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Campaign Backdrop: Forests & Woodlands
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2016 04:49:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 109 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 102 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Taking a cue from Raging Swan Press' other, no less intriguing compilation books, this one features a table of all statblocks used herein by CR (spanning the range from CR 1/4 to 14) with accompanying page numbers and, as a nice service to the talented authors involved, we get a page of author bios, which is great to see.


But what is this? Well, the short answer, as already hinted at, is that this is basically a toolbox for a specific type of terrain, namely the forests and woodlands. Where other Raging Swan Press collections for example collected the significant amount of dressing files or village backdrops in a single tome, the goal of these books is to organize the tools for the GM by region he needs - in this case, that would be forests and woodlands, obviously.


The presentation of the content is exceedingly smart - we move from the non-specific to the specific, from the general to the detailed in this book; Hence, we begin with dressing for forests and woodlands and primal forests, then move on to random encounters that don't suck - a total of 21 such encounters have been collected from the respective Raging Swan Press pdfs, now available for the first time in print. If that does not suffice, two fluff-centric tables of encounters can be found as well. The one thing that's counter-intuitive in the book's organization is that the terrain-feature cheat-sheet for forests is located after the encounters - to me, it would have made much more sense before them...or in the very beginning of the book.


We move on beyond that to the dressing provided for Logging Towns, first depicted in the Urban Dressing-series and then get a proper Place of Power - this time around, that would be the Valley of the Rocks. Beyond that, no less than 4 villages with a forest theme have been collected here - namely Arrowhill, Edgewood, Star Run Falls and Trickletrek.


Now here is the thing - I have reviewed all constituent files and retreading all of the material once again would feel redundant to me, so I'll point you right at the respective reviews instead.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no particularly jarring hiccups in either disciplines. Layout adheres To raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard, is rather printer-friendly and the pdf features various neat b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, you get two files - one is optimized for the printer and one is optimized for screen-use - I love that RSP is going the extra mile there.


The content herein was created by Alexander Augunas, John Bennett, Richard Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Fabian Fehrs, Mike Kimmel, Jacob W. Michaels, Julian Neale, Brian J. Ratcliff, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham - notice something? Yep, these authors know what they are doing; they're pros and it shows - the content herein never dips below a "good, bordering on very good" and features several pieces that are downright excellent.


So, should you get this collection? This depends mainly on how familiar you are with Raging Swan Press' exceedingly handy books and how much you want everything in print. You see, this has quite some overlap with the GM's Miscellany collections. The focus, though, is different: Where GM's Miscellany focuses on giving you a broad toolkit for one type of thing (dressing, villages, etc.), this book focuses on giving you the tools for a given terrain...and that does have merit. PCs are going off the rails in a forest of simply freely adventuring? Whip out this book and you'll have everything at your fingertips, no need to flip between the dressing book, the village book, etc. On the downside, this means that if they leave the forest...well, no luck. It ultimately depends on how you want your material to be organized for maximum efficiency.


In the environment covered, this deals with just about everything. Everything? Well, not exactly. I may be the minority here, I'm not sure. But the two favorite and most used old-school books at my table are still the Wilderness and Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and honestly, I would have loved to see more forest-specific terrain and hazards. You know, poison-barked trees, ravines filled with strange vines, odd spores, deadly pinecone showers....you know, the terrain-specific peculiarities that make environments come more alive from a mechanical point of view. While the cheat-sheet covers the basics perfectly and while the encounters themselves do feature a lot of such tidbits to scavenge, this remains the one aspect I was missing from the book, perhaps due to none of RSP's product lines per se dealing in just that.


Should you get this? Well, in case you want a book organized by terrain, then YES. If you are new to Raging Swan Press and don't own the constituent files, then YES, this is absolutely phenomenal and useful to you and should be considered a 5 star + seal of approval file for you. If you already are a huge fan and own a lot of the constituent books/pdfs, the question remains whether you want the encounters in print and the organizational structure, but as a whole, personally I believe that the Village Backdrop and Dressing compilations have you covered. In the end, my official verdict will thus clock in at a median 5 stars for this exceedingly useful toolkit.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Backdrop: Forests & Woodlands
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Her Story
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2016 04:44:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is the theme here? Well, beyond the obligatory letter from our favorite plane-hopping ship, the book covers historical women and translates components associated with their lives into PFRPG-mechanics - but we also are introduced to the basics of their respective stories, as the eponymous title suggests.


The first of these women would be none other than Countess Elizabeth Báthory and the pdf begins with a thematically appropriate inquisition that allows the inquisitor to drain blood from helpless victims, collecting up to 3+ 1/2 class level vials of blood that way; consuming a blood vial heals the inquisitor...and yes, while you can use kittens, you can't abuse the ability: The stronger the citim, the more healing. No complaints whatsoever here! 6th level nets a slightly improved touch of bloodletting as an SP. So far, so nice, even though I think the countess (and quite a few other females here) could carry their own Letter from the Flaming Crab!


Next up would be famous Queen Boudicca, whose supplemental material would be a magical item, The War Queen's Chariot, a little figurine that can be called forth to become a proper chariot, complete with team and horses...oh, and it helps owners that have the Leadership feat. Thematically sound.


Saint Claire of Assisi has a more complex piece of crunch to support her: We get the cenobite inquisitor archetype (no, has nothing to do with the Hellraiser Cenobites) -the archetype receives a modified list of class skills and gain proficiency with teh battle aspergillum (YEAH!), club, light mace, quarterstaff and sling, but neither armor or shields. The archetype gets basically a monk's AC/CMD bonus +1/2 class level to Diplomacy and Sense Motive instead of stern gaze. They may add Wis-mod on all Knowledge checks instead of gaining monster lore - while I'm not the biggest fan of two attributes to a skill, particularly at low levels, I can live with that. A cenobite loses the destruction, justice and smite judgments, but gains scaling bardic performance. At 2nd level, cenobites may forage in urban environments and gain class level to Survival checks. Bonus feats are modified so cenobites may take metamagic, item creation or bardic performance-influencing feats or the Virtuous Creed feat, replacing teamwork feats. At 5th level, they may make their weapon merciful as a swift action, at 12th level compassionate and 14th level allows the cenobite to use Diplomacy to stun foes via her words of peaceful intent Wis-mod times per day. As a capstone, the archetype gains a super judgment that may cause targets to surrender immediately.


There also are 4 new creeds for use with the Virtuous Creed feat - Abstinence, Chastity, Obedience, Peace and Poverty, all with their respective boons. I know. Usually I'm all about the bloody, evil, tentacle-studded stuff...but I really like this archetype. I would have switched some components around a bit, but generally, this offers a different and flavorful playing experience. Kudos!


We had religion, so now we get SCIENCE! Doctor Marie Curie comes with no less than6 discoveries and a grand discovery pertaining radioactive bombs - which can be upgraded to have a half-life or fire damage via Alpha Decay, The attribute damage causing Beta and Gamma Decay may be a bit strong for 8th level prerequisite and 12th level prerequisite and the grand discovery is the massive culmination of the discovery tree. Weapons and armor may now be radioactive and deal radiation damage, which is slightly problematic, considering there is no such standard damage type or means to negate it. While the book provides means to resist radiation damage via spells or lead and leaded glass as a material and the like, slightly more extended notes for introducing radiation damage on a more wholesale level would have been appreciated - are constructs affected? What about crocodiles and similar notoriously radiation resistant creatures? I like the idea, but consider the implementation a bit too ambitious for the scale it has here. We also get a new trait here.


Hatshepsut, one of the famous female pharaohs, gets a paladin archetype, who replaces divine grace with 1/2 class level to Bluff, Intimidate, Diplomacy and Perform checks. At 4th level, the archetype replaces channel positive energy with a 60-ft radius aura for a bonus to saving throws and a bonus to atk as part of a charge. At 10th level, the bonuses increase and if the ally worships the same deity, weapons are treated as magical for the purposes of overcoming DR. While not bad and concept-wise nice, the magical benefit at 10th level is pretty weak; the archetype could use some serious signature tricks.


Joan of Arc does probably not need an introduction - she gets a paladin archetype as well, the visionary, who replaces lay on hands and mercies with a mystery, codifying bonus spells gained properly within the paladin class' frame work and a revelation at 3rd level and every 6 levels thereafter. 3rd level also nets an oracle's curse and codifies spells gained properly as well. 4th level provides the divine messenger ability for a 1/day trance that can duplicate progressively better divination tricks, replacing channel energy thus. Also intriguing: The visionary gets the bloodrager's spell allotment, but not spell list and the archetype also has a solid apotheosis capstone.


Osh-Tisch would be up next and her material would be the order of the crow cavalier order - generally, the order is nice and focuses on retributive challenges and demoralizing foes. On a nitpick, one ability substitutes her charging bonus for an attempt at an Intimidate check - charging bonus is not proper rules language, and while the intent is pretty clear, I still felt this could be slightly more precise. The high level ability features the option to call forth spiritual allies that can be sacrificed as breath of life effects - which is a great visual! The write-up also features a nice magical club and three teamwork feats (which, while designated as such in the header, lack the type in brackets behind the name): Covering Charge and its Improved version, who allow for nice synergy between ranged and melee weapon using allies; the final feat in the chain, Opportunistic Charge, requires a ton of prereqs, but is beautiful -it allows for allied ranged weapon users with the feat who are nearby to shoot targets with AoOs if you get an AoO against an enemy. This can provide some seriously cool tactical tricks.


The final famous lady of legend we cover would be none other than visionary queen of horror Mary Shelley. We receive a statblock of Frakenstein's monster here at CR 11, but honestly, I am severely underwhelmed by it. No truly unique ability, no hearkening to the modern Prometheus mythology or the book's message - instead, we gain a slightly upgraded flesh golem when the subject matter deserves so much more.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not as tight as in some of the Letters. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard with historic renditions of the famous woman who inspired the material. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


June Bordas, Jennifer R. Povey, Lindsey Shanks and Margherita Tramontano with J Gray as developer provide a fun array of options; honestly, I expected to be underwhelmed or find at least one glaring glitch in the rendition/information provided for the women herein. While this is no encyclopedia, it is indeed a great way to take a look and become interested in these famous women. Beyond that, the pdf has managed to grab my interest in several ways I did not expect; I for example did not expect to like the blood inquisition (much less find it cheese-resistant!) and the same holds true for the Joan of Arc and Saint Assisi archetypes - I've seen so many of them thematically, but these actually provide a novel playing experience. I similarly liked the teamwork-feat chain, which provides some cool tactical options. While I'm not sold to the same extent regarding other options and consider the Hatshepsut-archetype to be too bare-bones and filler, as a whole, this is well worth the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform. Can we have full installments on some of these themes?


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Her Story
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Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 10:45:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition


This one-hour game-version of Crimson Dragon Slayer clocks in at 11 pages -all content, no frills.


This review is based on the revised 1.6-version of the pdf.


So what is this? Intended for relative novices to the game, this is a stripped down version of the regular Crimson Dragon Slayer-rules, with a different focus - where the regular version features a goofy, over-the-top and awesome metal attitude, this one emphasizes dark science-fantasy as a default assumed genre. The pdf explains the basics of roleplaying and the system, which is ridiculously easy.


The basis for this is VSD6-system: A roll of 1 is a critical failure, a roll of 2 a failure, a roll of 3 mostly failure, 4 = mostly success, 5 = success and 6= critical success. Unless determining wounds or damage, only the highest number rolled is considered to be the effect: The easier a task is, the more d6 you roll: The default is 2d6 for a decent chance of success; very unlikely tasks can prompt 0d6 rolls, which means: "Roll 2d6, take the worse roll."


Humans start with 15 health and may reroll a dice pool once per session. Elves have a 2 in 6 chance to resist magic and get 10 starting health. Dwarves make saving throws with 2d6 instead of 1d6 and get 20 health. This system knows 4 classes. Warriors attack at 3d6 (also is used for warrior-style stuff) and get an armor value 4 chain mail and a weapon. Per level, they gain 1d6 health.


Wizards roll wizardly stuff at 3d6, but are at disadvantage stabbing things and doing the martial shtick, rolling only 1d6. They get an armor value-less robe and a wizard weapon (most likely staff or dagger) at first level. They gain 1 health at each additional level. Wizards cannot carry armor or shields while casting spells.


Thieves roll 3d6 for picking pockets, sneaking about, disarming traps...you get the idea. Armed combat is 2d6, fidgeting with magic scrolls and hocus-pocus like that is 1d6. They get leather armor (armor value 2) and a thieves' weapon. On a level up, they get 1d3 health.


Finally, clerics attack like thieves and may occasionally perform miracles and know the whole religion thing, obviously. They gain 1d3 health per level. The cleric has been amde clearer in his role in the update, so kudos.


The pdf suggests 12 general dispositions like "traitorous", "noble" or "mysterious" as a first roleplaying impulse.


