The backgrounds generally are more potent than those in the PHB, but mostly in line and flavor-wise, interesting: Gaining some gadgets, being a shinobi, rules entwined with mists etc. – the backgrounds are interesting. That being said, they are only focused on the rules v- the complimentary dressing-tables you know from the PHB are not included herein. There is one background that is either extremely important or problematic, depending on your particular execution of the setting: The Yamabushi background lets the character perform a cleansing ceremony: The target of that ceremony may make a Dignity save – on a success, the target loses 1d4 Haitoku. While this does not increase Dignity and thus does not wholly trivialize the corruption-angle and provides an easy angle to exert control over Haitoku from the player-side, it does allow for a relatively easy way to decrease the score that may not gel well with games that use the mists themselves more sparsely.

Okay, so what about the class options? Okay, so the first would be the Bushibot, a fighter who gains augmetics sans Haitoku-increases. The shinobibot would be the equivalent for the rogue class. There are two druid circles: The circle of the blight is basically an evil circle focused on decay, while the circle of shifting is a more complex modification of the druid – it does not grant the usual spells, instead focusing on unlimited wild shapes – and yes, thankfully, the circle does account for the loss of spells regarding in the later abilities. The clockwork adept wizard can generate basically limited clockwork spells, which are not subject to being dispelled or countered – which can be a truly potent…same goes btw. for the level 14 ability that nets you a clockwork creature of a challenge up to the wizard’s proficiency bonus. The bardic college of the gun nets you an enchantable, powerful vested gun that you can enhance in a variety of ways. The detective rogue is a skill-user specialist, obviously inspired by PFRPG’s investigator class – the class gets a pool, which allows the class to add surge-like bonuses to skill-checks. The herbalist rogue gains a very limited array of spellcasting and, at high-levels, even potent explosions – minor complaint here: Spell-reference not italicized. This is btw. a complaint that can be made multiple times. The ju-wai shu sorcerer bloodline is a master of the calligraphy staff who can tear open reality to negate attacks/spells – with a hard cap. One of my favorites herein.

The kami domain cleric is a neat offering, while the mage wizard is a good example of the classic scholar. Minor complaint: The most potent option allows for the combination of spells, which causes damage – the type of which is not properly codified. Martial Artist monks make use of the martial arts feats. Ninja rogues can throw multiple kunai/shuriken with one attack and gain the proper Stealth etc. tricks. The path of the faded for barbarians is cool: You ooze necrotic mists and upon ending the effect, you temporarily accrue misted levels. The priest monk gains limited druid spellcasting and blends martial arts with these tricks. The paladin can choose to follow the samurai sacred path, sporting ancestral weaponry, iaijutsu and sums of the tenets – solid. The tattooed monk can trigger magical tattoos via ki – cool. The tsukumogami hunter ranger is guided by a spirit of a former hunter and is particularly adept at dealing with these threats – more on the tsukumogami later. The Wu-jen warlocks, finally, are associated with the tainted nature of Soburin, and come with taboos: One patron for each of the 4 seasons can be found – and additional notes for the flavorful integration of them are provided. As a whole, I considered the class option section to be pretty neat – they are flavorful and offer some interesting options. Not all are glorious, but as a whole, I like the themes they represent – particularly the warlock-wu-jen-analogue was interesting.

Okay, let’s move on to the array of races. The pdf does sport notes to play spirit-folk and Korobokuru, the elf- and dwarf-equivalents: Humans are changed – the base race gets three different ethnicities: The native Soburi, the Ceramin (tech adepts) and the Ropaed – foreigners and socially adept. The goblins of Soburin, the bakemono, also come with 3 subraces – one of which can assume swarm form. Minor complaint: It would have been more convenient to have the swarm form’s insect swarm stats in the write-up. Enjin are monkey-people wit advantage on saves to resist exhaustion…but also more expensive armor-fitting and vulnerability to cold. No less than 7 different hengeyokai can be found herein, one of which sports a +1 bonus to all saves – rules-aesthetically not my favorite choice for the representation of luck in 5e, but oh well.

Oh, and there are 4 hengeyokai types that ostensibly are extinct – stats have still been included, for they are rare and secretive, but yet survive. Kappa are interesting – tough and armored, but they also have a harder time standing up. Mutants are ostracized and hated…but honestly, they feel like a race that doesn’t really fit that well with the tone of the setting. The necroji, finally, is a skeletal thing that houses an amalgamation of 9 souls, with a ton of immunities, but also radiance vulnerability. The oni-touched are not transformed by the mists at stage 8 – they are hated, but can move freely through the mists, trivializing the threat for the race. Psonorous are embodiments of all that is good in the dying world – two variants are provided. The pyon frog-folk are one of the more intriguing and well-situated races herein – they are deeply entrenched in the setting, sport more lore – they are, in short, more interesting. The shikome, another race resulting from exposure to the mists, would be the shikome, who can 1/turn deal an extra 2d4 damage hit with a melee weapon – they come in two versions. Not a big fan of them. Surprisingly, the construct-race of the setting, the steametic, is actually pretty well-balanced and interesting. Tengu and Tanuki can also be found, as can Umibo – people of living water, which are pretty interesting.

Regarding races…I couldn’t help but feel that less would have been more in the race-section. The mutants, necroji and shikome, to me, do not feel like they should necessarily fit well within the contexts of the setting; the different levels of detail provided for the races also contributes somewhat to that impression. In the end, the chapter does feel a bit like it wants to cover all those weird-race cravings some player may have, but loses some of the settings integrity, leitmotif-wise. Just my opinion, obviously.

The book also contains a wide variety of feats – from the aforementioned, customizable Ancestral Weapon – really interesting execution there. There is an investigation-based Deductive Mind feat for PCs that want to want to fail forward (an alternate investigation that always proceeds the plot somehow). Transforming into a Soburin-clan’s creature, good reputations, staring down foes with your killer’s glare, supernatural, mist-based abilities – in these, the Haitoku/Dignity thresholds become important. It should be noted, that although Haitoku and Dignity are pretty fluid, the score at the time of gaining the feat counts: You can thus gain some serious abilities for roleplaying characters that oscillate between redemption and damnation.

Now, I have already mentioned Martial Art Stances: These feats can be taken up to 3 times; In their basic form, they e.g. add fire damage to your attacks ; taking the respective feat multiple times adds usually resistance and immunity to the respective damage type, with some of the more common damage types gaining additional benefits…which does bring me to a slight problem: The damage-scaling for them is identical, making e.g. force damage a significantly better choice than e.g. the often-resisted fire damage option – and the additional benefits don’t really manage to catch these discrepancies. More unique benefits that transcend numerical escalation would have probably made these more interesting. Stances work only with unarmed strikes, shortswords or simple weapons and unarmored characters increase their AC by the stance feats known. Proficiency bonus (not modifier, as the pdf calls it – minor hiccup) acts as a cap for the maximum number of stance feats known. Problematic: The Martial Artist monk mentions a maximum number of stances that the character can be in at any given time –a limit curiously absent from the write-up of the feat-section. It should also be noted that taking multiple stances can provide a lot of simultaneous damage types, which is a pretty strong option in 5e’s rock-paper-scissors-based gameplay regarding vulnerabilities and immunities.

Okay, so what about the equipment-section? Well, here we have some interesting bits indeed: Variants of gunpowder, locking garrotes, 5 different armors – some intriguing options here. Firearms include an anti-scavenging caveat (good!) and otherwise behave pretty much like loading weapons. There are, however, a couple of questionable components here: The hand hwacha, for example, can fire 13 bullets at once, hitting each target in a 30 ft.-line (how wide? I assume 5 ft., but it could be just as well 10 ft., analogue to e.g. gust of wind) with a separate attack roll for each. This deals a whopping 4d6 piercing damage to targets. Okay, the weapon is costly and reloading it to 13 takes a lot of time, but still – why not simply employ a capacity-engine? RAW, it’s either all 13 or single shot. On the plus-side, I liked the grappling hook launcher – I would have liked it even more, if it specified how much it could carry (the PHB is annoyingly opaque there), but oh well. The book also contains some interesting vehicles.

Now, I mentioned the augmetics – the steampunk-prosthetics and augmentations. Installing these requires a Wisdom (Medicine) check versus “5 + Dignity modifier” – I assume, the modifier of the patient is meant, not that of the one installing the augmetic. The installation is grueling and makes the target take 1/2 maximum hit points in damage. Augmetics may be directly targeted at wearer’s AC +6. The augmetics follow a formula of magic items in presentation, with scarcity ratings etc. However, they also cause the person with the augmetic to gain varying amounts of Haitoku – in that way, not like Shadowrun’s essence attribute. These range from +1 to +1d4 per augmetic. Somewhat problematic: The book remains curiously silent on how these permanent body-modifications interact with magic items – I assume they do not count towards the maximum of attuned magic items and that they just work, but some note on that interaction would have been nice. Also weird: A couple of backgrounds and class options grant Tool Proficiency: Augmetics – but the book never introduces the toolkit, and the implanting of them is done with Medicine. Augmetics can be destroyed, as many come with hit points. Weird: Some note that they can’t be targeted…while others simply remain silent on the matter, leaving me guessing there. If you btw. expected a big chapter here – that is probably a component, where the book could have used more content. A lot more content. The augmetic-section spans barely 3.5 pages, which isn’t much, considering that it’s a central selling point and pillar of the setting’s vibe.

The book also sports a brief chapter on spells…which would be as well a place as any to note that, while for the most part, the rules-language is tight, there are a few Pathfinderisms to be found – references to subtype instead of subrace, a few references to PFRPG action types (thankfully few and far in between) – but yeah. Why do I mention that? Well, we have a remnant “Personal” here in the ranges, a reference to “target” that should reference “you” – mostly aesthetic hiccups. Strike within and without, however, is somewhat problematic: You choose a creature you can see within 30 ft.. Wait…is it 30 ft. or 60 ft.? The book contradicts itself here. Anyways, the creature takes damage as if critically hit by your melee attack, and you take half the damage dealt as damage. This damage ignores all resistances and immunities. 2nd-level spell for rangers and palas. As a whole, I wished the space allotted to the spellcasting section had mostly been used for more augmetics – though there are a couple of interesting components here: E.g. there would be a spell that influences the season-based options of e.g. the Wu-jen – that is creative and interesting.

