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5E Mini-Dungeon #024: The Lapis Maiden of Serena Hortum
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:47:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The desert village of Serena Hortum is the backdrop of this module, with a local named Nadia looking for her missing sister - a beauty named Alucia. The trail leads to the estate of a merchant (a mage) called Bodigar - though, inside, the PCs are in for a nasty surprise: Bodigar has indeed abducted Alucia and his mansion does show enough indication of his depravities - the worst of which would be the statues in the garden, which also feature fair Alucia, transformed into stone by his pet basilisks. Bringing the vile merchant to justice will be an interesting task indeed!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of b/w-art - kudos!

Justin Andrew Mason's Mini-Dungeon is compelling - either as straight-forward hack and slay or as an infiltration, this one offers a nice story, a cool backdrop, diverse challenges and even a bit of social interaction, this is a great example of what can be done with a straight-forward, smart application of the limiting mini-dungeon-formula. Kyle Crider's conversion of the module is generally interesting and solid, though I wished it made more use of 5e's simple and easy to modify Stealth mechanics, but that may just be me. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #024: The Lapis Maiden of Serena Hortum
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5E Mini-Dungeon #023: The Aura of Profit
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:46:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

So, in the poor section of town, Fritz has an underground alchemist's laboratory - so why would the PCs try to stop Fitz? Well, his alchemist laboratory creates waste that makes people more susceptible to alcohol, which directly influences the profits of innkeepers all around. So, the PCs will have to stop Fritz - if only to prevent alcoholism skyrocketing. The dungeon as presented is surprisingly varied - we have an engineer-wizard, minor constructs (short-hand statblocks included) and some neat traps, some of which are obviously nonlethal. Big plus for the 5e-version: We get full stats for Fritz! Two thumbs up for going the extra mile there!

Oh, and know what's kinda cool? Fritz is not a bad guy - he can actually be convinced to make modifications that negate the detrimental effects of his alchemical refuse.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

This makes me happy, it really does - Rory Toma delivers a captivating, fun mini-dungeon herein - with things to do beyond killing everything, a mix of traps and roleplaying and an interesting "adversary." The topical background story also makes sense and opens potential for further adventuring - what if an evil character gets wind of Fritz' mixture? Kyle Crider thankfully has gone above and beyond in conversion: Diverse challenges, sample stats, hyperlinks all in order - no complaints on my part!

Seriously, what more can you ask for from a small, humble 2-page module? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars plus seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #023: The Aura of Profit
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Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:41:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting/hexcrawl clocks in at 283 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of index (VERY USEFUL!), leaving us with 274 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that the inside of the covers, respectively, contain gorgeous full-color hex-maps - inside the front cover, we get an overview, while inside the back cover, we gain an in-depth hex-crawl of one such hex, highlighting the sheer VASTNESS of Carcosa. As you can surmise, I actually own the hardcover, namely the second printing, which was provided by a generous patreon for the purposes of reviewing it at my convenience. I subsequently based my review mainly on the print edition, though it should be noted that maps etc. are all included in the pdf-version. The print-version's pages btw. have a very nice greenish-yellow, unhealthy-looking tint that is not consistent throughout the book; some sections are almost grey, some are greenish, some a bit more yellowish...this book looks almost alive, and in a twisted, twisted way. (And no, to my knowledge, there is no system behind these colors, at least none I could make out.) It should be noted that the pages are formatted for the A5 (6'' by 9'')-size of paper, so, if your eyesight's good enough, you can squeeze up to 4 pages on a regular sheet when printing this, but honestly, I'd suggest getting print here.

All right, so what is this book? Well, if you're not as well-versed in the OSR-scene, this book can conceivably be called one of the most influential books in that area, a book that imho defined how many of the different weird settings out there have been designed. For one, it is an incredibly hackable book - while there are rules herein, they are very rules-lite. As in: S&W, LL or LotFP look complex and detailed in comparison. These rules generally tie in with the setting and supplement it in several ways, but can, for the most part, be exchanged, tweaked or ignored - it is a vast plus of this book that pretty much nothing herein really requires that you use it with the rules presented within; adapting this to an OSR-setting, 5e or PFRPG just requires a bit of statting and that's it - the draw here lies within the idea, at least for me.

But let me start the review-proper the same way the book does:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink behind the lake,

The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies,

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,

Where flap the tatters of the King,

Must die unheard in

Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,

Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed

Shall dry and die in

Lost Carcosa.

-Robert W. Chambers

If you can read these lines sans a shudder, sans them gnawing into your brain, then kudos - to me, these lines are very much like a song that encapsulates the themes herein. That being said, the tone evoked here is grim; and while Carcosa is intended for mature audiences, it is actually not necessarily as dark as you'd imagine.

Let me elaborate: Carcosa is a world, where no elves or other Tolkienesque critters exist - instead, there are different races of men, with varying skin-colors that range from obsidian-black to translucent and also encompass the colors yale, ulfire and dolm -and yes, these are somewhat explained...and our inability to properly conceive them just adds a perfect piece of flavor to the proceedings.

Rules-wise, Carcosa assumes AC 12 as basis and an ascending AC and calls, at various times, for the random determination of dice to roll: Basically you roll a d20 and the higher you roll, the higher the dice you'll use - minimum d4, maximum d12. This procedure is used for combat as well, and, surprisingly, for hit points: You roll hit dice number of dice each combat anew: So one combat, you may be really tough...and during another...not so much. When hit dice are depleted, they are taken by the referee, which simulates, to a degree, wounding. It should come as no surprise to the adept number-cruncher that this system generates rather swingy performances; while this may fit to the opium/fever-dream-style haze that makes up so much of this setting's flair, it proved, at least for me and my group, not rewarding and was pretty much the first rules-component to get kicked out.

Carcosa, at least as written, knows three alignments - Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic, and they don't say anything about ethics: Lawful characters are generally opposed to the Great Old Ones, Chaotic characters generally serve them. That's it. Simple. Speaking of simple: Carcosa knows a staggering 2 classes: Fighter and sorceror. And no, sorcerors don't get to fling spells - instead, sorcerors can find rituals to enslave, banish, torment or otherwise interact with the Great Old Ones...and yes, conjure them. Basically, they have their very own ritual engine, but more on that later. Each ritual, just fyi, carries a risk of unnatural aging...with the exception of banishment rituals.

If you have very high mental attributes, you also have a small percentile chance of having access to psionics - there are 8 such powers and a d4 determines each day how many he has available. Psionics may be used 1/day, plus an additional time per day at every odd level, capping at 5 daily uses at 9th level. Rules-lite fans may applaud the lack of range for mindblasts and similar options, but personally, I prefer the crisp clarity of LotFP, S&W, LL, etc. - in short: The powers are not very well codified from a rules-analysis perspective. If you have access to another psionics sourcebook, I'd suggest using that instead, as what is here can be considered to be an afterthought.

Thankfully, this is the point where the rather subpar components of the rules-section end, for we receive precise effects various lotus-types...and space alien technology.

It is here that I feel I should talk about what Carcosa is: Do you know this mythic age of snake-men and weird skies that Sword & Sorcery novels like to allude to? Where everything was at once alien and advanced, yet almost stone-age primeval? That, to a degree, is Carcosa. The Great Old Ones roam the world, Shub-Niggurath's endless spawns inhabit the vast fields of Carcosa and entities are broken to the will of mortals, heeding their destructive call...if they do not break the mortals first. Carcosa is also a land where basically a science-fiction space alien civilization once crashed, with relics of strange devices, crashed ships, remnants of their tech, all littering the fields. This is, to a degree, a science-fantasy setting.

At the same time, Carcosa is a land of grotesque protoplasmic colossi, of dinosaurs and savage things, of civilizations with wildly diverging developments, held together by mastery or lack thereof of the mighty Great Old Ones; the technology of the mysterious Great Race representing another aspect of tech, namely the cthulhoid one, where technology is hazardous, extremely mighty and not made for humans. with flavorful artifacts like the spatial transference void, living monoliths and fecund protoplasmic pits begging to b inserted into any game, regardless of rules employed. So that would be the first aspect I'd very much consider a must-scavenge component.

The second would be the aforementioned sorcerous rituals - a total of 32 pages is devoted to these, all denoting their function in a handy formatting decision. Called The Lurker Amidst the Obsidian Ruins? You may need to torment the entity with "The Oozing Column" to get it to do your bidding! Here's the thing: Many of these rituals require rare and evocative components, some are tied to specific locales and...non-banishing rituals require often absolutely atrocious deeds. Control over these entities requires absolutely horrendously vile acts that should make such decisions very much a difficult endeavor, the obvious dangers of failure none withstanding. This may also be one of the reasons this is denoted as adult content...but if you do look for a concise collection of vile rituals for bad guys to use in your game, look no further than here - the chapter is twisted gold, gleaming in an unhealthy yale!

The next 36 pages of content are devoted to a massive bestiary of entities - from protoplamsic oozes to the Great Old Ones, we get stats for all of them...at least the basics. You know, Hit Dice, AC, No appearing and alignment as well as move rate. Psionics are noted, where applicable and the brief respective texts note special abilities and the like. Amazing: Great Old Ones that can be conjured, tormented, banished, controlled etc. also note their respective associated rituals, which makes this section, layout-wise, surprisingly user-friendly. Big kudos there! While the classics of the Mythos are included, I personally enjoyed the new ones featured herein more intriguing - the Shambler of the Endless Night or the Putrescent Stench, for example.

Now, I did mention that this was, beyond a campaign-kit, basically a colossal hex-crawl, right? 120 pages, to be more precise. Let that sink in. Even if I wanted to provide a highlight-reel here, I'd frankly not be capable of properly depicting the vast amount of adventures to be had in this massive section; these pages literally provide enough potential gaming material for YEARS. Even if your players will never set foot on Carcosa, this section once again proves to be a thoroughly compelling, amazing collection of the strange and wondrous. 20 sample spawn of Shub-Niggurath, a primer on humanity in Carcosa and random encounter tables complement this section before we arrive at a massive Spawn of Shub-Niggurath-generator...and, similarly scavenge-worthy would be the impressive space alien tech generator, the robot generator...and have I mentioned that the book actually codifies the different sorcerous rituals by use in its own appendix?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and really impressive, particularly for a book of this size. Layout adheres, as mentioned before, to a greenish/yellowish sickly page-color and a 1-column standard, with really evocative and copious original b/w-artworks by Rich Longmore. If that sort of thing annoys you, let it be known that bare breasts, human sacrifice and the like can be found among the artworks - never in a gratuitous manner, but yeah - this is a book for adults. The cartography by Robert Altbauer in full-color is amazing and the purple tone chosen for the ground further enhances the sense of weirdness. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks. The hardcover print-version is obviously made to last and with its sickly green cover, fits the theme rather well.

