DriveThruRPG.com
Browse Categories
 Publisher Info











Back
Other comments left by this customer:
The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2017 04:46:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is mostly based on the physical version of the book (36 pages – layout was redone for the pdf!), which was kindly provided by one of my friends/supporters. It was thus moved up in my queue as a nonprioritized review. The physical version of the module comes with a detachable cover – on the inside is the full-color map of the dungeon featured within this module.

There are a couple of different things you need to know about this module to understand it. The previous FreeRPG-offering by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the absolutely PHENOMENAL “Better than any man”, was met with some obvious misunderstanding; it was partially boycotted etc. for its mature content in both violence and the few, subdued sexual themes. It was designated as a module for adults, ages 18+. I don’t get it. At all. Anyway, this is not where things stopped – instead, there were some seriously messed up claims about the, admittedly, dark themes of the module – it was supposedly about “killing children.” It was supposedly extremely random, unfair, etc. – the claims kept piling up. While BTAM is hard and unforgiving, as anyone who has actually read the module can attest, these claims have in common that they’re patently FALSE.

Well, you know what happens when you poke the bear, right? So, this time around, we get a module that is based on all the things that folks complained about. An unforgiving, merciless, extremely random module that is, in a way, about killing children. Kind of. But not really. That being said, this is NOT a module that takes itself seriously. It’s perhaps the most ironic, sarcastic module I have ever read. If the basic premise, its adult content (it’s 18+ for a reason), sounds like something you’d hate, then steer clear. Similarly, if you don’t have a sense of humor and if your player can’t get into a mindset of playing a ridiculously lethal, highly random meat-grinder, of experiencing “funny” deaths, then you should probably stay away.

If you’re still undecided or repulsed, please continue reading:

One of my basic tenets in RPGs is that I simply don’t want to see kids being slain. In the end, we’re playing a game, and while the death of children can make for high stakes, the PCs should have at least a chance to save them. I usually strongly object to PCs being faced with kid “enemies” – i.e. adversaries that primarily exist to be vanquished.

In this case, I am okay with the premise, though – and you’ll soon see why, when I’m discussing the storyline. In order to do so, though, I have to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great!

So, in a small town, something weird happened – women from the age of 14 to 48 suddenly all freak out. Andrew is missing. Who is Andrew? Well, no one seems to really know – the women claim that they gave birth to a blond, blue-eyed kid named Andrew. Their families and other kids have never hear of Andrew and confrontation of multiple women exhibiting the same phenomena does not yield help either. The premise is eerie, horrific and gloriously weird and could easily be scavenged in a variety of cool ways. The women are, understandably, distraught about the loss of “their” individual Andrew – so, in order to reestablish peace, it’ll take some investigation on behalf of the PCs.

The truth is pretty much guaranteed to end any discussion of whether you should take this module seriously: Arthur Presterton Stuart-Lethbridge, former member of the clergy, found himself enamored with the dark arts of sorcery. He found a cave with strange crystals and found a neural interface, using his mystic powers to tap into the crystal. Which proceeded to dump 22 centuries of knowledge right into his brain – basically, he had our world’s internet and more downloaded straight into his brain, leaving his identity in tatters. In its place, there was the powerful Wiki Dot Pod, an amalgamation of entities worshipped by the “aliens” (aliens or…well, you know, impossibly futuristic versions of us…) who left the crystal there. His brain is suffused with useless trivia, brands, basic urges – you name it. His demeanor changed to reflect an amalgamation of all bad super villain/dictator tropes. He did not gain wisdom, alas – and so he did what you’d expect with the crystalline machinery, considering its potentially gene-altering powers – he proceeded to…how to put that delicately…hump one of its valves. The eponymous crystal children began appearing. And so, now he plots for WORLD DOMINATION! Of course!

You see, the telepathic computer inside the crystal can splice together DNA – it can create owlbear-like things and has some norms that it adheres to. If only one sample of sexual reproduction is provided, it will begin scanning the vicinity – once it finds a genetic match, it telepathically extracts a DNA sample from the living match and generates – bingo, a crystal-headed kid. Andrew.

How could anyone take this seriously?

Okay, okay, so, the kids – they actually have an interesting mechanic – namely a tree: As long as many of them exist, they are individually weak – but the more crystal-headed kids your PCs elect to murder-hobo, the tougher the survivors become – the more hit points they’ll have, the more HD and the more mêlée damage they’ll inflict. Which is an interesting set-up, critter idea-wise. (Easy to reskin, if the concept of crystal-headed children offends you and yours…)

Anyways, here’s the thing – neither Wiki, nor the crystal-headed children are per se hostile – short of attacking him and/or messing with his stuff/private rooms/etc., Wiki will be…kinda nice. As far as completely bonkers guys go. The only crystal-headed children that are hostile would be some mutated rejects – the early prototypes, if you will – 4 of them can be found, locked away in one room of the dungeon. Fun fact: The crystal-headed children will obey their parents (who recognize them as “their” Andrew) flawlessly. You can make that a statement on stifling creative impulses, a scathing commentary on both private and public education – or you can just take it in-game and use the distraught mothers to solve the adventure without having to deal with killing them. Yes. That’s generally possible. Unlikely, but yeah.

Sooo, the dungeon. The dungeon actually has next to nothing to do with the story, the children, or Wiki. It basically is the rebuttal to the claims of randomness. Cranked up to 11. In the dungeon, there are colored buttons. A ton of them. At the end of dead-ends. There are 10 (!!!) tables of random effects for pressing them. These include getting an alien implant – upon exiting the cave, basically unbeatable super-aliens arrive. Two factions of them. They vaporize everything. There’s a chance that the planet’s destroyed. Why? Because random. The button pressed also influences a room, where liquid boils – and, you guessed it, random effects for vapors and contact, depending on color. Yes, the majority of effects are not benevolent. There is also a sentient gas that can generate a direct link to a deity for believers. Oh, and the gas thinks that character number 1 entering it is the standard – after that, it tries to adjust other life forms. A PC may also inadvertently fuse his head with a 15-ton disk of crystal, becoming the crystal king – who may command all crystal-headed beings. Hey, another way to solve the module sans killing everything! (Okay, you’ll be stuck with a massive, crystal disk on your head…but yeah…)

The random encounters are similarly weird and potentially may offend devout Christians – the crystals, at one point, try to soothe the PCs, generating a comforting image to lead them – Jesus Christ. Who bleeds bread and fish when cut. Yes, there’s an image. There are also a couple of beings in containment crystals – a fighter, a lizard-beast without heads, but two rear-ends (cue insert Futurama jokes…) and a being that constantly exudes glue. Because…you know….That’s why!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard. The pdf sports color maps, the print copy only has the overview map in color. The artworks by Gennifer Bone in b/w are well done. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with customization layers as well as internal hyperlinks to the map. That being said, none of the layers allow you to turn of the annoying numbers on the map – which means that there’s no real player-friendly version of it. Cartography is btw. not bad – it does its job.

James Edward Raggi IV’s adventure is significantly less grotesque and horrible than I frankly figured it’d be. Seriously, after all the complaints and screaming online, I thought that this would be a grimdark monster of a module, something stomach-churning, something despicable.

It’s none of these things. If your PCs are inclined to murder-hobo everything…then yes. Then this will be a pretty dark affair. Heck, it can turn out that way, even if you don’t plan it. Because: Random! That being said, it is so hilariously outrageous and over the top in its characters, the premise, etc. that I really don’t get why anyone would take it at face value.

Which brings me to the more relevant point: Is this a good module? HECK NO. It’s random as all hell. The premise is mired, at least RAW, in intentionally atrocious design-choices. The dungeon is, by design, so random that it’s nigh unbeatable. If you value your characters, game world, etc., then steer clear of this module. Would I pay for the print version? Nope. Sorry. I’m a collector, yes, but just for its shock-value and funny moments? Nope.

That being said, at the same time, this does have its merits, if only for a special set of audiences: Do you and your group share a really black sense of humor? Can you enjoy deliberately dickish design, laugh about it on a meta-level? Can you laugh about ridiculous, potentially really unfair PC deaths? Then this may be worth checking out – the electronic version is PWYW, after all! I can see myself enjoying this module under very specific circumstances: Namely, when I’m playing a one-shot at a con, am really drunk and playing with a group of likeminded, similarly inebriated and fun-seeking individuals. In such a context, this may be a hilarious blast. In a sober state, personally, I did not consider the module per se funny – the premise? Yeah, you can work with that. Even some aspects of the dungeon. But the dungeon itself is so mired in utterly random ridiculous events and actions that it would annoy the heck out of me in a sober state.

In a nutshell: This is not the antichrist of modules; considering its genesis, it’s more playable than anticipated. But its flaws make it hard to recommend this as anything more than a curiosity. If you want excellence, get “Better than any man.”

How to rate this? Well, honestly, I should probably rate it lower regarding its design, but since I can see value in the farcical nature of the module, my final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the PWYW nature of the pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Archdevils of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/08/2017 05:19:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Porphyran books on potent entities clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, this pdf should come as no surprise to anyone who read the Caster Prestige Archetype series – much like the installment on Demon Lords, there is a class in that series that ties directly into the portrayals herein. The archdevils within this pdf come with full Inner Sea Gods-level of support – this means that we get a reprint of the Deific Obedience feat as well as 3 boons per archdevils to add some customization options to the respective worshiper.

The respective archdevil entries mention not only favored weapon, but also favored instrument and favored animal. Domain-wise, the Big chief Sathax gains 4 (as well as 4 sub-domains), with the other archdevils gaining 3 domains and subdomains, respectively. There is one exception to this rule, but I’ll get to that later. It should also be noted that each of the respective archdevils comes with a spell-preparation ritual and, obviously, an obedience. But yeah, Sathax – this fellow, the Grand Archdevil, the snake in a robe is elitist – and in the grand tradition of archdevils, his cult and worshipers emphasize quality over quantity – no wonder, the 3rd boon lets you 1/month, on full moon nights, beseech the archdevil for a wish – not a big fan of making this a Diplomacy check with just a single DC – a more modular DC would have been more elegant here, but that is just a design-aesthetic complaint – since the boon is restricted, I have no issues with its massive power.

The Chained Queen, born from a tryst between Sathax’s deceased wife and the god Kamus, the divine child has become ruler of her own empire, courtesy of Sathax’ grace in the face of pristine logic. Subversion, self-flagellation and “just following orders” are leitmotifs for the lady. Nice dressing: A rosary-type linked chain that acts as a means to depict rank in the church.

Duke Melektus is all about seeming; about appearances over substance; the fellow is the tarnished child of light, twisted to lead the mortals astray – from blood-letting to other quak-remedies, he is also the patron of healing – though of healing that is tainted; the boons reflect that really well, with e.g. parasitic powers. Truly unique and flavorful write-up!

Duke Mastema, Khan of the Asherake, is the second son of Sathax – bold where, Melektus is subservient. He chose to rise through the ranks of devilkind and sports only contempt for mankind, preferring more powerful races – he is the concept of merit blended with elitis on a racial basis. Nice!

Duchess Hadriel is the firstborn of Sathax, mistress of domination. Her mere presence enslaves mortal minds and she prefers females to males, causing some consternation in hell’s hierarchies. Ambitious beyond belief, she hopes to claim proper demi-goddess-status…and she is slowly getting there, with calculations and a focus on myth/planning serving as a backdrop to her boundless ambition. Ibolis is Sathax’ ally – at least as far as that is possible for a being of pure darkness, the master of singularity. Mysterious, intriguing and shrouded in a veil of secrecy, the arch-devil is not part of the family of Sathax, but he is sufficiently strange to act as an intriguing wildcard. Now, I did mention the offspring of the grand lord of hell’s wife before – this demigod and archdevil would be Kram-Hotep. He is really interesting, embodying the fear of dying, of being lost in the fabric of history. Mortality, to be remembered – his Twilight-Pyramid and unique flavor most assuredly make him stand out – he seeks not souls, but slaves. Courtesy of his status, he does gain 4 different domains, not just 3. All in all, I enjoyed all of the archdevils presented herein.

The pdf then proceeds to depict a variety of infernal magic items – framed by some prose, we get 8 different items: Books of Infernal Extortion contain names – monsters and beings identified can then be commanded, even at range via e.g. whispering wind – on a failed save, we have a curse on their hands…nasty! At 8K, pretty inexpensive, but the evil nature should keep it out of PC hands. Hopefully. Cloaks of fiendish recovery allow the wearer to crouch down, becoming invisible. They can reveal themselves in a puff of smoke and provide limited spell recovery. While only usable once per day, I wished that the activation action was more precise than “crouching down” – not a big issue, since you can research that, but yeah. Coins of corruption are lucky for LE beings and hamper the healing received by others. Really cool!! The Cube of Kram is a twist on the Hellraiser-cube, tied to Kram-Hotep’s domain – it can be cheesed…by intention! You see, that’s part of the fun here and actually comes fully codified in rules regarding responses taken. Cool!

Flails of humiliation cause nonlethal bonus damage versus foes with resistance and immunity to electricity – nice one. I can see devils enjoying this. Rod of cynical duality heals targets, but also shatters objects – and it MUST alternate. There’s a price to be paid, I guess… The Sceptre of Seven Circles is an artifact – the rod of the king of devilkind and allows the wielder to command legions of devils. Finally, superior’s rings are really creative: You designate a target in sight before initiative is rolled; Your initiative is set at +1 higher than the target. Amazing! While very potent in mythic contexts, it can actually help NPCs defeat the rocket launcher tag-strategy. In regular contexts, it most assuredly can be a puzzling, fun item to stick on foes. All in all, a really cool magic item section.

The pdf also contains new spells: The Blessing of Sathax fortifies your d20-rolls with Charisma-modifier 1/round. Commision Pergensia Bodyguard nets you a powerful bodyguard – not to fight for you, but to keep you from harm. Well. Devils. You’ll better shore up on your logic skills. Enforce fate can only target a foe once per 24 hours: The caster rolls 5 d20s and the target has to use the results in the order determined by the caster. NASTY! Hard darkness is basically a darkness and solid fog crossover. Hotep’s Inexorable Pyramid is a REALLY creative variant of forcecage. Love it. Odious betrayal is also really creative: It penalizes teamwork sharing and similar support with damage and negative conditions – powerful, but requires the set-up of a creature under a compulsion. Really cool. Summon petitioner slave is self-explanatory. The spells cover the occult and ACG-classes as well, just fyi.

Next up are two new subdomains: Betrayal is a subdomain of Evil – it allows you to steal the AC of allies. Nice idea. The blackmail subdomain of the knowledge domain ties in with lorekeeper and allows you to penalize foes. Caps for the subdomain abilities prevent abuse. Nice. There also is the cold domain, with a numbing touch and later, an aura of cold. Nice. Next up is a whole page of traits. These include 1/day causing a target to lose 1 point of initiative. Bonus types are, with one exception, concisely codified and the traits are meaningful without being overpowered.

The final page of this pdf is devoted to the Suppligon devil, a CR 8 goat-thing with 5 flaming eyes in pentacle-form. Yeah, damn creepy! The stats are solid as well – huge kudos!

The pdf also comes with a bonus-pdf, also penned by Perry Fehr, which depicts the Rancor Daemon (CR 14): Warlords with huge, mantis-like claws, whip-like tongues and massive swords, they look incredibly badass, are commanders that get better when supported by nearby daemons– and sport neat, solid stats – big kudos for a really neat bonus critter!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language, I noticed no true glitches herein. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a ton of artworks: Full-color symbols for all archdevils and the monsters also get amazing, full-color artworks – all original and damn cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

When Perry Fehr takes his time to properly craft his material (or when his glorious ideas are properly streamlined by a good developer), something beautiful happens. This is a prime example of such a case. This pdf is refined, professional and amazing – the archdevils all sport at least one unique angle; they breathe the proper flavor. The obediences are creative.