Okay, initiative is handled as follows: Roll 1d6, lowest goes first. Thieves roll 1d3 (the text explains how this works for noobs - nice!). 0 health is unconscious, negative level+1 health = dead -a 4th level character would die at -5 health, for example. Health regenerates at 1 point per hour. The better the dice pool result, the more damage - attack and damage are rolled into one roll of the bones: 1-3 are misses; a hit at 4 causes 1d6 damage; triple 6s cause a whopping 5d6 damage. And yes, these add up. So a 3d6 attack dice pool providing one 6 (3d6) and 2 4s (1d6) would cause 5d6 damage. Furthermore, 6s are "exploding", i.e. they are rerolled and added to the total. Armor Value is treated as DR and subtracted from the damage. Shields increase attack value by 2, but decrease the attack dice pool by -1d6.


I mentioned saving throws. A character rolls 1d6. 1 = die horribly, can't be resurrected, 2= die, 3= die, but get one final action, 4 = alive, but unconscious, 5 =conscious at half total health, 6 = full health. Yes, that means you can actually potentially be healed by save-prompting effects.


The biggest revamp in the update and a very important one, would pertain spellcasting. Magic can be used in combat, but it cannot directly harm a living creature - unless blood sacrifice is involved. Casting magic also drains health from the caster, so that's something to bear in mind as well. Divine magic as wielded by clerics has not similarly been improved, and still does not mention how often and at what potency they can heal, which is odd, particularly considering that magic now drains health.


Characters level up after each session, gaining health. That's it. Aaaand...that's the rules.


The pdf also provides a short intro module...and since the following contains SPOILERS, I'd suggest potential players to move to the conclusion.


...


..


.


"The Curse of Xakaar Abbey" takes place in a fully and gorgeously mapped abbey b/w-cartography, and centers around the eponymous Xakaar, a dread sorceror trafficking with things from beyond, enspelling townsfolk to shamble to his abode. 6 basic rumors and copious read aloud text set the stage. The graveyard is an appropriate beginning, as demonic ghouls spewing green slime assault the PCs...who better make a dash if the GM has rolled double sixes (or similarly well) for their total number....but, alas, the lock must be picked...let's hope the thief doesn't botch his job. Inside, the PCs will have to get past a massive pit of spikes and then deal with spawn of the Outer Darkness (would be nice to have an inkling of what type of spawn they are, but oh well) that can render PCs into shadowy entities on critical successes. Okay, got that. What are the effects?


The PCs may also broker a deal with a trapped infernal elf and gain a magic sword (+1d6), a healing fountain, benevolent telepathic crystals and then duke it out with Xakaar - who likes enclosing foes in rings of fire and dominate the will of others...and when he dominates more than one, he lessens his attack pool. While the pdf still does not say by how many d6 the dice pool is lessened, I assume 1d6. Still, no idea.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, no complaints in that regard. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard; in one version, the background is parchment-style with subdued blood spatters here and there; the other one is even more printer-friendly. The parchment version is huge for a pdf of this size, though. Still, kudos! It should also be noted that the big version is layered and can thus be customized. The pdf has a gorgeous artwork in b/w and features one absolutely fantastic map of the ruined abbey. While I wished there was a version of the map sans key, this pdf is FREE and as such, I'm not complaining.


Venger As'Nas Satanis' one hour-game version of Crimson Dragon Slayer is extremely easy to grasp, quick to explain and run. For quick, uncomplicated beer-and-pretzels/lunch-break fun, this does its job rather well. The map and artwork and all for free...no complaints there.


So, Vol. 1.6 of CDS's One-Hour-game rules is better than V.1.11. Let's get that out of the way. For one, the rules are slightly more precise; health drain for spells makes sense


On a formal level, clerics still require notes on how often and much they can actually heal; wizards now work better within the freeform assumed due to the lack of direct damage, though I am still weary of whether prolonged gaming does not devolve into competitive BSing with the GM - I'd strongly suggest samples of what a wizard can do as an easy, hard, etc. task at a given level to provide at least a modicum of guidance for GMs.


So yes, I still consider the magic rules in need of some finetuning for gaming that lasts longer than one session. I certainly hope that the themes that rendered CDS original and novel will continue to be emphasized in the final book. V.1.6 is an improvement over 1.11 - but not enough of an improvement to justify an upgrade from my final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11
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Ponyfinder - Ghost of the Pirate Queen
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:26:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This Ponyfinder-module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1/2 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


Wait, before we do: This is an adventure-review and as such, it contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! When ponykind tells stories of dread beings around the campfire, sooner or later, the notorious pirate queen Brokenhorn is mentioned -an unicorn whose eventual trial was judged by none other than the queen herself. After breaking from jail, she pulled off the caper of a century...and then vanished. Until now. The module begins in the port city of Kailani (no settlement statblock reproduced, alas), famed for its metal production and assumes that the PCs have been hired to deal with a mine taken over by gem gnolls. It is here, that it becomes apparent that this not only is a Ponyfinder module, but also one made by Playground Adventures - throughout the module, you'll find handy boxes providing GM tricks aimed for younger audiences: From using the opportunity of roleplaying to improve math skills to championing non-violent solutions- turns out that the ponies have been inadvertently poisoning the gem gnoll's tunnels with their mining operation - and savvy ponies will be able to provide an amicable solution for all parties involved. Of course, combat or trickery similarly are options and yes, some educational notes on copper are provided.


In the aftermath of all of this, the PCs will find a (simple) puzzle box that can easily be simulated with cards, coins and the like - it's a classic "all adjacent crystals light up" puzzle and inside, the PCs will find a treasure map with a riddle - hints for said riddle are optionally written into the very dialog options used for the zebra captain whose ship the PCs are likely to use to get to sea...but not before an unicorn called Demi Charter tries to buy their map. The crew of the vessel is depicted in fluff-only brief paragraphs, but should provide enough dynamics for roleplaying during the journey...and the module does provide a nautical term/pirate slang glossary, which can help build specialized vocabulary for the players. The vessel is statted properly and while ship to ship combat with an enemy vessel is a distinct possibility, the module does not assume the use of nautical combat as a given, instead noting that younger players may enjoy a more narrative take on the subject matter.


Speaking of which - it turns out that Demi Charter is trying to board them - possessed by Brokenhorn! While capable PCs will be able to bring him to reason, ultimately they will be warned that the treasure hunt is not a simple task. The map of the treasure island sports three Xs, but knowing how pine cones interact with heat can help deduce which one is the correct one. The complex of Brokenhorn, hidden below, is fully mapped and features pitting the PCs against an illusory double of the famed pirate and past bone organs...which may be a bit creepy, but considering the wholesome tone of the whole module, I'd be surprised to hear about even sensitive kids being scared here. While exploring the complex, the PCs will also be cast in other roles, as haunts take them into Brokenhorn's memory: Here, the PCs will be faced by a nice and relatively easy alchemical deductive logic puzzle and in the aftermath, the PCs will be filled in by the spirits of the memories regarding Brokenhorn's ambitions and past. The use of the player's faculties will continue, as another haunt features a nice substitution cypher of the simplest kind (Even when run in other languages, the cypher makes translating the puzzle easy.) - it turns out that phantoms here takes the PCs to put Brokenhorn's ghost to rest - the pirate queen never actually killed anyone; that was just embellishments that grew over time (nice way to teach kids a bit of skepticism!) and the ghost, while dangerous, deserves being put to rest - if the PCs prevail, they'll end the module with a heart-warming scene and Brokenhorn's unique horn as an item as reward. The pdf concludes with a list of recommended/further reading regarding pirate narratives.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - apart from very minor hiccups like a "/" missing in the multiclass statblock and similar, rare trifles, the book is precise and to the point in both formal and rules-language and well done. The layout crafted for the book is gorgeous and provides a great 2-column full-color experience. The pdf's artwork in full color is similarly nice. I really like the colorful cartography provided for the "dungeons" featured within, though I wished we'd get player-friendly key-less versions for them.


J Gray, with assistance by Stephen Rowe, has crafted a great module - there's no two ways around it; how great, however, depends a bit on the facet under which you examine the module. As a ponyfinder module, this excels - it uses everglow canon and places well and knows the themes of Ponyfinder. As an educational module with a kid-focus, this similarly excels - the emphasis on wholesome conflicts, diplomatic solutions and the use of kid-appropriate puzzles that engage them without being too hard is great. Theme-wise, I'd suggest this for kids ages 4 - 10 - older kids may consider the puzzles too easy, depending on how smart they are and young gamers in puberty will probably want more violence than this offers.


Adults who want a change of pace will enjoy this, though they won't consider it too challenging and rather easy. As a pirate module, it hits all the notes from ship-to-ship combat to treasure hunting - but here, it is slightly less excellent. What do I mean by this? The treasure map the PCs find...does not exist as a representation herein. I know I am nitpicking here, but it's so obvious to me, particularly regarding kids. How do you engage them? Bingo, the open the box and you present the treasure map. There is no handout like that in here that depicts the island. You know, just a sketch will do...I made one. When the sketch approach is used, less experienced GMs could have certainly used the tricks to make old, creased, wrinkled parchment-style paper with coffee or tea. So yeah, when looked at under these circumstances, the module does have a flaw that can be nitpicked.


That being said, in spite of my nitpicking of one arguably optional component, this still is by far the most refined and well-thought out Ponyfinder supplement I've read so far and remains a pretty cool, engaging module with unobtrusive educational angles. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ponyfinder - Ghost of the Pirate Queen
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Iconic Princesses
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:24:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the creative Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The planes- and realms hopping ship UCS Flaming Crab was almost done for - but thankfully, they were saved by the arrival of 4 gorgeous women that defeated the onslaught of raptor-men...sad women also happen to be a take on classic princesses, as seen through the glasses of PFRPG. Presentation-wise, we get 1st level, 7th level and 12th level iterations for the respective princesses...so without further ado, what can be found here? Well, first of all, the pdf sports notes on traits for campaigns using them for each of the builds.


Viruden, aka Beauty, is a delightfully non-standard take on the tale - he Beast, gentle and caring, was slain and thus she roams the land, clutching his rose (a new and fitting magic item) and defending the powerless with terrible powers - for Beauty here is an aasimar witch. The build include flavorful skills, and generally, equipment and a development that makes sense from an organic character's point of view. Her rat familiar Hami is included.


Next up would be Mulan, whose story has been left more conventional - however, her build is not what I would have expected - we actually get a brawler here...yes, with fighting fan and a lucky cricket as a new item. Nice.


The third entry, though, is where the pdf fully comes into itself: The classic tale of passive Rapunzel gets a thoroughly awesome spin: Shalista was taken to her aunt, since too many suitors were asking for her and her dad feared violence - said aunt, wild-haired and weird, demanded service and silence and her hair grew...but at the same time, there was a method in this: Her gift to Shalista would be not only freedom, but the power to fend for herself. Teaching her the Tresswhip technique and granting her the new hair spike weapon to be used in conjunction with it, Rappun-Zel was born as a bonafide badass monk with a cool, unique fighting style. Two thumbs up!


Okay, the final build herein may actually be a similarly cool one - Snow-White is reimagined as an Occultist, including a signature spell that pertains the old ending when she forced her stepmother to dance herself to death in searing shoes. (Yes, German fairy tales are hardcore!) The spell is very evocative in its visuals, but its rules require close reading to fully grasp - basically, you can halve the damage it causes by spending a move action, dancing - this move action does not actually move the affected character, though, and hence the character may still 5-foot-step. Explicitly stating that the dancing, while requiring a move action, is not actually movement would have helped here - also, since I am not sure whether dancing is supposed to provoke AoOs or not - I assume it should, but I'm not sure. On the cool synergy-side: When running AAW Games' absolutely SUPERB Snow-White module and ending it with Snow-White and a PC falling in love, using a build here (and disregarding the take on the story presented in this pdf) may make for a pretty cool twist!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good - while I noticed a missing blank space and similarly minor hiccups, as a whole, the builds are neat. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides some nice, thematically fitting artworks I haven't seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


June Bordas, Troy Daniels, Lindsey Shanks, Stephen Lloyd Wilson and J Gray deliver one fine array of cool characters - in spite of not using archetypes, the builds are relatively complex and certainly nothing to sneeze at - the iconic princesses herein are, one and all, fun and evocative. The builds all range in the upper echelon, with Rappun-Zel being the concept-wise coolest and Snow-White's build being my favorite, though the other two certainly aren't bad either. The supplemental material is neat as well and overall, this can be considered to a well worth little NPC-supplement. While not perfect, I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a tiny margin.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Iconic Princesses
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Beneath the Festered Sun (5E)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:22:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This plug-in for the Mummy's Mask adventure path clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, the first thing you need to know is the following: This module was originally intended to be run in conjunction with Pathfinder's Mummy's Mask adventure path - so in case you're converting that one, this will very much be up your alley. While the introduction does mention this, the book as a whole has been converted to 5e with care - e.g. an eidolon, which is part of the story, now has a different origin that does not presume the existence of the like in 5e.