Okay, so this would sum up the rules-centric section of the book. Approximately 30 pages of the book are devoted to Kyōfū, Sanbaoshi and Nagabuki – three absolutely glorious cities. The writing here is inspiring and interesting – and frankly, I wished, we got more. Thankfully, the book proceeds to blend flavor-information with another type of crunch: Namely 60+ pages of information on the clans and powerful factions of Soburin – each comes with at least 2 statblocks and yes, we do get an entry of oni overlords on yai sovereigns – and yes, there are locally forbidden technologies. In the stats, there are a few instances of dual damage-types – which makes it hard to discern if the damage is supposed to be half each or once the full damage in damage type I and once in damage type II. This can be particularly wonky considering 5e’s approach to damage types and the resistance mechanics. This can btw. be also observed among the otherwise pretty amazing dragons that get their very own chapter. The oni/monster chapter once more is massive and sports some serious gems beyond traditional Japanese monsters – however, these beasts receive a context, mostly courtesy of the setting’s unique set-up: Qirin, Tikbalang, Jiang-shi, Yuki-onna…and some classics and gems: Longhair ghosts, rokurokubi, gaki…neat monsters with unique abilities. The stars, though, would be the tsukumogami: Objects that turn 100 may well gain sentience – and represent one of my favorite monster class in ages, including basically a demon-tank. Yeah. Amazing!

The final 25 pages of the book are taken up by the adventure “Revenge of the Pale Master”, intended for PCs level 8 – 10. The adventure takes place in the city of Kazi, just before the Festival of Falling Hawks. Children have disappeared. An ancient evil rises. The adventure is one of the highlights of the book: It is a flavorful investigation with nice maps, mugshots of the characters, some cool NPCs and advice for running the NPCs. The module is interesting, well-written and provides some nice further adventuring – as far as modules for campaign settings are concerned, this is definitely one of the good examples, particularly for the allotted page-count.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are surprisingly good for a book of this size. The rules-language, on the other side, is not perfect. It’s not bad, mind you: I checked a LOT of the statblocks and the math is surprisingly solid. The book gets a lot of different, complex rules-operations completely right…but, you know, the book also sports several hiccups that do influence the rules-integrity. It’s small things in the finer details…but they do accumulate. Not to the point where they can sink this book, but they do detract a bit from it. I considered the basic Dignity/Haitoku-glitch particularly jarring. Layout adheres to a very dense standard that oscillates between one and two columns. The layout, while dense, is not as cluttered as in Mike Myler’s previous campaign settings, making the book, as a whole, more aesthetically-pleasing. Artwork and cartography-wise, we stick to a b/w-illustrations that range from cool original pieces to stock art and public domain art that has been properly modified – it may sound strange, but the latter tweaks actually represent some of my favorite pieces herein. The book sports a lot of dark pages with white text – to account for that, we actually get a printer-friendly version – huge kudos! Comfort-level-wise, the tome comes with a metric ton of nested, detailed bookmarks, making navigation comfortable.

Mike Myler, with additional design by Savannah Broadway, Luis Loza, Michael McCarthy, Christopher Lee Rippee, Jaye Sonia and Bryant Turnage, has managed to achieve something here, let me make that abundantly clear.

In fact, this is, at least in my opinion, the best campaign setting Mike Myler has crafted. While he tends to focus on the big picture, we get more details this time around, the information gels together better – Soburin feels like a place I want to run; it has the details and style. The campaign setting presented here is inspiring. It is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than just a Ravenloft-clone in a Japanese dressing. Neither is it just a steampunk-infusion. The continent comes alive as something more than the sum of its parts. Mists of Akuma is a thoroughly interesting, intriguing setting.

Let me make that abundantly clear: I adore this book. I really, really do. To the point where this had the potential to make my Top Ten list. Yes, that good. That interesting. At the same time, the aforementioned small hiccups accumulate. And there’s another component that prevents this book from realizing its true greatness to the full extent. Japanese Steampunk Ravenloft would already have been rather hard to get done right – and the book mostly gets this very tall order right in an exemplary manner. At the same time, we have these…strange tidbits that contradict the basic premises of the setting. From weirdo races to options to trivialize parts of the basic engine, the book almost feels at times like the authors (or one of them) at one point became frightened that one type of player wouldn’t like the setting, thus opting to try to cater to more folks…but this decision, at least in my mind, compromises, to an extent, the glorious flavor of the setting. There are basically apologetic options here – and they take up real estate that the setting could have used better.

It’s small things that give me this impression…and it thankfully is rare. It makes me feel like the visions of what the setting is supposed to be diverged to some extent among the authors – here’s the thing about anything noir/dark fantasy/horror: If you already are a full-blown monster and/or immune to the one corruption-source, why bother playing in that setting in the first place? It’s like playing CoC with immunity to becoming insane, like playing Vampire: The Masquerade sans bloodthirst or angst. Thankfully, these problems can be cut out of the book.

There is a second aspect of the book that SERIOUSLY underwhelmed me. Augmetics. Don’t get me wrong. I liked what I saw herein. But for a setting that is very much defined by 3 components, namely Japanese-inspired + Ravenloft + Steampunk, 3.5 pages of augmetics…isn’t enough. Not nearly. At least in my book. Mists of Akuma would have needed, desperately in my opinion, more of them. They are cool and an integral part of what makes the book so cool, what makes Soburin this amazing. Compared to that, some of the races, some of the spells and the metric ton of critters herein may be okay…but they all take up real estate. Focusing on the core ideas of the setting, on the thoroughly amazing, unique selling propositions of Soburin and providing more on them would have made this a true masterpiece.

You see, the flavorful entries we do get, the notes on the places, are inspired. So are the cool tales of the clans, many of the monsters – this is an inspired, great setting. One that is worth owning, that has great ideas, that feels unique and distinct. This is a really cool setting. At the same time, it is a book that, more so than Veranthea and Hypercorps 2099, borders on the verge of true greatness – and frustratingly feels like it holds itself back from that final step to true excellence. If you enjoy different, interesting settings, then check this out – it is certainly worth owning! For my final verdict, I will settle on a final score of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. However, since I absolutely adore a lot about this book, I will still add my seal of approval to this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk for 5E
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Design Camp Presents: Lugh, Master of Many Arts
by Me M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2017 18:45:32

AMAZING! 5/5 Stars!

A wonderful and informative presentation of Lugh as a deity for use in the d20 rules. This product offers much more than just deity stats for Lugh. It also offers an artifact, two games that be done with said artifact, and the stats for a weapon - the sling-staff.

The Game of Seeing and the Game of Fate are very cool, and I can see my players trying both. The Golden Gwyddbwyll is an amazing artifact! I like that it isn't found intact, the board and the pieces must all be tracked down and taken (from whatever fell monster or despotic warlord the DM sees fit to be the owner!). I highly recommend getting this product, and it's even free. A great addition to your campaign, I can see Lugh joining my game world.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Design Camp Presents: Lugh, Master of Many Arts
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The Mists of Akuma - Primer
by Simon B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2017 10:45:08

The ideas and tropes of the game and setting are great, but sadly the primer is hard to read, weirdly laid out with inconsistent fonts and a variety of what appears to be clip art. Some may love this, but I found it sadly messy. However, its a great idea.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Mists of Akuma - Primer
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Mists of Akuma: Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk for 5E
by Thomas R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2017 12:00:56

I love this setting. It's Steampunk set in japan, and I really don't think I've ever seen anything like it before, which is just about the best thing you can say about an RPG setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk for 5E
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The Rune of Hope
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/25/2017 04:41:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for Rhûne clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3 pages short story/advertisement (actually worth reading!), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 80 pages of content - a massive amount!

All right, first things first: The mythic sidebar/support from "Into the Pale Tower" is maintained herein; if you've been playing the anti-tech side of the Rhûne factions (via The Ælven Agenda), then...you'll actually have a different intro, gaining specialized Aodain Shrouds. While transition from this angle takes a bit more finesse for the GM, it is very much feasible - though perhaps the coolest way to play this would be to play BOTH previous modules with different characters...that way, if one group gets wiped/defeated, the second can pick up the pieces...and if all fails, you can use the PCs from one of the modules as NPCs...Just my 2 cents, of course! If you've been using the factions from "Into the Pale Tower", they won't play a big role here, though that is bound to change in the third module.

All righty, that out of the way, let's dive into the module - and that means that, from here on out, there are a lot of SPOILERS: Those of you who want to play this should jump to the conclusion!

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Only GMs around? Great! So, while the PCs were trying to stop the plot in the Pale Tower, Northgard has been besieged by the barbarian hordes at the service of the eternal winter - the Thrall Lords are making a big move it seems - and Northgard has been in better shape, with commander Dorthgar and key officers having been afflicted by the dread rage fever...which renders open warfare a problematic idea. In his incapacitation, the commander's daughter tries her best to hold the ford together.

So, no matter which prequel is used, we can begin- the Pcs are greeted by refugees...and warlike barbarians won't wait to make their introductions either -sending their famished thralls at the PCs, which should make abundantly clear that these folks and the servants of the Thrall lords in general, should not be trifled with. Finally arriving at the pier where the White Jarl awaits, the PCs will have to contend with the damaged pier and the deadly frigus zombie, who is about to make short notice of the vessel unless the PCs intervene - it is also here that the racial tensions and alien mindset of the automata are showcased, but ultimately, the PCs need to make their way to Northdown on board of the ship - past the plague blockade...and they better survive the thugs sent by Grey Navash...