Creativity. That’s something you can find in pretty much all of Perry’s pdfs, but here, the creativity is paired with proper, careful execution, marrying the art and craftsmanship aspects of design. In short: This is an inspired, amazing pdf I wholeheartedly recommend. Oh, it’s also, much like all of PDG’s books, open content. In short: This deserves being supported. If you enjoy the infernal and need some great tools, then check this out. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Archdevils of Porphyra
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Star Log.EM-001: Exocortex Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/08/2017 05:16:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This small supplement for Starfinder clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, this time around,w e take a look at new options for the exocortex choice of the mechanic – at 2nd level or higher, mechanics get 3 new choices for mechanic tricks: Enemy database builds on combat tracking: When you’re tracking a foe, you may substitute Computers to identify the tracked creature instead of using the usual skill; however, failed attempts can only be retried after 10 minutes, at which point you may take 20 on the skill as though accessing a database. The Exocortex datajack makes the exocortex count as a datajack with an item level equal to your mechanic level, allowing for combination with a custom rig. If connected to a network or data set, you may make Computers to recall information related to a variety of skills. As per the clarification-request of one of my readers: The exocortex gains the ability to work as a datajack, freeing your brain augment slot. This exocortex datajack may by used with custom rigs, etc.

Improved combat tracking lets you attempt an identification of a tracked creature when attacking with a special property or small/long arm – on a success, the attack deals + class level damage. This stacks with Weapon Specialization. Only one target takes this bonus damage, if multiple ones are targeted.

There also are 3 tricks unlocked at 8th level – the first would be AI Usurpation: The exocortex must have access to the system to hack and uploading the exocortex into the system is a move action – a total of 2d4 rounds need to be expended thus, and the exocortex uploaded behaves like an AI using your social skills and only obeys your spoken command. While thus uploaded, you lose all exocortex abilities and mechanic tricks tied to the exocortex. Instead, you gain an untyped bonus on all Computer, Engineering and Piloting checks involving the hacked vessel. Additionally, this bonus extends to starship stunts and crew actions and you may spend 1 Resolve Point at the start of the round to gain an additional crew action. If unused, said action is lost, as is the Resolve Point. Downloading the AI again also takes time, and losing it lets you replace it without much hassle. While uploaded, the AI can’t fill a starship crew role.

Martial rewire lets you treat your mechanic level as BAB for prerequisite purposes of combat feats. You select 3 combat feats for which you meet the prerequisites. As a move action, you can have your muscle memory rewired, gaining one of these feats until you spend a Resolve Point and have a 10-minute rest to regain Stamina, at which point you can change the feat you have access to. Upon gaining a level, you can change the combat feats in question. Enhanced memory lets you reroll Int-based skill checks, even if not recalling. You may also spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction to failing such a check, gaining a reroll at +5.

Finally, there are two tricks that are unlocked at 14th level – the first of these would be construct usurpation, which does what it says on the tin, thankfully with a CR-cap and a temporary duration – this duplicates control machines (not italicized) in a way, with the AI handling concentration, allowing you to act normally. Nice balancing tool: 1/24 hour caveat. Enhanced martial rewire nets you a second set of 3 combat feats to choose from, and allows you to access two of your pool of 6 at once.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal and a rules-language level, are very good. No complaints here, apart from a missed italicization. Layout adheres to a nice, colorful two-column full-color standard. The artwork featured is nice and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ exocortex options makes sense to me – while the added crew action is potent, it makes sense to me – so do the virtual feats. Note that RAW, martial rewiring does not allow you to stack combat feats due to the prerequisite fulfillment caveat, which prevents abuse of feat trees there – breadth instead of depth. As a whole, I enjoyed this supplement and consider it to be a sensible addition to the mechanic’s options. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-001: Exocortex Options
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Genies (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/08/2017 05:14:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with an impressive 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Know what’s curiously underdeveloped in 5e so far? Well, d’uh, genies. As such, we begin with a summary of the psyche and social organization of genie-kind, speaking of the addictive qualities of genie-power (if you’re fluent in German, the underground-rockband Caputt made a whole album on the concept: “Djinndustrie”, which translates to genie-industry…); genies are potent, but as you can e.g. tell from the efreet as depicted in Catherynne M. Valente’s second book of the Orphan Tales saga, their interaction with mortals is more complex than you’d expect – the boundaries of master and slave are fluid and their elemental natures have, for a long time, made them significantly more interesting, at least to me, than most other denizens of the elemental planes.

After a brief general overview, we begin with short descriptions of the ruling bodies/organizations of the genies: From the blazing citadel (get City of Brass’ boxed set if you can!) to the Earthen Court, the House of the Tempest and finally, the Vigilant Council, these organizational contexts help elucidate the alien nature of genies – it may be a small thing for you, but I absolutely love that we get some proper lore to contextualize them. The write-ups on the respective ideologies are inspired indeed. From this context, we move on to not just some paltry, general stats (which would probably become invalid as soon as WotC publishes “official” genie material) – instead, we focus on unique NPCs, one for each of the elements.

One of the sultans serving the pasha of the Earthen Court gains the title “Armor of Mercy” – in this instance, that would be mighty Khem-Nefer, who clocks in at an impressive challenge 16. He is frickin’ EPIC. He comes with legendary actions and is nigh unstoppable. Why? Not only can he turn into sand to pursue his foes, he also gains massive healing when he does not expend all of his legendary actions. Oh, and resistance to physical damage when he acts that way. Really cool, though, apart from a very minor formatting hiccup, the clinging sand ability: I get that creatures can pass it on (which is cool!), but what does “become inundated with clinging sand” mean, rules-wise? As written, it seems to be just a set-up for his petrifying legendary action, but sense-wise, the ability feels like it could inflict a condition like restrained. Just sayin’. On the plus-side, we actually also doe get lair actions for his earthen keep! These are cool, though a spell-italicization is missing.

Nafurat Min Al-Atham would be the Fountain of Misdeeds, who also clocks in at a mighty challenge 16. Once again, we have cool interactions with legendary actions – this time around, the option to target creatures adjacent to the target of his attacks. Now, as I am a hardcore bastard, I will make this bonus damage drench targets – something that RAW only the geyser ability does (which, oddly, deals cold damage). Why? Because drenched targets may be drowned via a legendary action that costs 2 of them. And it makes more sense in game. I get the rationale for the design as written, but personally, I think water bursts and torrents strong enough to cause damage should qualify as drenching foes. We get lair actions as well – beyond missed spell-italicization, one duplicates a spell that has at-higher levels variants and thus may have warranted a note there – just as a cosmetic observation. This would be as well a place as any to note that, while as a whole the average damage-values can be found herein, they are not present everywhere – they are e.g. missing from one lair action of Khem-Nefer, Nafurat Min Al-Atam’s torrent bonus damage…you get the idea. This does not impede the functionality of the genies, but yeah. Something to be aware of.

The champion of fire depicted herein would be Nahas Al-Aizdira, the Lady of Clanging Bells (once again, you guessed it, challenge 16), follows a similar design: We get a reflexive fire shield for retaining legendary actions, and one of them costs 2 legendary actions for a particularly nasty effect – but requires the setting-up via another feature, namely immolate. Problematic here, from a rules-integrity perspective: “A creature that is immolated..:” is the requirement – and RAW, the immolate ability does not “immolate” targets – it just renders them frightened and deals continuous fire damage. Yes, it’s clear what’s meant, but still. As the other genies, she can turn into her element while moving, but unfortunately, this movement, oddly, does not cause fire damage to targets. Here, a bit less redressing and more customization would have made sense. This would be as well a place as any to note that “attacks of opportunity” do not exist in 5e – the correct terminology is “opportunity attacks.”

The final of the mighty genies, Murat Al-Huzn, the Mirror of Sorrow, follows the same design paradigm established for the other genies. One of his legendary actions, alas, is a mess: He creates copies of up to 3 different creatures he can see. Okay, where? Next to him? Next to the creatures? At any place? These copies mimic the actions of the copied targets. Okay, do they roll their own attacks or use the ones of the characters they copied? No idea. I get what this tries to do, but RAW, this doesn’t work. That being said, the 2-action cost legendary action of this fellow is properly codified (though missing average damage values).

The second chapter of the pdf is devoted to exclusive spells of the genies: 4 cantrips are provided, which include a conjured bow that fires arrows of lightning, an earthen shield that protects against mundane missiles, a lance of fire that you can hurl or wield in melee and a maul that deals cold damage and grants temporary hit points. These cantrips are interesting and suggested classes are noted – though it should be said that all are pretty potent. Big plus: Each spell comes with a flavor-paragraph that makes it feel more than just a collection of rules. We also get 1st and 4th level spells for each of the elements. Cool regarding the 1st-level spells: They interact with the cantrips! They have regular benefits and basically allow for the buffing of the cantrips for a combo choice that enforces player agenda – in the example of the lightning arrows, you create e.g. static fields of lightning. Pretty cool concepts! That being said, the spells note “The next [insert cantrip name] you cast before the end of your turn (the spells can be cast as bonus actions) creates xyz…” – does this mean that only one such cantrip spell is enhanced during the 1-hour duration? Or does this apply to ALL of them? The latter would be pretty overkill…A discharge/end-wording-caveat would have made sense here.

The self-buffs gained at 4th level are pretty cool, sporting 3 benefits (one has 4): One resistance, and one or more special action/bonus action/reaction options. The final spell, blessing of the wind princess, fails to specify to what the reaction-use applies, though. Power-wise, they are all pretty potent.

The final chapter deals with 11 genie-themed magic items. These are pretty cool: The armor of the martyred Khedive sports three defensive abilities, powered by its charges; beads of miracles generate major illusions (spell slot properly noted!), which is cool. The sentence: “typically, 1d4+1 beads of farce[sic!] are bound together.” Is, however, symptomatic of the editing glitches that haunt this pdf. Carpets that burst into flames, heavy dinnerware that can be used as weapons (inflicting what type of damage?), a gem that can add fire damage to bows…interesting. Pretty potent: There is a globe that nets advantage on initiative and lets you swap initiative with the target, over which the globe hovers. Okay, so how far can it hover? Is it restricted by boundaries? Do you get to choose your ally? What is the trigger-requirement for the reaction? Cool idea, problematic execution. Gloves that can grant necrotic damage claws or summon insect plagues, a cursed hat the nets stinking cloud, but penalizes your Charisma checks and saves, a weapon blessed by water, which helps versus ice…there are a lot of cool items here. On an aesthetic side, e.g. the spear of the earthen court lacks the bullet point type presentation of aforementioned armor, which was weird, but is not something I’d penalize this booklet for.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the crux of this pdf – they feel rushed on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the artworks are the photography-stlye pictures I’ve come to expect from and like in Tribality’s offerings. The pdf lacks bookmarks, which constitutes an unnecessary comfort detriment.

Damn. You know, I love Colin McLaughlin’s genies for 5e. I really do. They OOZE passion, flavor and play well; the GM gets some nasty, cool tricks to pull off here. While all use the design design-paradigm, that may be intentional to create a sense of cohesion. It’s not what I’d consider problematic. However, I do believe that some modifications to account for elemental peculiarities would have made them shine even more. The spells and magic items, while not perfect, also breathe a deep love of the subject matter, and are, dare I say it, inspiring. This pdf has all the components of a 5 star + seal of approval gem. While there are no artworks for the genies, I have always preferred substance over shiny artworks; give me a cool critter sans art over a broken mess any day of the week.

Which brings me to the issue at hand: As inspired as this is, it seriously could have used a strict editor. I stopped counting formatting hiccups at one point. There are a lot of missed italicizations etc. More relevant and pretty grievous: There are issues in the rules-language that compromise the RAW functionality of the options herein, minor hiccups in the math…you get the idea. They accumulate to the point where I can’t unanimously recommend the pdf as much as I’d dearly love to. While the small glitches accumulate, it is the big ones that truly drag this down from the lofty rating-perches that it deserves.

Don’t get me wrong – I can totally see where all the raving reviews for this file come from: At $2.95, this offers a neat bang-for-buck ratio and oozes flair. I like to picture roleplaying game design as both an art and a craft: The artistry can’t be taught; you either have it, or you don’t. This pdf has this component, in spades. It does falter, however, in the department of craftsmanship – not in the general craft of the design itself, mind you. The overall impression a cursory analysis provided, was one of a file I’d celebrate for being amazing. But once you take a look at the details, the issues accumulate, the imperfections show. The good news is: This aspect can be learned rather easily.

This is, to my knowledge, the author’s freshman offering - it is thoroughly impressive for that. But at the same time, not even the freshman bonus that I grant new authors can make me round up here; for that, the obvious and often glaring minor hiccups are too numerous. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down. I hope this will be revised at one point. Dear author, if you read this: Please don’t be disheartened. Keep creating. You have potential.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Genies (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Starfarer's Companion
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/07/2017 09:55:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion-tome for Starfinder clocks in at 235 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 229 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review.

Okay, so the content herein is contextualized by the Xa-Osoro system – while we only get a brief introduction to this meta-setting, it does influence components of the following material – for example, the languages, which are noted in the beginning of the race section. Speaking of which: This is basically a massive crunch-book that takes care of several concepts that are beloved, yet not already covered by SFRPG; as such, we begin with races. A ton of them. As such, the respective racial write-ups note homeworlds, society and alignment, etc. I’ll be brief regarding the races, since most of them should be familiar to PFRPG players.

Aasimars: +2 to one ability, 4 hp, resistance to acid, cold and electricity (“resistance” is missing once, in a purely cosmetic hiccup) as well as SR equal to 6 + character level versus evil spells. They gain +2 to Diplomacy, Perception and Intimidate, have darkvision and can manifest a halo, which acts as a portable light with an item level equal to or less than the aasimar’s level. I assume that to be “character level” – minor hiccup in the rules here that happens twice – also in regards to the Daylight 1/day SP.

Catfolk gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, 4 hp, +2 on Reflex saves (and 1/day roll twice, take the better result), low-light vision, +2 to Perception, Stealth and Survival and +10 ft. when charging, running or withdrawing.

The deoxyian race would be all new: They gain 6 hp and choose a player race at 1st level. They count as the chosen race and as deoxyians and develop a racial trait of the chosen race. More can be chosen by taking Expanded Deoxyomorphism as a replacement feature at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th or 18th level. They gain +2 Int, +2 to an ability of their choice and -2 to an ability of their choice that does not already have a “bonus from race.” 1/day, they can take 10 on a d20 roll or check (except those failing on a natural 1) and gain +1 to checks they take 10 in.

Dhampirs get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, 4 hp low-light vision and darkvision and are dazzled in bright lights. They gain +2 to Perception and Bluff and when saving against disease and mind-affecting effects and take no penalties from level drain, though they still can perish from accrued negative levels.

Grippli (YEAH!) get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str, 2 hp, speed 20 ft. (plus climbing speed 20 ft.), +2 to Stealth, darkvision, +4 to Athletics made to jump (and are treated as having a running start). They also secrete poison 1/day as a swift action (which passes grippli armor to be on the outside of it – think semi-permeable membrane) and may coat their melee weapons in the poison.

Ifrit gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, 4 hp, darkvision and may create the flashlight equivalent of flame as a free action. 1/day, as a standard action, the ifrit can generate a firebomb with an item level equal to the ifrit’s level (should be character level). They gain +2 to saves versus fire-based effects and +2 to initiative.

Of course, we also get Kitsune, who gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str, 4 hp, +2 to Acrobatics and Athletics, change shape and Kitsune with Cha of 11+ gain at-will dancing light. They may choose Magical Tail as a replacement class feature at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th, and 18th level. They also gain low-light vision and their natural weapons deal 1d3 lethal damage and isn’t treated as archaic – analogue to the Vesk ability.

Kobolds get +2 Dex and Con, -2 Str, 2 hp, are Small, get +1/2 level (should be character level) to damage rolls with attacks and spells versus foes that are flat-footed, off-kilter or denied their Dexterity bonus. They get +2 Engineering, Perception, Profession and Stealth. They also gain a 1d2 natural weapon, otherwise analogue in function to the Vesk. They gain +1 resolve point at 1st level and have darkvision and are dazzled in bright light.

Mechanoi are sentinet constructs with the technological subtype. They have a size of Small or Medium, speed 20 ft. and have no Constitution score. Problem here: Having one ability score less does influences character creation/point assignment – the pdf should acknowledge that and provide alternate. The race gets +2 Str and Int, -2 Cha, 6 hp, +4 to saves versus mind-affecting effects (and no immunity). Spells that target constructs or robots and don’t allow for saves now do for the race, with an engineer. They take -2 to Sense Motive and such checks against them are also at +2 DC. They also get to choose to minor mods and a major mod, which work as basic drone mods. Once chosen, this can be changed via a mnemonic editor. Additional Mechanoi Mod may be chosen as replacement feature at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level. Mechanoi have low-light vision.

Nagaji get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, 6 hp, +1 to AC, low-light vision, +2 to Perception, +2 to saves versus poison and mind-affecting effects. They can spit poison as a ranged attack versus EAC, 10 ft. range and one range increment. The poison temporarily blinds foes on a failed save and may be used 1/day.