This being an adventure review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to skip to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! Groomed from an early childhood to serve as priestess of the goddess of death, the individual called Kapanek developed her own profound beliefs, a variation, a heresy of the doctrine followed by the majority of people in ancient times - unfortunately for her, her own talent would prove to be her undoing, as a being that looked somewhat akin to a skeletal herald of Anubis manifested- an entity born from her own talent, mistaken for a herald of the gods...but then, a dread plague struck and was all her foes required to take her down and slaughter her family. Her death curse unfulfilled, the world has turned...but the thing birthed from her power has schemed for a long time to fulfill the vengeance of its mistress.


As the PCs return to delve once again into the dungeons, they are notified of the ruins being closed since civil unrest and the rare astrological event "Festered Sun" is happening. From the get-go, the module offers a significant assortment of options to gather information, with higher checks providing more knowledge - the original, pretty straight skills have been taken over, with the initial sequence providing means for both Wisdom (Perception) and Charisma (Persuasion) to get slightly more out of the deal. On a nitpicky side, I think two different tables here would have been prudent for 5e. The PCs (and other parties) have a vested interest in resolving the unrest, since a local inquisitor is quick to point his finger at the tomb-raiding groups as a possible source for the issues. In order to find the truth behind the strangely powerful curse - Ruja, the man in charge, offers 3 venues to start the investigation. For one, the Anubian sects that follows lost and forgotten Kapanek's doctrines needs to be inspected; secondly, the astronomer Gyep tried to warn the city, but was laughed at - so checking him out may help. Finally, the is an odd mirage surrounding Mafiris Estate that should most definitely be investigated. Choosing their entry vector, the PCs receive a court order exempting them from the curfew.


Stepping outside and looking up at the festered sun can cause blindness, as a strangely compelling curse seems to affect the very city and exposure to daylight may similarly cause burns via another curse - in a rarely seen level of detail, the precise wording of the curses uttered has been reproduced, which is pretty awesome, at least in my book. In the camp of the Anubians spawned from Kapanek's teachings and the PCs are generally welcomed to the camp of the heresy, though in the shadow pavilion, the metal globe with the silhouetted shapes of ancient gods (see cover) is interesting...and the leader of the sects, one brother Thute, seems to be less than pleased with the meddling PCs. As the investigation winds down here, a shadow will assault the PCs - which is taken by the locals to be an unfettered aspect of the soul (the 5 aspects of the soul as defined by Kapanek's teachings are explained in detail) -it is also said belief that may put an end to the dread curses...but so far, the PCs don't yet know that. The section also provides further hints to pursue, the means to duke it out with a swarm of desert rats...so yeah, enough versatility.


The PCs may actually witness an abandoned cistern defended by rather aggressive crowds of people that guard a woman of blood: Partaking from her blood seems to eliminate the curses...but drinking human blood from the strange apparition does have its own risks - the PCs will have to take a close look at the abandoned cistern's insides and deal with whatever lurks in its tainted depths. In a minor nitpick, the relatively intriguing altercation against a troop in pathfinder has been replaced with some standard thugs...which does decrease a bit of the encounter's unique style.


The temple of the goddess of death, which hands out alms and bread, may well be a source of the issues - and indeed, stealthy gremlins have been switching breads, spreading dread contamination among the inhabitants of the city.


The astronomer Gyep in the astronomer's lodge is in dire circumstances, as a deadly mummy is guarding the gnome and represents a powerful, lethal adversary the PCs will need to dispatch to rescue the gnomish Cassandra. Gyep can answer a lot of questions the PCs may have and less improvisation-skilled GMs will enjoy the significant array of read-aloud text for questions, providing guidance and exposition. Gyep actually confirms that the festered sun actually is just the trigger for a curse...but not the source. Said mummy and blood golems may point the PCs towards the house of one Yaro-comatose and basically unresponsive, his abode has been rigged...and he was the man to create the mummy and blood golem.


Slowly, the pieces start falling in place and the mirage-covered Mafiris estate may be the most lethal of the respective areas -inside this planar bubble, the PCs can actually meet Kapanek's tainted, reincarnated form...and whether they can get some information out of her or not, in order to save an old woman who does know more, the PCs will probably have to deal with the lethal creature that once was Kapanek - now a dread, unique fiend.


At this point, the pieces will probably have fallen into place and the PCs will have dealt with the fragments of Kapanek's soul...all but one. In the end, the powerful unfettered eidolon Kerux, which also doubles as the unique and challenging boss of this module - with its fall, the legacy of death and dread curse will end.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues pertaining rules-language, though e.g. the formatting of one statblock has the challenge in the header. There are some minor hiccups pertaining formatting, but nothing serious. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with copious pieces of artwork, all in full color. Legendary Games fans may know some of them from other books, but not all.


Pedro Coelho's "Beneath the Festered Sun" is a glorious book for the Mummy's Mask AP - and in 5e's iteration, it still remains a more than neat module that can stand on its own. The investigation's skill-checks, with some minor exceptions, are pretty conservative and fit well within 5e's design paradigm. (The initial skill check table for set-up information being one exception - the highest DC there is 25, which, while not impossible for 5e 3rd level characters, requires some luck to hit.)


The author also has crafted truly astonishing, beautiful full-color maps, both in player-friendly and GM-versions - the maps are great. On a nitpicky aside, the main antagonist is mentioned to have used bestow curse...but the spell is not listed among those currently memorized by the creature, which seemed odd to me. Beyond these nitpicky components, "Beneath the Festered Sun" remains a good investigation set against an Egyptian backdrop, one that manages to evoke a sense of the mythological and unique. This module per se is great...but it does lose some parts of its identity in the conversion.


You see, the setting and its unique premise assumed by the original AP is still implicitly here - while you can adapt it easily to any quasi-Egyptian environment, the matter of fact remains that the whole backdrop, when taken on its own without Mummy's Mask, becomes rather opaque and detracts from the overall appeal of the module, at least for me. In order to offset this, a section on general structure, a short summary/gazetteer of a town to use the module in, something like this, would have gone a long, long way to make this feel more organic. After all, an investigation in town A might run completely different than in town B; the AP and sourcebooks for Pathfinder took care of that...but for 5e, the module does not have this luxury and feels a bit more opaque than I like.


As presented, as a module divorced from the AP that spawned it, "Beneath the Festered Sun" still structurally works, but it loses a lot of its charm and unique positioning and most of its flair, becoming significantly more opaque than its original iteration. As such, I consider it by no means bad, but also short of what it could have easily been as a stand-alone module. My final verdict for the 5e-version will hence clock in at 3.5 stars. Now personally, this somewhat opaque background would make me round down for the purpose of this platform, but if you're playing Mummy's Mask for 5e, consider this to be a must-have book instead and consult my review for the PFRPG-version - for the structural benefits this lends to the AP when used in conjunction, still remain significant. Additionally, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy and as such, my official reviewer's verdict will round up.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Beneath the Festered Sun (5E)
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Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:20:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition


This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of advertisement leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introduction, we dive right into the first tavern of the trinity, the Angelic Imp: Dim, yet romantically lit, with red candles and vases of red and white roses, the tavern utilizes a romanticized aesthetic oscillating between the reds of passion (associated with blood and sin) and the purity of white - this is the place to go when you're looking for a prime spot for a discrete candlelight dinner with excellent accompanying food - from grilled swordfish to saffron-tomato seafood stew and jasmine rice, the food did make my mouth water a bit; while the pdf does not sport menues with sample prices for the dishes, the tavern itself is fully mapped in a player-friendly little, functional map. The angelic imp, as such, has a reputation for privacy and rumors (4 of which are provided in pretty nice detail) are usually something you'd stumble across outside of the establishment. The 6 sample events provided deal with the obviously exquisite and delicate nature of the place; with customers being enraged at the prices of the bill, an artificial wine shortage and love and lust reciprocated or denied, the events fit well within the context of the tavern. Bellamy Brook, the establishment's owner, receives the full NPC treatment with statblock - including the means to make fast friends, while his striking server Malena is provided as a detailed write-up, including a unique ability that bespeaks her more than impressive grace. EDIT: A layout glitch has been eliminated.


There is also a love-triangle/jealousy-story waiting in the wings, with Albright Ansuer, son of a self-made man and bored and spoiled aristocratic debutante Jenna Saunderville featuring fluffy write-ups and quite some potential for intriguing scenes. EDIT: Where we had an advertisement before, we now get a new piece of art - kudos!!!


But perhaps the PCs aren't the biggest fans of romance. Well, then Blackberry Bill's may be what their looking for - small and cozy, with a focus on pastries and the like, the tavern is run by the eponymous Blackberry Bill...whose pugilism expertise was translated to 5e with rather creative abilities...and yes, they extend to cover the reputation he has a being somewhat short-fused in social environments. I really like how the series translates the spirit of the NPCs to 5e here - this is NOT a hackjob, but a lovingly crafted conversion...so kudos!


The grizzled dwarf is indeed a former adventurer and those stuffed heads on the wall...they're not hanging there for nothing. Famous for his jams and massive infatuation with blackberries, Bill may not have the best people skills, but his food makes up for that. His waitress, Braybin Mockingson, a speckled and energetic halfling seems to make up for that in energy and impulse. A total of 6 rumors, from tall tales about Bill's adventuring days to how in fact his blackberry creations reached their level of deliciousness, are provided. Now Bill, obviously, is relying on a secret patch of blackberries and hence, his obsessions with the fruits feature in the sample events: From experimental dishes to the quest for ever more blackberry recipes, thefts, customers bringing a cockatrice into the shop or kids gone missing near the patch...the adventuring potential is there and diverse/creative.


The third of the taverns featured herein would be the Pattering Platypus - and unlike the previous two, this one has an explicitly stated menu that changes by weekday, though it sports no prices. Much like the previous two taverns, the tavern comes with detailed and well-crafted prose depicting the owner, Titus Muldoon as well as Devon Winterhall and a local celebrity bard. Devon, just fyi can make for an interesting bouncer - originally a maneuver master, her background story and occupation have been translated with care to the context of 5e. Kudos!


It should be noted that the food here is pretty much diner fare - with burgers in all but name, delicious fried chicken - and before you start complaining about anachronism here - there are reliable accounts on frying practices in the 17th century and considering that magic and our default setting come closer to the early modern period than the middle ages, I am fine with that. The rumors featured here deal mostly with the NPCs mentioned before and patrons misbehaving; in direct contrast, these are the weakest among the rumors/events herein - they aren't bad, mind you - just not as diverse.


Now, the pdf also has more people to add to the respective taverns -we have an amethyst-eyed punk-aesthetic gnome sorceress looking for thrills and fun and her gruff, practical and realistic elven friend. EDIT: Where a previous, unique ability had some issues regarding its strength and wording, that has been cleaned up - kudos! I do like her prestidigitation-expertise, though! The gnome's elven friend is a rather adept hunter and her efficiency when using hunter's mark etc. is pretty cool.


You can also encounter Dizzy Izzy, disheveled-looking and rather successful mesmerist/conman/information-broker - and my favorite NPC-conversion in the book: Originally a mesmerist in PFRPG, his means to enforce assistance via post-hypnotic suggestions, his gaze and the means to redirect attacks of foes make him a truly cool character.


There is also the charming, intelligent Harding von Orcson, gentlemen trader; you can try to best local legend Pie-eating Pete (fully statted, has a gullet of holding in 5e!) or you may well encounter an eccentric, but harmless pretend-noble. Finally, there is the powerful guard captain Ervyn Blackwall. Ervyn would be my second favorite conversion here - originally a cavalier, he now gets the option to quickly cuff trouble-makers as a bonus action, which fits perfectly with the guard captain trope; however, it should be noted that his mount gets no 5e-stats herein; arguably due to the decreased emphasis on pets/mount stats and their power-growth in 5e, but still something you should know. Ervyn also always a likely source of employment for adventurers or a powerful foil for less scrupulous forces. So yes, adding these beings to taverns (or just scavenging them for other purposes) increases the conflict/adventuring potential for the respective places by quite a bit!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are tight in both formal criteria and rules-language departments - I have no complaints here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features b/w-artworks for EVERY SINGLE NPC herein. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have seen none of these before as well; for the more than fair price point, that is quite a feat and yes, even the fluff-only NPCs/non-combatants have their mugshots. Kudos! The cartography in b/w is nice and does its job well. EDIT: Dire Rugrat Publishing's crew listens - the pdf now features a page that collects all the tavern maps in player-friendly iterations: Just print it out, cut it up and use it as a handout. There you go! Awesome!


Kelly & Ken Pawlik's trio of taverns is a supplement well-worth getting; I am also pretty enamored with the 5e-conversions featured herein. Due to a discrepancy in system-age and focus, Pathfinder has a lot of classes and minutiae that does not translate well to 5e; instead of just shrugging and converting the basics, this pdf takes the concepts, distills them to the less rules-intense 5e-context and provides unique signature abilities for the NPCs, making them work in spirit as in PFRPG sans Pathfinder's complexity. Arguably, to me some of the 5e-characters indeed do their job/theme better than in PFRPG and this is indeed something I love seeing. Similarly, this supplement does not fall in the pitfalls seen in some 5e-conversions...so yeah, kudos indeed!! To me, the 5e-version of this trio of taverns edges the supplement slightly over its brother and, considering how ALL of my previous gripes have been eliminated, this one does now get an upgrade to 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns (5e)
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5th Edition Racial Options - Aasimar!
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:12:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This is not the aasimar race from the DMG, just fyi - it's its own take on the concept.