Knight-Commander Ullsteinnr is not particularly pleased and a combination of Black Hand agent-provocateurs, the nearby hordes and the zeitgeist make Union City not the nicest place to be - the trail that may provide salvation, though, leads to Mikill Bókasafnið (Literally "The Great Library" -love the linguistic consistence the setting often manages to employ!!) - where the PCs will have to explore the complex, searching for a means to deal with the plague...and the magical defenses of parts of the library, so here's to hoping they don't torch the place...and the trail leads to speaking with a glitterfane. If the PCs play their cards right, the missionary may yield the correct information - but the trail leads to Caol, several days away...and with time being of the essence, THE airship (remember the lore of The Sun's Gem from the CS - that's a HUGE honor!) is the only way...but even en route there, the PCs will have to withstand yet another agent of their foes. The crew down to half strength, the journey on board of the legendary vessel (fully statted!) is not under the best of signs...

...and indeed, if the PCs failed to do their homework, they'll be up for a rude awakening when clockwork swarms activate on board...and a mutated, ghastly, huge undead swan gorged on necromantic energies also seeks to take down the ship. If the PCs are grounded due to damage at one point, they may run afoul of ælven patrols and indeed, the pdf concisely covers the option for ælves to resolve this before the attack escalates.

The PCs now finally arrive at Caol - and the full-color maps are ridiculously glorious, gorgeous, amazing. Drool-worthy. The alien glitterfane and their glitterswarms make for an...interesting experience...but ultimately, the PCs will have to convince Vella Lightwing, cleric of Alnara, to grant them access to the chalice: PCs should be up to their best behavior, for not only the formal trials posed by the glitterfane must be mastered: The PC's conduct impacts seriously the support they receive: Favor points are tracked. And yes, there are tricks to the trials of harmony, compassion...and finally, they will encounter glitterfane who are less nice, including a radical renegade oracle...and how the PCs deal with them will make a major impact...and yes, roleplaying is rewarded over just bashing brains in.

Once again, though, the PCs are not at the end of their journey - they will have to brave the wilderness trail (and the lavishly-depicted en-route encounters, complete with glorious full-color maps) to approach Drowned Karthæn, desolate ruins where mutated leshy, decaying tentacles and worse roam the streets of this nightmarish locale -and the PCs have to make their way down below into the royal quarter, which doubles as a creepy, ghostly dungeon, where creature-placement, details, haunts and the like conspire as a great example of indirect storytelling...and have I mentioned the savage ghast raging cannibal? or the mighty skergrafa construct? This section could come straight out of a Dark Souls/Bloodborne-game and that is meant as a true compliment: Have I mentioned the rune-cursed coral colony? In a lesser adventure-series, this act would be a stand-alone module! And the final boss-fight is EPIC. Thus, with the rune Laguz secured, the Pcs will probably want to return post-haste from these darkened halls.

The chalice's power sends the PCs straight through Nachtland (German for Nightland, just fyi), a shadow-plane like double where the PCs can metaphysically combat the rage fever in a more direct manner...however, the shadowy version of Northgard is inhabited by dread elementals of void and fire...and worse...and yes, we once again get an absolutely phenomenal map - in a version for Nachtland and a regular one - double-kudos. In order to save Northgard, the PCs will have to defeat a horrid giant, who is primed to actually enter Midgard...and tear Northgard asunder with his mythic power.

Still, the aftermath is grim and it seems like Northgard is bound to fall....but how this saga plays out, well, we'll have to wait for module #3 to determine that!

The pdf also provides stats for the magic items and monsters introduced herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting...are actually really good this time around! I noticed no "see page x"-remnants, no hiccups in that way - big plus and kudos for improving that aspect. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with a white background, somewhat akin to the one employed in Ælven Agenda, but more refined. So yeah, we're back to a more printer-friendly look than "Into the Pale Tower"'s sepia-tinted standard. The full-color artworks are GLORIOUS. The same holds true for the copious, lavish cartography. Now, unfortunately, we don't get player-friendly versions of the maps, but unlike in the previous module, by the structure etc. of this one, that aspect is a bit less jarring - for the most part, you can use the maps presented, go mind's eye or duplicate them quicker - the absence hurts, yes, but hurts a bit less. Another big downside is something you probably expected: Once again, alas, we get NO BOOKMARKS. This constitutes a serious comfort detriment. We also don't have a print-option, so yeah, alas, there is no alternative: The best way, at this point, to run this, is printing it out. Here's to hoping the whole series gets PoD soon! The pdf comes with a smaller lite-version for electronic devices.

Will Cooper, Joshua Kitchens & Jaye Sonia are obviously a winning team. Ben McFarland and Mike Myler provided additional design...and the result is a GLORIOUS module. I mean it. Bringing the two wildly different storylines of the previous modules together is damn cool. The module has a sense of urgency, excellent production values and a lot of different challenges to overcome: Different themes are concisely linked, there is something to be done for every type of character and the atmosphere is generally amazing. This is, in short, a fantastic module.

That being said, the lack of bookmarks and player maps does hurt this a bit...if the module existed in a print version, I'd point to it as the way to go, but yeah - as a reviewer, I have to penalize this for their lack, in spite of adoring the module. Still, considering all, I do still feel like I have to wholeheartedly recommend this - which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down...but I'll still add my seal of approval to it. I wholeheartedly hope that the Storm Bunnies add the player maps and bookmarks and/or print options, though - I want this whole series of adventures in print!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Rune of Hope
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review Endzeitgeist! FYI - the whole series is getting compiled as a single PoD book later this summer.
Into the Pale Tower
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2017 04:54:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for the amazing Rhûne campaign setting clocks in at 67 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 62 pages of adventure, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin this adventure with the PCs attending the public viewing of Clan Hammerfall's fabled hanging gardens -and they are gorgeously, lavishly mapped - see that drawing on the cover? It's actually part of an overview map featured in this module. It should also be noted that there are faction missions herein, which may require subtlety to pull off - you can discard or implement them as you see fit, though, without losing much. Finally, before we get into the nit and grit of the plot, it should be noted that the module features "Making it Mythic"-sidebars - i.e., you can run this as a module for characters gaining their tier etc. Now personally, I'm a fan of really hardcore modules, so I did not elect to go that route, but I figured I may as well mention it.

One more thing: Whereas The Ælven Agenda provided a 1st level module for Rhûne's anti-tech fractions, this one puts the characters within the context of the city-states of Vallinor, on the side of the technology advocates.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, hanging gardens. They're lavishly mapped...like pretty much EVERYTHING herein. The amount of maps is really, really impressive...but annoyingly, you won't find player-friendly versions of the gorgeous cartography - so while you do have the cool maps for everything, you, alas, also have the trap-icons on the maps...which meant that I had to, once again, draw maps. And my drawing skills suck. The absence of player-maps in a this thoroughly mapped module is baffling to me.

I know, the module...sorry. So, the PCs are gazing in amazement at the gorgeous hanging gardens (including alchemically potent berries!), when thugs disguised as anti-tech terrorists burst in...but those guys are just the distraction, as scuttlebombs try to drill into the superstructure, which means PCs will only have a brief window wherein they can herd innocents out of harm's way and disarm the constructs -10 rounds. And yep, that's the first encounter here! Now that is how you pull off a furious start! Oh, and guess what? Things don't really slow down: When Vitkarr Kellak shows up, he is immediately targeted by a deadly assassination attempt by Grey Navash - and the chase (complete with isometric map and DETAILED tactics) makes for a great continuation of the module. At the same time (see page X for map references makes for a jarring and pretty obvious, if not crippling, formal blunder - one that is repeated multiple times throughout the module, alas) - whether by stopping the mythic killer or failing to do so, the PCs will secure documents, this ends Act I - which so far has been a nonstop-accumulation of pure awesomeness.

Now having quite possibly a rather good relationship with Clan Hammerfell, the PCs are invited to meet Narfin, a representation of the clan: Again, a jarring glitch in the read-aloud text omits the blank spaces in the first sentence for "Securityintheaftermath" -cosmetic yes, but in such a module, it sticks out. Similarly annoying: The letters that supposedly should be on the chase map...aren't, even though the pdf says so. It is such hiccups that make this feel rushed.

After this debriefing (which is handled in exquisite detail), the PCs, either on their own or at the night-commander's request, will find themselves at the northern side of Union City, in the Festung (German for fortress, just fyi) Nar - here, the PCs are hired to follow the trail of the mysterious assailants and deduce their agenda - onwards to Northgard it is - and here would also be the place to introduce faction missions, should you choose to do so. The journey via the White Jarl to the place may btw. be spiced up with a nice, fully detailed, mapped and depicted travel encounter...and at northgard, we have a rather intriguing settlement and a lot amiss: Here, the cast of important characters offers a variety of side-quests: There would be a mine with runebound miners, vermin and a potentially powerful witch in the making awaiting the PC's ministrations. There would be a hill, where echoes of dread battles long past remain, attracting elemental spirits. Oh, and then there'd be the question of Hodur Blackshield, who has gone missing - the loner has become increasingly paranoid and littered the approach to his cabin with traps.

After reaching 2nd level and completing at least two of those side.missions, the PCs can finally meet Commander Drothgar, who is missing a rider from Fort Blitzkrieg (of course...sigh), aka Fort Bliss - the wilderness encounters (with read-aloud text and all) don't foreshadow anything pleasant and indeed, the Fort has been abandoned and only traps and a crazed Black Hand agent remain - and all trails lead, sooner or later, to the eponymous Pale Tower: Even approaching this dread place can generate hallucinations, paranoia or worse...and beyond the traps and lethal foes, the PCs will find a rift between world, directly to Niflæheim, can be found...and the lost soldiers, now fel bloodragers and Malgrith, servant of the Lord of Long Winter, make for the final fight - but even if the PCs triumph here, Malgrith's plans have brought a large host of barbarians here - when the PCs return, they find Northgard besieged and Commander Drothgar infected with the dread rage fever...and while the place still stands, the situation is dire...so the PCs return on board of the White Jarl...and further adventure looms on the horizon...

The pdf provides the stats for all new creatures featured herein, well-written hand-outs (though one is missing the GM-instruction section below) and a brief recap of the honor system.