Oread get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, 8(!!!) hp, 20 ft. speed, darkvision, +1 to AC, 1d3 natural weapon (analogue to Vesk) and +2 to saves versus acid- and earth-based effects and attacks. They also get acid resistance 5.

Samsarans receive +2 Int and Wis, -2 Con, 4 hp, low-light vision, +2 to saves versus death- and negative-energy effects and to saves to remove negative levels, They also get +2 to Constitution checks to stabilize. They get one 0-level mystic spell as an at-will SP and may choose Minor Psychic Power sans meeting the prerequisite. They gain +2 to two skills of their choice and add them to their list of class skills.

Suli get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, 4 hp and low-light vision. They gain acid resistance, cold resistance, electricity resistance and fire resistance 5. As a swift action 1/day, they can shroud their arms in elemental energy (4 types mentioned before), for +1d6 damage of the chosen type to “all attacks made with their hands or weapons held in their hands.” – I think this is supposed to refer to melee weapons, but RAW, it holds true for ranged weapons as well, which is a serious difference regarding the power of the ability. The ability lasts for 1 round per character level.

Sylphs have +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, 2 hp, darkvision, +2 to Acrobatics, Piloting and Stealth. They gain electricity resistance and +2 to saves versus air- and electricity-based effects. They can use Acrobatics to glide. They also increase their maneuverability by one step. Tengus get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, low-light vision, +2 to Culture checks (and learn 2 languages per rank in Culture gained). They get +2 to Perception and Stealth and natural weapons (1d3); they are proficient with basic and advanced melee weapons and gain specialization with them at 3rd level.

Tieflings get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Cha, 4 hp, darkvision, +2 to Bluff, Slight of Hand, Stealth. They get cold, electricity and fire resistance 5 as well as SR 6 + character level against good spells. They gain a fiendish extremity and may choose to gain one as a replacement feature at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level. These include a prehensile tail, scaly skin, natural weapons and vestigial wings.

Undine gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str, 4 hp, swim speed 30 ft., can breathe water and doesn’t take penalties when fighting underwater. They are immune to the effects of depth and pressure and gain Athletics as a class skill as well as darkvision. They can quench up to 5 sq-ft. fire with a touch sans taking damage and 1/day may execute bull rush, disarm, dirty trick (blind/dazzle only) or trip with a 30 ft.-range. They can use their character level instead of BAB for the roll. Problem: The ability doesn’t specify the activation action – I assume standard action. They get +2 to saves versus cold-and water-based effects.

Vanara get +2 Wis, 4 hp, are shapechangers, with 30 ft. speed, 20 ft. climbing speed, may change size between Small and Medium and, while Small, they get +2 Dex and -2 Str, but their Dex in medium armor may not exceed 16. Longtails get +2 Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand and Stealth and have a prehensile tail that can hold +1 item at the ready. Whitecape vanara get +2 Athletics, Intimidate and Perception, Improved Unarmed Strike and +2 to KAC versus bull rush and trip. They gain low-light vision.

Vishkanya get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, 4 hp, get +5 Disguise to pass as humans, +2 to Acrobatics and Stealth, low-light vision, +character level as a bonus to saves versus poison. When they have taken at least 1 hp damage, as a swift action, they can 1/day apply their poisonous blood (saliva sans damage) to melee weapons. Wayang get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wis, 2 hp, 20 ft. speed. I am not sure regarding their size – I assume Small. The race gets darkvision. They can, as a standard action 1/day use invisibility as a SP. Wayang can reverse spells that behave differently versus undead/the living as a reaction, counting as undead or living, respectively. This can be used 1/day. They gain +2 Perceptio and Stealth and +2 to saves versus illusions.

All right, as a whole, the race-chapter has me a bit concerned. While there is no really broken race herein, there are a couple of races that exceed in power what we get in the Starfinder core book. More relevant would be the numerous cosmetic hiccups in rules-language (level vs. character level – particularly weird, since some abilities (like natural weapons) taken directly from the SF core book’s abilities often specify character level in the core book… There are also a few instances, where the rules are a bit wobbly. Not to the point where I’d consider the section problematic, but it’s less refined than what I’m used to see from the authors.

Okay, so next up would be no less than 6 (!!!) classes for SFRPG: We get an adaptation of bard, cleric, magus, paladin, ranger and wizard.

In all brevity: Bards get 6 + Con stamina, 6 hp, 6 + Int skills, proficiency with light armor, melee weapons, grenades and small arms. Spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level (governed by the muse – may be Int, Wis or Cha), ¾ BAB progression and good Ref- and Fort-saves. Okay, so the class itself probably doesn’t need a discussion on how it works, so let me note what I enjoyed here: Even bardic knowledge has choices; bardic performance is properly codified (Audible/Visual) and the class gets talents to choose, an array of two classes of talents, which allow for PC customization. Definitely one of the best bard versions for d20-based games.

The cleric gets 6 + Con stamina, 6 hp, 4 + Int skills, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, proficiency with light and heavy armor, small arms, deity’s favored weapon, grenades and prepared spellcasting governed by Wisdom. Now here is an aspect that may provide a bit of confusion at first: Unlike in Starfinder’s usual design paradigm, the spellcasting of the cleric goes the full 9 levels; granted, some spells of the mystic or technomancer note that the higher-level cleric spells behave as lower-level mystic spells; and yes, there are a ton of converted spells. Similarly, the class provides AoE-healing via channel divinity – basically, you don’t have to choose to be the healer mystic, you get this regardless of choices made. On the plus-side, domains and devotions allow for a ton of customizations for the class, which, choice-wise, is really cool to see.

The magus presented herein gets 6 + Con stamina, 6 hp, 4 + Int skills, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, prepared Int-based spellcasting of up to 6th level. Spellstrike is tied to resolve and works with both melee weapons and small arms. The class does what you’d expect.

The paladin gets 7 + Con stamina, 7 hp, 4 + Int skills, proficiency with light & heavy armor, basic and advanced melee weapons, small arms, longarms and heavy weapons. They have full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. At 4th level, they get spontaneous Cha-based spellcasting of up to 4th level, drawn from the cleric list. Lay on hands has nice limits and is tied to resolve. The customization comes in with different oaths and associated abilities. Solid version.

The ranger gets 7 + Con stamina, 7 hp, 4 + Int skills, proficiency with light armor, basic and advanced melee weapons, small arms, longarms, sniper rifles and grenades, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves. Beyond tracking, rangers come with a more complex modification – their styles allow for meaningful choices. Spells, for example, are spontaneous, Wis-based and drawn from the mystic’s list and are exclusive to one style. There also are a ton of talents, ranger methodologies that help, big time, to make the class feel unique.

Finally, the wizard gets 4 + Con stamina, 4 hp, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, basic melee weapons, small arms, grenades, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, prepared Int-based spellcasting from the wizard’s list. Much like the cleric, the spell-levels go the full 9 levels of progression, thus deviating from Starfinder’s basic spellcasting engine. The wizard has a spellpad and the usual bond – object or familiar. There is a ton of customization via both arcane secrets and a massive array of arcane traditions. Notes for alternate or replaced class features are provided for all classes covered within this book.

The book does come with a nice companion-building engine that covers both biological and technological companions: Hit points scale up from 10 to 230; companions have ¾ BAB-progression, gain up to +18 AC; their good saves increase to +9, the bad saves to +5; 6 ability increases, up to 8 feats and up to 10 evolutions. Link, share spells, (improved) evasion, devotion – you get the idea here.

The book does contain a TON of feats – the table covers 3 pages on its own! Beyond the obvious ones (like Fox Shape, Magical tail, etc.) that supplement the races and those that supplement the classes, there are several rules-relevant ones beyond that. Though, much like in previous chapters, there are more editing hiccups here than usual for Rogue Genius Games or the authors – “as areactiont action”, for example. Options for paladins to revive those that have just died, better exploring of new environments – it should be noted that quite a few really cool options can be found in this chapter. There are quite a few feats here that allow for the use of limited racial abilities via Resolve expenditure. So yeah, this chapter, as a whole, is nice.

In the equipment chapter, things become really cool: We get not only various shields, we also are introduced to computers – to be used as basically a complex help or hindrance for the PCs – modules, basic functions, secured access, tier-rating,e tc. – all in all, a cool array with a ton of sample computers provided. I smiled from ear to ear when I read an expansion to the starship scale: Planetoid! It comes with a new frame and we also get a serious array of cool new frames. This is easily my favorite chapter in the whole book.

The final, approximately 60 pages, are devoted to a massive TON of spells. Since this book adds 9th level spellcasting to Starfinder, there are some explanations regarding variable level spells for the spells. The chapter, as a whole, provides a ton of the spell-classics we know from PFRPG – wail of the banshee, for example. It inflicts a massive 150 points of sonic damage, ½ on a successful save. If you are really picky about design-aesthetics, you will note that e.g. snuff life from the core-book follows a different design-paradigm that codifies damage for death effects by CR. On the plus-side, I really like that quite a lot of the spells have different effects for the different spell-levels – not just an escalation of numbers, but wholly different effects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on both a formal and rules-language level – as a whole, this book may contain quite a few hiccups, but most of them do not influence the rules-language. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard with a lot of neat, original full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. Cool: The pdf comes with a second, more tablet-friendly, smaller version – kudos!

Alexander Augunas and Matthew Morris deliver a book that a select clientele will absolutely adore. This massive tome nets you all the options you’ve come to expect from the time playing Pathfinder – the favorite races of many folks, and, more importantly, also the classes – if you’re looking for a way to transition your PFRPG-game to Starfinder, then get this ASAP – this is exactly the book you’ve been waiting for.

The craftsmanship of the design for the class conversions is definitely high quality; the player agenda components, the choices, the engines of the classes – all of these are done with the expert skill-set that we’ve come to expect from these two critically-acclaimed designers. I can absolutely see why so many people (judging from the reviews) love this book.

At the same time, as a person, while I appreciated the skill that obviously went into creating this book, the supplement left me honestly concerned. As a book that deals with a lot of heritage options, it does exhibit a lot of design paradigm decisions that I could not extrapolate from the Starfinder core rules. It should be noted that I do not think that 9th-level spell-progression breaks the game; it allows for a finer-grained progression of power, obviously – but honestly, I’m not sure why this type of decision was required by the demands of the system or the design of the classes. Another issue I can see here would be the cleric’s healing abilities, which are very pronounced – more so than those presented in the Starfinder core book. Why do I consider the totality of these design-choices problematic? While they remain closer to PFRPG and thus easier to convert, they change the gameplay of Starfinder.

While, admittedly, my playtesting experiences with the Starfinder rules so far are not as excessive (the system is pretty young, after all), so far, it looks like the discrepancy between the power of martials and casters has decreased, courtesy, in part, due to the cap imposed on casting potency. This book subverts these pretty central tenets. There are a few remnants regarding references to bonus types that don’t exist in Starfinder, some references to AC bonuses that have not been properly recoded for SFRPG, but these instances remain relatively scarce. More grievous to me, there are, design-wise, some aspects in spells, etc., that feel closer in their design-aesthetics to PFRPG than SFRPG.

Okay, so rating this book, for me, is pretty much a reviewer’s nightmare. Sure, I can complain about the formal hiccups mentioned, but they are not that many really bad ones; they mostly pertain to smaller aspects and components. My issue as a reviewer is that this book covers options to make Starfinder closer to Pathfinder. It’s the goal of the book and, for what they are, I love a lot of the designs here – I enjoyed, for example, the converted classes more than I thought I would. Here’s the thing: As a person, I really, really dislike that. One of the aspects I love about Starfinder is that it’s not just PFRPG with a coating of scifi. New races, new classes – all different, shiny, new.

I think that, for a serious part of this book, you can see that, while it is definitely a Starfinder book regarding the totality of the rules, its design aesthetics in the smaller components, tend to have sprinklings of PFRPG inside. This is understandable; it’s not bad…but it rubs me the wrong way and that sense, particularly combined with the hiccups here and there, left me with this constant feeling of unease regarding, particularly, the full casters herein. In short: This book was, most assuredly, not made for me.

At the same time, it is my responsibility as a reviewer to acknowledge that it represents what a TON of people wanted and enjoy – and, while not perfect, it does achieve its mission statement in a rather admirable manner. That’s why, ultimately, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. If you wanted more of your favorite PFRPG options in Starfinder, feel free to add another star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer's Companion
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Into the Wintery Gale: Wrath of the Jotunn
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/07/2017 09:53:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive mega-adventure/sourcebook clocks in at 199 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages panorama/art-showcases of the front cover sans logo etc., 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 page KS-thanks, 1 page encounter contributors, 1 page rune-design sheet (more on that later), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 187 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this module takes place in the Vikmordere Valley on the planet of Aventyr – in case you’re not familiar with the culture, let me give you a brief run-down: Picture a blending of the cultures of Native Americans and Vikings. Sounds badass? It is! One of the biggest strengths of AAW Games’ early offerings is the establishment of this culture, of depicting it in a way that is plausible, that feels real and yet fantastic and different. It is, at this point, no secret that I adore the Vikmordere as a concept. In this book, we take a look at their home, the majestic Vikmordere valley around serpent lake. In fact, a significant part of this book can be considered to be a sourcebook of life and survival in this region – there are really cool rules for 3-step hypothermia and frostbite that add the survivalist aspect for groups that enjoy a challenge in that vein – they are simple, yet rewarding and make seeking shelter, exposure etc. a significant aspect of the game. Big plus for these tundra survival rules. In these, e.g. Vikmordere winter outfits (completely described and explained), rations, boneskates and frossenpine (a wooden pole used to catapult iceskaters along), bear paws – the basic set-up is great.

Beyond that, we get an amazing table that lists all traveling distances from place to place – really comfortable for the GM and something we only see rarely in modules for the more modern systems. Now, I called this both an adventure and a setting sourcebook – there is a reason for that. You see, there are two magical hazards that render this massive adventure more of a challenge – the ice fog and the wintery gale: Ammo is swept by the winds, teleportation is cursed and snow-blindness due to whiteouts is a deadly threat. On the lake, sentient icebergs (!!) make for a fantastic, yet amazing “trap” – more of a skill challenge than just a simple trap or haunt, but yeah – hunting icebergs? Come on, that is amazing and oozes fantastic North from every pore, right? The book also features MASSIVE random encounter tables, with full stats of the creatures included for your convenience.

And there are special events. 30, to be more precise. These were sourced from the contributing backers and are thoroughly creative and diverse: Stalking yetis, dazzling ice rifts, bridges across chasms, where the gale is funneled into the depths, wells inhabited by Brunnmigi, hobbled hunters, ice trolls in a feud with the Vikmordere who actually want the conflict resolved, strange shrooms that bury into the unconscious to animate them, white wyrm riders – the encounters are GOLD and feel, very much, like the notes that you can read in an old-school hexcrawl – not exactly lavishly detailed, but thoroughly inspiring.

Now, there is an issue that particularly inexperienced GMs running a hexcrawl will be all too familiar with: How many descriptions of a landscape can you create before it gets dull? How many different ways do you know to describe an icy tundra? New school modules tend to deal with the requirement for lavish descriptions via read-aloud text, but that usually only works within the context of a linear structure, not a sandbox. The rebuttal to this problem that this massive sandbox provides is glorious in its simplicity and something I honestly expect to see from comparable modules from this point onwards. The solution is, simply, descriptions. Grouped by area. Open tundra, mountain base, mountain pass, glacier – all types of arctic environments featured herein come with a TON of glorious prose-descriptions for the wilderness. More than 16 pages, to be more precise. These descriptions really help to maintain the atmosphere, are easily scavenged and make sense in a ton of ways.

Which brings me to my central thesis regarding the analysis of this adventure: This is a blending of both old-school and new-school design aesthetics; the wilderness sections behave like an easy to customize point-crawl, driven by plot, but lavish in its freedom within the traveling experience. At the same time, both highly detailed adventure hooks, read-aloud texts etc. provide an engaging plot.

Okay, at this point, I need to start going into the details of the plot, so from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. The wintery gale will take intrepid players that read any further! Skip to the conclusion or incur the icy wrath!

