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The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:25:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning. The peculiarity of 5e has been properly acknowledged here, using rules analogue to suffocation – kudos!

The water weirds that represent minions here can be pretty nasty, so yeah, the PCs have been warned in more ways than one.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the challenge 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities, including legendary actions: She can fire lash out with vines, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher. The dryad is deadly, but, to put my nitpicker’s hat on, the lady does suffer from a minor hiccup: She refers to the entangled condition, which RAW does not exist – while it’s simple to default to the spell’s effects, it’s still an imperfection that can cause a bit of confusion. I am also a bit puzzled how her skills came to be: At proficiency bonus +3 and Wisdom 16, her Perception should either be +6 or +3, not +4, for example.

Oh yes, dire bear. You see, we actually get dire bear stats herein as well – at challenge 5, this fellow is DEADLY. However, it should be noted that a few glitches have crept into the statblock: At challenge 5, he should have a proficiency bonus of +3, which means that the attack values should be one higher; similarly, the Perception skill should be one lower. I may be missing something, but yeah. Considering how lethal the lady is, this is a bit puzzling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. The statblocks themselves sport a few minor hiccups, which unfortunately accumulate. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, may warrant the more than fair asking price. The 5e-conversion per se is nice (big kudos for the dire bear stats), but at the same time, the hiccups in them, while not impeding your ability to run the module, may upset some of the more mechanically nitpicky GMs out there. As such, I cannot go higher than 4 stars for the 5e-iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
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Classes of the Lost Spheres: Shadow Weaver
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:21:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/Introduction, 6.5 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, we begin this pdf with something I really applaud: The book notes all the cool shadow-themed 3pp-options (with hyperlinks – big kudos!!) out there as it states its mission: You see, the class depicted herein is distinct from the other shadow-themed options in a variety of ways, namely in its focus:

One look at the shadow weaver base class makes that clear if you skipped the intro: The class gets d6, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression and good Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and light armors. In short: This is actually a shadow-themed full caster! The shadow weaver uses Intelligence as the governing spellcasting attribute and is a prepared spellcaster. HOWEVER, unlike a wizard, the shadow weaver’s spells are NOT expended upon being cast – instead, the class consumes a spell slot of the appropriate level. Metamagic may be spontaneously applied and increases casting time if this is done – like a spontaneous spellcaster handles these. HOWEVER, at the same time, the shadow weaver can elect to prepare the spells in question in advance with metamagic applied – in this case, they do NOT increase their casting time. This increased flexibility means that the class, pretty much from the get-go, provides a bigger value for taking metamagic feats, making them more viable – a fact I generally applaud.

Now, as a medium for storing spells, the shadow weaver treats his shadow as a kind of spellbook – the shadow weaver’s shadow is also infused with shadowstuff, which allows him to cast spells with the [shadow] descriptor while not on the plane of shadow. Cool: Shadow weavers may study the shadows of spellcasters to transcribe these spells, provided the spells are on the class’s spell list. The shadow weaver is automatically cognizant when a creature succeeds a Will-save to disbelieve a shadow weaver’s illusion. This disbelief, though, infects the psyche of the shadow weaver – all observers of such an illusion automatically disbelieve it, which does not end the illusion, unless it is a phantasm. This is a REALLY smart balancing mechanic right there.

The shadow weaver gains an additional spell with the darkness or shadow descriptor at each spell level, gaining such a bonus spell at every odd-numbered level after 1st. Additionally, spells cast by the shadow weaver can superficially resemble other spells: Illusions can resemble any spell, but spells of other schools are limited to looking like other spells from the same school. This even fools detect magic (YES!), but can be noticed via greater arcane sight etc. Components, which would otherwise be a tell-tale sign, seem to vanish, btw. – identifying such a spell is hard; the ability increases the DC to identify it by the shadow weaver’s class level. Disbelieving one of the shadow weaver’s illusions does btw. NOT allow for automatic Will saves to disbelief the others – this ties in with the re-jigged illusion-balancing mentioned before. There is one more crucial component to the class’ spellcasting engine that needs to be mentioned: The shadow weaver’s spells are classified as umbral spells: They have thought components and emotion components, somewhat akin to psychic spells. Thought component spells have a concentration DC of +10 unless the shadow weaver previously spent a move action to center herself. Unlike psychic spells, umbral spells may be cast while under the effect of an emotion effect, though the base concentration DC is equal to the spell’s save DC + twice the spell’s level. Some umbral spells may be undercast, following rules analogue to those of psychic spells.

At 2nd level, the shadow weaver gains silhouette – an illusion stitched to her own shadow, which maintains a constant effect. The Will save to disbelieve the silhouette, if any, is equal to 10 + ½ class level + Int-mod. If an observer has successfully disbelieved a silhouette, he is immune to that shadow weaver’s particular silhouette’s effects for 24 hours. Only one silhouette may be in effect at a given time. There is no action given for the switching of silhouettes, which makes me believe that the switch is free. A new silhouette is gained at 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These sport some SERIOUSLY cool options: Like making someone who disbelieves your illusions believe that he may be disbelieving existence itself – on a failure of the save, the target refuses to disbelieve anything! This ability is great, as it can screw with the PC AND the player. Prolonging spell effects, anchoring illusions (swift action illusion maintenance) and equipment made of shadow – there are some seriously evocative tricks here and we can also find a Tiny shadow companion. Starting at 12th level, silhouette selection is expanded to include the greater silhouette choices, including e.g. the ability to gain the dread’s shadow twin, mirage arcane with 50% real false conjuration VI-effects – really creative, cool, complex tricks here!

Starting at 2nd level, the class gains weave reality, which is a second array of supernatural abilities – these have their saving throw DCs governed by Wisdom and 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an additional daily use. Weave reality’s benefits are gained in a linear manner: At 2nd level, if a target is adjacent, enchanted or demoralized, the shadow weaver may force the creature via an immediate action Will-save against it to accept the illusions. 3rd level unlocks lighting control. At 8th level, the shadow weaver may channel hit points between two living or two undead targets. Starting at 10th level, the shadow weaver may unleash cones of energy, opposing energies witnessed last round – negative energy heals undead, positive the living and the elemental oppositions are concisely codified. Really cool! At 16th level, the shadow weaver may render a target creature quasi-real and at 18th level, the ability-suite nets the ability to polymorph any object serious amounts of matter.

Starting at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shadow weaver adds one divination, enchantment or illusion spells from the cleric, druid, psychic, sorcerer/wizard, shaman, or witch spell list, storing it in the shadow. 4th level yields piercing glimpse: Basically, a sense-based option that ranges from constant aura sight to darkvision (or an upgrade thereof), a further bonus when gaining circumstance bonus to atk, saves or AC due to position etc., better Sense Motive, wild empathy – you get the idea. 9th level and every 5 levels thereafter yields another piercing glimpse and, if applicable, the governing attribute is Wisdom. 14th level enhances the selections available to include blindsense, etc. 14th level yields 3/day, maximum 1/round move action shadow step.

That’s not all, though: The class also has a bloodline-like ability-suite: Chosen at 1st level, this is called “Perspective” – each perspective modifies the spell-list of the shadow weaver is meaningful ways (and yes, e.g. the curiosity perspective allows for synergy with Purple Duck Games’ glorious illuminatus chaos mage’s wonder-engine!) and each perspective nets a 1st level ability, one that is gained at 6th level and determines the capstone. These abilities grant massive, meaningful tweaks to the engine: Take duality of probability: You gain 1 + Wisdom modifier luck points. When attacking, saving, using a skill or CL-check, you can choose to roll twice and take the lower result – if you do, you gain a probability point, which may then be used as an immediate action to roll twice the effects of a wonder, ability or attack, including an illusion’s full effect – this limit prevents cheesing. Increased reality and capstone full reality can be found in the same suite. A total of 7 such perspectives can be found herein and from mimicking spellcasting (with a limit) to using Wisdom or Charisma as governing recall and perfect recall to an animus companion or channel energy, the perspectives represent major, meaningful tweaks of the base engine of the class.

The pdf comes with a MASSIVE class spell list and false versions of abjuration, necromancy, etc. in 9 iterations each, allowing for maximum shadow spell flexibility. The pdf comes with 4 feats for quicker piercing glimpse change to extra silhouette and piercing glimpse. Another Perspective allows you to add spells of another perspective to your spell list at 1 level higher.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and this pdf IS DENSE. There is a TON of text on each page – the margins are small. This sports a lot of content. The original artworks deserve special mention – a cool iconic that’s not rail-thin gets two thumbs up for me, diversity-wise, and the character looks badass, big time! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lost Spheres Publishing went completely under my radar until one of my patreons requested me taking a look at this file. If this class by David N. Ross is any indicator, then that is an oversight I need to remedy ASAP. I don’t know if developer Christen N. Sowards changed a lot, but the result that came out of design and development is utterly beautiful: We not only get player agenda and meaningful choices left and right; the class can be played in a wide variety of meaningful, different ways and the class is AMAZING, allowing for the flexible, rewarding use of illusions and shadow spells – this is, in short, my favorite full spellcaster class in AGES. The shadow weaver does a ton of unique and interesting things with the spellcasting engine and, from spellcasting to the abilities gained, it is a thoroughly rewarding, complex and fun class. While it doesn’t sport much supplemental material (FCOs etc.), that remains my only true gripe. The shadow weaver plays even better than it reads: The perspectives offer playing experiences so different from one another that most archetypes out there deliver less. Add to that the customization options and spells and we have a cornucopia of unique and cool tricks.

In short: This is the excellent full shadow caster we always wanted. Taking the top tier design difficulty into account and we have a major gem of a class here that deserves being added to your roster -5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation. The only reason this is not a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017 is that it doesn’t sport that much supplemental material – still, get this glorious gem!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of the Lost Spheres: Shadow Weaver
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The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (5E/PF)
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:20:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting…are what brings down this pdf. While the formal criteria are still okay, the fact that the rules-language is compromised in several key instances is highly problematic. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard, and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports two really gorgeous one-page full-color artworks (one being a pole-dancing succubus or tiefling) and a couple of less impressive, but decent color-pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I love Brian Berg’s malefactor class. (Additional writing by James Olchak and Rick Cox). It is one of the most unique, interesting classes I know for the PFRPG game and the combo-skirmisher/debuffer is a cool role. The class oozes flavor galore and provides utterly unique tricks to pull off.

In short: It deserves better.

The annoying presentation that alternates between the systems can be grating and is utterly baffling to me. But while I was reading the PFRPG-version, the old fire returned – I caught myself smiling. In spite of the formal hiccups and nonstandard wording instances, I couldn’t help myself. It is a cool class, albeit one that could have really used a picky developer to file off the rough edges here and there. Then I started looking at 5e. Oh boy. The base chassis is, apart from referencing several rules-concepts that don’t exist in the system, pretty solid. But the class falls apart in the archetypes, where crucial abilities simply don’t work. The amount of remnant Pathfinderisms is baffling and something even a cursory editing pass should have caught. I’m sorry to say this: While in Pathfinder, bonus types and several aspects of the finer rules-language could be a bit smoother, the 5e-version is simply sloppy and not up to the standards.

This review breaks my heart. The base chassis, in both versions, is cool and utterly unique. It is, however, also a prime example for why I consider editors and developers to be the unsung heroes of the industry. One careful pass could have rendered this class, in both iterations, a 5-star + seal masterpiece, annoying presentation notwithstanding. Instead, we’re left with class that is flawed, that has serious issues in one system and minor hiccups in the other. I’d love to rate this separately, but alas, I can’t. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, barely rounded up for the purpose of this platform, courtesy of me really loving what’s here, what can be salvaged.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (5E/PF)
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101 5th Level Spells (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:23:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of spells clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. I did receive this pdf prior to public release in order to allow for a speedy release of the review.