So, have you figured it out? Carcosa is a radical departure from fantasy dipping toes into " a bit" of mythos; it's also a radical departure from anything even resembling Tolkienesque fantasy and oh boy, is it better off for it! Carcosa reads, even nowadays, like an inspiring breath of dolm air, as Geoffrey McKinney weaves a yarn like a near-death fever-dream, like an opium-haze; horrific and enticing, suffused with a primal beauty, but also a land of savage horror, where colossal power may be gained by those willing to commit atrocities...at least until they are devoured. Carcosa is majestic in its imaginative vision and in the sheer detail it offers - it should come as no surprise from the above that I was horribly unimpressed by the rules-aspect of this book and frankly wished it had simply used one of the big OSR-rules-sets.

But then again, that is not how I'll ever use this book. Yes, I'll run Carcosa as a setting sooner or later, but for now, all of its ideas have this uncanny tendency to worm their way into my games, regardless of system employed. The rituals, described in horrid detail, the entities, the artifacts, the locations that are sure to invade PC-dreams of even those not on this planet...there are very few books that have ever managed to influence me...and other creative folks, to this extent.

I am late to the party, I know. But I've written this review mainly to showcase not the flaws of this book, but to highlight its indisputable value, regardless of system or even genre used. Heck, you can have a great change of pace while running a Traveller-game by having the PCs crash there! And yes, you'll see "Someone has obviously read Carcosa" in quite a few reviews to come - this book's influence transcends system-boundaries and, to an extent, genres. Heck, it spawns adventures left and right! Kort'thalis Publishing's "The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence", for example, just BEGS to be inserted into Carcosa...or act as a gateway to this wretched, wondrous place. Carcosa exists n a weird flux between fantasy, science-fiction, space-opera, horror and sword and sorcery and manages to sit there, upon this metaphorical Lake Hali of systems, confidently, proud, majestic...and utterly, utterly weird.

In short: This is a piece of gaming material that should imho be part of the collection of any self-respecting GM that can handle the mature themes, which may be dark, yes - but to me, the setting never felt that way. Instead, my prevalent feeling was one of wild-eyed wonder...and there are not that many books that can claim having accomplished this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, unsurprisingly...with one caveat. If you're looking for hard rules, if you're not looking for something to hack apart and make your own, then this may not be as useful for you; in such a case, detract a star. Everyone else should, at the very least, check out the pdf of this ulfire gem of a tome.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
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Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:35:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Campaign Guide/companion tome for the "What Lies Beyond Reason"-AP clocks in at an impressive 137 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 130 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a far and unbiased review.

Well, first of all, let us define what this book represents: This is basically a GM Guide, a deluxe-expansion edition for the AP that, while not strictly necessary, does greatly enhance the experience, as it elucidates the overall plot, its peculiarities and the themes of the AP. In short: It makes the experience of running and playing the AP more rewarding. It also, formula-wise, goes a significant step beyond what I would have expected from it.

In an aptly-written, massive section of introductory prose, we witness here, directly, the original catastrophe that put the events of the AP in motion...which poses a conundrum for me as a reviewer, for this section alone can SPOIL a significant part of the campaign....but it also ties in with many of the customization options provided herein....hence, let's remain silent on this topic, at least for now, and look at the spoiler-free sections of this guide.

First of all, this is a helping hand for the GM - it includes the stats of the BBEG and also features basically a mini-bestiary for the creatures in the AP, ranging from the previously-mentioned Psychic Motes to more dangerous and strange adversaries. It should be noted that, while not perfect, the stats generally are solidly build and make NPCs and monsters generally come to life. Fans of Rusted Iron Games and the Deadly Gardens series will certainly appreciate Russ Brown's handiwork in some of the creatures featured within. It should be noted that NPCs and creatures make good use of some fantastic 3pp-resources, properly credited not only in the SRD, but also in the text - big kudos there!

Beyond this, the pdf also takes a look at the massive cast of characters that may or may not live through the end of the prologue-adventure "Difficult Circumstances" and yields suggestions regarding the way these contacts and their relationship towards the PCs may develop, for good or ill. The attention to detail provided here is pretty interesting and impressive to witness, but speaking of detail: The massive metropolis of Anduria, aka The Eternal City, is depicted in a massive, lavishly-detailed gazetteer that includes maps of the respective districts and a lot of information beyond that allotted to the players.

Of course, a city is defined not only by its architecture or physical relics, but also by their people and hence, an optional reputation system is provided: This allows for the separate tracking of fame and infamy of the PCs - actions and consequences. Scrupulous grave-robbing can yield a reputation for being greedy, for example. While not required, this generally adds a nice touch to the procedings and taps into the district structure of the metropolis. It should be noted that the book also contains a metric ton of rumors, signs and foreshadowing that the GM can employ, adding even more immersion to the proceedings.

While we're at the subject of themes - the guide explains the function of the respective antagonists encountered during the AP and how they reflect/interact with the PCs - in short, it notes on how they are not necessarily meant for slaying, and that redemption is an actual possibility for almost everyone. The AP generates, in spite of taking place in a distinctly high-fantasy city, a general aesthetic of shades of gray morality with only few antagonists truly being "evil". This brings me to another theme that is important: While Anduria is exceedingly high-fantasy in many of its aspects, it is a city very much defined by a curious hesitation when it comes to religions - something that is actually concisely explained for the GM and an aspect that makes the plot work actually better than one would think at first. While a god, Rhion Barakar, patron saint of long shots and lost causes, takes an interest in the proceedings (yeah, does not bode well for those PCs, right?), death in this AP is quite possibly permanent and PCs raising the dead will soon see themselves hounded and beset on all fronts...a process logically defined and explained.

Speaking of themes: In a general absence of clearly defined lines of good and evil and within a city that comes with guards, potential punishments for crimes, etc., the mature themes used within the AP get EXTENSIVE consideration - and the AP is so much better off for it: There is e.g. a place that is a combination of a sage's library and an intellectual bordello/high-class escort service...but how explicit you make this is all up to you. Writing-wise, this is PG 13, and the same can be said about the themes of addiction, violence and insanity that all are leitmotifs to a certain degree, but never devolve into a truly explicit manner. The guidance regarding player-sensibilities help immensely here and do a great job helping the GM to customize the campaign.

Speaking of which: One of the crucial leitmotifs of the campaign is one that is a bit of a matter of taste...and it can be completely excluded from the campaign...or emphasized with specific signs and portents. The book also contains several set-piece encounters/sidetrek modules and guidance regarding the use of different XP-progressions - including an option to include the superb "Key to Marina" into the sequence.

...and it is here, ultimately, that I have not recourse but to go into SPOILERS, if I want to continue discussing this book. PLAYERS BEWARE. The following contains SPOILERS for the WHOLE CAMPAIGN. Do not read ahead unless you want to GM this AP!!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Don't say I did not warn you! So, the skepticism towards the divine in the city? It has a very good reason. You see, a couple of incarnations of the eternal city before, the demi-god Aether almost brought doom upon the world. He was taking the city by storm, courtesy of him being a god you could touch, but unbeknown to his faithful, he was insane, as the megalomaniacal introductory chapter so perfectly illustrates: In his travels, he has been touched by the Outer Dark, namely R'lyeh, and while it broke his mind, he recovered, obsessed with bringing the city back...and in conjunction with the regular world. Under Anduria, there lies a chthonic Machine of titanic proportions, leaking vileness and power...and Aether succeeded in activating the titanic device, courtesy of a deal with none other than Asmodeus...as he was ripping the souls from his betrayed faithful, the lord of Hell struck with guile. Having sown seeds of doubt, Aether's high priestess, stunned by his madness and betrayal, assassinated her divine lord...and thus, the tragedy began, for her spirit, doomed and confined to the city's bloodlines, has been guiding the fortunes of the city ever since, as she, in her divine punishment and insanity, seeks to make amends. Meanwhile, Aether's soul slipped away, escaping Asmodeus' grasp - which is why the Seekers, Asmodean loan-sharks and hunters have been created...and it explains how they could become basically a kind of second city watch...and it explains the resentment towards the gods that still exists in the enlightened metropolis, even though this horrid event lies buried in the past.

As you may have noted, this all implies, to a degree, an existence of the mythos and cthulhiana - and if you're like me and a bit oversaturated in that regard or just unsure whether you want to use this angle, rest assure that the guide provides all the information required to get rid of it...or enforce it further, all depending on your tastes.

While the book does contain a summary of the campaign's plot and advice on handling the NPCs, I am not going to dive deeper into spoilers there...instead, let us talk about the sidetreks, all right? The first would be a pretty generic sidetrek, in case the PCs incur a debt to an NPC at one point. The second and third one are basically mini-dungeons - expansions, to be more precise: During adventure #1 and #2 of the AP (reviews forthcoming!), enterprising GMs may very well face the option of PCs astute PCs exploring the tunnels below the city, leading towards the machine...if they realize their presence. Where another AP would just leave that to the GM with a shrug, we get two really challenging and potentially lethal sidetreks into this strange environment, foreshadowing the shape of things to come and engaging in some seriously impressive indirect storytelling there. Chances are that most groups won't find these, sure...but their inclusion bespeaks the passion and vision that went into this.

This is not where the pdf stops, however - after adventure #2, Luther Mendel (nice nomenclature there!), associate of Damian and master of the Academy of Natural Magic seems curiously absent...but not if you're using this book, for none other than Richard Develyn of 4 Dollar Dungeons, one of the best adventure-writers I know, provides a fully-mapped module here, one that focuses on the humanoid plant-species of Ghorans and the fact that Mendel has found a Gourd that seems to be an aberrations to the Ghorans...and these beings are a bit paranoid, as they are considered to be somewhat of a delicacy for some humanoids...Thus, the PCs in this module will have to prevent a series on attacks on the academy...only to see Luther present a rapidly-growing humanoid who is learning at a vastly accelerated race...and who is basically becoming one of the PCs...only better in every way. This duplicate, "Pat", is actually the second such seed, as the first has replaced Luther...you see, this being, which also is manipulating the Ghorans, to an extent, ultimately poses a difficult conundrum for the PCs...and even the players: It can replace the PC with a superior double...one that the player gets to play...but the ethics in game should be disturbing, to say the least: It is pretty clear that the germination process will kill the original...so what will it be?