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin with potent symbolism – the PCs are surprised by a horrible snowstorm, only to be visited by an ash-grey owl that tries to lead the PCs further; as the blizzard seems too potent, the owl suddenly is wreathed in flames and guides the PCs – for they are the ones chosen by the demi-goddess Ningatha. As they make their way through the relentless cold towards Völsfiheimr, she introduces the PCs to the Northern Fury Council of the Vikmordere clans. Honoring the request of the ancestral spirit, the PCs get to participate in the gathering of jarls. You see, the Ohjaslange has approached once more and a vast evil stirs – 400 years have passed since the Vikmordere last managed to defeat, by the skin of their teeth, the dread Jötunn – and now, they and the curse of their gale has returned. In order to stop the dreaded undead, immortal frost giants, the PCs will have to reclaim the ancient artifacts that once provided the tools of the downfall of the giants – the sword Vlfberht and the shield Skojold Rustning – both, however, have fallen into deep obscurity, the bloodline that once guarded them fallen into obscurity. While the PCs are celebrated if they take the richly-rewarded quest (and may certainly engage in Glima!), they will first have to pass the unsafe waters of Serpent lake to find the old witch Arurún – and bypass her giant bear.

The PCs will have a chance to learn a unique spell from the witch and even the runepaining magic of the Vikmordere – the engine is pretty solid, if not too spectacular; as a supplement for an adventure, it is solid enough and adds some serious local flavor to the proceedings. More important would be that the witch provides an amulet that helps the PCs find the resting places of the artifacts long lost – here, I should comment on something thoroughly impressive: We get GORGEOUS top-down AND isometric maps of the dungeons – and yes, player-friendly versions included. The cartography provided for this module is masterclass – Tommi Salama at his best. Beyond the aesthetic component, it is in the dungeons that contain the artifacts that the design-aesthetics become pretty old-school: We have indirect story-telling; understanding the culture and values of the Vikmordere will make the exploration easier; similarly, the dungeons themselves feel like they have been taken straight out of the good examples of the heyday of RPGs – they ooze flavor, reward smart players and the dungeons also sport puzzles – while brute-forcing them is an option, as a person, I suggest trying them out – most groups like, at least once in a while, using their brain.

Returning with legendary Vlfbehrt to the witch, the PCs will witness a grim scene – the Jötunn are on their heels, the witch slain – and now, the deadly, undying Jötunn remain – though, at this point, the PCs may not yet know about the truth behind the undying nature of the Jötunn. Without a guidance, it is a benevolent haunt, a manifestation of the guarding ancestral spirits, that the PCs will be brought to the vault wherein Skjold Rustning lies – the dungeon will once again demand that the players use both brain and brawn to survive…And yes, the Jötunn are still on their trail…

That being said, the PCs have the artifacts – so it’s time to face the Jötunn and end this! This is where the module sports one of its weaker aspects: There is a traitor in the Vikmordere’s ranks and the wielder of the artifacts is slain; in spite of the presence of mass combat rules for PFRPG, we don’t get the like – instead, we get some regular encounters before Ningatha intervenes…as, while the Vikmordere seem to win, the Jötunn’s immortality kicks in – and the vanquished giants rise. The result is a horrible rout, one that the PCs and Vikmordere only survive due to Ningatha expending almost all of her divine powers.

All seems lost, as the evil ice maidens lend their powers to the forces of the Jötunn – and the PCs will have but one final chance to stop them: Within the tomb of the ancestors, there lies the only way to reach the isle of the maidens – the magic ship called Sorrow’s Snekkja. En route, the PCs will be shipwrecked by a mighty sea serpent…and that is not where it ends. However, it takes the sacrifice of both Ningatha and the guiding Vikmordere spirit to open the doors, as the erstwhile lovers are once again united, their love a symbolic sacrifice and hope for the PCs to claim. With the stakes that high, the exploration of the tomb makes the dungeons so far look like child’s play – the PCs will have to activate the well of lost souls in this legendary complex and sail the magic ship out of the complex!

After the deadly dungeon, the PCs will finally be able to arrive at the island – where the mighty ice queen and her wyrms remain – and where the PCs will have to destroy the Wintyrsyrd, breaking the potent magics of the dread lady. If they manage to survive this ordeal, there will be but one final task that remains. Rendezvous with the Vikmordere, then lead one final, desperate assault, wherein the forces of the noble Vikmordere will cleave a path through the Jötunn forces, allowing the PCs to make their way to the dread keep of King Krumma – if they can defeat the mighty lord of the Jötunn, they may yet stop the relentless, seemingly unstoppable horde of undead giants. He’s btw. CR 24. Yeah, good luck…the PCs will damn well need it…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, almost very good – there are a couple of instances where blank spaces etc. are missing, but not unduly many; as a whole, this book is pretty well-made in that regard. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that is absolutely glorious – BJ Hensley and Daniel Marshall did amazing work here. The book sports a metric TON of glorious, original artwork with a uniform style – Mates Laurentiu really rocked this book; the cover by Jason rainville is similarly amazing. Cartography by Tommi Salama is AMAZING. Even better: We actually get VTT-friendly high-res versions of the maps. Master-class in the cartography department. I mean it. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested, detailed bookmarks. I won the hardcover version of the book – and, frankly – if you have the choice, get the hardcover. It’s worth owning.

Justin Andrew Mason’s “Wrath of the Jötunn” seemed to be cursed; the author, at one point, lost a ton of his notes and had to recreate the saga. It is puzzling, considering this complication, that he managed to not only deliver a good mega-adventure, but a great one.

Let me elaborate: This is, in essence, a massive sandbox with a really strong narrative that resounds with themes of love, loss, glory; this feels like a larger than life tale, straight from a mythology that could have been. This module at once manages to evoke themes of old-school masterpieces, the sense of myth, the sense of plausibility and the new-school focus on a captivating narrative, with tons of read-aloud text, diverse challenges, etc. Now, personally, I was not necessarily too happy about some of the cut-scene-like sequences and how they can feel slightly too linear; at the same time, though, the book handles these in a smart way – it moves quickly in the sequences and provides the next awesome thing; the excellent prose helps the GM to navigate these slightly weaker spots in the otherwise inspired, epic narrative. Now, I would have loved for a few of the foes herein to have a few more unique tricks on their plate, but all of that is me complaining at a high level.

In the end, the exploration of the Vikmordere valley, from the inspired threats to the mythological items, the evocative dungeons – all of that makes this mega-adventure a thoroughly unique and evocative experience. The blending of new- and old-school design paradigms has been executed in a masterful manner that I absolutely loved. This may not be perfect, but it does a lot of innovative, convenient things for the GM; it is easier to run and navigate than comparable offerings; it tells a fantastic story resounding with the classic themes, adding a unique spin to the tropes. It is suffused with glorious cultural tidbits. It is a great read. The massive dressing-entries and sandboxy aspects add a further dimension of longevity to the module. In short: I adore this book. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars (reflecting the minor imperfections), but I will round up (since this is excellent, not just good). I thoroughly LOVED this gem, which is why this gets my seal of approval. And for its blending of adventure-design-schools, for the convenience-aspects, the supplemental material, etc., for going one step beyond in pretty much all aspects, this also is nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Wintery Gale: Wrath of the Jotunn
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Crystal Planet: Player's Guide
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:54:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so this is a nod to a cartoon show. I am not familiar with that show, so please bear that in mind. This pdf begins with an overview of the crystalline world of Scintilla, talking about places like the Halls of Memory or the Arena of Shards – flavorful and well-written so far!

Chapter 2 deals with the Mineralites – they are basically sentient, polymorphic gemstones that create a holographic, physical form – this unique premise influences the premises of the society of the planet, which is really intriguing – with a lack of a need to eat, sleep or breathe, their society and relations take these unique components into account and weave a surprisingly captivating yarn. The mineralites, racial trait-wise, come in 6 castes – each caste comes with a +2 attribute bonus and a Hardness value that ranges from 8 to 12. Mineralites are half-construct monstrous humanoids with the minerality subtype, normal speed, Medium size, darkvision 60 ft. and two forms: The gemstone form is a Fine object with a hardness that sonic damage ignores and hit points equal to twice the Constitution score and a Break DC equal to twice the Strength score. It has blindsense 5’, and may not move. A gemstone reduced to half hit points, is broken; upon being reduced to 0 hit points, the gemstone is “wrecked” (Basically the equivalent of dying/unconscious). The projected form behaves as a light-based force effect akin to a shadow illusion. The mineralite has a constant, at-will disguise self (italicization missed – not the only one) for visual aspects and voice alterations, though the bonuses granted are reduced to +5, since the mineralite always has monochrome color shades. Mineralites suffer a -4 penalty to saves versus darkness effects and are slowed by being affected by them, with a Will-save to negate. As beings of force, negating that also dissolves the projection.

Mineralite sorcerers with the earth elemental bloodline treat their Charisma at 2 points higher. They may fuse with other mineralites to create fusion forms, but more on that later. They take +50% damage from sonic effects and gain +2 to saves versus diseases, mind-affecting effects, and those that cause exhaustion/fatigue. Darkness effects suppress these bonuses. Mineralites don’t need to breathe, eat or sleep, but must rest for spell preparation etc. Being born into adult status, mineralites are naïve and take a -4 penalty to Charisma-based skill checks and may, as a full-round action, project masterwork weapons from photons. Cool: SR can dispel these weapons.

Mineralites don’t treat damage as other races: The projected form gains hit points (vigor) normally, but winks out of existence upon being reduced to 0 hp. Excess damage affects the gemstone form and the pdf thoroughly and concisely explains the interaction between the different forms, inckuding the aforementioned broken/wrecked/destroyed condition sequence and the explanation of healing etc. The pdf also sports a ton of potent alternate racial traits: 20% miss chance while in bright light, low-light vision, an alternate penalty to Strength-based checks instead of the naiveté penalty, bonus feats at the cost of losing the ability to fuse, concisely codified natural weapons to replace the projected weapon, perfect sight in darkness… interesting.

There is also a Small variant of the race, who is less naïve and slower. Gem Hybrid is an inherited or acquired template that nets CR +1, minimum 2 and represents a hybrid between a living creature and a mineralite. Okay, now, regarding fusion: That would be a full-round action, which may be interrupted as though it was a spell: This form is basically a gestalt of the members, using the best skills, attributes, saves, combat bonuses and the pooled hit points of the participants. A creature can’t end the fusion with more hit points than it had as it entered it, preventing healing-abuse. Similarly, ability score damage/negative levels/etc. are divided among the participants. Conditions apply to all participants, providing a detriment to offset the buffing-advantage the form provides.

Damage is divided evenly upon the fusion’s end and gear is absorbed and does not work while in fusion form. The form is treated somewhat akin to an eidolon with a biped form and 2 evolution points per contributor. The summoner level for variables of these effects is based on the lowest HD of the contributing creatures and the actions of the fusion are determined in sequence by the contributors: Each players gets to control the fusion in alternating sequences. Vetoing an action can be done, and is, rules-wise, concisely presented. There is also a new evolution that blends held weaponry – in a surprisingly concise manner.

Cool: We get a ton of flavored class options, which actually come with flavor-text and cover some ACG classes, the kineticist and even the vigilante. Nice. The pdf also features new class options: the crystallized bloodline for sorcerers nets crystal shard missiles with bleed-inducing shards, chances to negate crits/precision damage and mineralite-apotheosis. The crystal lasher magus must be one of the Small mineralites and is basically, bingo, a whip-magus specialist. The future warden is an interesting brawler – the archetype replaces martial flexibility with the option to gain temporary focus, which can be used to grant basically advantage (roll twice, take better result) – interesting twist of the engine. Harmonic savant bards gain diminished spellcasting, but also lingering performances (thankfully with anti-stacking caveats) as well as AoE-sonic damage etc. Solid. The servant of war is better with teamwork feats and, as an archetype, enhances multiclassing options.

We gain new materials, namely shaped and grown crystalline and 10 types of memory storing crystals – really cool! Cool: there are crystal wyrds and roving bottles as familiar candidates – while not brief familiar stats are provided, we get proper stats for them and they’re both interesting and have unique tricks. Beyond these, we are introduced to crystalline locations, from anchorstones to prism pads and superclusters…speaking of the latter two: Prism pads transform mineralites into light, fire them in space, at a supercluster, and from there to the target destination. NEAT! There are also new weapon qualities. Gembound provides projected weapon synergy at +1, while formbreaking can be particularly nasty versus the projected form of the mineralites. Pressure Suit and Starfaring Robes help with interstellar travel; gem bezel aegis reinforces the gem form of mineralites.

The pdf also sports a ton of Projected Form feats, allowing for e.g. beats shape I forms and a ton of other modifications to the form projections. There also would be feats that e.g. add Extra Arms to the forms, additional uses of class abilities, quicker fusions, improved projected weapons, etc.

The penultimate chapter of the pdf is devoted to new spells – protective bubbles around gemstones, high-level reconstruction of destroyed gemstones, 9 variants of projected holographic constructs – and interplanetary versions of some classics – as well as greater make whole and reprinted classics like planetary adaptation.

The final chapter is devoted to roleplaying advice for playing mineralites.

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level: The pdf juggles some VERY complex and unique concepts and does so with panache. On the downside, the same can’t be said regarding formatting: The pdf sports A LOT of missed italicizations, bolded lines that aren’t properly formatted, etc. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a nice blend of unique, new full-color artworks and some nice stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kristopher Cruz and Lucus Palosaari deliver a book that I loved more than I figured I would: The mineralites are extremely unique, creative and surprisingly well-executed, considering the complexity of the tricks the race employs. That being said, I STRONGLY suggest playing an all-mineralite party. Mineralites are very, very strong character options and the strong, cool fusion tricks require multiple characters – internal balance is pretty tight, but compared to regular races, the mineralites will come out on top. That out of the way, it should be noted that they are so different, so creative, that this pdf is very much worth checking out. It’s not perfect, but it oozes that the authors actually CARED, that they wanted to do something creative and new. They succeeded.

This is a selection of very powerful options, with the added toughness of mineralites and the focus on cooperation making the supplement particularly suitable for younger audiences: Death is less likely and the fusion can generate some remarkable scenes, particularly among players that are familiar with the intricacies of PFRPG. And yes, kids can and do grasp PFRPG. For novices, this may be a bit too complex, but as a whole, this deserves being picked up. If there was a scaling option included and if there were less formatting hiccups, this would be a 5 star + seal of approval file. As presented, I can’t go higher than 4 stars for it. I will remain with a heartfelt recommendation for everyone looking for something thoroughly different, though.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Crystal Planet: Player's Guide
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Starjammer: Core Rules
Publisher: d20pfsrd.com
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:49:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 238 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 230 pages of content. Of these, 8 are devoted to a handy index (kudos!).

This review was requested as a non-prioritized review by my patreons.

So, as you can see from the page-count, this is a massive book. As such, I will try to be brief without sacrificing analytical depth.

First of all, we take a look at how to use this book – and, in case you did not know, this is NOT, I repeat, this is NOT a Starfinder-book – this is a scifi-toolkit for PFRPG. We begin with different ways of using the book: From sprinkling parts in, to developing an ongoing campaign to go to the stars to a full-blown campaign in the vast regions of space. It should be noted, that this book makes use of the Technology Guide’s rules. I strongly suggest getting that book.

The first chapter deals with races for Starjammer. The first would be the Abiarazi, a race of shapechanging oozes that take humanoid forms. As such, they are oozes with the shapechanger subtype, get +2 Con and Int, -2 Cha, 30 ft. speed, do breathe and don’t need to sleep, unless preparing spells etc. They thankfully are neither blind, nor mindless and have no special immunities to gaze attacks, illusions, etc. The race can, as a standard action, assujme oozeform, which allows them to fit into spaces as though they were half their size, quarter their size with squeezing penalties. They also get a plasmic lash, which is kind of like a tongue that can tether those nearby to the creature, with rules codified properly – kudos! 1/day, they can use blur as an SP (which is pretty potent), and as a shapechanger, they can alter their forms into a Small or Medium humanoid as per alter self, minus the ability score adjustments. As downsides for their potent tricks, they suffer a -2 penalty to Will-saves against compulsions and require twice as much food, suffering the fatigued condition when not eating at least once in 4 hours. Shape changer may be replaced with 1/day psionic powers or psychic spells. The racial archetype is an interesting fighter-tweak that replaces armor training for an immediate action miss chance that scales with the levels. Pretty cool for a small tweak. The racial feats range from basic bonuses to 1/day crit/precision damage negation to a high-level –feat that nets a lot of immunities – but the previous, less amazing feats make up for the massive benefits that one provides. There is also a spell to lock targets in a specific form and there would be two race traits.