We begin this supplement with massive lists of the respective spells by class, before moving on the alphabetic presentation of spells. Now, obviously, I can’t go through each and every spell contained here, but I’ll try to give you a good idea of what to expect. Let’s begin with the first spell, alter metal. This spell modifies the damage threshold of affected objects and is particularly potent when affecting armor etc. – the spell properly differentiates between attended and unattended, magical and nonmagical and even intelligent items. Kudos. Fans of Diablo and similar franchises will also enjoy a spell, which renders skeletons into ticking shrapnel bombs.

Now damage spells herein generally sport a valid alternative and contextualization compared to core spells. Take e.g. arrow storm. The spell inflicts 8d6 piercing damage to all creatures within 30 ft. of a point in range (150 ft.), potentially inflicting the restrained condition as well on a failed save, necessitating cover or a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) to end the condition. The affected area may be farther away than e.g. that of cone of cold, but the PHB’s spell affects a larger area, has a slightly superior damage type and, with d8 damage-dice, a slightly higher average damage output. In another example, namely force ram, we have 12d4 damage and an unerring, automatic hit – but also the danger that shield completely negates the spell.

There also are utility type spells herein – or spells that you’d consider to be more relevant for the purpose of the more narrative aspects of the game: The befoul spring ritual can, for example, taint a water source. Bitter vintage can render wine into poison, with the caster gaining several different options regarding which poison to transform the vintage into. And yes, the transformation may be detected by savvy PCs. On a minor complaint regarding the formatting: The “At Higher Levels.” Has not been bolded and italicized properly here. There are spells like blood to sap – the spell deals poison damage on a failed Constitution saving throw and poisons the target for the duration, which reduced the target’s speed and imposes disadvantage on Dex saves, but also provides an AC bonus. Regarding damaging spells that also impose negative conditions, it is nice to observe a lack of save-less spells and the fact that the conditions and their potency receive the respect they should have. The pdf does sport some evocative visuals in the damaging spells it has, e.g. in brimstone cloud.

Campfire lullaby is interesting, in that it allows a character to get the benefits of completing a long rest more than once per 24 hours – the long casting time and duration and the caveat that lets it affect a character only once in 5 days act as good balancing mechanisms for this potent spell, though. There are carpets of fire and options to chastise foes with psychic damage. There is a means to generate circles of moonlight, protection against shapechangers and the undead. The pdf also sports a contingent healing spell, which is neat – and yes, these cannot be stacked…and they can be used offensively versus the undead. There also is a long-range curing spell – which is pretty cool, aye, but considering the impact of long-range healing on the game, it deserves to be noted that it may not be for all groups. Speaking of which: Eternal charm is permanent. Whether or not you like the ramifications of this depends on the type of game you run.

Sifting through thoughts via crystal probe, cursing targets with narcissism…what about changing the look of terrain and hiding it from the prying eyes of enemy spellcasters? There is also a powerful spell to compel targets to deliver messages for you. You can conjure forth earth barriers that bludgeon those foolhardy enough to attack you. Elfhome attunes an area in forests to elves and creatures, providing climb speed and quicker movement. What about first conjuring a tree and then having it fall on enemies? Really cool: Flatten makes you two-dimensional. Guard Dog conjures forth a variant dire wolf with modified stats to guard an area and the knave purge ritual provides a type of magic protection against thieves. Minor complaint – spell-references in the text tend to lack the italicizations.

We can find one-way pain circuits, the ability to travel through stone, several pahnatsms (lichs, nymphs, swarms…) – there are a lot of spells, some of which provide significant changes to the engine: Take remove condition, for example: The spell can even negate instantaneous effects like petrification via magic and may end the attunement to a magic item causing the condition, though curses are maintained. Now personally, I like this for the ability to make more controlled use of items with big drawbacks, but it does remain an aesthetic preference. Speaking of spells I like: Scry reverse does exactly what you’d think it does. I like the tactical option, but I can see some Gms not being as in love with it.

There also would be a powerful spell that requires the willing sacrifice of a mortal being to enhance your powers – suffice to say, that one is evil to the core. Potent songs that suppress spellcasting and magic item use make for amazing tools in the arsenal of bards – really cool. Spell grounding is a very potent defensive option: While within the range of a spell that does not have a range of touch, you may use your reaction to negate the spell, ending all effects and damage. No check, no differentiation between spell levels, no discharging of the spell – personally, I believe that this should have an “At Higher Levels”-scaling for maximum spell level affected and it should also have some wording regarding interaction of enspelled terrain into which you move – which imho should be exempt. While it is clear that this is supposed to work only for rays and chains, RAW, it is much more flexible, depending on your reading of the spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very goo: I noticed a couple of missed italicizations and a few rules-language points that could be slightly clearer, but, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports fitting full-color artwork, mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ed Kabara’s conversion of Steven D. Russell’s classic spells does a valiant job at translating the vast plethora of spells to 5e. As a whole, the balancing of the material herein is pretty tight. The spells generally fit their respective levels. There are some spells that change how some aspects of the game work, which may be a matter of taste. Beyond the few hiccups herein, there is one aspect to be aware of: 5e sports less flexibility with the spells offered than PFRPG – spells have a higher value in direct comparison, often being entwined, availability-wise, with class features or feats as a kind of pay-off. This book does not provide the like or a means to contextualize the spells themselves – it literally only presents a ton of spells. Just putting them all in the game will, by necessity, generate a power-increase, courtesy of the increased flexibility. This is not bad, mind you, but something 5e-GMs should nevertheless be aware of.

As a whole, I consider this collection of spells a good example of how Rite Publishing has stepped up its 5e-content’s quality – of all the spell-collections I have read so far, this is by far the most refined. All in all a worthwhile collection of spells to grab and choose from – my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 5th Level Spells (5E)
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Oracle Mysteries of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:22:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Porphyra-expansion books clocks in at 17 pages,1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are laid out for booklet-size – 6’’ by 9’’ (or A5), which means you’ll be able to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, provided your eyesight’s good enough.

All righty, let’s not dilly-dally and dive right into those mysteries, shall we? This humble pdf contains no less than 5 complete, new mysteries, the first of which would be ascension, which, unsurprisingly, focuses on ascending to a nascent divinity. The class skills granted would be Climb, Fly, Intimidate and Swim and from illusion of calm to create greater demiplane, the spell-selection makes sense. Among the revelations, we have darkvision (including stacking caveat AND scaling improvements at higher levels that are tied, really smart, to alignment – evil oracles can see in magical darkness, while non-evil ones also gain low-light vision and scent – cool!), a limited use energy blast, scaling DR (with an appropriate level-cap), natural weapons (that are properly codified – HECK YES!), resistances, telepathy…and the ability to grow wings (which begin as humble levitate and improve to proper flight, retaining the soft balancing mechanism of flight). The final revelation provides at-will greater teleport. Immaculate, makes sense – two thumbs up!

The celestial mystery nets Fly, Linguistics, Perception and Perform and focuses on the traditionally “good” spells like dispel evil and, alter, even holy sword. Sounds boring? Sounds like “been there, done that”? Well, what about infusing a small area with planar traits? Creating difficult terrain via heavenly meadows? Overcoming alignment restrictions (and undetectable alignment at higher levels?) or firing balls of sparks that can be separated into smaller blasts? This one represents a minor confusion, though: You can use more than one daily use to increase the affected area, but the pdf fails to specify by how much. On a nitpicky side, it’s electricity damage, not electric damage. Still, the options that are here are surprisingly creative!

On the other end of the alignment spectrum would be the Infernal mystery, which nets Fly, Intimidate, Knowledge (nobility) and Survival. And no, it is no lame alignment-flipped version of Celestial; while planar infusion is also here, we have the ability to tap into the pits and barriers of hell, rendering targets flat-footed. We also get the ability to infuse hellish power in weaponry or cause painful bursts of hellfire – minor complaint here: Reflex should be capitalized.

Nimbus surrounds you with the energy of light or darkness, focusing on a ref-fluffed array of force effects, represented, spell-wise, by the gamut from mage armor to crushing hand. The revelations include making weaponry ghost touch and indestructible by means short of disintegration. The mystery also nets a potent force-damage touch attack that can later by used as a limited use AoE-blast. The revelation also nets scaling negative conditions, though the save to negate these and halve the damage as well as the alignment-based nature of the ability keeps it from becoming too much. SPs (dark or light), scrying – as a whole, a creative mystery.

Finally, there would be the pontifex mystery, which nets Knowledge (arcane), Linguistics, UMD and Intimidate – it focuses on conjuration, bonus spell-wise, beginning at summon monster I and scales up to greater planar binding. Here, things become interesting – these guys can choose the terrain control options of hell and heaven alike and even generate abyssal terrain. Constant planar adaptation, including the option to use it as an SP at higher levels and quicker summoning of an outsider subtype and limited use flexible energy descriptor changes make for yet another interesting spin here.

And then there’s the bonus pdf: The Bosch Fiend, penned by Mark Gedak, a nightmarish thing reminiscent of Hieronymus’ visions. Or rather, a massive plethora of critters. You see, this is basically a “Make your own twisted thing”-toolkit, with 3 menus of abilities and 9 (!!!) sample stats provided. The bonus pdf sports 9(!!!) pages of bonus content! And I really love the critter’s concept. Seriously, worthy of being upgraded further!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level and very good on a rules-language level: While I noticed a few minor hiccups, they did not compromise the integrity of the rules. Similarly, not all wordings are perfectly smooth, but they work. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has no interior artworks, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carl Cramér’s oracle mysteries turned out to be a pleasant surprise: Theme-wise, they didn’t exactly elicit excitement from yours truly, but that changed pretty quickly once I started looking at what they offer: Instead of rehashing bland standards, the little pdf manages to generate some actually unique, fun options beyond what you’d expect. Add to that the more than fair price, the glorious bonus pdf and frankly, the minor flaws pale to the point where I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars to the full 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Oracle Mysteries of Porphyra
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We Be Dragons
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:20:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

If the appropriation of Paizo’s slogan for Goblin-PC adventures was no clear indicator – this module is set apart by one very crucial factor: The PCs are all dragons! While it is possible to use appropriate regular dragons, the module’s base premise works imho best if you use the plentiful pregens included. 9 of these are provided, all clocking in at CR 4 and representing, as a whole, a pretty diverse spectrum. The dragons range from arcane dragon to blood dragon, caustic dragon, corruptor dragon, harmonic dragon, radiant dragon – basically, these dragons get supplemental abilities that help them fill in adventuring roles: The blood dragon, for example, gets a rage, while the radiant dragon’s breath weapon heals the living and damages undead – you get the idea.

Beyond that, the pdf provides something I very much applaud – namely a cheat-sheet for Flight: Common uses and DC, etc. – it’s handy to have and makes for a nice hand-out when playing this module with players who are not as experienced with the intricacies of flight. The module does offer minor scaling variations, which can prove to be helpful.

Now, the aforementioned dragons are undoubtedly dragons you never heard of before – there’s a reason for that – they may be the last of their kind…but to go into more details, I have to start going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Balthazar Barrick was but a child when dragons annihilated all he had ever known. He founded the order of the wyrm and eradicated no less than 9 draconic bloodlines. Alas, his squire Elbin disagreed with his master’s trauma-fueled fanaticism. He saved a single egg from each bloodline, spirited them away and raised them for 15 years, far away from civilization, in a cabin affectionately called Scalehearth.