Oh, and if you enjoyed this module - the arc continues in "The Rune of Hope"!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - in an adventure this well-made, the numerous "see page X"-remnants felt jarring to me, as did the glitches here and there. Layout adheres to a crisp and aesthetically-pleasing b/w-style standard with a sepia tint that extends to the copious GORGEOUS original artworks and maps. Oh, the maps. I have rarely wished for a module to have proper player maps this much. We get these amazing, detailed maps, with height-differences and everything on them...and then never get to use them because all frickin' traps are on them! Because the assassin's hiding place is noted in big, fat letters. URGH. Worse and just as glaring: This pdf actually has NO BOOKMARKS. None. I kid you not. It's a HUGE comfort detriment and there, as per the writing of this, isn't even a print version I could refer you to instead.

Will Cooper, Jaye Sonia and Joshua Kitchens have crafted a PHENOMENAL adventure. I absolutely adore this module. It is glorious, evocative and FUN. Fast-paced, laced in mythology, with a significant array of terrain-features, themes, diverse challenges - this is, if you just look at the module, masterclass and very, very cool. It does a great job showcasing Rhûne's amazing aspects.

At the same time, this was an exercise in frustration for me - because I want to applaud the module, to praise it to the heavens...but can't. The lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps are two big, big strikes against it and if you add the editing hiccups, we arrive at a package that still is a great module...but one with wholly unnecessary flaws. And mind you, all of them can easily and quickly be resolved, which I honestly hope will happen. For plot, encounter, diversity, etc.-wise, this deserves my highest praises. If you can look past the formal imperfections, you are guaranteed to be exquisitely entertained by this massive adventure. If you can look past its blemishes, then this is 5-star + seal-level awesomeness par excellence. Now, I did already give The Ælven Agenda some leeway, so I can't well do it again - and, in direct contrast, the lack of player-friendly maps hurts this module more than The Ælven Agenda.

I love this and it breaks my heart to do so, but considering all, I can't rate this higher than 4 stars. Note, though, that this is still very much a highly recommended, amazing module - it's just not nearly as GM-friendly as it's supposed to be.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Pale Tower
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The Ælven Agenda
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/10/2017 11:23:44

An Endzietgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? The first, and most simple answer, would be that this represents a first level adventure for the "Beyond the Glittering Fane"-adventure arc. Now one thing I absolutely ADORED in the Rhûne campaign setting would be the fact that the setting demands that you have a proper position in life; that the character has an ideology, a culture...and that with this choice, there are obvious consequences in the way the game is played, the stories are told, etc.

One such central conflict would obviously be the one between the forces that seek to stop the doomsday countdown by abolishing all technology versus those that believe that science is the only chance to stop Ragnarök. The ælves of Ælveheim would be firmly situated in the first camp - this adventure is about the ælven experience, the narrative of these folk and their struggle and as such, it plays different from what you'd expect; I mean, how often have your adventurers stumbled into a fabled elven forest? All the time, right? Well, this time around, you're playing the hardliner ælves and their allies, not the bumbling fools that stumble into their territory.

All right, this basic premise out of the way, it should come as no surprise whatsoever to you that the following, being an adventure-review, will contain SPOILERS galore. Potential players of this series may wish to jump to the conclusion.

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All right, still here? Only GMs around? Great! The tension between the ælves and their relatively easy to defend homelands and the city-states of Vallinar have been a constant for a long, long time; once you add other factions to the fray, you'll have a worse situation, and one that may well change the paradigms of the conflict: House Scræ is trading corpses with the Fane of Winter in their effort to unleash the dread demon-lord Drittsekk (literally: Dirt-sack/bag in a hilarious insider joke for those proficient in Scandinavian languages); the demonic entity has agreed to provide a horrible poison that mimics rage-fever among humans and also acts as a dread poison versus the ancient trees of the ælves. The agents of house Scræ have secretly infiltrated several western towns and dispersed the dread poison via common moths, increasing tensions, as the ælves witness their trees dying, as the humans whisper of the ælves unleashing rage-fever upon them.

The dreadful and subtle plan is moving into its final phase; the forest is sick, dying even; the last shipment of bodies arrive and worse, an agent of the Black hand, in an effort to join house Scræ, has managed to alchemically enslave a Stygian Elder in a site of a failed ælven portal contained within a barrow. The ælves seem ignorant of the threat; an army of angry townsfolk and mercenaries is amassing and it is only the PCs that stand in the way of catastrophe. Talking about high stakes.

It should be noted that the dreadful Odr-poison mentioned before does feature its own rage and bleed-themed template. Without further ado, a massive introductory text sets the stage, as the PCs have gathered in Hulsil, the northernmost Sil of the ælven people - and the PCs, as agents of weapons and subterfuge, are provided Aodain Shrouds - magical, living plants that help disguise as other races. These are not perfect, though, and have some crucial limitations to bear in mind. When the trees of Moonwalde die, so will the immortal ælves - the PCs are thus sent forth to patrol the shores of Oracle Lake and the borders of the human village of Lakeside...and while ostensibly, there ought to be an alliance/understanding with lakeside, the ælves are justifiably paranoid.

In act 1 of the adventure, as the PCs set forth in the wilderness, the encounters allow for some flexibility for the GM - the encounters presented exceed in detail anything you'd expect in that context - we get signs of the Odr-sickness as dressing; dryads crying blood and diseased squirrels...and beyond such more classic, but lavishly-dressed encounters, there also are non-combat focused ones: For example, freeing an intelligent animal companion from a pit trap via various means can provide an interesting experience focused on creativity. Or what about an automata, lying there, dying, who is slightly delusional and looks up to the ælves, trying in vain to be all they are...and potentially telling them about crucial parts of the conspiracy in place. To kill or not to kill may be the question here: XP and honor, both very important in Rhûne... Beyond these, even the combat encounters come with more detail than you'd otherwise expect, with dressing and sample quotes provided.

And yes, the PCs will sooner or later find the plague wagon, humans all killed by the allied ælven patrol...and here, they may begin deducing the horrible truth behind the plague, provided they do their job well and don't shirk from the plagued bodies...which the allied patrol takes as proof for the humans being behind the plague...which may well be one step towards escalation....This underlying sense of foreboding doom, of a golden age ending right as the PCs walk through it. A waystation on the PC's way will be attacked by poachers touched by dread Odr - and yes, the decisions of the PCs matter....this final encounter of Act 1 may actually be slightly easier if the PCs played their cards right...but in the aftermath of this conflict, the trail with point them towards the settlement of Lakeside.

As the PCs approach Lakeside (full stats provided, btw. - including a fantastic full-color map), they will find a peculiar site - the body of a poor woman, who has been killed...as it turns out, by ruffians in the employ of devious Kerrigan. These violent dupes were ostensibly helping against the "plague" spread by the elves via the moths...and hopefully, the PCs are smart enough to question these guys....for if they have caught the dread disease, these guys seem to have had a type of antidote...and Lakeside is now a plagued, dangerous locale...one wherein the ælves walk a dangerous path...if their disguises fail, they'll be in big trouble...at least with some folks, for there are some that respect the ælves, while others want them all dead. The sandboxy investigation in Lakeside can be really intriguing, covers (even in flavor-text!) the options to disguise or not to disguise. From the negotiation with the Jarl of Lakeside, the PCs will also have options to ask around regarding the burgeoning anti-ælven experiences that seemingly can't be stemmed by the Jarl, regarding the details of the strange disease...and possible means of curing it. From bunks to personal treasure caches, there are A LOT of different story-threads, legwork and local color to be found, with a ton of great flavor text - even the journal of the aforementioned, slain maiden, which may help put the pieces together, has been reproduced as well. The level of detail is great.

Sooner or later, though, the PCs will have to visit the hospice of the place, though - and sooner or later, they may well be capable of setting up a rendez-vous with Kerrigan, the covert agent of the black hand and his thugs...and from there on, the PCs may have a proper idea of the scope of the dastardly plan in place...but this is not where the adventure ends.

Instead, the PCs will probably stare flabbergasted at the extent of the planned, haphazard invasion force - and once again, the trek through the wilderness does have once again amazing encounters, fully depicted with read-aloud text etc. - we even get artworks of critters, from plague-ridden owlbears to infected zombies, making the really nice. After these, we get one fantastic finale - namely the camp of the makeshift army: The name of the game for the finale of the module, what would be the heart of a lesser module, is amazing: We get a fully depicted, massive and mapped army camp and the name of the game is subtlety - the finale is all about properly sabotage; the PCs have to basically quench the army before it can waltz forth...and yes, each of the locations come with full read-aloud text. The headquarters even come with their own map, making this one of the most detailed and well-made infiltration-scenarios I have seen for Pathfinder. Full-blown Mission Impossible magical espionage. Absolutely adore it and yes, the place does have the same lavish attention to detail we have seen throughout the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a rules-language and formal level - no complaints. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with nice full-color artworks and full-color maps provided for your convenience. The one big downside of this module would be that there are no key-less versions of the amazing maps included...so my players probably won't ever get to see those. That's a big downside for me. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which sucks big time and represents a major comfort detriment.

Christopher Clark, Ben McFarland, Jaye Sonia & Brian Suskind deliver one amazing adventure of the highest caliber here. The pdf OOZES flavor and absolutely amazing descriptions throughout; even the encounters that would be just one random-encounter-line in another module, here you get a lavishly-detailed encounter with proper read-aloud text, meaningful consequences and better: Detail. The optional encounters always feel deliberate, meaningful and well-crafted.

Beyond that, this module not only sports the usual conflicts solved by rolling the bones, the usual butchering of adversaries; quite the contrary holds true: The module features a lot of deliberate and well-written investigation opportunities, massive ROLEplaying options and the espionage-centric finale is AMAZING. I mean it. This is a diverse, challenging and exceedingly fun module. I should also not forget to mention the atmosphere here: The way in which this module brings Rhûne to life is absolutely inspired.