It should be noted that all of the races herein come with favored class options AND an age, height and weight table as well as some flavor to contextualize the respective races, so bear that in mind – I’m not going to repeat myself in every entry.

Manu have seen a meteoric rise from basically savages to one of the most advanced races in the system. Black-skinned, with chiseled features, they gain +2 Int and Wis (lopsided), have normal speed, darkvision, detect magic as a constant SP, +1 untyped bonus to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) as well as +1 to Knowledge (arcane) and Craft (mechanical) and treat the latter two skills as class skills. They gain a further +1 to Craft checks made to create magic items. 1/day, they may treat their level as 4 higher for the purpose of a level-based class feature. This does not grant early access and an ability thus boosted only lasts for one round. While this could be slightly more precise, it is surprisingly concise and well-presented, considering its open nature. The alternate racial traits include a psionic variant of the skill-boosts and magic sense and master tinkering may be replaced with +1 to atk, +2 damage versus goblinoids.The racial archetype would be the technician investigator, who is better at using and identifying magic items, resists them easier and later manages to craft them quicker. Basically, a crafter engine-tweak. The racial feats let you hold your breath longer, haggle better, etc. There is an anti-magic suit that nets SR +2 (or grants you SR 7), a stabilizing jacket when gravity is lots( doesn’t help vs. spells) and a spell to suppress magic items. The traits help you better assist allies in crafting items or improve your vessel crafting skills.

The Pasimachi are crafting beetle-people – they are monstrous humanoids with the insectoid subtype. They have slow and steady as a speed, darkvision 60 ft., a climb speed of 20 ft., additionally a constant spider climb effect (but can’t cling to smooth surfaces), +2 natural armor (split over two traits) and a primary slam attack as well as stability. Attribute modification-wise, they gain +4 Str, -2 Dex and Int. This race is pretty lopsided and arguably stronger than the previous 2. Clumsy, personal flight and several options for a natural attacks beyond the slam attack make this race distinct and interesting, but stronger than the others presented so far. That being said, the archetype presented is pretty cool: Bombardier beetle rider cavalier? Yes, please! Better wings and pheromone messaging make for interesting racial feats. A healing clockwork beetle and spells that enhance defenses (highlight: Prismatic shell, which lasts for 7 rounds and switches defenses each round) complement the entry. The trait that enhances AC by +1 verss bludgeoning and slashing weapons is interesting, but a bit micro-manage-y.

Transgenics are the result of the coupling of a human and an alien. They gain +2 Str and Int, -2 Con, are humanoids with the transgenic subtype, darkvision, normal speed, +2 to Acrobatics and Survival and they can survive in the void for longer. They also have 150 ft. range individual telepathy, usable for 1 round per character level.v There are a ton of racial variants for them – 10 subraces, all of which come with their own alternate racial skills and ability score modifiers – no complaints regarding their balancing. The racial feats include personal flight (unlocked at 4th level) and this feat#s dressing is modified for the subraces – kudos! The Xenofilos magus can tap into the arcane pool to enhance telepathy, using limited telekinesis and combine that with spellstrike. They also learn some custom spells. All in all, an interesting archetype!

Now, beyond these new races, we take a look at the core races and their role within the context of Starjammer: Each race gets some crunch and fluff – archetypes and flavor. Dwarves get a construct-specialist cleric; elves get a rocket-pack specialist investigator. Gnomes get the close-quarters combat scuttle swashbuckler, an anti-construct specialist. The gnome technomancer summoner is pretty potent – with a mechanical eidolon that gets some modifications and a custom summon-list. As a whole, I’d be weary of this one – it’s pretty potent. Half-elves can become hullbreaker brawlers, anti-tech sunder specialists. Half-orc space marines are brawlers trained to deal with strange worlds, unusual gravity, etc. – really cool! Halfling privateer slayers can study vessels, gaining the benefits of studied target versus captain/pilot and may execute breaching ramming maneuvers with vessels. Human explorers are all about knowledge and all classes may take it – the archetype replaces skilled and 1st level’s bonus feat. Finally, there would be the razer – a gnoll barbarian, who gets progressively better at smashing through walls and obstacles – both with attacks and charges.

Okay, this concludes the racial section; from here, we move to the non-race-specific class options. The heliacal healer cleric is locked into the Healing domain. Cool: Creatures healed multiple times may be designated as crew – this title connects with the other abilities – pretty cool. Shock trooper fighters also have a bit of a Warhammer 40K-feeling: Chanting litanies while boarding? Hardsuit training? Yeah, I like that! The Void tracker ranger can, bingo, track in space. Speaking of rangers: We get a Siege combat style for them. Oracles can elect to choose the infinity mystery, which allows the oracle to lock down dimensional travel, temporarily remove targets from time – pretty damn cool mystery here! There is a utility wild talent to create air and a rogue talent to use siege weapons with sneak attack. All in all, a flavorful bunch of options – surprisingly so, if I may say so. While I wasn’t totally blown away by the material, there is a distinct lack of filler or broken material, so yeah, kudos!

To my surprise and delight, this is where the book introduces factions. Not one or two, but 5 of them – all with their own proper write-ups: You know, entry-fees, extracurricular activities, education granted – pretty damn cool, they also provide a context for learning, magic, etc. – big plus here. And yes, we get, for example, codes of conduct, rules for the drug-spice salmagundi (stats provided; cue insert “THE SPICE MUST FLOW!!”)…really neat chapter. Speaking of really neat: The book also covers a new skill uses and modifications: Craft (vessel) is provided and Knowledge (geography) is modified. Profession (pilot) treats the vessel as a flying creature, just fyi. The pdf also contains 18 feats – and there is a big plus here: From Null Gravity Combat and its follow-up feats to those that help piloting, the feats do the right thing: they focus on the peculiarities of the system instead of providing numerical escalations. Big plus.

Anyways, the equipment section discussed currency – and while it explains, in detail, the use of comets (common markers for economic transactions), these are correlated to traditional coinage – i.e. you won’t have to deal with nasty currency conversions: Prices in silver, gold and copper are retained. The setting comes with its own WGL-table (helpful!) and sports new items: magnetic shields (lacking italicization in one instance), an extremely long-range emergency beacon, a torc that slows the movement of the wearer…really cool. Similarly, there are quite a few costly custom tech suits…and hardsuits. Think of these as basically power armor. And yes, in another callback to Warhammer 40K, we do get a space marine suit. Apart from some cosmetic hiccups, a cool section.

The spell-section follows a similar design-paradigm, focusing on the demands of the setting, as opposed to being redundant – air creation, an antimatter ray (with a powerful untyped damage balanced by spell level and affected target), creating slipstream or a holy nova, mending vessels…some spells use plasma, using the proper fire/electricity duality – in short, as a whole, a welcome array of spells.

From here on out, we take a look at encounters – and hazards: Dust clouds, comets, anti-magic fields, solar flares – there is a ton of these, including handy tables that include checks to avoid, collision damage, etc. There are rules for planetary rings, ribbon storms of highly virulent fungal filament…this section really drew me in, and, beyond what I’ve seen so far, helps to make the system presented feel more unique. We also get guidelines for planetary classification by size and type: Rules for acid world, cold iron worlds that are anathema to fey and demons, planets permeated with fear, mithral worlds – and yes, the classics, from desert to swamp to the elements are all covered as well. Once again, a really handy chapter. We also get 3 completely detailed sample worlds, with adventure hooks, stats, notes on adventuring and sketch-like gazetteers. Next up is a chapter on the gods of the setting: Mechanically, we usually get 5 domains and subdomains per deity, with sacred animal7color etc. noted. Similarly, inquisitions are provided – some deities, like Israfel, do go a bit beyond that with e.g. 6 subdomains. Instead of retreading old content, the pdf notes deities suitable for the setting with a handy table.

Now, let’s take a look at traveling the Void, shall we? First, we should talk about crew roles: These are flexible, with command(optional) captain, chief engineer, first mate, helmsman, medic and tactical officer as basic roles. Recommended skills/feats are provided – and yes, NPCs can take up these roles. Automata may be purchased to cover these rules, we get notes on mutiny and 4 specialized crew roles. Instead of trying to jam Pathfinder’s sizes onto vessels, they are categorized in 5 classes, with length, squares, ram damage and costs per square allowing for pretty solid customization. Vessels are really big – as such, they track their damage in VP (vessel points) – each is the equivalent of 10 hit points. This retains the importance of big weaponry, while still allowing potent PCs to damage the vessel, if in a greatly reduced capacity. Vessels reduced to 0 VP are crippled and start breaking apart after 10 rounds, with additional damage reducing the count-down – nice solution to allow for last second saves etc. We get full stats for a ton of vessels – from drones to destroyers, this section is massive and groups the vessels by size. Personal Transportation Devices.

Speed rating ranges from 1 to 30 and is divided in 3 categories: tactical speed for starfights, interplanetary for travel within a solar system, interstellar for the journeys between solar systems. Vessels move 1 mile cubes in tactical combat equal to their Speed rating. A vessel can increases its current Speed by the Acceleration rating each round. A handy table collates tactical and interplanetary speeds, with notes for travel times etc. And yep, including interstellar speeds. Big comfort-plus here. Vessel engines, with repair DCs, costs etc. are all provided as well – Spellforge turbines require Spellcraft, as do Essence Drones – the other engines use Craft (mechanical) for repairs. Really cool: You may coax out more of an engine, but at the expense of the engine, which is damaged by overclocking it thus. The engines all note their maximum speed factor,a cceleration, propulsion, control devices (including stats for AC, hp, hardness, etc.) and the Driving check in question. If the “-jammer”-aspect has been lost on you so far – the weapon-section will change that: Various ballistae, including rules for pod-mounting can be found alongside spell projectors, all next to beam cannons, weapons that can fire alchemical payloads, rail cannons…the blend of the fantastic and weird is nice here. And yes, we get custom ammo as well. Weapons etc. obviously cost space – as such, we get a simple and easy to grasp Point Buy value for weapons, crew space, defensive components, etc. – the system is elegant and easy to grasp. Want a cloaking device or a heat shield? Both may well save your behind, but their point cost and weight must be considered…and yes, life support is similarly codified, as are communications, tactical components…This whole vessel section is very easily scavenged for other purposes as well – the proximity of the rules employed to classic PFRPG-vehicle rules helps there as well. Amazing: This is NOT where we stop: We also get vessel templates for e.g. blessed vessels…and if you don’t want to handcraft a vessel, starting packages help there, as does the massive Point Buy Chart array for vessels. This chapter is really, really, really good.

Okay, so next up would be the vessel combat section – it codifies diagonal movement regarding the cubes assumed for 3D-combat. The fast-play rules are as follows: All vessels drop to tactical speed. PCs and important NPCs roll initiative. Movement occurs on the Pilot or captain’s initiative count. Speed rating can be moved as a move action. Direction changes cost a standard action, but only at the start of the character’s turn. Attacks are executed at the pilot or captain’s initiative count. This is relatively quick, but it shows, rather quickly, a weakness of the system presented: The other characters become less important…which is a pity, for I LOVE how the respective piloting options are concisely summarized, how we learn about CMB/D of vessels and the dogfighting tactics add a bit of strategic depth: They have prerequisites, but are otherwise unlocked by those meeting the prerequisites. Strafing, swift reversals…pretty cool. Even the circumstances of piloting, from withdrawing to other options, are concisely covered.

The next chapter deals with new creatures, introducing variants of starflight (with a handy table, once again making the actual use of the book easier) as well as the plasma burn ability. Beyond these, we get strange predators, mighty CR 24/MR 10 ribbon dragons that can trail ribbons of torn space-time fabric, space remoras, asteroid spiders and starbeasts like Betelgeuse, Fomalhaut, Wormwood…and there would be the extremely varied tardigrades, which come in a frightening variety of types, courtesy to their extreme adaptability. There are space goblins, cephalopod living vessels…and there are the zhurkans. Super-powerful destroyers and enslavers of civilizations – 3 of these fellows are included, they are CR 20 – and compared to some starbeasts, they are not the worst you can find within the endless Void…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal and rules-language level, are surprisingly good for a tome of this size. The tome has obviously gone through a lot of careful checking. There are a few hiccups here and there, but yeah – well done. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard that captures the style of the setting rather well. Artworks range from amazing original full-color pieces to some stock artworks – particularly the bestiary section suffers a bit from that. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable. The presence of the massive index really helps, as do all the helpful tables.

My congratulations to Peter K. Ullmann, Kirby Flake, John Reyst, Troy Daniels, Michael McNeill, Manuel A. Oaxaca, Allen Snyder and Michael Ritter – in spite of the numerous authors, the book feels surprisingly concise and unified. It is only in a precious few instances when internal balance could be tighter. I love the vessel-customization options and the flavor that suffuses this book: It feels like a more magical version of a scifi-setting, with some slices of the weird and Warhammer 40K-ish aesthetics. The book sports a distinct and unique identity – while I did bemoan the lack of spacehamsters and goofiness, I think that the decision to not just do Spacejammer 2.0 is a smart one; there are some nods here, but this is, as a whole, a serious, concise setting.

Now, when taken as a whole, I do really enjoy this tome. There are a few things that could have been better – the vessel combat could have used more stuff for non-pilot/captains to do; much like PFRPG’s default vehicle-rules-engine, the vessels herein are a bit captain-heavy regarding tactics etc. The races aren’t perfectly balanced and there are a few hiccups here and there – not many, mind you, but yeah. That being said, I am complaining at a high level – this is certainly well worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starjammer: Core Rules
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Raider
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:47:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Raider base class clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content. It should be noted, that layout adheres to the A5-digest-size (6’’ by 9’’). All right, let’s take a look!

The raider’s base-engine provides d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, raiders are proficient with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor, but not with shields.

The key ability of the raider would be grandstand, which is gained at first level. The ability is used as a move action that is taken upon hitting a target with a melee attack. The raider then proceeds to roll an Intimidate check to demoralize the target hit – on a success, instead of demoralizing the target, the target gains one point of three different things: Fury, cowardice or spite. For every 5 that the raider exceeds the DC to intimidate the target, it takes another point of the one selected. A creature can accumulate a total number of points of either of these 3 choices equal to 1 + 1/3 the raider’s class level. Multiple raiders grandstanding the same creature are tracked separately. Grandstanding is an emotion-based, mind-affecting status. The points are lost either when used or upon ending the encounter – personally, I really dislike the “per encounter”-ending (insert my long, and by now, tired rant of how a fixed duration after combat elapsed makes more sense…). It should be noted that these points, on their own, do not really have an effect, but interact with the other abilities of the class.

Now, you have probably realized three things at this point: 1) 3 different resources? Sounds pretty cool! 2) Oh wait, move action to activate? 3) Intimidate as a basis for their accumulation? We have two wonky bits here: Number one would be the basis on skill check instead of skill ranks – pretty much any player or GM can rattle off a series of magic items that provide serious, huge skill bonuses, which renders the math prone to breaking. Add to that the fact that 2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Intimidate… You get the idea.

Secondly, the strict and costly activation action required by the grandstanding ability means that you’ll be limited in the builds employed – the class practically forces you down the Vital Strike path. As an aside: These issues can be fixed pretty quickly; make grandstanding based on skill ranks, impose a hard cap on the number of grandstanding checks per round and/or decrease the activation action required – it should be noted that the hard cap is required to prevent abuse when using builds that focus on amassing a lot of attacks…but let’s see first what the class otherwise does with this foundation.

There is another issue here: Raiding party. Gained at 2nd level, the ability allows you to expend an immediate action whenever a creature holding at least one point of strife, fury or cowardice is reduced to 0 hit points to make an Intimidate check against all creatures within 30 feet of the defeated target. All creatures thus intimidated count as grandstanded and gain the same type of point as the defeated creature had. Hand me the kitten, will you? No, I’m not kidding. Scream at the kitten, walk into enemies, kill it – voilà, much quicker AoE-grandstanding. This needs a kitten-caveat. Badly.

If grandstanding is the resource-accumulating resource, the gunpowder of the class, if you will, then prideful strike would be the fuse. Upon making a melee attack against a target currently holding a point of fury, cowardice or spite, the raider may decide to declare the attack a prideful strike – this must be done prior to attacking. If the raider hits, the target loses all accumulated points. For every point of fury thus accumulated, the target takes 1d6 + the raider’s Charisma bonus (minimum 1) untyped damage. Why untyped? Considering the value of DR and resistances, making the damage untyped is wonky. The Cha-governed bonus damage also is a bit weird – is that added to the total as usual, or per die? Thirdly, how does this interact with critical hits? No idea.