We begin this pdf with a pretty close reproduction of how races are depicted in the 5e Phb, i.e. with flavorful notes on playing the race and flavorful leitmotifs - from wanderlust to being trusting, but also verifying the statements and nomenclature. In a nice twist, elves, halflings and tieflings get their say and impressions of the aasimar race in a sidebar. Race trait-wise, aasimar increase Wisdom and Charisma by 1, 30 feet movement, darkvision 60 feet, resistance to radiance damage and a rather powerful trick: When being capable of healing via spells, you add your proficiency modifier to the amount healed; when you do not have access to those, you instead add it to the hit points you receive when you are healed. I like the intention of this, but the rules-language could be clearer: What constitutes, for example, an "healing attempt" - use of the skill? Personally, I think this should simply be a choice left up to the players. This is a nitpick, though.


The pdf provides three subraces of aasimar: Children of the deva increase Dexterity by 1 and get alter self at 3rd level as well as partial resistance to bludgeoning. Wait...what's that? Well, partial resistance is a concept introduced here and I REALLY dislike it. In short: It works like damage reduction. You reduce that damage type by an amount equal to the level of the character. This renders partial resistance more powerful than regular resistance in certain contexts. E.g. at 10th level, a character is hit by 6 attacks, all of which deal 7 points of damage. Characters with resistance take a bunch of damage; less than other creatures, but still damage. Partial resistance eliminates the damage completely. The 5e-system is not made for this ability with an at least optional assumption of average damage and the somewhat more down to earth approach of 5e does not mix well with being invincible to certain attacks.


Children of Planetars increase Constitution by 1 and gain invisibility (self only) at 3rd level and partial piercing resistance. Children of Solars increase their Strength score by 1 and gain spiritual weapon at 3rd level. One note pertaining the innate spellcasting gained - the pdf fails to specify which spellcasting ability is used for these spells.


While I really hate partial resistance in 5e, the pdf does feature a second rule-idea I like - celestial lineages that allow you to modify the aasimar. A total of 3 such lineages are provided. These provide usually bonus abilities at certain levels (1st, 5th and 9th), but you do lose one of the usual abilities in exchange, namely powerful ones like radiant flux. Eternal Radiance nets you light-themed innate spells; bane of liars makes you a living lie detector and wings of angels provides slowly access to flight. I have no complaints regarding them.


The pdf does provide a new potion, celestial elixir, which allows the aasimar to use their powers an additional time before taking a rest; when used more than once, it causes Constitution damage, though...and it can be used as a quasi-super holy water that deals "6d6 damage" - for a price of only 100 gp. Underpriced in my book. Also...what kind of damage?? The pdf also features a new spell, radiant shield, which provides light, resistance to necrotic damage and reflexive radiant damage when attacked in melee. The spell is powerful at 3rd level mainly due to not requiring concentration and having a 10 minute duration. Angel's Bows require paladins or aasimar to be used and grants advantage on attack rolls and deal +1d6 radiant damage....which is imho a bit strong. Universal advantage? OUCH. Also: +1 is usually, when compare with items like berserker's axes, not noted in the header of the item. Oh, and the bow requires no attunement. (Fyi: My direct frame of reference here is the oath bow, which nets more power versus a single creature, but no bonus, requires attunement and works only against one foe per day. - in comparison, the angel's bow is a bit too good.)


The ring of heavenly light, the second item, doubles darkvision range and nets daylight once per long rest.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting generally are pretty good - the pdf does not feature significant glitches. Purists may be slightly annoyed that the racial subheaders aren't italicized, only bolded, but the pdf gets the full-stop versus colon-formatting convention right. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Troy E. Daniels delivers generally a cool race here; while I am not sold on the balancing of bow and elixir and annoyed that the latter has no proper damage type, the aasimar race generally is cool...with one issue. Partial Resistance. This ability, while understandable in its intent, opens up a significant can of worms regarding rules-aesthetics and how the system works. To me, 5e is more rock-paper-scissors, than PFRPG and still allows you to do something if you don't have the right tools. High-level aasimar with these rules can stand in a mob of lesser creatures armed in a specific way and take no damage...which opens up all manner of awkward questions - for example why non-aasimar angels can't do the same. Basically, this introduces a rules component that is not tangential to a system - it's an integral part. To maintain internal consistency, the introduction of the ability requires the GM to modify other creatures similarly, which changes the game pretty hard. On the plus-side, that makes direct PFRPG-conversion easier...but on the minus-side, it feels awkward and alien to 5e to me. Personally, I really dislike it and would discourage its use.


And that is a damn pity, for, overall, when disregarding this unfortunately pretty central component of the racial design, the aasimar as depicted herein is pretty solid; not perfect, yes, but also not inherently flawed or problematic. Still, partial resistance's issues, in conjunction with the minor other hiccups do drag this down a bit. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, though I have to round down.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Racial Options - Aasimar!
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Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2016 10:34:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review (for the improved version)


This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1.5 pages advertisement leaving us with 20.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introduction, we dive right into the first tavern of the trinity, the Angelic Imp: Dim, yet romantically lit, with red candles and vases of red and white roses, the tavern utilizes a romanticized aesthetic oscillating between the reds of passion (associated with blood and sin) and the purity of white - this is the place to go when you're looking for a prime spot for a discrete candlelight dinner with excellent accompanying food - from grilled swordfish to saffron-tomato seafood stew and jasmine rice, the food did make my mouth water a bit; while the pdf does not sport menus with sample prices for the dishes, the tavern itself is fully mapped in a player-friendly little, functional map. The angelic imp, as such, has a reputation for privacy and rumors (4 of which are provided in pretty nice detail) are usually something you'd stumble across outside of the establishment. The 6 sample events provided deal with the obviously exquisite and delicate nature of the place; with customers being enraged at the prices of the bill, an artificial wine shortage and love and lust reciprocated or denied, the events fit well within the context of the tavern. Bellamy Brook, the establishment's owner, receives the full NPC treatment (expert/sorceror multiclass, just fyi), while his striking server Malena is provided as a detailed write-up, including stats. There is also a love-triangle/jealousy-story waiting in the wings, with Albright Ansuer, son of a self-made man and bored and spoiled aristocratic debutante Jenna Saunderville featuring fluffy write-ups and quite some potential for intriguing scenes. EDIT: The ad that was here before is now gone, replaced with a nice piece of b/w-artwork. Kudos!


But perhaps the PCs aren't the biggest fans of romance. Well, then Blackberry Bill's may be what their looking for - small and cozy, with a focus on pastries and the like, the tavern is run by the eponymous Blackberry Bill...who is btw. a brutal pugilist with some serious class levels - the grizzled dwarf is indeed a former adventurer and those stuffed heads on the wall...they're not hanging there for nothing. Famous for his jams and massive infatuation with blackberries, Bill may not have the best people skills, but his food makes up for that. His waitress, Braybin Mockingson, a speckled and energetic halfling seems to make up for that in energy and impulse. A total of 6 rumors, from tall tales about Bill's adventuring days to how in fact his blackberry creations reached their level of deliciousness, are provided. Now Bill, obviously, is relying on a secret patch of blackberries and hence, his obsessions with the fruits feature in the sample events: From experimental dishes to the quest for ever more blackberry recipes, thefts, customers bringing a cockatrice into the shop or kids gone missing near the patch...the adventuring potential is there and diverse/creative.


The third of the taverns featured herein would be the Pattering Platypus - and unlike the previous two, this one has an explicitly stated menu that changes by weekday, though it sports no prices. Much like the previous two taverns, the tavern comes with detailed and well-crafted prose depicting the owner, Titus Muldoon as well as Devon Winterhall and a local celebrity bard. Devon, just fyi, does get full stats and is a maneuver master monk that can make for an interesting bouncer. It should be noted that the food here is pretty much diner fare - with burgers in all but name, delicious fried chicken - and before you start complaining about anachronism here - there are reliable accounts on frying practices in the 17th century and considering that magic and our default setting come closer to the early modern period than the middle ages, I am fine with that. The rumors featured here deal mostly with the NPCs mentioned before and patrons misbehaving; in direct contrast, these are the weakest among the rumors/events herein - they aren't bad, mind you - just not as diverse.


Now, the pdf also has more people to add to the respective taverns -we have an amethyst-eyed punk-aesthetic gnome sorceress looking for thrills and fun and her gruff, practical and realistic elven friend. You can also encounter Dizzy Izzy (full stats included), disheveled-looking and rather successful mesmerist/conman/information-broker or the charming, intelligent Harding von Orcson, gentlemen trader; you can try to best local legend Pie-eating Pete (fully statted), encounter an eccentric, but harmless pretend-noble. Finally, there is the powerful guard captain Ervyn Blackwall and his mount (again, full stats included); always a likely source of employment for adventurers or a powerful foil for less scrupulous forces. So yes,a dding these beings to taverns (or just scavenging them for other purposes) increases the conflict/adventuring potential for the respective places by quite a bit!


EDIT: In a REALLY cool service for the customers, a plaer-friendly collection of all maps can now be found, all collected on one page - kudos!!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are tight in both formal criteria and rules-language departments - I have no complaints here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features b/w-artworks for EVERY SINGLE NPC herein. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have seen none of these before as well; for the more than fair price point, that is quite a feat and yes, even the fluff-only NPCs/non-combatants have their mugshots. Kudos! The cartography in b/w is nice and does its job well and EDIT: now, the maps are collected on a player-friendly handout page: Print out one page, cutit up, there you go. Two thumbs up!


Kelly & Ken Pawlik's trio of taverns is a supplement well-worth getting; for a more than fair price, you get some nice builds, NPCs and places to drop in your campaign. While the absence of prices for the food and beverages is a minor detriment in my book, the places indeed capture the imagination, with the first two outclassing the third in my book; after the quirky and creative first two taverns, the third did feel a bit more common in direct comparison. That being said, this is still a great little supplement. Considering the slightly improved layout, new art, minor fixes and collated maps in player-friendly versions, my final verdict is upgraded to 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns (PFRPG)
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Monsters of Porphyra 2
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2016 08:26:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of the massive bestiaries for the Porphyra campaign setting clocks in at a massive 226 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page introduction (containing thanks for the contributing authors and contact information for the artists involved - kudos for providing that at such a prominent spot!), 4.5 pages of SRD, 1 page blank/back cover, leaving us with 215.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I have received this bestiary as an early access file and have been working on this review ever since; beyond that, this is a prioritized review and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons.


The first two pages of this bestiary provide an explanation on how to read the statblocks and use the creatures herein. We begin without much fanfare or ado with the very first monster herein, the Absinthian Hardwood - which makes a great example of what to expect in this book...or at least one example that highlights one facet of it: At first glance, we get a tree-like monster...but what does that have to do with one of my favorite alcoholic beverages? Okay, it does have a neat array of SPs, but depicting these trees in actual game is intriguing, since they usually do not fight; they let others do the dirty work. The tree grows sweet, aromatic fruits that are highly addictive and thus generate cultists of addicts pretty quickly; said cults are then tasked to spread the taint of these trees. Horrific in theme, the artwork provided for the tree reflects that nature. Another example for a great idea is the arbogeist - when a treant or similar plant creature perishes in horrific agony, these undead are created. That doesn't seem too novel to you? Well, the build itself has multiple unique tricks up its sleeve and rewards smart players with an exploitable weakness-section. But yes, there are cool plant creatures herein - one of my favorites being Rotwood: This powerful magical disease warps plants and wood and shapes the components into exceedingly lethal engines of destruction, infecting all it touches - equal parts puzzle boss, endgame adversary and ridiculously powerful agent of destruction, it breathes tons of creativity.


Porphyra, as a patchwork planet, is incredibly diverse and as such, its monsters should reflect some concepts beyond the common - and we do get some ideas here that are evocative enough to make you grin: Picture exploring a dungeon, when you suddenly see a gooey pool of resplendent slime that grows wing-like protrusions, glows and flies around? Yep, that would be Angel Jelly, positively infused and rather kind. We all know the trope of the gigantic intelligent turtle, ancient and benign, right? Well, enter the archaic one. At CR 18, these incredibly long-lived beings are consumed by a crushing ennui, bored literally out of their minds by an existence that has gone on too long, seeping corruption and taint through their very pores. Speaking of such powerful foes - be wary of small islands - there is a very real chance that it may actually be an extremely deadly apex-predator jellyfish that hunts by posing as an islet until creatures step on it...and then the nightmare begins.