In short: I absolutely love this adventure. It is well-written, features a rich diversity of tasks for the PCs and makes perfect use of the phenomenal setting. Now yes, the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps does represent a significant drawback...but honestly, you shouldn't let that keep you away from this gem. While they make it impossible for me to rate this the full 5 stars, this module is simply too good to punish unduly; honestly, comfort-level-wise, this should be at least slapped down to 4 stars. However, the excellent penmanship and surprisingly unified narrative voice (4 authors and it still reads like a singular entity!) are a big, big plus; I just can't bring myself to round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars and since I really love the diversity and ambition of this module, I will gladly slap my seal of approval on this pdf. This is well worth getting and an amazing first adventure for the setting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Ælven Agenda
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The Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/06/2017 10:39:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign guide clocks in at 356 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page dedication, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page backer list, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page session sheet (also included as a separate pdf), 2 pages of char sheet (similarly included and form-fillable), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with343 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Urgh. This took forever. What you're reading is my 5th attempt at writing this review. No, I am not kidding. 4 times I wrote this and ended up not being happy with the tone, the focus. This is a hard book to review, so please bear with me - I have to digress a bit to properly explain this book. I actually bought the limited print run hardcover version of the book and while I do have the pdf, the hardcover is ultimately what this review is mostly based on.

First, let me take you on a brief trip through history. Back in the day when I was pretty much a nobody, the esteemed and absolutely amazing Paco Garcia Jaen "took me in" as a reviewer for GMS magazine. I obviously wanted to know what kind of people I was working with and so I listened to a lot of the cool interviews he conducted. (Seriously, check out GMS magazine!) So, it was there that I stumbled over this small indie RPG publisher who had a brief, approximately 16-page, FREE pdf for a setting called "Rhûne." I opened it...and my jaw DROPPED. Not only did it have Paizo-level artwork, it also had a massive map by none other than cartography god Jonathan Roberts. Oh, and the writing was simply amazing...the setting was unique in tone and focus.

Let me be perfectly honest: I did not expect it to go anywhere. It was amazing and just the creative impulse I love; radically different and creative...and it was the setting of a small, tiny publisher. One man's vision. I did not believe that we'd ever see this book. When small pdfs began slowly trickling in, I was cautiously optimistic. When the KS for this book blew up like it did, I was positively pleased by my fellow gamers obviously craving something different, by them lending their trust to a small outfit like Storm Bunny Studios. I would have supported it back then, but alas, my precarious situation left me completely broke while the KS ran. When the book actually came, I knew I had to have it and, as providence had seen to, had at this moment the funds to allow me to purchase it. Then the book got stuck in customs big time and was almost sent back...but I digress. What I'm trying to say is that this is exactly what KS is supposed to do: Make visions come true that otherwise would never have seen the light of day in this form. To all backers of this book, I take a bow before you. The book languished on my shelf for a while due to my reviewing duties for my patreons...and then I began reading it, slowly, in increments.

So, the first thing you have to know about me in order to understand where I'm coming from, would be that I am enamored with Norse lore and culture; I lived in Norway for quite a while, I speak all Nordic languages, my translations from Icelandic have been published and I have read pretty much a significant portion of the literary canon of all Scandinavian lands. I am proficient in Norse and Old English as well and read the extensive catalogue of sǫgur (plural of sagas, just fyi). I'm the prick who'll correct assumptions about culture, the guy who complains about translations failing big time to convey the tone of the originals properly, the guy who'll chew your ear off about the "errors" in the Vikings TV series. My passion for the topic makes me pretty hard to please. Rhûne is not a straight adaptation of the material, but it heavily quotes the themes and leitmotifs of Scandinavian mythology and reappropriates them.

Reappropriation would in this context be the process, by which a culturally distinct text (this can include visuals and any form of media), originally distinct for a certain culture, modified and included within the cultural context of mainstream reception - examples would include subculture music aesthetics gaining traction - whether it'd be rock or rap or something more far out. In this process, often wrongly negatively connotated, the respective medium is taken and modified to appeal to a wider demographic, changing, but also evolving at an amplified pace: Without broader acceptance of rock, there would have never been punk...metal...etc. It is a perpetual broadening of focus. Similarly, Rhûne appropriates Norse concepts and employs them in the context of roleplaying games, but unlike many reappropriated forms of media, it stays in the tone and leitmotifs featured, remarkable true to the source material, while at the same time radically mutating it.

The key notion here would be "stormpunk", the term coined for the genre featured in the setting. The analogues of the word to steampunk are pretty evident from the get-go (2 letters difference...), but ultimately, the resulting concept is radically different than any comparable "-punk"-suffix'd setting. In order to properly enunciate why and how, I have to dive a bit into the exact nature of the setting, for, even though I can only talk about the concepts herein in a linear manner, they all are interconnected.

As pretty much everyone knows, there is an inherent fatalism, an, pardon the pun, "endzeitgeist" (Zeitgeist of the end-times) inherent in Nordic myth: We all have at least heard about Níðǫggr chewing at Yggdrasill, about Naglfar, the ship of nails, about Ragnarök and the Fimbulvetr; there is a fatalism of acceptance and a promise of, perhaps, a renewal or an inevitable end that suffuses the myths. This concept is inextricably interwoven with Rhûne's stormpunk aspect. So, what is this stormpunk? Well, the closest analogue would perhaps be to look at the ostensible works of Nicola Tesla and picture what would have happened, if his concept of a freely accessible, immensely powerful electrical energy would have been applied to a Norse cultural context. Instead of explaining an allotopic, quasi-Victorian or Edwardian history wherein steam and coal are king, Rhûne is at the same time feeling more progressive and more archaic, more savage and more advanced. The existence of the stormtech, ultimately, makes the setting closer to our own world (as I'm using copious amounts of electricity to write this review and you're doing the same, reading it!), but at the same time, Rhûne's whole theme is actually more fantastic than comparable "-punk"-settings, at least to our eyes.

The reason for this lies in Rhûne understanding, in spite of PFRPG's alignment system (which I, as you know by now, LOATHE), that a crucial component of Norse life and fascination with literature lies in its unique (from our perspective) morality: We all are conditioned, from an early point in our lives, to read the world in dichotomies, courtesy, among other factors, of the influence of our book-religions. We believe in good and evil, righteous and vile causes, in defined absolutes, in spite of our life experiences often contradicting this. And indeed, if you take a look at the "heroes" (protagonists would perhaps be a better word...) of the classic sǫgur, you'll see a distinct lack of traditionally heroically coded behavior: Gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, the might of the strong and popular - these aspects are counteracted with a surprisingly progressive mindset that is closer to us and our world than we'd usually believe...in fact, reading the old sǫgur, you'll be reminded more of the writings of relatively modern authors than medieval literature. This duality of the archaic and modern is expertly interwoven with the concept of stormtech and generates a panorama both familiar and alien, sitting, quite literally front and center among the setting's leitmotifs.

You see, instead of the predetermination of traditional myth, it is the mythos of science that represents a central focus for the book: The nations of the world, in order to access the Æssinyr (the deities), in their quest for truth, have created these technological wonders suffusing the world - but they also set the Ragnarök clock in motion. The responses of nations and races towards the scientific advancements ring familiar in many a way: The ælves, original architects of the clockwork gates and immortal while close to their homelands, have resorted to a radical philosophy of luddite proportions, eschewing the technological advancements made, while those ælves that walked alongside their lady Y'Draah to discover the whereabouts of the Æssinyr turned into the forsaken, the clockwork elves, who would then proceed, bereft of their immortality and shunned by nature, to create the race of the automata, sentient constructs that only lately have gained what you'd call free will. The ælves believe, fervently, that progress, stormtech and all those boons it brought to the city states of Vallinor, is responsible for the doomsday approaching and that only by shunning progress, they can hope to halt the inexorably approaching end. On the other side, dwarves, for example believe that only in further technological advancements can lie a form of salvation for the world.

One does not have to be a scientist to realize that this mirrors very much our own stances towards technology, though it, like any good fantasy, exacerbates the theme and cloaks it in expertly woven mythology: Instead of the fear of nuclear annihilation, what we see herein is the conscious knowledge of precisely WHEN the world will end - there are only 99 years left and on the timer of the Ragnarök clock and time is running out. Speaking of themes clad in the fantastic that resonate herein: Much like "A Song of Ice and Fire", this setting very much cloaks modern anxieties and themes in an easily digestible format: In the frigid North, the Fel Horde under the auspice of the Thrall lords amasses to destroy the South - you would not be wrong in realizing the analogue to the White Walkers, but the setting does not simply quote the material here; instead, the mythological resonance of the Fimbulvetr is superimposed on "A Song of Ice and Fire"'s themes of nuclear anxiety as a means of annihilation: The Northern entropy of a nuclear winter is counteracted by man having the weapon of mass destruction that is the dragons, incarnation of uncontrollable nuclear fire. In fact, I'd argue that Rhûne paints a more diversified picture here by including some notions you would not expect from a fantasy setting, no matter how far out.

The thoroughly constructed nature of automata (as opposed to Midgard's gearforged housing the souls of erstwhile mortals) and their free will, their relation with their creators, ultimately means that the setting also allows for the exploration of classic transhumanist ideas, of the question of free will, of the question of the existence of a soul...and much more. In this aspect, Rhûne is similarly significantly more progressive and open, dare I say "modern" than pretty much all comparable settings I have read. That being said, this modernity is always tinted in a thoroughly compelling manner with the archaic: Raiding, slaving and trading, the whole traditional viking-experience, if you will, is a strong leitmotif for the whole setting - but one that, much like many aspects of the modern and archaic mingling, is not simply accepted: The change of social structure that electrical access brought, the themes of a variant industrial revolution and the social upheavals it engendered are counteracted by the decidedly Old Norse way of life and generate a fusion that is wholly and utterly unique in its repercussions and the detail its ramifications generate.