It should be noted that this is the cliff-notes version of the module and does not do it justice...but the weirdness and profound creepiness of the whole set-up gets a resounding thumbs up from me - as far as I'm concerned, this and the customization options alone make this worth the asking price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level; while I noticed glitches in both, these generally were not pronounced enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the campaign guide. Layout adheres to a really nice and professional 2-column full-color standard and the book features quite a lot of REALLY nice full-color artworks (same quality as the one you see on the cover...). The pdf btw. comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - big kudos there! Cartography is in full-color as well and comes with all relevant maps, in lavish full-color and, better yet, key-less, player-friendly versions, perfect for use with VTTs. Big, big kudos. E.g. a park, with a plethora of different plants and leaf-colors and -structures makes clear that these have been made with surprising attention to detail. The titanic, high-res overview map of the metropolis is similarly appreciated. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though, frankly, I'd suggest getting the softcover - the campaign guide makes for a nice, unobtrusive book to flip open while running one of the modules and the book is nice enough to warrant getting.

Micah Watt's "What Lies Beyond Reason" is an extremely ambitious AP; while the prologue did hint at that, it is this book that makes this fact abundantly clear. The impressive aspect here, though, would be that, at least for now, I can say that it looks like it'll work out! You see, the city and its history, themes, all of that...it makes sense. The customization options are helpful and the culture grown here has its roots deeply secluded away from prying eyes...but the PCs will find them, sooner or later. The prose is excellent as far as I'm concerned - when you can write a book, include monsters by Russ brown and a module by Richard Develyn, and manage to not look like an totally green amateur while doing so, then you obviously have talent.

The customization options for the city also really put a smile on my face: Don't like airships? No problem, can be cut. Don't like leitmotif mentioned in SPOILER-section? You can reskin that and/or get rid of it. These considerations, the advice given and the way in which this handles the whole NPC-presentation and explanation make this a really compelling book - more than one adventure-writer would certainly benefit from taking a couple of the design-tenets into account: You see, while challenging, the AP is all about consequences...and if the PCs behave stupidly, they may well reap a horrid, horrid comeuppance. This, in short, shares A LOT of my own aesthetics and expectations in design; the roleplaying focus is pronounced and the seemingly clashing themes actually blend together. In short: This is a rather impressive book and certainly one I'd wholeheartedly recommend - also as a possible means of gauging whether the AP will interest you. (And yes, I am pretty sure it will!) - After reading this, I found myself infinitely more excited about the AP than I was after the linear prologue...though even that module gains a lot by contextualizing it...but you'll see.

What I'm trying to say is this: Get this and support this AP. I am pretty convinced that we'll get to see a lot of really, really awesome modules from this saga! While this may not be 100% perfect, it is an amazing, flavorful book and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:32:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Campaign Guide/companion tome for the "What Lies Beyond Reason"-AP clocks in at an impressive 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 131 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a far and unbiased review.

Well, first of all, let us define what this book represents: This is basically a GM Guide, a deluxe-expansion edition for the AP that, while not strictly necessary, does greatly enhance the experience, as it elucidates the overall plot, its peculiarities and the themes of the AP. In short: It makes the experience of running and playing the AP more rewarding. It also, formula-wise, goes a significant step beyond what I would have expected from it.

In an aptly-written, massive section of introductory prose, we witness here, directly, the original catastrophe that put the events of the AP in motion...which poses a conundrum for me as a reviewer, for this section alone can SPOIL a significant part of the campaign....but it also ties in with many of the customization options provided herein....hence, let's remain silent on this topic, at least for now, and look at the spoiler-free sections of this guide.

First of all, this is a helping hand for the GM - it includes the stats of the BBEG and also features basically a mini-bestiary for the creatures in the AP, ranging from the previously-mentioned Psychic Motes to more dangerous and strange adversaries. It should be noted that, while not perfect, the stats generally are solidly build and make NPCs and monsters generally come to life. Fans of Rusted Iron Games and the Deadly Gardens series will certainly appreciate Russ Brown's handiwork in some of the creatures featured within. The conversion to 5e of these rules-relevant aspects, however, is a bit of a double-edged sword - if one takes, for example, a quick glance at the Ghoran-race featured in one of the optional sidetreks, one will note formatting discrepancies from the standard that, alas, carry over to the monster statblocks. Natural armor for a PC race and its interaction with armors etc. would have warranted more discussion as well - while not bad per se, this can lead to a bit of confusion before precedence cases are consulted.

Beyond this, the pdf also takes a look at the massive cast of characters that may or may not live through the end of the prologue-adventure "Difficult Circumstances" and yields suggestions regarding the way these contacts and their relationship towards the PCs may develop, for good or ill. The attention to detail provided here is pretty interesting and impressive to witness, but speaking of detail: The massive metropolis of Anduria, aka The Eternal City, is depicted in a massive, lavishly-detailed gazetteer that includes maps of the respective districts and a lot of information beyond that allotted to the players. It should be noted that the book also contains a metric ton of rumors, signs and foreshadowing that the GM can employ, adding even more immersion to the proceedings.

Of course, a city is defined not only by its architecture or physical relics, but also by their people and hence, an optional reputation system is provided: This allows for the separate tracking of fame and infamy of the PCs - actions and consequences. Scrupulous grave-robbing can yield a reputation for being greedy, for example. While not required, this generally adds a nice touch to the proceedings and taps into the district structure of the metropolis - or at least, it did so for Pathfinder. It is pretty evident that this section has not been properly translated - typed penalties, a lot of small number-accounting...for 5e, this system seems woefully inadequate. That's a rather significant downside there...but on the plus-side, we also have some conversion aspects that really work well: When NPCs use cool material from Tribality Publishing (properly acknowledged in the text itself, beyond the SRD!) and when we get an urban spell-.list for circle of the land druids, we can see that there is some serious care to be found here. Similarly, damage types saves etc. generally make sense, so yeah - while not perfect, the conversion can be called good in many regards even very good.

While we're at the subject of themes - the guide explains the function of the respective antagonists encountered during the AP and how they reflect/interact with the PCs - in short, it notes on how they are not necessarily meant for slaying, and that redemption is an actual possibility for almost everyone. The AP generates, in spite of taking place in a distinctly high-fantasy city, a general aesthetic of shades of gray morality with only few antagonists truly being "evil". This brings me to another theme that is important: While Anduria is exceedingly high-fantasy in many of its aspects, it is a city very much defined by a curious hesitation when it comes to religions - something that is actually concisely explained for the GM and an aspect that makes the plot work actually better than one would think at first. While a god, Rhion Barakar, patron saint of long shots and lost causes, takes an interest in the proceedings (yeah, does not bode well for those PCs, right?), death in this AP is quite possibly permanent and PCs raising the dead will soon see themselves hounded and beset on all fronts...a process logically defined and explained.

Speaking of themes: In a general absence of clearly defined lines of good and evil and within a city that comes with guards, potential punishments for crimes, etc., the mature themes used within the AP get EXTENSIVE consideration - and the AP is so much better off for it: There is e.g. a place that is a combination of a sage's library and an intellectual bordello/high-class escort service...but how explicit you make this is all up to you. Writing-wise, this is PG 13, and the same can be said about the themes of addiction, violence and insanity that all are leitmotifs to a certain degree, but never devolve into a truly explicit manner. The guidance regarding player-sensibilities help immensely here and do a great job helping the GM to customize the campaign.

Speaking of which: One of the crucial leitmotifs of the campaign is one that is a bit of a matter of taste...and it can be completely excluded from the campaign...or emphasized with specific signs and portents. The book also contains several set-piece encounters/sidetrek modules. Since 5e does not have the variant XP-progressions, that section is a bit condensed here.

...and it is here, ultimately, that I have not recourse but to go into SPOILERS, if I want to continue discussing this book. PLAYERS BEWARE. The following contains SPOILERS for the WHOLE CAMPAIGN. Do not read ahead unless you want to GM this AP!!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Don't say I did not warn you! So, the skepticism towards the divine in the city? It has a very good reason. You see, a couple of incarnations of the eternal city before, the demi-god Aether almost brought doom upon the world. He was taking the city by storm, courtesy of him being a god you could touch, but unbeknown to his faithful, he was insane, as the megalomaniacal introductory chapter so perfectly illustrates: In his travels, he has been touched by the Outer Dark, namely R'lyeh, and while it broke his mind, he recovered, obsessed with bringing the city back...and in conjunction with the regular world. Under Anduria, there lies a chthonic Machine of titanic proportions, leaking vileness and power...and Aether succeeded in activating the titanic device, courtesy of a deal with none other than Asmodeus...as he was ripping the souls from his betrayed faithful, the lord of Hell struck with guile. Having sown seeds of doubt, Aether's high priestess, stunned by his madness and betrayal, assassinated her divine lord...and thus, the tragedy began, for her spirit, doomed and confined to the city's bloodlines, has been guiding the fortunes of the city ever since, as she, in her divine punishment and insanity, seeks to make amends. Meanwhile, Aether's soul slipped away, escaping Asmodeus' grasp - which is why the Seekers, Asmodean loan-sharks and hunters have been created...and it explains how they could become basically a kind of second city watch...and it explains the resentment towards the gods that still exists in the enlightened metropolis, even though this horrid event lies buried in the past.

As you may have noted, this all implies, to a degree, an existence of the mythos and cthulhiana - and if you're like me and a bit oversaturated in that regard or just unsure whether you want to use this angle, rest assure that the guide provides all the information required to get rid of it...or enforce it further, all depending on your tastes.

While the book does contain a summary of the campaign's plot and advice on handling the NPCs, I am not going to dive deeper into spoilers there...instead, let us talk about the sidetreks, all right? The first would be a pretty generic sidetrek, in case the PCs incur a debt to an NPC at one point. The second and third one are basically mini-dungeons - expansions, to be more precise: During adventure #1 and #2 of the AP (reviews forthcoming!), enterprising GMs may very well face the option of PCs astute PCs exploring the tunnels below the city, leading towards the machine...if they realize their presence. Where another AP would just leave that to the GM with a shrug, we get two really challenging and potentially lethal sidetreks into this strange environment, foreshadowing the shape of things to come and engaging in some seriously impressive indirect storytelling there. Chances are that most groups won't find these, sure...but their inclusion bespeaks the passion and vision that went into this.

This is not where the pdf stops, however - after adventure #2, Luther Mendel (nice nomenclature there!), associate of Damian and master of the Academy of Natural Magic seems curiously absent...but not if you're using this book, for none other than Richard Develyn of 4 Dollar Dungeons, one of the best adventure-writers I know, provides a fully-mapped module here, one that focuses on the humanoid plant-species of Ghorans and the fact that Mendel has found a Gourd that seems to be an aberrations to the Ghorans...and these beings are a bit paranoid, as they are considered to be somewhat of a delicacy for some humanoids...Thus, the PCs in this module will have to prevent a series on attacks on the academy...only to see Luther present a rapidly-growing humanoid who is learning at a vastly accelerated race...and who is basically becoming one of the PCs...only better in every way. This duplicate, "Pat", is actually the second such seed, as the first has replaced Luther...you see, this being, which also is manipulating the Ghorans, to an extent, ultimately poses a difficult conundrum for the PCs...and even the players: It can replace the PC with a superior double...one that the player gets to play...but the ethics in game should be disturbing, to say the least: It is pretty clear that the germination process will kill the original...so what will it be?