Hybrid creatures and internal connections between critters have also been an easy means to generate a sense of cohesion - and this book introduces an intriguing cultural tidbit: Aranea mages, hating to slay their rivals, proceed with the custom of magically rendering them insane; the offspring of aranea thus punished and various spider creatures can be found within these pages. The barzakhi, aka astral masters, would be a new race that is remarkable for several reasons: They are enslaving interlopers from the realms beyond the mortal sphere, yes - so far, so classic...but they a) have significant psionic abilities and b) have heads that are pyramidal with a single eye on each side. What might sound goofy is actually pretty creepy and evokes a ton of the tropes we cherish from conspiracy theories and novels...with homebases of electrified spheres of alien metal, they also quote a classic of literature...so yeah. AWESOME. (As a minor nitpick - one of their abilities refers to an "Astral Noble" instead of an "Astral Overlord" - but this I mention only because it is the one type of glitch you are likely to encounter herein. Oh, have I mentioned that they EAT SPELLS and throw them back as blasts at you? Yeah, pretty awesome!


Now if you're like me, you'll enjoy a certain sense of "realism" in your games and, as I've come to realize, shortage scenarios, whether due to siege or generally a grim tone can provide some very intriguing results. But what do necromancers do when they run out of material? Well, they create beseiged undead, that's what. Taking for example a ton of human skin, stitching it together and filling it with sand may create slow undead, but the visuals are great and you still have bones and muscle tissue to make other monstrosities. Love this idea!


I also consider, at least to a significant degree, the type of animal-like beings that populate a world to be a pretty crucial component regarding the generation of immersion and the book does something interesting with those efficient predators: Take the centipede-like centioch - it's tail has no less than three stingers, each with a different poison. Beyond the mechanics, I certainly know that many a thieves' guild will try to get one of these...feed one huge vermin and get the chance to milk three poisons? Sounds like a smart deal...that requires capable assistance. Yes, I will have my PCs cart one of these things into a city. The logistics alone should be more than interesting to watch... If you're looking for a more companion-compatible creature, you may want to look at quillback crocodiles - powerful predators with defensive spines. Among the "should be goofy, but is not" hybrids, the crow-wolf hybrid manages to actually look pretty nasty. Colossal spiders that weave webs of crystal (some played Brütal Legend!) are pretty cool...as are the cricket-like daemons that feast on maximum bloodshed. (On another note - the artwork for these fellows is glorious!)


I am a big believer in the fact that some unique bosses benefit a bestiary - one of these herein would be the fallen demon lord Gu'Dabana the Choker: A 4-armed, white-furred monstrosity, eyeless with a rat's slavering maw and the ability to possess mortals. Oh, and he actually utilizes the EXCELLENT Assassins of Porphyra material, having his own cult of these professional killers. Since we're talking creatures of the Abyss right now: Demons fused with the signature porphyrite or bone-club-wielding, massive simian herds of the fallen can be found...but they miss out in levels of WTF when compared to the Carceratos devil: These things decapitate foes rendered helpless and then fuse the head and body with their obese form...both of which, eerily, remain conscious and in agony, only dying once the creature is slain. This damned if you do, damned if you don't-level of effective despair-generation feels perfectly devilish to me. Two thumbs up! And yes, unique devil included - Kram-Hotep, lord of the twilight pyramid.


If you're into classic folklore, you may wish to take a close look at the dread devourer worm - at CR 30, it is an incredibly tough, beyond tarrasque-level unstoppable monstrosity well worth of the legend. Regarding humanoids, we do get renditions of the races featured in the Fehr's Ethnology-series - including one of the six-limbed dhosari. While I am not the biggest fan of the race, the absolutely stunning artwork provided here most definitely deserves recognition. The pdf also features three new classes of elementals - death, metal and wood elementals, all of which do their theme pretty well. Now, if all of this sounds too focused on themes for you, let's take a look at the emph as a great example for a mechanically unique being: This incorporeal aberration may occupy up to 9 adjacent squares in any configuration; alternatively, these squares may overlap and increase the creature's density, acting as buffs. Very cool.


For all people with a phobia of clowns, the chaotic evil facada outsiders, themed around the suites of tarot, make for delightfully twisted adversaries. New giants are included in the deal alongside highly conductive cuprum golems or beings crafted from godflesh....wait a second. Yep, in case you were wondering: The good ole' godflesh golem from one of my favorite 3.X-books has been updated for PFRPG herein. Would you rather fight an animated, malignant gallows that can sense your hatred? And what about that doodle on the wall that just moved? Yes, these would be golems as well and they stretch the term and its meaning, but are distinctly golems still.


Shepherds of all things creepy and crawly will certainly appreciate the significant array of verminhive golems and speaking of creepy -the chorion hag's artwork gets my award for most disturbing artwork in the book: A corpulent, eel-like undulating form with bony, quasi-insectoid claws, blended faces and the ability to clone creatures in her bloated womb, this thing is a delightfully twisted perversion PCs will love to defeat. Remember when slimes and molds still were dangerous, when they multiplied upon being hit, again and again and again? Enter the hypermiotic template.


The interesting thing, though, is that even when a given creature, like the tired trope of the ice-burrowing worm, is featured, it has something going for it - in that case, no icy breath attack, but rather the option to spit forth highly corrosive salt, generating effects akin to acid pit. Fans of Eastern mythologies will enjoy the inclusion of the Kuchisake-Onna, the vengeful spirit of a mutilated woman. Folklore of only seldom tapped in cultures is used to great effect herein, with e.g. the Nang Tani from Thai culture receiving their own treatment - I wholeheartedly applaud the book for delving into these cultures and bringing some part of their rich heritage to the game. Take the obake; the classic oni was translated into a doddering old man, whose back has fused with a hive of wasps. Yes, that actually is frightening.


Better known tropes also feature herein: The narwhale, for example - ho turns out to be a benevolent, intelligent being herein - with an accompanying masterpiece to call these creatures. Oh...and two-words: Jousting ostriches. Companion stats included. Speaking of whales, one word: Skywhale.


Want something unique and distinctly high fantasy: The qutrub. These guys would be lycanthropes...but instead of gaining an animal-based hybrid form, their alternate form is undead. Come on, you know there is a good story in here! Speaking of stories: This is very much bestiary in the format: Statblocks upon statblocks...but the creatures actually do feature notes on how they behave on Porphyra and more information than usual for this type of book; better yet, once in a while, we get excerpts from folklore, poems or simply legends pertaining the respective monsters, providing additional information for their use.


What's cooler than a motherf*** pterodactyl (2 cents if you got that obvious reference)? Well, what about one that spews lava and has scales of obsidian? Yes. Did you think the classic chimerae were bad? Mantigorgamera. Lavishly depicted, these deadly things are manticore-gorgon-chimera hybrids...and what sounds ridiculous is actually really, REALLY deadly. Less deadly and actually kind a cute: The Mark 1 Mulitpurpose golem roboter. If you're like me a fan of proteans, you should know that none other than Todd Stewart has contributed three new ones to this book...and they are awesome. What about aboleth-controlled cephalopods with stingers in their tentacles? Have I mentioned the 4-headed space mosquito swarms? No? Well, now I have. The vorpal vole? The 4 unique and new yaksha that not only provide great takes on their respective roles, but also cool builds?


While we're at builds - the book does contain monster-building advice and material from the bestiaries, expanded to CR 30, a massive glossary of monster abilities (including formatting notes), summaries of subtypes, uncommon feats used (including ceremonial feats), monster cohorts, familiars and animal companions (with page numbers). The appendix also features monsters listed by type, CR and terrain and role. Unusual spells utilized and taken from 3pps are also found here - all in all, this section makes navigation of the book easy, comfortable and quick.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no accumulation of significant issues; both on a formal and rules-language level, the book is neat and the statblocks I did reverse-engineer sported no significant issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' printer-friendly two-column standard with purple highlights. The different artists used this time around work to the book's advantage: While there is ONE artwork I didn't care for in the book, from Jacob Blackmon's signature style to old-school paintings and truly horrific pieces for the nastier critters, the artists complement the creatures in question very well. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked for your convenience.


Main authors Perry Fehr and Mark Gedak, with additional monsters by Russ Brown, August Hahn, Julian Neale and Todd Stewart have crafted one massive book here. But let me take a step back first: Mark Gedak has a patreon that has by now produced this book; the second of the massive Porphyra bestiaries. Book 1 was good; a fun and well-written bestiary and a quality-wise neat tome.


Against the usual trend, Monsters of Porphyra II blows its predecessor clean out of the water. Are you looking for mechanically creative abilities that provide a unique combat experience and tactical challenges? there are creatures for that inside. Want something owlbear-goofy but also cool? Included. Some creatures drawn from more exotic folklore? In here. Utterly unique creatures and cultures, campaign-endbosses, puzzle foes? All inside. No matter what you're looking for in a bestiary, from the wholesome to the horrific, from the fantastical and purist to the off-the-walls weird, this one delivers.


More importantly: There is no suck inside. I did not find a single creature that felt tired or bland; It's either the artwork, the unique signature abilities or the combination of both that add a sense of the "want to use" to these critters. I mean, it actually makes one of the most tired concepts ever, the ice worm, feel pretty creative. Similarly, when creatures from obscure 3.X OGL-books were upgraded, the upgrades often include twists and different flavors that render them fresh and distinct. The lore sections, prose and the like help render the back-to-back reading experience more fulfilling as well.


...


I have no formal complaints. There are some very minor hiccups here and there, but they are so few and far in-between and don't influence the functionality of the critters. For a book of this size, that is a true feat. Oh, and consider the fact that this one was made sans a huge KS-budget, instead thriving on continuous, dedicated work. It's one thing to have a burst of inspiration; constantly generating creatures with this level of quality is a feat. Magical beasts feel magical, dragons feel draconic; folklore beasts are close to their source-material or make it cooler than in our mythology. Animals and vermin feel effective and pretty realistic and like they make sense. In short: This is an absolutely stellar bestiary for a more than fair price point.


Personally, I'm not a big fan of the bestiary formula; I prefer my creatures with a ton of back story, ecologies, etc. Blame it on my old-school origins. Most bestiaries I end up liking thus have a lot of flavor text. Monsters of Porphyra II does have a bit of it..but still is a bestiary. And guess what? It's probably as close to "I love everything" as a monster book of this size is ever bound to get. This is one of the best monster supplements out there in the 3pp circuit, with more inspiring creatures in it than I would have expected. As noted, book 1 was already very good...but it is here that the authors take a huge breadth of themes and topics, mechanics and go full-blown all-out. To me, not a single one of the critters herein felt phoned-in; they all feel like they were made with a passion that translates very well from the pages. After reading this book, I found myself sketching a sequence of adventures featuring a ton of the critters herein - and that is something that only rarely happens as far as bestiary books are concerned.


So yes, get this! Monsters of Porphyra II is a phenomenal resource of creative critters of all types, shapes and forms and deserves the highest accolades. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Porphyra 2
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Here There Be (tiny) Dragons
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2016 03:22:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Flaming Crab Games' experimental "Letters from the Flaming Crab"-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content!


Once again, we begin this supplement with a letter from the planes-and world-hopping vessel, kindly salvaged and expanded upon by the team and made available for public consumption by this channel...so what dragons are introduced here?


The first creature we find in these pages would be the CR 3 coral dragon - aquatic dragons somewhat akin to the poisonous coral fishes, capable of squirting forth jets of poisonous acid. And yes, there is a rather gorgeous full-color artwork for the dragon that helps visualize it! Speaking of aquatic dragons - this pdf also features the koi dragon, capable f emitting blinding, scintillating patterns of light from its gorgeous scales...that should teach the half-orc barbarian to try and eat the daimyo's koi... At the same CR, the packice dragon can attach itself to foes and its breath weapon works differently underwater, which is a nice touch.


At CR 2, the ectoplasmatic pseudodragon can lob globs of entangling, sticky goo at foes and its SPs are pretty cool and thematically appropriate. At the same CR, monarch faerie dragons can emit an euphoria-inducing scent that stuns foes, but also renders them immune versus fear-based effects. Depending on how the cool-down timer is rolled, this one can stunlock foes with sucky Will-saves, which is somewhat problematic, considering that the dragons herein can be taken via Improved Familiar. As a nice service to those playing with the house-rule for Improved Familiars and skill-bonuses, suggestions for those are provided. In case the above has not made that clear, btw. - there are dragons herein that cast psychic spells; both the monarch faerie dragon and the ectoplasmic pseudodragon would fall into this category.


The final new dragon herein would be the rather creative and gorgeous swan dragon at CR 2, who does gain bardic performance instead of the standard array of SPs usually associated with draconic creatures.


The pdf also sports two new archetypes: The bonded oracle gains a mystery familiar, but delays the gaining of the beneficent aspects of her curse by 5 levels. The mystery familiar gained by the bonded oracle gains an additional ability, depending on the mystery chosen - 7 such abilities are provided as samples and they range from gaining the ghost touch special weapon property (not correctly italicized) to the option to 1/day transform into a battle form, becoming Large or granting rerolls versus mind-affecting effects a limited amount of times per day. At 5th level, the character gains Improved Familiar and upgrades her mystery familiar to its dormant potential.