Rhûne exists very much in a wide variety of thematic and ideological areas of tension and as such, it is, more so than any other campaign setting I have read in a long, long time its very own world. Indeed, one can argue that Rhûne, while using PFRPG as a base-line, is not vanilla Pathfinder. This notion of a very defined and concise identity is enforced by the book from the get-go. Instead of taking the anything-goes route, Rhûne instead begins with character creation and talks about what is acceptable for the setting's tone and why; the world very much makes the generation of characters and themes to be explored a group effort - and I applaud this decision. In a world with so many conflicts and tensions flaring, an internal consistency of an adventuring party is of tantamount importance and personally, I applaud this book for having the guts to say no to the entitlement of universal availability of everything. Indeed, in a setting where the genesis of a race like the jötunfolk has eliminated whole generations with the Burðr Morðvíg in the aftermath of the fall of jötunstones, where ælves tend to view the automata as abominations at best, this is VERY important to retain the consistency of the lavishly crafted and beautifully woven lore of the book.

Having a character in Rhûne means picking sides. Both racial and class decisions matter more than in any other d20-based campaign setting I have ever read - and I have read pretty much all (or at least almost all) of them. The book does not simply state this, but instead guides the group through the process in a detailed and unique manner that I really wished more settings employed. For the aficionados of Norse themes, it should also be noted that the FuÞark matters - everyone is born under a rune and that provides intrinsic benefits to the character in question. In a world where the conflict of good vs. evil takes a backseat, one indebted to the morality of the old sǫgur, it is similarly important to note the vast impact of honor, the insertion of which is supplemented with various different ways of tackling it in different complexities: Whether you just want to use it to determine starting attitudes, whether you tie it to areas, whether you include racial tensions - the choice, in spite of the structuring themes of the setting, is ultimately yours and can range from hand-waving to simulationalist level of detail - and yes, if you're using Ultimate Campaign, there are some differences which are explained in sidebars, allowing you to decide on your own.

One of the, at least in my opinions, best aspects of Rhûne from an engine point of view, would be how it treats the determinism that suffuses Norse myth and flips it: The concept used for this purpose is wyrd and it ties in with destinies, governed by, bingo, runes. So, as you may know, the Norse mythology and its concept of fate is very determinist, norns and all. At the same time, this obviously clashes with the more progressive aspects of the Rhûne setting. The solution is interesting, to say the least.

While fate does play a roll, a significant one as both a roleplaying catalyst and from a crunch perspective, the existence of the spider-themed shapechangers aryandai and the goddess Velluna-Akka adds a very distinct spin on the concept. More important still would be the tremendous influence of wyrd upon actual gameplay. Each character begins play with 1d3 wyrd points and some feats and special tricks (weavings) can later be learned and used to further manipulate fate. Wyrd points act basically as hero points on speed, with significantly enhanced options on how and when they can be used - including defying death, rolling a d20 twice and helping allies. This is relevant because wyrd is actually an extremely important balancing mechanism: If you're familiar with my coverage of Rhûne supplements, you may recall me bashing the automata race as overpowered for most settings. You will also recall me complaining about models (subtypes of the race) being made for specific purposes. Within the context of Rhûne, this surprisingly works. For one, the purpose of the respective builds opens interesting venues for the exploration of concepts of free will: I am built that way, do I have to be that way? Secondly, and more importantly, automata are balanced by the mistrust they encounter, their place in the social hierarchy and the fact that they do not get access to wyrd. At all.

This should be taken as just one aspect that makes the min-maxier components of the races featured herein work for me; the races are so deeply entrenched within the narrative context of the world and its dichotomous ideologies and areas of tension that, by being pretty ingenious entwined in everything, result in the playing of such a race in Rhûne actually working without breaking the game. I need to reiterate this: Rhûne is not vanilla-Pathfinder. This is also represented in the copious amounts of crunch that supplement this tome, which range from traits to feats and more. Some of these are powerful, some of them are aligned with factions...and all are in service of the greater picture. Damage increases to bows make sense when guns and the like are wide-spread.

The massive campaign setting also contains several hybrid classes: The blood skald (bard + magus), the clockwork adept (cleric + wizard), the gjallarhorn (summoner + bard), the gun-priest (previously released as a stand-alone), the juggernaut of blind fury, a barbarian/antipaladin crossover, and the antipala/alchemist plague bringer. These have in common that they generally are high concept and feel distinct; they are more than just a smashing together of mechanics, though, universally, they also have in common that they could have used some further differentiation as far as I'm concerned. And yes, the anti-pala guys represent servants of the thrall lords, so if you don't want to go into the morality question too deep, well, then this ought to provide enough of a good vs. evil angle.

Now, the world of Midgard, the prime material plane of Rhûne, is depicted in absolutely exquisite detail , with names for the phases of the moon by month, holidays galore, languages all receiving their due (and rules for regional dialects if you're like me and have the kneejerk reflex to roll your eyes at common...). If you#re looking for information on trade, you'll find it here; if you and your group consider that aspect tedious, you can ignore it: One of the central plusses of the setting is that it knows which rules to use for balancing and world-building and which to render optional. Beyond a massive chronology of the world (as the clock's counting down) to the respective city states and realms, which feature their own crests, statblocks and more, the whole section is amazing and oozes flavor from every sentence: From fertility festivals to adventure hooks and story seeds, this chapter can't leave even the most burnt-out of GMs uninspired. Speaking of story seeds: Throughout the book, there is a metric ton of those, allowing GMs and players alike to take up the threads left so tantalizingly dangling. Oh, and yes, Rhûne does not feature a heliocentric cosmology - instead, it is basically a massive cylinder, the trunk of the world tree; a blending of the immediacy of Ragnarok, superstition and the knowledge of planar peculiarities thus makes the world partially unexplored (after all, you don't want to fall off the world's edge, right?) - still, this allows an enterprising GM to add her own continents and geography to the setting, while still maintaining Rhûne's very precise focus. Planar travel is rare and special and as such, the respective planes depicted also differ from the standard, putting, as we've come to expect by now, a unique spin on Norse mythology. Here, additional, planar races like the ice æleves of Niflæheim or the Hárálfr, infused with the power of old gods, allow for further diversification if a given group is not content with the base races.

Now, I could go through the respective write-ups here, but this review already is very long, so let's return to the stormpunk aspect. Which is, from a designer's perspective, more difficult than it first seems. After all, we all know electricity. We learn how it works in school. It is the very motor of our world...so how do you introduce it into a fantasy setting sans breaking immersion left and right, sans killing a gazillion of premises of prepackaged adventures? Simple. There is no alternating current, which means that its copious boons are basically limited to the vicinity of dragon towers, which generate an ambient field that powers the devices and allows for charging. This is genius on a meta-point, for it taps into our fantasies of Tesla's wirelessly transported energy, while at the same time eliminating the real discovery of alternating current, making the whole system at once plausible and thoroughly fantastic. As an aside, it also taps into the leitmotifs of the archaic versus the modern, of civilization versus barbarism (hence the Howard quote earlier in the review). The storm shepherd cleric archetype would be a badass Tesla-style cleric, a caste of guardians of these towers. From prosthetic limbs to abomination hybrids of technology and magic, the leitmotifs of progress vs. nature, of science vs. the ways of old, tie in perfectly with this conceptualization of a world...and points of light gameplay makes sense as well: Beyond the reach of comfortable electricity, the wild, the savage, still looms. Firearms that can be charged or deliver blast shots, special ammunitions, grenades, munitions carved from the dreaded jötunstone...the sense of plausible fantasy realism applied to every component of this book makes it feel perfectly unified, like this exceedingly intricate and beautiful clockwork.

Indeed, the glorious incantation mechanics first introduced way back by Zombie Sky Press also sees use here among numerous new spells, a metric ton of equipment, bloodlines, mysteries, the aforementioned weavings...and the rune-engine. This system is amazing and I've covered it before, so I won't bore you with repeating it. The system's consistency is to be truly applauded, for whenever I found a big logic bug, some sidebar, some explanation, shows up that makes SENSE. Ina book this familiar, yet alien, this attention to detail and mastery in world-building is a truly phenomenal feat to behold. Now, if you expected a cut-copy-paste of the Norse gods and their myths...you'll be surprised to hear that Rhûne has its very own pantheon, depicted in lavish prose completely with core aphorisms and all. It should be noted that these beings do employ the themes of the Norse mythology, but also, much like the setting, put a creative and enticing spin on the subject matter, one I can't really hope to properly convey here. Beyond these obviously divine allegiances, a whole chapter is devoted to the diverse and creative factions that shape and govern the politics of Rhûne, drawing further lines in sand and snow, both proverbially and figuratively, adding even more potential, even more narrative potential to the whole array.

The emphasis on thematic consistency is not lost even within the bestiary, which not only provides a wide array of unique creatures, all of which have AT LEAST one unique ability to set them apart, but also in the guidance a GM can expect regarding the roles of creatures in the setting. Oh, and yes, the critters ALL have absolutely gorgeous artworks.

Conclusion:

Rhûne adheres to a two-column full-color standard, Layout-wise, and is so beautiful it almost hurts. The book is littered with a metric ton of absolutely phenomenal, original pieces of artwork, rivaling the density of Kobold Press' huge books. This can stand side by side with Paizo and WotC-offerings regarding its sheer beauty. It is one of the aesthetically most pleasing 3pp-books I have ever read. The pdf comes with copious, nested bookmarks for easy navigation and the hardcover...oh DAMN. Get it, if you can. It's a beauty.

And here, my seemingly never-ending praise screeches to a grinding halt. There is the reason why I have deleted and rewrote this review so often. Editing and formatting. Oh boy. I'm sorry, but I can't call them "okay" anymore. There are formatting hiccups and inconsistencies. There are missing verbs, smack in the middle of paragraphs that carried me right into Rhûne, only to have me crash back to earth as I tried to find out what the hell was missing from that sentence. The very header of the jötunfolk misspells them as jotünfolk. There are whole sections which get bonus types right, only to have an ability lack it. There are, in short, a lot of glitches. Now, granted, they usually do not tarnish the mechanics too much, but they extend to all aspects. Close reading this book was an exercise in reviewer-frustration for me.

