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Soulknives of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2016 10:10:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, though it should be noted that these pages are in A5/booklet-size (6'' by 9'') regarding their layout.

The pdf begins with a new archetype, the brutal soul, who receives the ability to scar himself, reducing hit maximum hit points permanently to gain natural AC, with the exact limit being governed by the class levels achieved so far, with 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the maximum bonus he can thus grant himself. The first level bonus feat choice is modified and the archetype replaces form mind blade with form brutal mind blade, which represents a variation of it and thus still counts as it for the purpose of prerequisites and similar interactions. The brutal mind blade shaped can either by two one-handed weapons at 1d8 base damage or a two-handed one that clocks in at 2d6, with 19-20 as threat range. Base damage type is changed upon shaping it, but this particular iteration may now be used in conjunction with feats that decrease offense capabilities like Combat Expertise. At 2nd level, instead of gaining a blade skill, the archetype may add 1/2 Str-mod instead of Dex-mod to Ref-saves and AC, and starting at 6th level, full Str-mod is used instead, though e.g. max Dex-bonus still limits AC - nice catch! At 34rd level, whenever he confirms a crit, he gains a +4 bonus to Str for Con-mod rounds, increasing that to +6 at 9th and +8 at 15th level. 3rd level also allows for the use of a mind blade that is at +1 size category and lets him be treated at a size larger if it is benevolent to the character. These replace psychic strike.

The mind blade skills for the archetype are limited., but he does receive 3 new blade skills: One lets him gain the Str-bonus when attacking a flat-footed foe (which can be kitten'd, though it remains an inefficient tactic), activate the ability via psionic focus expenditure (nice) or increase the Str-bonus granted thus. Basically, the class is all about maxing your Strength. I'm not the biggest fan from a concept point of view, but the execution is pretty solid and the rules-language holds up.

This file also has something to offer for fans of Path of War:

Soulfangs of the Protean Lords must be chaotic and receive a modified class skill list and gain proficiency in the protean lord's favored weapon. This favored weapon also fixes the form of the mind blade the archetype shapes. Instead of shape mind blade, these guys select a domain power chosen from those of the protean lord, using Charisma instead of Wisdom as governing attribute. Instead of psychic strike, the archetype receives access to maneuvers - they begin play with 3 known maneuvers, of which one may be readied, as well as 1 stance. Each level is treated as a full initiator level and they employ Charisma as governing attribute. They may learn up to 15 maneuvers, have up to 5 stances and the maximum level they may have would be 6. Maneuvers readied are slightly random: One maneuver readied is chosen to be immediately granted and one other maneuver become available once the soulfang enters combat in every round. If that sounds familiar, well it is kind of akin to the mystic's randomizes maneuver-gains. At 4th level, 10th and every 5 levels thereafter, another reliably available maneuver may be chosen each time.

Nice: The respective alternate recovery methods are mentioned. A total of12 protean lords are introduced here, with the granted disciplines, weapon, etc. -I nice array indeed...though it does leave me somewhat puzzled: The soulfang's weapon is locked into one shape and said shapes obviously do not cover all respective disciplines, which makes me believe that the associated weapon mechanic of Path of War has been somewhat overlooked...or does the shape of the weapon count as associated, depending on the shape chosen? Each of the protean lords mentioned here features its own ability pertaining the mind blade: From throwing it to whirlwinding maneuvers (which can be BRUTAL), the combos here are pretty powerful, as befitting an option for the increased power-level employed by Path of War. One of them who focuses on shields even receives a unique, custom mind shield bonus enhancement selection. Pretty intriguing: We get quite an array of blade skills, each of which is associated with the use of a discipline. While they vary somewhat in potency, they generally are interesting - though e.g. gaining 5-ft-movement after "all attacks" warrants some clarification: Does this count as 5-foot-steps? AoO or no? Lets this ability enter one such step after an attack/in the middle of a full attack...or is it supposed to result in multiple such steps? There are some issues in precision here, though they crop up at a significantly higher complexity than in previous offerings by the author. The archetype may btw. also gain stalker arts via blade skills.

The pdf also sports another archetype called the soullasher, who replaces proficiency with medium armors with those for whips and scorpion whips. The damage-type of the mindblade in whip form may be modified and 1st level nets Whip Mastery, while second level nets Improved Trip and the toppling strike blade skill, replacing throw mind blade. 6th level allows for the at-range use of the whip (15 ft.) as though it was a hand, with sample DCs (use atk) being given - this allows you to grappling hook, try to break your fall (instead of Ref-saves), swing over chasms...pretty cool! RAW, the object manipulation should probably specify that the Dc pertains unattended objects, but that's a minor hiccup. Extended reach and mindwhip disarming would be the new blade skills here.

The pdf also sports favored class options for the Porphyran races -as an aesthetic complaint, RAW there is neither holy nor chaotic damage in PFRPG, part of these enhancements to these "damage-types" are based on design-concepts employed in Path of War, but last time I checked, Path of War did NOT have chaotic damage...so...make believe damage type. Yay. The pdf concludes with a sample CR 12 erkunae soulfang of Zaelendris, one of the protean lords.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal as well as on a rules level - the pdf represents a HUGE step up when compared directly to the previous two pdfs by the author. Either the author has improved vastly or this was developed by someone with a lot of care. The pdf sports no artworks apart from the cover, but comes with full, nested bookmarks for your convenience (though the protean lords of the soulfang don't get individual bookmarks).

Scott Dillon's soulknives of prophyra are SIGNIFICANTLY better than anything else I've read by the author. the rules-language is more precise and actually takes complex concepts and, for the most part, gets them across pretty well. The options may not be perfect in each iteration, but as a whole, there is something to enjoy here. The Path of War option takes the increased power-level of the system into account and while its engine sports a minor hiccup and while not all discipline-associated blade skills can be considered to be internally consistent in power, it is still a relatively solid option - not perfect, mind you, but yeah.

The other two archetypes, while never reaching the level of genius of e.g. Dreamscarred Press' Living Legend, still provide concise takes on the respective tropes. As a whole, this pdf has surprised me in a really positive way after the less than stellar installment on psychic warriors and cryptics.

This one is well-worth getting if the concepts interest you and you're willing to sand off some very minor rough edges. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Soulknives of Porphyra
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20 Things #8: Cultist's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2016 10:09:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The 8th installment of the system-neutral dressing-series by Raging Swan press wastes no time and begins with 10 cultists with a personality - from affable halfling couples to scarred dagger-wielders performing "sacred" duties or sheltered wives finding "purpose" in a cult, the characters provided indeed have personality - they are, obviously, system-neutral and thus stat-free, but should be considered to be worthwhile, nice write-ups of persons and worthy angles to pursue/include in your game.

A table of 20 odds and ends to find in a cultist's lair adds some nice rolelaying/investigative potential: Why are there uniforms of the militia here? What's the story behind those feathered animal masks (the original "Wicker Man", anyone?), sealed scrolls with missives? There is a lot of nice material providing further angles here. A total of 4 unholy books, from the tome of sibilant terror to the libram of ineffable damnation complement the selection here.

The next table would be an old one - 20 Things to find on a cultist's altar would actually be, entry for entry, the reproduction of "20 Things to find on an Evil Altar" for GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I - why the rename of the table? No idea, but it is something to be aware of when you use both books and wanted some different dressings here. Since "cult" implies secrecy more often than not, some emphasis on stealth/subtlety here as opposed to in-your-face evil altar would have been nice to see here. The 12 items to be found on the altar similarly overlap.

That being said, I have not seen the entries of things to loot from a dead cultist's body before, unless I am sorely mistaken: Beyond curved bronze knives, 3-pronged candlesticks and shattered mirror shardsSecret compartments in shirts, bloody rags, pierced nipples and vaguely humanoid-shaped fetishes add an appropriate sense of the creepy to the proceedings.

The next table, pertaining 20 effects affecting an (evil) altar, has also be slightly renamed, but otherwise is taken directly from the GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I book, providing slightly more overlap here. Once again, more subtlety regarding the entries could have provided a more distinct angle, but that may just be me complaining at a high level.

The final page does end on a high note, though: 20 vile things to be found in a cultist's lair provide faint outlines of summoning circles, gold-encased demon skulls, pools filled with red liquid that emits a silver glow, statues sewn together from humanoid parts...grisly and cool. Additionally, the pdf suggests a 10-entry array of unpleasant things happening upon touching these vile objects, which range from horrific visions to becoming evil for 24 hours, speaking in ancient tongues or learning the true name of a powerful entity...who now obviously wants the PC dead, make for unique and cool twists.

Conclusion:

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

John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst and Mike Welham all are pretty much authors that guarantee to me that I'll at least kind of like a given book: They have in common that they are talented, creative and have a way with words that may even evoke unique concepts with a scant few pages; in short, their dressing-books are generally amazing. This is no different, to be frank - the new dressing providing within these pages is excellent and up to the highest level of quality. The 2 reprinted dressing pages similarly rank among the better ones are quality-wise, are nice...but I couldn't shake the feeling that they could have emphasized the "cult"-aspect more.

Due to their origin as dressing for a more generally applicable theme, namely evil religion, they feel a bit less subtle, a bit less rickety and "culty" than the other dressings. So yes, while the new material is enough to warrant the fair asking price for those of you who already have the big book, I couldn't help but find that emphasizing the oftentimes illegitimate nature of the cult more and/or modifying these tables would have elevated this dressing file further. By no means bad and still a worthwhile purchase, this is the reason I can't go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #8: Cultist's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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20 Things #7: Haunted House (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2016 10:07:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin with two types of haunted houses and themes - one of the collections of dressing focus on 10 things you'd find in a burned-out house, and the second 10 things would pertain plague houses - both of these entries are very flavorful and complement the pdf very well: Soot-wrapped bones or bloody, cloth-sacked packages certainly put a chill on my spine.

Don't want to run with one of these general themes? You're in luck, for 40 entries (20 regular, 20 more entries), from oddly shaped black mold to rotten floorboards complement the pdf and 10 perils help the enterprising GM generate some nice obstacles/mechanically-relevant challenges...in spite of the system-neutral nature of this pdf. 10 nasty rumors about the house help provide a significant sense of foreboding doom. It should be noted, though, that some entries here may be familiar for veterans of Raging Swan Press supplements, namely those of us who are familiar with Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House's dressing table.

A sampling of 20 evocative treasures and 10 objects to be found within the confines of a rat's nest do provide a fine array of rewards...but none are easily gained: "20 Unfortunate Discoveries" do not have their name for nothing! Bloody scribblings that note "One of you has been taken.", an inability to remember the name of deities, bloodshot eyes watching from the cracks f the walls...these are amazing. Finally, 10 intriguing things to be found within spider's webs provide a nice finish for the so far best installment in the series.

Conclusion:

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

Alexander Augunas, Creighton Broadhurst and Cole Kronewitter's take on the 7th 20-things supplement contains significantly less retreading of previously published material; beyond that, the quality and redistribution of the material is awesome. There is a lot of evocative, thematically concise dressing to be found for the fair asking price. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #7: Haunted House (System Neutral Edition)
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Shadows over Vathak: Player's Guide to Vathak
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2016 12:10:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Vathak-book clocks in at...436 pages. No, NOT kidding. 436. 1 page of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 427 pages of content. HOLY MOLY.

This massive book was moved up in my review queue as a prioritized review. Additionally, it was moved further up due to me getting a print copy. Finally, the reason you see this now, so shortly after release, is simple: I've had the WIP-version for more than a month and had sufficient time to tinker and analyze this book.

Vathak. Before we take a look at the content, a brief history lesson: Vathak's original iteration was born out of a design challenge...and while the setting had promise, it didn't grasp horror or its peculiarities. It had great ideas, but their execution was problematic. The Fat Goblin crew did not give up - instead, they brought John Bennett on board - and he knows horror. Under his line development, the series of supplements releases has continuously scored rather good reviews and a couple of the books, frankly, are maazing...but this is the big one, the tome...so does Vathak work now?

Well, let's first begin with the basics: In the beginning of this book, leitmotifs are established: Vathak is a stricken world, a battlefield between the believers of the One True God (cue any fanatics of our religion as ample horror fodder there) and the Great Old Ones...or rather, their servants. Morality is the thin line drawn by a character and the story written by the victor, as petty tyrants rule with iron fists, superstitions and xenophobia hold sway and ruined villages, lost ruins and otherworldly threats abound.