The second archetype would be the tiny dragon tamer witch, who must select a lizard as a familiar, which then proceeds to learn spell-like abilities taken from the witch's list and the lizard receives the same amount of hit points as the witch, regardless of HD, with 5th level unlocking a transformation of the lizard via Improved Familiar into a tiny dragon form. These benefits consume hex uses. Starting at 8th level, the class gets progressively better form of the dragon transformations with additional benefits for the familiar, but this does cost 3 more hexes. The archetype can select a total of 3 archetype exclusive hexes: One makes targets more vulnerable versus natural attacks and another increases breath weapon DCs - both do not have the 24-hour caveat, and as such are pretty strong, though not necessarily broken...just take heed when using the hex in conjunction with claw/claw/bit-pouncers or classes focused on escalating the amount of natural weapons available. The major hex lets the character bestow casting-related tricks like school specializations and the like temporarily on the draconic pet familiar.


The pdf also sports two archetypes for familiars, which is a cool concept: The intermediary not only has a master, but also a ward and shares an empathetic link with it, with high levels allowing the familiar to target the ward with divinations and healings at long range. Scavenger familiars get a modified class skill list and are particularly adept at scrounging for certain objects or creatures. I like this as a concept - as far as I'm concerned, we can use more familiar archetypes!


We also get new magic items - with a caveat, noting that they should not be available for purchase - which I will take into account for the purpose of this review. The items in question are dragonstones and a total of 5 such stones are provided. Dragonstones require the cooperation of a dragon and another, nondragon intelligent being to properly use. They are "unlocked" by the dragon as a standard action and then, the other character can activate it as a standard action. Dragonstones are scaling magical items, but their potency is not based on the power of the wielder, but rather on the HD of the dragon that sung to unlock it. Dragonstones unlock their basic ability at HD 5 and then unlock progressively better ones every 5 levels thereafter. One gripe I have here is that the item-class does not specify for how long a dragonstone remains "unlocked" - does the wielder have to activate it in the same round? Day? Similarly, their slotless nature makes me wonder whether they are supposed to be fitted into a given magic item or held in a free hand. Clarification here would be in order.


That being said, the stones, effects-wise, are delightfully creative: Anglerfish's Lure Dragonstones attract fish and make scavenging for food easier, allowing for the catching of even very exotic fish (catch the legendary king of the stream!). SPs and Bardic Harmony, generating air bubbles or flowing light patterns that can grant SR at the highest levels or making layers of ice - while the item class as such requires some more precision regarding its handling, the effects produced, even in the spell-in-a-can effects, manage to feel magical and fun...a pretty big deal as far as I'm concerned.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting is very good; I noticed not a lot of significant formatting hiccups and the rules-language, for the most part, is precise. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf contains a surprising array of neat original full-color artwork for the low price point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


J Gray, Jennifer R. Povey, Margherita Tramontano, CJ Withers - these would be the folk that bring you a cool array of tiny, but definitely not harmless dragons. The very concept implies images of high magics and a certain degree of whimsy and, indeed, the book does manage to instill those concepts. The dragons themselves are solid and the dragonstones, as a concept, similarly are nice. The character archetypes would be this issue's weak part - while certainly not bad, they vary in probably unintentional ways in potency depending on your campaign and the oracle could have used a full complement of mystery-specific abilities beyond the 7 sample provided. On the plus-side, the familiar archetypes are a great idea for further customization, with the intermediary in particular evoking a significant array of tropes that have been used to great effect in fiction...kudos there. I love the dragonstone concept as well, but ultimately found myself wishing that the rules pertaining their handling and activation had been more precise - while functional in a moderately experienced GM's hands (and feeling rather magical!), this does decrease their appeal to me slightly.


All of that out of the way, for the low and fair asking price, this book is very much worth getting - in particular if you're looking to add a taste of the fantastical or whimsical into the gaming world. Younger players in particular will certainly appreciate the inclusion of none-too-threatening/allied dragons as opposed to the armageddon city-leveling engines of destruction my games tend to usually feature. All in all, this is a purchase well worth getting, if one that has a couple of rough edges. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Here There Be (tiny) Dragons
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Everyman Options: Kineticists
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2016 03:19:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition


This review of the revised Everyman options-book on kineticists clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this pdf, as always will Everyman gaming's offerings, with a little anecdote, a ToC and a list of design goals that a given pdf was created to tackle.


This pdf begins with a new kineticist element, namely dream; practitioners of dream using this element are known as psychokineticists and add Knowledge (local) and Diplomacy to their list of class skills. Their blast talents are dream blast and mind blast: Dream blasts let you determine blast type (energy or physical) and damage type, chosen from acid, cold, electricity or fire for energy blasts and the three basic physical damage types for physical blasts. The first time a target is hit by a dream blast, a shadow blast (one of the new composite blasts) or a simple blast modified by phantasmal composite blast (here somewhat unluckily called "infused", which isn't too smooth considering the existence of infusions), the target may make a Will-save to disbelieve the attack; on a success, it only takes 20% of the damage. Dream blasts are illusion (shadow) effects and if you can execute the type of the blast and its damage type anew for subsequent attacks. On a minor nitpick pertaining rules-language consistency, here we once refer to "type of kinetic blast" and once to "blast type" which potentially creates minor confusion in an already complex set-up. The second blast, mind blasts, causes untyped energy damage, with a Will-save to halve, but said save may only be attempted only once per round - this would be an mind-affecting divination effect. As always in such a context -I am not a fan of untyped damage. In similar untyped blast damages, you have decreases in damage-die-size, but the save-reduction in conjunction with mind blasts being declared SPs and thus subject to magic inhibitors and SP-rules do prevent the blast array from being overpowered. Still, as a person, I avoid untyped damage like the plague whenever possible.


Composite blast-wise, phantasmal boost (at 2 burn, +1 optionally at 15th level to deal simple blast damage instead of the usual successful save proposition) combines dream's flexibility with aether, air, earth, fire, water or wood and has a means to disbelieve the dreamstuff-related component of the composite blast, with disbelief potentially also decreasing the potency of infusions attached to the composite blast. Also at burn 2, phrenic blasts, consisting of pure dream energy, cause untyped damage, half on a successful save, for some reliable damage output. Aforementioned shadow blast, similarly at burn cost , combines dream blast with negative energy blast - which is per se a nice idea. On a nitpick: A part of the rules-information for the dream blast has been cut-copy-pasted here since it does contain all the relevant information for the shadow blast and talks about dream blasts instead of shadow blasts, making this one at first glance slightly more confusing to read as usual for Alexander Augunas' writing.


2nd level nets the dream ward defense wild talent, which provides a 20% miss chance for all attacks that require an attack roll to hit you, but unlike concealment, it does not allow for Stealth check/HiPS-use, though it is counteracted by true seeing. By accepting 1 point of burn as a standard action, this defensive cloak and its miss chance can be increased by 1/2 your kineticist level, up to a maximum of 75% until you next time regain burn. When accepting burn from a dream wild talent, you temporarily increase the miss chance by 5% until the start of your next turn per point of burn accepted. This talent is treated as an illusion (glamer) effect. I really like this defense wild talent - it is weird, powerful, has an Achilles heel and provides a unique playing experience...so yeah, kudos!


The pdf next offers 8 new infusion wild talents: The fearsome infusion, at 2 burn, lets you render a foe shaken, with another blast covering the sickened condition. Unlike these, the fatigue-causing burn 3 infusion does not stack with itself, but considering the limiting effects on some builds, this still can be considered to be pretty powerful. The exhausting infusion, at burn 3, causes exhaustion (non-stackable) and an analogue exists for the nauseated condition, while malleable blast modifies dreamstuff blasts (and dreamstuff-infused blasts and shadow blasts), at burn 3, classify the mimicked elements as the proper element for the purpose of infusion classification, which is neat. A mental burn 4 explosion.


Unless I have miscounted, I have seen a total of 24 utility wild talents, including the simple blast, which would be basic psychokinesis, which provides a simple, shared-language-dependant form of telepathy and also allows you to use daze and ghost sound. Alternatively, mind scan allows you to detect thoughts, with burn accepting as a means to maintain the affect or gain immediate information. Dream-style communication (or dream messenger via burn), minor image/ventriloquism, command/suggestion...pretty interesting in that a lot of the mental manipulation/illusion-trickery stuff can be found here. The tricks very much reminded me of a legendary telepath PC in my games. Gaining Con-mod to Will-saves is not something I'm too big a fan of, but it's not per se broken. I have been a fan of the mindscape concept ever since the days of 3.X, when Bruce R. Cordell wrote the book of the same name for Malhavoc Press, so it should come as no surprise that yes, I do like the wild talents interacting with the concept. Hold person/monster at burn 2 save or suck infusions on the other hand...less of a fan. The sheer spamming potential, in spite of the burn cost, is pretty nasty, particularly when used in conjunction with some of the optimization tricks for the kineticist. A variation of telekinetic invisibility and a mesmerist's touch treatment as a utility wild talent is similarly a nice idea. Ona nitpick: The old (and more powerful/broken) sickening infusion remains here, displaced as a relic in the update; it should be removed.


Next up would be the archetype section, which begins with the elemental blade - which thankfully does not do the same thing as N. Jolly's wielder of blade-shaped blasts, but instead can be pictured best as a kineticist magus, providing basically a modification of spell combat for use in conjunction with kinetic blasts in lieu of the 1st level infusion and allowing for gather power while holding weapons. Until higher levels, this ability counts as a form infusion and the archetype does feature the means to defensively utilize kinetic blasts and needs to choose wisely which type of attack to employ first. At higher levels, the ability is no longer considered to be a form infusion, but does increase the burn cost of such infusions applied to blasts. Elemental Overflow's bonuses are applied to attacks made with the weapons wielded as well.


The second archetype would be the harbinger,who gains a passenger (see Paranormal Adventures), basically an inhabiting spirit instead of a 1st level infusion. Instead of the 2nd level utility wild talent, the archetype gains the option to accept 1 burn before rolling a d20 to roll it twice and choose the better result...or accept 1 burn to reroll a d20. 3rd level replaces elemental overfloweth with the vessel's grace overfloweth ability. I like the vessel-connection very much, but the nigh infinite 2nd level reroll/roll twice ability is overpowered compared to almost all classes that utilize such mechanics: The lack of an action to activate it makes it spammable and for the very low burn cost, really brutal. As written, as much as I like the archetype's concept, it won't get near my table.


The next archetype would be the kinetic marksman - and in case you haven't figured, that would be the kinetic blast/sniper - instead of gaining a regular kinetic blast, the archetype adds variable bonus damage to ranged weapon attacks, basically making the application of the blast a type of form infusion and prohibiting the marksman from using an array of form infusions that would allow it to ignore these restrictions; similarly, no Con-bonus is added to avoid double attribute addition to damage. In a nut-shell, this is the elemental archer trope and it does its job well, replacing the 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level infusion gained with mundane combat feats. Analogue to this one, the kinetic trickster takes the skill unlocks championed in Pathfinder Unchained and uses them instead of infusion specialization as well as a generally more pronounced focus on skills - the price paid for this is relatively moderate.


Metabolic elementalists can assume elemental form when they have at least 1 burn, but pay for this ability with a lot of their utility wild talents. Finally, the wu jen gains arcane spells as a bard, but only elementalist spells, but does lose all utility wild talents and elemental overflow and can't even get these via the Extra Wild talent feat. In order to use infusions or metakinesis, the archetype must lose one or more prepared wu jen spells, with the combined spell level equal to or greater than the total burn cost. Wu jen may not accept burn unless the infusion would normally allow it. Defense wild talents are fueled by spell slot sacrifice during spell preparation. Instead of expanded element, spells and simple blasts/composite blasts and the basic wild talent are gained for the element chosen at 7th and 15th level, respectively. I like the general idea here and the execution is restrictive enough to make a kineticist/caster worthwhile, but at the same time, this archetype, mechanically interesting though it may be, is simply...well, I don't know...no that wu jen-y? I should like this archetype and I appreciate its mechanics from a craftsmanship point of view, but at the same time, I'd rather have a full elementalist or full kineticist.


The next chapter depicts a whole array of advanced composite blasts, which allow the respective kineticist to directly infuse blasts with the energy of the upper or lower planes. I am not a fan of these...not due to mechanic reasons per se, but due to the concept: When pathfinder got rid of holy/unholy damage, it did so without being consequent; instead of using rules-language to codify unique damage types or within other damage types (5e's necrotic/radiant come to mind), they remained kinda-untyped-but-not-really; so yeah, That never really worked for me. In a minor layout hiccup, a box from the new feat (which further marginalizes Linguistics and lets you, for 1 burn, speak any language of aberrations, outsiders, etc. until it is removed) has bled over into the text of blasts. Oh, and there are internal inconsistencies in the blasts that seem odd to me: Holy Fire and Hellfire, for example, are exact good/evil mirror images, but hellfire costs 1 burn more, when if anything the opposite would make more sense. The burn 3 seems to be a typo, considering all other cost 2...but it would imho be the better choice here. Sorry, rambling. More discrepancy in effects between the good and evil blasts would also have been appreciated by yours truly, but that may just be me.