It is, quite frankly my opinion that, if this had been penned by anything short of its cadre of veteran authors (Jaye Sonia, Cltin Boomer, Will Cooper, Adam Daigle, Stephen Michael DiPesa, Joshua Kitchens, Ben McFarland, Mike Myler), this would have turned into a full-blown train wreck. The skill and experience of the authors thankfully means that, for the most part, this whirs smoothly like the gears of the Ragnarök clock. At the same time, the glitches hurt me more than in any other book of my reviewer career BECAUSE the book and world are that cool.

I am more torn than ever before in my life on a final verdict and after reading my rambling praise of this book, you'll only have the slightest inkling of an idea why. You see, if I were to rate this on the merit of its crunch alone, including the glitches etc., this would probably receive a 3 star-rating at best. In fact, that's what the cold, hard review-bot in me would gravitate to. He keeps shouting from the back of my mind that the hybrid classes don't live up their potential, that component xyz needs streamlining.

However, I am, like you, of flesh and blood. I can feel passion and get excited...and this book is NOT a crunch-book in the traditional sense. It is a campaign setting - a depiction of a world that is so internally consistent in its vision, so fantastic and, dare I say it, innovative, I can't help but absolutely adore it with every hot-blooded fiber of my being. Yes, Rhûne ticks off pretty much all of my no-go-boxes regarding races...but still somehow makes them work for me. This book oozes the passion of some of the industries finest minds and it shows in every chapter, as a cornucopia of creativity is present, nay, immediately evident on every single page. You can flip open the book at pretty much every single page that is not a 2-color chapter-intro-spread of art and find one thing, at least, that is cool and inspiring. Would I play those hybrid classes in another setting? No. Would I play them in Rhûne...yes, I actually might. Because they signify more than just the collective of their abilities. They mean something; their very existence puts them in the context of the world and its beautiful tapestry of agendas and strife, of heroism and dastardly deeds.

Rhûne reads, most of the time, like the best of world-building novels; Rhûne manages to make me like content I'd otherwise...well, wouldn't - all by virtue of its phenomenal vision and the extraordinary precision and care that obviously went into this book. I love this book. I really, really do. Rhûne is one of my favorite settings OF ALL TIME. There, I said it. Where exactly in my hierarchy it'll end depends on the future support released for it...but yes. This is a true campaign setting in the best of ways. That being said, even if you de-emphasize the importance of crunch and choose to focus on the task of the campaign setting to make a world shine, the matter of fact remains that editing and formatting of this book simply does not do it justice.

If this did not have all of its hiccups (or at least, significantly less), you'd be looking at perhaps my number 1 for the Top Ten of 2016 here. I love this book that much. However, with the copious glitches that haunt this book, I have to put that in perspective. As far as I'm concerned, this is a masterpiece; an amazing feat by authors and publisher; but it is a masterpiece with flaws. If you go into this book for the crunch alone, or to scavenge material, chances are, you'll leave disappointed. Unlike e.g. Thunderscape (which works perfectly for that purpose), Rhûne is a work of art that does not reveal its beauty by looking at parts. The only way to appreciate this truly is to look at the big picture, at the totality of material, which is, for once, infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

I could make a case against this book. I could tear it a new derrière and I can see that, for some out there, this will do absolutely nothing. At the same time, if you're like me, you can work with the book; replace some components with bits from your own library; curse at the hiccups, yes, but every time, unavoidably, you'll take the book back up and continue reading.

Because Rhûne is a wonderful world.

Because it dares to be different.

Because it dares to make sense.

And because it is greater than any words I could use to describe it. Review-bot Endy hates this. As a person, I love it. As a crunch-book alone, you may want to steer clear...but if you really are interested in a unique, creative campaign setting that truly feels different, if you want to support a truly fantastic and innovative book, if you want to send a sign that we want choice and more than the umpteenth variation of classic fantasy, that we deserve unique themes and consistency...then this is for you and will set your mind ablaze as it has mine.

The flaws weigh heavily on this one...and frankly, even with the above mindset, I should rate this 4 stars...but I don't want to. I can't. The dilemma is that the book does not deserve to be rated as only good. But technically, it also doesn't deserve being praised this much. I can't rate this in a way that will satisfy me and everyone out there. It's just not possible. In the end, there is only one rating that, after much deliberation, I can really live with. This rating would be 4.5 stars (Rated as a campaign setting, taken the flaws into account, representing that it is not perfect), but rounded up (since "good" does not begin to express how much I like this), with my seal of approval added for good measure. And since my top ten of any given year is a deeply personal opinion-thing, it'll feature as a candidate as well...though it has lost the chance of scoring highly on that list.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide
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Storm Bunny Presents: The Thaumaturge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/08/2017 09:12:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base-class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The thaumaturge class presented here receives d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as proficiency with all simple weapons and light armor and the weapon championed by their occult order. Thaumaturges radiate the alignment aura of their order, not their own, which is an interesting design decision. They also need to be non-good. All right, so the chassis of the class certainly is interesting, now hat do these occult orders do?

Well, chosen at 1st level, these govern the energy they tap into when blasting, the aura they tap into with black arts (more on those later) and their familiar. Beyond the weapon familiarity already mentioned, orders also modify the respective class skills and the opposed order. Speaking of familiars - these generally net a nicely chosen one at 7th level, with 13th and 19th level providing upgrades to the familiar. Now, as far as the damage types of the respective orders are concerned...well, they aren't really balanced among themselves. There is an order that deals force damage, while another one deals fire damage, for example. This alone will disqualify the class for low magic games, which is a pity as far as I'm concerned, for there are some cool tricks: The aforementioned aura can be activated as a standard action: 1/day at 2nd level, +1/day at 8th and 14th level, respectively. The benefits of the aura range from AoE negative energy or fire bursts to draining spell-levels, which is supremely cool and balanced further via a once-per-24-hour hex-caveat.

As a formatting complaint, the sub-abilities of the orders provided lack the respective ability types and colons. That being said, apart from e.g. an instance of damage type missing, the orders generally are interesting, though e.g. the order of Tiamat Risen's free energy selection is nasty and so is the potential to cause positive energy damage via a chaotic blast - the latter primarily because there are two precedence cases: Dreamscarred Press assumes positive energy damage to affect the living (highly problematic - no one has resistance to it!), while regular positive energy damage as per channel energy leaves living creatures unaffected - I assume the latter is the case here. The governing attribute is, just fyi, Charisma. A total of 6 such orders are provided, one for each alignment the class may have.

The energy blast of the thaumaturge requires a ranged touch attack, has a range of 30 ft. and SR applies, as does energy resistance, with Cha-mod added as a bonus to damage inflicted. Blasts require a free hand, count as weapons for feat purposes, but may not be used in conjunction with Vital Strike. Blasts inflict full damage on swarms and 8th and 15th level net the secondary and tertiary blasts - basically, iterative attacks with blasts. The verbiage here is precise, but slightly confusing upon first reading it. Energy blast base damage increases by +1d6 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

Thaumaturges begin with minor access to black arts, beginning play with up to Cha-mod cantrips taken from the sorc/wiz-spell list, casting them as though their class level was a proper arcane caster. They treat their class levels as arcane caster levels for feat prerequisites. Now the class has a pretty big drawback, but one that really has some serious promise: Defiant hubris.

The thaumaturge cannot be the willing target of divine magic or SUs, forcing them to save and resist even harmless spells, unless they concentrate for 1 minute, whereupon they are treated as willing recipients of all such magic for 10 minutes. This can be really interesting, if played right. 2nd level unlocks storm of blasts, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day: The thaumaturge may fire a single ray at up to class level (max 10) targets within 30 ft., with each requiring a ranged touch attack and inflicting only 1d4 energy damage - here's where things are neat: On a roll of "4", the die "explodes". If you're not familiar with the mechanic: That means you roll the die again and add its damage value to the first roll. The ability caps these by putting a cap equal to twice the thaumaturge's caster level on the maximum - a thaumaturge of 13th level could have up to a total of 26 such exploding dice per storm of blasts, for example. I really like this. It's chaotic and cool and has a proper cap to avoid truly ridiculous blasts and the math is solid. Oh, and since it's an SP, it's also a bit risky. Point for the class!

Now, I have already mentioned black arts - these would be supernatural talents that require somatic components and, as the class is wont to, are governed by Charisma. They are unlocked at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter and a handy table lists them by prerequisite, with the big steps for unlocking new ones being 8th and 11th level: While one black art has a prerequisite level of 17th, it remains the exception. The black arts themselves can usually be employed once per day, with the majority requiring only a swift action to activate. These allow the thaumaturgist basically to add infusion-like modifications to blasts, among other things, though the hard cap of daily uses that lacks a scaling mechanism makes many of these add less versatility than you'd expect the chassis to deliver. It should be noted that black arts may be used for the conjuration of fiendish creatures with the appropriate choices. As a minor nitpick, the summons require only a standard action, which opens up the old question of when the summoned creature may act, how many actions it has left, etc. It is also worth mentioning that most may be taken multiple times per day, with each one granting + 1 daily use and that a feat can be taken to get an additional black art.

The orders of the class go further in determining the respective class abilities, though - at 3rd level, the order's first blessing is gained, with 9th and 17th level providing the second and third blessing, respectively. It is here things, at least partially, become really problematic: If you have chosen the order of high sortiledge, you receive arcane mimicry, the ability to substitute an energy blast's effects for a spell of a level he would be able to cast: While the spell needs to be arcane, may not cause damage and only affect willing targets, it does not have any other restrictions. Sure, it may suppress the ability to use energy blast for 1/2 the spell's level in rounds, but who cares? Infinite utility magic!! Suck on this, witch, wizard etc.!! Ähem, what? Yep. The ability has no cap, can be used an infinite amount of times per day, and considering the number of powerful buff options with long durations, it is one of the best examples of something utterly broken I have ever seen. WTF? How could this have gone past any playtesting?? This invalidates any utility/defense-caster ever. EVEN THE WIZARD. If your class is more powerful than the wizard, you have an issue. Not starting with the issue of different spell levels for different spellcaster classes, but yeah - even if you'd restrict that to the sorc/wiz-list only, this'd be broken as all hell.