Alas, recent expansions of trading routes have brought civilization perilously close…and Balthazar is still looking for his former squire, seeking to fulfill his extermination of the dragon PC’s bloodlines. Elbin, in the meanwhile, plans to move deeper into the wilderness…but as the dragons arrive from a hunting trip back at the cabin, they find it burning, Elbin wounded with a nasty gut wound and a nasty and utterly obvious poison – thus, we begin with a tripartite skill-challenge type of encounter that is surprisingly fun to run – three tasks, all time-sensitive – cool way to kick this off!

We get different read-aloud texts and slightly different information, depending on whether Elbin lives, obviously – turns out that a scout of the Torn Company, a poacher group, have been hired to track Elbin and his draconic brood – the trail leads towards the wayside inn that was rather recently constructed – the Toasted Toad, where some interrogation by overt or covert means (bloodshed and violence optional) predates the arrival of the Torn Company…whether the dragons engage or flee is up to them.

The trail, ultimately, leads the PCs to the ruined remnants of Craggock Fortress, where the fallen paladin Balthazar beseeches the gods to reinstate his paladin-hood…but to no avail. Still, with the remnants of the Torn Company and a fallen level 12 paladin, the final fight will not be a cakewalk – not even for dragons…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with red headers. Interior artwork is solid b/w-stock. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a minor comfort detriment. Cartography is in full-color, but extremely rudimentary – it’s just a collection of color-coded squares. Even a pencil-drawing would probably have been nicer.

Jeff Gomez’ “We be dragons” is a fun one-shot – particularly suitable for convention-style gameplay or as a change of pace, it represents a fun diversion from the standard adventuring tropes and trying to reinvigorate one’s bloodline can make for a great, epic campaign goal that is pretty inspiring. The challenges are diverse enough and, in fact, very much fun. That being said, the lack of bookmarks and the pretty bad map represent some minor blemishes for the module. It should be noted, though, that at the extremely fair and low price-point, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Dragons
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Alternate Paths: Martial Characters 2: Fight Smarter
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:54:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the Alternate Path-series clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, which leaves us with an impressive 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so the Alternate Path-series has carved a rather unique niche for itself in the context of splatbooks, focusing less on just adding to the pile of options and instead, showcasing some experimental and rather unique options – this time around, smart combat is the theme, and as such, the book begins with its mission statement and advice for the GM to make combats more interesting – and to not penalize players for not taking certain skills. This, among others, mentions the importance of terrain and skill challenges, the all but forgotten option to yield in combat and the like – as an aside, for skill challenges, check out Everyman Gaming’s phenomenal Skill Challenged Handbook – it should be core. It’s that good. Anyways, milestone-based leveling is also touched upon, before we dive into the new rules.

The first of these variant rules would be reactions: These are not a copy of 5e’s reaction-system, mind you: Instead, it allows the player to take a standard action as a reaction, with the two actions behaving just like swift actions and immediate actions. This adds a massive increase of dynamics to the combat – on the plus-side, implementing the system devalues bland “I hit 6 times with my weapons” full attacks (as they can’t be performed when you took a reaction). However, at the same time, this vastly changes the combo-dynamics, devalues AoOs and AoO-based builds and de-emphasizes long-term strategy for combats or at least increases the variables to an extent where prediction becomes very, very hard. Suffice to say, readied actions lose all relevance upon implementing this – and thankfully, the pdf does offer serious in-depth advice regarding the implementation of reactions: Class-based restrictions, basing them on feats, imposing of penalties – there are some serious and helpful pieces of advice there. Whether you like the flow of combat thus modified or not ultimately depends on your table – if your group is like mine and already has a lot of fluid movements and changing front-lines, then this may perhaps not be as amazing. If, however, you’re struggling to make combat something else than trading of full attacks, then this may be really amazing for you. All in all, an interesting variant rule-set.

Secondly, we look at the options for the conservation of attacks – iterative attacks are not particularly well-regarded in most tables I know. The system allows characters to sacrifice these iterative attacks in favor of bypassing hardness/DR, a +1 to atk, 3 may be sacrificed for a 5-foot step and 2 may be sacrificed for reloading or fighting defensively sans penalties. I am not a big fan for the atk-bonus benefit and as a whole and while the system does prevent abuse via TWF, flurries, etc., I do think that just replacing the iterative attacks with a kind of pool of options would have made sense. The implementation of this rule greatly favors single, devastating attacks – so if you’re building god strike characters or focusing on Vital Strike etc., this can be a bit ugly. Here, some discussion on the ramifications of the implementation would have been nice.

Next up would be simple grapple rules – which, while functional, do decrease the options available to the grapplers. The pdf suggests providing free Improved combat maneuver feats to increase their value – which generally is not necessarily a good idea, considering how other options build on them. Going with an extraordinary ability would have probably been smoother and retained the feat-tree-structure. I am, however, a HUGE fan of the variant aid another rules presented here: Providing a leg up and allowing for variant swift and full-round action aid anothers adds a tactical dimension to aiding your fellow adventurers.

The pdf also provides a couple of variant, inverse skill-uses: Torture via Heal, Ignoring via Perception or Misusing Magic Items – the first of these is less interesting, but in particularly, Misusing Magic Items can yield hilarious results – a successful check lets you roll d20 on a massive table. And yes, you can bestow transient sentience on an item. (As a minor formal complaint – spell-references are not always concisely italicized in the book.) We also get brief rules for wall jumping and running (cool) and a really cool fill-in of a rules-hole: The pdf contains an adept and sensible way of dealing with burrowing movement: The 3D-movement, hardness of surfaces and DR granted by material per 5 feet certainly will be used in my game. Speaking of 3D-movement – the proposed levels-approach makes sense and is easy to implement.

Finally, we have rules for cooking strange stuff in dungeons – as a minor complaint, “and large size creatures count as x2 large size creatures.” Should read “and Large size creatures count as x2 Medium size creatures.” – sizes are capitalized and there is a slightly confusing misnomer here. As a whole, I wasn’t too smitten by this cooking-variant. I’ve seen the concept done in a more rewarding manner.

The pdf also sports new classes – 5, to be precise. The first of these would be the calculator, who gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armors and shields, excluding tower shield, as well as with battle tomes. Calculators may enter computation mode as a swift action – this requires concentration and further swift actions to maintain and fear effects end it. While in computation mode, the calculator deals minimum damage and may not be affected by morale bonuses. However, they receive the computation bonus to all Knowledge checks and attack and damage rolls with ranged weapons, finesse weapons and one-handed or lighter melee weapons. This computation bonus equal to ¼ of the calculator’s level and may never exceed the character’s intelligence modifier. Okay, so is that minimum 1? No idea, alas. More importantly would be that the calculator gains 1 point of brilliance at the start of the calculator’s turn while he maintains computation mode. Question: If the character enters the mode for one round and then proceeds to end it on the second round, does he get this point or not? A calculator can only sustain the mode for a maximum of 1 minute and proceeds to take 3 times their class level in nonlethal damage upon ending computation mode.

A calculator’s brilliance pool may never exceed ½ class level (minimum 1) + Intelligence modifier (minimum 1) and may meditate for 1 minute to fully replenish the brilliance pool. The calculator begins play with one formula (the “average formula”) – formulae may be entered as a free action while in computation mode and they are incompatible with combat styles. Another formula is gained at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. The aforementioned formula lets you deal average damage, btw. Other formulas allow the character to e.g. treat an attack as using full BAB, gain Quick Draw and Combat Reflexes for 1 round, etc. – these formula, unsurprisingly, cost brilliance to activate. Immediate actions can be used to reduce the damage incurred to minimum damage. Finagle’s Law can be a bit problematic, allowing the character to deal maximum damage – with high critical multipliers and multiclassing, this one can be very, very potent and should probably be relegated to the higher levels or feature another restriction.

2nd level, weirdly, nets a +1/4 class level bonus to saves versus illusion spells or those with the emotion or fear descriptor and imposes a similar penalty to all Charisma-based skills. This lacks the minimum 1-caveat, making 2nd level in essence a dead level RAW. Mathematical savant is interesting and gained at 3rd level – it grants an approximate idea of the success-chances of certain actions – and yes, GMing-advice is provided. Problem: No activation action is provided. Also at 3rd level, the class gets to choose a calculator axiom, with another one gained every 3 levels thereafter – these basically represent talents sans activation cost – including proficiency with firearms, constant detect chaos/law and the ability to ascertain morale bonuses/penalties (not a fan) and bonuses to AC versus lawful targets, damage versus chaotic ones. There also are a couple of such abilities that require brilliance point expenditure.

There also are some interesting stances here – a minor complaint: Improved stances do not require their base stances as prerequisites, which they should, seeing that they have no effect without them. Ally-boosts to concentration or precision damage caused are also interesting. Apart from these minor inconsistencies, this section is rather interesting. Probability prediction, gained at 5th level, is interesting: As a free action, the calculator may 1/round at the start of an enemy’s turn call out an action – if the enemy follows this action, the calculator imposes penalties on the enemy or otherwise hampers them via ally-support. At 8th level, whenever the calculator in computation mode rolls a natural 3, he can spend a point of brilliance to invoke Pi and treat the result as a natural 20. At 19th level, the calculator may spend 1 point of brilliance at the start of their turn, treating all attacks as using the highest BAB – nasty shredder, even at 19th level, and strangely favoring TWFs. The capstone renders immune to death effects, critical hits and possession and lets the character assume an “intangible state” as a swift action. This does not exist. I think this is supposed to mean “incorporeal”.

The face-changer would be obviously inspired by the Men of Braavos, must be non-good and gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armor. The shapechanger begins play with the ability to disguise self as a Su, which does not allow for a Will-save to bypass. Okay. What’s the duration? CL for purposes of dispelling/ability-interaction? He can use it ½ class level (min 1) + Charisma modifier times per day. Starting at 2nd level, as a touch attack, they can store a creature’s mind – only one may be stored at any given time. The mind stored may then be accessed via Intelligence checks to recall information from it. 4th level upgrades this to work via touched objects that have been at least a year in the target creature’s possession. 3rd level’s surgical strikes is problematic: On a natural 15 or higher, you roll to confirm: If you do, effects that usually only trigger on a critical hit do trigger and you add + Dexterity modifier as precision damage to the damage caused. This makes fishing for crit builds and those that add critical hit effects via weapons or abilities very potent. Also at 3rd level and every 3 level thereafter, you gain a spy craft, which helps when going in deep cover – speaking a language sans actually speaking it, bonuses versus targets whose minds are held, changing places with a creature slain (generating the impression that the assassination attempt was foiled), morphing into the form of a loved one of a target – the abilities are interesting, but some are slightly exploitable: Killing spree nets you +2 to damage per foe killed, up to +1/3rd class level. Hand me the kittens, please. Similarly, there is an infinite, slow healing exploit. 4th level allows for the swift action reshaping of features, altering gender, race or age automatically. Okay, what’s the DC to notice the face-changer? 8th level provides a fluid form variant as an upgrade and 12th level nets polymorph – which is, unlike the previous ones, a SP. The previous ones have the magic interaction issues noted before.

7th level yields assassination – Dex-based save after 1 round study, on a failure, the attack’s target is reduced to 0 hit points. The ability may be used 1/day, +1/day for every 3 levels thereafter. The capstone lets him perform unlimited assassination attempts per day. 15th level upgrades the action required to swift and 20th level provides unlimited doppelgang…which is weird, for RAW, the base ability doesn’t specify a concise duration as the governing CL-component is opaque. Also weird: The pdf talks about allies and enemies and lets the face-changer define these anew each round, which is per se an amazing mechanic – the class, however, doesn’t do anything with it. Also, since quite a few abilities etc. sport caps on maximum number of targets, this can be a bit weird at the table.