Aforementioned feat also doubles as a prerequisite for the scion of the elements 10-level PrC that can be taken around 5th level. The PrC gets 2+int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Ref-save progression. The PrC stacks its levels with kineticist levels for the means to determine when he gains supercharge and for the purpose of prerequisites stacking. The scion of the elements may use a move action to gain a wild talent she meets prerequisite wise for 1 minute, usable 1 + class level times per day, with 4th level expanding that to two wild talents per use or 1 as a swift action and 3 at 6th level, with action economy further decreasing, meaning that 2 can now be gained as a swift action, 1 as a free action...you get the drift. And yes, these may be used to generate talent-trees; i.e. they can act as prerequisites for one another. Starting at 8th level, the ability gets a bump and 1 wild talent can be gained as an immediate action, 3 as a swift action. At 10th level, things get confusing: "At 10th level, a scion of the elements can use this ability to gain the benefits of any number of wild talents as a swift action. Each talent selected counts towards her daily uses of this ability..." Häh?? So, the ABILITY has uses. Each use of the ABILITY grants a number of wild talents...and suddenly, the wild talents "count towards daily uses"? At this level, one swift action activation of the ability would net me 3 wild talents...so how do I "count" here? 11 x 3 = 33 total wild talents? Or is this ability intended to allow the scion to exceed the 3, i.e. gain 5 wild talents as one activation, but burn 5 uses of the ability instead of 1? This is pretty puzzling and opaque and needs cleaning up. Also, even for the capstone, that is pretty unpleasant in either way, considering the nova-potential.


Also at 1st level, the scion automatically reincarnates after dying within 1 day unless defeated by a death effect or in scion state. 1st, 5th and 9th level provide expanded element, though the expanded elements are treated as -4 kineticist levels for the purpose of learning wild talents. Composite blasts or elemental defenses of the elements aren't gained thus, but at 2nd level and 7th level, the -4 level restriction is eliminated for one of the elements chosen. 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the scion gains a scion wild talent, which translates to an infusion or utility wild talent chosen among elemental focus and expanded elements or alternatively, a composite blast. I mentioned the scion state: Beginning at 3rd level, when benefitting from elemental overflow, the scion may enter this state via accepting one burn as a move action. While in this state, any size bonuses are increased by 2 and elemental overflow's attack roll bonus is added to CL and concentration prompted by wild talents; additionally, and this is where I draw the line, half of the bonus is added to the DCs of the wild talents. Granted, the state only lasts a minute (enough for most battles) and thereafter leaves the scion exhausted for 2 minutes, fatigued for an hour, thankfully with a no-alleviation caveat...but still. Oh, and for accepting 1 burn, the state can be expanded by 1 minute, with a similar extension of the fatigue afterwards. Accepting burn to prolong the state does not note an activation action, though I imagine it either being move or free. At 10th level, element5al flexibility no longer requires an action when in scion state - it can even be done on an enemy's turn without expending an immediate action. So yes, this is very much Avatar - the PrC. It is a competent representation of the concept...and it is slightly too strong and nova-y for my tastes.


Conclusions:


Editing and formatting are still good, but not as good as I've come to expect from Everyman Gaming. I waited for the revised book and e.g. the remnant from the old organization the layout bleed of the feat-box...that type of thing can easily be caught. On a rules-language level, Alexander Augunas does not fail in applying the complex terminology of the kineticist, but he does not reach the crisp level of precision I have come to expect from him as one of my favorite crunch designers. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column full-color standard with nice original full-color artwork by Jacob Blackmon. Yes, kitsune included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


This revised edition is not a bad pdf, let me make that abundantly clear. For the low price, this is a valid offering. It also is pretty much what I expected when I saw the kineticist the first time: I liked the engine, but not so much what was done with it. As you all may know, Avatar never really clicked with me; it's a good series, I get what people like about it...but I never got into the mindset that made everyone demand it. It just does not resonate with me. I can't help it. I watched it. Never clicked. The KOP-series, to me, was a huge blessing, because it unfettered the kineticist from these thematic chains. This book does something similar and goes into a territory that feels more occult; if anything, if your complaints with the class were that it did not feel occult-y enough to be part of Occult Adventures...well, there you go. So this pdf does something right - I just wished it went further in that direction.


So yeah: Avatar fans and those of you who want e.g. more skill-monkey-ish kineticists, casting ones...this should deliver.


And still. It's hard to put into words. It's the small hiccups that accumulate. It's the fact that usually, Alexander Augunas has a knack for making me like things I usually hate. Not so this time. For me, as a person, this hits all the wrong tones. I really dislike the alignment blasts; the slightly too strong avatar PrC does nothing for me as a person and similarly, the archetypes...don't work for me either; as a person, I don't want to play those characters. So if what I mentioned above regarding my pet-peeves evoked similar responses from you...well, then you won't get that much out of this either. Scratch that...they do work regarding mechanics and the like. Let me make that abundantly clear: The material here is NOT bad - I just happen to dislike a lot of it and it hits a lot of tones that, on their lonesome, would disqualify it in my main-campaign.


The dream element is interesting and I really, really like the defense. But as a whole, this left me less impressed than I hoped I'd be and while I'll allow dream with some modifications, I didn't get as much out of this pdf as I'd expected from a theme as evocative as dream.


This is just me as a private person, though: If the number of dice rolled for disbelieving blasts and the 20% mechanic don't faze you, then this will provide some interesting experiences indeed. Similarly, if you wanted a skill-monkey kineticist, a casting kineticist or the like - there you go! And if you wanted a PrC, crafted by an ardent fan of Avatar to reflect the powers implied in the title...then this will do it for you! Sure, the PrC is pretty strong...but that's how you want to feel as Quasi-the-Avatar, right? This is hard for me, because it is really difficult to separate my own tastes from my reviewer's stance with this one. I am honestly not sure whether it just managed to hit all my pet-peeves in the wrong way or whether I'm on to something here.


I've agonized about this for quite a bit and in the end, I decided to rate this while completely disregarding my own desired power-level, concepts and the like. Once I do that, I am left with a neat kineticist expansion that provides some creative material, but suffers from less precision in some components of the rules-language than usual for Everyman Gaming. Similarly, the editing and formatting aren't as tight. My official final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Options: Kineticists
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5th Edition Module: Fire & Ice (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2016 03:17:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module for 5e clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Wait, Fire and Ice? Sounds familiar, right? And indeed, this module has previously been released as part of Adventure Quarterly #6 for PFRPG, so let's check how well it translates to 5e, shall we?


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


...


..


.


All right, only GMs left? Great! This adventure begins with the annihilation of an adventuring party.


No, not the PCs. A company of competing adventurers has been all but wiped out while trying to thwart an evil organization's plan to harvest divine essences - this organization, the Godling Cabal, is NOT fooling around. The sole survivor of the adventuring party, as it happens, is on the same longship as the PCs, the Brightstar - which, strangely, seems to be making a detour, as PCs with the appropriate background can determine. The tranquility of the journey is interrupted rather harshly, as an icy finger of an iceberg-vessel (!!) hits the ship and the vessel is boarded by magelings and a being called Malkin, who doubles as the primary antagonist. In the first encounter. How does that work? Well, turns out that Malkin is frickin' immortal.


In the original iteration, this was represented with a variety of unique rules-operations and they have been translated here - but the conversion, as a whole, does stumble...quite a bit. One look at the statblocks in the back shows several immediately apparent deviations from 5e-statblock formatting conventions in the details; similarly, Malkin's demi-eternal ability is still defined as (Su) - something that does not exist in 5e. Similarly, average damage, italicization and the like are mostly absent from the module's statblocks; we have colons where full-stops should be. The immortal ability of the assassin refers to itself as "eternal creature" analogue to the original template, demi-eternal and demi-ternal. In one paragraph. Urgh. Damage dice aren't properly formatted either...I can go on. Now usually, I'd leave that right there...but guess what? There is a bolded note regarding the save to make as the ice hits the ship. It's BOLDED. It sticks out in the text. It refers to a Reflex save and has an erroneously bolded partial sentence.


...


Upon temporarily defeating the threat, the poor survivor comes clean and asks the PCs for aid and so they're off to the island of pleasure, Mibre - including a gorgeous map, mind you. This place is a small paradise, where an order of enigmatic monks poses an interesting puzzle (including trouble-shooting advice and means t brute-force it) - here, the conversion is working as intended. The strange order of monks living here will prove to be pretty important, for without their help, the PCs will have a hard time bringing the magical crystal to the plane of fire to sunder it and thwart the plans of the evil cabal. Only by understanding the monks and participating in their tests (sans being killed by the cabal's forces!) do they have a solid chance to destroy the crystal in the plane of fire. Unfortunately, the details of the conversion feature more issues - when e.g. PCs get, for a while, the "construct traits", GMs for 5e are left scratching their heads. Is the constructed nature feature meant?


The pdf does feature notes on the iceberg vessel, but don't expect a write-up as a full vehicle; the maps are functional, but not high-res version of player-friendly iterations are provided...which is puzzling, considering that the AQ-issue that featured the module had high-res jpgs of the maps included!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are NOT up to the standard I expect from Rite Publishing; this pdf sports a significant array of conversion relics that even casual observation MUST catch. Come on - the ONE bolded section on a page and it's wrong?? Shakes head Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The artworks featured are solid full-color and the cartography by Tommi Salama is nice, though the absence of the existing high-res map-versions feels odd; indeed, since they act as handouts/ready to go, the rather small depictions of the maps in this iteration of the module is odd - in the Mibre map, you can barely make out the places!


This is one of those heart-rending experiences; you see, in spite of the elemental theme, I actually really like Bret Boyd's module here; and one could have done a worse job converting it to 5e.


...I can't do this. Yes, it always could be worse. But guess what? When I did my very first rough draft of a 5e-conversion, it had less formal glitches in it than this book. Quite literally one prolonged and analytical glance at the formatting peculiarities of 5e would suffice here. Worse, the hiccups aren't purely aesthetic in nature, but drag their baggage into the very mechanics the module uses. Can you run this as written? Yes. But if you're like me, you'll have to acknowledge that the module's conversion is in dire need of an editor/developer who actually knows 5e's formal requirements. This does not do.


And it is a pity, for the module is not bad; in fact, I really like it in spite of the elemental theme, something usually not particularly near and dear to my heart. Still, this conversion is a great example of a good module dragged down by the less than stellar attention that was given to its conversion, to the point where the merits of the module's ideas and story are the one saving grace of it; from the lack of the existing high-res maps to the conversion issues, this one's formal properties are an uncharacteristic mess when compared to just about all Rite Publishing offerings, including other 5e-conversions. The module's story and ideas are all that make me round up from a final verdict of 1.5 stars. If you're willing to look past its issues, there is fun to be had here; if formal precision is something even remotely dear to your heart or the lack of the high-res maps annoys you, then beware.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Module: Fire & Ice (5E)
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Plight of the Tuatha, Vol. 3: Dark Sails and Dark Words
Publisher: Mór Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2016 11:33:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third installment of the somewhat Celtic-styled Plight of the Tuatha-saga clocks in at a massive 122 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 116 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Well, before we dive into the nit and grit of the module itself, let us take a look at the supplemental material featured herein: The pdf contains 4 sample pregenerated characters for your perusal, all with full-color artworks. Beyond these, the book also contains the Lawspeaker PrC. IT spans 10 levels and provides full BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression. The PRC gains d8 HD and requires ~5th level to take, with the Imperiums Interrogate-skill being required alongside a story-relevant task. The character must also be proficient with martial melee weapons. Lawspeakers gain 6+Int skills per level and gain universal proficiency with all armors and shields and all melee weapons as well as ranged simple weapons; however, they may not use martial ranged weapons sans losing their class abilities for 24 hours. Okay, so proficiency-wise, the PrC gets ALL exotic melee weapon proficiencies at first level...that is pretty nasty. Providing the proficiencies upon taking the PrC and then dispersing new ones gained through the levels would have been more elegant and less prone to dip-abuse. Starting at 1st level, the lawspeaker becomes the beacon of a modus lex, a type of law if you will. The save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + both Wis and Cha mod - two attributes to DC is nasty.


Also, the rules-language violates formatting standards here - lower case save and the sequence and formatting of the DC formula, while functional, also deviates from the standard. The lawspeaker can choose from 7 types of modus lex and the ability radiates an aura that penalizes actions pertaining the modus lex chosen. Unfortunately, this is where the rules-language falls apart a bit; not so it's unsalvageable, but to the extent where it definitely requires clarification. Higher levels net additional types of modus lex and allow the character to further increase the penalties imposed for specific types of modus lex - the higher the penalty, the larger the range of the aura - as mentioned, pretty functional per se, but it took me 3 readings to get what the ability is supposed to do. Lawspeakers gain masks that allow them easy ingress to gatherings and they may prepare one specific one- or two-handed weapon as a weapon of judgment that increases its weight, but gains enhancement bonuses for every 3 such increases. Cool: Only the lawseaker or an angel can lift the weapon. As a nitpick - the ability should specify that the +5 maximum cap remains in effect.


At 2nd level provides mystic knowledge of the letter of the law as well as social skill bonuses and 3d level hampers divinations targeted at the lawspeaker as well as bonuses to perceive criminals. 5th level provides more skill bonuses and the option to erect a structure from the ground - the spell referenced here is not properly italicized. Not the only one, just fyi. 6th level provides a general sense for crimes in proximity that assumes a level of severity from 1 to 3. 7th level is wonky - it nets 2 fighter levels when attempting to punish the target of a judgment. Why not codify this with proper bonuses? Also: Any 1st level inquisitor can issue judgments. The ability itself needs a trail to activate, making it obvious that it's supposed to refer to that, but using "judgment" here still renders the ability ambiguous and needlessly clunky. 9th level nets slippery mind and, as a capstone, the lawspeaker can suspend a law in a whole area, sanctioned by the gods - the larger the area and the more severe the law, the higher the cost. All in all, I like a lot of the PrC and it is functional, but the numerous deviations from formatting standards and the similar hiccups in rules-language depiction make it harder to grasp than necessary - still, it has some serious flavor and style.


The pdf also features a bestiary section that features the creatures featured in the module - these include classics as well as new ones; however, even in the case of the old ones, we do get lore-sections for the respective creatures and new creatures featured do have unique and rather cool signature abilities like ignoring AC-bonuses granted by force effects. Also glorious: Know how back in the days of old, creatures actually had more detailed notes on interaction and ecologies? Well, such things are included. Rather nice here is that the pdf introduces the lamia subtype - those cursed by the gods; said creatures are susceptible to the divine and minotaurs, medusae and the like are codified with this subtype, with unique abilities to make them more minotaur-like, more medusa-like, than usual - you know, with e.g. labyrinth-themed abilities ; think of that as basically a more interesting iteration, not unlike the Mythic versions Legendary Games champions, but without the power escalation associated with Mythic Adventures. Cool!


This level of detail regarding interaction and the like also affects the significant array of NPCs featured herein. The pdf also features the rules used in the Imperiums Campaign Setting, including the awesome idea of emergences and faction approval tracking rules. Beyond that, cities and structures can be found in the appendices - the respective settlements come with full statblocks and the membership, leadership or summaries are truly intriguing...oh, and there would be rules for a powerful tower that delivers increasingly powerful blasts of heat damage...think of that one as an obelisk of NOD or scorching towers. The pdf also features a serious amount of magical items, which include doublets to enhance items...and then, the pdf gets completely unique in its takes on magical items: You get a metric TON of information, including a massive array of diverse items that also feature e.g. the tools of Senmut, three enchanted architect's tools...all with truly unique options. The magic items featured here breathe a spirit of the magical; they feel like items truly infused with powers beyond. The artworks featured for two of the items featured here are absolutely glorious full-color pieces.


Okay, but you're not here for all of this material, right? So let's take a look at the main meat - at the module. The following, thus contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


The PCs are still tasked to bring the Antecedent of Erasement to the city of Chandegar at the request of their Tuatha ally Philiandrius - and they will need the rather long trip to recuperate from the unpleasant things the adversaries will have inflicted on them in the previous module. Open questions left in the previous module and sidetrek suggestions are provided for your convenience, including chances to potentially get up to the level required by the module - the suggestions are pretty neat. The section also features some rather nice poetry, with six stanzas of an epic poem repeated, providing a great means to immerse the players in the world.


The arrival at the lavishly-detailed city of Chandegar is next, the shining gem of Aeliode - if the general theme of the Plight of the Tuatha so far focused on an old world early middle ages, Gaelic-influenced aesthetic, the town of Chandegar is closer in style to a blending of the Minoan/Greco-roman themes combined with those of quasi-Egyptian style. Arrival at the town will see the PCs probably foil a pickpocket trying to steal from a gorgeously depicted woman wizard - and they are not the only ones; a tribune of the fifth pillar witnesses everything and proceeds, as lawspeakers, to pronounce judgment; getting involved in the trial will change their relationships with factions.


After this introduction, the module becomes one of the best written towns I have seen as a backdrop in a published module; the city features extensive information pertaining skill checks to unearth unique bits and pieces of information as well as links to the Imperiums CS homepage, where a whole array of random names for NPCs can be found; similarly, dressing events for Chandegar and additional shops and items make the city grow beyond the confines allotted by the page-count of the module. The GM's map of the city, absolutely gorgeous and in full color, spans two pages. From chances to catch diseases and reaping consequences from previous modules, there is a ton of codified dressing, more than you usually see in all but sourcebooks explicitly devoted to depicting a city.


This level of detail is further upgraded . the module, in several parts, has "Up the Ante" sidebars - and if your players are as hardcore as mine, you most certainly appreciate these suggestions to make the module more challenging; beyond simple scaling, you also can use these to cater to the tastes of your players. When the PCs arrive in the Gilded Peacock, the Inn not only gets a full menu, the PCs also walk into the tail-end of a discussion between the Culling and the proprietor, as they seem to be on the hunt for a specific individual. When the PCs finally meet up with Chondus...it is a winged humanoid...a quasit! While this does not change the dire threat the Fomoire pose, it is a component that needs to be handled with care by the GM, as it is a full-frontal mallet-to-the-face hint that Philiandrius does have a darker side to him as well...and indeed, with demonic tact, refusal to be of further assistance will leave a dark threat hanging over the PC's home. And indeed, while subtle this is not, the pdf does provide advice on PCs refusing to work with the demonic thing.


Either way, it looks like Philiandrius requires a book called "Corporeal Bindings and Sunderings of Transmigratorial Spirits", written by one wizard named Iaret, studded with 4 sigils that would need to be copied; to the demon's knowledge, the book would be situated in the library of the Governor Mamet...and then, the PC's privacy is crashed, as the Fomoire crash in...and don't try killing the PCs. Instead, a diplomat tells the PCs that Philiandrius is basically only using humans as meat shields, caring nothing for them and that he will use the power gained by the sigils against all not of elven blood. The diplomat then process to make a counter offer...but whom to trust?


In either way (or if the PCs completely try to go off the rails), the trip to the library, however ingress is gained, will feature an unanticipated confrontation with some powerful and notoriously nasty outlaws/adventurers. After dealing with these dangerous rivals, the librarian will note that...all of Iaret's texts are gone. At the living cell erstwhile utilized by Iaret within the library, the PCs will have the means to pick up the trail that rapidly cools...oh, and the Culling seems to be after her. The notes of the wizardess do mention several people by name...and structure-wise, this is where this module fully comes into itself. Ina sense of irony, the wizardess the PCs met at the docks, as they are bound to find out, was none other than Iaret!


You see, the PCs have a ton of different leads with the names of the allies of Iaret and the module suddenly turns into a glorious free-form investigation with a lot of cool ways to interact with the various factions...oh, and the PCs get to participate in politics, influencing the vote regarding the city's stance toward the Avitian Empire - the PCs will have all the tools at their disposal and the names; basically, the task is to utilize the overt and covert means at their fingertips to radically change the course of history via flattery, assassination, bribes, pandering to religion or simply rhetoric. This section, when handled right, evokes the glorious tropes of byzantine shadow politics so often depicted in fantastic fiction set in such an era. If I were to go into the particulars of this section, this review would be bloated by several pages beyond its length! Suffice to say, I absolutely LOVED this section; it is smart, evokes a great atmosphere and I've seen the like not done this well in ages. The trail of Iaret mentions the Dust of Aeliode, a sect that believes the gods to not be creators of the world, but rather despots that perpetuate a lie to maintain control over the world - the temple of the thrice eclipsed seems to be the headquarter of this sect...and it is here the PCs will explore a dungeon that features scarab golems, chances to deal with lamiae and reach a manor in the fantastic undercity of the metropolis - think of it as a twisted mini-crawl in decadent surroundings that features the tropes of classics like Caverns of Thracia and Greek mythology.


Euryale, legendary being (yes, pretty much what we'd associate from the myths...with a twist) confirms that Iaret was brought to the Tower of Light, to be handed over to the Culling - in order to save her, the PCs will need to secure a boat...oh, and guess what: Time for a boat chase...and deal with the tentacle of the kraken and dealing with the Culling's vessel...and follow it through a rift in reality, fighting foes and emons alike - and in the end, Philiandrius' masterplan will have been completed; he'll gate in, use the power accumulated to transform into a lich...and inform the PCs of the genocide he has planned; after all, by making all the elves liches, he'll save them from the fomoire doom encroaching right? And if it takes a continent of humans to die, who cares? He'll even graciously leave a couple alive for them! Such a nice guy...


Kidding aside, it may seem like things have suddenly escalated rather badly...and indeed, they have. A dire prophecy calls the PCs back to Iria, and with war and revolution brewing in the grand city, with quite possibly a couple of factions on their heel, the PCs will have to venture homewards sooner or later for a cold homecoming indeed...


The pdf does sport a player map of the gorgeous city; the city map, though, unfortunately still sports the large letters of the map key, which, blue and jarring, stick out from the per se gorgeous drawing. I really wished the module had a version of this map sans the key.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal level; on a rules-level, the pdf is similarly precise, with the notable exception of the PrC, which, while functional, does feature some deviations. Layout adheres to Mór Games' gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the artworks featured herein are absolutely gorgeous and Paizo-level in quality. Kudos indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


William Moomaw's third part of Plight of the Tuatha is in equal parts byzantine city politics and smart free-form investigation sandbox for smart players, great sourcebook, homage to the classic Caverns of Thracia and high-action finale, with a finale that will leave a clump within the stomachs of your players - the stakes are truly high for a level 6 module and the end leaves you craving the finale to this unique saga.


More so than the module component, I think one of the stand-alone components in the pdf is that its design and aesthetic hearkens back to the Classic period and truly Medieval period, as opposed to the early modern period aesthetics most settings like the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, etc. sport. The atmosphere conveyed here is simply evocative, the production values great. While the PrC does have a couple of rough spots and does not reach the level of awesomeness of the module itself, as a whole, this is a truly glorious module. The Plight of the Tuatha saga is one of the hidden gems the 3rd party circuit has bestowed upon us - after the somewhat rough first module, Part II and now this truly upped the ante.


This is an evocative, fun and unique module for the thinking player, for the roleplayers and those of us that enjoy immersing ourselves in a world and culture that resonates with an uncanny sense of fantastic realism. In short - this is a great, glorious offering, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plight of the Tuatha, Vol. 3: Dark Sails and Dark Words
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2016 11:26:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is this? If AAW Games' critically acclaimed Rise of the Drow has taught me anything, then it's that modern gaming had lost some of its sensibilities; when the saga took the wonder of the 2nd edition's Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the general notion of believable environments and infused it right back into the subterranean realms, I was ecstatic. The underworld hadn't felt that alive, that wondrous, in a long, long time.


So, this little pdf can be considered to be something of a mini-dressing file: The idea is as follows: The things in the underdark need to eat, right? Well, fungi grow below and so, the pdf does contain subterranean spore groves for your perusal. in power-level, they are rules-interaction-wise mostly at the lower scale and the pdf works as follows: You have 12 entries to determine weird fungi; then, you determine the size of the grove with a d12, which also modifies all subsequent tables, so yes, size does matter here.


Next up, you determine the food value to be scavenged from the grove...and then the effects. Sure, the shrooms might be poisonous...but there is similarly a chance that one of 8 strange effects may kick in upon consumption. These range from mild hallucinations to bonuses to Cha or medicinal properties, and while slightly more precision here pertaining conditions, bonus types and the like, the basic functionality is there. A sample hazard table modified by the number and CR of PCs is included, with hazards and foes ranging from CR - to 7. A little table to determine fungal themed monsters is next (15 entries strong and pretty much what you'd expect) and 12 non-fungal sample monsters (standard underworld fare) can be used to include here.


The pdf concludes with a sample hazard - the CR 3 cyan fungus, which sends discus-like projectiles towards anything nearby when subjected to light. The fungus is awesome, though the rules-language for the attack and damage is a bit jumbled.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting is very good on a formal level; on a rules-level, there are some minor deviations, but none that break the material. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard in A5-size (6'' by 9''). The pdf has a nice one-page artwork of a vegepygmy in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Perry Fehr's little pdf has the heart at the right place: The visuals are nice and while it does not reach the level of evocative wonder of RotD's fungal jungle, that's not the goal - this is a great fungus fields generator and it does not purport to be more than that. The new fungus is pretty cool and something I'll definitely use.


All in all, this little pdf is a fun addition to subterranean gameplay and particularly lower-level underdark adventuring will benefit from the quick and easy food generation tables here; for longer or survivalist treks through the lightless depths, this can be a boon indeed, though I found myself wishing it had devoted more time to the fungi and provided slightly more in that terrain, less to the pretty generic sample creatures encountered tables. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - an inexpensive, fun and very useful little pdf, but one that falls short of what it could have been. Still, whether it's Second Darkness, Rise of the Drow or the quasi-defunct Throne of the Night - subterranean campaigns will enjoy this one.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves
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