Which is puzzling, for other abilities do cool things: Like prohibiting a creature from being the willing recipient of a spell when suffering from your black arts or hexes. Wait, hexes? Yep, several abilities tie into the black art that unlocks witch hexes at full CL, which is a neat and fitting touch as far as I'm concerned. Similarly, decreasing blast potency for self-heals with a daily cap or using magic items sans expending charges is a ncie idea - and comes with an anti-abuse caveat I like. These abilities, as you may have noticed, are active abilities.

The order chosen also affects the passive abilities available for the class: 4th and 16th level, respectively, provide the aspect of the order and greater aspect of the order abilities that culminate in the similarly order-based capstone of the class. These, as a whole, tend to be solid - though e.g. High Sortiledge's deflection bonus lacks the "to AC" usually added to the verbiage...and, much like the energy types of the blasts, the internal balance is a bit...odd? Darkvision 60 ft. versus resistance 5 to fire, cold, electricity and acid, which increase by +5 at 12th and 18th level. Okay, it's nice that darkvision improves if the character already has it and that he may see through magical darkness...but still. As a further nitpick - one of them refers to Intimidation - someone read 5e while writing that section, it seems. This is also reflected in another ability, which references lightning instead of electricity.

Coolest by far - the bounty of bedlam table, which provides one of 8 chaotic blessings/penalties a day.

Once per day at 6th level and plus 1/day every 6 levels thereafter, the thaumaturge may redirect one targeted spell/SP/ray or melee touch attack spell. The second feat herein does offer an option to use this ability to hijack other spells as an immediate action to steal enemy buffs. Cool. Starting at 10th level, as a full-round action usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day, the thaumaturge may channel their blasts through their familiar. 15th level is extremely cool and flavorful, allowing the thaumaturge to move sans moving his legs, levitating constantly above the ground as if affected by defy gravity, including slower, but reliable movement when further away from the ground. Speaking of flavorful - while a few of the aforementioned capstones represent various takes upon the apotheosis-theme, their respective representations certainly are flavorful!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are good - there are a few deviations from the defaults here and there, but the rules-language and formal prose are nice as a whole. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard with greenish highlights and fitting fonts, though starting at black arts, the pdf begins utilizing a 1-column standard. The pdf sports a blend of nice full-color stock art and some seriously amazing pieces I have never seen before - for the price, it certainly is a nice-looking book. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

This class had a turbulent gestation period, and alas, it shows. Originally penned by N. Jolly, then refined by Brian Suskind, Ben McFarland and Jaye Sonia, it was once to be the PFRPG warlock...but then, the kineticist came along....so what did the Storm Bunny crew do? They emphasized the occult aspect, which is a VERY smart thing to do...and flavor-wise, they succeeded. The thaumaturge is a class with several flavorful options and manages to evoke a unique playing experience, which is a big thing for me. It does not feel as restrictive and bland as the original warlock class and very much feels occult in theme...but not in design.

Occult Adventures, as I've written in my review of that book, represents a paradigm shift towards classes with an emphasis on player agenda and roleplaying as baked in aspect of a class. The warlock has a bit of player agenda with his black arts, but that's about it - much like the poor cavalier, you choose the order and then are locked into it, allowing for a limited array of concepts. The concepts themselves are nice, though their internal balance among themselves (or lack thereof) is one of the disappointing aspects of this class.

I am loathe to say it...but the class feels a bit like it could have used some time to further mature: From the lack of energy blast range increases (with the exception of a true strike blast black art that doubles range) to the uneven power of the orders and their abilities, the class feels like it could have used some serious fine-tuning...which is a pity, for, contrary to what I expected to find, there is some serious fun contained in the chassis. I love the exploding dice with their cap, for example. I like the spell-leeching...but that does not change that several aspects herein could have used some nerfing, others upgrading...and a bit more versatility. (With the exception of infinite spellcasting. That needs to die horribly.) Oh, and better power-streamlining between orders, damage types, etc..

In other words - this is almost a cool class; it could have been awesome, even. It has these gleaming highlights of brilliance, but remains a flawed class. It also lacks favored class options, but oh well. I expected to hate this and I don't - so yeah, this would fare better...were it not for the fact that Interjection Games' ethermagic basically does the whole warlock-shtick better balanced, with more soft and hard crowd control choices and unique tricks than this one.

This is not a bad class, but neither is it one that most groups can unanimously and sans tweaks use in their games - in short, it is a mixed bag and as such receives a final verdict of 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Storm Bunny Presents: The Thaumaturge
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The Ice Ælves of Niflæheim
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:48:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This racial pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page preface/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is Niflæheim, the home of the ice ælves that so strongly shapes the whole race? Well, as the preface states, it is somewhere along the lines of Mad Max meeting 30 Days of Night - basically Antarctic survival in a fantastic context. It should come as no surprise then that the history of the ice ælves and their clades is written in blood and tragedy.

It is against said exceedingly harsh environment that these people have carved out their own niche to prosper even, as their shamans gather the power of heimilimarks, seeking to return to the fields of Midgard...but, alas, there is the doomsday, the leitmotif of Rhûne, also attached to the ice ælves, for Níðhöggroth (amazing from a linguistic point of view: Sounds like a more Black Metal version of Níðhöggr!), the wyrm of the long winter, is drawn inexorably towards them...

The prose of the race being outstanding, what about the mechanics? The ice ælves receives +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, are native outsiders with darkvision and gain +2 to Perception, Survival and Stealth, +4 to Acrobatics when moving across slippery surfaces. They have cold resistance 5 and get elven immunities. They establish bounds with their heimilimarks, being immune to aging while within 5 miles of these as well as gaining at-will pass without trace in this area. They get snow stride and may, as a standard action, predict unerringly the weather in a given area for 24 hours. They are vulnerable to fire. The race comes with 3 alternate racial traits: +1 natural armor in exchange for elven immunities, 1/day ice armor and stone shield as SPs at the cost of weather prediction and elven immunities and finally, there are ælves that may subsist on a diet of snow alone, provided they eat 4 times the usual amount, but these also lose the forecast power.

As a whole, the race is pretty powerful, accounting for the increased power-level assumed by Rhûne. That being said, the power of the ice ælves is very much terrain bound: Unless your campaign exclusively happens in northern climes, the race will not prove to be unbalancing to even gritty games. In the frigid cold, though, they are very strong. The pdf provides a selection of favored class options that cover the advanced player's guide classes as well as the magus - these generally are nice, though e.g. the bolded cleric-line is not red like the others - which would be as good a place as any to note that there are some deviations in formatting from the established racial presentation, including, unfortunately, the absence of an age, height & weight table in this pdf. That being said, these, for the most part, are cosmetic.

The pdf also provides four mundane items - the relatively powerful grafa staff (aka combat shovel) and the fire proofing magical waters of Niflæheim being two: The third would be icicle arrows, the fourth a sheathe that freezes the weapon, making it harder to draw...which sounds odd, but becomes pretty cool (haha) once used in conjunction with one of the new feats: Weaponize Snow lets you make a limited array of fleeting snow weapons that obviously can be kept in shape longer via these sheathes. Those with the Touch of Niflæheim gain 3 + Wis-mod ray of frost per day and may use these to further enhance snow weapons to inflict +1d6 cold damage. Fists like Ice net you stone fist 3+ Wis-mod times per day, while Snow Slinger does the same for magic stone. Sharp Chill adds a scaling enhancement bonus to weaponized snow weapons. Snow Strider works in conjunction with Run and lets you change directions multiple times.

The pdf also contains 5 different magic items: Iceflame Torches produce a heatless flame, powered by the body heat of the wielder (fans of Dark Souls etc. - there is some amazing imagery here: "His flame sputters and soon,. only embers will remain..."), while Herklæði Crystal Gorgets can generate breastplate-equivalents of ice armor - makes sense and is pretty amazing! The 3 last items would be the heimilimarks, which come with lesser and greater versions as well. The lesser version nets you fire resistance and a kind of shields, but also allows you to expend this shield's absorption capabilities to provide SPs. The lesser iteration nets fire resistance, but provides ice SPs, which felt a bit odd to me, but if in doubt, I tend to assume intention rather than glitch. The regular version provides cold-based tricks. The greater version, obviously, have the most powerful SPs and, when holding it for long enough, you slowly start becoming an ice ælf.

The pdf concludes with 3 spells: Resonating Winds enhances the bardic dirge of doom; Night of Niflæheim is a more powerful, racial variant of darkness that also causes nonlethal cold damage...but said damage can be prevented by aforementioned iceflame torches. Finally, Instant Frozen Pool is basically an instant AoE-ranged trip.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the one weak point of this pdf: While significantly better than in the previous racial pdf on the jötunfolk, there are some hiccups that could have been avoided, even though they mainly are aesthetic. Layout is absolutely glorious: 2-column, full-color, gorgeous. The same can be said about the numerous full-color artworks herein: While two look a bit stock-art-y, the rest is on par with the amazing cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

I absolutely hate terrain races. The one thing I LOATHED about Sandstorm and Frostburn, two of my favorite 3.X books by WotC, was frankly the racial section. Why introduce cool terrain and then make races that ignore the rules, but suck in other contexts? Plus: Just slapping "terrain name" before a race or racial concept does not make for a cool race. The ice ælves of Niflæheim are pretty much anathema to this: Instead of getting an identity-less terrain-race, we are introduced to a harsh people steeped in their own mythology. The tricks of the trade of the race are amazing...and while they are a terrain race, I can't find it in me to hate them. The prose woven by Jaye Sonia and Mike Myler is too captivating for that; The ideas are too cool. (Yeah, I'll punch myself for that one later...) While the race is strong in the given climate, GMs that do not plan on exclusively playing in the depth of winter should have no issues using the ice ælves as presented here. It is only the minor hiccups like the missing age, height and weight table that truly keep this pdf from the highest accolades. As a whole, this can be considered to be a good book, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ice Ælves of Niflæheim
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