The third class would be the nobody, who gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with hidden and rogue-y weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. The nobody’s defining class feature is nonperson: As adherents of the grand Nothing, nobodies are hard to remember – it takes Intelligence-checks to recall them and 7th and 15th level further make it harder to remember them. While the class addresses how issues with adventuring companions are handled, the pdf does fail to italicize a spell-reference here. The nobody may enter a null state as a move action, for up to 4 + Intelligence modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds per level after that – that should be class level. Nobodies in a null state are hard to recall: The first time a creature sees them, it has to succeed a Will-save to perceive them. Fats movement or attacks etc. end a null state in progression. Creatures get +4 to notice the nobody when they can see him enter a null state. Yeah. This is pretty much a better variant of Hide in Plain Sight at first level. And frankly, it is very, very potent – not because of what it does, but because the ability is not codified regarding balancing components like effect-types etc. At 5th level, he can choose invisibility (improved invisibility at 9th level)as a SP instead, regarding the benefits – which, frankly, is worse in quite a few cases. 9th level also, confusingly, upgrades the null state to being treated as natural invisibility. This looks like a revision at some point went haywire.

Additionally, they get limited use touch attacks that deal scaling force damage and that impose negative conditions and later, even dispel effects and more creative tricks. These do NOT break the cloaking of the class. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield upgrades to the array available, not unlike deeds. These include phasing targets away to the nothing for a round, being forgotten, etc. However, the abilities do have in common that they are missing some balance-components: Forgetting folks should be mind-affecting; silence-like effects lack a duration, spells are not italicized. It’s frustrating, really – the effects are interesting and generally, make sense. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the nobody gets to choose a powerful sense and becomes undetectable by it, requiring Perception to notice them. 5th level yields void spike, the ability to cause negative levels with a 1d4-round cooldown, with 9th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the amount of negative levels caused by +1. 6th level nets constant nondetection and 10th level provides the option to become incorporeal while in null state at an increased round cost. The capstone provides immunity to critical hits and precision damage as well as the option to 3 + Int-mod times per day, as a standard action, destroy a creature on a failed save – 20d6 on a successful save. Ouch. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class gets to choose an obscura, the talents of the class, which include entering null states as immediate actions in response to being targeted by a spell, attack, etc. Since this doesn’t move the character, I assume he is treated as invisible, with line of sight broken. More rounds of null state, fast stealth -you get the idea. AoE force damage, pocketing items into the Nothing – the class has flavor galore, but the important balancing tidbits, from clarifying durations to effect types make it problematic as a whole. A non-turn-ending, move action dimension door, exclusively to an adjacent to creatures, for example, is pretty damn cool and it, like many components of the class, would have deserved a bit more delicacy. As written, it is a VERY, VERY potent Stealth class. Unlike the previous classes, this one does get favored class options, btw. It also gets an archetype, the student of the sphere: Instead of the touch attack, they can basically conjure forth the lite-version of a sphere of annihilation and instead of void spike, he can later split these in smaller orbs. See, this one is really, really cool; amazing, even. That holds true for the whole class, mind you – with a bit of fine-tuning, this is a great class.

The sapper class gets d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and begins play with Catch Off-Guard and proficiency with simple weapons, throwing axes, handaxes, picks (light + heavy), saps and all martial ranged weapons as well as firearms, if the campaign uses them. They are proficient with all armor and shields, including tower shields. The begin play with Int-governed bombs (like the alchemist) and these have a ½ class level damage progression, capping at +10d6 at 20th level. While they last only one minute, they CAN be handed off to allies…and they are Ex. So yes, they work in zones sans magic. Sappers also start the game with sabotage: A target hit by a bomb becomes flat-footed (or even prone, on bad failures) or takes a penalty to d20 rolls, governed by sapper levels. Only one sabotage can be used on a creature in a given round and the critter gets a Ref-save to resist the effect.

At 3rd level, sappers can consume bomb uses as a swift action to create distracting harrier auras with a scaling range. 15th level allows for the regaining of bombs via item destruction – with a cap to prevent cheesing the ability. 19th level increases the Dc to resist the harrier aura. The capstone potentially breaks non-magical items in the aura and suppresses magic items – which may then break…REALLY cool.

5th level nets an insight bonus to damage with firearms, on damage rolls vs. objects and with sundering weapons. They bonus increases every 4 levels. 10th level yields interdiction, which can drain spells, rage, ki and similar limited resources with sabotage – damn cool! And yes, the list cannot be comprehensive – that’s why the pdf has guidance to determine the points/slots thus consumed. Kudos! 2nd level and every even level thereafter yields a sapper art – these include bomb discoveries, obviously, but also adding the sunder property to bludgeoning weapons, counting as being equipped with a portable ram and crowbar, Disruptive, better dirty tricks, putting down landmine-bombs and terrain control via bombs, creating bridges, barriers or clearing underbrush, no longer misfiring…this class is a) balanced, b) cool. Now I wished the class got more sabotages as it progressed, but after the concerns with the previous ones, I was rather happy to find this fellow. Now, due to the lack of spellcasting, I’d strongly suggest giving this fellow more bombs per day as the levels progress than what he currently has, but that as an aside.

The final new class would be the scout, who gains d8 HD, full BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves as well as 8 + Int skills per level. …WUT? With that chassis?? Okay. Proficiency-wise, he gets simple weapon and all martial ranged weapon proficiency, proficiency with all exotic ranged weapons (!!!) and all simple and martial firearms as well as light armor. Scouts have a stamina pool equal to their Constitution score, which is increased by certain feats like Endurance, Diehard, etc. Starting at 5th level, they get +1/3 class level to the total stamina – I assume, rounded down.

Scouts may duplicate a lesser version of invisibility (Stealth-bonus equal to scout level, minimum +2) while not moving, ½ scout level (minimum +0) while moving – they can activate it for 1 point of Stamina. Starting at 6th level, hostile actions do not break this cloaking. Starting at 10th level, cloaking does not cost stamina anymore and at 10th level, the scout may spend 1 stamina as a move action to dimension door, sans ending movement. I think the cost is supposed to be higher: 14th and 18th level reduce it by 1 to a minimum of 1, but the cost already IS 1…Ridiculous: Range is equal to the scout’s overland movement.

They begin play with darkvision 60 ft. (+30 ft. if they already have it) and double that range at 5th level and they are treated as having keen senses for the purpose of prerequisites. Starting at 3rd level, the scout gains more options here: First the options to not be caught off-guard by invisible targets and better noticing them, then all-around vision (plus seeing through magical darkness) at 7th level, x-ray vision at 11th level, lifesense at 15th and true seeing at 19th level. This array is prefaced by the following: “Starting at 3rd level, the scout can gain the following suite of abilities provided they expend 1 stamina at the start of their turn as a free action:” Okay – does that mean 1 point per round of activation? Can the scout have multiple effects in place at once? Do the costs in stamina stack? No idea.

When unencumbered, the scout also gets scout movement – ½ class level as a bonus to Acrobatics to bypass obstacles and ignore difficult terrain at 1st level. RAW, this includes damaging terrain, which it imho shouldn’t. 3rd level adds scurry (+10 ft. movement rate, scales up to +60 ft.); 6th level provides feather fall and caps falling damage at 5d6 and 9th level provides spider climb (italicization missing). These cost 1 stamina to activate and once again, I have no idea whether the costs are cumulative or not. At 1st level, the class can spend a free action to gain a +1 competence bonus to atk against a creature until the start of their next turn, increasing that by +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 2nd level provides evasion and the ability to make a party travel overland at the scout’s speed. Additionally, targets more than 60 ft. away take +1d6 precision damage per 4 scout levels, minimum +1d6, from the scout’s attacks. Starting at 5th level, the scout is constantly under the effects of a mundane variant of the alarm spell’s benefits. 4th level yields uncanny dodge, 8th level improved uncanny dodge. As a capstone, the scout auto-confirms ranged critical threats and recovers 2 stamina per round.

Starting at 5th level and every odd level thereafter, the scout gains an exploit. These are the talents of the class and they include combat feats (at fighter level -4), ranged combat maneuvers, 1/day regaining Constitution modifier stamina points upon reaching 0 stamina, spending 3 stamina to double base movement rate for a round, swift action 3-round haste for 3 stamina, doubled range increments for all ranged weapons…you get the idea. Basically, the class does what it sets out to do: Depict a nigh untraceable, extremely potent ambush sniper. If you ever thought that the ranged combat ranger’s DPR was too bad or that he was too easy to pin down, this class is basically that guy on speed. Suffice to say, I won’t let this anywhere near my table. I shudder at the thought of what even moderately competent optimizers can do with it.

The pdf also sport a ton of new feats: Extra class ability feats, for example (erroneously referring to Nobody as Cipher). There is an Indiana Jones-style use-whip-as-hand feat that’s actually well-made and really cool. There is a feat to remain hidden at -8 to Stealth while attacking. The Befuddling Basics Style is an interesting take of unlocking combat maneuvers while retaining the feat-tree. There is also a feat, weirdly with the [Tag]-descriptor, that lets you combine two combat maneuvers. Another feat lets you make an attack with a creature you have just killed. OP: Over-Prepared Combat renders a target you have identified flat-footed against your attacks after identifying it. A take on the concealed damage trope is okay – but personally, I really liked the option to use razor wire to generate protection from arrows – problem here: Duration? Does it move with you? If so, does the movement require actions to maintain the globe? Using razor wire to make traps etc. is pretty amazing. Reminded me of how bad-ass Walther in hellsing was and really made me want to use these, in spite of the minor inconsistency noted. Seize the Initiative lets you retroactively grant yourself +4 to initiative, -4 to atk in the first turn and prevents the use of precision damage. Still, considering how damage outclasses defense most of the time, this is problematic. There is also a feat to stand up from prone position that is better than restricted class talents. Not a fan. Several feats allow for magus-spell-poaching. Spellwire Style combines razor wires with touch spell delivery – which is 5 kinds of awesome – seriously – the wire-feats here are damn cool and there is another feat-tree for them beyond those already noted. Problem: RAW, the Style-trees don’t work. The follow-up feats have the [Style]-descriptor – a character may usually only be in one style at once and the follow-up feats are usually combat feats, making the descriptor-choice here plain WRONG. That doesn’t break them, mind you, but it is jarring.

The chapter also depicts a new type of feat, namely [Friend] feats – these require a bond between player characters and provide synergy boons: AC-bonus while near a wild-shaped druid friend, save-bonuses versus the school of your wizard buddy, +5 ft. movement while near your raging barbarian buddy. These are nice ideas, though one deserves special attention, as it represents more of an alternate rule and the pdf acknowledges such: Collaborative lets an ally take a prerequisite-less feat of yours to qualify for a given feat, prestige class, etc., but this locks the feat and prevents retraining. This can, obviously, provide some issues, when e.g. follow-up abilities build on the loaned feat; at the same time, it can make sense in some contexts, so yes – I’ll treat it as a valid variant rule, since the pdf clearly designates it as potentially causing issues.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not the strong suit of Little Red Goblin Games. While not bad per se, there are a lot formatting issues. More importantly, this pdf’s rules-language could really have used a strict and nitpicky dev to look at the power and finer rules-interactions. The big picture works, mind you – but its small things like effects not properly codified that turn a potent ability into a problematic one. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Scott Gladstein, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd’s latest Alternate Path was frustrating for me; you see, I REALLY like a ton of what I’m seeing in this book. The LRGG-crew is best when they’re experimental and you can say many things, but they don’t do cookie-cutter or bland. None of the classes or options herein are boring or sucky. At the same time, I really wished this had gone through the hands of a really picky dev. The options presented herein do have some issues in their rules-language and the details of their functionality and that drags them down quite a bit. Apart from the scout. The scout is just…takes a deep breath Anyways, what I’m trying to say is, is that this is SO CLOSE to being truly amazing. All of the classes have something really cool going for them, but whether it’s the inconsistent absence of FCOs for most of them or the finer details in the rules, this feels like a very much raw offering; like a beta-test of a very good, perhaps even a great game, but one that needs some serious work before it reaches the excellence and awesomeness it promises. From grossly undervaluing the power of Stealth (when playing by the rules) to the potent tricks, there is a strange sense of less balancing here. Take the sapper in contrast, who could really use more bombs over the levels, seeing that all cool class features are reliant on the expenditure of them and compare that to the others.