It should be noted that this is the cliff-notes version of the module and does not do it justice...but the weirdness and profound creepiness of the whole set-up gets a resounding thumbs up from me - as far as I'm concerned, this and the customization options alone make this worth the asking price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though some parts of the formatting and some of the 5E-conversion bits feel like they do not live up to the PFRPG-version. They are good, mind you, and my complaints are, in many cases, rather esoteric and aesthetic, but as a whole, the formal criteria of the PFRPG-version felt a bit tighter to me. Layout adheres to a really nice and professional 2-column full-color standard and the book features quite a lot of REALLY nice full-color artworks (same quality as the one you see on the cover...). The pdf btw. comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - big kudos there! Cartography is in full-color as well and comes with all relevant maps, in lavish full-color and, better yet, key-less, player-friendly versions, perfect for use with VTTs. Big, big kudos. E.g. a park, with a plethora of different plants and leaf-colors and -structures makes clear that these have been made with surprising attention to detail. The titanic, high-res overview map of the metropolis is similarly appreciated. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though, frankly, I'd suggest getting the softcover - the campaign guide makes for a nice, unobtrusive book to flip open while running one of the modules and the book is nice enough to warrant getting.

Micah Watt's "What Lies Beyond Reason" is an extremely ambitious AP; while the prologue did hint at that, it is this book that makes this fact abundantly clear. The impressive aspect here, though, would be that, at least for now, I can say that it looks like it'll work out! You see, the city and its history, themes, all of that...it makes sense. The customization options are helpful and the culture grown here has its roots deeply secluded away from prying eyes...but the PCs will find them, sooner or later. The prose is excellent as far as I'm concerned - when you can write a book, include monsters by Russ brown and a module by Richard Develyn, and manage to not look like an totally green amateur while doing so, then you obviously have talent.

The customization options for the city also really put a smile on my face: Don't like airships? No problem, can be cut. Don't like leitmotif mentioned in SPOILER-section? You can reskin that and/or get rid of it. These considerations, the advice given and the way in which this handles the whole NPC-presentation and explanation make this a really compelling book - more than one adventure-writer would certainly benefit from taking a couple of the design-tenets into account: You see, while challenging, the AP is all about consequences...and if the PCs behave stupidly, they may well reap a horrid, horrid comeuppance. This, in short, shares A LOT of my own aesthetics and expectations in design; the roleplaying focus is pronounced and the seemingly clashing themes actually blend together. In short: This is a rather impressive book and certainly one I'd wholeheartedly recommend - also as a possible means of gauging whether the AP will interest you. (And yes, I am pretty sure it will!) - After reading this, I found myself infinitely more excited about the AP than I was after the linear prologue...though even that module gains a lot by contextualizing it...but you'll see.

What I'm trying to say is this: Get this and support this AP. The complaints I do have regarding 5E are, in many cases cosmetic and the "Gourd"-adventure alone may make this worth getting. The extensive and amazing player-map support also really helps and the AP, at least from what I can discern after having played its first 4 modules and the material herein, is worth supporting. While I can't rate the per se lovingly-made 5E-version as highly as the PFRPG-iteration, this is still an impressive book - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Mythic Monsters #43: Africa
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:28:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!

All right, as always in the series, we begin with supplemental material - this time around, we get a total of 7 traps, ranging from CR 3 to 15 and using classics from the Indiana Jones movies: Broken lights, valuable idol, snake pit...you get the theme there. Notable: They all come with means to bypass them beyond rolling Disable Device, which is a huge plus, design-aesthetics-wise, as far as I'm concerned. Beyond these traps, we also are introduced to a total of 5 new magic items and a new artifact.

These items include a compass to keep one's bearing, an enchanted machete that allows for the relatively easy traversing of natural difficult terrain (via actions, even really nasty terrain can be taken care of), a jawbone shield that helps versus being grabbed via bites and may even bite in retaliation. Primeval brooches are pretty straight numerical enhancers and verminous beacons can keep the biting critters at bay. The artifact, the atlas esoterica contains delightfully obscure information - atlas obscura, anyone?

All right, as always, we should move on from these solid supplemental materials to the critters, and this time around, we begin with the CR 5/MR 2 amphiptere, who receives blood lust and may employ mythic power to temporarily gain flight via uses of mythic power...and impaling creatures will be more lethal as well for the victims of these predators. At CR 1/MR 1, the much loathed pugwampi can create traps sans gold etc. and the build actually features some cool sample traps...oh, and rolling 1s in their aura actually becomes pretty painful...and your players thought they'd hate the regular pugwampi...

On the diametrical opposite end of the power-spectrum, at a mighty CR 20/MR 8, the grootslang (literally: Greatsnake, just fyi!), the strange amalgam of elephant and snake, can sense the presence of gems and heal itself via the devouring of gems. They gain a grounding stomp (that can also AoE smash foes to the ground), Awesome Blow tail attacks via mythic power expenditure and control over both elephants and snakes and immunity versus polymorphs...all in all, a deadly foe.

The mythic jackalwere (CR 3/MR 1) can employ its mythic power to duplicate hallucinatory terrain with added debuffs - decent one. At the same CR/MR, juvenile seps can spit acidic blood and use mythic power to extend its reach, which is pretty cool. The adult version of this creature, btw., clocks in at CR 13/MR 5 and sports an upgrade of these abilities as well as a crushing bite. The Lukwata, at the same CR/MR, receives blood rage, a loathing of crocodiles and they gain better DR. Their magic digestion is also improved, getting interaction with extradimensional spaces etc. right and the antimagic-theme is also further underscored...kudos there!

The classic Kamadan clocks in at CR 5/MR 2 is all about predator-stlye efficiency and as such, they are brutal...mythic power for six snake attacks...ouch...and cool: We actually get the dusk and polar variants as well! Two thumbs up for making this one makes sense! The CR 18/MR 7 kongamato can execute devastating dive-bombing assaults and these fearsome beings may lace their breath with shattering harmonics...awesome!

The living mirage clocks in at CR 11/MR 4 and has a cool regeneration ability that interacts with the wind vulnerability and it can actually use mythic power to cancel wind,,, and as a whole emphasis its weird and unique nature even more than the already rather cool base creature. At the same MR/CR, the mobogo can feign its death and receives poisonous skin as well as a hypnotic gaze: Using mythic power to shed skin and regenerate also makes for a great boss ability.

Mythic popobalas, at CR 18/MR 7 add Charisma damage to rends, may use mythic power to enhance their signature fever and these beings can AoE-Intimidate foes, copy sounds and heals when in the vicinity of those suffering from several negative conditions...oh, and they are particularly adept at turning friends against foes....cool!

The new critter herein would be the emela-ntouka, at CR 8/MR 3, and this new critter is amazing, vaguely serpentine or rhino-like, their horns can provide deadly impaling attacks and they can actually lift prey, making for a compelling critter of the "efficient, believable quasi-natural predator" type, ending the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Loren Sieg, Mike Welham and Jason Nelson deliver one of the installments in the series that perfectly shows why I love this series. The upgrades for the creatures take the respective roles of the creatures perfectly into account; we have an increased emphasis on mythological abilities and an emphasis of unique and powerful abilities that help the respective beings, making them universally cooler. In short: This is a great supplement and with its amazing critters, makes for a must-ow installment of the series. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #43: Africa
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Spiritualists of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 07:46:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content. It should be noted that these are formatted for an A5-paper-size (roughly 6'' by 9''), so you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, if you're conscious of ink/toner costs and want this printed.

We begin this pdf with new archetypes, the first of which would be the ectofletcher, who adds Stealth to his list of class skills and gains proficiency with all bows and crossbow, as well as with light armor. Starting at 1st level, the archetype may, as a full-round action, manifest 20 arrows. Alternatively, 5 may be created as a standard or move action or 1 arrow as a swift action. Starting at 2nd level, these are treated as +1 arrows, while 4th level increases the range increment of any bow used by 20 ft. At 6th level, the arrows are upgraded to +2 and are treated as the alignment of the ectofletcher for the purpose of overcoming DR, which may be a bit soon when compared to other classes. 8th level yield ghost touch arrows (here, the text has a remnant (i) before the weapon property - i.e. the italicization-closing is missing - but hey, at least you can see that it's supposed to be italicized) and at this level, arrows can be fired in melee sans provoking AoOs. 10th level increases the arrows to +3, 12th level nets Critical Focus for all bows used. As a minor nitpick here: RAW, it is pretty obvious that these should also work for crossbows, with the ammunition-creation being applicable for bolts as well - but as written, this only works for bows and arrows...but that just as an aside. 14th level provides an upgrade to +4 and 18th level to +5. At 16th level, we get a bonus combat feat. This eliminates etheric tether, phantom, shared consciousness, spiritual bond, fused consciousness and empowered consciousness.

At 3rd level can make all ranged attacks at a penalty of -2 to the attack roll, while simultaneously casting a spiritualist spell (nice catch to prevent multiclass abuse!) with a casting time of a standard action. During this combined assault, when casting defensively, the spiritualist may incur a penalty to attacks of up to Wisdom modifier to gain an equal bonus to the concentration check. So far, so nice, right? Well, the ectofletcher may also deliver touch spells through the arrows as ranged touch attacks. This is per se very powerful - particularly since it does not specify how critical multipliers interact with these - since bows start off at x3...well, you get the idea. That...is a problem. This part of the ability can use a whack with the nerf-bat, even though bonded manifestation, phantom recall and dual bond are lost for it. At 4th level, the archetype gains +4 to Stealth when manifesting ectofletching, which is upgraded to +8 at 12th level. All in all an intriguing archetype, though the touch tricks may be a bit too much - gaining more flexibility for the ammunition would have probably constitutes a more rewarding experience here.

The false spiritualist is interesting and loses proficiency with light armor. The archetype also gain arcane spellcasting governed by Intelligence and they completely change their phantoms, instead creating so-called contrived phantoms, constructs of ectoplasm. These are constructs, don't grant skills or skill bonuses, have no emotional focus and lack both Con and Int scores - as such, it is under the command of the character. It replaces the Dex/Cha-bonus with a Str/Dex-bonus, has no good saves, is mindless and gets low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft., immunity to mind-affecting effects, diseases, death effects, paralysis, poison, sleep effects and stunning as well as an evolution pool equal to the phantom's HD, with its customization options equal to an eidolon of the same level. The fly speed gained at 9th level is reduced to 30 ft. (clumsy), it cannot heal damage on its own (OUCH!) and gains the usual other defensive construct immunities. Upon destruction, the phantom reforms at 1/2 maximum hit points the next time the spiritualist prepares spells. Instead of detect undead, calm spirit, see invisibility, fused consciousness and call spirit, the archetype gains bonus illusion spells. I really like the idea here and the execution isn't too bad either - however, one note to bear in mind would be that this, via bonded manifestation etc., can make for a very summoner-ish playing experience and we know how potent these eidolon tricks can be. That being said, the lack of healing imposes an interesting resource-drain here and the bad saves help offset the massive immunity array. In short - not for every group, but I can see it finding fans.

The occult bowler is where things get WEIRD. And I mean "WTF, did not expect that!" levels of weird. The class gains a magic ball, which can be envisioned as somewhere between a familiar and a bonded object. This Tiny construct can be used as a divination magic 8-ball...or as a weapon. This weird feature replaces shared consciousness and phantom,,, and here things become interesting: When wielding the magic ball, the character treats his class level as BAB, with the attacks counting as magic from the get-go. At 2nd level, as a standard action, the character can gain blindsight of its ball for up to class level rounds, which is upgraded to always on at 10th level (though here, we erroneously refer to it as teleblindsight. This ability also yields the option to shunt a mind-affecting effect into the magic ball. 3rd level adds the throwing and returning properties to the weapon function - and no, these do NOT feature in the calculation for enhancements for the magic ball. At 8th level and every 5 levels thereafter, range increments of the ball increase by 5 ft., replacing bonded manifestation thus. At 4th level, the archetype alters spiritual interference to grant a +2 shield bonus to AC when wielding the ball and a +2 circumstance bonus to all saves. 6th level alters phantom recall to instead apply to the magic ball, with 1 daily use, +1/day per 4 levels beyond the 6th. At 12th level, these bonuses increase to +4 for the bowler, and allies in the ball's reach gain the non-upgraded bonuses.

14th level yields spiritual bond, which prevents death by siphoning excess damage taken by the bowler beyond 1 hp to the ball. Instead of dual bond, we get 1/week legend lore as a SP and as a capstone, the bowler becomes immune to mind-affecting effects and possession/imprisonment-style spells. This archetype looks goofy at first...but once you take a close look, it actually is really creative and pretty darn amazing. Big kudos here!

The phantom whisperer alters proficiencies, gaining simple weapons, light armors and up to 3 firearms of the player's choice. The archetype has no choice over the type of phantom gained - each level, they must roll a d12 and look at a random table - this determines the emotional focus of the phantom. Instead of bonded sense, they add Wisdom modifier to initiative...and thankfully, this does not stack with Improved Initiative, preventing abuse there. 10th level alters fused consciousness to just gain the skill ranks and bonuses even when the phantom's manifested and allows for the shunting of mind-affecting effects even when the phantom is manifested, though that dismisses the phantom. So yeah, no bonded senses. At 10th level, when succumbing to a fear-effect, the character may make an attack at the highest BAB (no AoO!) as an immediate action BEFORE the effects of fear kick in. Interesting one.

Next up is the Ruined Preacher - at the GM's discretion, ex-cleric levels can be exchanged for these, which is a flavorful and interesting character development idea here. The archetype gains no spiritualist caster level or spells and instead gains Improved Unarmed Strike, using his class level as BAB for the purpose of determining its efficiency, basing the damage on a brawler of an equal level. Maneuver training is included. 5th level yields command at-will with a 24-hour hex-caveat to avoid abuse. 7th level yields 1/day calm emotions, with +1 use per 4 levels beyond that. 9th level yields 1/day suggestion as an SP, replacing detect spirit, calm undead and see invisibility. Guess someone loves the Preacher comics and TV-series as much as I do. ;) Honestly, really love this one!

There are also new phantom options included herein, the first of which would be dream phantoms, who gain d6 HD and only 1/2 BAB, but they do have dual emotional focus and have a healing while the spiritualist sleeps. Pretty nice. Genius phantoms change the base stats to Int 13 and Cha 7 and their attribute bonuses instead apply to Dex and Int. Instead of an emotional focus, they gain thought foci, of which 4 are provided: Application nets Acrobatics and Fly, good Ref and Fort-saves, Improved Initiative, and as a move action, they can apply Int-bonus to a standard action (not the biggest fan here), with 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter yielding combat feats. The Knowledge focus nets two Knowledge skills, good Fort- and Will-saves and acts as a living book or spellbook, containing 50 pages per HD; +1/2 class level to all Knowledge skill checks and may make these untrained. 7th level yields the option to take 10 and 1/day take 20 there as a standard action, +1/day at 12th and 17th level.

The synthesis focus nets Craft and Disable Device, good Fort- and Ref-saves and they reduce the cost of crafted items by 10%. As a standard action, a touch can offset the broken condition for HD rounds. 5th and 10th level reduce that to a move and swift action, respectively. These can also create a limited amount of regular items - alas, the option does not include a no-specific item caveat...though its limits prevent abuse to an extent. 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield a no-cost magic item, but it is limited by the spiritualist CL and spells. The understanding focus yields Appraise and Sense Motive, Reflex and Will as good saves and the genius can make Int-checks as though the score was 2 points higher. They also gain sneak attack at class level, but use d4 as damage dice. 7th level and every 5 levels beyond yield a rogue talent.

Realm phantoms come in 8 iterations that reflect a planar focus - basically, you add a template determined by the associated plane. These generally grant a couple of defensive abilities and a bit of elemental damage - however, one has e.g. holy damage, anarchic damage, etc. - and these damage types do not exist in PFRPG. I get what they're supposed to do, but see alignment-based spells and effects for the proper way to codify damage types thus.

Beyond this, we also are introduced to new feats, 5 to be more precise: Ancestral Revelation yields an Ancestor mystery revelation. Grateful Dead (kudos for the nod) nets your phantom +2 to its weakest save, courtesy of you honoring its past life. Reaper Style is used with scythes - when you trip a target, the phantom gets an AoO as an immediate action against it if in reach. Cool! Reaper's Evisceration adds +Wisdom bonus to damage rolls when attacking helpless, flat-footed or prone creatures with the scythe and finally, Reaper's Evisceration requires saves from targets reduced to negative hp to avoid death. Cool, flavorful combat style here!

We close with the Staff of Iricthan, a minor artifact, of which there ostensibly are 4 in existence - a wielder can, every day, choose the spells known afresh and metamagic employed is one spell level increase less costly. Very interesting artifact!

The pdf btw. comes with a bonus-file, penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, which contains Zithemerr, a catfolk arcane trickster 15 - nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on both a formal and rules-level - while there are a couple of glitches, these generally fall into the "kinda aesthetic" category. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' one-column-standard in b/w with purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a really nice full-color artwork of the occult bowler and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Hollingsworth's take on uncommon spiritualist options began rather weak and then proceeded to build up steam: While the first two archetypes left me somewhat underwhelmed and concerned, this changed pretty fast with some serious gems: The occult bowler is awesome, the chaotic phantom focus is a cool idea (though I wished it had been more deeply ingrained, theme-wise, in the archetype) and the preacher-option should put a smile on many a fan's face - I know it did that for me. The foci of the phantoms are universally interesting, with the magic item creation's limit being almost genius in its simplicity. The planar phantoms left me a bit underwhelmed, though. Surprisingly, I liked all feats and the artifact is an interesting, very potent tool to level the playing field versus prepared casters, help PCs that have made bad choices, etc.

In short: No, this is NOT perfect. However, the amount of material herein that I consider really creative and cool exceeds the potential snags you're likely to encounter. The ratio of glitches to pretty complex concepts that work is also right, showing a generally very good understanding of complex rules-language. In short - unless you're a nitpicky bastard like me, you'll probably be exceedingly happy with this, for the pdf also offers some seriously creative and cool options...and all that for a more than fair price point. As a whole, I hence feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars...and I'll round up for the purpose of this platform, since the highlights exceed the minor blemishes.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spiritualists of Porphyra
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Everyman Minis: Childhood Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 07:44:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with two pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, first of all - these feats are intended for use with the extremely impressive Childhood Adventures-sourcebook. If you don't already have it, consider getting it.

The focus in this installment would, obviously, be feats with the Child-descriptor, though two story feats can also be found herein - you know these undoubtedly from Ultimate Campaign. And yes, I am a pronounced fan of the concept. Child-feats, just btw., come with a proper maturation benefit that is pretty much analogue with this.

Anyways, without further ado, here are the feats:

-Fresh Outlook: +2 save to disbelieve illusions and to Sense Motive to sense enchantments and Perception to notice invisible foes; upon maturation, you may select e.g. Discerning Eye, Psychic Sensitivity or the like - makes sense. Nice one.

-Sore Loser: This is a panache feat and lets you spend panache to reroll rolled 1s on ability or skill checks, attack rolls and saves, but with a -2 penalty. You may continue to spend panache this way for further rerolls, but the penalties are cumulative. I LOVE how this blends sore losers in game with gamers sore about botching a roll. I can see this. Upon maturation, it turns into a panache feat or a swashbuckler's dare.

-Voce Bianca: When you spend a free action to maintain bardic performance or raging song, you may expend an additional daily round to target a foe that can see and hear the performance with a sonic-damage-causing note that causes deafness for 1 round, with a Fort-save to negate deafness and halve damage. This feat MUST be exchanged upon maturation and the options, once again, make sense.

Now, the story feats featured herein would first be Biggest fan: You idolize a real or fictional person and 1/day may draw upon your inspiration to reroll a natural on an attack, CL-check to dispel or overcome SR or a skill check. Upon fulfilling the goal of gaining the target's respect/living up the legend/mythos, you may use this +Cha-mod times per day and gain a +2 bonus to such rerolls. Minor aesthetic complaint: The "Special"-line is not bolded - if you lose faith in an idol, you may replace it with a new feat...or a new idol.

The second story feat herein would be Lost Family, which is pretty self-explanatory. Its benefits yield you +1 to CMD, Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride and Swim. Upon gaining closure/reuniting with the family, you gain +1 to Charisma checks, Charisma-based skill-checks and Will-saves...but being separated once again may have consequences. This one is okay, but mechanically, the completion benefits feel a bit off to me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect on a formal level. On a rules-level, the pdf leaves nothing to be desired. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column standard and the page containing the feats is b/w and as such, printer-friendly. The pdf does sport nice full-color artworks. We don't have bookmarks, but don't need them here.

Margherita Tramontano delivers here. Impressively so. With only one feat that I consider "only" good, this pdf is bereft of filler material and manages to juggle complex concepts rather well. Sore Loser and Voce Bianca in particular made me smile from ear to ear. So yeah - flavorful, well-crafted, lacking any ability to cheese them - even with my exceedingly high standards for feats these days, I can't complain here. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Childhood Feats
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5E Mini-Dungeon #022: Pleasure Den
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 07:42:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon does not make any prisoners - no introduction, nothing - but what we do get from the get-go, is a module that depicts a complex devoted to the pleasures of the flesh (non-explicit): Vampire spawn and succubi can be found within these rooms and the interesting thing here is rather unique: This mini-dungeon may see relatively few combats: Compliant and courteous PCs that are not foolhardy may experience this as a kind-of lethal respite from e.g. mega-dungeons like Rappan Athuk and the like. Fire elementals in ovens? Check. A disguised spirit naga? Check. Oh, and yes, there's a medusa.

Now conversion-wise, the respective NPCs and critters have been translated rather well this time around and we actually have social skills we can use: Charisma (Persuasion). Loot-wise, this works and I noticed no hiccups in the hyperlinks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Rachel Ventura delivers a rather interesting mini-dungeon - while the theme could have used some elaboration or suggestion, I do enjoy the significant amount of read-aloud text that sets this apart from every other mini-dungeon. If this pdf has one weakness, then it's not in the complex itself, but rather in the lack of a central plot-line: It's just "Put PCs in, see what happens." - which is nice and not usually something I complain about, but with a disparate roster of foes, a narrative base-line would have enhanced the sense of cohesion of this module. This is not bad mind you - especially not for the brevity imposed by the format. Kyle Crider's conversion loses nothing of the original module's appeal and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #022: Pleasure Den
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5E Mini-Dungeon #021: Daenyr’s Return
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 07:41:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

Daenyr has been gone for more than 3500 years - the nasty vampire's erstwhile temple of darkness has fallen to ruin and all'd be well. Until a cult of deranged vampires and cultists have re-entered the temple and begun engaging in their dread rites - so, it's mop-up time! Hyperlink-wise, we have two instances of a hyperlink missing (of all things, one's for the BBEG) and opposition-wise, the 5E-conversion uses cult fanatics, mummies and vampire spawn - no individual modifications this time around. Skill-check wise, we use Investigation and Perception...the basics and I'm really wondering why there's not chance to unearth info via Intelligence (Religion), given the theme of the dungeon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Michael Smith's Daenyr's Return is a solid mini-dungeon with a tight leitmotif: Anti-vampire-crawl. The dungeon is decent, but it loses a bit of its unique components in translation. The conversion by Kyle Crider is solid, if not his best work. All in all, a solid 3-star mini-dungeon.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #021: Daenyr’s Return
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20 Things #13: Noisome Sewer (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2017 04:21:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As has become the tradition in the series, we kick this off with a selection of remarkable NPCs to encounter within the given environment - this time around, these folks, as befitting of the environment, include destitute homeless folks, folks nursing a grudge versus off-duty soldiers, a cat burglar sans sense of smell, wererats not yet aware of their condition and even a vampire - all in all, an inspiring collection from the benevolent to the malevolent.

We move on from these NPCs to find 10 minor locales in the sewer - old iron-bound doors pierce walls, passages connect, masses of rubbish and detritus accumulate and walkways may crumble away - all in all, a welcome collection of information to add flavor to the sewer. Slightly weird - the entries run from 11. to 20., instead of from 1. to 10.

We supplement this with 20 pieces of customized dungeon dressing for sewers, which range from the expected (worse stench, rusted iron lantern forgotten on a hook) to thin walls where one can hear murmurs and strange tracks of serpentine (or tentacle-y?) things. These entries are obviously created to enable the enterprising GM to use them as hooks for encounters, and stories.

If you require something with a bit more immediate oomph, I'd suggest checking out the 20 minor events - these include hearing the rumbling of heavy carts above or muted splashes, being doused in a thick glob of slime...and have I mentioned the foaming wave of excrement flowing down? Yeah, EW, but oh so fitting! And yes, pockets of flammable gas. Take care!

But why venture there? Well, sewers tend to be where the missing and lost items show up, so a total of 20 entries should prove to be helpful there and make it slightly more worthwhile for the PCs. A leafless tree-branch with a silver necklace makes for a straight-forward loot that inspires, while piles of fresh bricks and mason equipment pose a different reaction...why are they here? The PCs are bound to find out...right?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there!

Creighton Broadhurst knows his craft. Sewers have a bit of a bad reputation in video games and TTRPGs, but for the most part, to me, undeservedly so: From vermin to intrigue to diseases and hazards, there is a ton of amazing things you can do with the environment and this humble pdf helps add those flourishes. If you're, for example, playing Gaming Paper's excellent "Edgewater's Folly", then this can add quite a bit of flavor to the proceedings.

At the very latest when the PCs see an island of congealed muck float by, topped with a red-eyed rat, they'll almost be able to smell the grime. thankfully only almost, though! All in all, this is a fun, well-crafted dressing-file, well worth 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #13: Noisome Sewer (System Neutral Edition)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End! Much appreciated--and I'm glad you liked this one!
April Augmented - 2017
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2017 04:19:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Dreamscarred Press' April's Fools-releases 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!

We begin this one with a new 5-level PrC, the chessmaster, who needs 5 ranks in several skills, BAB +4 and the collective class feature to qualify. The PrC gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and doesn't gain additional weapon or armor proficiencies. BAB-wise, we get a 3/4 progression as well as Ref and Will-saves that improve to +3 over the course of the PrC. 4 of the 5 levels yield manifesting progression and levels in the class stack for the purpose of the collective's power. The base ability of the chessmaster is very, very strong: As a standard action, a member of the collective gains a benefit from Astral Construct Menu A, with 3rd level unlocking menu B and 5th level unlocking menu C - these last for one round per prestige class level, which is the literally only reason I am not screaming hellfire right now.

At the beginning of combat when rolling initiative, the collective may move 10 ft. as a free action. This movement does not count as having taken an action, but does provoke AoOs from eligible targets. 2nd level provides the immensely powerful castling ability - swap two members of the collective as a move action. It is codified as a teleportation effect, but does NOT provoke AoOs. Yep, that's infinite switcheroo. Oioioi. At 3rd level, the PrC gets En Passant: As a standard action, the chessmaster may designate a foe: If the foe leaves the space, he leaves behind a phantom afterimage - hitting this image inflicts damage to the foe. This lasts only for one round, but oh boy. At 4th level, the chessmaster may declare stalemate as an immediate action when an ally rolls an opposed check, but before results are made known. Both rolls are treated as the higher result. Also at this level, as a standard action, the chessmaster chooses an ally: A foe charged by this ally may not move until the beginning of the chessmaster's next turn. An ally may not be reused for a pin for one minute after use. At 5th level, the PrC learns checkmate, which is pretty amazing: Designate an ally and a foe - the ally must be able to act before the foe in the initiative order. The ally may immediately move their speed and take a standard action. If the foe is killed or reduced to 0 hp, the foe is temporal stasis'd. If not, the ally returns to his space, all results of the action undone. This also has a 1 minute cooldown.

A very potent PrC and conceptually awesome; at its power-level, I'd consider it suitable for Path of War power-level gameplay. Regular campaigns should think long and hard about its extremely potent powers before allowing it, though.

Next up would be an expansion for the Monster Classes-series, namely the owlbear. Base race-wise, these are magical beasts with +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, Medium, have low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft., +1 natural AC, are quadrupeds,...and really cool: The pdf specifies the ITEM SLOTS of the creature...and we get an age, height and weight table! Big effin' plus and makes me hope for the series' current revision! The monster class presented for the owlbear covers 5 levels and sports full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, d4 claws at 1st level, d4 bite at second (both upgraded to d6 at 4th level), +2 natural armor at 2nd and 5th level,, scent at 2nd and an upgrade to Large size at 4th level. 5th level yields grab. Attribute bonus-wise, we get, +6 Str, +2 Dex, +6 Con, +2 Wis, for a total of 16 points gained over 5 levels, which is pretty potent. There are 4 feats for owlbears included: Arctic Adaption nets +5 Stealth in snowy areas and cold resistance 5 as well as a swim speed of 30 ft. - which is A LOT for one feat. Deep Adaptation nets darkvision to 120 ft., blindsight 60 ft. and eyeless if you take it a second time. Fruss Variety net fly speed 30 ft. with poor maneuverability and prolonged flight fatigues the owlbear. Great Hook-Claws net a climb speed of 20 ft. as well as a claw damage die upgrade by one step. All in all, very potent feats - but shouldn't the varieties be mutually-exclusive or is the potentially blind, white, flapping owlbear intended?

Race-wise, we are introduced to the longcatfolk, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, and they are treated as one size smaller when making an opposed check that takes size modifiers or special size modifiers into account, provided this would be beneficial to the longcatfolk, and they may squeeze through smaller spaces, replacing sprinter. 1/round, they can choose an adjacent 5-ft.-square and count as occupying that square for flanking purposes and once during that round, at -2 penalty, they can attack from that square, replacing natural hunter. The Munchkin catfolk gets +2 Cha and Int, -2 Con, is Small, slow and gains +2 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Perform, replacing natural hunter. Attitudes may be shifted by them an additional time, replacing sprinter.

Grippli may choose from two alternate racial traits: Bloodfrogs increase the Dc to still bleeding by +10 and even magical healing attempts to remove bleeding requires a CL-check to succeed. This replaces camouflage and swamp strider. Steelfrog nets a +6 armor bonus, but also a maximum Dexterity (should be capitalized) bonus of +3 and a -3 armor check penalty due to calcified skin. The skin may be enhanced as armor, replacing camouflage. Kitsune may choose "None of that weeaboo crap, either: They lose change shape and agile, but get +2 to Intimidate and may Intimidate as a move action - if they later gain the ability to intimidate as a move or swift action, they increase that to a free action...which probably should still have a cap per round. Dodo Tengu gain +2 Int and Cha, -4 Wis, gain the graveblood subtype and +4 to initiative, as the pdf specifies, "for some reason", replacing sneaky...which is too strong in my book. Emu tengus get +2 Str and Int, -2 Wis and powerful build, which replaces swordtrained and gifted linguist. They also get sprinter instead of sneaky, i.e. 40 ft. movement and Run as a bonus feat.

The Potoo has the following text: "What. God. No, this is a terrible idea. Why would you PLAY this thing? It looks like a goddamn muppet." XD Trait-wise, we have +2 Wis and Dex, -4 Cha, +4 to sight-based Perception, +2 to none-sight-based Perception instead of sneaky. +2 to Bluff and Diplomacy to convince other creatures they're harmless, -2 to Diplomacy in grave circumstances (the ability's called "Oh My God It Sounds Just AS Dumb" for a reason...) and +4 to Disguise checks to impersonate a log and may do so as an immediate action. This replaces swordtrained. And yes, I actually laughed out loud here. The shoebill tengu gets +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha, slow and steady, never take an Intimidate penalty for failure instead of gifted linguistic...and instead of swordtrained, they ignore ALL DIFFICULT TERRAIN. Wtf?

Fans of Path of War can take the new Damaged Glassware feat - initiators with two maneuvers from Shattered Mirror and Riven Hourglass gain an interesting option: When initiating a riven hourglass maneuver while within a shattered mirror stance, choose one target of the strike in its range. All squares within 10 ft. of the target are filled with glass shards, even if the strike misses. These shards vanish after one hour and gain an enhancement bonus to atk and damage equal to the level of the strike used and bypass DR as though they were a weapon with the strike level's enhancement bonus.

The psionic power false veil generates a veil that can be formed on any open chakra, which may be invested with essence, acting as a dupe. The cat-tastrophy level 9 spell affects a 1-mile radius area generating 1d100 + CL cats per round, with the cats potentially being focused on one square. Creatures slain erupt in even more housecats. Oh, and it may be made permanent. But only kind of. When the Focus cat's ears of wood are worn. Hilarious and made me go WTF in a good way rather hard. Recall Embarrassment is a debuff and animalfolk, lycanthropes etc. may appreciate the headpat cantrip and its greater level 1 version. Speaking of cantrips: Poser casters will love unlimited power while other may like the shadow puppet cantrip. Pun-tastic: Tailful Polymorph- which grows a tail. The greater one nets you more variety in the pseudo-animalistic features you wish to bestow.

Fans of akashic mysteries will appreciate the drunkard's sash, which prevents alcohol penalties, and drinking something nets twice character level temporary hit points, which may only be gained once per round and last one minute and may net essence invested in DR /-. Binding it to the waist nets bonuses depending on the substance consumed; Alcohol nets +2 Str, Tea + 2 Dex...etc. - these bonuses, intriguingly, are tied to the presence of remaining temporary hit points. I am not too keen on the nigh-infinite temporary hit points, but whether I'd consider that problematic would depend on the respective campaign.

Bottles or kegs of endless alcohol would make any tavern ridiculous; classic rulings binders provide +2 to Spellcraft and help identify spells untrained. Oh, and yes, there is a monster manual-equivalent (lol). The Familiar's familiar is fun in that one sentence manages to cram the word "familiar", in a rules-relevant manner, mind you, no less than 12 (!!!) times...and gets the italicizations right, showcasing well why formatting matters. Kudos! It gets even more absurd with the familiar's familiar's familiar -21 times in one sentence. Yes, that is my type of humor. Yes, I am weird. Marobo is, surprise, a magic, automated cleaning device and come with a greater variety. While a sidebar notes that they can be used as familiars, they lack the stats for that. Plushie Powder shrinks a deceased creature down to Tiny size and makes it a plushie...and there is an infinite bag variant...talk about adding insult to injury.

Finally, we get the highly customizable pocket assistant - basically a magical smart phone that can be fitted with a wide variety of apps: Daniel's Roster (Craig's List), locate myself or Necromancy MOVE, which appropriately, traps SOULS, make for some interesting options that made me smile.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good and really impressive for a PWYW-kinda-joke product, on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks (but funny lines that explain why...) and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Adam Boucher, Anthony Cappel, Katia Oakes, Jacob Karpel, Jeffrey Swank and Patrick Miller have created an interesting pdf here: As we've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press, the rules-language is crisp and the respective concepts are depicted in a creative and fun manner. At the same time, it should be noted that the power-level of the options herein is generally pretty high - not all of them, mind you, but I'd strongly encourage checking very closely whether or not to include some of these in low or medium-powered games. At the same time, this is a) PWYW and b) a really FUNNY book that gets some actual mileage out of its funny components...and that's something to be applauded...and it's the intention of the book. Plus, high-powered campaigns will probably enjoy this VERY MUCH. While not for everyone, this does have its raison d'être and is worth downloading -at the very least, you'll get a chuckle out of it (The Potoo made me laugh SO HARD!) and you can decide relatively easily whether or not it is for you. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
April Augmented - 2017
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5E Mini-Dungeon #020: Sepulchre of the Witching Hour's Sage
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2017 04:16:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

Sometimes, the PCs need answers at any cost. Thus, they enter a two-way portal in a cemetery near the ruins of an ancient civilization and enter the sepulchre - where they will soon notice that entering specific rooms may deal small amounts of "negative energy damage" on failed Con-saves. sigh That's supposed to be "necrotic damage" in 5E, right? Worse, I think that 5E's HP-reduction (see vampires) would have made for a much more interesting mechanical representation here.

Indeed, several undead and shadowy books continue to perpetuate this theme, while an illusion-supplemented trap is a) interesting and b) devious. The little dungeon also sports minor item-scavenging and a terrible final revelation of a horrid price to pay for the information and a unique, interesting showdown with the sage and his gibbering mouther advisors.

While the damage-mechanic that is the unique-selling proposition of the module, has not been translated well to 5E, the skills the dungeon requires this time around are rather diverse, so that's a plus - as are the dangerous books contained herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no glaring hiccups, though 3 of the hyperlinks don't work. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

Stefanos Patelis delivers an excellent mini-dungeon here that has lots a bit of its charm in the conversion, but Kyle Crider did succeed in maintaining most of it - the module, as a whole, is an intriguing one and sports diverse challenges, which I ended up enjoying. While not perfect, it is worth the asking price. My final verdict for the conversion will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #020: Sepulchre of the Witching Hour's Sage
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The Reaper; OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Play Everything
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 05:54:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class clocks in at a massive 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that this class was commissioned via the Interjection Games' patreon by Joshua Ikenberry - which is an amazing thing, if you ask me.

Anyway, this class is a bit different than a normal Interjection Games class - you see, usually, Interjection Games classes tend to be meticulously designed to work in both the grittiest and most high-fantasy of campaigns - this one comes with a disclaimer that the weaker classes tend to fall behind its potency...but let's look how this works in detail!

Chassis-wise, the reaper gets d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as 2 + Int skills per level. They also get light armor and shield proficiency, excluding tower shields. The reaper can suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing metal armor. At 1st level, the reaper gains an essence pool equal to 3 times the reaper's class level. At 9th level, one mental attribute is chosen and adds the chosen ability score modifier to the number, with 13th level adding two. The pool replenishes after 8 hours of rest. At 1st level, the character learns the signature ability called reaping.

The idea here is that all soulsown are created around a core, a so-called seed. These cores are known as seeds and the reaper begins play with two of them. The reaper gains an additional one at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. There are different seed subtypes, which sport a pool system and a wide reach, granting abilities. The seeds available are arcane, divine, martial and primal - primal and martial have two different pool systems. Arcane, divine and primal soulsown begin play knowing a single spell from the associated spell-list, learning an additional spell on a level up. The maximum spell level available increases at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, capping at 6th spell level, though the spell-save DC is instead 10 + 1/2 class level +spellcasting ability modifier of the soulsown. Casting is done by expending essence points equal to the spell's level. Spells learned have to adhere to a pyramid rule.

Binding a soulsown is referred to as threshing and requires 1 hour after an 8 hour-rest. At 3rd level, the process called germination allows a reaper to form a temporary secondary bond with a soulsown as a swift action that grants the benefits for 1 minute and while it lasts, it grants the seed's core ability and talents that work while germinating. Only one germination may be in effect at a given time. and it may be used 1/day, plus an additional time per day at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Starting at 5th level, germination also yields 1d4 temporary essence points, which increases to 2d4 and 3d4 at 11th and 17th level, respectively. Threshing and germination are collectively known as "binding". 5th level provides speak with dead to all reapers of the arcane, divine and primal seeds, but it does not count towards the pyramid rule.

Seeds start with a granted talent and gain an additional talent at 2nd level, +another talent at 4th level and every even level thereafter. Martial seeds yield a bonus feat OR summon weapon at 1st level, plus an additional benefit at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. The more often summon weapon is taken, the more powerful is the called weaponry, which may be btw. summoned at a 2 essence cost, lasting for 1 minute. Martial soulsown also yields proficiency with martial weapons, +4 Con for the purpose of calculating hit points. Though this is modified, depending on the soulsown bound - you see, the class can actually have a 1/2, 3/4 or full BAB-progression, depending on the types of soulsown bound.

Soulsown talents govern their save DC as mentioned before; if the reaper has no spellcasting seed, the governing save-DC attribute defaults to Charisma. Basically, the soulsown learns the talents, which the reaper then proceeds to basically channel while bound to the soulsown. This also extends to the wide variety of soulsown pets the reaper can gain access to -they manifest as a conglomerate with the soulsown bound and thus, they only manifest when the respective soulsown is bound - the pet has an effective level of reaper level -3, minimum 1 for the purpose of determining power. Favored class option-wise, we cover the core races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kitsune, kobold, orc, puddling, tiefling, vanara and vishkanya and they are pretty cool

The respective soulsown talents are grouped by seed and level where they may be chosen no prerequisite and after that, every 2 levels unlock new ones and some require other prerequisites. All of these are only unlocked when the reaper has the respective soulsown bound. The talents are extremely diverse and half of the pdf is devoted to listing these. In short, these can be envisioned as a massive array of "choose your own class features" array - and the extent of material available is MASSIVE. I mean it. Cantrips? Check. Bonded objects? Check. Domains. Beyond these gloriana (composition magic), lay on hands or touch of corruption, bloodline powers, rod of wonder effects, potion creation, counterspelling, scent, bag of tricks, phantom alchemy (cannot be sold), a lacing option with its own pool to add effects to the reaper's spellcasting, skills, bonuses - from the active to the passive, there is a true cornucopia of options available here - the more powerful of which, obviously, use the previously mentioned pools granted by the soulsown as resources...and yes, proper combat maneuver use and capstones can be found here - from vastly increased essence pools to a variety of different options, there is A LOT here.

I should also mention totems, which can be pictured as deployable things that can be used to channel effects, allowing for the setting up of AoE-buff stations, an artillery totem, sentries, etc. - and there are means to specialize in this really cool subset of talents with a unique pool. Really cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches and the rules-language is as impressively precise as we've come to expect from Bradley Crouch. Layout adheres to Interjection games' 2-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks to the big sections, but not to the respective sub-abilities.

Sooo...the reaper is an impressively strong class, designed to make altaholic players (you know, players who constantly want to play new characters) stick with one character for once...and guess what? It actually works! More importantly, it clocks imho in at tier 3 (as intended by the design) and actually is better balanced than a TON of options I get to see on a regular basis. Considering the wide open nature and huge foot-print of the class, this is doubly impressive. The class is pretty complex and something for advanced players, obviously - and due to its complexity, the respective pools and the like may take a bit of close reading to properly understand, but the sidebars help there...but the class actually has a use beyond the obvious: Know how an issue with 1-on-1-modules tend to be that you need the right class/character to make the module fun? Well, the reaper is pretty much PERFECT for whole 1-on-1-campaigns. Seriously, the flexibility of choices allow for the creation of extremely diverse challenges, making the class a godsend for such games. Personally, I'll gladly allow this class in my games - while potent, it should not break the game and its massive flexibility is paid for with a relative fragility.

It should also be noted that the class, beyond being a master-scavenger with a ton of modes, also features quite a lot of utterly unique options that manage to codify what would otherwise be options that are too strong in a concise and compelling manner. In short: The reaper is an AMAZING class; it's fun, versatile and something for every player who easily gets bored with a given class. This is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Reaper; OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Play Everything
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Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energy
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 05:52:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first expansion-pdf for Dreamscarred Press' massive Bloodforge-book of races clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword by the authors, 1/2 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, one thing bloodforge did that I should have commented on in my review back in the day, would be that it introduced the notion of certain subtypes that make it possible for a creature, to, via the subtype, count as a second creature type for the purpose of spells and effects, abilities etc. While this does not necessarily yield issues per se, it makes some type-interactions a bit more complex for the GM and, promptly, a rather annoyed reader did comment on this in a private e-mail I am not going to duplicate here. Suffice to say, I do not consider this a problem per se - purists may argue otherwise, and I get the potential issues here, but, as a whole, I don't consider that a strike against the system presented. I mention this since the half page below the ToC is used to recap these subtypes.

All right, the first race featured herein should bring a smile to fans of Full Metal Alchemist - the atstreidi are suits of living armor! They gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, if they choose the aegis class, they form its astral armor over their bodies, losing temporarily their armor shell and any armor absorbed in favor of the astral suit to prevent insane stacking. Wait, what? Okay, the slow route: They are aberrations with the psionic and slimeblood subtypes, Medium, have darkvision 60 ft. and are immune to diseases and poisons, gain all benefits of 8 hours of sleep in 2 hours (no, spellcasters can still only prepare spells once per day...) and they have a base 25% chance to negate crits and precision damage etc., with fortification and similar effects increasing that chance by 10% instead of the usual benefits. They gain a +4 armor bonus to AC from their armored shell, but cannot wear armor -instead, they can, in a 24 hour-process, migrate to a new suit of armor and are helpless while undergoing this rigorous ritual - once transferred, they replace the armored shell's bonus with that of the assimilated armor and are considered to be wearing it. The shell can be enchanted and its enchantments maintained - or those of the armor. The unarmed attacks and slams made are treated as though of the armor regarding DR and properties and yep, the ability takes sleeping in armor into account. The race also gets Wild Talent and may gain a power point as a favored class option. They can speak to deaf creatures, courtesy of their soothing voice, and get a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and to Bluff, but suffer a -2 penalty to Intimidate. It should be noted that teh communication and Diplomacy bonus are contingent on the creature not being immune to mind-affecting effects. They also gain a 1d4 primary slam attack.

As alternate racial traits, we have a +4 bonus to Intimidate and -2 to Diplomacy for those born of a psychic imprint of hate, replacing the soothing communication, obviously. Instead of a slam attack, a chosen weapon proficiency can be taken and there is an alternative for playing Small versions, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int. The pdf provides favored class options that include the option to gain 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes and specialized ones, for alchemist, aegis, barbarian, bard, druid, guru, inquisitor, monk, psychic warrior, soulknife, spiritualist, wilder, stalker and wizard. These are all solid.

The second new race herein would be the eiremian, born of a connection to the negative energy plane, inheriting an inner stillness that can be considered to be quieting and numbing, making them often feel like they're missing out. The pdf has a funny jab here "It could be worse. They could be a dhampir." They are native outsiders with +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Disguise and Stealth, -2 to Diplomacy, +4 to saves versus emotion effects and +4 to the DC to intimidate them (here we have a missing italicization of a spell effect quoted as an example)...and they gain Silent Desolation. Negative energy dealt by them against creatures and objects usually immune to it, still inflicts half damage. ... Yeah, not getting anywhere near my game. Negative energy is already a very strong, rarely resisted energy type. They also gain "The Terrible Peace": As an immediate action, they can force a target within close range to halt, with the Will-save to resist being 10 + 1/2 character level + Wisdom modifier. Full-round actions thus interrupted count as having been a standard action...which becomes all manner of wonky when used in conjunction with full attacks: TWFing ally hits for 4 of his 5 attacks, gets hit and gets a free move. Yes, the ability implies that the immediate action has to be taken BEFORE the effects of a given action, but it does not explicitly state so and RAW, immediate and swift actions may be used during a full attack. Even without this cheese, this would be INCREDIBLY powerful for a racial ability - and it has no daily limit - just a 1-minute cool-down. Oh, and these guys gain character level + Wisdom modifier negative energy resistance.

Instead of terrible peace and the save bonus, there is an option to, up to 3/day as a standard action, designate 1 + 1 creature per 4 character levels within 60 ft. and line of sight - on a failed save, their attitude changes one step towards indifferent and morale bonuses, fear effects, confusion or emotion effects are suppressed for 1 minute. Also a replacement for terrible peace is the powerful inevitability: When subject to hold person or "another effect that would prevent her from acting normally", the save may be rerolled. It has a 1 minute cooldown. Yeah, that is a nonentity of rules-language I don't usually get to see in Dreamscarred Press books. What constitutes this nebulous "acting normally"? Rage? Madness? Dex-reducing poisons? Spells hat generate weight? Entangle? No idea. Finally, we have a subtype that makes them count as human. Favored class option-wise, we have 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes as an option and specific FCOs for alchemist, cleric, fighter, guru, harbinger, hunter, inquisitor, kineticist, mystic, occultist, slayer, spiritualist, soulknife, vitalist and warder.

Ethumions would be the positive energy counterparts with +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wisdom; they are native outsiders with darkvision 60 ft. and gain Quick Draw as a bonus feat and may use it to draw any object. As a standard action they may perform a supernatural version of mage hand as a standard action. They recover hp and eliminate fatigue every hour as though they had rested for 8 hours, making fatigue and derivatives as a balancing check meaningless...particularly since they also regenerate ability damage and burn at twice the normal rate. They also do not gain temporary hit points in excess of their maximum from positive energy-dominant planes. They also receive +2 to Sleight of Hand and Escape Artist, -2 to Bluff and when they heal a creature, they increase the amount healed by +1 hit point, + another hit point at every odd level thereafter. Okay, does this extend to healing in a vitalist's collective redistributed by the character? The ability specifies that it applies to powers etc., but does collective healing qualify?

When inflicting positive energy damage, they also add Constitution modifier to the damage caused. Instead of the healing boost and the telekinesis, they can gain a third, invisible, intangible hand that can wield weapons (though it can't be used as a third weapon attack). The wording here regarding the third attack can be a bit confusing, but ultimately works. Alternatively, they can reduce their darkvision to 30 ft., but gain constant deathwatch in that range (COOL!)...and, once again, mostly human is an option. Beyond the general heritage FCO option, we get specified ones for alchemist, surprisingly, antipaladin, barbarian, bard, daevic, fighter, kineticist, occultist, paladin, rogue, sorceror, soulknife, warder, warlord and wilder. Once again, these are solid and before you ask - yes, we do get an age. height and weight table.

The pdf reprints the mixed blood trait before moving on to a selection of reprints of heritage feats from the big book. Wondered what the weird creature on the cover was? Well, that would be the Ravid, a CR 5 creature that pulses with a flow of positive energy that animates objects and grants it armored shell on speed with on the fly customization and regenerating temporary hit points as well as the option to make the whirl of objects a vortex of shrapnel in bursts or cones...oh, and their attacks are laced with positive energy! An amazing, cool and versatile critter here. Two thumbs up!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - apart from missed italicizations, nothing grievous. For the most part, the rules-language of this pdf is as crisp and precise as we'd expect from the authors and Dreamscarred Press - i.e., top-notch...though, as mentioned above, there are some uncharacteristic hiccups that detract from an otherwise pretty excellent overall performance. The pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports anime-style artworks that fit the theme of the races and the somewhat playful and chaotic nature of the Ravid.

Forrest Heck and Jade Ripley, with additional design by Adam Boucher, Doug Haworth, Jacob Karpel, Katia Oakes, Kevin Ryan and Matthew Ryan Medeiros have created three of the most creative races I've seen in a long, long while. Each of the races features not one, but several unique and amazing angles for roleplaying, flavorful and unique concepts, creative abilities that matter and very cool alternate racial traits. Two out of three also all are VERY, VERY STRONG. The Atstreidi, I'd allow in my regular-powered games - they are amazing, flavorful and their armor-engine is genius; You get a unique playing experience without it breaking the game and the limitations imposed on it and the crisp, pitch-perfect language that codifies them, is amazing. The ereimian and ethumion are also very flavorful, but mop the floor with aasimars, elans and other apex-level races, each of them breaking checks and balances in some way. They need, in my opinion, a hefty, prolonged whacking with a big nerfbat to bring them on par with even the strongest of races I usually get to see. I can't recommend them in any way, shape or form as written, which breaks my heart - You see, in spite of the minor flaws I complained about, I LOVE both races. Sure, they need to be cut down to size, but they are worth doing so and it's not hard to do so. As a reviewer, I have to rate what's here, though.

The Ravid, just fyi, closes this pdf in style as another definite high note for the pdf. But oh boy, how do I rate this? I have severe issues with more than half of the content., but ultimately, I do love even the flawed parts. The material I don't have issues with ranks as the absolute apex of what I've seen in races and frankly would deserve candidate status. Similarly, the ravid is a delightfully brutal monster with a thoroughly creative, compelling build.

...

Times like these, my job's really not easy. On the one hand, I want to scream and rage, on the other, I want to cheer and applaud...and ultimately, the second impulse is the stronger. This is a mixed bag, yes, but one where a capable GM (or a revision) can make the dark spots shine bright like a sun and add to otherwise truly amazing options. If you're planning on using eiremians and ethumions, whack them a bit before you do, unless you're playing in a really high-powered custom-races game, though...and if that irks you, round down instead. Still, ravid and atstreidi and the ideas alone make this worth the asking price and I have always valued imperfect and creative offerings over bland, but perfect ones...which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energy
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