To give you a general idea of the social demographics: We have the Vindari as dominant human ethnicity: Originally, they were conquerors from across the sea and have pretty much colonized the continent; a resonance with themes of the American enterprise can be found here (and thus also a synergy in themes with SagaRPG's excellent Darkwood-modules) - including a blending of Puritan beliefs and the less savory chapters of the history of Christianity. The native humans of the continent belong to one of two ethnicities, the first of which would be the Romni, which could best be pictured as a nod towards the Vistani of Ravenloft and their ties to Strahd von Zarovich, for they once were enslaved by the vampiric dynasties of the continent...and many claim that they still are. The third race, then, would be the Bhriota, who once were the true natives of the continent and provide an intriguing cultural blend of Native American aesthetics and some voodoo influences...oh, and these once noble clans have since suffered mightily from the Great Old Ones, often falling thrall to the madness. Add to that a plethora of secret societies and cults, religious infighting in the church and political issues and we have a powder kegs teetering on the edge of the abyss, with a wick lit and ablaze. The brief history and sketches on the diverse regions provide knowledge that is considered to be common and thus readily available, providing a more than fitting introduction for the intrigued player to deal with political issues and the looming threats that abound, for Vathak is a darkened world...in short: A setting in desperate need of heroes.

Speaking of heroes - this is a player's guide, so how does the character generation aspect work? The short reply would be: Excellent. The longer and more complex reply is as follows: If you have run any sort of horror-themed game or consumed any sort of media that deals with the darker aspects of the fantasy genre, you will have, at least subconsciously, relaized something: Horror does not happen to shining, one-dimensional beacons of light. "Because they're evil." is never a valid justification for slaying a foe (unless you're actually the evil guy) and the general resonance such tales have are directly aligned with the way in which characters are relatable - and that means both detailed and not perfect. If you understand character creation as purely an exercise in number-optimization, you may be missing some of the fun associated with playing such games. It is my experience that it takes a while for players to grasp the mindset, but once they have, even hardcore optimizers actually benefit from the experience of making rounded characters in a sense that pertains their respective (in-) humanity. Horror requires, to a certain degree, more investment than just killing orcs and as such, the extensive guidelines that provide ideas from the archetypical to the circumstance of the birth etc. help create a deep immersion from the get-go. Similarly, notes on creating/establishing your character's familial ties and a massive table of no less than 100 potentially personality-defining childhood events add further depth. Similarly, social status and education are given consideration.

If all of this sounds wishy-washy to you and you're craving crunch, rest assured that the tome offers a selection of traits - including two new types: Basic traits, which can be exchanged for other types and occupation traits, which represent the "proper" job you actually learned. Occupation traits allow you to select one of two different types of benefits, representing different specializations. The traits universally are relevant, come with a bit of flavor and employ the respective bonus types correctly. Now one thing I mentioned before is represented here as well - the fun of horror characters often comes from them being flawed (not only in horror, think of Raistlin...) - so yep, you have to also take a drawback, kind of like an anti-trait, if you will. These range from being a condescending prick to being in chronic pain, dangerously curious, forlorn...a wide array of options here and ultimately a selection that yields itself to actually emphasizing the rolpeplaying game aspects in nice ways. This basic array of considerations helps immensely in generating a biography towards the days when the PCs start adventuring.

Now race-wise, the usual core-races are pretty much a rarity in Vathak, though notes on their impact are given. Instead, the race chapter provides mechanical racial traits for the respective races like the Bhriota, the Old One-touched cambion with their disfigurements, the dhampir, the ghost-touched hauntlings, the xenophobic svirfneblin, the romni (with different clans) and the vindari. Oh, and there are the shapechanging witchwolf romni and the half-construct wretched. All of the races have in common that they receive detailed information on their respective culture, background and the like. I will not kid you: In particular the non human-ethnicity races herein are basically half monsters of their own and lend themselves to higher powered games than what I'd prefer in the setting and the races are not balanced among themselves: These half-breed/tainted races are universally stronger than the default human ethnicities. If they stood alone, outside the context of Vathak as a setting, I'd frankly complain about them...but this is one of the beauties of settings as opposed to standalone books...you need to take the totality into account and the tainted legacies of these individuals will mark them as targets and make their life significantly harder. Trust me, I've done that in Ravenloft for years. So, in the context of this setting, the book very much maintains a solid social tapestry. As a design complaint, I'm not the biggest fan of the Bhriota's ability score bonuses being only on the physical side, but that remains the only lopsided race. As a whole, the races should not unbalance any game. EDIT: Now with age, height and weight tables! The favored class options and alternate racial options generally can be considered to be well-crafted and allow for a diversity of different, interesting tricks.

The book also contains class options and begins with the disciple base class, which gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapon, light and medium armors, shields and the favored weapon of their deity. They cast prepared divine spells from their own spell list, with Wisdom as governing attribute and up to 6th level. They get 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. They choose a patron saint at first level and gain domains and domain spells as well as a Wis-based Favor that can be used to power graces or a grace-like-based flurry and may be regained via appropriately devout acts - in short, this is a more refined and better balanced version of the Saint-class originally introduced in the CLASSifieds-series. As a specialist of the dead and consecration, the dustman archetype provides a flavorful option.

The fortune-teller is a full, spontaneous psychic spellcaster (Wisdom as governing attribute) at d6 HD, 2 + Int skillsper level, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves that focuses on tarot-like readings, premonitions and divination - nice and once again, with a solid archetype.

The d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression reanimator would make Herbert West proud, with 4 + Int skills per level and simple weapons as well as light armor. They get a variation of alchemy that is based on injections (based on Int, prepared, up to 6th level). These guys get a grotesque homunculus ally and have a surgical pool they may refresh by harvesting body parts. The grotesque can be customized somewhat akin to a more streamlined eidolon. Beyond that, though, they get emergence solution, powered by aforementioned pool, allowing for the healing of others via SCIENCE - including the undead, mind you. Still, finally a non-divine healing option ina viable class. Pretty nice one! Oh, have I mentioned the grotesque bomber that basically makes living, short-lived bombs?

The book also contains an alternate fighter, the soldier - while still hamstrung by 2 + Int skills, but focuses on the military aspect, assigning a regiment from a significant array: Archers, guerilla fighters, bombers...there are some nice tricks here, though the linear power progression could use a bit more player agenda. The archetype here would be the drill-sergeant, who does what you'd expect. Oh, and there are class options. The LIST of them spans two frickin' pages. Anti-aberration alchemists. War medic alchemists. Cannibal arcanists. Insane Assailant barbarians; church sparrow bards that ferret out cults and heretics. Bloodragers chosen by WAR. Gladiator slave brawlers. Veiled handmaidens of the One True God; plague-employing Host druids. Negative energy channeling fighters. Curse-slinging gunslingers (with modified firearm-rules, for these are more common in Vathak); Rat Slave vindari; Investigators that delve in forbidden lore; kineticists that can wrap themselves in plat-based exoskeletons; gunslinging magi; séance celebrity mediums; alienist and regressionist mesmerists (who can poach a lot of class features by dabbling into past incarnations), scientists of the lost, oracles with the ancients mystery, espionage specialist psychics, agents of the hand of twilight, the divine killers of the church; skaldic chanters of the codex or mad fiddlers, sorcerors with the 6-clan bloodlines of the romni; spiritualists that generate an ectoplasmic double; summoners that believe in a profane evolution and even the vigilante (Fool) archetype, with nods towards Tarot, is included...or perhaps the vigilante would rather be a ritual killer? Yeah...nasty..in a good way. Also: Vampire servant witches? Yup.

The massive tome also covers Linguistics in the setting and presents, as mentioned before, modified firearm rules that allow for a significant level of customization and a vast assortment of feats can similarly be found to further customize characters in the setting. Wait, before we get there: if you expect basics, the book goes beyond that: There is a whole chapter devoted to firearms! We get a metric TON of firearms, bullets and rules - optional misfires, customization, bullets...oh boy, this chapter is amazing...and it better should be, considering Fat Goblin Games' experience with the subject matter! Rifled bullets of pure gold required? Rules are here. This is amazing and extends to supplemental equipment like powder horns or percussion caps.

The book also features a massive equipment chapter - which even goes into the names (and look!) of coins and their exchange rates, tool grade weapons and weaponry by group...and here you get to drool a bit: Weapon artworks. In color. For all of them. Not kidding. Amazing! A vast array of kits and mundane/alchemical items, from dhampir neck guards to filth bombs and plaguemasks, prices for horses, lodging and services...the pdf is amazing in its detail: Deathveil war paint. Necrobane formaldehyde. Garlic tablets. Magical incense. Magical romni smoking weed (jep, ton of mechanically relevant drugs) and a variety of poisons and yes, even vehicles with full stats complement a massive chapter.

Now, extremely important would be religion as one of the driving forces of Vathak's life and hence the dogma of the One True God, including the deadly sins, forms of address for the clergy, holy texts and the saints of the church - the level of detail provided here is excessive in a good way, bringing the belief to life for the reader. Similarly, the take on the Old Ones is presented in a relatively SPOILER-free manner that provides a similar level of detail - and, better yet, manages to explain rather well how/why the players can/should worship these things...and leaves a level of insecurity...so yeah...you ultimately do not know. Disturbing cults are mentioned alongside the 4 best known of the dread elder entities. Utterly unique: The romni court of signs, which could be considered to be the deification of some cards of the Tarot, tying resonant folk tales, astrological signs and the divine together in a neat, thematic knot. The attention to detail and narrative quality here is excellent...and yes, even ancestor worship is properly explained. Alternate divine domains, blessings, inquisitions and patrons add mechanical relevance to the respective divine choices. The massive chapter of spells provides a variety of [reading] spells that employ focus items and establishes, for the players in the very beginning, the fact that magic may not always be reliable and/or dangerous. The dark themes evoked by the spells emphasize well the themes of Vathak. Transplant Visage. Sequestering Thoughts. The themes of the spells focus on the occult, the weird and the investigative and that is a good thing here.

Oh, and guess what - the book is actually easy to navigate. The final chapter is devoted to a truly massive index that helps navigating the confines of this colossal tome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level and the latest pass improved that further. While there are minor hiccups here and there, as a whole, the book is impressively well edited for a tome of its size. This huge beast of a book is similarly a beautiful tome: 2-page full-color in the style of an ancient grimoire; tons of flavorful letters, mad scribblings and the like inserted...oh, and from an aesthetic point of view, the vast array of original full-color artworks actually adhere to a unified style, lending a concise visual identity to the book. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but for a tome of this size, I kind of would have expected nested bookmarks and more of them - there are a lot, mind you...but there could be slightly more.

All right, so let's get one thing straight from the get-go: The crunch in this book, partially has premiered before - quite often in books I trashed. Instead of just reprinting these components, their rough edges have been filed off, the respective components improved in an interesting manner. Not all required this, mind you - but taking e.g. the Call to Arms-books on explosives/firearms/etc. and modifying them, Vathakizing them, if you will, actually added to their appeal. The racial and class-write ups and massive array of crunchy options herein generally are significantly more solid than I expected...but judging this book only as the totality of the crunchy options herein would be a grand disservice to the book.

You see, this is a player's guide and as such, it manages to portray the panorama of races, classes and lands in a captivating and SPOILER-free manner. Moreover, it manages to convey a mindset and the mechanical tools to back up it up; after reading this book, it is pretty much impossible to not have a HUGE amount of character concepts at one's back and call. The massive selection of options is amazing - though I was kinda surprised to not find any of the glorious lineage feats in this book. It should be noted that crunch-fetishists will not find Interjection Games/Everyman Gaming/Dreamscarred Press level of complex classes here, but the options that are here sport evocative themes and some of them have the spark of amazing I am looking for in design. The most important factor, though, is that the cadre of authors (Ismael Alvarez, Tyler Beck, John Bennett, Troy Daniels, J Gray, Rick Hershey, Taylor Hubler, Lucus Palosaari, Jennifer Povey, Michael Ritter and Matt Roth) have managed to craft Vathak's tones into one concise whole. Where before, the tones seemed to clash, we now get a setting that feels concise and surprisingly medieval in its themes and the flavor conveyed; the excellent prose suffusing the book make it an actual neat read, in spite of the density of material provided...and frankly, it makes it the most ambitious player's guide I have read so far. It is testament to the talent of line developer John Bennett's talent that Vathak has matured from its original iteration to a setting I actually really want to play. Handing this tome to players and telling them to go wild with it certainly is an experience I very much look forward to...and this book makes me exceedingly excited about the GM-book, hopefully to come.

In short: This book manages to elevate Vathak far beyond the confines of what it once was; the book also represents a massive step forward for Fat Goblin Games as a company, providing more internal consistency than I expected a book of this size to have. This Player's Guide is a fantastic tome and has an excellent bang for buck ratio. If you are remotely intrigued in the setting or horror gaming in general, then this is most definitely something you need to get.