Can I recommend this? Tentatively, yes. You see, if you don’t consider this to be a run-as-is supplement, but rather a collection of experimental rules, and if you’re confident in your abilities to judge the impact of these options, then oh boy, I’ll guarantee that you’ll find some gems herein. At the same time, this is a very raw offering that fluctuates in the potency of its tricks rather wildly. A game that embraces the scout’s power will sneer at the relatively tame sapper and vice versa. The rough-edges in some of the ability interactions will require GM-calls. Still, while I should hate this book, I don’t. I enjoy it. Heck, I can see folks loving this. Why? Because it is creative and sports some seriously intriguing angles to pursue, significantly more so than many, many books I’ve read. As taken in its entirety, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for this: We have a mixed bag with some true gems, but also some less amazing components here. That being said, if you instead rate this for the cool scavenging options, you’ll get some real gems out of it – when rated as a grab-bag where you take some and leave some, then this suddenly becomes much more compelling – even with the flaws, this is at least 3.5 stars, rounded up, in such a context- And since I have a policy of in dubio pro reo, this is what my final verdict will be.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Martial Characters 2: Fight Smarter
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vs. Ghosts
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:52:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 58 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are laid out for the digest-size (A5/6’’ by 9’’), which means that, if your sight’s good enough, you can fit up to 4 of the pages on a single sheet.

So, what is vs. Ghosts? To put it simply, it’s a game hat lets you play in a Ghostbusters/Supernatural-esque scenario; whether you prefer grim realism or a fun, kid-friendly Scoobie-Doo-esque playstyle depends on your personal taste, though the often really FUNNY text herein and the comic-style artwork does emphasize the less serious takes on the tropes.

The GM (Ghostmaster) is…the GM. To play, you eed one deck of playing cards, sans Joker. Character creation is simple: A character has 5 Attributes:

Offense and Defense are used to attack/defend in physical combat. Mental is the attribute for knowledge, willpower, etc. Physical is the Attribute used for feats of strength, endurance, etc. Investigation is used for noticing clues, research, etc. You assign the following values to these attributes: 6, 4, 4, 3, 3.

You also get to choose Gimmicks: There are Good and Bad Gimmicks and you can have up to 4 good gimmicks. For each Good Gimmick, you have to take a Bad Gimmick, and when you take more than 2, you have to lower one Attribute by 1 for each additional Gimmick – I assume this refers to Good Gimmicks – otherwise, each Gimmick beyond 2 would cost 2 Attribute points, one for the Good and one for the Bad Gimmick. These include Attribute modifications and other tricks and include classics like allergies etc. on the Bad Gimmick side.

A character begins play with 10 Health, which represents how much damage you can take.

The core mechanic of the game is as follows: when performing an action, you draw a number of cards equal to your appropriate Attribute score. The highest card’s value is compared to the target value of the difficulty of the task – if you equal or exceed the target value, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. As cards are drawn and used, they’re put into the discard pile. When no more cards can be drawn, that pile is shuffled back into the draw pile. Jacks are equal to 11, Queens 12s, Kings 13s and Aces as 14. However, low cards are better when dealing damage, so aces count as 1 there. A dice-based alternative is provided, but personally, I’d suggest sticking to cards here.

When multiple characters use teamwork to best a challenge, the highest score is used and +1 card is drawn per assisting character. Opposed actions are resolved by drawing and comparing the highest value.

Combat is divided into Turns, which are not precisely codified – they could last an hour or a few seconds, depending on your needs. Typically,a character may move and attack during his turn. Other actions, like drawing weapons etc. can freely be taken. Initiative is determined by drawing cards. Ties of the card-values are resolved via the Physical attribute, and if that still ties characters, we go clockwise. Surprise is represented as a free attack. A character can move a number of units equal to his Physical attribute. Ranged combat determines its difficulty by range. Melee attacks are resolved as a contest between Offense and Defense.

A character takes a penalty to all attributes at 50% Health and 1 Health and 0 Health equals death, unless playing with an alternate rules for death at -1 or below. If you succeed in hitting your foe, you take a look at your Offense cards: Each card that managed to surpass the target’s Defense lets you draw one new card. The value of each of these new cards is then compared to the damage cap of the target: Each card that has a value BELOW the damage cap then inflicts 1 Health damage. Character recover 1 Health for every 10 hours of uninterrupted rest. If a physician attends the character, he may also draw a card – if it’s a heart, he gains an additional Health. Situations may instill bonuses or penalties to attributes.

Equipment is gained at the start of each session: In initiative order, the players name one equipment and then draw a card: If the card drawn is equal to or exceeds the equipment’s value, the character gains the equipment; otherwise, it’s a failure. After a maximum of 4 successes (or one failure), the next player may draw. 4 successes do net a bonus card, though. Old equipment is kept. This also includes living space, transportation, etc. – just fyi. And yes, you can get less reliable vehicles, for example. Weapons come with values and damage caps, range modifiers etc. and the section also includes ghosthunting equipment like lucky totems, aura analyzers, etc….and yes, these include e.g. spirit containers.

At the end of each session, a player may remove a Bad Gimmick, improve an Attribute, add a Good Gimmick or take a bonus card from a separate deck – this card can then be substituted for one the player draws at a later time. If it’s a 2, the player can use it to add +2 to the value of a card instead.

The pdf provides simple rules for window-dressing NPCs (bystanders) and Nemesis rivals as well as simple rules for hordes of foes. Extras are NPCs that make a difference, and as such, the pdf provides some sample stats and unique Bad and Good Gimmicks. Ghosts can similarly easily be created. Fear is resolved by drawing Mental attribute number of cards and comparing them to Offense + Defense of the target (OUCH!) or the value determined by the GM. Failure imposes a -2 penalty to all Attributes for a length of time determined by the GM.

This is where we begin with the GM-section: “Dr. Corontze’s Spirit Guide” – which comes in a COMPLETELY different layout, looking like an old, weathered document – kudos for going the extra mile, aesthetics-wise. It also looks sufficiently different to keep e.g. kids from diving head-first in, looking less playful. In this section, GMs learn about the divisions of ghosts, special abilities…and there are some sample ghosts, with sketch-like drawings/stock-art/photos that actually can be a bit creepy – nice array. The pdf concludes with a selection of sample hooks to create adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – apart from the aforementioned one hiccup, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-based level. The language employed is furthermore didactically sensible and makes grasping the system EASY. That’s a big plus. Layout adheres to a nice, full-color two-column standard with kid-friendly, comic-style artwork…apart from the GM-section, which becomes more creepy, though not to the point where it should become problematic for all but the most sensitive of younger readers. Pretty cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, let me come clean first: I didn’t want to review this book. Vs. Ghosts didn’t interest me. At all. I like Ghostbusters etc. well enough, but I’m not enamored with the franchise. Furthermore, it was explained to me as pretty much a nostalgia-trip. Well, I don’t do nostalgia well. Perhaps I’m too analytical or cynical for it, perhaps my excellent memory is responsible – but those nostalgic goggles…they just don’t work for me.

Well, I got the first coupon. Deleted it. The I got another. Ignored it. This went on for a while. Then I finally caved and figured I’d give it a fair shake.

Guess what? My congratulations to Rick Hershey and Lucus Palosaari – this game is actually MUCH better than I anticipated it’d be. Vs. Ghosts is no complexity monster, but it doesn’t try to be – it’s a perfect game for a longer trip, for a relatively quick session – it plays fast and rather well, can easily be modified and while it can carry real horror stories, its RAW focus on the goofier aspects makes it a real good candidate to teach folks how to play. The tactile notion of drawing cards can be fund for kids and the easy teamwork rules similarly can make the game particularly rewarding for younger audiences.

In short: This is a well-made game using cards as randomizer; it’s easy to learn and explain, the presentation is concise and makes grasping the rules super simple. The stereotypes and tropes employed don’t necessarily hit home with me, but that may be because I am probably as far away from the target audience as I can possibly be. In spite of that, I do consider this to be a neat, inexpensive and fun, relatively rules-lite game, well worth owning. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts
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Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 4 - The Clockwork Catastrophe (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:51:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth level of The Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, we begin with notes on the general property of the dungeon’s level – walls, light, etc. After level 3’s relatively tame treatment of PCs, the fourth level is back to the attrition tactics – 40% chance of being attacked, per hour. OUCH. Now here’s a mind-bender: Once the alarm is triggered, the dungeon RAW becomes easier – the ambushing default encounter is replaced with a reactivation of dormant constructs, which are finite. One note: The statblocks provided for these encounters sport some glitches: Formatting (bolding inconsistent) and also ones that influence the rules. On the plus-side, a total of 6 ghostly phenomena (harmless dressing to enhance atmosphere) is provided.

Utterly puzzling: Remember how level 3 had temporal anomaly effects? Well, they’re gone once more, in spite of level 4 being lower. I don’t get it.

All righty, let’s take a look at the content, shall we? From here on out, the SPOILERS reign – potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, just GMs around? Great! So, the basic premise is that the dwarven engineer Talpidae tried to dig into the dungeon with a massive clockwork contraption. That did not go well, as the title very much implied. The catastrophe killed the crew, who now haunt these halls – they are a persistent threat…and strangely, once alarm has been triggered, they vanish. Instead, clockwork laborers and archers animate…and indeed, the pdf does employ the theme of temporal twists a bit: There are rooms stuck in time, for example. Downside: As mentioned before, the mechanical aspects fall a bit by the wayside and no, there are no puzzles that employ this angle. The PCs can’t prevent the catastrophe or influence it.

On the plus-side, while the AMAZING potential of the premise isn’t used fully, there are some nice hazards and pieces of the engine that are still operational…and lethal. Down-side: Their damage type hasn’t been properly codified. That being said, the mole machine is really interesting: Its mobility is limited and it behaves mostly like an amazing hazard – smart PCs can have a BLAST here, while those foolhardy may well end up being blasted to shreds. Defeating it is HARD, but incredibly satisfying, making this the highlight of all levels released so far. In fact, the cool encounter against the machine single-handedly improves the rating this pdf would have received. On the downside, a visual representation would have helped, big time, picturing this threat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – there are a couple of glitches that should have been caught, including several that influence the rules-integrity of the content herein. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard. The pdf’s artwork is stock and has nothing to do with the module. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography, as in the whole series, is very rudimentary and somewhat inconsiderate – while we get a key-less version, secret doors etc. are not either version and they are not redacted.