Cowardice that is triggered imposes a stacking -2 penalty to atk, CMB and weapon damage rolls for Charisma bonus (minimum 1) rounds. Spite that is triggered instead imposes a stacking -2 penalty to AC, CMD and saving throws for Charisma bonus (minimum 1) rounds. A raider can only trigger points she herself heaped upon the target. Okay, so fury is better than the two debuff options. Reliable damage that may or may not multiply on crits? Yeah, probably preferable to the debuff options, unless you’re fighting against a powerful foe, though the latter two are significantly more interesting. Here, we also encounter an issue with the proposed fix of grandstanding: If the points can be accumulated more quickly, you’ll need to cut up the benefits of the respective tricks here.

At 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the raider chooses one of his three grandstanding resources. The maximum number of such points that a target can have is increased by 1. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the raider gains a bonus feat chosen from the list of combat and teamwork feats. As a capstone, the raider gains +2 Str, Dex, Con and Cha and there is no longer a limit on the maximum number of points of one resource of grandstanding that a target can hold.

Obviously, the class also has some choice – these would be Raid tactics, the first of which is gained at 3rd level, with every 3 levels thereafter yielding another raid tactic. Saving throws against raid tactics, if applicable, are against 10 + ½ the raider’s class level + her Charisma modifier. The raid tactics can e.g. be used to add a Will-save penalty to cowardice. Analogues for other saves are provided as well. Clouded fury hampers concentration – and should probably state the baseline for the concentration roll – I assume 10. Critical pride is weird: When confirming a critical hit with a prideful strike, the raider adds his critical hit multiplier to her Charisma modifier to determine the effects of prideful strike. What does that mean? More points gained? No idea how this is supposed to work.

Determined glory adds Strength modifier to Intimidate to give one type of point – because that skill is not easy enough to cheese already. Embarrassing grandstand is a tactic that should imho be part of the base class array – the raider chooses a point type; when a creature misses the raider, she may grandstand by expending an AoO to put the selected point on the target. Similarly, resilient grandstand lets you expend AoOs after succeeding a save to grant the creature that prompted the save one point.

Grand party makes the already ridiculous raiding party worse – 2 points per slain kitten. Honed pride gains +1/4 class level to attack with prideful strikes – which are the only attacks the raiders will probably execute – this improves, de facto, the BAB beyond full BAB-progression. Inept purpose is broken, courtesy of the skill-based base mechanics – increase the DC by 5, but grant the target one point of two different types, +1 point for both types for every additional 5 by which the raider beats the DC. Compare that to getting Weapon Focus and being treated as a fighter for prerequisites. Yeah, the internal balancing of these is really weird. The tactic that lets the raider ignore immunity to mind-affecting effects with his grandstanding, but only to grant the target spite.

All in all, A cool idea, though the execution leaves something to be desired. The class also comes with archetypes: Amazons lose grandstand in favor of gaining glory points when using aid another (which improves at later levels) – no choice there, just one point resource. When the amazon successfully crits, all creatures with glory points within 30 ft. lose the points and heal, based on points and critical multipliers. Hand me a bag of kittens to bash to death. Infinite healing. Sloppy. The raid tactics of the amazon are unique and all work with the glory resource – including granting herself glory, DR, etc. – doesn’t change the infinite healing exploits and instead heaps on them, which means this one is never getting near my table. Ghosts of the Haunted Seas are cowardice specialists and may perform attacks with ranged weapons within 30 ft. for the purpose of accumulating points. References to e.g. ghost touch are not properly italicized. There is a tactic that allows for the use of firearms thus…which is redundant, since RAW, they already can be used…oh, and damage escalation. Because the one thing firearms need, is more damage.

The pit-bloodied of Jheriak would be the fury specialists and basically represents the gladiator-turned –raider. Missed chance here: Performance combat. Reavers lose medium armor proficiency and can’t inflict cowardice. Their harsh upbringing can provide some movement/environmental adaptation…but lacks the activation action. Half-rakshasa riders of the plains are fury specialists that gain a mount and the option to share teamwork feats with allies based on fury. Per se cool, but since the range is sight/hearing, multiple such raiders can grant serious arrays of feats. Temple soldiers use Perform (oratory) to cause foes to gain hubris, allies to gain faith. These can be used as AoE buff and debuffs, respectively. More talents and abilities building on this duality can be found for the archetype.

Treasure hunters are basically…Indy. You gain the whip, luck-based abilities to negate crits, better Acrobatics – you get the idea. Wavebreaker hobgoblins are spite specialists and can inflict bonus damage (here, thankfully, based on the weapon’s type), taking the same amount of damage (unless criting). He also can poach some rage powers.

The pdf also includes feats, 8 to be precise. Extra Raid Tactics is self-explanatory. Gladiator as Raider nets you temporary hit points upon removing fury. Harsher Upbringing improves the ability of the reaver. Raiding Nomad buffs you when removing spite. Raiding Viking does the same for cowardice. Pious Preacher and Pious Redeemer enhance the options of the temple soldier’s grandstanding variant. Shoot the Swordsman lets you add cowardice to enemies when killing foes with firearms…hand me those kittens…

The pdf sports a ton of favored class options, though their balance is a bit questionable: +1/2 to atk with prideful strikes (sometimes tied to weapons, sometimes to creature types), is imho further overkill and significantly better than other options. The +1 ft. movement speed FCO lacks the “has no effect unless taken in increments of 5”-caveat, but that is just nitpicking. On the plus-side: A lot of the cool Porphyran races are covered.

The pdf also sports 4 magic items: The helm of fury increases the fury limit (or +7 (!!!) rounds of rage, and 1/day +2d8+10 damage on the next melee attack. Damage type? Also: Ridiculously strong for 14K. The ring of spite can add 1/day bane to a target hit and enhances spite. Also has synergy with the brujo class. The torc of cowardice enhances, bingo, cowardice…and nets dreads using it +3 terror uses. Ouch. Finally, there would be an artifact version of the ark of the covenant – which, alas, lacks rules on how to open it, just the devastating effects of doing so.

The pdf closes with Ghendis Raar, a half-rakshasa rider of the plains (CR 5) and his mount. The pdf comes with a bonus file penned by Perry Fehr, which contains the mighty xexenagh qlippoth – a threat that clocks in at CR 16: Think of these as maddening, demonic Giger-esque super Aliens. Deadly and a welcome addition to the pdf!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good: Apart from precious few hiccups on the formal side of things, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ printer-friendly 1-column standard with purple highlights. Art is sparse, but nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This was frustrating for me. You see, I pretty much adore all things Norse; I’ve devoted a significant part of my life to studying Scandinavian culture. I also am a big fan of melee classes that do more than just hitting things with a pointy stick. The raider scratches all of these itches, but at the same time, it suffers from a lot of issues, not in the presentation, but in the very design of its features.

At this point in time, the thoroughly exploitable nature of skill-checks as base mechanics is no secret; the reliance of the class on this mechanic ultimately means that its very foundation is flawed. Similarly, the balance between the class options available oscillates between “should be part of the chassis/ridiculously strong” and shrug-inducing ones. The idea of the system presented here, let me make that abundantly clear, is AMAZING. I really like it.

The execution, however, shoots itself in the foot: Since your are very constricted regarding your attack options, you need cheese AoE tricks to accumulate the signature points; you’re forced into the Vital Strike path for damage and, at higher levels, can use aforementioned AoE-options to generate very crippling debuffs. I don’t object to the latter, mind you – I object to how the class requires a very specific playstyle to work. And the kittens. It’s been a while since I saw a class that begs, this thoroughly and needlessly, to be exploited for quicker AoEs to reduce the set-up period, for infinite healing…in short, from a design-perspective, I absolutely loathe the execution.

The class, needlessly, in my opinion, hamstrings itself time and again – the base engine can be made much more solid, but the questionable balance between the follow-up abilities prevent a quick fixing of the material. In short: I think this class needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. Not because it is badly executed or presented, as is the case in most of such instances, but because it needlessly cuts down its own potential, buries it in weird and/or problematic restrictions and decisions.

Do I believe that this class can be fun? Yes. There most assuredly are groups out there that will enjoy what the raider brings to the table. It is playable as written. But Sasha Hall and Perry Fehr had the potential for a truly amazing class here…and that, the raider is most assuredly not. For that, the issues in the finer parts of the design are too numerous and grave.

That being said, I also don’t think that this class deserves the slap of a 2-star verdict – which is why my final rating will be 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Raider
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Empaths
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:44:10

An Endzietgeist.com review

This installment of the occult branch of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving 21 pages. Of these, 3 pages are devoted to reference material like feats and psionic powers from e.g. 7th Path. On these pages, the SRD can also be found. When all is said and done, the new content still amounts to 18 pages.

After a brief introduction to the matter at hand and the interaction of psionics and psychic magic, we get the empath. The new archetype herein. Yes. Singular. The empathy may be a medium archetype, but he is, no hyperbole, the most massive archetype I have EVER READ. I can rattle off base classes that take up less real estate than this fellow…so what exactly is the empathy about?

First things first: No, the archetype is not simply about touching stuff or folks and then suddenly knowing their surface thoughts. The archetype is significantly more than that. Instead of Knowledge (arcane) and Knowledge (religion), he gets Autohypnosis, Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (psionics) as class skills. Instead of the medium’s default spellcasting, an empathy gains access to psionic powers, using Charisma as governing attribute for bonus power points. They gain access to powers of up to 6th level and increase their base power points from a humble 2 at 1st level to 292 at 20th level over the course of their progression.

However, the power points are inextricably linked with the other class features of the archetype, so let’s talk spirits: Whiel the empathy is treated as channeling spirits when contracted to his key defining class feature, instead of the arguably less than exciting medium spirits, he forms a contract with a zeitgeist.

No.

Not with me. With one of my lesser brethren. … Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ll try to keep the bad zeitgeist-jokes to a bare a minimum. Anyways, zeitgeists are basically the product of the collective unconscious, if you’re feeling Jungian – a collective of emotions between all minds, reacting to events glorious and horrible. They are astral echoes of thought, attention and emotion – and during a 1-hour séance, an empathy may forge a contract with one or multiple zeitgeists. Unlike medium spirits, zeitgeists are separated in 4 tiers: 1st level empaths may only contract with lesser zeitgeists. 6th level unlocks intermediate zeitgeists, 11th level greater zeitgeists and 16th level provides access to supreme zeitgeists. Forming a contract with a zeitgeist requires a couple of things: The empathy, for example, must accept a compulsion and a goal. Zeitgeists require an offering. When bonding with multiple zeitgeists, they ask for power point costs and these costs are not limited by manifester level – good catch there! They always demand powers offered, but obviously offer power in return.

Now, it is obvious that aforementioned goals and compulsions are different from influences and taboos. Compulsions set basically a standard of behavior, while goals, when achieved, strengthen the empath’s link to the zeitgeist. Whenever the empathy acts against the compulsion of a given zeitgeist, he has a 15% psychic enervation chance. When suffering from psychic enervation, the empathy loses all psionic focus he has, power points equal to ½ manifester level, all remaining actions for the turn and becomes flat-footed until the start of his next turn. This otherwise can be modified by feats and abilities that modify psychic enervation. An empathy only risks suffering from psychic enervation once per action, even if that action requires a longer time to complete. Achieving a zeitgeist’s goal permanently strengthens the bond between zeitgeist and empathy: In the future, forming the contract with that zeitgeist nets a single use of the spirit surge class feature that may be used immediately. Multiple zeitgeist’s surges stack, but each zeitgeist may only provide a single spirit surge.

For the purpose of abilities and rules that require the tracking of spirit influence, a zeitgeist is always treated as having 3 influence over the empathy, though this influence does not carry any penalties and may neither be increased, nor decreased. Upon starting play, the empathy can claim to have a number of goals accomplished equal to half her spirit bonus, but all such goals must be from zeitgeists of a tier at least one lower than her current maximum.

Ability #2 that pretty much defines the empathy would be the volksgeist – a composite that roughly translates to “The spirit of the people”, btw. a concept that has similarly haunted academia since its conception. If you require some diversification, think of this as the totality of the attitudes and mindset of the vox populi. Rules-wise, the volksgeist does not refer to the spirit of a whole age, but rather to local and current thoughts and the volksgeist, as a whole, is not sentient. The empathy is always aware of it and can generally sense the attitude of a given community – this awareness is not detailed and does not yield secrets and the like, but it makes for a great roleplaying tool nonetheless. Abilities gained from the volksgeist are always on and are chosen as the empathy increases in levels – they may be changed (and this is really interesting!) when the empathy moves to a new community or when the empathy herself is subjected to sufficient changes, emphasizing the roleplaying aspect of the concept here. At 1st level, the connection to the volksgeist can affect a small tight-knit community like a neighborhood, a village, etc. and yields 2 psionic talents as well as empathy, which gains the network descriptor. 3rd level provides a spirit power gained from the volksgeist, which is represented by bonuses to skills; the nature of these is contingent on the general culture of the area.

New powers are gained at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level and at the latter, she also extends her volksgeist to encompass a larger area, gaining an intermediate spirit power, which is reflected in a variety of bonus feats, which, once again, are contingent on the area of the volksgeist: Downtrodden areas yield Endurance, for example, while insular communities can yield Racial heritage. 11th level provides more powers, as does 13th level, which further increases the benefits and range of the volksgeist. 15th and 17th level provide further improvements, with the latter representing the apex of the respective volksgeist’s granted abilities and scope. This ability replaces knacks, the channel-related tricks, propriaton, ask the spirits, trance of three and spacious soul. Oh, and it interacts with the collective empaths get: They can have up to Cha-mod or ½ class level, whichever is higher, beings in their collective. Fans of psionics will already be familiar with collectives, so here’s where things get interesting: While psionically focused, the empathy conveys the séance boon of contracted zeitgeists to all members of her collective. 5th level allows the empathy to expel a zeitgeist as a full-round action that provokes AoOs and risks psychic enervation. If the expelled zeitgeist was the free one, she instead declares another zeitgeist she paid power points to contract with as the new free one, regaining half that zeitgeist’s power point cost – prevents cheesing the ability. Nice. 3rd level provides telepathic communication between members of the collective and the capstone, “A Place in History”, is suitably amazing: You get to create your own zeitgeist that has neither compulsion, nor power point cost for its creator Dying while contracted to such a zeitgeist is not fatal for its creator: The zeitgeist acts as an extra life, respawning the fully healed empathy sans negative levels, but with psychic enervation and sans the zeitgeist. Other empaths may only contract with this zeitgeist if they are 20th level and were involved with the events that led to its creation. And yes, some further guidance is provided for this amazing capstone.

Okay, I’ve been dancing around the zeitgeists themselves for quite a while – and there is a reason for this: The lion’s share of this pdf is devoted to them, and for good reason. Beyond offering guidance on roleplaying the goals and compulsions, each of the zeitgeists comes with a brief, fluffy introduction and associated events. They sport the aforementioned goals and compulsions and grant séance boons and spirit powers, with each of the zeitgeists also sporting a brief table of psionic powers that the respective zeitgeist provides. So, what would be examples of zeitgeists? Well, the first lesser one would be Cogito, Sum of the First Thoughts (great pun there!) – when suffering enervation, you may expend all psionic focuses, delaying the onset of psychic enervation until you regain them. This is a simple spirit power, yes – but a) it is cheese-proof and b), it offers a meaningful tweak of the base engine from the get-go. Imperator, the foundation of civilization provides better aiding other; Little Dip O’ The Dops, representing learning for Survival from errant mice avoiding predators, nets you the option to avoid tremorsense (YES!). Resounding with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem Ozymandias, Obelisk lets you erect an ectoplasmic totem, a kind of tower, if you will, enhancing powers based on it. Parasite, the memetic virus, should bring a smile to students of Dawkins or the dispersal of memes, while Riastrad convey network descriptors to the powers this embodiment of a last stand grants.