There is another reason to get this. The resonance of themes of our world and relatively conceptual proximity (One True God, different ethnicities, plagues...) allow for significantly easier insertion of the evocative horror modules and supplements available in the OSR-scene: I could literally, just with a name-replace, insert Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Kort'thalis Publishing (Liberation of the Demon Slayer or Purple-Haunted Putrescence, for example) material in Vathak, do some NPC/monster crunching and be done with it - no annoying rewriting of plots or the like. Similarly, Cthulhu Dark Ages and similar settings allow for perfect thematic scavenging...oh, and quite a few of the Ravenloft classics or horrific Frog God Games-modules (Cyclopean Deeps I and II) could similarly easily be dropped in. Vathak, in short, offers a fantastic place to drop in the type of module that is hard to run in Midgard, Golarion or similar settings, adding yet another reason to get this tome. You can splice in Obsidian Apocalypse...or just about anything horror-themed else.

We finally have a worthy horror-setting for PFRPG that provides a thematically concise set-up, a vast array of character options and considerations that help making unique and intriguing characters and situate them in a world full of exquisite detail...I can't wait to peer behind the curtain of the already suitably tentacle-studded exterior and see the grand GM-y insanity behind the veil of what constitutes for as normalcy in Vathak. How to rate this? Well, I really enjoyed reading this tome and while it may not be a perfect tome, it is one massive, inspiring toolbox full of intriguing prose and captivating concepts.

If you are a horror fan and want a setting that is tailor-made to cater to your preferred gaming style...get this immediately!

This is well worth the more than fair asking price and thus receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Player's Guide to Vathak
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Planetary Heroes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2016 10:58:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of pregens for Legendary Games' Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction/how to use, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look at these pregens!

Wait, before we do, let us make one thing clear: The characters presented herein are pretty much in line with the Player's Guide - this means that the awesome fish-out-of-water-style alternate introduction championed in the optional prequel "The Assimilation Strain" is not considered to be the default for these guys...just so you know. This also means that the characters herein will begin play at 2nd level. From a formal point of view, the characters herein would be 20 pt.-buy characters, though each of the entries does provide scaling information for those of us who, like yours truly, prefer the grit and increased challenge of 15 pt.-buy characters.

The characters themselves make, just so you know, use of the material presented in the Legendary Planet Player's Guide. This means that the new races presented are employed in the builds. The pdf also follows the format of Legendary Games' pregens in that it very much has the goal of presenting mechanically-relevant character options that still feature options, skills etc. that make them feel organic. Formatting-wise, each of the characters comes with a one-page full-color artwork supplemented by a quote pertaining the world-view of the respective character. Beyond the statblock, each of the pregens comes with a detailed background story, physical description and personality. Advancement notes are presented as well and considering the mythic nature of the AP, the advancement notes also cover the most likely mythic path to follow. The entries also come with helpful and flavorful roleplaying ideas - so that would be the structural set-up.

But what about the characters? Well, the first would be Spinser Zayne, an auttaine fighter/gunslinger, who has used his construct-y build points for a hidden storage, low-light vision, natural armor and sprinting. Born into a clan of vagabonding smugglers and turned into a powerful gladiator, he is defined by his need for survival, for maintaining his existence. His build is pretty open and the presence of Disable Device among his class skills (via a trait) adds some magic-using capabilities in the future of this guy. Zayne is powerful, but evocative and his disbelief pertaining an afterlife makes for an interesting angle to RP.

Floreisley Avergreen, a chlorvian sorceress with the verdant bloodline, would be next - and her attitude is a far cry from Spinser's pragmatism: Floreisley is an idealist who sees that the world is cruel and full of suffering, yes...but at the same time, she vehemently believes that helping the totality of beings, that supporting everyone and being helpful, will ultimate improve the fate of all. Her infinite optimism and charitable nature makes her a strong candidate for the face of the group, for a leader with a vision that is actually a joy to portray. And yes, I am inclined towards playing idealists with a vision, in spite of my cynicism - and I'd play her. Perhaps because her wide-eyed wonder regarding natural beauty and sights and her morals reflect pretty much what I aspire to be.

Kanor Delfina would be a tretharri cleric with the knowledge and healing domains; being tretharri, he has 4-arms and I welcome this series not focusing in the class-choice on making a shredder-type of character, instead focusing on a powerful build, yes, but one that does represent the fact that the race does not consist solely of melee monsters. In fact, he is guided by something I very much can relate to - the true wonder of seeing the stars for the first time; of truly grasping their significance and meaning, the infinite vastness, the infinite possibilities provide a clerical angle that is relatively novel and unconventional.

Girrun Snik would be a zvarr rogue - and is a mathematical prodigy, which also, with his get-rich-quick-schemes, account for his less than reputable past and class choice. As a unique angle, his conviction lies in the belief that the universe is ultimately a game of numbers, stochastic probabilities...and the meta-joke is that he's right. So the one player who likes breaking character, doing the numbers, making observations over the likelihood of the outcome? Yep, this guy is perfect for you...and the angle should actually make that type of behavior more acceptable for the other players! Very cool.

Rhydis Kolmainsus would be a human bloodrager with the draconic bloodline, jagladine experiment #1407, his number forever burned into his shoulder. Once a happy-go-lucky man, the pain and suffering inflicted upon him has changed his very nature, his outlook...but also granted him the means to triumph over the monstrous captors.

Omik "The Clever" Jetruk would be another multiclass option: We have a dwarven alchemist (chirurgeon)/gunslinger (musket master) here. Omik, a foundling of mysterious circumstances, slim and smart, is young for a dwarf - but he does already have some impressive (mis-)adventures under his belt. Equipped with an erratic curiosity, engineering knowledge, capable of driving vehicles and still holding his own in battle, Omik provides a cool option for players that enjoy the versatility that the class combo brings.

Tialua Re'duoth, an elven oracle of life, is somewhat different: As life-affirming as you'd expect someone of her occupation to be, she also makes for another good candidate for the party face/leader role. The theme of the stars and their impact upon our lives similarly establishes the leitmotif of wonder that is present in many of these pregens, though her intense dislike of liars makes for a solid angle to include some righteous anger in an otherwise very positive woman.

Finally, Kato Njalembe would be a human psychic with the rapport discipline. Coming from a quasi-African background, at least regarding the nomenclature, he and his brothers were inseparable...until the fateful day a strange elven client who has taken his brother...as a result, he remains with half-finished inside jokes and a lingering sense of sadness as well as a duality of quietude and rambunctious laughter. Well, perhaps he'll one day find his brother...and the reason for his ever expanding psychic powers...

The pdf concludes with a page containing the artworks of the characters as miniature cut-outs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard for the Legendary Planet-books. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks provided for the pregens are awesome and full-color, though some have been featured before in the Player's guide for the races.

Neil Spicer and Jeff Provine's pregens for Legendary Planet are significantly cooler than I expected them to be, to be quite frank. Their damage output and general strength is well on a line, with none outshining the others as better minmaxed or worse built than their compatriots - the characters, in short, provide a concise array of characters that work well as an adventuring party. More than that, the characters actually feel like...well, characters. Not just accumulations of stats, but actual, fully-rounded people that are more than the sum of their stats and tropes. Now, I've been pretty vocal in the fact that I prefer the fish-out-of-water approach that includes "The Assimilation Strain". In fact, I'm still honestly baffled a bit how the whole prologue-introduction into the AP is handled, with both this and the PG basically ignoring it. So yeah, I'm probably not going to use these, unless some PCs die in "To Worlds Unknown" and if you wish to run the prologue, this will probably not be too useful for you.

That being said, if you do want to dive right in, this is a perfect array of pregens for the AP: Read #1, hand these to your player's and voilà, Sword & Planet action from the get-go! As such, this does its job very well and my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars...and though I won't use these probably, I really enjoyed the characters...which is why this also gets my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Planetary Heroes
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Psychic Warriors of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2016 10:53:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28.5 pages of content, though these pages are formatted for a booklet-like A5 (6'' by 9'')-format. So what do we get here?

Well, we begin with 7 new warrior paths for the Psychic Warrior, the first of which would be the altruist, who receives Diplomacy as a class skill. The path coming with an alignment restriction should make clear here that yes, we get alignment-based warrior paths here. Associated powers-wise, we receive control light (increase only) and vigor here. The 3rd level trance option nets a scaling bonus to atk and damage versus "law" creatures - whatever that's supposed to mean. Outsiders with the subtype? Lawful characters? No idea. The maneuver provided allows for the granting of +2 to AC and saves for allies...and yep, the bonus scales. The chaos-themed anarchic path provides Bluff as bonus class skill and nets one of 6 random competence bonuses via the trance...which is kinda nice, even though the wording is slightly non-standard, it's not to the extent where it becomes problematic. The maneuver is similarly interesting in that it increases in duration and adds more potent effects at higher levels, expanding the selection from 1d6 to 1d12 possible conditions. The idea is pretty cool, but the execution is flawed - the maneuver can be activated, as per default, via a standard action + psionic focus expenditure. Okay...but unlike the maneuvers provided in Ultimate Psionics that are bound to affect a target, this one fails to address whether it requires melee combat or not. Additionally, the lack of a save versus this ability renders it pretty strong - imho too strong, particularly if it can be used in conjunction with ranged attacks.

The magistrate path provides Knowledge (local) as well as a bonus versus chaotic creatures (which is terminology-wise okay) - the bonus scales. As a maneuver, the character can inflict doubt and remorse upon his foes, causing them be either staggered, dazed or stunned on a failed Will-save. Considering the scaling DC, this is pretty powerful and a save-or-suck, so design-wise I'm not the biggest fan here...but the brief duration renders it still palatable. Next up would be the Mariner nets Profession (sailor) and provides a bonus to initiative and CMD while in trance. The maneuver lets you use an opposing AoO to parry an attack as an immediate action. You receive penalties if the foes are larger than you and the expenditure of both an AoO and psionic focus put a hard cap of the swingy opposed attack roll concept. Every 5 levels thereafter, you may attempt to parry an additional attack in a round where you expended your psionic focus. I am not a big fan of the mechanics, but the expenditure and AoOs at least put a cap that prevents spamming on the ability, so yeah.

The nefarious path nets Intimidate and nets a bonus to attack. The touch may also heal the undead, which becomes highly problematic when playing with undead PCs like the darakhul- infinite healing. The debuff the maneuver offers properly notes range and has a save - no problems here. The soul keeper receives Intimidate and, in trance, nets you the ability to see the aura of the undead and incorporeal creatures. The instant recognition of undead sans any required concentration duration can wreck plenty a plot, so not too excited here. As a maneuver, you may AoE-Intimidate foes within 20 ft.

After these paths, we receive new archetypes, the first of which would be the altruist, who gets a good aura, detect evil at will. Instead of level 1's path or bonus feat, the altruist treats personal powers as though they had a range of 5 ft. at +1 power point, which is pretty strong. Moreover, for +2 power points, you can affect an additional creature with such a power. As a complaint here, the augment section also notes that you gain the altruist warrior path...so is that one gained at 3rd level when the augment becomes available? Or earlier? No idea. Empathic transfer totally falls apart; it nets the power of the same name (sans italicization)- either it's very weak (if it's supposed to require power point expenditure) or it can be cheesed to provide infinite healing. 9th level nets a power point-based shield for allies and a daily cap as well as tight consideration and rules prevent abuse here...which is a jarring difference to the previous ability and shows that the author can do it.

The anarchist would be the chaotic equivalent to the good altruist - the same complaint regarding instant detection applies here. (And applies to the other alignment-based archetypes herein). I have literally no idea how the chaotic empowerment ability works: "At the beginning of each day when he meditates to regain his power points for the day, he rolls a die equal to the highest level he knows from his psychic warrior class. He then rolls a die equal to the number of powers he knows of that level (path powers excluded). This will determine what power he gives up for the day. He gains a morale bonus equal to the level of the power forfeited to atk, AC, PP and path skills." A) What type of die? How is the forfeited power determined? How is the significant bonus granted in any way in line? I think I know how this supposedly works, but it's de facto non-functional...and remains wonky in balance as well. 3rd level nets chaos blade (not italicized), but when manifested as a path power, it inflicts 3 points of ability damage. 9th level allows for the random redirection of damage to potentially allies...or enemies.

Dread pirates are pretty cool: They can make small rafts from astral energy or infuse their ships in a ritual with power points, increasing their hit points greatly. Said infused power points may be retrieved as a full-round action, though I'm not sure if they count as expended or not. Neither am I sure whether he can only partially un-infuse the power points used to fortify the ship. Love the concept here, but the execution remains flawed. The higher level abilities include a short-range fear-immunity canceling aura as well as the option to generate a phantom crew via power points...which is amazing. This is by far the coolest archetype I've seen by Scott Dillon so far: One-man ghost ship? Heck yes! Then again, it also could use some minor streamlining here and there...but oh well. The Privateer would be a variant of the dread pirate - instead of emphasizing the creepy aspects, he instead receives control air, the ability to peer through water and not treat ship-based obstacles as difficult terrain, etc. The archetype similarly receives the option to buff his ship (though to a lesser extent) and may, at high-levels, generate a collective - which, again, renders this a sufficiently interesting option, though not one that also features some minor rough edges.

The magistrate would be the lawful iteration of the alignment spectrum here and receives a kind of quasi-smite, usable 1/day, +1/day at 4th and every 3 levels thereafter. At 7th level, the path provides dispatch, which can be used against the smite target by expending the psionic focus - sans augment, but yeah. Odd: RAW, it still has a power point cost, which the ability's wording leads me to believe it shouldn't have when used thus. The level 9 ability would be a buff/debuff aura. The Nefarious would be the evil archetype and is pretty much...sorry to say it, none too smart: You get bonuses when you either inflict 50 hit points of damage or 50% of an opponent's HP in damage for buffs -can someone hand me a bag of kittens, preferably one with the celestial subtype since the bonuses increase versus good critters? Hostile Empathic Transfer once again suffers from basically similar wording issues as the options before, though idea-wise, it is pretty interesting. 9th level provides, bingo, an alignment-based aura. Soul Keepers are significantly more interesting: They may entrap a dying foe's soul within his skull, crystallizing the skull, which ties in with the crystal skull rules.

These would basically be intelligent items with a 1/2 natural AC-progression, 1/4 mental attribute progression and Will-saves that scale up to +11. Every other level, the skull receives 2 + Int skills chosen from a brief list and a weirdo sight that penetrates darkness and silence...why not use one of the gazillion sights already established in PFRPG? The skull can speak and starting at 5th level as well as at 11th and 17th, it receives limited access to a power or spell. Horrible botch: The item receives spectral shielding, allowing it to turn the owner incorporeal 3/day...but lacks a range...and since the table mashes 2 levels into one, I have no idea whether this is unlocked at 5th or 6th level, since the ability's silent about that -a similar complaint I can field against the ability pertaining class features unlocked at either 9th or 10th level, mind you. Being intelligent, crystal skulls begin with ego +0 and increase that to +24.

At 9th level, soul keepers may generate death shades from the fallen 1/day for ability burn, though frankly the unreliable control of the shade makes it not the most amazing ability to have. The ability of the template allows for the leeching of hit points via damage, siphoning them to the soul keeper...can someone please hand a bag o' kittens to the shade? We need some infinite healing...

The spirit warrior would be the shamanistic-flavored non-evil equivalent of the crystal skull user, gaining a similar skull and elders that may materialize as astral constructs...the construct's level is equal to the spirit warrior's level -2. It should be noted that this and the soul keeper archetype sport alternate FCOs for some races, which is a nice touch.

Now if some of the aforementioned powers like chaos blade seemed unfamiliar to you, well, there's a reason for this: The pdf sports 7 new powers, 3 of which are chaos-themed: Chaos Aura deserves special mention here: It sports some nasty conditions, including the "deluded" condition, which makes them see allies as foes and actually also mentions the antagonized effect, explaining it...and whether intentional or not, this maintains compatibility with Ultimate Charisma, which is nice to see. And yup, I enjoy this one. Chaos Blade generates an aura that attacks all within with 1 - 4 blades that each deal one die of damage, with augments to increase damage die size. The lack of an attack roll, damage type , power resistance of save to negate this makes it pretty OP in my book. I also don't get why one augment specifically notes die-step increases, whereas the other omits the information. Chaotic Displacement is an utter mess. The idea is to forcefully switch beings. The rules-language flat-out collapses here: "Those that fail their Will-save will be randomly switched with another creature who failed its Will save, at the beginning of each of those creatures' turn, when they begin their action. This will cause them to complete their action, full-attack action, spell cast or even healing at the new target next them, regardless of if they are friend of foe." - To give you an inkling of the mess here. Literally everything's opaque. Range, target, sequence of action - there is literally NOTHING here that would not make this a horrible, horrible mess. Cone-shaped cold-damage is okay, I guess...if uninspired apart from the addition of fear-based effects to via augments. Basically, a slightly more powerful reskin of stomp. There would also be a negative energy dealing aura that heals undead as well and a means to attack at range via melee attacks. So far, so solid - oh, and with mythic augments, mind you. Expect no 7th path support here, though. Anyways, rather embarrassing: A dev's questions are still in the text of the exceedingly wonky spirit armor: You take 10% less damage (unnecessary calculation, messed up interaction with saves, DR, etc. - the dev didn't go as far and asked "Per strike? Per round?" -two questions that remain here and show on a basic level how non-functional this is, even before going into DR, saves, resistance and similar nit and grit.

The pdf concludes with some favored class options for Porphyran races.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting vary in quality on a formal level - there are some sections that are decent, while others lack some punctuation, italicization, etc. On a rules-level, this is worse. The rules-language oscillates between getting cool ideas almost right and falling apart like a vampire under an UV-light. Layout adheres to the one-column standard and the pdf employs some color artwork I've seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which, alas, is one of the few positive things I can say about this book.

The ship-enhancer archetypes are a cool idea; so are the crystal skulls. In practice, the rules governing them could have used some serious fine-tuning. The rules-language, unfortunately, is nowhere near up to the level of precision or care I'd have expected; as a consequence, balance becomes hard to judge and may or may not be OP in several cases - it all depends on your reading of the opaque components...at least in most cases. Not in all, but there you go. Scott Dillon's psychic warriors suffer from more than that, though: The majority of the file is devoted to alignment-based options in both warrior paths and archetypes and frankly, they are not interesting and basically cookie-cutter variations of one another. Granted, they get something slightly unique to do, but since these options often feature serious rules-precision issues, I'm left with precious few positive things to say. There is, frankly, apart from some minor idea-mining, not much nice stuff I can say about this book. It's not all bad, but it comes pretty close to it, sporting several options that just are a mess. Usually when I see such a book, I think about whether I can salvage the material within and do so when I see something I like as a design-exercise. This book, alas, left me with a distinct "why bother?" - and that's not a good sign. I intensely dislike dishing out ratings like this, but ultimately, I can't recommend this one to anybody; I don't even see potential for idea-scavenging here due to the flawed nature of the precious few concepts that would warrant it - while you can kinda salvage some concepts and while I like one power, the issues, glitches etc. are just too flawed. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Psychic Warriors of Porphyra
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The Lost Lands: Borderland Provinces Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2016 08:18:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 269 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a colossal 262 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

All right, so we have been to the Sundered Kingdoms and taken in all the sights and cults...but this is something different. While situated in the adjacent region to aforementioned adventure-collection, we actually have a massive setting sourcebook. As such, the tome begins with a breakdown of the history of the region as well as massive timelines denoting the respective years in the different means of counting the timeline. The general overview provides a myth-infused and concise take on the ethnicities and races found within this region; from the savage vanigoths to the supposedly river-born Gaeleen and the Foerdewaith, the notes provided here already exhibit a level of detail and care that makes more than sense: The book talks about how the respective ethnicities see themselves or depict themselves in these tumultuous times, for they indeed are.

Even a cursory glance provides some rather intriguing notes of cataclysms past: Beyond the obvious collapse of the Army of Light, the end of an empire in a magical conflagration that consumed vast stretches of land, 10-year-lasting rains that resulted in famine and failed crops - these lands have indeed seen their fair share of evocative and inspiring catastrophes, but still the lands stand. Fans of the Lost Lands will consider the timeline to be a truly inspiring and chockfull with notes: From the founding of the metropolis of Bard's Gate to Endhome's history (the city of "The Lost City of Barakus"-fame), notes that acknowledge some lesser known modules (like "Mires of Mourning") or the influence of Razor Coast - for veterans of Frog god Games/Necromancer Games, this book pretty much can be considered to be the very glue that pulls everything together; or the skeleton of the body of the region, if you will. Wait, that does not evoke the proper connotation, since it implies being somewhat basic - and nothing could be further from the truth here. Different technology levels for the respective ethnicities and people add a feasible and evocative tone to the subject matter. But how to give you a proper insight into the leitmotifs of these borderlands? Well, for one, let me talk a bit about nomenclature: In case the names of ethnicities were not ample clue, the provinces and stretches of land, from a linguistic point of view, do something smart: With names like Aachen, Exeter and the like, they employ our dormant knowledge of medieval ages and a palpable Old Europe-style aesthetic. With crests and everything, the presentation of the respective countries further enforces this. So flavor-wise, we'd be looking at a place that feels distinctly more like the end of the Middle Ages than most settings.

On a formal criteria, within the details of the powerful individuals noted, the book sports a sufficient array of powerful people mentioned...but never becomes bogged down in them. You do not have the Oerth/Faerûn issue of an archmage/demigod in every second town - capable folks exist, but ultimately there are barely enough to maintain a sense of cohesion. The general scarcity of truly mega-powerful individuals mean that there is ample potential for PCs to act and shine without thinking that the "big players can't be bothered". On the other hand, some setting have fallen prey to the inverse issue: You know, where the super-powerful forces of darkness only don't seem to win because they are damn stupid. The Borderland Provinces do not fall prey to this trap either - instead, a general level of threats suffuse everything here, providing ample need for adventurers without threatening an apocalypse at every corner. This balancing act emphasizes further as sense of the believable: We can imagine the darkness lurking, but we do crave people and places worth saving, and making the PCs the only capable (or not ignorant) characters is generally an approach that undermines this. Hence, while there are capable NPCs, at least in my mind the chief achievement for this component lies in painting a picture that is believable.

The aforementioned history, nay historicity, evoked by the book is further underlined by the political leitmotif: You see, the nomenclature and catastrophes echo some real life disasters for a reason: The political landscape of the Borderland Provinces is not unlike that of the trials and tribulations and collapse of the Carolingian Empire, which ultimately gave rise to the Holy Roman Empire. Much like these historic empires, the once powerful empire of Foere is within the process of dissolution and decadence; nobles think of secession, provinces are not properly defended and when even the loss of tax revenue is deemed acceptable, you will note that something is going wrong big time...meanwhile, the kingdom of Suilley has won its independence and is going through the growing pains of the rapid expanding empire - growing pains which may cause it to collapse yet under the issues inherited from years of mismanagement...if external forces don't do the job for the young kingdom. Similarly, the discrepancy between these two major players feel like bookends of the cycle to me - but that may well be due to my Nietzschean leanings when it comes to the structure of the history of mankind. On a less pretentious note, one could construe the political landscape as one that provides pretty much the maximum of adventuring potential: With the threat of war looming, political infighting and shifting allegiances all provide a rich panorama of inspiring metanarratives to develop...and that is before free cities and city states on the rise and the pseudo-colonial angle Razor Coast provides are entered into the fray.

The book, then goes on to underline yet another widely component that is a crucial glue often neglected in fantasy gaming: Religion. What's Endy now talking about, you ask? Well, beyond the presence of clerics, palas and the like, the function of religion for societies as a unifying thread is often neglected in gaming supplements - not so here: In the decline of Thyr's worship due to ever thinner margins and thus, possibilities of making an impact on the daily lives, Mitra's worship is gaining ground amidst the folk, adding another sense of Zeitenwende, of a radical change of the times to the social and political powder keg that is the Borderland Provinces. Conversely, this does echo similar proceedings in Europe - from Lutherans and Calvinists, a crucial component of their success ultimately can be attributed to the entwinement of the Catholic Church with the political establishment of those days, resulting in a disenfranchisement of a significant part of the body politic.

There is another component I feel obliged to mention, for, by the above, you may fall prey to the erroneous assumption that this book offers basically only a repackage of historical occurrences, when nothing could be further from the truth. After all, we are playing fantasy games and thus, the aspect of magic is deeply entwined with themes like religion: Beyond escalating the aforementioned cataclysms that have haunted these lands, magic also is firmly entwined with the aspect of religion - for, in a world where demon lords ever plot the ultimate collapse of civilization, a heresy suddenly becomes more than something to stamp out in order to maintain control over the doctrine and its narrative. Instead, heresy can range from the harmless to the soul-damning and as such, the task of the ever fewer agents of the organized religions traveling these lands is one of prime importance, as smart and devious cults operate beneath a veneer of respectability.

Which would bring me to the shadowy forces, whose threats are less obvious than warfare, racial conflicts, barbarians and monsters - namely, the leitmotifs of heresies. Whether benevolent or willfully incited by demonic cultists, the organized religions are having a tough time to maintain supremacy over their own teachings, considering the diverse challenges the lands face. In an age of flux, it is in the cracks left behind by the failures of the respective nobility and governments that darkness thrives. Which would bring me to the component that I have not yet mentioned: For up until now, I have mainly talked about the themes of this book and less about its actual use as a gaming supplement. You see, each of the areas introduced herein not only features notes on religion, major players and settlements - instead, the regions also provide monsters to be found within this area and a plethora of partially interconnected quests. Not content to simply depict hooks, the book goes into an almost-adventure-level of detail, with some statblocks and evocative quests there; to retrieve the train of thought associated with heresies, a whole village has fallen prey to false teachings and is thus doomed - unless the PCs can find a way to save their souls.

Beyond the monuments that litter the landscape and the traditional, exceedingly evocative indirect story-telling that comes together here, the book also is defined by a massive array of different random encounter-tables at the beck and call of the GM - and yes, the pdf does make a difference between regions, roads and the wilderness. Indeed, it should be noted that the narrative impulses contained herein blend all concisely; In an age where printing is not yet common, the appearance of potentially madness-inducing pamphlets, for example, would make for a unique angle. Have I mentioned yet the fact that this book also introduces a demon prince who may be one of Azathoth's Pipers, somehow turned sentient and...different, providing a long overdue thematic and innovative connection for the themes of the creatures of the Outer Dark and the forces of the Abyss.

Of course, there is more to the aspect of the fantastic than just an abundance of monstrosities haunting the wilderness; there would be the occurrence of a kind of truce between an archmage and the most powerful dragon of the region; there would be dangerous locales; neutral ground taverns at the intersection of no less than three territories...and there are places where the chivalric ideal still lives, with jousting and the means to rise in the social hierarchy. Numerous settlements in detail and a plethora of shrines and sacred or profane sites await the exploration by the PCs...and the sense of realism is further enhanced in its logical consequences: There would be, for example, a mighty city that has come to an understanding with a foul-tempered black dragon: The dragon defends the city...and who better to defend versus adventurers...than a whole city loving the creature, worshiping it...including the more powerful small folks? The component of the fantastic, from spells to the presence of creatures like ogres or worse, are not just simply slapdashed on like a thin fantastic coating - the internal consistency bespeaks careful and thoughtful deliberation and is baffling in its panache. Have I mentioned the region that uses giant ox beetles for beasts of burden?

Now the aspect of the fantastic even extends to some extend to the unique nature and economy that can be seen in parts of the borderland provinces; these lands are NOT just Europe-rip-offs. Quite the contrary, for e.g. the opium-studded fields of Pfefferain, originally introduced in the criminally underrated 3.X module "Vindication!" by Necromancer Games and the truce between ferry-operators and river giants - all seems to be connected in a tapestry of myriad colors and tones that nevertheless generate a concise whole. The level of deliberate care and internal consistency extends beyond the basic - MASSIVE name generators by region for both males and females, massive place-names by region (similarly ridiculously detailed and a colossal amount of stats for ready-made 109 encounters can be found to supplement the numerous adventure locales that are interspersed in the write-ups of the respective regions. Exceeding this, the book also features hazard generators and stats for aerial traveling - for example wind whales. Aforementioned heresies are similarly depicted in lavish detail...and the book provides a gigantic index that features pronunciation guidelines for the respective places. The book also features the previously released FREE "Rogues in Remballo"-scenario and an impressive array of b/w-maps alongside player-friendly iterations - the inclusion of these just adding the icing on the cake this is. The physical iteration also has a gorgeous full-color hex-map of the regions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor hiccups like a superscript "B" that was not properly formatted, as a whole, this book adheres to FGG's high quality standards. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read b/w-2-column standard and the book sports numerous gorgeous b/w-artworks. The electronic version sports numerous bookmarks for your convenience...but frankly, if you can somehow afford it, get this in print: With high quality binding and paper, this book's physical version is just so much more awesome to hold in your hands. The b/w-cartography is nice and the presence of player-friendly maps is amazing.

Matthew J. Finch, with additional content by Greg A. Vaughan and Bill Webb, has created something special here. When I heard about this book for the first time, my reaction, to some extent, was bewilderment. While I could see e.g. Rappan Athuk and Endhome occupy the same general geographic region, while I saw the more conservative aspects working in perfect unison, it is the weirder, the darker and subtle aspects of the modules that stumped me as to how this could ever work as a whole.

You see, setting-books of this size face an almost impossible catch-22-situation. Too much detail and you wreck their adaptability for a given round; not enough and the thing becomes too opaque and some jerk like yours truly starts complaining. If you add the excessive canon this unifies, you have another issue: Bastards like yours truly that have too much fun contemplating and considering the ramifications of the presence of creatures, the political landscape, etc. - i.e., sooner or later, unless you REALLY think it through, internal discrepancies will creep into the game and someone will find them and have his/her game ruined by them, as immersion comes crashing down. On the other hand, if you take the reins too tightly, you only generate a free-form adventure with a restrictive metaplot, not a sourcebook. You need to maintain consistency, yes - but if you overemphasize it, the book becomes a dry enumeration of facts and densely entwines facts - and not everyone wants to read such a book.

It is against these challenges that I have read this massive tome...and it holds up. More than this, however, the achievement this represents lies within not only succeeding at maintaining internal consistency and fusing a gigantic array of disparate files into a thematically concise whole - it also maintains its efficiency as a gaming supplement: Much like the Judge's Guild books of old, certain wildernesses and city states, this very much represents a sourcebook that does not require preplanned adventures or the like - instead, you just throw your PCs inside and watch them do whatever they please...and if you do want a module, well, the region provides a vast array of mega-adventures that gain a lot from the proper contextualization within the region. In fact, I frankly wished I hadn't played some of them, since their context herein adds significantly to their appeal.

I have not even managed to scratch the surface regarding the number of things to do and experience within the borderland provinces and that is intentional, for I have so far failed to explicitly state the biggest strength of the book: Perhaps it is the internal consistency of the book and its lore...but I experienced something while reading this tome I have only scarcely encountered: A sense of Fernweh (think of that as the opposite of being homesick), of a wanderlust for a realm that does not exist, of a world so steeped in lore, vibrant and alive that this book managed what only a scant few have accomplished - I actually managed to dream lucidly a journey through these fantastic realm in a sequence of dreams of several days. This peculiar experience is usually reserved for books of the highest prose caliber, books that manage to generate a level of cohesion that is so tight my mind can subconsciously visualize it. A prerequisite for this, obviously, would be some desire to do just that, meaning that ultimately, the book in question must have caught not only my attention, but provided a sort of intense joy beyond the confines of most books, let alone gaming supplements.

To cut my long ramblings short, the prose herein is absolutely superb and exhibits the strengths of the exceedingly talented trinity of authors, making the reading experience of the book a more than pleasing endeavor. Moreover, the significant attention to detail regarding the actual use of the book as a gaming supplement ultimately also deprives me of any complaints I could field against it in that regard. While this review is based on the PFRPG-version, it is my firm conviction that even groups employing systems beyond the 3 for which this has been released, will have an absolute blast with this book -even without any of the book's gaming utility, this is an excellent offering and hence receives the highest accolades I can bestow upon it - 5 stars, seal of approval and nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016 - This makes the Lost lands truly come to life and I can't wait to see the next massive sourcebook of the world. if the Frogs can maintain this level of quality and consistency, we'll be looking at my favorite fantasy setting among all I know. Get this - you will NOT regret it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Lands: Borderland Provinces Pathfinder Edition
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Scholar of Paletius
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2016 08:12:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is the Scholar of Paletius? Well, in spite of the name, these folks do not need to worship Paletius, god of knowledge, though obviously, many do; from a mechanical point of view, the pdf offers a prestige archetype built from the chassis of the wizard and the collegiate arcanist. As such, we receive a full caster with 2 + Int skills per level, d6 HD, proficiency with quarterstaff, club, dagger, morningstar and sling. They suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing armor etc. The class receives 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves.

At 1st level, scholars receive an arcane bond with either an object or creature - creature would net you a familiar, objects must be chosen from amulet, ring, staff, wand or weapon. Items must either be worn or held to have an effect. Bonded objects allow for 1/day casting of a spell not prepared. The class receives Spell Mastery at first level and at 4th level, when spending a total of 24 hours studying, the spells mastered may be changed - and she may apply the benefits to up to Intelligence modifier of these. Additionally, as a restriction, the spells thus chosen may not exceed the total of Spellcraft ranks. At 8th level, scholars may lose a prepared spell to cast a spell selected with spell mastery, allowing for basically a quasi-spontaneous conversion of flexibly chosen spells...but thankfully only 1/day, +1/day every 4 levels thereafter. At 10th level, any spell mastered via Spell Mastery can be cast 1/day, even if it has not been properly prepared...but no metamagic-modifications.

The scholar begins play with a spellbook and casts arcane spells as a prepared caster, with Intelligence as a governing attribute. Second level nets the class an aura of good akin to that of a cleric or paladin and 3rd level unlocks Halcyon Magic: At this level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class chooses a druid spell at least 2 spell levels lower than he could cast and treat it as though it was a wizard spell. However, the unlocking has another prerequisite: In order to choose a spell, the scholar must have a number of ranks in Knowledge (nature) equal to twice the level of the chosen spell.

At 5th level, spells with the good-descriptor are cast at +1 caster level, but preparing evil spells requires twice the number of spell slots to prepare. 6th level allows for the option to prepare a spell into an arcane spell slot with 1 minute of preparation, with 13th level allowing for this as a full-round action (which should imho provoke AoOs) - basically, you leave open slots to add flexibility to the class. 7th level add a number of rounds to the duration of good spells equal to 1/2 his class level - nice: Instantaneous, permanent or concentration spells are not affected by this ability. Nice catch. 9th level nets a constant protection from evil. At 11th level, the scholar adds +2 to overcome the SR of evil creatures/objects and checks to dispel evil spells or effects. 14th level unlocks holy arcana, adding the domain bonus spells of one domain of his deity to his spell list and spell book, treating them as arcane spells. At 18th level, 1/day when a spell or supernatural ability allows for SR and targets a scholar's ally, he may, as an immediate action, redirect the effects to himself. Up to Intelligence modifier allies may thus be protected. All applicable saves, possibly more than one, must be succeeded and the ability has a range of 30 feet. 20th level, finally, brings timeless body.

The pdf's favored class options cover some unconventional races: Anumus, Elf, Gnome, Half-Orc, half-Rakshasa, Human, Kitsune, Nagaji, Oakling, Orc, Polkaan, Ratfolk, Samsaran, Tengu, Tiefling, Xax and Xeph are covered. The FCOs are well-balanced - no issues.

The pdf concludes with a sample character who is presented at level 1, 5, 10 and 15 - Ulik Tomebound, the polkaan. The builds include spellbooks and halcyon spells are provided in green italics for our convenience - nice layout decision there! FCOs in the build have been added to HP, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly no-frills two-column standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carl Cramér's Scholar of Paletius is a pretty strong class: As a prepared caster with some druidic magic added in, more flexibility via Spell Mastery's improvements and at higher levels even domain spells, it certainly ranks at the highest echelon of the power scale. That being said, it should not be considered to be overpowered; the take on the sacred wizard makes sense and while personally, I would have nerfed the option a bit, I can't in good conscience really complain about the prestige archetype presented here. The class will probably not wow you with never-before-seen uniqueness, but its framework is more than solid and deserves being acknowledged. All in all, this is a good offering for the low and more than fair price point. Hence, I will settle on a final score of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Scholar of Paletius
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Zane's Guide to Machine Guns
Publisher: One Dwarf Army
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2016 08:10:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting rifles for 5e clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a natural 1 on an attack roll, a weapon jams and can't be used until you spend an action to clear it. Guns as portrayed here have a rate of fire - a single shot is just that. A burst of fire consumes 3 rounds of ammo, but adds +1 damage die to the damage output of the weapon - 2d6 become 3d6, for example. This increased power, however, also means that the weapon can jam on a 1-2. Finally, there would be full auto fire, which allows you to target a single 10-ft. cube within long range: Every creature in the area must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8+ your Dexterity modifier, + proficiency bonus, if any) or suffer the weapon's damage on a failed save, none on a successful save. Creatures beyond the normal range have advantage on the save, which mathematically and logic-wise makes sense. Saves in 5e are pretty swingy and advantage somewhat alleviates this. Auto fire consumes 10 rounds of ammo and most weapons cannot perform more than one such shot, even if you otherwise would be capable of attacking multiple times. Auto also can jam the weapon on a 1-3.

Additionally, every weapon has an ammo score, which denotes the number of pieces of ammo it can hold before requiring reloading, which consumes an action. Guns can prematurely be reloaded. The pricing for the ammo is pretty pricey, btw. - the least expensive bullets, for 9mm-guns, costs 20 gp per 50 bullets, which renders this ammunition significantly more expensive than e.g. crossbow bolts or arrows (1 gp net you 20 of those, in case you need a direct comparison). Bullets cannot be recovered after being fired, unlike other pieces of ammunition. Machine guns are classified as martial ranged weapons, just fyi.

We begin with a total of 5 different mundane guns, which serve as the mechanical framework: On the lowest end, submachine guns are the only gun herein that may fire single shots. They have ammo 30 and a range of 100/400 as well as a base damage of 2d4. Light machine guns deal 2d6, have 100 ammo, range 150/600 and are two-handed. Heavy machine guns inflict 2d8 damage, have 100 ammo, two-handed and heavy and a range of 200/800. Both have stopping power, which means you may reroll one damage die, keeping the result. Both have a mean recoil (minimum 14 Strength for light ones, 18 for heavy ones) and may fire twice in auto per turn. Both prevent you from moving when reloading. The mini-gatling deals 2d4, have a range of 70/280, ammo 60 and may fire auto twice per turn. As a veritable bullet hose, in burst mode, they consume 10 rounds, but get +2 damage dice; in auto, it consumes 30 rounds, but adds +4 to the save DC. It prevents you from moving when reloading, much like the final gun, the minigun. This one also has the bullet hose, gains two auto fire attacks per round. It deals 2d6, has a range of 100/400 and ammo 100 and is both two-handed and heavy.

All right, the basics out of the way, let's take a look at the magical machine guns. As always, you will notice elemental-themed guns that inflict bonus damage and an additional effect. Alas, much like in the installment on rifles, the option to reroll damage via stopping power leaves it open whether the bonus damage may be rerolled or not. Fans of the series may also recognize some of the abilities here, as some have simply been added to machine guns. This does not extend to all, though: Two-round single-shot machine guns that inflict 3d4 base damage instead is okay...but pales before Fearless Guardian: You may drop this gun as an action and have it become a semi-intelligent construct: You can use your bonus action to command it to attack and yes...sentry-mode gets its own creature stats and includes notes on repairing. Ferocious Claymore lets you add a spray of 60-ft.-shrapnel via charges and Grand Inquisitor requires a Wisdom save or fail at casting spells for 1 round....which can be nasty for non-Wis-based casters. Hallelujah lets you auto-fire at larger squares via charges and the gun can negate cover-based bonuses. Infiltrator lets you expend charges to activate a variety of spell-based effects - I assume them to still require concentration, but am not 100% sure. Junior Painless lets you modify the size of your full auto attacks - the smaller the area, the higher the DC. Nice one.

Madboy lets you fire bursts as a bonus action; Mauler & Mowler inflict additional damage when used together and hitting foes on 18+. Here, we have an issue: TWF usually requires light weapons...which the submachine guns are NOT....so sans Dual Wielder, these can't RAW be used as intended. Now the Guns Akimbo feat does not a way to mae this work, but that's two feats for the rather small benefits...and the rules, frankly, could be presented more concisely here. Granted, a new feat should take care of this...but it's still restricted to light weapons. Smart Cookie lets you exclude foes in full auto to increase the damage versus a target...which can be odd: Use allies/kittens and you suddenly deal more damage? Weird. Splitfire lets you split up the full auto-area in 5-ft-squares, which is kinda cool. Summoner is weirdly named, but has a cool trick: Establish a circle of 60 ft. as a bonus action; thereafter, sans reaction required, you may fire at foes that enter the circle, though you expend charges.

The pdf also features new class options, the first of which would be 2 feats: Guns Akimbo lets you TWF with light firearms and proper synergy with TWF.Machien Gun Expert reuced Strength-requirements for recoil, lets you reroll 1s on damage dice, allows you to move up to 1/2 your speed while reloading and increases the auto-save DC by 2. Imho a tad bit too much - I'd eliminate the damage reroll. The pdf provides a new fighting style, which lets you add proficiency bonus to full auto damage. The pdf also has a new martial archetype for the fighter class, the heavy gunner. At 3rd level, these guys impose disadvantage on foes that fail to save versus your full auto and halve their speed for 1 round. At 7th level, things get interesting: When you take damage, you may make a Con-save with a DC equal to the damage taken; on a success you take no damage, half on a successful one. You need to finish a short or long rest to use this again and may use it an additional time at 15th level. At 10th level, you may double round-consumption in auto to affect two 10-foot squares (how does THAT interact with all the square-modifications the magic guns grant? No idea...) and at 15th level, the character gains advantage on saves versus being charmed or frightened as well as a higher chance to not fall prey to death saving throws. At 18th level, you inflict +1 damage die in burst and full auto and targets that save versus your full auto still take 1/2 damage.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules-level, there are a lot of small issues that accumulate -less than for the rifles, but still. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As a minor nitpick, one page is almost empty - that does not feature in the final verdict, but in case you're particular about that kind of stuff, you may want to know.

Georgios Chatzipetros' supplement for machine guns is more refined than the rifle installment: I really like many of the auto-fire modifications and while I disagree with some of the balancing aspects, as a whole, there are some seriously nice things to be found. Now, alas, there is some ability-overlap with the previous file, rendering this, to me, slightly less compelling from a diversity point of view...and unfortunately, this means that it does inherit several of the glitches I complained about in the aforementioned book. At the same time, the engine for machine guns is more stable, ironically, than that of rifles, generating less issues. There still are some wonky tidbits and crunch that should be more precise, but at the low price, this is still a fair offering. Not perfect, but it does offer some gems. As always for the Mortars & Miniguns books, you should be aware that the damage output of guns vastly eclipses that of traditional weapons and thus renders the game significantly more deadly. I believe that to be intentional considering that the books generally adhere to a base-line regarding damage caused, hence I will not penalize the book for this. All in all, we have a mixed bag with some cool ideas and rough edges here - pretty much the epitome of a 3.5 stars file, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Zane's Guide to Machine Guns
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Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:54:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look!

If you've been following my reviews, you'll know that I'm a pretty big fan of Kobold Press' Midgard-setting - in fact, I pretty much own almost everything for it. There is a reason for this - it is an unconventional, yet very easy to run setting that is closer in mentality and structure to the medieval than e.g. Golarion. Anyways, one defining characteristic of Midgard most certainly would be the fact that is less Tolkienesque in its racial option array. This book, then, would be devoted to translating several of the unconventional Midgardian player options to the context of 5e.

Regarding the presentation of the races herein, we begin each entry with appropriately flavorful text, enhancing one's immersion in the respective entry. As a complaint in that regard, and the only one I can field pertaining the fluff structure, would be that the respective races do not feature sample names. In my book, a specific nomenclature does a lot to endear a given race to me. Anyways, we begin with two centaur-like races, the first of these being the alseid, with bodies of deer and antlers. These fellows increase Dexterity by 2 and Wisdom by 1, are Medium, have a base speed of 40 feet, darkvision 60 ft and gain proficiency with spears and shortbows as well as the Stealth skill. They also leave no tracks within forests and are treated as the monstrosity type...oh, and as quadrupeds, ladders and obstacles like them actually present hindrances. No, I'm not kidding you. This may be the first time that a book actually acknowledges the ladder-conundrum. sniff I...kinda got a bit teary-eyed there. In a good way.

The midgardian centaurs increase Strength by 2, Wisdom by 1 and are Large monstrosities with a 40 feet speed and proficiency in pike and longbow as well as the Medicine skill. They also have proficiency with their hooves, which deal 2d6 bludgeoning damage. (Ouch - personally, I would have included a scaling mechanism here that increases the base damage to this level at 3rd, but oh well. As a minor complaint: No average damage value for the hoof attack) They also inflict +1d6 piercing damage when charging with pikes and moving at least 30 feet in a straight line, increasing this by +1d6 at 6th and 11th level. Oh, but before you scream OP - they also acknowledge the ladder conundrum, suffer from disadvantage on Stealth and, with a humanoid torso, they do not wield Large weapons, but only Medium ones.

Midgard has one of the few iterations of draconic humanoids I do not intensely loathe - the dragonkin and their culture are fascinating and they pretty much replace the default dragonborn. They increase their Charisma score by 2 and have a base walking speed of 25 feet, but do not reduce it due to wearing heavy armor. They also gain darkvision 60 ft. and Proficiency in Persuasion. Beyond that, there are a total of 5 subraces for them: Flame/Fire dragonkin increase Strength by 1 and are resistant to fire damage and gain produce flame as a Cha-based cantrip. Wind/Storm dragonkin increase their Intelligence by 1, gain resistance to lightning damage and may cast shocking grasp as a Cha-based cantrip. Stone/Cave dragonkin increase their Constitution-score by 1, gain resistance to acid and may cast blade ward as a Cha-based cantrip. Finally, the Edjet/Soldier dragonkin may cast shillelagh as a Cha-based cantrip and are resistant to poison damage. They increase their Dexterity by 1.

Now elves are a very particular lot in Midgard and thus, core elven options are appropriately codified to represent them. Now the gearforged, the living construct-y race of Midgard is one of my favorites - and it quite amused me to see in the design commentary here that the author came to the same conclusion as I did in my scaling of the gearforged for PFRPG - namely that just going full-blown construct is not the best way of tackling the concept. Indeed, the pdf employs a humanoid (subtype) formula here as well - smart choice! Sorry for the digression, where was I? Oh yeah! Obviously, gearforged with their everwound springs and soul gems require a tad bit more exposition and the language of Machine Speech is similarly noted, making this section a neat introduction to the matter at hand. Gearforged choose two ability scores to increase by 1, have a walking speed of 30 feet and immunity to disease, poison damage and the poisoned condition. They may not eat, drink or breathe and thus may not consume potions or gain any associated benefits. They also do not sleep naturally (but magic CAN put them to sleep!). Failing to properly maintain yourself is potentially lethal for the gearforged - each day sans maintenance incurs a level of exhaustion. During maintenance, which is usually taken care of when resting, they suffer from disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception)-rolls... I have finally found something to nitpick here: "All exhaustion gained this way disappears after your next long rest." - this sentence can be problematic, considering that is does not speak specifically about performing maintenance. The intent s clear and functional, though, so consider this just me being a prick. ;) Gearforged cannot be stabilized via the usual means - instead, they require an Intelligence check or a mending cantrip. As long as your soul gem and memory gears remain intact, you can also have your body rebuilt...which is a pretty amazing angle. Pretty powerful, right? Well...you only gain 1/2 hit points from healing, curing, etc. spells and effects. As a whole...no complaints!!

The second race I find myself returning to a lot would be the darakhul - the subterranean, intelligent ghoul-race with its quasi-Roman aesthetics (Can we have a mega-adventure-sequel to Empire at one point? Pretty please?) I digress - they are humanoids with the darakhul subytpe, increase their Constitution by 2 and gain darkvision 60 ft. The race has a bite attack that inflicts 1d6 piercing damage and failure to consume a full meal of raw meat a day incurs one level of exhaustion and may neither heal, nor remove these until you have consumed a sufficient array of meat. They suffer from sunlight sensitivity and gain resistance to necrotic damage and immunity to poison damage and are immune to exhaustion and the charmed/poisoned condition and may not be returned from the dead via regular means, instead, a single-targeted create undead suffices, which adds a pretty frightening proposal to their war effort. As a minor nitpick, immunity to exhaustion and the starvation-based exhaustion RAW contradict each other - while the hunger aspect is obviously intended to supersede the general immunity, an explicit statement would have helped here. Now darakhul are unique in that they are born from one of the other races - hence, whether you're Medium or Small, your base walking speed, extra language and +1 ability score increase are all based on that choice: You can play dragonkin darakhul, tieflings, etc. Nice!

The kobolds of Midgard increase their Dexterity by 2 and Wisdom by 1, are Small, have a speed of 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet and sunlight sensitivity. They also gain advantage on attack rolls versus enemies within 5 feet if they have a non-incapacitated ally within 5 feet of the target, but only to one attack per round. They also have proficiency with artisan's tools of their choice. The noble corsair minotaurs of Midgard increase their Strength by 2 and COnstitution by 1, are Medium and have a speed of 30 feet as well as darkvision 60 ft and proficiency with their horns, which inflict 1d6 piercing damage. They may retrace their steps sans error and when charging at least 10 feet towards a target, they inflict +1d6 damage with their horn attack and may shove the target 5 feet as a bonus action, but again, only once per turn. This increases to a 10 foot shove at 11th level and may only be used Constitution modifier times before it requires a long rest to recharge.

The amazing ravenfolk, also known as huginn and named for Wotan's ravens, increase their Dexterity by +2 and Charisma by 1. They are Medium and have a walking speed of 30 feet. They gain advantage on attacks versus surprised creatures and may mimic any sound they have heard with Charisma (Deception) versus Wisdom (Insight). They gain proficiency in the Deception and Stealth skills. While I still don't think we should play shadow fey, they are treated here as a subrace of the elven race, increasing Charisma by 1 and gaining proficiency with rapier, shortsword, shortbow and longbow. They have advantage on Intelligence (Arcana) checks to learn about fey roads and suffer from sunlight sensitivity. They also may cast misty step Charisma modifier times per day (long rest to recharge) when within dim light or shadows large enough to cover the shadow fey. Charisma is obviously the spellcasting attribute here.

The trollkin race increases Constitution by 2,a re Medium with a speed of 30 feet, gain darkvision 60 feet and are proficient with their 1d4-inflicting claws and bites. They are proficient in the Intimidation skill and may 1/day, as a bonus action expend a Hit Die as though you had finished a short rest, with the number of expendable HD increasing by +1 at6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. Nice way of depicting regenerative powers sans upsetting balance! Trollkin also have two subraces: Night Whisper trollkin increase Wisdom by 1 and may choose to heed the whispers of spirits to gain advantage on an ability check or save before rolling it. The feature recharges on a finished long rest. Stonehide trollkin increase Strength by 1 and gain +1 AC. The trollkin may be a little bit too strong, though the lack of multiattack or the like keep the natural weapons in check.

This is not where the pdf ends, though - the pdf also contains several fully depicted backgrounds - corsair, darkling (touched by the ephemeral, dark forces), fey-touched, master craftsman, nomad and raider. The Guild Artisan variant guild merchant with an alternate feature can be found here as well. The backgrounds are well-crafted, are a nice read and sport relevant features - no complaints!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level - I noticed no significant violations of rules-language or the like. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports absolutely GORGEOUS full-color artworks for the races herein and the some of the backgrounds. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The Four Horsemen's D&D 5e-specialist Dan Dillon delivers big time in this book. Ladies, and gentlemen, please, a drumroll - for I honestly consider ALL races herein to be balanced (almost) perfectly with the core races. The options herein will work perfectly in ANY D&D 5e game and add some truly amazing options to the fray. Even traditionally more powerful races have been translated in a way that makes them viable, balanced choices in just about every way...all while maintaining their unique peculiarities. In short: This is an amazing all killer, no filler-supplement of evocative races. Full recommendation without even the slightest hesitation - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
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Occult Archetypes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:51:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive collection of archetypes clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction/how to use, 1/2 page empty, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32.5 pages of content - quick an array of crunch, so let's waste no time and dive right in!

We begin with material for the kineticist, namely the focus kineticist. At 1st level, these guys designate an armor and device focus that cost at least 10 gp and need to be purchased from base capital; when not wearing the armor, using utility wild talents is harder and when not wearing or holding the device, infusion blasts or composite blasts are more difficult, in all cases necessitating a concentration check. Damaged foci regenerate when the focus kineticist removes burn and yes, magic items may be designated as focus. The armor focus, as a tradeoff, grants the kineticist an internal buffer +1 at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter, usable exclusively for utility wild talents. The device focus has a different trick: When the kineticist accepts burn, the device charges visually: For each +1 elemental overload grants, the kineticist receives a property pool of +1, up to a maximum of +6 at 18th level. This property pool is used to add magical weapon properties to the device in question, selecting the properties from a list; tehy cannot be stored in the traditional sense and new uses supersede old ones and affect only kinetic blasts; blades and blasts are not affected. Gather power requires the focus kineticist holding the device focus. The pdf notes that this class very much can act as a super hero/villain class - and this would be correct. It inspired me in a different way: Picture a world/country where kineticism is strictly regulated by the military and focus kineticists are the dominant tradition. Then picture PCs that don't need the oh-so-cavorted foci. Yep, I think I may run this.

The God-touched kineticist begins play with an oracle's curse and, at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the kineticist gains a revelation, with elemental alignment determining the mystery to choose from and spell-based ones are not appropriate. The DC is modified to be 10 + "spell level" +"psychic kineticist's" Constitution modifier, which unfortunately would be two typos in the formula - that ought to be god-touched. Secondly, and more confusingly...spell level? The save DC is all screwed up and probably should be the revelation default, with Con as governing attribute. Still, pretty big hiccup. This archetype, just fyi, does not work for aether and pay for the revelations with the utility wild talent at level 2 and every 4 levels thereafter. The Mystical Kineticist does not receive an infusion at 3rd level, instead gaining a new utility wild talent and at all further levels, he may elect to gain utility wild talents instead of infusions. Okay, so far, so basic tweak-y. More interesting would be the Poisoned Earth Kineticist, who is locked into earth and non-good alignment and gains the irradiating infusion, with 2nd level providing detect radioactivity and 6th level and every 5 levels providing increasing immunity versus radiation. As a capstone, poison immunity and radiation aura makes for a neat endgame trick. That being said, the references of this archetype all point towards page XX still.

The Primal kineticist gets 1 + Cha-mod channel energy instead of 1st level's infusion and treats blasts as good/evil and magic...which is a bit problematic, considering the value usually ascribed to aligned attacks. 3rd level nets either plague carrier or immunity diseases, depending on energy chosen. Negative energy channelers need to take void as 1st level element; additionally, elemental overflow's bonus is doubled in the first attack per round targeting an evil outsider, dragon or undead (for positive kineticists) or good dragons, outsiders or clerics/palas for negative energy channelers. the capstone nets a slew of immunities. The psychic kineticist replaces utility wild talents at 4th level and every 4 levels later with access to psychic spells based on Int, with elemental focus also determining the selection available. The pdf also features an acid blast alternative simple blast talent for earth, the acidic boost composite talent and three infusion wild talents, one being a variant of kinetic fist for manufactured weapons and two more being irradiating infusions. The utility wild talents sport antilife/antiundeath shells, constant corruption resistance, continuous deathwatch, detect radiation...and a level 4 burn 0 dimensional lock. The latter definitely should have burn...it locks several builds....and I'm not starting with the aura. 0 burn enervation similarly could use a bit of burn. As a formatting inconsistency, one talent sports "-" instead of "0" in the burn. Spider climb, sharing adaptations...all in all, the options presented here are pretty spell-duplicate centric.

The medium archetypes sport a druidy- medium with woodland stride instead of séance, trackless step instead of haunt channeler and wild shape. The psychic channeler gains the phrenic pool at 3rd level, but does not add Wis or Cha-mod to determine points and replaces the archmage spirit with the psychic spirit, who may be allowed 1 influence in exchange for a DC/CL-increase, casting any psychic spell of a level you can cast and 1/day, you may do the latter sans influence gain. 3rd level and very 5 thereafter net a phrenic amplification. The worldly medium gets a modified class skill list and channels mundane spirits (i.e. not hierophant, psychic, archmage) - oh, and speaking of new spirits...there is now also a druid spirit, who is basically the druidic tweak of the psychic. The medium archetypes are okay, but don't really elicit excitement from me.

The mesmerist may elect to become a Fiend Hunter with detect evil, favored enemy and Knowledge (planes) instead of Sleight of Hand - basically a nemesis archetype. Glorious Companion mesmerists gain bardic performance instead of consummate liar, glib lie, mental potency, painful stare and rule minds. Not inspired by these. The occultist may elect to become an elemental specialist, gaining school powers of the chosen element at 1st and 8th level and the archetype does have a special evocation implement for the elemental specialism spells. Mental focus is gained at 3rd level and gains 1/2 class level + Int. School specialists are close to this archetype, but instead focus on the school chosen.

The psychic may elect to become a monastic psychic - these guys get diminished spellcasting, but good Ref- and Will-saves and may use phrenic pool points to grant bonuses to Fort-saves, increase movement rate or improve AC. At 3rd and 11th level, evasion etc. are gained...so this one is kinda monk-y, but with a distinct emphasis on the casting. Psychic crafters focus on crafting and destroying objects (+1/2 class level to object damage) and also gains flurry of blows, but may only use it versus constructs, objects and gremlins...which feels a bit weird to me. The psychic savant is locked into the lore discipline and has Int govern his prepared spellcasting, but metamagic may be spontaneously applied to the casting of spells akin to how a sorceror does it. Instead of a spellbook, these guys consign spells to their psychic depths, basically an internalized hard drive/eidetic memory for spells learned and phrenic amplifications allow for the selection of arcanist exploits.

Karmic servant spiritualists serve lipikas aeons and gain knowledge bonuses and when a creature is struck by the servant's melee attack, a link is established on a failed save that makes the victim suffer damage when damaging the servant. Interesting one and tied well to the cool akashic record locale. The phantom lord spiritualist has diminished spellcasting...and does something I am not a fan of: It basically makes the spiritualist more summoner-like. Evolutions. Base forms. The whole shebang. I'm not the biggest fan here, considering that I consider the spiritualist basically to be the more balanced and interesting summoner. The option to change evolutions on the fly at 8th level also sends my bells a-ringing. The next archetype would be the relic hunter, who receives a modified, Int-based mental focus and at 2nd level, resonant powers are included in the deal, with 3rd level providing a nice, surge-like boost to skill/ability-checks based on mental focus expenditure. If that was no inkling enough for you: Bingo, 8th level and every 5 thereafter net investigator talents. The archetype is an interesting tweak of the engine and counts as one of the more interesting hybrids

Beyond that, the pdf provides a massive system to eliminate the kind-of-power-point system and convert that aspect into the SPs. The conversion table for upgrading psychic magic to the new version to determine SP-arrays of e.g. critters is damn cool and useful, but organization-wise, I don't get why it's in the middle of the archetypes, instead of where the system's introduced. The pdf also sports several psychic magic creature entries. This alternate system, while certainly not for every table, is concisely presented and leaves not much to be desired regarding its execution.

For convenient use, devilbane gazes, elemental magic schools (including void, wood, etc.), radiation rules and associated spells employed render the book user-friendly.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as precise on a formal level as I've come to expect from Legendary Games. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with solid artworks supplementing the aesthetics of the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Julian Neale's offerings here leave me somewhat torn. The supplemental tricks to modify the monster entries can prove to be a godsend for any group who dislikes the default presentation of psychic SPs. The archetypes themselves provide generally interesting tweaks of the respective systems and offer a lot of hybrid options for the occult classes...and this is where my issue with this pdf lies. Usually, Julian Neale's offerings take a bit to grow on me, but grow they do. His design style focuses on the tweaking of systems and mechanical combo-tricks and the same can be said here. At the same time, however, the archetypes herein, as loathe to say as I am, mostly failed to really impress me - the focused kineticist, in spite of his name, actually proved to be the most inspiring of these, at least for me. The new options the archetypes herein provide, generally, are not new, but rather blend existing tricks in new combinations...which is not bad, but I was missing, for the most part, options that render the combos more than the sum of their parts - you know, instead of having a medium with druidy elements, where are the synergy options between the two aspects, the tricks that ONLY the archetype can pull off? The archetypes herein let you make hybrid concepts easily, but generally don't have the tricks to elevate this beyond the sum of the concept - in short, the options imho could use more unique selling propositions to complement their conservative design aesthetics and are closer in design paradigm to the ACG than Occult Adventures. This is not a bad book by any means of the word - far from it. I can see this work in many a game and it does provide a lot of nice combo options. But that doesn't really change that I, as a person, did not get much out of this book - it just lacks the je-ne-sais-quoi, the step beyond that pushes this over being a nice supplement to being a great one. That and the minor formal hiccups make me settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Archetypes
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Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:49:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. While SP-gaining is presented as an option, the pdf does champion the approach of exchanging those for spontaneous spellcasting, which is drawn from the cleric list for the hound archon and based on Charisma. Testing this material, I'd add my voice to this suggestion - the experience is more versatile and rewarding. The hound archon featured herein adds message as a cantrip to his list, greater teleport as a 6th level spell.

The second monster class herein would be the succubus, who also uses the cleric spell list and Charisma as governing attribute; at 2nd level, she adds detect thoughts, suggestion, tongues and vampiric touch; charm monster at 3rd, dominate person at 4th and ethereal jaunt, greater teleport at 6th level.

But I'm getting ahead of myself - the hound archon's base racial stats would be +2 Str and Cha, normal speed, they are outsiders with the good subtype and darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +2 to Stealth and Survival and +1 natural AC.

The monster class gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, full BAB-progression, good Fort-and Ref-saves and covers 6 levels. The class begins play with a 1d6 bit attach that increases to 1d8 at 4th level as well as change shape based on beast shape II, but only canine forms - first only Small canines and 3rd level unlocks Medium canines , 5th Large canines. The ability didn't italicize the spell properly. The class begins play with 9 + HD SR and 2nd level provides +10 ft. land speed. Every even level of the class provides +2 natural AC and 3rd level immunity to petrification, 6th level electricity. 3rd level also provides scent and a secondary slam attack at 1d4; 4th level nets DR 5/evil, which increases to 10/evil at 6th level. 4th level provides truespeech and 6th nets the signature aura of menace.

The three supplemental feats allow you to sniff out lawbreakers, smell evil...and the scaling bonus damage feat the astral deva installment had. Still not sold on that one.

Attribute-gain-wise, the hound archon is a bit more conservative: He gains +2 Str, +2 Con, +2 Wis and +4 Cha. As a whole, the hound archon ends up being pretty strong, but still remains within the realms of what is acceptable within most gaming groups. I wouldn't allow him in 15-pt-buy/rare/low magic-campaigns, but that's it. Nice job!

The succubus presented here gains +2 Con and Cha, are outsiders with the chaotic and evil subtypes, darkvision 60 ft., fire resistance 10, electricity resistance 5 and poison immunity as well as +1 natural AC. They also gain +2 Perception and +4 Bluff, for an overall imho slightly too strong base array of traits.

The monster class of the succubus is 8 levels long and gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and begin play with 1d4 claws that increase to 1d6 at 6th level. She also begins play with 10 + HD SR. 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter provides +2 natural armor. The Perception of the succubus increases by +2 at 2nd, 4th and 6th level. 2nd level nets gliding wings, which get upgraded to full functionality (50 ft., average maneuverability) at 6th level.

3rd level nets alter shape based change shape (italicization missing) and at 4th level, the defenses are upgraded: Cold and acid resistance 5; electricity resistance 10 and upgrade of fire resistance to 20. At 8th level, acid and cold resistance are upgraded to 10. Also at 4th level, DR 3/cold iron or good is unlocked, which is upgraded to 5/cold iron or good at 6th level, 10/cold iron or good at 8th. 5th level provides telepathy, with a range-increase at 7th level. Also at 7th level, the racial Bluff bonus increases to +8. At the final level, the succubus unlocks immunity to both electricity and fire and energy drain. The reference to suggestion in the latter ability once again lacks italicization.

The succubus' supplemental material includes Flyby Attack, Profane Gift, the nice feat for redeemed evil outsiders and Full Immersion, which lets you fully take on the personality of your disguises, even versus detect thoughts. Nice one.

Attribute-gain-wise, the succubus gets +2 Str, +6 Dex, +6 Con, +4 Int, +4 Wis, +14 Cha...and this does not include the "+2" that fails to note the attribute it's supposed to apply to. That's 36 points. +7 to Cha-based DC. Insane. Overpowered. Not suitable for any campaign I'd run...even before taking the MASSIVE resistances/immunities into account. How this one can be in the same pdf as the hound archon...I have no idea.

The pdf ends with a nice glossary for our convenience and we do not get age, height or weight tables or FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's Pit and Pinnacle's title couldn't be more eponymously named - while the powerful, but well-tuned hound archon represents a pinnacle in the series, the succubus represents the very worst the monster class-series has to offer, OP in all but the most powerful/who cares about balance/minmaxy environments.

How to rate this, then? Well, in the end, I'll settle on exactly the middle -at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: The Troubleshooters (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:46:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-sidequest for The Angelic Imp tavern clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we do: The Angelic Imp? Yep, that would be a pretty nice, high-class and discrete tavern/restaurant, perfect for romantic dalliances and secret business dealings - it can be found in Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns. While this module can work on its own (sporting the cartography etc.), it ultimately is intended as an expansion/ready-to-drop-in module for said place and I am going to rate it thusly.

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great!

The PCs are hired by one Demetrius Flannigan, who is in the process of securing the business deal of a lifetime with Tarsis, an elf with crucial information - and said deal, obviously, will take place in the Angelic Imp. Alas and alack, the man's usual security's sick and he needs muscle to back him up...discretely. This is where the PCs come in. Will he need the PCs? You betcha!

You see, Deloris Franz (somewhat unfortunately named - Franz is a German first name only used for guys and almost never as a family name), a local celebrity and business rival, has heard about the deal and 3 thugs are already waiting close to the Imp to get to Demetrius. So if the PCs didn't think about guarding him en route...that's already an issue. Being dressed inappropriately...similarly problematic. In order to make sure the business deal goes according to plan, the PCs will need to be vigilant indeed - and prevent a lover's quarrel from escalating and souring the mood, for example.

Things become more problematic, as Deloris arrives with an bodyguard (under the pretense of a date) and proceeds to run interference and employ brawlers outside, doing her outmost to sour the deal. A complex array of modifications, depending on the PC's actions and lack thereof influence the deal and how it goes down...and yes, their payment.

The pdf also provides further adventuring possibilities, just so you know!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring hiccups. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports some solid stock art. The cartography of the tavern is functional. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Kelly Pawlik's Troubleshooters is an EXCELLENT little module: It makes great use of the tavern and its clientele; it has a unique and creative premise; it allows for degrees of success or failure and it is rewarding to play. This is most definitely a pdf you should download right now and leave an appropriate tip for it. This can be a pretty fun and evocative little module and shows the potential of this series. Considering the PWYW-nature, I can't find any reason to not rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. Were this a commercial venture, I'd suggest more diverse skill-checks - this is pretty Perception and Sense Motive-heavy, but that is really just me reaching for something to complain about. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: The Troubleshooters (PFRPG)
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: The Troubleshooters (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:44:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This 5e-conversion of the expansion-sidequest for The Angelic Imp tavern clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we do: The Angelic Imp? Yep, that would be a pretty nice, high-class and discrete tavern/restaurant, perfect for romantic dalliances and secret business dealings - it can be found in Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns. While this module can work on its own (sporting the cartography etc.), it ultimately is intended as an expansion/ready-to-drop-in module for said place and I am going to rate it thusly.

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great!

The PCs are hired by one Demetrius Flannigan, who is in the process of securing the business deal of a lifetime with Tarsis, an elf with crucial information - and said deal, obviously, will take place in the Angelic Imp. Alas and alack, the man's usual security's sick and he needs muscle to back him up...discretely. This is where the PCs come in. Will he need the PCs? You betcha!

You see, Deloris Franz (somewhat unfortunately named - Franz is a German first name only used for guys and almost never as a family name), a local celebrity and business rival, has heard about the deal and 3 thugs are already waiting close to the Imp to get to Demetrius. So if the PCs didn't think about guarding him en route...that's already an issue. Being dressed inappropriately...similarly problematic. In order to make sure the business deal goes according to plan, the PCs will need to be vigilant indeed - and prevent a lover's quarrel from escalating and souring the mood, for example.

Things become more problematic, as Deloris arrives with an bodyguard (under the pretense of a date) and proceeds to run interference and employ brawlers outside, doing her outmost to sour the deal. A complex array of modifications, depending on the PC's actions and lack thereof influence the deal and how it goes down...and yes, their payment. In case you're wondering, btw. - particularly characters adept at Wisdom (Perception) and (insight) will have some serious chances to shine here -though Charisma (persuasion) will also be useful.

The pdf also provides further adventuring possibilities, just so you know! The 5e-iteration also goes one step beyond, providing a full write-up for Deloris, who clocks in as a challenge 2 adversary who is VERY adept at enchanting others and a properly worded reaction ability to get out alive of nasty situations - kudos for going the extra mile here and providing a memorable antagonist beyond the generic, linked SRD-stats!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring hiccups. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports some solid stock art. The cartography of the tavern is functional. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's Troubleshooters is an EXCELLENT little module: It makes great use of the tavern and its clientele; it has a unique and creative premise; it allows for degrees of success or failure and it is rewarding to play. This is most definitely a pdf you should download right now and leave an appropriate tip for it. This can be a pretty fun and evocative little module and shows the potential of this series. Considering the PWYW-nature, I can't find any reason to not rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. Were this a commercial venture, I'd suggest more diverse skill-checks - this is pretty Perception and Insight-heavy, but that is really just me reaching for something to complain about. The fact that we get a pretty cool NPC-adversary to supplement the module is just the icing on the cake - if you have the luxury of choosing PFRPG or 5e, the 5e-version's better this time around. Anyways...Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure: The Troubleshooters (5e)
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Four Horsemen Present: Minmaxed Monsters
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/10/2016 05:06:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Four Horsemen Present-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page of stock color artwork (the cover of the Dracomancer-class) gobbling up a page sans necessity, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, most of us will have been there; I know that there's a reason I need to redesign basically ALL monsters in my main campaign (the one non-playtest game) - some smart players excel in not only making insanely captivating characters...they also have the rules-savvy to back them up. This results in very powerful characters and when some folks complain about modules being too hard, I often listen pretty closely...for in my group, they may actually prove to be at least a moderate challenge.

This book hence is for GMs who have players that can do the numbers-game pretty well. And if you're like me, your immediate response will be "You need to amp up GM-tactics" - you'd be right. Adding terrain, tactics, interrupting rests, draining resources...it's odd, but my players routinely run out of spells, healing, etc., which makes all the complaints about "spellcasting being already infinite"-blabla-rebuttals I have to contend with when I rip OP BS apart just blatantly wrong for games in the hands of experienced GMs. It's not only me either, mind you. But I digress.

The pdf begins with a pretty broad selection of strategies that you can employ to deal with groups that seem to cakewalk through published modules. GMs: READ THIS. Seriously. And read the tweaking/adding class levels-sidebars. But you didn't get this for the GM-advice alone. You got this for the powerful creatures - the first would be the umbral dragon Vahasoon, who is presented as both CR 11 and CR 16 and a CR 11 duergar general cohort with lance-specialization. Yes, we know what THAT can inflict... Slightly expanded tactics and tricks help using the dragon properly and the damage output is impressive, though with the number of 3pp-books I allow, it can be further augmented, I am left with not much tweaking to do...kudos!!

The next two monsters are organized amidst the flavorful introduction to the dreaded Green Flame Monastery within Hell's deepest regions - here, a CR 22 pit-fiend monk with AC 53 and CR 12 Hamatula monks make for intriguing and deadly adversaries. This would be pretty much the place where I comment on GMs not playing monsters as befitting their Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma-scores: Making ogres dumb is neat and all good; but genius foes should have items to help cover their weakness, increase their survivability, etc. - a smart foe should act the way, is what I'm saying. Anyways, the Vizier (erroneously titled "Visier" in the statblock header) Rastas Emar, Efreeti Abjuror at CR 11 does just that and uses his familiar to bypass the wish restriction. Yep. Nasty.

Finally, one of my favorite tactics, template-stacking, can be seen in Evra, a nightmare vampire nymph, whose background, aptly titles, would be the "Fevered Dream of the Screaming Oasis" -at CR 10, she is delightfully nasty and will prove to be a very potent foil for PCs, no matter how awesome they think they are. Yep, she would be the delightful lady on the cover!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous hiccups here. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard and the pdf employs some nice full-color pieces of art that you may have seen before - the one-page version of the Dracomancer cover-art-reproduction is imho the weakest of the bunch. The pdf comes with bookmarks to each flavor-region and critter and the respective sections of the GM-advice - no complaints.

Stephen Rowe's Minmaxed Monsters show a lot of care, precision and are valuable for many a GM beyond the value of the statblocks herein; the strategies shown in these pages help make the game more challenging (and fun) for groups that have grasped the system to a very advanced degree. If your players contain optimizers and number-wizards, you will certainly appreciate the critters herein. Now my own piece of advice for this is to also contemplate getting LG's Path of Villains/Dragons and Mythic Solutions and, contemplating these, adding mythic options to the bosses, but this will admittedly require system mastery and a lot of work. If you want to remain firmly rooted in the non-mythic segment, this offers some really nice builds.

At the same time, if you find yourself staring at players that e.g. defeated the much-cursed boss of 3.X's RotRL #2 (nerfed, much to my annoyance in PFRPG) or that defeated some of the really challenging modules out there (Just observe the trail of whining/complaining that something's too hard, compare it to what your players can do...if it's too hard for them, well, then the module may be broken...otherwise...it may not be.), if e.g. the addition of options simply has increased the power-curve in your game and you don't want to disallow them...well, then take a gander here, weary traveler, for this book may well hold answers for particularly less experienced GMs. Similarly, GMs stumped by what their players can dish out who feel the need to introduce some new tricks to their arsenal will consider this nice.

Let it be said, though, that veterans like yours truly get a little bit less out of the book - personally, I've been employing the strategies herein for years. I actually considered them to be pretty common knowledge, but a quick survey did prove that to not be necessarily the case, at least not unanimously. For veterans, the value of this book lies primarily in the statblocks used to exemplify the respective tactics. Which kinda brings me to a point - this isn't necessarily the minmax book I expected. Why? Because the strategies aren't combined. Now, this does not mean that they don't work - the aforementioned pit fiend monk can almost stand on par with Rite Publishing's Ahnkar Kosh in regards to defense, mind you - but I still would have loved to see options combined.

For less experienced GMs that don't know the tricks herein, this is a godsend of a book and should be considered to be a must-purchase. Veterans will get flavorful critters and some BRUTAL builds out of the book as well...but frankly, I would have loved to see the builds be a bit more complex than they are and I guess I probably won't be the only veteran GM thinking this; still, even for me, this is a good book. How to rate this, then? Well, ultimately, the builds herein do justify the price-point of this inexpensive pdf and my final verdict, taking all into account, will reflect this: A must-have 5 star + seal category book for less experienced GMs, a 4 star book with deadly, flavorful foes for veterans. Were it not for Rite Publishing's Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series and LPJ Design's Cyrix or Folding Circle setting the bar so high, I'd have rated this higher for veterans as well. In the end, my official verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Minmaxed Monsters
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