Jeff Lee, Michael McCarthy, Rich Redman and Louis Porter Jr.,’s fourth dungeon-level does a lot of things right: The leitmotif of the dungeon does tangentially influence the proceedings. The level itself is, theme-wise, interesting. The boss fight is creative and phenomenal. In fact, this has the makings of a good, even a very good, dungeon-level. But it feels like interest was lost at one point – one careful pass to fix the issues and slightly streamline the aspects that, mechanically, are rough around the edges, and this could have scored higher. But as much as I like the boss, from the lack of global effects to the minor inconsistencies, the hiccups accumulate and tarnish what would be an easy 5 star + seal module, had it received a bit more care in realizing the evocative, cool premise of both dungeon and level. In the end, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for this – it is VERY rough around the edges and needs some work by the GM to shine, but concept-wise, it does have its definite strengths.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 4 - The Clockwork Catastrophe (PFRPG)
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Head Shot! Zombie Apocalypse Action Roleplaying
Publisher: Magic Vacuum Design Studio
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2017 04:26:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Hack to depict a Zombie Apocalypse with the Cortex Plus rules clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in question. My review is mostly based on the print copy, though I have the electronic version as well. The review is based on V.2..

We begin with some basic considerations on why zombies walk the lands and then proceed to instructions on how to use this and how to apply components of this book beyond the confines of its frame – particularly nice there. After this, we take a look at terminology-changes in comparison to the Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide: Agents become Survivors. Flourish Dice become Head Shot Dice. The book uses the optional rules for flourishes and contested actions. The consequence of losing a contested action is being Taken Out of the rest of the scene – this is pretty scary in a zombie context. Taking a d6 Complication is a way to get out of the conflict and must be declared before the dice are rolled for what looks like the final exchange of a Contested Action. This can, obviously, make things very lethal very quickly – hence, the book spends some time explaining nuances to the GM regarding this mechanic.

Interesting, btw.: Survivors attack zombies in the head. Period. There is no complicating mechanic here. Regular zombies come as either crawlers or shamblers – both of which are pretty self-explanatory.

Character creation has been slightly updated: 2 methods of attribute distribution are presented: Either 2 attributes get a d10, one a d8 and two a d6 or one gets a d10, 3 a d8 and one a d6. The character gains 3 distinctions. They also gain 2 specialties at d10, 2 at d8 and 4 at d6. The rest are d4s. The character gains two signature assets at d6. Characters have 0 mission successes at the start of the game and start with one plot point.

Instead of roles, the characters have attributes, which are pretty self-explanatory: Beguile, Bold (willpower, psychological stamina, etc.), Brains (how smart, not how long it takes a zombie to eat you… ;P), Brawn, Brisk (hand-eye coordination). Particularly fitting distinctions are presented in a concise list. Specialties are NOT tied to a givenrole/attribute, instead having a die rating assigned to them. A significant array of them is discussed, from driving to sneaking or tricking folks. Signature assets can include super backpacks, entrenching tools, dogs, doctor’s bags, etc. Lacking roles, talents are tied to attributes instead, but the original restriction remains in place: You must have a d10 in the attribute to have the talent. There are also talents sans required attributes and those that can be qualified for via multiple attributes. The next couple of pages cover these and show not only an impressively crisp rules-language, but also a generally solid balancing of the talents in question.

From here on out, we have already covered the necessary player-rules and move into “The Guts” – i.e. the anatomy of GMing/running the hack.

Missions are the respective adventures: They are structured by the Objective and the Difficulty Die rating; 8 sample broad objectives are included. The mission’s difficulty die is usually stepped back until the mission proves to be a success…though getting back to safety is an added challenge posed to survivors. The mission die behaves like a complication that only is used against the party when pertaining directly to the given situation, with the conditions, i.e. the steps that can be taken to achieve the objective, can be individually adjusted by the GM. The general notion created by Cortex Plus’s system here does btw. a rather good job at depicting the hindrances and “everything can go wrong” tropes that we all know and love from zombie-based media.

The second mechanic that is crucial to Head Shot!’s gameplay would be the rather hackable viral pool. Usually, that pool starts at a d4 and it is a representation of zombie density. The viral pool’s increase can be handled over time, by action, via moaning zombies etc. – all ridiculously easy, and once it passes a d12, a second die is added and so one. The pool may decreases by keeping quiet, staying hidden etc. When the viral pool steps up, a number of zombies equal to the die roll of the newly stepped up pool show up at Long Range – which may be down the block at the end of a REALLY long corridor in an airport, etc. When the viral pool reaches d12, an Alert occurs, which can result in encounters, the jeopardizing of resources or e.g. ammo running low – and, as the whole mechanic, this component can be scavenged and adapted rather easily. There are also variations on these – like Friendlies doing something stupid, enemy survivors appearing, etc. This chapter, as a whole, provides some really cool modifications and constructs that can prove valuable even beyond the confines of this hack.

In chapter 3, we take a, in-depth look at the basic zombie types: We discuss their general senses, the effects of their moaning, the level of agility, endurance, strength and intelligence exhibited. The effects of decay and possibility of mutation or the possibility of a hive mind are mentioned. The basic zombie range from crawlers (d6) to shamblers (d8), runners (d10) and behemoths (d12) – the latter being particularly large or strong super-zombies. The variants discussed would be Screamers, Infested, Spitters, Fused zombies and Leaders, who retain a semblance of a spark of cunning. The respective variants do come with discussions of their tricks and examples from media. The details of the zombie virus and how it spreads are not codified per se, instead providing a general notion of how everything works out. Horde zombies and elite zombies are an easy way of thinking about these and the pdf makes sure that you can properly use them. Voodoo-zombies are covered, and the Unliving variant of them provides another modification that fans of the genre will appreciate.

As in TWD, the true antagonists, more often than not, will not be the zombies themselves – hence, we take a look at classic foes next: Bandits and Raiders, warped cults, voodoo cults, madmen and psychopaths, protectors, undead harvesters – the big classics all get their due consideration here.

Environment is, unsurprisingly, often represented by location traits – the most fitting have been noted, and the pdf adds quite a few more to the mix: Vehicle graveyards, pitch darkness, untraveled roads – pretty cool. Finally, we take a look at wild (and dangerous) animals and vermin and end with an afterword as well as a character sheet. This sheet, just fyi, has been included in a form-fillable version – big plus there!

Speaking of which: No matter the format of your GM-screen, the pdf ALSO comes with color-inserts that note the respective pages, crucial rules, etc. – once, these come with a two-column layout and once with a three-column layout – big kudos for going the extra mile here!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches herein. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard (with blotches, stylized zombies etc.) and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork within is solid. The softcover is a nice booklet and pretty inexpensive, so kudos there – personally, I prefer it.

Tim Bannock’s passion for the zombie-genre show on pretty much every page: This is a true zombie-enthusiast’s supplement – it is a love-letter to the genre that covers pretty much all the basics we come to expect from zombies as a whole. I enjoyed picking apart Cortex Plus’s peculiarities while testing this and indeed, the book provides value beyond the confines of its rules-system: An experienced GM can scavenge e.g. the Viral Pool and reappropriate it; the design is interesting: Much of the mechanics here simulate something akin to an AI director in contemporary computer games: Alien Isolation, for example, has two AIs operating: One for the Alien and one that is in charge of keeping up the tension, directing the alien roughly in your direction, etc. Similarly, TWD and similar zombie movies seem to operate both on the drives of individuals and a second, impersonal dramaturgy that this system simulates really well.

Mechanics-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. That being said, the focus on the more widely-represented zombie-types does mean that the pdf won’t provide mind-blowing new zombie-types; neither the plant-animated zombie, nor radiation zombies, alien-experiments or the like are covered – this is about the classics, though I couldn’t help but feel that going to the far reaches of the genre would have provided the triumphant finishing flourish for this supplement.

As provided, I enjoyed Head Shot! More than I thought I would; its ideas and design-paradigms have enriched my games, even if the discussion of the classic zombie types didn’t bring that much novelty. Still, rated as a crunch-book and hack, this represents a worthwhile offering. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Head Shot! Zombie Apocalypse Action Roleplaying
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Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Spring
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2017 04:23:55

An Endzietgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty! As always, we begin this Everyman mini with a brief introduction and on the same page, we can find the Verdant Spell feat, which is a metamagic feat that increases the spell slot used by 2 levels and makes the targeted plant creatures susceptible to mind-affecting effects.

After this, we move on to the main meat of the mini, which would be the spring mystery. This one nets Handle Animal, Heal, Knowledge (nature) and Survival as class skills. The bonus spells granted range from goodberry over grove of respite to control plants. But what do the revelations offer? Well, animate plants lets you animate branches as a standard action, duplicating arboreal hammer, with high levels instead providing the ability to animate trees as treants (nice catch: Sans the animate trees ability of treants). Some of the revelations are drawn from the nature mystery, like spirit of nature or friend to the animals – sans taking up wordcount, mind you.

We can also find the option to clad the character in a scaling plant armor enhancement. Really cool: rejuvenation lets you render the target a Child or Youth (as per Childhood Adventures), though you do not explicitly need that book for the revelation to work properly – a mechanic effect is provided, including means to detect the target. Renewal represents a serious upgrade to the potency of the Heal skill’s treat deadly wounds option (Nice!) and yes, the obligatory speak with plants and verdant shape SP can be found as well. I was particularly smitten with springtime respite, which infuses an area with sustaining life, providing food and, at later levels, daylight (alas, not properly italicized) and a save bonus versus death effects, negative energy, etc. as well as sunbeams versus undead entering it. Cool! The final revelation ios pretty hardcore – it provides immunity versus ability damage and drain, exhaustion, etc., 3/day animal/plant growth (not properly italicized) and when you die, you rapidly decompose – only to come back to life as a plant blooms, bears fruit and spits out a young version of yourself that rapidly grows to full age. There’s an interesting adventure angle here – defend the returning oracle!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, though I did notice some italicization glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column standard with a white background, making this relatively printer-friendly. The pdf sports a nice full-color artwork and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Margherita Tramontano’s spring mystery represents a thematically-concise, interesting option. The mystery features some unique revelations, has a concise leitmotif and some really cool visuals. In short: Not much to complain about. At the same time, I don’t consider the pdf to be perfect in all regards – there are some really cool revelations here, though, which makes my final verdict clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Spring
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Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 3 - The Clairvoyant Halls (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2017 04:22:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third level of the Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, as in the levels before, we get a concise summary of the properties of the dungeon regarding its walls, lighting etc. However, we do get a cool unique dungeon feature – within these walls, you can find columns made of skulls – and inside the skulls are eyeballs that twitch, unless they are actually observing someone – in which case they become eerily still and staring. Oh, and guess what: The theme of the dungeon FINALLY comes into play. While the header of “Temporal Fluctuation” has not been properly formatted, there is a 1 in 8 chance per room (same for random encounters, 3 are provided) that a fluctuation begins: A total of 5 entries can be found - +1 initiative, -1 atk and Ref-saves (this one, annoyingly, makes up 2 entries in a 5-entry-table – why duplicate them??), -4 to Perception and +4 to critical confirmation rolls. …yeah, I kinda expected something cooler as well.

Anyways, as the write-ups of the monsters show, there is a leitmotif here – namely sight or lack thereof – the undead are beheaded and blind and isitoqs are included as well.

…and that is as far as I can go without delving into major SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, first of all: After two levels sans a unique boss, guess what we get? Bingo, a cool and actually really creepy villain, namely Illquis of the Thousand Eyes, a nasty derro necromancer. While the statblock isn’t perfect, it’s good enough for most…and the derro can actually see through the ocular columns throughout the level, as per clairvoyance (nor properly italicized). This allows an even halfway competent GM to instill a surprising sense of paranoia and eerie creepiness. The resting restrictions of the previous levels, just fyi, are gone…and indeed, paradoxically, the level may actually end up being easier on the PCs than previous ones: For one, the necromancer creates headless zombies, beheaded and isitoqs as primary minions – all of which have in common that their CR is really low. Similarly, even blind beheaded swarms may be taken out with relative ease. While a gray ooze makes for a nasty challenge, the primary combat antagonist here is clearly the derro.