The intermediate zeitgeists include eternal martyrdom with connotations of the undead, allowing for better relations with non-controlled undead and hijacking of controlled ones. Charade nets you basically the lite-version of a vigilante’s second persona and Hivemind nets tactician strategies. Iron eye, the broadcast lets you memorize scenes and create illusions in a nice bit of social commentary on television/computer-screens, deeply steeped in the fantastic – big kudos for the amazing artwork there. Ceaseless paranoia can make your changes or those of your allies cause fear, while Numquam, the Lost Moment, lets you add temporal components (as though using time hop (not italicized)) to your psychoportations. The light of potential shining can also be found here. Among the greater zeitgeists, the embodiment of championship, Et Panem, helps prevent provoking AoOs while psionically focused. Evol nets customization options to represent pure adaptability. Spacejammer fans will enjoy Jammer, whose theme is to boldly go where none has gone before. Nirvana lets you leave the shackles of your worldly flesh, becoming basically a bolstering, benevolent spirit for your allies…and Yus, tortured torturer, accumulates pain points with his powers, ultimately allowing the empathy to bend reality once a vast amount of pain has been collected.

Among the supreme zeitgeists, we find Athame, the first angel falling that nets quasi angelic benefits to allies, Mac Dex, the march of progress, who nets a sonic screwdriver, a portal gun and a universally recognized status symbol (get the reference?) – all three of which have been concisely codified – quite a feat in particular for the portal gun. Slash, a tear in space, nets you an hole in reality as a blade (and for once I consider the lack of damage types and ignoring DR and hardness totally justified!) that can also carve open the planar fabric to other lands. (Once again, we have a missed italicization here, but oh well.) Tessa, regal administrator, is about saving the world, while Vinum Verum, is, you guessed it, about altered conscience, courtesy of magic or substances. And there is You. No, that is not a typo. That is indeed a zeitgeist, and an intriguing one at that.

Beyond these inspired and interesting zeitgeists, the pdf goes one step further: It notes the ramifications on psionics-magic transparency variants when using the empathy; provides the reskin for rune magic…AND provides a combo feat for interaction with Ultimate Intrigue’s spiritualist zeitgeist binder, which would be more akin to a volksgeist in this pdf’s definitions, but who cares – cool multiclass feat ftw.!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I did notice a few missed italicizations, the sheer complexity of the rules-language construct attempted and executed herein and the overall clean presentation make this a total winner in these disciplines. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports pretty amazing, far-out full-color pictures. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Author Kevin Ryan, with design-lead by Forrest Heck and additional design by Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher, has created one massive archetype herein, one that addresses the weaknesses of the medium class and purges them with fire. Unless I am sorely mistaken, this is the author’s first project as the primary author – and what a project it is!

Okay, let me make this clear: Reading “empathy” on the cover made me about as excited as reading “lame detect specialist” on a cover. Then, I started reading. My Angela Merkel-style frown slowly and steadily turned into a beaming, radiant smile and it did not leave my face even once while reading this pdf.

To elaborate: The empath presented herein replaces the spirit engine of the base medium with one that emphasizes choice; within each choice made at a given time, we not only get a MEANINGFUL, interesting mechanic tweak of the base engine of the class, we also receive a meaningful roleplaying angle. Understanding the importance of ROLEplaying as well as ROLLplaying, the empathy beautifully marries both aspects of our game into a collective that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The zeitgeists are inspired and ooze flavor in an obvious way; the volksgeist does so in a more subtle manner that is no less rewarding and may actually serve as the drive for whole adventuring careers. From the smallest basics of the engine to its capstone, the empathy represents an absolute masterpiece of a supplement, one that manages to retain its feasibility for both low- and high-powered gaming; from gritty, low-powered Ravenloft or Midgard to potent high-fantasy Spacejammer, Planescape or the Zeitgeist AP, this offers a thoroughly rewarding, meaningful and delightful option. If the author was standing before me, I’d frankly shake his hand or hug him – it’s that impressive. The empathy ranks, even among Dreamscarred Press’ class hacks and complex options, as a highlight of skilled design and amazing narrative potential. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If you like psionics at all, get this gem. (Also, if you happen to make an Endzeitgeist zeitgeist, send it my way, all right? And no, I’m not affiliated with DSP or the author.)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Empaths
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Despicable Deeds
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:43:02

An Endzietgeist.com review

The third installment of this series clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Included in this pdf would be a brief write-up of Coirithradail, Celmae’s god of cities, currency and horses – the write-up sports notes on temples, priest’s roles, etc. - 5 domains are granted by the deity, as well as 4 subdomains – for example “LanguageAPG”; just to show you one example of the editing-hiccups herein. It should also be noted than 2 of the pages of this module are devoted to recapping on how to run haunts. I don’t have anything against a rules-recap like this – in fact, I consider it helpful for new GMs. However, it’s weird to see this in module #3 – after all, the rather…let’s say, “less than superb”, module #2 sported haunts. It also doesn’t really bring anything new or is particularly concise – it’s literally copy-pasted from the SRD…minus the spell-italicizations and similar formatting peculiarities. It’s puzzling and eats up word-count real estate of an already pretty brief (but inexpensive) module.

As before, we don’t get a proper map-appendix or player-friendly versions of the maps, but after the first two modules, I assume that you’re familiar by now with the shortcomings in the cartography-department.

All right, that out of the way, let’s take a look at the module! The following is a discussion of the content herein. As such, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? So, if all went well (unlikely) in the previous, pretty weak installment of the series, then the PCs should have picked up the Lamentations of the Fungus Men – and from here on, the trail should point the PCs towards the revered Bhestos family and the family’s scion Maartin – I strongly suggest using the optional hooks as well to point the PCs in the right direction.

Maartin has had a tough time: His wife Farrah came down with depression after childbirth, and his son Yurah similarly was weak and ill – seeking respite, Maartin hired the nanny Juen – who only exacerbated the situation, started an affair with Martin – which was promptly found out. Maartin’s wife hanged herself, while the “nanny”, truly a totenmaske in disguise, proceeded to fully indoctrinate Maartin into the cult’s fold, with the Dark Mother bestowing deformed, but obedient children to the Besthos’ family’s scion. What became of Maartin’s child? Consigned to the attic, the kid perished. Yeah, the background here is dark. Oh, and the vines around the building? Assassin vines. Classic.

Aforementioned totenmaske may be wounded, but the entity also is the most dangerous foe in the module – big plus: The stats are more solid than anything I’ve seen in the series so far, even though there are deviations from the standard in the statblock formatting. Similarly positive: The fully mapped mansion’s rooms sport interaction points, read-aloud texts etc. A HUGE plus: The tragic history, including the barrier that damaged the totenmaske, makes sense – the graven guardians, the attic whisperer that once was Yurah, the haunts – they actually tell a story of sorts. Not as well as e.g. Pyromaniac Press’ “From the Ashes”, but better than any module in the series so far. Ultimately, the PCs will have to defeat Maartin and his pickled, deformed “children”, eliminate the totenmaske and hopefully help the haunts being resolved – just slaying the fellow won’t help regarding the haunts. Ultimately, the trail of Shub-Niggurath’s corruption seems to point to the capital city of the region…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not exactly good, but not even close to as bad as in #2 – thankfully. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that’s nice and the pdf comes with some really nice, original artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. Cartography, while nice, is inconvenient due to the lack of player-friendly versions and the small maps within – not exactly helpful. The module has copying of the text disabled, which is somewhat annoying.

Charlie Brooks and Jacob W. Michaels deliver the, by far, best installment in the series so far: The haunted house depicted within is interesting, atmospheric and lacks big issues – it can be considered to be a solid take on the genre.

There’s one problem here. It’s a haunted house module. I love those, as pretty much everybody who’s been following my reviews can attest to. The problem here is the genre; the fact that I can rattle off, at the top of my hat, at least 5 SUPERB haunted house-modules for Pathfinder alone.

Beyond the well-known examples from Paizo’s oeuvre, we have gems like Pyromaniac Press’ “From the Ashes”, for example. If we go beyond the borders of the system, I can spend hours, literally, extolling the virtues of various legendary haunted house modules. In direct comparison, this falls flat of that level of excellence.

Don’t get me wrong. For the low price point, this is a solid offering. It raises the bar of the series back to a level, where I am hopeful for the adventure-series. At the same time, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the module when seen in context. If you’re running the series, this is worth checking out, though. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Despicable Deeds
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Everyman Minis: Pumpkin Kami
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2017 05:53:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Everyman Minis clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with a low-cost, cool class of magic item: Costumed confections are magical sweets that can be consumed to create a regular disguise, which does not modify your clothes (minor nitpick: spell reference not italicized); the second type transforms into a monstrous humanoid or humanoid, as per disguise self, affecting all senses (and no disbelieve). Finally youthful confections transforms the target into a younger version – all effects are polymorph effects and last for 4 hours. Cool!

The main meat of the pdf, though, would be the Kabochahito, the CR 7 pumpkin kami. And no, this is NOT another evil scarecrow/pumpkin monster – in fact, the kami is NG! It is incorporeal and conjure forth confections. Oh, and it comes with a TON of unique abilities: It can swallow beings and transform them into other shapes – the behavior of creatures is then made innocuous to onlookers. This can also be combined with a geas/quest – failure may see the target trapped in that form. Unlike most kami, kabochahitos can switch wards pretty quickly and assume pumpkin/plant-form with stat-modifications included. They can also generate massive growth spurts among plants. Big plus: Unlike many monsters, the kami is properly contextualized within the gaming world, with a lot of inspiring prose.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to the nice two-column standard of the series. The nice pieces of art are in full-color. The pdf does not come with bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s pumpkin kami are amazing. They are creative, benevolent and fun; they can make for genius Halloween-themed adventures and are a welcome deviation from the well-tread path of evil pumpkin monsters. Interesting, creative – no complaints. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Pumpkin Kami
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Template Races: Half-Humans
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2017 05:51:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ page of SRD, leaving us with 5.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Half-human is an inherited template that can be applied to 0-HD-creatures. It is not intended to be applied to races that already are half-human, obviously. So, the base race’s physical ability score bonuses are reduced by 2. For each bonus thus reduced. You also reduce an ability score penalty by 2: The order of these is Constitution, Dexterity, Strength, Intelligence, Charisma and finally, Wisdom.

Mental ability score bonuses are also reduced by 2 and for each bonus thus reduced, you reduce one penalty to another ability score by 2. This is pretty impressive – it evens out the ability score bonuses/penalties. After this evening of scores, the half-human may assign a +2 bonus to one ability score that does not have a penalty or bonus attached yet. Ability score bonuses reduced to zero do not count as having a modifier. The template goes on to codify the type/subtype of the race. Size-category-wise, Medium or Large parent races result in Medium half-humans, while Small or smaller parent races result in Small half-humans. Nice: Even larger parent races are codified.

Movement rates, speed etc. is retained from the parent races, as are special considerations and/or restrictions imposed on the movement rates. Darkvision and low-light vision are retained from the parent race. Half humans gain the skilled racial trait and also count as humans via the dual heritage. We are taking a look at weapon familiarity, hatred, defensive training, natural armor. Half-humans also gain keen senses, and additional racial traits are lost – half-humans only qualify for alternate racial traits of humans, not those of their parent race. All right, the basic set-up of the template is pretty solid and should result is pretty solid results.

Now there are a ton of racial traits that may result in some potentially confusing set-ups – thankfully, the pdf does believe in showing how these cases can work out: The translation of the half-human android’s exceptional senses from the parent race, for example. Samples for the core races as well as android, drow, nagaji, ghoran and hobgoblin are provided. Now, obviously, the half-human orc is a bit different than the half-orc, but it makes for a decent alternative.

Hatred, if applicable, can be exchanged for a +2 racial bonus on Diplomacy, and weapon familiarity may be exchanged for proficiency with simple weapons and a single martial weapon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games’ two-column, color standard. The interior artworks are solid stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

When I saw Russ Brown’s template race approach here was honestly, not something I looked forward to. With the ARG’s RP being notoriously bad at codifying racial strength, I was skeptical on how the pdf would succeed at providing a balanced racial array. Now, with so many different options, it is clearly obvious that the template, system-immanently, can’t account for absolutely everything, but it does account for a truly impressive amount of material. The further guidance by example does help here and, as a whole, the result of applying the template speeds up the creation of half-humans in a concisely-presented manner that is easy to grasp.

In short: This is a surprisingly concise, handy little pdf. This is worth getting and succeeds at its task probably as well as it conceivably can – my final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Template Races: Half-Humans
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Fane of the Undying Sleeper Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2017 05:50:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Collector’s Edition of Raging Swan Press‘ „Fane of the Undying Sleeper“ clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first things first: It should be noted that this version of the module does come with 6 different pregens for your convenience. Also excellent: The adventure comes with a handy 1-page summary of the rules of water and movement. The pdf does come with a brief write-up on Dagon, the shadow in the sea; there also is the CR +0 deformed creature template with 12 rules-relevant and 12 cosmetic deformities. Moreover, the module is now contextualized within Raging Swan Press’ Duchy of Ashlar – to be more precise, the adventure now comes with the basics of the village of Coldwater (which I’ve covered in my review of that Village). That being said, I really liked how this not just copy-pasted Coldwater into the book: We not only get more hooks for the adventure, we get 8 entries in a gather information table. The pdf also sports handy sheets for facilitating play in the village, pointing towards the respective tables, summing up things to do, etc. – this enhances the Go-Play mission statement of the module.

What’s this? Well, the idea is that you should be able to run this with 0 or almost 0 preparation time. As such, each area featured in the module-proper does come with flavorful, well-crafted read-aloud text and there actually are multiple events for approaching Devil’s Cove by both boat and climbing. In devil’s cove, there are slimy stairs on a wind-swept beach, accessible only during particular low tides and sure to pique the interest of fortune seekers. 8 sample discoveries on the wind-swept shore add detailed dressing to the environment. The location also highlights a central tenet of the module – the tides wait for no man. Beyond this natural time limit, the attention to detail is as pronounced and well-developed as you’d expect it to be: Dripping water, smells, etc. – there is a lot of detail and even more rules-relevant material herein.

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

..

.

But let me give you a sample here for the details- each room comes with a small description for the DM, followed by entrances and things players may perceive or miss, followed by read-aloud text and then features - from illumination, to terrain features and e.g. doors (including hardness/break-DC etc.) to dressings galore and infos gleaned via a vast variety of skill-checks, the level of detail is staggering and surpasses even most of Raging Swan Press' other offerings.

Throwing pews, looking at various carvings - there is a vast amount of mood-setting going on here that amps up the ante of what to expect from such a book by quite a bit. Indeed, the best thing here beyond that might be the fact that the presentation is so concise you can run this module sans preparation, just reading as you go. I did try that and it worked. The collector’s edition does cover e.g. even auras, provides details for carved runes and their identification, etc. Spell fragments, runes with latent energy that can be activated; tentacle-studded, strange pillars with weird dressings, tidal streams – the module manages to sport a surprising diversity of evocative dressing.

There are evocative guardian statues…and there is a truly powerful skeletal champion deformed half-fiend sahuagin oracle entrapped in a sarcophagus. Here, though, would be the truly cool component of this module: Beyond time and location as driving factors of this dynamic environment, the finale of the module is about the ire of dagon: A statue that may well hasten the rise of the waters – it can be defused and is presented as a skill challenge that is pretty interesting and not only sports an idea for further adventuring, but also involves the whole party. The concise summary of the effects of rising tide etc. make for a helpful further guidance for the GM.

Stats for Dagon cultists can be used to add further details and dynamics to the adventure. It should be noted that each of the combat encounters sports scaling advice for the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, is elegant, helpful and easy to use. The pdf sports some amazing b/w-artworks, though fans of Raging Swan Press will be familiar with some of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The module comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography of the short fane is excellent and in b/w, but we do not gain a key-less version of the map for players, which constitutes a comfort detriment that’s relevant to the rating.

Creighton Broadhurst has further refined the already neat original module: The contextualization in the Duchy of Ashlar helps to ground the module and its cool ideas in the context of the region, adding some serious flavor to the proceedings. The module already was extremely GM-friendly in its previous iteration; in this collector’s edition, the module is even easier to run than before – a big plus, as far as I’m concerned. You can pick this up and pretty much run it smoothly with just 5 minutes of prep-time (or none, if you can process information while GMing) – that’s a big plus.

