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Four Horsemen Present: Character Options - Gods in the Void
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/17/2016 07:30:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in the Four Horsemen present-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf kicks off by codifying classic Lovecraftian deities via minimalistic deity-write-ups: I.e. alignment, domains, portfolio and favored weapons, but no additional inquisition/sub-domain-information, with Azathoth, Nyarlythotep, Azdan and Shamash getting their due.


A total of 6 new traits are provided, allowing you to be the lost prince of an alien planet, the option to incur Wisdom damage to increase CL by +1 when casting compulsions or phantasms - the traits provided actually manage to do unique and interesting things and sport rather nifty ideas and flavor -as a minor complaint, I could complain that the traits themselves are not codified as trait subtypes, but honestly...they are functional and interesting, which is the most important component here.


Beyond these traits, the pdf also sports archetypes. Cult defector rogues get a modified skill-list and replace trap finding with scaling Knowledge-bonuses. At 8th level and thereafter, they can gain bonuses by seeing omens: +4 to initiative, +4 skill and ability checks or +2 to AC, 1/day, activated as a move action, lasting until the end of the encounter (not a fan of per encounter abilities since they pertain to a non-codified timeframe---but by now you know my old rant on that subject).


The Envoy spiritualist replaces a regular emotional focus, binding alien spirits that are a bit strange - they are called menaces: They gain HD ranks in Diplomacy and Intimidate and gain Skill Focus in these skills while confined to the envoy's consciousness. They have good Fort- and Will-saves and Improved Initiative as a bonus feat, conferring the bonus to the spiritualist while within the character's consciousness. The slam attack of the spirit receives the benefits of Improved Critical feat and at 7th level, they can activate a 10-ft.-aura as a swift action that provides a no-save -2 AC and atk-aura. At 12th level, these spirits can fire a 60-ft-range-increment ray that basically extends the melee slam to range. 17th level autoconfirms critical hits. Overall, a solid, nice spirit.


The reckless hero gunslinger receives UMD as a class skills and is locked into a blunderbuss at 1st level, modifying gunsmith. Gunslinger's dodge is replaced with the fake it deed - they may cast spells from spellbooks via UMD as though the books were scrolls, at the cost of 1 point of grit. Now the interesting thing is: If you botch, you roll on a d8-table, with all but one effect being rather unpleasant - alignment shifts, suddenly conjuring forth monsters, curses...ouch! At 2nd level, the archetype receives a scaling DR versus weapons and natural attacks, but only while wearing light or no armor. Nihilist oracles replace their cure/inflict spells with a rather powerful and interesting bonus spells. At 7th level, nihilists must take the Viability revelation, which grants 10 fire and cold resistance as well as 4 x Con score rounds of holding breath as an immediate action, while also granting immunity to low pressure and vacuum. At 11th level, that increases to 20 and takes away the requirement to breathe and yes, you may continue to speak/cast spells. This may be used for class level minutes per day, used in 1 minute increments.


The Visitor druid gains all racial traits of the usual race, but loses those granted by monstrous or non-humanoid races; at 1st level, they choose 2 RP worth of racial points, allowing them to gain or lose them at will as a standard action either all or just a couple of them, even while in wild shape. Advanced or monstrous traits may not be selected, with 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter gain +2 RP. The traits may be re-allocated every level and replaces nature's bond. At 13th level, the class affects a 40 ft-radius, making it difficult terrain, increasing or decreasing wind force or modify temperature - permanently and dismissible. Awesome, cool ability!


Next up would be 5 new feats - whether a feat that helps versus environmental hazards, better UMD /at the cost of Wis-damage), summons with frightful presence and immunity to mind-affecting effects and a secondary tentacle attacks, a spellbook with bonus spells and unlimited pages and +50% range rays, the feats per se are interesting, though the ray range-increase is VERY nasty in the right hands: I'd suggest very carefully contemplating whether or not to allow this one in conjunction with warlock-y blasting classes - granted, the effect pertains only spell-based rays and thus should work in most contexts - I don't complain here, but felt obliged to mention this.


The pdf also sports 6 new spells: Whether high-level black holes, essentially a lesser version of a wall of force, interstellar travel, temporarily adding brilliant energy to weapons or ammunition, instilling hostility in foes or a sunburn debuff - they are interesting.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches in the formal or rules language. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Steven T. Helt's collection of options generally can be considered a thoroughly well-crafted supplement - the material herein is balanced, fun and solid and all gripes I can muster against it pertain aesthetics and minor hiccups that in no way impede the functionality of this pdf. That being said, at the same time, I wasn't completely blown away by this pdf. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars - a good offering.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Character Options - Gods in the Void
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Places of Power: Valley of the Rocks
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2016 06:26:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


Sheltered away within the wooden ranges of hills untouched by current civilization, a steep-sided, deep valley's ancient, sculpted rocks bear witness to the ages, remnants of a civilization long gone, flanked by majestic cliffs and clad in perpetual shadows. A living, breathing temple to nature itself, the wondrous valley contains huge falls where the Malinrae river tumbles down the steep cliffs.


Within the shadows of this gorgeous place, moss-covered lupine statues, untainted pools and mystic rocks carved in the likeness of deer and bear await the intrepid explorer, while willow-fringed Lake Vontyr awaits explorers. PCs versed in ancient lore may unearth some intriguing facts about this place - like that it actually is the site of an ancient elven realm or that it in fact is built on a place of power. The few explorers who dared venture into this place can provide one of 6 rumors - but is it true that this place was created when two gods met in fierce battle? Or that the strange sculptures come alive at night? You'll have to travel there to find out!


And while you're there, you may encounter 6 sample events that exemplify the beauty and marvel of this place...speaking of which: This pdf actually contains a mini-dressing table of 12 entries that helps you bring alive this wondrous place...and not all is mist-clad branches and crystal waters: You see, the custodians of this place roam its breadth still: Using both age-categories and even multiclassing, two of the 4 characters are fully statted herein (the others get RSP's neat fluffy treatment covering mannerisms etc.), as the powerful guardians stand in their eternal, ghostly vigil. While, for the most part relatively benevolent (unless you despoil the place...then run for the hills!), one of them has more of a hardliner stance regarding trespassers. As in: "Stalk and kill them all"-hardliner-stance.


As always - beauty and danger are close compatriots...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed not a single glitch. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp and printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf has no artworks, but needs none and comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The cartography of the valley by Tommi Salama is absolutely GORGOEUS and may be worth the asking price all on its own.


With Creighton Broadhurst, chief of Raging Swan Press, most embroiled in the nit and grit of publishing, it can be easy to forget how exceedingly talented he is in the fields of writing. Back in the day, when there was only ONE Raging Swan Press product out, Retribution, I bought it on a hunch and was blown away. If anything, Creighton has honed his craft. This pdf is quite frankly better than it has any right to be at this page-count: In a superb example of concise writing, with each word carefully chosen, Creighton takes us on a tour into a truly wondrous, lavish place of natural beauty. The "valley of rocks" sounds none to impressive on paper and is a prime example of British understatement - what we receive here is a truly gorgeous, fantastic place that could be used in pretty much any campaign - heck, replace elves with humans and this would work in our world.


This is not what sets this apart, though: While reading these pages, I could perfectly envision the majestic cliffs, I could almost hear the proud Kanae Falls. This is an exercise in stellar prose and a truly superb location that deserves being added to your campaign. Get this now! Oh, and yes, final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, obviously. Now excuse me, I need to dream of visiting a gorgeous place, where lichens cover sculptures that tell tales of ages long past...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Valley of the Rocks
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Zauberer Hybrid Class
Publisher: ARMR Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2016 06:24:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This PWYW-class-pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Zauberer (German for Wizard, btw. - and the same word in singular and plural) would be a combination between sorceror and magus. Class-chassis-wise, the Zauberer received d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armor. Zauberer do not incur spell failure while in light armor and yes, the rules-language is precise enough and allows for no means to cheese this via multiclassing - kudos. Zauberer cast spells from the Sorceror spell-list and begin with 3 cantrips known and receives spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level, governed by Charisma and drawn from the Sorceror's spell-list.


At 1st level, he gains a so-called Mag pool equal to 1/2 class level + Charisma modifier. He may expend said points as a swift action to grant a +1 enhancement bonus to the weapon wielded for 1 minute, increasing by +1 every 4 levels beyond 1st. These bonuses stack with inherent bonuses of the weapon and themselves and 5th level unlocks the usual weapon properties, which consume their equivalent of bonuses. The minimum +1 to hold the properties is maintained, preventing cheesing. Spell combat is adapted to Charisma and 2nd level provides Spellstrike and a sorceror bloodline. The Zauberer gains the bloodline arcana of the chosen bloodline and the ability takes multiple bloodline-granting classes into account. Bloodline Powers are gained two levels after the sorceror, at 3rd, 5th, 11th and 17th level, but treats his Zauberer level as his sorceror level for the purpose of their numerical and non-numerical parameters and effects. So far, so expected.


At 4th level, the class becomes more interesting: Here, the class gains the ability to deliver rays as melee touch attacks and the ability takes multiple-target ranged touch attacks and the like into account. 6th level provides the spell pool-based option to cast spells by expending mag points equal to spell level. Metamagic feats may not be added to spells powered by the mag pool. As a nitpick: The ability, while clear in its intentions, does not specify that the spell thus powered does not expend the spell slot of the associated level. At 12th level, only 1/2 mag points (minimum 1) are required to power the spells and the Zauberer may modify these spells via metamagic feats by expending additional mag points equal to the spell-level increase and sans casting time increase.


6th level provides medium armor (and casting in it), 11th level unlocks heavy armor. At 7th level, Zauberer count as though they were 1/2 class level fighters for prerequisite purposes and 10th level + every 3 levels thereafter provide a bonus combat, item creation or metamagic feat.


At 8th level, the class may spend + 1 mag pool point to increase the balde-enhancement duration to 1 hour and 9th level provides +2 to concentration checks when using spell combat or spellstrike, with 14th level eliminating AoOs when using either. 15th level provides spell critical: When he confirms a critical hit, he may cast a spell as an immediate action that contains the target of the crit among the AoE. This is slightly problematic - since the class gets sorc-spells and these include spells with LONG casting times, the lack of specifications regarding limitations of eligible spell casting duration mean that the class could theoretically cheese casting times. At 18th level, 7 cleric spells, one for each level, are unlocked and as a capstone, the class gets +2 to atk, damage, penetrating SR and increases spell DC by this amount when using spell combat and spellstrike.


The class sports a supplemental feat that increases mag pool-size by +2.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are rather tight regarding rules-language and formal criteria - neat ob! Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The sketches of the character are solid, considering the PWYW-nature of the book. The pdf has no bookmarks.


Angel Miranda's Zauberer is a surprisingly well-crafted hybrid that plays different from what I expected - the ray-in-melee-trick is interesting (and can result in pretty nasty sudden death-boom-touch-combos) and the class plays surprisingly different from the already rather flexible magus: Instead of flexibility, the theme here is potency and the Zauberer does the job well. The spell-list-difference also results in different playing experiences, allowing the Zauberer to be more "blasty." While there are some very minor hiccups and while this won't win an innovation prize, it is a surprisingly solid take on the spontaneous magus concept that has more unique identity than I expected. Taking the fair Pay-what-you-want-model into account, this definitely is worth a tip. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zauberer Hybrid Class
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Call to Arms: Bracers of Armor
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2016 06:22:27

An ENdzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 3/4 page blank, leaving us with 12 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this smaller installment of the Call to Arms-series with a brief summary of bracers versus vambraces in the context of both reality and the game system, including a brief history of bracers in game. The pdf then goes on to provide a new mundane item, the archery bracers, which make sense from a simulationalist position - seeing how the bowstring may hit the unprotected string, lack of bracers can be translated to a penalty to subsequent attack. This btw. also makes for a nice balance-tweak regarding the power of ranged bow characters. The second item would be armored vambraces, which defines them and acknowledges that they're already part of most armor.


As far as magical bracers are considered, the bracers come in steps from +1 to +8, allowing for significant protection, while also sporting concise rules to prevent abuse via low-cost additions. While I get the intention of why the bonus scales to +8, at the same point, I do believe the usual +5 cap for the pure bonus, with exceeding power requiring the addition of special qualities, should apply to the bracers to retain system-consistency, in spite of the restricted list of special qualities. On the other hand, I get the intent of scaling up to +8...it's a difficult decision there, one that ultimately boils down to personal taste and design-aesthetics - whether you value system-consistency or balanced defense options for agile characters more. EDIT: Since one of my readers commented on this, let me apologize for not being clearer here: Yes, I am aware that the default rules sport exactly the bonuses from +1 to +8 and that this is basically a reprint. I consider this component one of the slightly more awkward choices of the base system. My intention here was to highlight this inconsistency of the rules, but not bash this book for it, which is why I wrote that this ultimately boils down to personal taste and design aesthetics - both of which do mean that they do not factor into the final verdict. Thanks to Sayt for pointing out that this needed some further elaboration!


The pdf hereafter goes on to present 15 specific magic bracers of armor, though most of these come in a variety of different power - between +1 and +8 equivalent. There are bracers with visible force-fields that help intimidation...and then, the bracers become more interesting: Bracers of the Deep Sea help against Deep Sea pressure in addition to their magic protection, while chainmail bracers duplicate...well, the effects of chainmail. There are a couple of these type of bracers herein. Comfortable bracers add endure elements and demi-gauntlets work in conjunction with gloves and there also is a samurai-themed variety of the bracers of the armored knight.


Wrist-slot bracers scale up to +5 and are more interesting, providing DR versus ranged attacks as well as providing a swift action 1/day true strike. Another vambrace allows for the 1/round reduction of off-hand penalties and there also is one that upgrades the protection judgment as well as two linked pairs of vambraces that allows for the transfer of damage from one pair to the other, at the expense of temporarily decreasing bonuses. There is also a pair of vambraces that 1/day allows the wearer to deflect missiles. Two nasty cursed bracers can also be found herein and "The Shield and The Sword" are eternally quibbling bracers, sporting an inverted defending benefit, while the sword's ego thirsts for attacks, for retribution, tied to the armor-bonus conversion. Intriguing!


The pdf also provides two mythic bracers, the first of which are paired and allow for short-range teleportation, which thereafter sends the wearer back to his or her square. The second pair increases armor bonus by tier for the expenditure of mythic power and you may extend this bonus to other creatures as a standard action instead of as the item's usual swift action activation. The pdf concludes with a powerful defensive artifact.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Lucus Palosaari's bracers are a briefer CtA-installment and they manage to begin with interesting ideas, the optional rules for archer-bracers, e.g., making for a cool rules-addition for low fantasy. That being said...and as much as I'm loathe to say it...this installment, is comparatively uninspired. Sure, the bracers duplicating different armors make sense...and yes, I like the fluff-change of bracers - but when compared to e.g. the fireworks book, the options provided herein simply...aren't as evocative, as unique. In fact, the magic armor-bracers may have great fluff, but rules-wise, they are not that intriguing. Now granted, this is an inexpensive book compared to the last huge CtA-installments...but ultimately, it also feels like it doesn't reach even half as far. In the intelligent item, one can see a bit of the playful precision with which he usually puts out those unique concepts and stitches holes in the rules...but apart from them, this pdf felt like a solid one...but one, which, in direct comparison to e.g. the firework book, fell flat of its own premise.


Particularly in such a short book, armor-duplicates could have used unique additional benefits each; reskins could have used modification and diverging rules. This is not a bad pdf, far from it...but it falls short of the usual brilliance the series has continued to build on. You won't be disappointed by this book, but neither will you be blown away - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for a solid, if not perfect installment of the series. If you're new to Call to Arms, I'd rather recommend the book on fireworks or torches and flames (or the glorious one on ropes!) to properly depict what the series can offer.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Bracers of Armor
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Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Player's Guide
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2016 05:12:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


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


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


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


Conclusion:


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


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


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Player's Guide
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Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight - An Adventure for 1st Level Characters
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2016 05:02:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This little module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf is intended as an introduction to the continent of Grethadnis in Veranthea and can be used as the first module, which, in combination with Spring of Disorder and Grualroth's Rot, to form a sequence of modules. Assuming character creation, the pdf sports 7 sample campaign traits to invest the characters more within the world of Grethadnis and provides two hooks that can act as shadows of the things to come.


The module begins in Yawvil's Realm and sports two fully-statted, depicted villages for your convenience - generally, the region is considered to be rather peaceful, but the pdf does provide information on random encounters. Three minor, sample quests can be found here - from e.g. defeating a shadow to putting their weight behind one side of a power-struggle, these sketches are okay as supplemental material.


But you want to know about the module, right? All right, but from here on, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may want to jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


Only GMs left? All right! We begin this module on the Great Road throughout the realm of Veranthea's powerful arch-wizard, with an encounter of PCs meeting the Vyrystavyas gypsies - invited for a friendly gaming bout, things turn strange fast: The gypsies unwittingly carried a new artifact the Polysabie, a magical d20 - upon being completed, the roll sports some rather odd effects: Whether it's that a given area believes you're a warlock/witch, growing annoying, bickering (and disturbing) heads in combat or being stunned when hearing "knee" or that you may cause misfortune to grant yourself a bonus...the effects are diverse, but on the nasty side. Worse: Upon having rolled the artifact, it becomes HEAVY...and, as panicked gypsies are sure to tell the PCs: An unstoppable Black Knight manifests. (And yes, in order to destroy the artifact, they will need to trek it through all continents, as this one tends to disappear when the black knight is defeated...)


If you haven't noticed that by now: Yes, the Black Knight pretty much is a unique monster and sports rather Monty Python-ish, obvious abilities - with limbs falling off and insults as well as a glare that may stop you dead in your tracks, the inhuman knight is lethal at CR 3. (And yes, the headbutt is BRUTAL - don't underestimate a limbless black knight!)


Defeating the Black Knight, space warps and rips the PCs to the continent of Urethiel, the domain of His Golden Personage of Fortitude, to be precise. Welcomed by pig farmers has been suffering from bandits (which turn out to be cunning ratfolk). Having defeated these scoundrels, the PCs return...to find another Polysabie-roll in process...and an even stronger Black Knight waiting for them, one with completely different abilities (and CR 4...)...and, once again, the fabric of space and time tear asunder...and bring the PCs to Trectoyri - or rather, the Free Isle, where a knight's tournament is in process - thankfully, Lord Agresta (a nod to Lou Agresta, perhaps?) notes that the games must go on, the polysabie found and the Black Knight defeated. unbeknown to the PCs, a doppelganger has acquired the lethal artifact and may well try to infiltrate the PC's group...and, once again, a new iteration of the Black Knight, more powerful than before and with a unique build (and a chainsaw sword) needs to be bested - this time at CR 5. Beating this lethal foe (with actually rather challenging damage-output that may well instakill a PC...), the polysabie's pwoer is broken, space rips asunder one final time and the PCs are ready to tackle the aforementioned, excellent Spring of Disorder module...after all, the PCs have coincidentally been dropped right in the vicinity.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - rather odd, though, to see the font-size deviating on the polysabie's first page depicting it. Layout adheres to Veranthea Codex's beautiful two-column standards, with each continent having its own unique, visual style. Artworks are pretty nice and in color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Mike Myler's Black Knight is a pretty awesome idea as such and works well for convention games or as a means to introduce new players to Veranthea. The idea of the Black Knight and Polysabie per se are gold - they could have been lame, but ended up being rather cool. However, not everything about this module is great - basically, the story is a very thinly-veiled pretense for granting an impression of the continents, so expect no narrative feats here. Similarly, there is basically nothing interesting going on beyond the iterations of the Black Knight - the other encounters and things to do herein basically can be considered to be...filler or minimalist window dressing...which is ultimately also due to the lack of cartography herein. Basically, this book has one cool item/pretense for the journey, 3 great adversaries...and is, bar that, a non-entity of a module.


With no maps for the encounters, there also is no interesting terrain or the like to be found here...which the module tries to justify by claiming it's intended for new players...something I'd doubt, honestly. The Black Knight builds are cool and well-made and will wreck havoc with novice players. Let me state this clearly: The Black Knight's iterations steal the show - they don't need fancy terrain or the like to properly captivate the players due to the cool builds...but the other encounters would have very much needed something to make them more interesting.


Whether or not this module is for you, depends pretty much on if you consider three cool Black Knight builds and the neat polysabie enough to carry the brief module - Veranthea as a setting is great, but the "tour the continents"-facet didn't really work out too well for me.


Due to the brevity of this module, none of the continents have much time and space to grow on the PCs, to provide anything beyond the most rudimentary of glimpses of what this is about - basically, this is a set-up for a big module, cut down to the bare bones. it's great encounters in a non-entity of a module.


The black knight and artifact are very cool...but on their own, they don't manage to make this a truly great module. This can be a ton of fun...or end up being a huge dud of a module. Running this with kids that do not know Monty Python, for example, did not work as well, while nostalgia made this a fun romp for my adult group. In the end, though, I have to rate this as a module, and here it has issues.


My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars - overall, a module that can be a nice start...but also can be a horrid dud. It all depends on the group and what you expect. With a bit of work, this can be remarkable...but run it as written and it may severely underwhelm you.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight - An Adventure for 1st Level Characters
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Village Backdrop: Cahill Abbey
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/13/2016 06:51:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement


The eponymous abbey of this village may have been long-since abandoned, but the village that sprung up to support it sure as heck still exists and it sports a lavishly rendered map that depicts a sleepy, nice little place...though one that sports something that does not feel idyllic at all: The numerous tents you can see on the map are there for a reason: You see, the village sports a significant array of soldier's of the realm - for the king's soothsayer has prophesied that the savior of the kingdom (perhaps your PC?) will come through this place - thus, the tranquil, peaceful town obviously needs guarding...which, paradoxically, makes it significantly less tranquil and peaceful...and indeed, the influx of people may actually result in terrible evil being unleashed...


Ain't it a b.... how those damn prophecies tend to have means to ensure that they come true, how they perpetuate themselves? Of course, as always, this pdf does sport the trademark attention to detail you expect by now from Raging Swan press' acclaimed series: This means you'll see nomenclature, sample events, rumors, a full village-statblock and more detailed information on key locations here. Beyond that, we get two sample statblocks (one for a 4th level fighter and one for a multiclass rogue/shadowdancer) as well as information on the evil rising and the prophecy - taking a cue from the best of supplements in the series, both remain their vagueness and modularity to allows for precise, DM-specific customization.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


Jacob W. Michaels' Cahill Abbey is a concept so obvious, I quite frankly am astonished it has not been covered before in the series: The "friendly" state of occupation, where "good" people have come to ensure the safety of the local populace - you can read some scathing commentary into this pdf, should you elect to choose so, or just take it as is. The addition of a smart example for the trope of the self-fulfilling prophecy adds yet another facet to a versatile, well-written settlement well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Cahill Abbey
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Worlds of Power
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/13/2016 06:48:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This supplement of options/sketches of campaign settings for Spheres of Power clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin with the chapter "Grimorie", which depicts the world of Athanasia...no, it does not have anything to do with Samsas Traum's by now legendary underground song. The world as depicted is a young one - semi-divine beings only known as "strangers" nowadays entered the world and proceeded to guide evolution by virtue of transfiguration via the Alteration sphere. Animals tough this power sought to model themselves somewhat after the strangers, becoming anthropomorphic in many a case (or taking on at least partially qualities of the imitated species). The most successful were to become the dominant humans. A cataclysm happened and ripped part of the world from its body, creating the massive eye of the world and also provided access to the magic-absorbing Pirium: When cold-forged, this rare metal can be used to hamper spell-point based casters and it also stores light which it can then give off when in dark - sans impeding light-blind/sensitive creatures.


The rules for the setting provide a very generic and not very helpful general array of considerations and a chapter-based level-advancement-system - which is based on chapters: Basically, you decide in advance on how much levels you'll play, take 20, divide it by the decided upon chapter number and thus get level increment; after a given chapter, you multiply the # of chapters completed with LI to get the new level, which basically lets you skip levels. This system is, as much as I'm loathe to say it, pretty much overly complicated and basically useless, unless you want chapters that all have the same length - but even when that's your goal, why not just say "You level up to level X" and use the less complicated "level up when the story calls for it"-approach? Which also allows you to adjust chapter length to fit your campaign. I can't think of a single scenario when this one would be superior to a simpler story-based progression...or its opposite, the XP-tracking default.


On the positive side, the pdf does discuss which spheres are stigmatized/limited and which races favor which spherecasting. Technology level for humans is assumed to be iron age, potentially more primitive for other races. Race-wise, the mole people Bóreans are duergar with burrow speed 20 ft instead of SPs (pretty strong), Córeans get fly speed 60 ft. (average) and exchange the tengu's Swordtrained and Skill Bonus (Stealth) for Hatred versus the Seraphim race. Draconians are lizardfolk that lose Swim and gain Vestigial Wings, Breath Weapon and Terrain Stride. Fenrir are werewolves minus lycanthropy and see humans as blights upon the world - think old WoD's Werewolf-extremists. They use kitsune base stats and replace them with +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha and gain Fast Shifter instead of Kitsune magic. Leonians are catfolk, rules-wise. Merrows and Sirens use merfolk stats. Rania use grippli stats. The seraphim use the stats of strix and change hatred from humans to córeans as well as gaining light sensitivity - they also are batfolk.


There also are the feyfolk: Dwarves lose defensive training and become fey; elves are tiny and lose elven magic. Fairies use gathlain stats and are tiny; gnomes use svirfneblin rules. Goblins and hobgoblins are not fey like the other fey races here and hobgoblins are small. The race-selection here is a total mess regarding internal balancing - from powerful fly speed at 1st level or burrow speed at level 1, there are huge discrepancies in relative race strength and the introduction of tiny characters exacerbates this. Gripplis are less than 10 RP; contrast that with the strix. And that is before taking into account the unmitigated mess that is ARPG's RP-balancing. Whether gnomes use favored class options of gnomes or svirfneblin - no idea. This chapter was utterly useless to me, also due to none of the races truly receiving anything interesting pertaining culture or the like.


The world of grimoire assumes 5 alternate classes for the basic spherecasting classes, the first of which would be the Mage, based on the Incanter. The Mage needs to cast with Int and requires a grimoire to consult to use sphere talents and abilities - it must be held in one hand and "can become tiresome if the mage is wearing anything heavier than light armor." - a needlessly confusing way to refer to the somatic casting and focus casting drawbacks - "tiresome" usually refers to something different and implies that you CAN cast it, but it may incur fatigue. Yes, it's just fluff, but it irked me still. All mages get the Metamagic Expert boon. Mages are locked into Counterspell at 1st level. The mage gets a bonus sphere at 1st level at +1 CL bonus and between 2nd and 14th level, instead of a bonus feat, the mage may elect to undergo guild training, which is identical to specialization abilities of the incanter- these are codified as minor, less, greater and master by sphere.


The Wunderkind is an alternate fey adept whose table lacks the plusses in front of saves and BAB in a jarring formatting oversight. The alternate class has a good Will-save and 1/2 BAB-progression, full CL-progression and full talent-progression. They get d8, 4+Int skills and simple weapon/light armor proficiency. Wunderkinder use Cha as casting ability modifier and start play with Wild Magic and Magical Signs as drawbacks, but get the Easy Focus boon. They are considered to be high casters and gain class level + Charisma modifier spell points. At character creation, a wunderkind chooses one emotion: Serenity, Courage, Enmity, Fear, Grief, Joy, Love or Rage. Whenever a wunderkind spends a spellpoint, there is a 10% chance to have wild magic manifest - this takes the fey aura and adds effects depending on the emotion chosen, which apply before a given effect of the spent spell point begins. Save versus these effects s based on 10+1/2 class level+ Cha mod. Potency of the respective wild magic effects vary greatly - +/- of attitude can be rather weak...while e.g. AoE stuns and staggers can pretty much end a combat in one round...for better or worse. Illusions created by the wunderkind remain in effect for 1/2 class level round after ceasing concentration on it and they are pretty good at resisting the effects of the Mind-sphere.


3rd level provides a reality pool of 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which can be used to utilize the progressing array of eliciter emotion powers - including means to extend reach, which can be rather brutal, but each time this class feature is gained, the character also further increases the chance of wild magic. The class also receives a very powerful sight-ability to pierce magics and may expend reality points in conjunction with Illusion talents to use the Create Reality fey adept ability. High-levels provide Extradimensional Room, DR and free choice of emotion/wild magic at 19th level and e.g. a permanent illusion at 20th level.


The shaman, an alternate soulweaver, uses Wis instead of Cha as casting ability modifier and e.g. channel-basis and get Skilled Casting and Painful magic drawbacks as well as Deathful magic as a boon. Profession (medicine) (never saw THAT one before...) or Craft or Perform must be chosen as governing skills. These guys can use summon spirit bound to call NPCs with the ghost template and increasing amounts of randomly determined class levels...which is rather work-intense- you have to generate basically a whole roster of random ghost creatures to summon, which takes a lot of work. Additionally, the ability fails to specify whether the shaman has any control over the specific CR-based ghost abilities his called ghosts have or not.


Dendrites are hedgewitches with a druidic flair - they use Con as casting ability modifier and gain the fortified casting boon, but also the draining casting drawback. They get the Green magic and Herbology traditions, but are limited in their secret- and grand secret-selection, both of which sport +1 new option that pertains looking into the past - basically meditating to reroll Knowledge-checks, gain a bonus on them etc. - okay, I guess.


The Exemplar is an alternate incanter with d6 HD, 2+Int skills, simple weapon proficiency and is a high caster, with min 2 drawbacks as determined by either patron or chosen in cases where not 2 are predetermined. Exemplars gain class level + casting ability modifier (may be any mental attribute) spell points and gain a bonus feat at 4th level and every 4 thereafter up to 16th to gain an extra magic talent or casting-prerequisite bonus feat. I mentioned eldritch patrons before here - this choice defines casting ability class skills, bonus sphere, domain and bloodline gained and requires an oath - breaking this oath has dire consequences. The section closes with fluff-only, brief paragraphs on a couple of NPCs.


The second world herein would be Erda -a grim world, where a nigh-god prophet has used undead armies to crush basically all resistance...or rather, is in the process of annihilating what's left: Only the broodmother's orc-realm provides succor and arms itself for the final fight against the mad prophet of Truth. The world is ravaged by war and "wealth should be linearized by level" - whatever that's supposed to mean. Guidelines would have been appreciated here. The world sports next to no magic items bar those PCs craft themselves - no capes, no belts +X, etc. - but as a defining characteristic, there are paragons - these individuals are the only ones that can progress beyond 5th level. Paragons receive ability score increases at fixed levels, bonus feats on every odd level and at 6th level (+1 every 3 thereafter), they gain +1 to atk, damage rolls, armor class (including flat-footed and touch), CMB and CMD as well as saves.


Now here's the interesting part: Three skills, Craft (Armament), Craft (Alchemy) and Craft (Occult) are used to make just about all those items you need - from alchemist's bombs to potions that can restore limited resource class mechanics like ki or rage rounds - these items are based on AP (alchemical power), augmentation levels or the like - the system basically breaks down class features and codifies them via these progressing sections, including using paragon bonuses as limiting factors that prevent cheesing via feat min-maxing. Considering the rarity of magic items implied, this worked rather surprisingly well in my playtests and may be a valid system for darker/rare magic-settings - kudos! Similarly, the classic races features here (including different racial ability modifiers for male and female orcs) are generally well-balanced, though male orcs are lopsided on the physical end of the spectrum. The pdf provides 4 solid traditions: Latent Magic can be gained via either two feats (Lycanthrope or Shadow Dancer) or ki powers intended for the unchained monk - on a nitpicky side, the prereqs sport a formatting glitch and don't properly bold the prerequisite-line. The chapter closes with 4 sample NPCs - and left me wanting to know more about the world.


The final world would be Irhardt, a world wherein humans have begun slaughtering divinities, with now a stalemate between the divinity dragon guarded Atonia (I did cringe here a bit) and the conquering Zethian empire of god-slayers providing a tension-filled status-quo. in Atonia, each person seems to develop an elemental affinity over time - air, land, fire, water, light or darkness, with an opposing element. Affinities extend to creatures, items and stretches of land, providing minor bonuses or penalties accordingly. "Divinities" pertain mythic rules - even the least of them has 10 HD and 1 mythic rank. Creatures that die turn to the associated element pretty quickly, making burial highly uncommon. Affinity also determines spheres available. The affinity also provides resistance to the element that scales with character level and, at higher level, you may forego resistance as an immediate action to instead gain immunity to the associated element. Additionally, the element may be imbued at higher levels into weapons. The destruction sphere is re-codified to apply to the affinity element as well - which misses the chance to make it as one of the few slightly problematic spheres more balanced, but oh well. Instead, it allows for the Cl-based spell-point damage-increase. Somewhat annoying from a rules-language perspective - the write up continuously mentions "elemental damage" for the associated affinity element - which is not clearly defined. While one can certainly assume e.g. lightning for air, things become more complex regarding land, which now can e.g. cause piercing damage as well. The interaction, while not broken per se, RAW does require further clarification to make it less ambiguous. Tradition-wise, the world sports Verbal Casting and Magical Signs as well as Overcharge and channel energy is element-based instead, with light and dark providing the heal all/harm all options.


Kudos regarding the racial section here - the Ailerai get the gliding wing -> feats to gain flight progression right, while grimori use the rules of Rite Publishing's tanimin from "In the Company of Dragons"; merfolk and Zethian androids, while the Ama draw upon Little Red Goblin Games' "Racial Guide 4: Nontraditional Races." Infused are an interesting take on the planetouched, codifying aasimar, tieflings etc. as citizens of the Zethian empire. Finally, Zethian kobolds have no light sensitivity and get a prehensile tail. Overall, this array of races is sound and looks pretty well-rounded regarding power-levels. The section ends with notes on restrictions of races/options by region. The setting assumes a removal of alignment and substituting affinity, which partially works...but only partially. If you plan on pulling that off, you'll need a lot of work...but less than with a non Spheres-of-Power-setting, granted. Still, this does leave quite a few questions open.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though by far not perfect - I noticed a couple of formal glitches as well as some that extend to the rules-language. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports an okay world-map of the first world. Artwork-wise, this is mostly stock-art which you may have seen before; in an odd choice, some of the pieces are blown up to a whole page, which seems odd, considering that they are not that nice and get slightly pixelated at that size.


Okay, so before we go into the respective realms contained herein: All of them suffer from the brevity of their respective entries. I don't expect a full-blown gazetteer of a world, but as presented, they, by requirement, are somewhat sketchy, not full-blown worlds.


As for the worlds...well, they kinda fluctuate in their appeal to me: I can't really find anything compelling to say about Wm Jay Carter III's Grimoire - racial balancing is all over the place, some class features of alternate classes are somewhat problematic and the bit of fluff we get...isn't that interesting. Anthropomorphic races as a draw don't work that well for me either, since Eric Morton's Animal Races-series provides better balanced options there.


Richard Cramer's Erda is very much up my alley and the codification of magic items and DIY-approach combined with the idea of exceptionalism provide an interesting setting I wished had more space to shine.


Finally, I expected to hate Alexander Corrin's Irhardt, but in the end considered it more interesting than its basic set-up (which looks like evil science vs. good magic/somewhat avatar-like) would have made me believe: Overall balancing is solid and while there are some components that RAW could be more refined, I can see this one working.


In the end, all three settings could have simply used more space to shine - they are examples that highlight what you can do with Spheres of Power and have some nifty ideas to scavenge, but ultimately don't provide enough to work as full-blown settings. There is something to take from these pages for most groups, but I wager that only a rare few groups will elect to play in the sketches as provided. Grimoire, as mentioned, fell flat for me, with Irhardt being good, but with brevity-induced issues and Erda being perhaps the most compelling7unique of the rules/worlds herein - considering these, I will ultimately settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 - a mixed bag that does suffer from its self-imposed limitations.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds of Power
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April Augmented
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/12/2016 03:10:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This Pay What You Want April's Fool-release clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The first new archetype herein would be for the currently-in-playtest discipline-using class, Medi...and it's called Ambu-Lancer. These guys get Ride as a class skill and a mount with light armor proficiency at first level. When riding said mount, the ambu-lancer takes no armor check penalty to Ride skills and killed mounts can be replaced sans cost after just 1 week, analogue to the cavalier. Medic's expertise is replaced with Mounted Combat and in an interesting twist, maneuvers that have a movement component may be used with the mount's movement instead of the ambu-lancer's - basically, it replaces the animal companion's usual share spells with discipline-related movement sharing. Similarly, the triage ability may be used in conjunction with the mount's movement.


Absolutely hilarious: At 4th level, instead of +1 triage use, the archetype gets a Stealth-WRECKING minus 30 Stealth when activated siren that grants Improved Overrun when attempting to move somewhere to use triage - MEDIC!!! XD Instead of 5th level's medic's expertise, the archetype may drag allies healed atop the mount! Pretty cool archetype...and hilarious.


The Edge Lord harbinger had me laugh so hard, I had to stop and go outside for a second - the archetype gets proficiency with simple and martial weapons and the katana, but not with any armor or shield. Discipline-wise, they replace Riven hourglass and Scarlet Throne with Unquiet Grave and Mithral Current. At 1st level, the archetype gets Quick Draw and dons a leather coat of black or red leather that provides Int-bonus to AC (+1 dodge bonus at 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter) - this ability replaces accursed will and is called..."Become So Numb." Starting at 4th level, the edge-lord may teleport a limited amount of times per encounter before or after initiating a strike. This is called "One Step Closer." Come on, now you've got it, right? It's friggin' Linkin Park-the-class. XD Instead of elusive shadow, the archetype gets immunity to emotion effects and replaces sorcerous deception with Mixed Combat and Weapon Focus - X-Ecutioner Style. If you didn't grow up with these, you may not consider this as funny as I do...but boy...I could throw myself away right now...Increased crit range via Papercuts and the option to teleport crited foes unwillingly complement this very well - basically, if you ever wanted to play Dante or Vergil from Devil may Cry...yeah, that's a pretty good way to do that. Two thumbs up!


The Madman monk may not use class features with monk weapons, only with unarmed strikes. This archetype...is basically an exercise in how M-A-D you can make an archetype - all saves are governed by two attributes: Str and Con for Fort, Dex and Int for Ref, Wis and Cha for Will. For the lulz, his unarmed strike attacks use Int and Str to atk, but Con and Cha to damage rolls. And no, this cannot be changed. They deal bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage at once via unarmed attacks. Dex-based skills are enhanced by Str. Cha-based skills are enhanced by Wis. The MADman may substitute psychoses for attacks in his flurry, with save DC being equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + highest attribute modifier + lowest attribute modifier. In case you haven't got that yet - no, you can't choose anywhere and yes, negative modifier decrease the efficiency. So what's a psychoses? Well, it's basically the talent array of these fellows. They get one new psychosis at each odd level, with later levels unlocking new ones. Now here's the mechanically interesting component: The more successful psychoses (success/failure-conditions provided individually), attack and maneuvers the madman has performed before in a given flurry, the more potent becomes the specific effect. And yes, these include reality-bending stunts like flying (for as long as the flurry persists...). Also interesting - high level psychoses have powerful effects - when executed AFTER 5 successful prior attacks...otherwise, they have no effects. And yes, the archetype does have multiple capstones to choose from. This whole archetype is basically a meta-joke on the monk...and it still kinda works. While perhaps the least serious-feeling component herein, the archetype sports several impressive and cool ideas. with the psychoses and flurry-combo-idea in particular being worthy of closer examination.


Next up would be the Daring Hero 10-level PrC, which sports Elan's (The OotS-character, not the race) Razor Wit as a prerequisite bonus feat. The PrC grants d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and full BAB-progression. Every even level, the PrC provides +1 maneuver known, chosen from Mithral Current, Scarlet Throne and two previously available disciplines, chosen upon taking the PrC. PrC-levels count as full initiator levels and 3rd level and every 3 thereafter add +1 readied maneuver. 4th, 6th and 10th level provide +1 stance. The PrC allows the character to substitute Charisma as initiation modifier for all mental attribute modifiers for all class features and maneuvers - which is pretty OP. Additionally, this enhances Razor Wit and provides benefits for soulknives. Dramatic Entries, better starting reputation...okay. Using counters sans expending immediate actions 1/encounter at 3rd level, +1/encounter every 3 levels thereafter, is pretty powerful. At higher levels, the plot armor stance can be used and these guys get gold for the fanfiction written about the. As a capstone, the hero can't die anymore...unless it's fittingly climactic.


Next up would be the Drowmedary-race,a combination of drow and gamla - these folks get a full age, height and weight-table (with a minor grey-line-formatting glitch) and are humanoids with the elf and akashic subtypes. They have normal speed, +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, get +1 bonus essence and get poison spit that scales with the levels - usable 1/minute, range 10 ft. The spit can stagger foes and even knock them unconscious and essence can be invested in it as though the ability were a veil - essence invested increases reach and DC. Personally, I think the DC-increase is a bit excessive here - in my game, I'd rather increase the reach-increase from 5 ft. per essence invested to +10 ft. Also, since the alternate, difficult-terrain-causing class feature that spits webs instead is rather outclassed by this one. Drowmedary also get a teamwork bonus feat they can share for Cha-mod rounds with all allied drowmedaries within 60 ft.. See, this is one of the abilities that looks fine in a general adventuring group - but when all players play the race, it gets ridiculous fast. I'd strongly advise in favor of a daily limit or similar factor to prevent this getting out of hand. Instead of this, they can also get climb speed via spidery legs.


The pdf has one more thing to offer, namely the gelatinous cube monster class - HD d8, -4 Dex, +4 Con; Ooze type, speed 15 ft., acid immunity. The cube is considered intelligent, blind, has blindsight, can't be tripped and gets 2+Int skills per level. They get a slam attack and transparency at 1st level. Their class spans 4 levels, has all bad saves, 3/4 BAB-prgression and nets +4 Con on every level but the 1st, but also -2 Dex per level. Paralysis potency increases every level, 3rd provides +1d6 acid damage and 4th level nets size-increase to large as well as engulf. The write-up also sports two racial feats - one that nets you a pseudopod and a second feats allows the cube to assume humanoid form. If you really want to go cubey, I'd also suggest checking out Rite Publishing's "In the Company of Gelatinous Cubes", their April-product last year.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules level - the wordings are generally tight, though some minor glitches can be seen here and there. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' full-color two-column standard and the pdf has no artworks. It does, however, have bookmarks and it comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.


Anthony S. Altovilla, Forrest Heck, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Jeffrey Swank and Kevin Ryan provide some hilarious options here - with a wink, sure...but functional nonetheless! While I am not sold on each and every design decision, I do love a lot of the components herein - the Edge Lord made me laugh so hard and the drowmedary are similarly fun. (2 cents if you play one dual-wielding scimitars...) Yeah, yeah, endy has to complain about blabla... but guess what? I don't want to. This is a pay what you want product that offers significantly more great ideas than many commercial releases. Sure, I don't consider all perfect - but you can literally take a look and then tip the authors...and seriously, you should. The material is worth it, particularly for Path of War-fans, for whom the majority of content herein is intended. This may not be perfect in formal criteria or balance-wise, but it's fun and there is no component herein that will truly break anyone's game. Taking that and the PWYW-aspect into account, I arrive at a final verdict of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
April Augmented
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Occult Character Codex: Mesmerists
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/12/2016 02:59:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Occult Character Codex-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I like Occult Adventures - a lot. It's one of my favorite Paizo-books out there and the classes rekindled my faith in Paizo's class design, even though the book has some rough edges here and there. Suffice to say, the rather complex classes are cool - but making characters with them takes obviously a bit longer than for less involved classes...and we're all time-starved anyways, right? This is where this series comes in - basically, we have a collection of characters herein, spanning the CRs from 1 - 20, all ready and set for your perusal.


So how were they made? Well, for one, the builds use Pathfinder Unchained's automatic bonus progression, which means that the characters have a better chance to stand against the PCs sans flooding the campaign with magic items - a decision I very much welcome. The builds are not made to be sheer exercises in powergaming superiority that exist in a vacuum, instead championing the approach of making viable characters, complete with a brief personality sketch, though that component is less pronounced than in Purple Duck Games' codices. Options and buffs are included in the statblocks, though handy pre-buff sections provide the information sans them, should your PCs be able to catch the character unaware.


Beyond that, advice on using the characters in combat and class-specific peculiarities are covered as well. The design philosophy, in spite of the relatively brief fluff texts for the characters, is that you have living characters, not an exercise in min-maxing - while efficient at their given tasks and roles, the NPCs in this book ultimately are supposed to feel like they are more than an engine of fine-tuned destruction, sporting e.g. skills that can be used in contexts beyond combat. Long-duration spells are included in the respective statblock, though they also feature lines that provide the stats sans buff-suites. It should be noted that the tactics-section before and during combat is pretty detailed in this book, making the spontaneous handling of the mesmerists in this book slightly easier. A brief guideline regarding the handling of mesmerists is part of the deal before we dive right into the statblocks themselves.


So, we have a massive book of mesmerists spanning the whole range of levels - from level 1 - 20. As far as archetypes are concerned, we get Cult Leaders and Spirit Walkers (the latter in one of the builds multiclassed with 1 fighter level), but no Toxiticians or Vexing Daredevils. (And no, Occult realms' Umbral Mesmerist neither...) On the plus-side, the racial selection this time around is interesting, to say the least: The wonderfully fitting nagaji and kitsune races are represented herein alongside changelings and yes, doppelgängers - the three doppelgänger statblocks are assumed to be part of a doppelgänger conspiracy and represent leaders at different stages of their cabal. Interesting here: While they share some spells in common as a kind of leitmotif, the lists still are diverse and exhibit different foci, a practice that also extend to feat selection -while at first glance, doppelgänger mesmerists wielding greatswords of various potency look similar, even a casual glimpse at the respective feats shows that they employ different tactics and play differently as adversaries. Similarly, spell-lists of the characters that may seem familiar have been tweaked in a lot of subtle nuances that end up creating remarkably different experiences.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several beautiful pieces of full-color artwork, some old, some new. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Julian Neale's collection of mesmerists is diverse, interesting and sports quite an array of truly distinct, unique builds. While, like in the first book, the flavor-text is pretty minimalistic, the builds themselves are varied and interesting. Granted, I would have loved to see the other archetypes covered as well, but that is me being a spoiled bastard reviewer from hell. In the end, these mesmerists are solid, fun and work well - the statblocks I took apart sported no glitches, which is also a feat worth mentioning. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Character Codex: Mesmerists
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Paranormal Adventures
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2016 04:49:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 61 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, after a brief introduction to the matter at hand (and an artwork that obviously details Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural as medieval iterations of themselves, setting a kind-of theme for the book), we dive into the first class, which would be the shapeshifter. The shapeshifter base class receives d10, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with club, dagger, darts, quarterstaff, shortspear, sling and spear as well as all natural attacks and light armor. They gain a full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves.


So that's it chassis-wise. At 1st level, they gain the ability to...wait for it: Change shape. Blew your mind there, didn't I? ;P Kidding aside, the shapechanger gets the subtype of the same name, and in a perfect example of Alexander Augunas' holistic design philosophy, he also gain a bonus animal provided he does gain the ability to change into a respective animal via racial traits and applies the Disguise bonus to both the racial animal form and the other abilities of the assumed form. At 1st level, the shapeshifter gains the ability to assume a number of animal shapes drawn from the list of animal kingdoms (more on that later) and may, as a supernatural polymorph effect as a standard action assume the form of the animal shape. However, the animal form assumed does not grant Disguise-bonuses (as opposed to the humanoid shapechange, for example) and items do NOT meld into the new form.


When assuming a larger form, the shapechanger breaks his equipment and may be entangled unless he makes a Reflex-save based on size-bonuses to CMB granted by the larger form. If the form is significantly larger, he may even destroy his equipment! And yes, item-types and magic is taken into account. A shapechanger begins play knowing two animal shapes, +1 if his race already has the shapechanger subtype, with each level providing +1 shape. When such a form is chosen, the shapechanger needs to specify the animal kingdom, the specific creature and size of the animal shape. Initially, only sizes tiny, small and medium are available for animal shapes, with 5th level unlocking Diminutive and Large creatures, 9th level providing access to Fine and Huge ones, 13th providing access to Gargantuan and 17th to Colossal animal shapes. Animal shapes can be maintained indefinitely and when applicable any save-DCs granted by an animal are equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + Con modifier.


While in animal form, the shapechanger gains a bonus to damage depending on how far away from the largest size category available he is - e.g. if the shapechanger has access to Large shapes, he gains a +2 bonus to damage when assuming a Small shape, +1 when assuming a Medium shape, +3 when assuming a Tiny shape, etc. And yes, a handy table explains this in detail. Additionally, starting at 1st level, 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shapechanger receives one adaptation - basically the talent array of the class - and OH BOY are there many! From gaining one ability score from the chosen animal when in its shape to skill-bonuses, scaling fast healing (that is balanced by being negated by silver weapons and a daily limit, retaining compatibility with ALL, even the most gritty of campaigns!), faster movement, limited item melding, hybrid shapes, altering size categories (for e.g. diminutive wolves...), proper blending as a creature - there is a TON of material here. Particularly impressive: Several templates are available (you must choose, alas) that can be applied a limited amount of minutes to shapechanged forms for a boost and yes, swarm shapes. Need I say more?


This is, however, not where the customization ends: Starting at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the shapechanger gets one instinct - these would be the second type of talents of the class - and yes, once again we have an impressive array available: Burrowing Charges (at 8th level prereq balanced), distracting harassment in small shapes, empathy with one's kingdom, natural weapon flurry, high-level hide in plain sight, better charges with stingers, bites and gores, evasion and uncanny dodge and their improved brothers, animal shape combat maneuvers, hardness reduction, attack-prevention from one's kingdom's members, moving through thorns etc. sans taking damage at 4th level...pretty impressive. While I've gone on the record with my loathing of the stalwart ability, at 6th level and considering the issues of the class with equipment and the restrictions imposed on it, my playtest actually determined, somewhat to my admitted chagrin, that the ability works nicely here. grumbles Oh yes, Toss and Throat-Rip are part of the deal...and if you're like me and an utter fanboy of Alex's superb Ultimate Charisma - well, there's an option to make better use of psychological combat as well. (Mind you, even if you don't have that book, there are about a gazillion of options to choose from...)


At 3rd level, the class gains Savage Spirit a scaling bonus to atk, damage and AC, with bonus type being modified by animal shape (clever!) and said bonus is also added to additional parameters depending on which attribute-association the chosen animal shape has: Strength-based animals add it to CMB, Wisdom-based ones to Will-saves and Perception (and gain an increase of special senses, if applicable) - one again, a tactical, fun and complex rules-operation that manages to seemingly effortlessly provide strategic depth and get an ability right that would be a trainwreck in a lesser authors hands. Starting at 5th level, natural weapons are counted as magic, with further DR-mitigating properties being unlocked at appropriate levels. As a capstone, the shapeshifter may treat every animal form as though it were associated with every ability score, gaining a brutal omni-buff as well as free shapeshifting - even while in the process of executing a full-attack: Basically, become a morphing shredder of death 1/day. Awesome.


Now I noted animal kingdoms, which play a significant roles in the codification of the respective forms. Each kingdom has a base shape that determines forms, modifications to speed, sight, presence of hands, types of natural attacks, etc. Each is associated with two different attributes and provides increases in potency at 2nd, 8th and 15th level, including bonus feats, improved movement rates, etc. - 15 are provided and they include dinosaurs and humanoids! And yes, they span multiple pages. As a minor nitpick - the bear's 15th level ability obviously should not refer to the Diehard feats and instead apply the ferocity quality, as it references a feat not necessarily there - the special quality would circumvent this issue and is what the 2nd level ability grants. Apart from this one, I noticed no glitches in this massive chapter.


The second class could be summed up as "Castiel-or-any-demons/angels from Supernatural"-the class. Vessels get d8 HD, 4+Int skills per level, a cleric's alignment aura corresponding to the passenger, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression and full Will-save progression. Vessels cast psychic spells drawn from the cleric-list, governed by Charisma as key attribute, which affects spells per day and DCs, but NOT spells known. They are spontaneous casters and learn to cast spells of up to 6th level. Their 0-level spells are known as knacks. A vessel can't cast spells of an opposed alignment.


Vessels choose a passenger at 1st level - an outsider that must be within one alignment step of the vessel. This influences a couple of the class's abilities. It should be noted that mental control and possession immunity, unless practiced by a +4 levels more powerful individual are side-effects, which makes these guys pretty much the nightmare of all enchanters - not the biggest fan there. At 1st level, the class also gets the grace ability: A vessel accepts grace into his body using invocations - each such invocation allows the vessel to accept 1 point of grace into his body as a move action. An invocation remains in effect for 1 minute per class level or until a given combat ends. No, this cannot be cheesed A vessel can hold up to 3+Con-mod grace at a given time and may not use an invocation when his grace is full. Invocations provide bonuses depending on the type of invocations used and the bonuses stack over the levels - the closest analogue here would probably be judgments. Okay, so back to the grace ability: For each point of grace he accepts, the vessel either takes character level nonlethal damage or loses 1/2 vessel level spell slots, minimum 1. Now here's the interesting thing: The nonlethal damage incurred by this ability does NOT regenerate and can ONLY be healed via a full night's sleep - so no spamming and the precise wording prevents ANY attempts to cheese these mechanics I could come up with - watertight indeed.


Starting at 2nd level and every three levels thereafter, the vessel may choose an omen - these special powers are powered by grace expended and their DCs, if applicable are based on the 10+1/2 class level + Charisma modifier-based formula. The breadth and depth of these options is exceedingly impressive - whether we're talking about planar adaptation instead of receiving the benefits of the invocation, altering detect spells, selecting cruelties or mercies or synergy with the destructive invocation...or domains...or touch with effects governed by alignment of the touched creature in relation to that of the vessel's passenger, telekinesis...the amount of options and their internal class synergy and how they work is surprisingly unique. At 2nd level, he gains 1/2 class level to all caster level checks , skill checks and Int-checks pertaining occult rituals. 3rd level provides the grace overfloweth ability - whenever he accepts grace, he manifests a sign of his passenger's presence and gains grace boons based upon subtype of the passenger and vessel level. The first boon is gained at 3rd level, with an additional one unlocked every 3 levels thereafter. Grace manifestation may be suppressed as a full-round action, but this also suppresses all grace boons.


Starting at 4th level, a vessel begins the day with 1 grace that does not deal damage, +1 at 10th and 16th level, with maximum grace also increasing by this amount, though it should be noted that these do not activate aforementioned grace overfloweth abilities. At 6th level, a vessel can benefit from two invocations at once as separate actions or use one action to accept 2 points of grace, but these must be paid for in nonlethal damage and can't be negated via burning spells. A similar ability gained at 15th level does pretty much the same for 3 invocations instead. 7th level provides teleportation-related tricks powered by grace, which extend in potency and options at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter, unlocking progressively better abilities at higher grace-costs Starting at 20th level, 1/day, they can accept 10 points of perfect grace - these can be used to activate any ability as though they were points of grace, count as minimum grace required and do not count against the limit of total number of points of grace. These points last for 1 minute and do not cause nonlethal damage.


Okay, so what about those passengers? Each belongs to a class of outsiders and has an alignment, associated domains, DR, different grace manifestations and a linear boon progression from 3rd level to 15th - somewhat akin to a more complex order or bloodline. Covered are Aeons, Agathions, Angels, Archons, Azata, Daemons (alas, lacking the 12th level ability), Demons, Devils, Div, Inevitables, Kami, Proteans and Psychoomps - so yes, there is a LOT to choose from and a lot of potential for expansion. The ability-dispersion along the levels when taken in combination with the respective domains and DRs generally result in an impressive internal balancing - overall, I considered none of the passenger ability-suites stronger than the others. Want an example for the abilities? All right! Psychopomp-passenger geta scaling body-upgrade at 3rd level and sights; 5th level allows for grace-expenditure for ghost-sight; Psychopomp's 9th level ability allows for the expenditure of grace to avoid auto-detection via e.g. blindsight etc., with 12th level granting spirit sense, 15th permanent tongues and 18th level apotheosis-style tricks...including rays powered by grace that may permanently slay/destroy the living and undead alike - which brings me to an interesting component: The kinda-apotheosis-like abilities of the vessel are surprisingly not boring - after having seen so many of these types of abilities, it's pretty hard to do something interesting for me in that regard and these passengers manage just that - kudos!


All right, so that would be the new classes, now let's take a look at the archetypes and class options contained herein! We begin with a firearm ranger combat style and then get the Monster Hunter Ranger archetype - yep, that would be the Winchester-archetype. These guys get an extended class skill list that includes the Knowledge-skills and they add 1/2 ranger level and Wisdom modifier to them when trying to identify creature abilities and weaknesses instead of wild empathy. I'm generally not a big fan of adding two attribute modifiers to a given skill check, though MAD at least partially mitigates this concern here. Instead of favored enemy, monster hunters receives bonuses when correctly identifying creature abilities and weaknesses. This ability has a sensible, level-based scaling mechanism. Starting at 4th level, monster slayers can apply aforementioned bonus always, for up to class level monster types or subtypes and higher levels provide means to reallocate these slaying specializations.


The shapeshifter has significantly more to offer than its already impressive basic class - namely an array of animal subkingdoms -a total of 10 of them, to be precise - whether we're talking about ant, tyrannosaur, triceratop, cheetah or gecko - each of them provides a rather complex modification of the base kingdom: Porcupine shapechangers have e.g. retributive quills that can also be implanted with tail slaps, with high level shapeshifter even combining quills with dirty trick maneuvers -so yes, the rules-operations are unique and complex and each subkingdom has at least one replacement abilities, while most have 3...and yes, venomous snakes and wasps can be found here as well. Personally, I consider the wasp subkingdom's 1st level flight at 30 ft, average maneuverability potentially problematic, since unassisted unlimited flight is usually relegated to higher levels, so that can be problematic, depending on your campaign. Beyond these subkingdoms, two different archetypes are provided. The mimicker needs direct contact to properly change in a specific creature, but does gain the ability to properly mimic the creature to not look like an odd version of the animal shaped mimicked, with higher levels providing more animal shapes and basically a "stored" shape after contact - a small archetype, but one with a truly distinct playstyle.


The second archetype provided would be the selfshaper, who is always treated as though it assumed the animal form associated with the shapeshifter kingdom that matches her true form, but sans gaining the shapeshifter kingdom's abilities and may not select adaptations or instincts requiring one or more animal shapes. This replaces shapechanger, while 1st level also allows the option to alter size or reach (at 7th level: both; with later levels further increasing the options) as a standard action, with a level-based progression of available options somewhat similar to that of the base class, obviously modified to account for the options of the archetype. Stretching body and grasp exclusive instincts, among others, make this one interesting.


Vessels can replace the 2nd level omen with an expanded spell-list and replace a limited amount of omens with oracle revelations from limited mystery-lists when choosing to take the fatespinner archetype. The Messiah archetype receives the psychic spells of the psychic class modified by the sorc/wiz necromancy (aging) and transmutation spells (the subschool can be found in the highly anticipated Grimoire of Lost Souls) and the archetype also gains the native outsider type in addition to his original type. 2nd level provides a phrenic amplification and 1/2 level phrenic points, while 6th level provides the option to use grace to cast spells not known from his spell-list, replacing the 8th level omen. I get the balancing here, but I do think gaining an ability at 8th level would have been nice - as written, 8th level becomes pretty much dead for the archetype - +1 spell at 3rd level, that's it.


The planar scribe replaces the omens gained at 2nd, 8th and 20th level with bardic performance and associated omens - these allow the scribe to e.g. learn masterpieces and unlock progressively better bardic music abilities, including options to use grace to enhance the DC of abilities gained - an interesting hybrid archetype. The witch class also sports two archetypes - the bookbonded replaces a witch's familiar and the 1st level hex with a spellbook as the wizards uses, which, at 3rd level, will double as an implement, with additional schools being unlocked at 8th level and every 6 levels thereafter. The chosen school of the implement can be reassigned daily; this ability also nets the base focus power and 1/2 class level mental focus., replacing 2nd level's hex. 4th level allows for the learning of focus powers instead of hexes and 10th level provides the means to make the book count as acting for two implement schools at once. The song-hexer receives a fixed list of bonus spells in lieu of patron spells and basically can be considered to be a witch/bard-crossover archetype that pay for the bardic tricks with hexes - all in all, a nice one.


The two new classes also sport a ridiculously detailed list of favored class options - beyond core races and the usual "sexy" races à la aasimar, drow, tiefling, etc., from vanara to undine to gathlain, we extend the options to dragons(!!) and even ghorans, kasatha, lashunta or traxians and even androids are covered - kudos for going the truly extra mile here! Better yet, the favored class options ALSO provide the highly intriguing and modular everyman class options-selections for vessel and shapeshifter - kudos!


The feat-section provides the usual extra x/class- and archetype-enhancer feats, though better synergy with family-members via a teamwork feat and means to stay conscious when nonlethal damage exceeds your current hit points, the section does sport some rather cool tricks - two well-crafted traits can be found here as well.


Monster-wise, there are two templates that allow creatures to gain shapeshifter and vessel tricks (Cr +1 or +2, depending on HD) and there are new creatures herein - to be more precise, a new subtype, and it is absolutely GLORIOUS: Born from the rotten blood of the elder deity Leviathan, the Levialogoi are unique in various ways - namely that the subtype makes them actually capable of standing before even mythic adversaries sans immediately evaporating in sprays of foul blood: Beyond massive resistances, DR and Regeneration, they can assume shapes, have an affinity for templates, SR and lethal natural attacks - basically, these beings made my jaded players scream "WHY WON'T IT DIE??"...and yes, they actually died for once! Don't get me wrong, these monsters are balanced and unique...but the impressive component is frankly that they have defenses that make them viable, lethal foes against even high-level parties - the wonderfully disturbing artworks for them (3, btw.) emphasize this...oh, and the sample creatures provided clock in at CR 20 and CR 25. I absolutely ADORE them and hope we'll see more of these delightfully brutal foes!


Now if you're a fan of Supernatural, the occult rituals will make you smile: Drawing a glyph to banaish specific outsiders? Check. Message by blood? Check. Crossroads-devil summoning? Check. Outsider blood as psychic power? Check. Finding objects/persons via a ritual on a map? Check. Also awesome: Shrinking foes down (Microsized Adventures-synergy), swapping minds, absorbing memory in quicksilver solutions, permanent creature transformation and a twisted ritual to extend one's life or cheat death by consuming souls are awesome and allow for recreation of the often inspiring imagery used in the series - and even if you dislike it, rest assured that these work in every campaign.


The book closes with a small 2-page chapter, primarily useful for less experienced GMs, detailing how to set up a basic paranormal investigation adventure. The advice provided is sound.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, if not perfect - there are a few of minor cut copy paste hiccups, as mentioned above. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork-wise, Jacob Blackmon delivers some of the best pieces I've seen him draw, with particularly the Levialogoi being downright...creepy. The constant presence of the quasi-Winchesters as drawn characters herein is nice as well if you're familiar with the series; if not, they'll still be neat pieces, with big chapter-introduction artworks standing out particularly.


Alexander Augunas' Paranormal Adventures is a thoroughly impressive book - if you need a good reason why there are precious few crunch-authors out there that show up often on my top-ten-lists, here's a very apt example: Quite frankly, few sport the same level of mastery regarding the construction of highly complex systems with a rules-language this PRECISE. better yet, he has a firm grasp on balance and tends towards more complex and novel mechanisms - much like Bradley Crouch, Alexander Augunas pushes the boundaries - from a mechanical stand-point, the shapeshifter presented herein is a thoroughly impressive feat regarding the operation of rules-syntax and semantics...and in unique balancing mechanisms, for the item-based balancing of the class, while problematic-looking on paper, is frankly brilliant. This is perhaps the most versatile, unique shapeshifter of the "morph into full-blown animals"-type I know. (Bradley Crouch's Animist works alongside this one, since its focus is Wolpertinger-style-morphing.)


Similarly, the Vessel sports a unique playstyle, with the HP-powered abilities actually working - exceedingly well, if I may add! I tend to be extremely wary of these types of mechanics, but here, they work perfectly - the vessel class also is now allowed in my games and both classes should work sans modifications in a very wide array of games, from gritty rare magic to high fantasy. While the feats provide pretty much what you'd expect, the archetypes once again run a relatively broad array of options and sport not a single boring or filler-type - each radically changes the options available. And then there would be the massive, unprecedented favored class options, the supremely awesome Levialogoi and the cool rituals...which simply rock, no matter how you look at them - even if you hate Supernatural, these will work rather perfect in your games and deliver a truly unique flair to the proceedings.


Yes, there are a precious few minor hiccups in this book (I commented on all that truly galled me...so yeah...emphasis on "few"), though if Alexander's track record is any indicator, these should be purged sooner than later...but know what? They pale beyond the sheer awesomeness contained herein. Beyond the complexity and challenge to design this material, the book oozes practically the passion and heart's blood that went into it. If you're a Supernatural fan, you absolutely NEED this book...and even if you dislike the series (or consider it by now more of a guilty pleasure), this book's rules, aptly-written prose and overall package is simply exceedingly impressive. Considering the top-layer difficulty of crafting these rules and balancing them, the sheer number of flawless components and the comparably almost non-existent glitches, this book still receives my highest accolades - as mentioned time and again: I'd rather read a complex, daring, novel book with one or two hiccups than reward retreading conservative and bland designs. Paranormal Adventures contains some of the most impressive crunch-designs I've seen all year and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and the status as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Paranormal Adventures
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Shattered Heart Adventure Path #4: Crucible of Faith
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2016 04:46:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The (for now) final installment of the superb Shattered Heart-saga clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let's take a look and answer the question whether this installment managed to retain the ridiculously high quality of the first three parts of the series!


This being an adventure-review, the following text contains MASSIVE SPOILERS. Potential players should not read ahead and jump to the conclusion instead.


...


..


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Still here? Only GMs around? Great! So the worst is done, right? I mean, this powerful paladin has been establishing an outpost on the wild, jungle-island with its volcano, what can possibly go wrong? Everything. The PCs are on trek to the burning isle...and it's not looking good. Upon arriving at the newly established colony, they are not welcomed as saviors - for the few people that do exist still on this accursed land lack the strength to do so. Diseases run rampant throughout the settlement - from bubonic plague to slimy doom and worse, all are afflicted...including the paladin Faerilon. Provided the PCs can care for the weakened populace, they'll notice a couple of disquieting developments - when an ashen giant with a rather dark sense of humor arrived, people were all too happy to have the massive brute help with construction - even though his tree-slingshot-like means of transporting proved perilous for the smaller population...but when people started disappearing, getting sick...well, who if not that leprous brute to blame? Under pressure, the poor sap of a paladin ventured forth to slay the giant - who happily obliged in combat, but ultimately proved to be no match for the holy warrior...who had, in fear and ignorance just slain a creature based on prejudice...and promptly fell. This is when a grotesque, equine-skull-headed monstrosity took the paladin...and did things to him. From there on, it only took a dead cleric to make the local situation escalate at a horrid pace - welcome PCs, enjoy your all-expenses not paid trip to killer plague island incorporated!


Kidding aside, the module goes into ample depth regarding the fighting of the various plagues and caring for the populace and, much like in the installments before, the PC's actions do matter - the community point score (handy tracker included) determines the ultimate outcome of this module. Whether or not the PCs manage to save the populace or not, the module can be pictured as pretty much a sandboxy exploration of a rather hostile wilderness environment: Strange ape-men (kech) are hiding in the jungle alongside their disease-carrying ape companions and if the PCs don't intervene, even reaching the final temple, much less restoring it, will prove to be nigh impossible. In the forests, multiple fully mapped encounters await and grisly talismans lead deeper and deeper into kech territory. A particularly grisly find awaits the PCs upon finding the remains of the slain ash giant - entombed in mud and focus of dread magics, the mud-baked carcass rises as the new monster herein - lavishly illustrated the dread yercindere with its tentacles and diseases makes for a dread agent of the mastermind behind the kech's aggressions - in case you haven't figured that out by now: A leukodaemon stalks the jungles and he and his allies make for brutal foes and deadly ambushes - but unless the PCs stop these dread beings, there's probably be no colony left to return to...


Making their way past the hellish jungle (potentially infected with a disease/poison-combo that is a truly nasty affliction), the PCs will have to make their way in the direction of the badlands, where steam geysers and vaporized flesh provide icky hazards and fallen gobbets of leprous flesh bespeak a horrid sense of humor on the side of the remaining, though not necessarily hostile ash giant, who btw. takes the news of his brother's death with a cynic pun...and provides directions, when prompted - to either the "big" trouble of the "little" one. Hint: Both are truly nasty territories titan centipedes or HUGE amounts of army ants - the PCs will unknowingly pick their poison, while hopefully not falling prey to the roaming belkers. Btw.: The ant-combat may be actually the more lethal of the two - one careless application of fire and the PCs face off against a nasty grass fire - full, detailed hazard rules provided.


And yes, in the end, the PCs will have to scale the mountain - these climbing challenges take magic into account...and if you're like me, you may actually want to flesh out that section a bit: Call to Arms: Ropes by Fat Goblin Games imho makes with its pioneering a nice supplement to enrich the trip through the jungle further. Well, suffice to say, the climbing PCs may well draw the attention of multiple flame drakes. The crater itself sports a unique type of magical flora, firefrost moss, which can provide an interesting edge - for, within the crater, a massive tree of obsidian looms, as lava trickles in streams from it - the PCs have to brave magma oozes and elementals crazed by the desecration of the tree in a furious and truly intriguing combat - with streams of lava and the tree standing at the very edge of the volcano, the PCs can meet rather grisly demise due to the smart selection of foes. Attaching the proper, healthy branch may see the tree come back to health and the PCs return home to live happily ever after...right?


...


Wrong. Instead of a hero's welcome, the PCs are greeted by emissaries from the eldermoot and a newly reinstated paladin, with papers that show Carlyetta (and them!) to have been deemed guilty of heresy - uncommon harshness for the eldermoot, for sure. However, neither the inevitable waiting in the wings, nor the paladin or the halflings seem to care much...let's hope that astute PCs realize that one of the envoys is indeed their asura foe in disguise, which can potentially make the finale easier...but still challenging. Should the PCs prevail, it's once more time to tally up the community points and see how Carlyetta's mission has went - how much communal spirit and openness is within the hearts of halflings very much depends on them...and whether Carlyetta has to rejoin the fallen leaves among the clergy. Their foe may be defeated...but the corruption at the heart of the eldermoot and the accusation of heresy surely provide ample means for further adventuring...and hopefully epilogue modules in the future...


As always, the pdf does contain player-friendly versions of the gorgeous maps, with and without grids.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to AAW Games' two-column full-color standard for the series and the book sports multiple awesome full-color artworks. Cartography is absolutely superb and quality-wise excellent. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the PoD-premium dead tree version sports a neat glossy cover, thick paper and vibrant colors.


Michael Allen's final installment depicting the re-consecration of the holy tree-shrines of Piccolo is perhaps the most conventional of the modules - compared to the mind-bogglingly evocative third installment, the overall set-up is less complex, less fantastic...and needs to be played to truly work its magic. The combination of elemental themes and pervading sense of decay suffusing the environments herein work in more subtle ways, but they do work - where the previous installments required quick thinking and focused on a wide diversity of tasks, the structure of this module very much mimics the flame and fire of its element: It begins with a slow burn, ignites and then continues to increase the heat. Unlike the previous modules, this one's focus is less on investigation and more on pure wilderness survival against a cadre of lethal adversaries and challenges. This does not, by any means, make the module bad, mind you - the modular, somewhat sandboxy depiction of the island and its perils fits the theme and provides a welcome change of pace, with "burning" - both physically and metaphorically (fear, faith, rage, disease, etc.), constituting an apt leitmotif for the module. While my personal favorite remains the third of these modules, ultimately all of them, this included, can be considered to be masterpieces; to what extent depends on your taste, but their quality as such cannot be doubted.


My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and, yes, nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2015.


Since this seems, for now, to be the last of the Shattered Heart-adventures, let me with some observations regarding the whole adventure arc (APs are whole campaigns in my book that span at least two thirds of PC-levels...):


Shattered Heart is one of the smartest and most rewarding linked series of adventures I've read. The saga constantly takes note and the community point gauge for moral behavior works well, though the farther the modules progress, the easier it becomes to maintain a good chunk of them. The tactics of the primary antagonist are a joy and befitting of a creature sporting this intellect and agenda. Maps that feature illusions as handouts remain one of my favorite things to see in a given module and going the extra mile in that regard is fantastic. The awareness of modularity and fact that this series assumes smart players is refreshing - players are rewarded constantly for using their brain and showing compassion.


The critical achievement of the series, to me, lies in the fact that it takes basically one of the blandest plotline-structures (Re-consecrate elemental temples? Oh, haven't seen that one before...) and blows you away with it - both thanks to the unique cultures and downright awesome environments you explore, this series manages to make the old trope of elemental temples actually work with a narrative vibrancy that invigorates one's inspiration. The problem for all authors out there, though, is that from now on, any elemental-themed module will automatically be compared with this series...and beating it will be exceedingly difficult. The end of the saga if open and deservedly so - the Shattered Heart-series presented herein very much inspired me as a GM...and it certainly could use two or three follow-up modules...perhaps the "Sickened Heart"? The curious amount of two rather rare outsiders, time and again, do point towards further threats to Piccolo...and I sure as hell want to see the PCs trying to clear Carlyetta's name, engage in the shadow politics and backdealing of the society here...heck, should this ever be made into a hardcover, rest assured that both setting and expanded adventure-possibilities exist in abundance. The fact that each module plays differently, but manages to retain the same exceedingly high quality standard is impressive - most series sooner or later falter, at least a bit. This does not. Shattered Heart, as a collective, is a gem that establishes Michael Allen as one of my favorite adventure authors. Get these modules - they're worth every single penny.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shattered Heart Adventure Path #4: Crucible of Faith
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Frozen Gardens Winter Special
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2016 04:43:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of Rusted Iron Games' extra-long specials in the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1/2 a page editorial + SRD, leaving us with ~11.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so this pdf begins somewhat different than one would expect, introducing us first to the realm of eternal winter, a demi-plane of eternal ice...and otherwise sans unique planar traits, which is a bit of a missed chance there. The pdf provides two magic items - the first is the Cask of Ancient Winters, which, when opened, spreads lethal cold and enhances associated magic, while the second is Winter's Edge, a frosty short sword that, as a swift action, may turn into a longsword or dagger while also providing endure elements. Rather interesting: The wielder can 1/day perform a melee cone-attack of cold and piercing damage, based on regular attack damage, with creatures beyond the primary target receiving a Ref-save to halve - but this leaves the blade gone...which is no big deal, since it can be regrown as a move action. Same goes for when it's broken. Unique, evocative and cool in both flavor and crunch-departments, both of these items are killer and awesome.


Now, even better than that, we get 7 terrain types for finer graded depths of snow or adventuring on glaciers and 6 entries of winter weather. Beyond these, 6 specific hazards, both supernatural and mundane, await - including crevasses and frost wheat patches. And yes, fields of seracs and how to navigate them...covered. Awesome!


The first creature herein, the Prickly Cold Pine at CR 12 can cause coniferous trees to emit auras of needles, create clouds of them that hamper vision, swing branches or utilize the classic grasping roots - nasty! Oh, and the killer trees can thrown spiked pinecones at foes. The full-color artwork looks a bit goofy, but honestly, who cares - the creature is pretty awesome and a versatile lethal foe - adventurers may well not realize what hit them! Two thumbs up!


The second creature herein is the CR 6 Shivervine, which sports an aura of cold and a nasty death throes-ability. beyond that, they can fire petal spines and perform slam attacks...oh, and the tendrils prevent those grappled from casting spells...ouch! And yes, the slams have the grab quality. On a nitpicky side, while the flavor text specified this, it took me a bit of time to get which of the attacks cause blood drain - it's obviously the melee. Apart from this hiccup, a well-crafted ice-flower of the more lethal kind with a gorgeous b/w-artwork.


This is not where we end, though: The next creature would basically be a killer snowman, the CR 6 Snow Goon, which is a sentient, evil construct that comes complete with crafting information and fatigue-inducing criticals. If that's not your CR-range, well, there also is an upgraded CR 12 version herein that can throw lethal snow-boulders and has nastier SPs. (Yes, again, including crafting-info...) Someone was traumatized by the 5th Battletoads level it seems... ;)


The pdf also contains 6 natural items - the yeti pelt helps you keep warm, while frost wheat can be brewed into perpetually cool beer...yes, I can see that spawning caravans and modules: Escort the beer from the frigid north to the desert kingdoms! Living snowboulders and snowballs and a whip made from shivervine tendrils as well as the spiked prickly cone pine pinecones complement this section - and yes, we do receive well-crafted power-component entries for living snowballs and spiked pinecones.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the minor hiccup and one artwork being VERY close to the text, I noticed no issues and these are, honestly, negligible. Layout adheres to a two-column color standard and artworks range from color to b/w, though the shivervine's b/w-artwork herein is by far my favorite. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Russ Brown, Jesse Winter, Ismael Alvarez and Jan Wilheln van den Brink have crafted a great little pdf: Granted, I was not blown away by the killer snowmen or the demiplane, but everything else is awesome - the magic items are evocative and feel magical and the two plants are both superbly twisted beasts. Add to that the cool mundane natural items and power components and we have a well-crafted book for a more than fair price-point. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgest out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Frozen Gardens Winter Special
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Alpha Blue
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/08/2016 07:41:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive sourcebook clocks in at 114 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 4 pages of note-space, 1 page blank, 1 page Kort'thalis-glyph, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 100 pages of content, so let's take a peek!


This book was moved ahead in my review-queue due to me receiving a complimentary print copy.


Okay, before we start: This is a satire, a spoof of 70s and 80s cheesy, low budget exploitation-scifi-flicks and aesthetics. Alpha Blue is a space station, where sex addicts were sent to experience experimental treatment techniques - what began as an institution devolved into a space brothel/casino; think of Las Vegas with a thick coating of disco-aesthetics and, obviously, sex. So yes, this supplement will offend some people, while others may be uncomfortable with the tone. If you want to know whether this may be for you, I'd suggest pondering the following: Do you take sex serious or can you laugh about the subject? In the latter case, you'll probably like it. Do you consider the cover illustration offensive? If you do, then this will probably be not for you. Do you enjoy the balls to the wall crazy aesthetics of Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. or do you consider the like problematic? Ahhh, let's cut to the chase: This supplement is named after the legendary Scifi-porn movie "The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue." (In case you're interested: Think dystopian 1984-style scifi after World War III, where sex is very much a caste-system and means of oppression and even love as a way out may not be the way, scarce though it is. Sure, it's a porn-movie, but as far as these go, it is one of the most intelligent ones and elicited a complex array of emotions and can be considered a surprisingly interesting piece of social commentary.


If you have a hard time dealing with sex or being confronted by it in a given medium or taking it with a grain of salt and a wink, you may not enjoy this; however, if you can laugh about sex and all it entails, if you enjoy cheesy scifi...well, then this may very well be for you. Regarding the explicity of the content, this is btw. relatively tame, at least to my sensibilities - there are a few pictures of breasts and one instance of drawn nudity...and that's pretty much it. This still can be considered NSFW, obviously, but yeah...pretty obvious, right?


...okay, I guess that those readers that might be offended have stopped reading right now, so let's get on with the book! After a brief introduction of fluff, we get a dead simple rules-system: A combat round is 20 seconds. Task-resolution works via dice pool: At a disadvantage, you roll 1d6, at an advantage, you roll 3d6 and most normal tasks are resolved via 2d6. You only count the highest number rolled. There are some exceptions where 4d6 or 5d6 are rolled, but these fall in the category of overkill. When you roll a 1, you have a critical failure, 2 is a failure, 3 is a partial failure, 4 a partial success, 5 a success and 6 a critical success. In combat, damage is determined by numbers rolled as well - 1 is a critical fail, 2 and 3 misses and 4 provides 1d6 damage; +1d6 for every number above. Double sixes, triple sixes, etc. increase damage by +1d6 (so triple sixes would cause 5d6 damage). 6 critical. A six-entry critical fail table provides different degrees of unpleasantness for failure. Initiative is handled via first come, first serve...or by order of seating. Armor acts as damage reduction. At level 1, the character has 25 Health, +5 for every level. Characters can survive up to their level into negative HP - at 4th level, a character would die at -5 health. Interesting - in case you lose parts of your body, several types of replacement body parts, including chances for rejection, are provided - so yeah, getting that alien/robotic arm of death may look promising, but should be contemplated thoroughly. Saving throws are dice pools as well - 1 may see another character killed as well, while 6 can actually provide immunity to the given effect for 24 hours. 1/per session, a character may double his dice pool...but 1/session, a GM may do the same. (Just for completion's sake - the proper term in Alpha Blue is SDM - Space Dungeon Master...which is one letter and a switch short of a certain acronym.) Interesting, btw. OSR-conversion is provided in the book - so if you do elect to use this system, you can import pretty easily OSR-content from most variants: HD influences attack dice, attribute bonuses translate to rerolls when the task is associated with the attribute - simple and can be done on the fly. Kudos!


Character creation follows a similar minimalistic style: You choose two rolls - these can be undertaken either to determine a scoundrel or legal occupation - 8 are available each and you can choose to roll two legit ones, two criminal ones, etc.. Scoundrel professions net more money (2d6 x100, as opposed to 1d6 x 100), but also carry a risk - per scoundrel profession, you roll a d4 to determine how far on your trail the authorities are. Characters can have "something special" - be psionic, a zedi, a noble or just be lucky. A massive d100 table of mutations is next: You roll thrice on it - and it is very useful: From mundane issues like cancer to radioactive/freezing touch to flesh that dissolves when in contact with water. There is a chance that your dreams come to life, to get astral projection...or...well... a detachable penis.


A 30-entry table of alien forms also is part of the deal - so yeah, maybe you're playing an alien made of geometric forms. There is a d10 table for sizes and a HUGE table of 100 cultural quirks - these are roleplaying gold: Whether it's seeing personal property as theft, being compelled to do worse than others to make them feel better, adapting fetishes...or what about the conviction that robots need to be liberated via "freedom phrases"? Need some idea what your character did? Roll a d6, d8 and d12, combine the entries and consult the tables. You get something like: "Visiting the spacer academy, a mysterious portal of swirling energy opened up, transporting you to a strange spaceship, where a dying, penis-headed alien taught you to use the artillery on his spaceship." This one would net you advantage with space weaponry...and yes, there are chances you may die...in character creation. While this sounds odd, it actually got some serious laughs at my table. Weird fashion generators and 20 weapons of choice and several things to buy further complement this section. If you believe in astrological signs (a meta-joke if there ever was one in a scifi-context), personality traits based on them can be found here as well.


30 sample associates can be rolled and 20 possible relationships with said associates allow for pretty quick, on the fly ally-creation. Of course, robots are by now recycled: thus, a table provides previous "careers" -whether it's gumball machine or 8-track player... Now seriously - this is supposed to be a bit sleazy, right? Well, 30 options to determine fetishes are provided. If you can't decide which part of a woman you like best, well, there's a table...and for women and gay dudes, fret not: Males are objectified as well: There's a table for the type of males as well. PCs can start with more money...but then they'll have to roll on the 3 debt-tables...including the consequences when they fail repaying your debt. Tables to secure jobs for/as assassins/bounty hunters and tables for their results can be found alongside a 40-entry table of male/female names...so that's pretty much the character creation-section.


Next up would be a general overview of the campaign setting's backdrop - While earth has started the Federation, only the Micro McDonald Disney Walmart Cola corporation keeps earth from being dumped from the federation. There are the draconians,, the reptilian Krylons ad a caliphate of insane space extremists - upon deaths, they believe they'll get 72 cyber virgins. Brain bugs from Starship troopers and space clerics as well as universal phenomena are explained - from hyperspace to the eldritch black hole of S'rrah. And yes, if you ever wanted to know why there are so many humans in the universe...this explains it...sort of. Reasons for interspecies breeding, odd crystals and tech-generators...including effects of strange radiation can be found. Random sensor scanning results, star-quakes and random persons to fall out of time-warps, randomly generated derelict space ships (including tables to determine people aboard and what can be salvaged), a 30-entry table to determine what hides inside an asteroid is handy as well.


Campaign setting information-wise, the book introduces us to the crime syndicate Terra Nostra, the militant unification advocates (who want to unite all people...no matter the price) and the mining vessel crimson dwarf, an obvious, thinly veiled allusion to the scifi cult-series Red Dwarf. Now, obviously, Alpha Blue being what it is, the legendary space hookers (the proper name being "Satisfiers") and rates for rooms are explained - and yes, there is no guarantee you get what you want. Currency is pretty simple and law-wise, Alpha Blue is not only a tax haven - it's also a place where frontier law rules supreme...so expect no help...but also no consequences for killing that bastard over there...Alpha Blue's central computer JCN (aka "Jason") can only be accessed by the captain , the computer expert Dragz Logan or the commander of security, Razor Hash. And yeah, the captain's position fluctuates - one day, Nicholas Cage could be in the seat, while a week from now you might meet Jabba. Oh, and the computer's feelings are subject to rapid change - consult the table.


Alpha Blue also sports a strange type of device - orgasmatrons, which either come in big versions or private use ones - these open a rift to Meteblis 3 1/3, the radiation and blue light (What does it do? It shines blue!) of which heighten all senses to the n-th degree. And yes, they may be hallucinations...but they very much are real. Since these machines penetrate one's mind, applying a mind condom would be prudent. Blue dreamers, aka space viagra, personal hookahs and 12 sample drugs can be consumed - from wizard weed to L-S-triple-D and Pink Floyd, all tastes are catered to. Those who don't practice safe sex may find themselves in a nasty position - 12 unpleasant venereal space diseases can be contracted: From actual crabs living in your pants to sun-shaped solar syphilis, the effects are unpleasant. 10 sample hooks for actually being on Alpha Blue can be found...but pale next to the 12-entry table to "heavy metal it up to 11" - whether your next attack hits an artery, dread Cthulhu suddenly manifests or someone left his keys in the space Lamborghini...or perhaps a woman so gorgeous enters the room that everyone has to save to avoid being dazed. This table very much encompasses the spirit of this whole book - weird, diverse and interesting.


The first thing you see upon arrival, overarching plots and complications, spontaneous alien generator...even what's on the TV (Can't miss the latest episode of The Walking Space Dead or V: The Very Last Conclusive Battle at the End), robot quirks (the header of the section being "Do Robots use Electronic Tampons?"), unique party favors, a 30-entry strong table for walking in on people (With entries like "Crouching penis, hidden vagina")...and so much more can be found. Regarding permanent residency...one of the entries is actually Charlie Sheen and you can witness surreal overindulgence: This guy over there attacking the robot, screaming "bacon"? Yeah, no idea what he used... Similarly, tables of weird cocktails, matrix malfunctions, and 8-ball style inefficient therapy robots - table-wise, this book is chock-full and fully staffed indeed.


The description of the respective sections of Alpha Blue is similarly detailed: From superb smoothies to arena games and a casino lit by an artificial sun - you name the decadent pleasure and you'll probably find it in this place - and yes, among the inhabitants the Knights in White Satin wage and the Knights in Black Satin are conflicting factions...with rogue Knights in Alpha Blue Satin being the space Casanovas. A Snow-White-like princess in cryostasis, various teleportation mishaps, the penis-shaped and fully mapped Blue Flamingo ships and space poker - name your vice and there's a good chance you may be able to indulge in it.


If the location and huge amount of tables provided do not spark your imagination on their own, well, then fret not, for there are numerous proposed scenario seeds: Whether sentient minerals don't want to be mined or more complex scenarios...there is a lot of ideas here, often suffused with meta-humor: When e.g. the PCs are mistaken for ambassadors to an Utopian society and come upon a guy who swindled them via a kickstarter and then ran, the glorious vengeance unleashed may transform the tranquil planet into a full-blown war-zone or stopping Lovecraftian deities - the ideas run the full gamut of themes. What if e.g. a member of the Blue Humanoid Group was an assassin? And what about that interstellar women's prison, or nods towards the world of Torth...and what about helping space Muslims to crack the heads of those aforementioned extremists? Quite a lot to do! 3 sample, fluff-only NPCs and a refugee from the Purple Islands (with full stats) are provided as well. Paralyzing wands and dangerous dildo-weapons can be found and when demon-worshiping madmen bring an demonically-possessed penetration-device on board, we know what need to be stopped, right?


Stats for mooks and tyrannosaurus-crocodile-hybrids complement the book alongside some basic advice for running the setting. There also are personality archetypes, a quick table to determine why a couple stays together and the map of Alpha Blue actually spans 4 full pages. The pdf provides full color and b/w-char sheets, while the print version sports both in b/w.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - in spite of the book's length, I encountered no significant issues with this book in formal or rules-language departments - the system presented is simple, concise and pretty refined. Layout adheres to an aesthetically pleasing 2-column b/w-standard and deserves special mention - it is clean, organized and generally pleasing. The pdf sports a lot of beautiful, original b/w-artworks: While most of them are pretty tame, there are instances of nudity here...alongside e.g. an awesome rendition of the Doctor being puzzled/stupefied by the advances of two ladies. Artworks and text are suffused with pop-culture nods and winks. The pdf version is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, though considering the low asking price, I'd suggest getting the print version.


Venger As' Nas Satanis' Alpha Blue is a different book than I expected, honestly - this is very much a setting book - whether as a stand-alone or as part of another campaign, the station of Alpha Blue can be inserted sans much fuss and the OSR-conversion-notes are useful. The system presented is clear and concise and exceedingly simple to grasp. In fact, this book's appeal if broader than I anticipated - we get a metric ton of tables that generally provide a ton of customization options that can be scavenged for just about any system...which is a plus and a minus, depending on where you're standing. Personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more detail regarding the respective locations on Alpha Blue, though e.g. notes on music playing at a given place and similar details had me grin time and again. (That being said, Girls Gone Rogue, the expansion, will get its review in due course and may remedy that...)


Now that we've gone through the whole book and you had an impression regarding the humor herein, you'll obviously note that this book doesn't take itself too serious - which is a good thing. Alpha Blue, as presented, is actually a very light-hearted and rather sex-positive supplement...but if you're looking for straight porn, you won't find that here. Perhaps the best analogue I could find was the following: Picture basically a blending of the old Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest-games in tone and explicitness. So if you enjoyed Leisure Suit Larry...you will probably like Alpha Blue's setting as well: The humor oscillates between clever meta-jokes, obvious and obscure references and blunt-in-your-face-juvenile jokes - which made the reading experience, at least for me, rather lighthearted and enjoyable. (Btw.: Those strange glyphs littered throughout the book? They're actually coded sentences, so if you enjoy that kind of undertaking, decoding them is a pretty fun and quick mental exercise...yes, the sentences unearthed feature planetary-sized dildos.)


How to rate this, then? Well, this is a wide-open sandbox/dressing-kit/adventure-location kit and it delivers in all of these regards, though each of the components could have arguably filled a whole book. So if you're looking for an extremely detailed location, you may be disappointed. If, however, you're looking for an enjoyable, minimalist RPG you can pick up and play sans any hassle, dressing or prefer working with a setting, developing it and fleshing up the fiddly small bits...well, then this will probably be right up your alley. Even if you're looking for means to enhance the weirdness/raunchy-factor of your space opera game...well, this'll do the job. In the end, I consider Alpha Blue a successful experiment that manages to portray a setting unlike anyone I've seen before. If you hate the premise, you'll probably hate the book; if not, though, you'll certainly find some hilarious ideas within these pages. It is a sleazy satire, is unapologetic about it and in play, actually was ample fun at my table - the minimalist rules and awesome tables engender an atmosphere of levity and fun...which was sure as heck a welcome diversion from my usual, rather serious games -a diversion to which we'll return. In the end, my only gripe pertains the somewhat divided focus of the book, which may well be a personal preference; hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alpha Blue
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Purple Duck Storeroom: More Magic Pants!
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/08/2016 07:37:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Purple Duck games' short, inexpensive experimental pdfs clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


In case you missed my review on the first magic pants supplement: Yes, these pdfs invent a leg-slot. Yes, they are cognizant of this. Yes, the authors probably have collected the 3 unique leggings in the Baldur's Gate saga....and yes, I consider the idea well worth it. So here are more pants!


The first of the pants is the bell-bottoms allows the wielder to perform secondary kick attacks that have the thundering quality and 1/day duplicate shout...though unfortunately, I have no idea as what action - standard or free?


Awesome: The Black Widow's Garter - it contains an extradimensional space where you can put poisoned weapons, which then have their potency enhanced. And yes, the item gets it right -you can't just store a crapton of poisoned weapons inside. AC-enhancing boxer shorts that can 1/day convert lethal damage to nonlethal damage also are pretty awesome, while kaber kilts help throwing oversized weapons.


In a hilariously bad pun, cargo pants sport limited bags of holding in their pockets and obviously, camo pants enhance your Stealth. Daisy Dukes help Diplomacy and allow you to 1/day fascinate a target, while high-water pants let you...bingo! Water Walk.


Hot pants protect versus the cold...and can be activated to engulf the wearer in a flaming aura - and yes, the activation action is properly codified. And it's hilarious. Leggings of coiling plants can create massive undergrowth and the loincloth of the jungle helps with Tarzan-like stunts - though activation of the spell included here is not perfectly clear - I assume the default standard action of use activation/spell-trigger and spell, but still...would have been nice.


More interesting - what about leggings that 1/day allow your legs o elongate to 20 feet? The benefits regarding obstacles, terrain etc. are concisely covered, the imagery is awesome and the usefulness undisputed. Damn cool! In an homage to Rogue genius Games, I assume, bright red pantaloons allow for a temporary increase of mental faculties - somewhat akin to a mental attribute-based version of a barbarian's rage - nice. Also rather cool - the focus on the mental similarly mirrors the effect in an inability to engage in physically stressful situations while in the throes of the pants. Unlike a rage, though, the wearer is left energized by the pants - pretty cool overall design.


The Pants of the Hammer Master allow the wielder to command foes to stop..and be bashed with a hammer. Yep. Hammer Time. XD Rage-enhancing purple pants of fury, rebellious longstockings that allow you to ignore confinement like Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krumsnyta Efraimsdotter Långstrump and yes, if the wearer has a horse or monkey as animal companions/mounts, they can learn more tricks. Roadrunner pants allow you to air walk and move faster while running. Smelly pants allow the wielder to be...well...smelly and unleash stinking clouds.


With Perform (Dance) and sparkle pants, you may AoE dazzle foes (hey, that rhymed!), not all pants are benevolent - there are a bunch of cursed ones inside as well - for example swimming pants that attract aquatic predators, pants that make you bossy or crabby and britches that make you sassy...and particularly loathed by vendors...oh, and what about fear-the-dark scaredy pants? Yeah, nice!


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch this time around - I noticed no significant formal glitches. Rules-language-wise, there are some minor instances where activation actions of spells-in-a-can could have been clearer. The pdf's layout adheres to Purple Duck games' no-frills 1-column standard for the series and the pdf has no artworks, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Jeffrey Swank and Jacob Trier's array of magical pants made me laugh very hard - but rest assured that this is anything but a joke product - in fact, there are several benefits and mechanical operations in the crunch here that can be considered to be rather complex. While not always perfect, I still can't bring myself to rate this down - for the low asking price, you do get a rather cool array of magical pants - well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars...and since the crunch itself sports some unique ideas and particular mechanical executions, I'll round up for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: More Magic Pants!
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