That being said, the traps featured this time around are significantly more interesting than those on the last level, with a vertigo trap or a charnel pit that has been granted limited, churning animation – particularly the latter represents the strongest trap in the series so far. More so than the mechanical challenges, this level excels beyond level 1 or 2 in the respective rooms – “The walls and ceiling of this room are festooned with braids, ropes and nets, all clumsily woven from what appears to be humanoid hair. The room’s two doors are decorated with wreaths crafted of the same material.“ That is CREEPY. The whole level, with its theme and leitmotif, manages to instill a more unique and interesting atmosphere.

Now, as for the maps – they are still bare-bones; player maps have not had secret rooms redacted and GM maps lack the secret room notes. Similarly, the lack of most terrain features, even in icon form, on the maps means that a GM has to do some work on them. This is not a go-play module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re good, but weaker than in previous installments – I noticed a couple of minor hiccups, some pertaining rules-relevant material. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series. Artwork is stock and has nothing to do with the material herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography still remains a big downside of this series.

Jeff Lee, with additional writing by Michael McCarthy, Rich Redman and Louis Porter Jr., finally delivers on the promise of this complex, at least in part. While I wasn’t exactly blown away by the temporal effects, they at least provide a unique descriptive angle for the GM. The fully statted boss and the leitmotif of this level are the stars, though: While mechanically less challenging than the wars of attrition that were level #1 and #2, this level feels, paradoxically, rather tame – particularly when considering level #1’s at times hyper-deadly traps. Mechanically, this is not the most impressive level herein.

However, it’s the first level that reaches the level of originality and flavor I expected from the series: The writing, always a strong suit for the series, is tight in this one; the flavorful rooms and creatures encountered are unique and horrifying and the paranoia an even moderately competent GM should be able to elicit here is just FUN.

While surprisingly easy (apart from the boss), the dungeon level is interesting, flavorful and cool. That being said, editing isn’t as tight here and, as mentioned an abundant number of times, the maps are puzzling in how inconsiderate they are. Still, the writing and unique theme of this level make it worthwhile – though the formal hiccups, alas, make it impossible for me to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 3 - The Clairvoyant Halls (PFRPG)
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Ancient Tombs
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2017 04:22:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Describe adventurers! “Grave-robbing murder-hobos.” The joke’s old, sure, but there is some truth to that, right? Now, taking that into account, it’s surprising once you think about it, that there aren’t many supplements that address that tombs are something wholly different from other dungeons – they are NOT just dungeons where a surprising amount of undead roam the halls – they are solemn places of remembrance, testimony that the interred existed; they are places of worship of sorts, displays of power and so much more. If your inclinations are similar to mine regarding literature, you’ll undoubtedly have stumbled over heart-rending poems and prose about these places. As such, it is fitting and laudable that we begin with a succinct and concise introduction to the subject matter, providing a well-written recap of the various types of tombs and their peculiarities – including, much to my pleasant surprise, several hyperlinks to famous real world tombs for further inspiration and research. It may be a small thing, but it shows an extra level of care by the authors – and a respect for their audience, a belief that the readers actually want to learn about the subject matter, without forcing dry facts down their throat. Commendable!

Now, from here on out, the book becomes more game-related, but in a rather impressive manner: You see, we get a total of 7 d20-tables for tomb dressing next, focused in flavor, as this pdf is part of the Mummy’s Mask plug-ins, on quasi-Egyptian tombs. This presents a huge variety, as the items to be found not only come in two versions (ruined and pristine), they also feature a weight entry AND a detailed, well-crafted explanation of the item. Did you, for example, know what a Naos is? After reading this pdf, you will – and it may well inspire you to write a module around one; the item begs to be the center of an adventure! The ascendance boat, still one of the most iconic things about the epic old-school dungeon in part #1 of the classic Desert of Desolation-saga, as an item can be found next to shabtis, statues – you name it. The tables are, just fyi, governed by the type of person interred, so you’ll have different valuables in religious tombs that in slave quarters. The sometimes impressive weight and dimensions of the treasure can make for interesting logistic problems as well. As a whole, this section manages to evoke a sense of detail and thought that had me reminisce about several classic modules and their tone – in a good way. These tables and details serve perfectly to enhance new-school modules that don’t have the word-count to dive into all those cultural tidbits.

From here on, we move to, how could it be any different, the hazard section, which contains a wide array of different traps, haunts, etc. inspired by popular media, ranging from CR 3 to CR 14. Pedestals inscribed with symbols over an abyss, warded against teleportation and flight? Check! Sarcophagus that tries to mummy you? Check. These are really cool. A big plus: Many have proper bypass notes and go beyond: Spot or take damage, providing actually interesting experiences that can engage more than one PC. The renditions of classics among traps, like the Indy-boulder/Idol-trap, where present, actually feature tight and well-crafted rules-language.

Now, if you’re like me and a big fan of a certain Cimmerian and his exploits in the Sword & Sorcery genre, then you’ll most assuredly appreciate the Cr +2 Grave Warden template, which may be acquired via a major curse – it bind the target to the tomb and makes the being a merciless tracker of that which has vanished from it -even a single coin. This power, alas, does come with a price that most PCs will be unwilling to pay…but if you, as a GM wanted a driven hunter…there you go. Reprinting the mythic version of Craft Construct for your convenience, we take a look at a whole guardian class of monsters next, namely the mythic graven guardians (CR 6/MR 3). No less than 5 (!!!) versions of these guys are provided with full statblocks – and guardian domains. The two domains bestow unique properties on the respective guardian and their list spans more than 3 pages. I kid you not. Remember that legendary Games products do not sport huge margins and achieve a remarkable text-density per page – that is A LOT of content.

In fact, with the vast number of combos possible, it should be possible to make a whole dungeon-level themed around these guys sans things becoming boring. There also, just fyi, would be the CR +1 mummified zombie template in this chapter, which ties in with one of the 5 new feats, namely Bind the Ancient Dead, which allows you to summon them – pretty cool! Sleeper in Dust allows you to conceal/bury yourself in dust/sand/etc. and is a great representation of the ambushing-trope, with additional benefits regarding your ability to hold your breath. Sand Sense nets you low range tremorsense, which becomes better in sand etc. Tombcaster increases the potency of spells in tombs etc. (and makes them harder to dispel and they last longer): Kudos: Can’t be cheesed by casting in a tomb and then moving outside. Trap Spell, finally, would be a metamagic feat, that lets you place, at +2 level increase, spells as traps. Another big two thumbs up for the team here: Most books would have allowed for insane trap-gauntlets (or simply forgotten the potential issues)– this feat, however, thankfully has an abuse-preventing caveat.

The final section of this pdf presents 7 spells/spell variants…and OH BOY. They are AMAZING. I mean it. They FEEL magical. It’s been a while since a spell-section had me this stoked. There are two monolith spells, that conjure forth physical, eldritch monoliths with harrowing knowledge – and yes, they can be climbed etc. and have a utility/terrain-control aspect. There is a variant of dimensional anchor that strands you in deserts or wastelands. There is a binding variant that covers canopic jars, being trapped in an eternal hourglass or howling haboob…and beyond the tomb curse, we have a maze variant that sends you to an unnerving tomb. Definitely ends the pdf on the high note I expected.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the interior artwork is neat full-color – fans of LG may be familiar with some pieces, but not all. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alex Riggs, Anthony Adam, Jason Nelson and Loren Sieg deliver in this pdf BIG TIME. This is a book I frankly didn’t exactly know what to expect of at first; then, it suddenly dawned on me – this is one the glorious book that I like to call “GM-enhancers.” It begins with context and inspiration and then proceeds to deliver details, useful tidbits etc. – this is, in short, a book specifically designed to enhance lackluster modules, to fill in blanks. If you needed a great representation of an evocative concept, if you need a good trap or critter to splice into a module – well, there you go. This book is a veritable treasure trove of fantastic ideas, concisely codified details. And better yet, these aspects are not just fluff; quite the contrary. Delicious crunch, expertly-crafted, married to a wide assortment of cool tricks and tools of the trade, renders this book a must-own recommendation for pretty much any GM who is looking for a means to enliven and enrich tomb exploration, even beyond the confines of Mummy’s Mask. In short: This is amazing. 5 stars + seal of approval for this all killer, no filler tome.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Tombs
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Noble Cause, Bloodied Hands (PF/5E)
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2017 04:21:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This dual-format module clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page front cover artwork sans titles etc., 1 page SRD, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first things first – like “Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge”, the author’s first module for TPK Games, this is a dual-system module. If you’ve read my review of the previous module, you’ll note that I was quite positively surprised by how it managed to stay true to its dual-statted premise. Most of the time, the peculiarities and special considerations required by different systems can lead to issues in the finer aspects of rules-interactions, can make one of the systems supported feel like a secondary one. Well, “Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge” managed to avoid those pitfalls, mainly courtesy of its surprisingly crunchy, tactical focus on challenging combat and its NPCs/bosses, which ended up being significantly more interesting in both systems than I would have expected. To the point where I didn’t even consider a complaint about shared real-estate, page-count-wise, valid – the module is a deadly action romp in both systems.

Now, this module here has a somewhat tougher task on its metaphorical hands, as its focus is different. There are a couple of special considerations I should mention: As before, stats and rules-relevant information is color-coded by system – red denotes D&D 5e material, while black rules-information points towards Pathfinder material. The respective encounters come with rather cool scaling advice for the GM, allowing you to scale more potent groups and expert players – one of the things I love most about TPK Games’ modules: They are significantly less work on me than most, courtesy of daring to actually pose, you know, a challenge.

Anyways, the pdf does sport a significant array of hyperlinks for your convenience (though even words that do not pertain to mechanics are hyperlinked, which can be slightly annoying) and it does feature nice, full-color cartography of the initial encounter and the dungeon featured within – however, it should be noted that no key-less, player-friendly versions of these maps have been included – if you’re like me and enjoy cutting maps up and then handing them to the PCs as they explore (I suck HORRIBLY at drawing), then this can be a bit of a bummer. Similarly, when using VTTs to game, the lack of such versions of the maps can pose a bit of a hindrance. On the big plus-side of things, particularly for GMs less experienced in creating atmosphere, the module provides a massive amount of read-aloud texts, including guidance through the important talking sections – big kudos here, particularly considering that the prose is well-crafted indeed. Finally, I was positively surprised to see a section talk about the weather during the module – it may be a small thing, but one that is a) often forgotten and b) an easy means to evoke a certain emotional base-line that pretty much everyone can relate to.

Okay, enough rumination on the theoretical aspects of the module, you’re interested in its plot, right? Well, from here on reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Excellent!

So, Vorlash, a dark stalker that was too problematic and eccentric even for his own kin set out on his way to the surface, he did not know that his retinue and him would join forces with two particularly malevolent Jackalweres, Sanhler and Kahliss – as a team, the evil humanoids accepted a high-profile assassination. Paid for discreetly by Duke Harris Dunhare and executed against his brother’s wife, incidentally also his former flame, who spurned him, these three factions of evil went into an unholy alliance, forming “The Unlit”, a potent, new thieves’ guild. The Baron, Bruce Dunhare, griefstricken by the murder of his young wife, hasn’t been idle either – his best bounty hunter, Terent Segnar, is on the case.

Terent suspects foul play and it is a professional’s mark to realize when one better should call in the cavalry – as such, he contacts the PCs, asking them for a discreet meeting in the Broken Barnacle Inn. He comes with unique, custom stats for each iteration, which is nice to see, even though I did notice a few minor hiccups in them. PCs that do their legwork may also unearth some nice background intelligence, but strangely, the table only provides the DCs for PFRPG’s Knowledge (local) – the 5e-information gathering DCs etc. is missing here. On a more positive note: En route towards the Broken Barnacle, the PCs happen into a fully mapped and rather complex ambush that is pretty fun – while a player-friendly map would have been nice, the encounter makes pretty sure from the get-go that this module will not be a cakewalk: The ambush is well-presented and challenging enough, though a difficulty discrepancy can be found, mostly due to something that’s not the adventure’s fault: The thugs presented for PFRPG are solid, but those for 5e are brutal. If you’ve run thugs versus your PCs in 5e, you’ll know what I’m talking about – pack tactics make them brutal. Anyways, regarding statblocks – once again, we have some minor hiccups and formatting discrepancies here. I’ll stop commenting on these for now, but suffice to say, I wished that this aspect was a bit tighter throughout the module.

Provided the PCs manage to defeat the thugs, they’ll happen to encounter the city watch, just as they’re recovering from the attack…though, thankfully, they get one of the city’s few honest officers…still, this is a definite chance to screw up big time. Anyways, the PCs finally enter the Broken Barnacle and hear Terent‘s proposal: In a lavishly detailed conversation (including text for likely questions), he fills the PCs in about his role – and tells them about “The Unlit”, the new thieves’ guild…and that he suspects the guild to be responsible for the murder most foul. He has already found a new means of ingress into the guild’s base, the house of a half-elven jongleur named Orron Fisket, which the PCs are to infiltrate. Terent, in the meanwhile, will take care of the other entry-point he has scouted out, trapping the new guild between him and the PCs, hoping to defeat them all.

He wants to strike immediately, but once again, the PCs can benefit from doing some legwork, with two tables of information provided for PCs asking around – once more, these are PFRPG-exclusives; while it’s easy enough to impart the information in a 5e-game, I still wished that the pdf would provide at least an acknowledgement here.

The PCs thus tackle the mapped Fisket residence (in full color and neat, but the map is pretty small – and since there is no map appendix, printing out the page and cutting the map out doesn’t exactly yield great results). It is also here that the dual-system format, at least regarding what I’d expect, begins to stutter: While lavishly detailed regarding DCs to for scribbled messages and the like, it should be noted that 5e does not receive the same depth of coverage here. It’s easy enough to appropriate 5e’s mechanics when dealing with a Linguistics DC, sure; sure, Survival, for example, is a concept represented in both games…but when e.g. a 5e-GM doesn’t get stats for a door, while the PFRPG-GM does, that’s something I have to complain about as a reviewer – basically, the rules-coverage in the details is significantly stronger for PFRPG. While the dual-stats for the adversaries are neat, the details do leave something to be desired, and since that extends to potentially combat-relevant aspects, it is something I have to penalize the pdf for.

Anyways, while exploring the house, the PCs can run afoul of nasty arachnids, which represent a side-quest for them – for the bard Orron has been slain and asks the PCs to get rid of these…if they help him ascertain his family’s state – nice bit of moral gray area here, as their fate has not been kind. But the tragedy here notwithstanding, the PCs have a job to do – Enter and clear the undercroft of the Unlit. It is here that the module becomes a full-blown dungeon-crawl against the interesting thieves’ guild and their intriguing defenses: Traps are provided, just like stats, for two versions and the challenges posed are pretty neat, making great use of terrain, etc. – though it is here that aforementioned missing details for 5e can become galling – suddenly, a dark creeper’s sneak attack refers to a dark stalker. A fireball-duplicating trap is noted as dealing 8d8 fire damage in PFRPG (not the correct damage die); a skill DCs (28) that should be different for both games and passages of text, sometimes parts of a sword or sentence that suddenly turn gray sans rhyme or reason – on the formal side, this pdf could have really used a final pass by someone really picky.

Anyways, on the plus-side, the combat challenges and individual bosses of the guild deserve special mention – they are interesting and creative; same goes for spellgorged zombies (which come with 2 exclusive 5e-spells, fugue fog and inexorable fatigue – the latter of which is pretty broken: It causes temporary exhaustion levels, even on a successful save. Considering 5e’s exhaustion mechanics and their lethality, this spell is still ridiculously potent and has some serious ramifications: 6 casters casting the spell are a guaranteed kill against anything that can be exhausted. Yeah, that’s broken. On the plus side, the module does feature a ton of cool hooks for further adventuring against the associated of the guild and rejoining with Terent makes for a fun way to manage one of the boss fights; a wealthy prisoner/artist may be saved (and he knows about the Baroness’ necklace…) from the holding cells and the PCs will also have a chance to deal with a dark caller associate of Vorlash and a babau demon, before they can finally say that they have squashed the vile guild….but not their associated and erstwhile employers, leaving some powerful beings who may consider the PCs to be loose ends that should better be tied up…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are inconsistent – on one hand, we have precise and o the point rules-language where required, cool statblocks with unique abilities, etc. On the other hand, we have formatting violations against the standards (purely aesthetic, for the most part) and weird lines where text suddenly turns gray. The general features are great, but the devil’s in the details here – never to the point that the module becomes really tough to run, but yeah. Since this module is less of a hackfest than the previous ones, those aspects become more important. Not happy here. Layout adheres to a 2.column standard with a white background – the module is pretty printer-friendly and sports a blend of full-color and b/w-artworks, which do their job. The cartography in full-color is really nice – though the small maps (ambush + house) could really have used a big version to be printed out. The lack of player-friendly maps hurts the module – particularly since the maps are nice. It’s 2017 and keyless player-friendly maps are pretty much standard for most publishers by now. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though.

William Tucker knows how to write really good modules (additional content by Brian Berg and Rick Cox) – his style is interesting: He manages to evoke a pretty gritty feeling, courtesy of technically interesting challenges and adversaries. Story-wise, the module doesn’t tread new ground, but it does manage to depict its content in a fun manner, courtesy of the vibrant characters encountered. That being said, as much as I loved the content of this module, I do believe that it suffers, significantly more so than the previous one, from the dual-system approach. The meticulous attention to detail in the PFRPG version is not necessarily represented in the 5e-sections – and while defaulting is simple enough, I couldn’t help but feel that separate DCs or versions for the module would have done it a lot of good. Beyond that, I couldn’t help but feel as though, regarding the formal criteria, the pdf at one point was rushed – there are a lot of minor hiccups here that could have been caught. Each one on its own is negligible. But they do accumulate.

Which is a pity, for, as a whole, this has all the makings of a 5 star module: The fights are tight, the challenges diverse and the small details (magic cooking plate as potential source of terrain hazard) are SMART and, more importantly, fun. At the same time, this does feel like it is hamstrung a bit by its dual formats, by the avoidable glitches in the details and oversights. In adventures, I look mainly for an engaging past-time – and rules take a bit of a back-seat compared to e.g. crunch-books. But when oversights can hamper the ease with which a module can be run, then we’re looking at an issue. The 5e-component of this module takes a definite backseat to the PFRPG-material – the latter is significantly more detailed, beyond the system-immanent requirements. Add to that the lack of player-friendly maps and copious small hiccups and you get the impression of an unfortunately rushed release that could have used some time to file off the rough patches and polish this to a shine.

Now, don’t get me wrong – you can have a total blast with this. But if you’re picky, chances aren’t bad that you’ll be quite annoyed by some hiccups herein. How to rate this, then? Well, here, things become difficult. You see, I liked the prose herein, and I liked the mechanics, but at the same time, the lack of player-friendly maps hurts this module and the glitches do accumulate. In the end, when all is tallied up, I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars. PFRPG GMs should round up, 5e GMs should round down. Personally, I’ll round down for myself; at one point, all the glitches in the details started frustrating me. As a reviewer, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy, which is why my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Noble Cause, Bloodied Hands (PF/5E)
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Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 2 - The Rattling Crypt (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2017 04:20:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second level of the Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, we begin this installment with a brief summary of the opposition and a nice d20-dressing table that sports descriptive hooks and concrete items, for a total of 40 entries – nice and adds a sense of consistency to the level and the adversaries – kudos there!

As before, we get helpful information on floors, walls…and slender pillars, which almost take up a square – destroying these can cause a ceiling to collapse (Okay, how much squares? The whole room? Whole dungeon?) and in some cases, they are connected by iron chains. Both these and decorative copper chains mentioned come with proper stats – so as far as general features goes, this is a step up from level 1.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! If the name of this level wasn’t ample clue – undead would be the leitmotif of this level of the Halls of the Eternal Moment…and they are organized. Under the leadership of the ghast Benivuul and his ghoul lackeys, the roaming skeletons and zombies make for a persistent and dangerous threat. Camping is impossible, with each hour and each campaign attempt resulting in a random encounter – on the plus-side, this level can actually be emptied of the scouring undead, though leaving for too long sees other things move in…Nice: the nature of this second cadre is briefly discussed.

The level kicks off with a sliding staircase trap and foreboding graffiti can be found throughout the level, adding a special sense of gravitas to the whole proceedings. Trapped, evil altars and concealment-granting cob-webbed sheets and an evil altar used for undead creation, cacophonous traps – the undead in the level are keenly aware of the traps and make good use of this gauntlet, which plays significantly better than its vanilla premise would lead you to believe. While it’s a bit strange that room 22’s text refers back to room 22 for a patreon goal. Some passages/secret doors lead to patreon goal rooms and are not included in the pdf.

As a whole, I enjoyed this level more than the previous one – though personally, I would have made even more use of the slender pillars – they are a unique architectural feature that could have yielded some interesting additional options regarding 3D-combat, pits, etc. Their rules-language could be slightly more precise, but oh well. More significant: Apart from the traps, all adversaries herein are painfully vanilla – don’t expect archetype’d, templated or class level’d foes herein – standard critters.

Speaking of which: If you hoped, like I did, that the temporal angle and the potential for cool shenanigans with undead (like in several OSR modules) and traps, I’ll have to disappoint you – the leitmotif of the dungeon remains a backdrop at best.

Now the maps, while still very bare-bones, do sport icons for the pillars, which is nice. Icons for altars etc. are also provided and while the maps are anything but nice to look at, they are a bit better than those in level 1. Slightly annoying: Secret doors are not designated as such on the GM map and on the player’s map, they have not been redacted.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard. Artwork is stock and has no relation to the material depicted herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. Cartography, while still bare-bones and not up to the level of detail I’d like to see, particularly regarding player maps/VTT-capabilities, but they are a bit better than the ones for level 1.

Rich Redman, Jeff Lee, Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. have written a per se solid undead-level here. The chain/pillar motif is cool and I frankly wished the module did a bit more with it (swinging rooms! Crossing pits on chains! Immortal undead that need to be buried… (due to the temporal nature of the dungeon, one could explain reverting collapses…) There are so many cool ideas there that the module simply doesn’t use. The rattling crypt is creepy; it is deadly; it is well-written…and it is, as far as undead dungeons go, painfully vanilla. It’s deadly mainly due to the fact that you can’t properly rest, but a strategic group can empty the level – the boss is underwhelming and so are the enemies encountered. The module doesn’t make use of the cool dungeon-premise, but I expected that; what I did not expect was that it reduced its cool, evocative terrain features and leitmotif only to this extent – the pillars and themes here could have carried so much more.

Don’t get me wrong – the writing’s pretty good and the dungeon level is pretty nice…but at the same time, it falls short of the potential of both the dungeon and the level; the standard enemies and the less than impressive maps also don’t really help this module. If you’re looking for a solid undead-themed level, then this certainly does the job…but honestly, I know a lot of undead-themed dungeons and levels that may, in parts, have weaker writing, but more interesting mechanical components, better components to set them apart. As a whole, this is, to me, this was a rather weak and disappointing installment – not bad per se, but also weaker than level 1. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a margin due to the low price and in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 2 - The Rattling Crypt (PFRPG)
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