That being said, this is a pretty highlight-driven adventure: Beyond the skill challenge finale and the heavily template boss, the other challenges feel a bit tame for my tastes. That being said, this version is certainly worth checking out – I love the dressing, environment, challenges; the module is pretty brief and imho would have benefited from some additional rooms and places: As written, the threat of tides only comes fully into play in the finale. The time-management aspect would have benefited from, well, a longer, more pronounced complex that makes the player-decisions matter more. If your players are quick, they can clear the module rather swiftly. This does not mean that this is bad, mind you – it just means that the premise, the details and unique ideas herein could have (and imho should have) carried a bigger dungeon. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars – but I can’t round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fane of the Undying Sleeper Collector's Edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Glad you liked the adventure, End! I found your comments jolly useful. I did deliberately make the combats easier--I wanted to subtly encourage the PCs to be able to do the whole thing in one push. I'm sorry that didn't work for you 100% Thanks for the review, as always!
Better Than Any Man
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2017 05:47:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at an epic 180 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page internet resources, leaving us with 174 pages of content. Now, it should be noted that the pdf is longer than the physical version – and the space is used VERY well: We get ALL combat statistics collated in the appendix; a spell-index, a magic item index; reference-resources…and, really cool: Both the overview map of the region and all the maps are collected in the back – and, in a really amazing offering, all top-down dungeon-maps can be rendered player-friendly, courtesy of the layered pdf – HUGE kudos there! Furthermore, we get player-handouts and a player-map of the region.

Now, at this point, I need to thank one of my friends/supporters, who did send me the physical copy of this module, moving it thus up my reviewing queue. This review was also requested by one of my patreons as a non-prioritized review, which made me move this up in my reviewing-queue. The physical copy has a full-color map on the inside of the front/back-cover – it’s basically a nice sleeve of the regional map. The module per se, is, apart from that, a saddle-stitched, pretty big booklet in A5 (6’’ by 9’’)-size.

“Gott mit Uns!” The battle-cry of Carolus Rex, Gustavus Adolphus, resounds through the Holy Roman Empire. It is the year of our Lord 1631 and the king whose tactics would influence the history of military campaigns, has claimed his famous victory at Breitenfeld. His armies march onwards, but the growing force of the Löwe aus Mitternacht no longer are merely professionals – and, as the annals tell, his days are numbered. Still, for now his host approaches Würzburg and the notoriously inefficient fortress (which pretty much withstood only a single battle…) there. I grew up around this place and, while nowadays, the area is less swampy than within the module, I have to applaud the commitment to plausibility. Additionally, it should be noted that the German names used throughout the book, from Inn-names to the names of forces, are actually correct – huge kudos for not butchering my native tongue.

The champion of Protestants and his overwhelming force is approaching the area around Würzburg – the book has a VERY strict, extremely challenging time-limit – the PCs have basically 5 days, RAW, which is not much, considering the difficulty of this module. Beyond potentially modifying this time-line, there is another aspect that allows for some control, particularly when using this as a start of a campaign or one-shot. It should be noted that this module is not for the faint of heart or for the novice player – this is brutal in its difficulty, but it is NOT necessarily unfair. There is also another aspect of this book you should be aware of: The book is billed as intended for ages 18+; if this was a movie, it would deserve a hard R-rating for some gory scenes.

This is also the point in time, where I should comment on the controversy that was sparked by this book. In my opinion, it’s ridiculous. I mean it. To give you an idea: One of the best means to gather information, is to venture into a brothel; the magic-using mistress of the place gets her kicks from exchanging information for demeaning tasks and sexual acts. Yeah well, so what? The respective tasks aren’t explicit, can be glossed over or replaced…and this module is billed as “For adults only.” Perhaps it’s my European upbringing, but frankly, while I consider her tasks to be often disgusting, the PCs are not required to engage in them. It’s a choice. You can say no. I really don’t get it. And she never stoops to the lows of De Sade etc. – you can actually see more explicit or extreme things in real life on the internet without ever trying. That, and the lady in question is actually part of the enemies of the PCs. Similarly, while some images depict really gory, messed up stuff – that’s what the BAD GUYS are doing. You know, the bastards the PCs are supposed to stop?

Is this dark? Yeah. Is this dark to the point where I’d consider it problematic? Nope. Not even close. And those other ridiculous claims you can find? Similarly unfounded. If you like dark fantasy, horror, etc., then chances are that you’ve seen much, much worse.

It should also be noted that this is a combination of basically a regional sourcebook and sandboxy mega-adventure rolled in one; if you expect railroads, you won’t find them herein.

Okay, this basic discussion out of the way, from here on out, I will discuss the module. As such, the following discussion contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees reading? Great!

So, Gustavus Adolphus is hell-bent on razing Würzburg to the ground, if he finds the rumors of occult practices to be well-founded. Unfortunately for all concerned, they are. Karlstadt, just before Würzburg, has been taken over by magic-users: Women ostracized by the hypocrisy of society, unified by a strange spell: Casting the ritualistic magic cost one of them her life, but granted their simple, unified wish of power: Now, all of them, hopelessly out of their depth, rule Karlstadt, courtesy of the powerful magics and the potent creatures gained from the casting of the spell.

The 7 (actually 6 – as mentioned, one died) are interesting characters in their own right: There would be a girl, who only wanted finery and power and now doesn’t now what to really do with it; there is a lady who always wanted to provide for others, who can now create food for others and help keep the masses from starving. There is aforementioned madam, now wholly entrenched in a web of debauchery of her own making; there is a twisted, bitter woman, who “teaches magic” – with the goal of reincranting herself into the baby of one of her students; there is a madwoman, convinced that she’s ferreting out the walking dead. All are pitifully weak casters…but they rule over Karlstadt and are, in some aspect or another, well-rounded characters. Gorgeous b/w-artworks also help making them more than just bad guys…and there’s a problem. For the most part, a sense of cosmic irony and cruelty pervades their magics: The Provider, Jutte Beckman, for example, does not really help sate the masses: Her magical food is filling and tastes nice…but actually doesn’t sustain anyone. It is wholly without calories, nutritients, etc. Similarly, the detect undead-like magic of one of the ladies actually has a 1 in 10 chance of delivering false positives. Yeah, fun. Each of the 7 sports sucha signature spell, just fyi.

There are two reasons the 7 remain in command beyond the authority granted by their ritual: Number one is the most interesting aspect: Basically, their ideas are hyper-progressive. The interim-society of refugees they have erected in Karlstadt is actually closer to our ideals than those of medieval Germany. It is, philosophy-wise, a well-meaning construct, suffering from incompetence and lack of interest in some cases, and power-trips in others. The second reason would be the creatures: Each of the 7 comes with her own guardian creature, horrific monsters (you can see one of them on the cover…), which all come with truly ORIGINAL rules. The lamest one of them just steals the best stats of those nearby; there is a monster that can switch ability scores, change XP and hit point totals; there even is an immortal, invulnerable thing that exists in another dimension – it causes tumors, and attacking these can be used to slay it. Not only are the illustrations cool and twisted, the monsters are extremely poachable – each can make for a challenging puzzle-boss on its own.

Why is this relevant? Well, if the PCs want to stop the destruction of the whole area, they need to take down the 7. With the lavishly detailed Karlstadt, their smart security and powerful guardian creatures, that’s easier said than done, though.

While Karlstadt is pretty much a hub for this module, the surrounding villages and wilderness do sport not only wandering monster-encounters (curiously focusing on insects…), they also sport instances of the spectrum of human suffering and desperation when faced with the impending doom. These are grim, yet flavorful, and add a big context and some well-hidden information to the massive sandbox that is this module. How do the PCs get into Karlstadt? How do they take down the 7? It all depends on the players and their actions.

Beyond these aspects, there is more – in fact, a lot more. The module contains 3 locations which most publishers would have used on their own as a free offering. All are only tangentially related to the plot at hand and may be used, providing a piece of the puzzle. None of them are strictly required, though. Number 1, and by far the worst part of the book, the only part I’d consider to be lame, would be the infinite tower. It is pretty much what you’d expect: An infinite tower with occupants and treasure..but also a chance to be lost for 1d6 x 10 years in the past or future. If you run that aspect RAW, chances are your PCs may miss the adventure. That being said, you could use this as a means to “save” the campaign: The PCs fail, travel back in time, level up, and retackle the module at a higher level. Just sayin’. The highlight here would be the isometric map: Big plus: In the layered pdf, you can remove the secret door!

The second red herring would be a sidequest you’ll usually gain from a wealthy-looking refugee waiting to gain entrance to Karlstadt: Gunther Moll and his rowdy band of bandits have kidnapped a child. Turns out, though, that, as far as bandits go, they’re not that bad: While they have taken up residence in an ostensibly cursed farmstead, they won’t harm a kid (They are not the insane farmer who cops up travelers and sticks their parts in his field…). The abandoned farmstead and its secret tunnels etc. are once again provided in a nice, isometric map – though here, the layered pdf does not provide for player-friendly customization. Anyways, unbeknown to the bandits, the former occupants were indeed evil – worshipers of the vile Insect God…and an undead is still lurking. Cue the potential for Mexican standoffs and strange alliances…

The third dungeon that isn’t really required would be the Mound – lair of the surprisingly powerful and thoroughly nasty Willibald Schwartz – a level 17 magic-user with garish clothes, who is not only a pervert, he also has a glass tiger as a kind of executioner golem to fetch new subjects. Alas, the tiger sucks at distinguishing proper from improper prey and sometimes brings kids instead of adults. Willibald likes making magical marionettes out of their bodies. Yeah, he is a thoroughly vile, disgusting bastard – and if the PCs are smart, they’ll listen to his offer: You see, he knows about the imminent rise of the Insect God – a threat to all mankind. And he has this spell, which is another means for the PCs to actually beat this module: Journey to the Past. It sends you chronologically back through time where you’re standing. Yep, this does require some serious referee fu, and when introduced, is most assuredly a spell (at level 1) that makes a one-shot use perhaps easier to handle. But it is a potent tool. You see, he knows that the Insect God needs a particular gem to rise – and where that gem was. Retrieving and handling the problem of the gem is a means to get rid of the cosmic horror lurking at the edges of this module…and a discreet note to the Swedes regarding Herr Schwartz can solve the problem of this vile bastard. Once again: He’s a BAD GUY. Just sayin’.

But what this module, beyond assassinating the 7, is truly about…well, like in any good investigation, that’s not readily apparent. You see, the 7 actually are compromised; they are, in fact, lams set up to be slaughtered. Their well-meaning creation of the Bürgerfriedensmiliz (Citizen’s freedom-militia) and their notes of ostensible pacifism may have been rooted in good intentions – but one of the 7 is actually a fervent devotee of the Insect God. Deep in the wilderness, there is the headquarters of the Bürgerfriedensmiliz, where the members are brainwashed into committing unspeakable atrocities (illustrated, btw.). The dungeon that contains the HQ is actually a complex: It houses the 4 levels: The caverns, the shrine of the Insect God and the headquarters…and it is one of the best dark fantasy dungeons I have ever had the pleasure to run.

In true LotFP-manner, it is a hellhole, difficulty-wise: There are dangerous, extremely deadly adversaries and hazards to be found; bone wearing madmen concealed in ossuary-caverns; the gateway to the Insect shrine, lavishly depicted, is nightmare fuel with its strange statues ringing it: As a hand-out, it should most certainly show the PCs that not all is well…and in the HQ, there is a powerful tinker and a powerful alchemist, both fully realized and sufficiently insane/complex characters, which can render the exploration even more interesting…though it should be noted that, while super deadly, characters can also find a super powerful artifact that can grant a character 1000 non-regenerating hit points. And yes, this actually remains balanced to a degree and provides a means to truly “win” this module, particularly if you’re using the time-travel angle of the tower mentioned before.

You see, while the unique madwomen within the HQ, their labs etc. are amazing and creative, the module constantly hints at the imminent rise of the Insect God – a chthonic evil of legendary proportions. The encounters, small tidbits , etc. all lead up to it.

That’s where level 4, the end of the complex, comes in. You see, upon exploring the dungeon, at one point, the PCs will find a particularly VILE place, an environment, where pure malevolence seems to seep through. They have to actually DIG there. Yes. They are warned. Everything OOZES “RUN, YOU FOOLS!” Heck, if clerics rest, an agent of their deity will tell them to get the hell outta dodge. It should be noted that the task of this module is fulfilled at this point; the PCs have NO REASON to dig down there, apart from curiosity, from wanting the whole picture. You know what we said about curiosity and cats, right? If the PCs dig down there, the module changes. Up until now, Better than Any Man is a brutal, but fair and challenging dark fantasy module. If they dig down there, they enter, physically, the realm of the Insect God.

At this point, the module becomes a horror-module. A balls to the wall, weird, Lovecraftian nightmare. Down there, they can find an insect borealis, the head of an extinct, regenerating giant (who is buried to his neck), the largest specimen of humanoids to ever life…now an idiot through constant insects gnawing through his brain. The Insect God thinks that this is mankind’s god…which is wrong, obviously – but woe to those that tell that to the Insect God. Here, every step shows new horrors and wonders…and can kill you. You can walk through the cavern, through which the haemolymph of all of the world’s insects runs, prior to reincarnation.

That being said, at the end of this dungeon lies a half-consumed cadaver of a gargantuan insect-thing, attended by the ghosts of literally countless insects (one of the most gorgeous b/w-artworks I’ve seen in any RPG-book, btw.) – and the dead Insect God speaks. It commands. The spectral insects attack in endless waves. The PCs will fall. One by one. Until only one remains. The unfortunate last person standing will be invaded by the insect legions, becoming one, bodily, with the crawling legions, a mind enslaved…this champion receives the living, vile blade of the Insect God…to go forth, and once again spread the gospel of insect superiority… Yeah, that can jumpstart a whole campaign of its own.

So yes, level 4 is NOT intended to be won; it is intended to be the horror-end to the module; it is intended to be a dark conclusion…or as a reason to really want to go back through time to stop the apocalyptic exploration of a place, where mortals were never supposed to tread.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a TON of truly amazing b/w-artworks AND cartography – Aeron Alfrey, Gennifer Bone, Ramsey Dow, Alyssa Faden, Andy Hepworth, Laura Jalo, Anna B. Meyer, Jason Rainville, Jennifer Rodgers, Amos Orion Sterns and Peitsa Veteli did an amazing job. The player-friendly maps in the pdf-version are pure amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. I love the layered pdf…and guess what: Got a table to roll in the module? Click on it. It’ll roll for you. Oh, and the module is internally hyperlinked for your convenience as well. That’s one step beyond. Big kudos!

James Edward Raggi IV’s “Better than Any Man” is a masterpiece.

There.

I said it.

Yes, you can misalign and misread it. If you have an issue with adult content and dark fantasy/horror, then this is obviously not for you. If you’re a newbie, this will SAVAGE you. This is a massive module for pros: Experienced players and referees. PCs will die. If your players think, they can walk in the module and kill everything/loot everything – they’ll all die. Like flies. This is a module that requires a good referee AND smart players.

That being said, this module is pure amazing: The 7 are interesting; the regional setting is glorious and surprisingly well-researched; the monsters are inspired – each could conceivably carry its own module. The finale is phenomenal. It takes a certain type of player to FIND the final level; it takes a hardcore, dedicated group to get out of the deadly level, much less kill the thing; the latter will take a campaign beyond the range of this book – it is possible, though! And the level, in all its lethality, is ALL about the player’s choice. Literally ALL aspects tell them “Death (or worse) that way ->” – if they follow, well, then they reap what they’ve sown.

This book’s finale is pure, glorious horror; the module is dark before the finale – it is not for happy-go-lucky-family-friendly gaming. If you expected that, it’d be like putting in a Friday the 13th movie and complaining about it not being Sesame Street. But neither is it even half as dark, explicit, etc. as some of the more negative reviews would make you believe; some claims I read are objectively, patently false, some outrage ridiculous. Apart from the thoroughly optional horror-finale, this module is actually pretty survivable; challenging and hard as hell, yes – but most experienced groups should have a solid chance winning here.

Oh, and this is FREE. It is offered for PWYW in its electronic version; print was Free RPG Day. And guess what? I would pay serious money for this. If you can get the print version for ~40 bucks, I’d honestly kinda consider it worth it. I am NOT kidding. The superb, comfortable PWYW-pdf is a thorough must-have offering if you even remotely like dark fantasy. The bang-for-buck-ratio of this book is absolutely RIDICULOUS. In a truly amazing way.

I am not engaging in hyperbole, when I’m saying that this is very much the best, most professional, amazing module I’ve ever seen for PWYW. This is a truly amazing offering. I love pretty much everything about this module; the freedom, the characters, the desperation, the high stakes and pressure, the difficult decisions. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This also gets my “Best of”-tag. If you even remotely like challenging, deadly, dark modules, then download this gem right now – and if you can find the print version for a fair price…well, totally worth it. This is a stunning, gorgeous book – to think that it had been released for Free RPG Day is mind-boggling.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Better Than Any Man
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 16 to 30 (of 3348 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates