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Zane's Guide to Rifles
Publisher: One Dwarf Army
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/08/2016 10:30:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting rifles for 5e clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page almost blank (only a small part of a sentence is on it, so I'm counting it as blank), leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction, we begin with 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 5.56mm-guns, costs 60 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. Rifles are classified as martial ranged weapons, just fyi.

Okay, we begin with classic guns, with a total of 5 being depicted here - assault rifles would clock in at 2d6 damage, with a range of 150/600, 30 ammo and a hefty cost of 1K gp. Battle rifles are slightly more costly, have only a 20 ammo capacity and can only fire single shot or burst, no full auto...but do receive an extended range of 200/800. Both are Large, two-handed weapons...however, the battle rifle justifies its increased price with the ability to reroll one damage die for a better average damage output. Fifty Cals are single shot-only, inflict 2d8, only can fire single shots, sport an ammo capacity of 6 and have huge ranges (600/2400), require bracing (which means you suffer disadvantage on shots if you move prior to firing), also suffer disadvantage on shots within 10 ft and Strength scores less than 16 also inflict disadvantage on attack rolls. So, this would be up to three disadvantages...which leaves me with an obvious question: In this case...do they stack? Usually, they don't, but it would kinda make sense here...and considering damage output, the option to reroll one damage die and the fact that it never suffers malfunctions make it rather powerful, in spite of not being able to execute more than 2 attacks per round and being a two-handed heavy weapon.

Marksman rifles deal 2d6, are single shot only, have a range of 300/1200 and ammo 10. They have stopping power (i.e. the damage die reroll) and suffer from disadvantage on attacks versus nearby targets akin to the 50 cal. Finally, the sniper rifle is single shot only with a range of 500/2000, 8 ammo and a base damage of 2d8. The weapon is two-handed, may not attack more than twice per round and imposes disadvantage on attacks versus nearby foes. The recoil requires Strength 14 to properly use and it needs to be braced... (again, leaving me with the same question as for the 50 Cal), but is reliable.

As in the first installment, it is this framework upon which the magical rifles are based - beyond the general scarcity qualification, the magical rifles sport a suggested, precise gold value, which is nice to see. So, what do we get? Well, Angry Zeus, for example, would inflict +1d6 lightning damage and on a 6 on this bonus damage, the target must make a Constitution saving throw or be stunned for 1d6 rounds, with creatures that have lightning resistance get advantage on the save...which seems kinda odd, considering the low bonus damage compared to spells. Anyways, the item leaves me with one crucial question: Can this bonus damage be rerolled via the battle rifle's Stopping Power property? RAW it can be, which further exacerbates the power level of the rifle. Clarification here is required and, alas, this issue extends to all rifles with stopping power and bonus damage of a more esoteric sort.

Alas, this does not remain the only glitch in the engine: Take the legendary rifle Catalyst: Beyond being basically +2, being attuned to it inflicts +2d6 force damage, escalating the bonus damage in a pretty nasty way...that is not my issue, though: When an attack hits with a 17 - 20, you (or a creature within 50 ft.) either gain temporary hit points equal to the bonus damage inflicted or you inflict the force damage to another creature within 50 ft. of the target. Okay...do you need to see the target chosen? Why does the target receive no means to negate the damage? AC/advantage/etc. - all irrelevant. Same goes for the bonus damage caused by virulent pox, which oddly does not take immunity to diseases into account. Chain reaction, on the other hand, blows targets killed up in fireballs. Which generally is a cool visual. Alas, it is extremely prone to abuse: Just take a bunch of kittens, sedate them and put them in strategic positions. Start shooting them. Instant, reliable fireballs! Deadly Spree is similarly a bit wonky, increasing damage by +1d6 per kill for one round, though here the cost of ammo and shortlived nature of the bonus at least makes that strategy a sucky one. Some sort of restriction would be called for here. Charging Rhino may push those hit back, while Devastating Sapper has 4 charges that allow for the insertion of micro-explosives in targets hit. Emerald Seer lets you fire a clairvoyance duplicating sensor...which is cool. However...does this sensor stick to targets shot? Do they take damage? Does the use of this ability consume a bullet? Does it require concentration as per usual? No idea.

Eviscerator lets you add a shot to 19-20 bayonet attacks...but oddly, I would have expected a bonus action required or something like that. Feyser is interesting - it sports a means to lock on to targets, ignoring cover...but does an attack on a locked on target still require a successful attack roll? The pdf is not clear, stating that only force effects can stop it, which makes no sense: Slam an iron door shut. There ya go. Similarly, can the bullet cross planar boundaries? No idea. Nailer gets +1 to atk and damage versus armored foes (i.e.: almost everyone) and has a take on shooting through targets, hitting foes behind the target. Weird: The shot does not need to cause damage, so if a target completes negates the attack, it still goes through the creature...Pack Hunter nets advantage for companions when hit by the gun; when you kill someone with the gun, you heal your companion, summoned creature. Hand me that bag of kittens to shoot, my pet tiger's injured...

Armor-compromising acid guns (with notes to repair/regain AC) would be nice. Better bursts rerolls on failed attacks and a sight-enhancing sniper rifle make sense. A Flexible, poisonous sniper rifle is powerful, but damn cool, sporting 5 unique poisons to convey. Zeta Fantastic Mark One is brutal - you hit the target better after hitting once and the gun may fire flamethrower-cones, freezing rays, nets, poison bolts or even small rockets...cool!

The pdf also provides a new feat, Rifle Expert, which helps dealing with heavy recoil, lets you reroll 1s on damage (stacks with other damage rerolls? No idea...), lets you max one damage die on crits and increases range by +50%...which, as a whole, may be too much for one feat. The pdf has a new fighting style, rifleman, for +1 damage per max-sized damage die. (2 8s on d8s would translate to +2 damage, for example). The ranger class may also select the new sniper archetype, which has choices at every step: At 3rd level, allows you to lay down covering fire or employ a bonus action to focus on one target for a bonus versus said target, but disadvantage versus another foe. At 7th level, you add Wisdom to Dexterity (Stealth) checks and inflict +2d6 damage of the rifle's base damage when you're hidden. Attack rolls of 18-20 require a Con-save or stun foes. At 11th level, you gain Wisdom modifier focus points each turn, up to 3 of which you can apply to atk and damage for some flexibility - cool one, though I'd put that lower on the ability-list and build further on the points. Also at this level, you may choose to fire opportunity attacks versus foes that move 20 or more on their turn via a reaction. At 15th level, your rifle damage die that score maximum damage are treated as exploding dice. Overall, a decent archetype.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules-level, there are a lot of small issues that accumulate. 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' guide to rifles is pretty deadly: The level of damage you can deliver via these rifles is significant, but beyond weaknesses in the base rules of mundane guns that are exacerbated in the magic ones, there are a lot of small inconsistencies, failed kitten tests and somewhat inelegant designs. At the same time, this does have some gems that are really creative and is surprisingly nice to read and it is inexpensive to boot. While pretty flawed as written, the pdf still does have something to offer. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 due to the fair price and in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Zane's Guide to Rifles
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Psionics Augmented: Living Legend
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/07/2016 07:36:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins with an interesting set of observations and fluff pertaining the interaction of psychic magic and psionics; it may seem odd, but to me, the two always felt radically different and the pdf points this out rather well: Psionic magic stems from internal forces, whereas psychic magic is gained from an external power - so yes, establishing distinct leitmotifs here males very much sense to me and is a nice lead-in for the first Occult/Psionic-crossover book. In case you haven't thought about the two systems in that way, the introductory section certainly helps generating a holistic perspective here.

But we're here for the eponymous living legend...which, in theory could be classified as a soulknife archetype. Well, in the same way you could call the psychic a wizard archetype. The living legend is a massive tweak of the engine, basically a whole new class. Let me reiterate: The archetype gains an extended class skill list, adding Linguistics, all Knowledge and Perform skills to the class skills available. They employ Intelligence instead of Wisdom as a key ability modifier. These beings are also the protagonists of their own legends . thus, each day, they can meditate to prepare themselves for a character archetype via a 1-hour séance. At the end of the séance, the living legend chooses two legendary spirits from a cadre of 7 to inhabit him for the day; a living legend can only hold these two roles per day, so choose wisely. One of the roles is active and one passive and they can be switched as a swift action (starting at 13th level, Int-mod times as a free action per day), but regardless of whether active or passive, the living legend is subject to the spirit's influence, taboos, etc. The active role conveys benefits: A lesser power at 1st level, intermediate power at 4th, greater at 10th and supreme power at 16th level. A living legend may choose to not be beholden to one of the roles' influences, but loses the benefit of the role's narrative for the day. Breaking a taboo nets a -2 to atk, damage, ability- and skill-checks, as well as saving throws for one hour. The penalty is not cumulative, but its duration extends on subsequent violations. This eliminates psychic strike and the blade skills gained at the respective power levels 4th, 10th and 16th.

The roles thus chosen also determine the precise mind blade and both the iteration for the active and passive role are available. Each of the mind blades the archetype has may be customized in their own ways.

Changing roles can automatically reshape the mind blade. Starting at 1st level, the living legend also receives the benefits of a feat as determined by the active role - for Archmage, that would be Precise Shot, for Marshal Lookout, etc. - and yes, if he has the feat, he may choose another appropriate for the archetype. Not all blade skills are available for the living legend, but instead, they can select some unique blade skills designated as legendary stunts. While tied to a role, they can be employed regardless of role and they have a minimum level of 6th; apart from that, they act like blade skills and compatibility with blade skill-based archetypes and prerequisites is maintained.

The tricks granted are interesting: For one, laying a psionic mark on foes, penalizing attacks versus all but the living legend, expending psionic focus to generate a crashing, conical wave of piercing/slashing blade fragments, adding the brand of the heretic as a debuff, hiding in shadows, putting a kind of psionic mine on foes...the basic array here is damn cool. But what does that have to do with the active role? Well, each of these tricks has an additional benefit when you're in the appropriate active role: Archmages can e.g. generate an energy blast cone instead of one based on physical damage. At 20th level, the living legend's stories allow the character to be brought back from the dead by just knowing the stories and casting the appropriate spells (which are not italicized), without needing a body. Oh, and immunity versus soul entrapment and the like. As a minor complaint - the ability end with "He does not gain" - a part of the sentence seems to be missing here.

Now, obviously, the class chassis stands and falls with the legendary roles based on the mythic paths - so what do we get? Well, for once, the authors understand the design paradigm of Occult Adventures. Utility beyond numerical bonuses, flavorful tricks, breadth and, more importantly, hard-wired, amazing roleplaying hooks. The archmage, to give you an example, may choose as a taboo either eschewing all faith in the divine, use magical/psionic solutions over mundane ones or be driven by vast curiosity. Each of the spirits comes with a favored location, notes on influences and sports a narrative - these would be appropriate bonuses, as mentioned before: In the archmage's case, that would be insight bonuses to Int and Int-based checks equal to the maximum enhancement bonus of the mind blade, which is a significant, but feasible bonus. As a mind blade modification, the archmage employs raw mystic might, which translates to a ranged weapon! The active powers granted allow for the use of spell trigger/completion items, a bonus versus creatures analyzed, adding a burst to mind blade attacks or 1/day poach a sorc/wiz spell. Pretty amazing!

The champion's narrative supports your Strength- and Strength-based checks and provides access to any mind blade shape but technological weaponry. The active powers provide significantly enhanced defenses versus spells and save-prompting tricks, allow you to add maneuvers to regular attacks, move up to your movement as a swift action (or even free action!) or generate, at the highest levels dead magic/null psionics fields. Guardians get enhances damage soaking, with better AC, DR/resistance and the option to interpose yourself between allies and assaults...and late in the game, even ignore an attack completely! Hierophants may inflict nonlethal damage, get narrative bonuses, unsurprisingly to Wis-based checks, receive limited channeling, etc. The marshall grants the expected teamwork/tactician/buffing tricks and the overmind is interesting - not how psychic strike's lost? Well, with this role, you can still have the blade count as charged, allowing for the combo tricks inherent in that mechanic. Oh, and telekinetic throw, mental detection of nearby beings...you get the idea. the trickster does just what you'd expect.

The pdf also features a new crystalline focus item class for the living legend, the crystal bookmark, which may be used to increase the enhancement bonus of a storied sword and thus is appropriately high priced in its 3 iterations. For our convenience, the feats employed by the class have been reprinted here (thank you - seriously, love the comfort here!) and the pdf does also offer notes on particularly high magic/psionics campaigns (using e.g. the Path of War power level) and notes on how to customize the archetype to work in such a context.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though not perfect - the missing sentence fragment in the capstone is a bit jarring. On a rules-level, this is meticulously precise and well-crafted - highest level complexity wording, waterproof and airtight. Kudos! Layout adheres to an aesthetically pleasing evolution of Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and is nice. The artworks provided, with a pastel, somewhat anime-like aesthetic by Christina Olszweski are gorgeous and fit the theme well. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration - kudos for going the extra mile!

Psionics Augmented, as a series, has been a somewhat uneven experience for me; There are some aspects in the books that I had to nerf in my games, that point towards a higher-powered playstyle as the core target demographics of the books. It was always my contention that a good engine can carry either...but in the end, PA: Soulknives suckered me in. I should have bashed that one at least a bit, but couldn't bring myself to do it, because the playing experience was too cool. Still, I couldn't help but ramble on about suggested modifications etc. and expected, to some degree, to see that as a kind of leitmotif from now on.

I was wrong.

The Living Legend is one of the most compelling archetypes I have ever read. I completely rewires the soulknife, even beyond what PA: Soulknives offered...and goes one step further. It understands the design paradigm, the emphasis on ROLEplaying Occult Adventures championed and sacrifices nothing of Dreamscarred Press' crunch complexity or precision. The living legend, even in the hands of a novice, is a powerful, rewarding playing experience, though one that will not even break 15-pt-buy games while still working in high-powered high fantasy/psionics/point-buy environments. Beyond the system's complexity and rewarding nature, the expertly woven fluff of the archetype adds to the option immensely. I want to play this guy. In short: Excellent mastery of crunch and fluff, anathema to cookie-cutter, bland designs and wholly new concepts galore. If this is what we can expect of Dreamscarred Press taking on the Occult, consider me utterly stoked for more!

Congratulations to lead designer Forrest Heck and Kevin Ryan, Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher - this is one excellent supplement and the first Psionics Augmented-book I can unanimously recommend, sans any sense of hesitation. 5 stars + seal of approval...and just short of being a candidate for my Top Ten due to the scarce few minor hiccups.

Seriously, get this...and write the legends of your characters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Living Legend
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Class Expansions: Gadgeteer Accessories
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/07/2016 07:33:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the gadgeteer class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of options, so let's take a look!

We begin with the Craft (alchemy) 1 rank-requiring aerosol sprayer - it can't be juryrigged and may project chemicals into 5-foot squares in reach, activated as a standard action. Aerosol chemicals spoil over night and cannot be stockpiled. The default chemicals can duplicate obscuring mist or a Fort-negates sickening pepper spray. We also get add-ons - solid fog upgrade for 1 structure point, class level times 1d6 acid damage to be distributed among the affected for 1 structure point +1 daily use (1 structure point), upgrade to 15-ft-cone for 2 structure points that begins in a 5-ft-square chosen and spray to suppress fatigue/exhaustion is cool and non-cheesable. Healing 1d6 per class level via refreshing spritz at 2 structure points is also neat.

Tnaglefoot sprays are self-explanatory and there is a spider climb admixture for use with it, which is a neat combo - even though the reference to the spell isn't properly italicized. For 3 structure points, universal solvent may be sprayed. The James Bond-ish hat-a-rang gets enhancement bonuses and automatically returns to the thrower and is pretty hard to identify. It requires Craft (any) 1 rank and may be further made more stealthy with an addon. The non-juryriggable projectile parasol would make Batman's penguin proud and may be reloaded as a standard action, with notes on interaction with Rapid Reload...kudos! It can fire alchemical weaponry and is pretty neat. Addon-wise, antimicrobial/toxin bonuses for the wielder, making it double as a club, +1 maximum capacity, resistance 5 versus fire and acid and internal, regrowing alchemist's fire (may not be sold/taken out) and +5 feet splash can all be added for 1 structure point. For 2, you can increase direct hit damage output by +1d6, splash by 1 or get DR 2/- and the option to use the parasol as a tower shield.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no rules-relevant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Bradley Crouch's gadgeteer accessories are cool, evocative and provide some nice versatility to the diverse tricks the class can pull off. The options are creative and fun. No complaints...and for just a single buck, most definitely a worthwhile expansion. Barring significant complaints, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Class Expansions: Gadgeteer Accessories
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Cloak & Ballot Trilogy 3: Divided Stand
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/04/2016 12:53:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Cloak & Ballot trilogy clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Election is in full swing in Rogail - and things heat up significantly in this module. This being a review of an adventure, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! After the conclusion of Part II, we begin this module with an orc mob torching the HQ of the town militia...which coincidentally also allows notorious Lem Grogh to escape from prison...and things don't get nicer from here: A caravan fills the PCs in that orc raiders have returned and since the city was almost razed by such folk before, dispersing them may be in the interest of the campaigning PCs - this would be an optional sidequest depicted in the appendix, but it also is the end of the Lem Grogh storyline and thus should probably be played - the man has been captured and tortured by the orcs and handing him over to the authorities will get him killed...but does he deserve being set free? Nice little moral conundrum here...and yes, the PCs can prevent Grogh from being executed AND do the right thing!

That being said, the PCs will probably only have the time for that if they managed to take out the gremlins before...if not Willard Maypoll will have handled the threat, which is a minor PR-fiasco for the PCs. Speaking of which: The newspaper accosts Trina Hearth, the PC's patron, of being behind the escape of Grogh...so defusing that one's fallout may well be rather intriguing, but boils down to relatively simple checks On the subsequent day, Trina hosts the Rogail merchant's ball, where PCs act as security and have the chances to mix and mingle...with some presswork, they may eliminate the anti-Trina bias from the newspaper in a bit of backroom politics...oh, and they should handle those protesters, preferably before Maypoll arrives and commits a rather huge blunder, promising to get rid of the United Voice if he wins the election - you know, the very institution that is responsible for the democratic structure here. Yeah, not a smart move and one that may cost him dearly.

Day 9 of the election campaign offers something I wanted to see before - a proper "Tv-duel"-style discussion, moderated and all, between Trina and Willard - with the PC's actions and consequences mattering and some structural guidelines on how to run it. As the discussion is in full swing, it is crashed by assassins, who declare the lord-in-exile Ilin the only "proper" ruler of Rogail - the PCs will have to stop these agitators. Day 10 is election day...and here, the PCs will have to prevent fraud as well, as Willard seeks to replace the proper box with one rigged for him. No matte how the election goes, Willard will NOT go down easy and still has his militia...oh, and if he loses, he'll do the next best thing and throw his support behind the errant lord who seeks to return.

And here, the module becomes pretty epic: You see, now that Trina's (hopefully) in office, the PCs and Rogail's defense force will have to defend the liberties of the town from the approaching lord who wants to reclaim it: And guess what? Yep, it's time for mass-friggin'-combat, baby! NICE! (Though I would have liked to see a tactical map of the battlefield...oh well, can't have everything and the combat does work.)

Provided the armies of Ilin are routed, he'll retreat into the forest, where guerrilla tactics and druidic support provide a nasty advantage and slow down Rogail's forces horribly on their way to his base camp...so the druids must be dealt with...but why are they helping Ilin in the first place? Well, turns out the lord has kidnapped the albino bear cub sacred to the order, so rescuing it from the lord will go a long way to secure their support...and when the PCs finally fall upon Ilin, it'll be hell to pay...particularly, since he's got a Cyclops...and Willard Maypoll will finally get his due as well. Oh, and guess what? Yep, Ilin's camp if fully detailed in appendix #2. A total of no less than 4 pages of gorgeous full-color maps (yes, player-friendly) also help depicting the scenario's respective combats.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while e.g. a certain magical axe sports minor rules-aesthetic glitches, that's about the extent of complaints I can muster in that regard. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks contained within are a mix of original and thematically-fitting full-color stock images - no complaints. Cartography by the esteemed Tommi Salama is as excellent as always.

Haakon Sullivan's and Michael Smith's finale of the Cloak and Ballot trilogy does a lot to redeem the series in my book. After the somewhat disappointing 2nd installment, this one ends the saga with a fun and evocative bang that actually managed to captivate me beyond the level the previous installments could; to the point, where I think playing this one may justify the previous two modules.

Let me elaborate: Part I and II aren't bad modules, but their angle is so unique, I would have expected more. The idea of running an election is extremely fresh and creative and there's a TON of stuff to do with it: I'm very interested in politics and the House of Cards-level of backstabbing and narrative potential involved with it is tremendous; there is a whole AP worth of backstabbing, unique tricks and evocative things for adventurers to do just waiting to be unleashed. The central issue of this series, then, would be that is tackles this subject - but only in a rather tangential manner. All the strategies of the PCs and their opposition, all the things you could do on any given day, are reduced to only a few things per day, when they could provide basically tables upon tables of tasks with repercussions, force the PCs to split the party to get everything done, etc.

While this would have probably made the series harder to run, it also would have reflected better the chaos of elections...and allowed for a finer distinction regarding policies and the like. Providing more conflict regarding factions and their interests, actively creating the election promises and program - there is a ton of pure awesomeness you can do with the fresh and untapped subject matter. It is thus, I was left a bit disappointed by the relatively simple way that the whole election is handled - a good GM can make this a phenomenal experience, but if judged on its own, it feels rather railroady in what's happening...and there honestly isn't much happening at any given day. PCs will not be stretched to their limits. Ultimately, the series is the "lite" version of the whole election-drama....and much like a soda, while lite's better than no soda at all, it also leaves this unpleasant aftertaste that leaves you craving a bit more. So that's what I think of the whole series - and I certainly hope there'll be a more detailed election-themed series at one point.

That being said, after the railroady, uninspired 2nd part, I wasn't looking forward to this one...and I should have. The final of the trilogy, while still too railroady for my tastes, manages to eke closer to what I wanted out of this series, with the mass combat insertion, some infiltration and the like and the TV-duel-style discussion managing to hit the right notes and provide a neat sense of diversity regarding the challenges posed. In short: It's still railroady, but it's significantly more fun to play. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that, if you're a capable GM, this finale may well make running the trilogy something rather memorable for your group. It'll take a bit of work, but in the right hands that elevate this the one step further beyond what it provides, this module and thus, the trilogy, can come to a remarkably awesome conclusion. If you're not willing to invest time or effort in the series, then this will probably be a 4-star module and the whole saga a 3.5 star-experience for you; but if you whip out that Ultimate Intrigue and work with the series, it can transcend easily the confines of what it offers; for you, this may well be a 4.5 star or even 5 star-saga...but it can only reach this level of coolness if you do expand it.

Unfortunately, as a reviewer, I can't really rate the expansion-capacity. Instead, I have to rate what's here...but I may, at least, take the unique premise and theme into account...which is why I arrive at a final verdict of 4 stars for this conclusion to the trilogy.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cloak & Ballot Trilogy 3: Divided Stand
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Call to Arms - Ceremonial Masks
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/04/2016 12:51:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This installment of the series begins with a nice, brief rundown of ceremonial masks within the context of our real world history, from Africa to Egypt, Asia, Oceania and all the other parts of this little ball of dirt we call home. The first array of masks presented here begin with regular masks and their masterwork equivalent before introducing a selection of masks that range from facilitating the binding of outsiders to supplementing arcane spell duel tricks or reduced ritual costs. Similarly, monster masks for theater performances are increased in their value by adding mechanical relevance to those wearing them.

Beyond the assortment of mundane masks, though, the pdf also features an array of magical ceremonial masks, 20 to be more precise - and they range in price from 4K to 90K gold. The first, the magical beast mask that conveys a hunter's animal focus to the wearer, though the wording could be more precise in stating that the animal focus is equal to the mask's features - the connection is RAW not explicit. The exorcist's mask may expel creatures...if they fail a DC 11 save...which is pretty easy, considering how most possessing creatures are pretty strong and tend to have good Will-saves. Not the most impressive of items and probably would have been served better via a scaling DC. Ghost Masks let you see the invisible and ethereal. The two healing masks increase base dice-sizes of cure spells and net a bonus to Heal checks and CLs when casting neutralize poison or remove disease (plus remove curse for greater ones...). The greater one sports a minor deviation from the default rules-language conventions, when channel energy can be expended to add "The result" to her CL check against the DC of the affliction. Result of what? The amount healed? WTF? That could even heal divine curses! Oo

The two variants of the masks of giants grant numerical bonuses and some limited special monster abilities associated with the giants chosen. Okay, but not brilliant. The mask of cosmic horror is underpirced slightly, offering 3/day 100-ft. save or suck confusion to all looking. I assume this activation follows default rules, but an action would have been appreciated still. Same goes for the mask of the krenshar, which is the weaker fear-based variant o the concept. The mask of the skull is evocative - it represents a skull flying to a target...and the target touched (50 ft. range) is finger of death'd. The range is pretty strong, but 1/day use is a balancing component alongside the minimum duration worn to activate, which prevents mask circling. It may be a spell in a can...but it is one with an interesting variation. Once again, no activation action, though. Which becomes weird, considering that the medusa mask does sport an activation action. Necromancer's masks let you shift death knell to allied undead. Unfortunately, I am not sure how the secondary boon is supposed to work:"If the wearer immediately casts animate dead, create undead or create greater undead on the subject creature after killing it, he loses all benefits of the death knell spell but the target permanently gains the advanced creature template." I get what this is supposed to do - but what does "immediately" mean? Within the round? Is the death knell still active, but needs to run its course sans benefits? No clue.

The ritual mask similarly feels a bit confused - the idea is that the mask lets you prolong casting time for more power: "By doubling casting time, the wearer may add +1 to the caster level, the spell, or to the level of the spell for purposes of applying a metamagic feat he knows." Ähem...two out of these are actually penalties, considering that numerical scaling is not modified by increased spell levels, only the save DC. I honestly don't get how this one's supposed to work, probably also because the numbers of the example are faulty....either that, or the sentence structure is wrong. The transference of non-instantaneous spell effects or magic item benefits to nearby allies via spellmasks is btw. a can of worms I'd strongly suggest not opening; targets of spells are crucial components of the balancing of the like and many a magic item actually has its bonus/slot/minimum wearing time for a reason. This breaks the system. That being said, there are some gems herein - what about masks you can affix to walls that then proceed to swallow AoE effects, converting them to luck for the person who hung it on the wall? Pretty cool! Similarly, masks radiating auras that cause vulnerability for designated foes make sense and work neatly! The tranquility masks can be used to quench haunts. Witch masks, even at 60 K, are way OP - as a move action, you can extend durations or round-duration-spells by 1 round. No limit. Not getting near my game, even before the modified mirror image effect add further value here.

The pdf also features 3 cool cursed masks and the intelligent mask that was created out of the attempt of dread Sabelest Anahm's attempt at lich-ascendence, providing the undead anatomy tricks as well as undead creation. The mythic Anubis mask grows the wearer as enlarge person and nets undeath to death 1/day. Mythic beings that also expend mythic power as part of channel energy to add up to tier number of d6s to the ability and prevent them from becoming undead. The artifact provided would be the mask of the outsiders, which allows for control over outsiders, trap the soul outsiders in the mask and hijack subtype traits of outsiders thus trapped, but at the cost of a negative level for the outsider - and ultimately, potentially, destruction. But what is the DC for the outsdider to get rid of the negative level? The trap the soul DC 26 or the control summoned creature DC 22 ability? I assume the former, but am not sure.

The pdf concludes with the masked shaman archetype for the shaman class, who replaces spirit animal with mask that provides a linear progression of spells granted by the mask 1/day each. Also, while wearing the mask, the spirit animal's granted power can be applied to the shaman, activated as a swift action for class level minutes, to be spent in 1-minute increments. A cool engine tweak that plays sufficiently differently.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though on a rules level, the pdf could be slightly more precise. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are neat and full color.

Jacob W. Michaels' masks aren't a bad installment of the series and in fact contain some gems - I like the archetype and the wall masks in particular. I am not sold on the pricing of quite a few of them, though and for my taste, there are slightly too much spells in a can...though, to be frank, they at least do interesting things to modify them. Still, this does have some rough edges. I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms - Ceremonial Masks
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Monster Classes: Fey
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/04/2016 12:49:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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 druid list, based on Charisma for the emancipated dryad. Testing this material, I'd add my voice to this suggestion - the experience is more versatile and rewarding. The emancipated dryad featured herein adds charm person as a 1st level spell to her list, suggestion as a 2nd level spell as well as deep slumber at 3rd level.

The second monster race/class herein, the satyr, draws arcane spells from the bard spell list, casting them spontaneously via Charisma, but add summon monster I - VI to their spell list at spell levels corresponding the number of the respective summoning spell. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The emancipated dryad, race trait-wise, are fey with normal speed, +2 Dex and Cha, low-light vision, the option to speak with plants at-will (not italicized properly)...oh, and they are independent of their trees, making them suitable for adventuring.

Racial class wise (which spans 6 levels, just fyi), they get d6 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. 2nd level and every even level thereafter provides +1 natural armor. The class nets simple weapon proficiency as well as use of spears and longbows. At 1st level, they gain a massive +6 to woodcrafting and is always treated as using masterwork tools. 2nd level nets DR 1/cold iron, which increases to 3/cold iron at 4th level and 5/cold iron at 6th level. 3rd level nets wild empathy, 5 tree meld (which does not italicize the reference to meld into stone) and 5th level also makes speak with plants constant, though it's not italicized.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the dryad receives +6 Dex, +2 Con, +4 Int, +4 Wis, +6 Cha, for a total of 22 attribute points gained, though their impact for power-gaming purposes is decreased due to their dispersal. Testing the monster class left my hesitation regarding it by the wayside. I'm good with the dryad as presented and would ue her in all but the lowest-powered of games.

The satyr-race presented here gains +2 Con and Cha, is a medium fey with low-light vision and gains +2 to Perform (wind instruments), Perception and Stealth as well as +1 natural armor.

The 8-level monster class receives d6 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. Satyrs begin play with DR 1/cold iron and increase that to 3/cold iron and 5/cold iron at 4th and 8th level, respectively. The class also nets a horn attack at 1d4 base damage, which increases to 1d6. Starting at 2nd level, the satyr can focus his magic in pipes, with a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 HD + Charisma modifier to negate and an "only once in 24 hours"-caveat. Playing or continuing to play requires a standard action. 2nd level, these can be used 1/day and duplicate charm person, 4th sleep , 6th suggestion, 8th fear ...but none of the spells are properly italicized and the text refers to harpy instead of satyr.

At 3rd and 7th level, the satyr's natural AC increases by +2 respectively and 3rd level increases the Stealth bonus to +4, 5th increases the bonus similarly to Perform and at 7th level Perception is thus enhanced. 5th level nets +10 ft. base land movement rate.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the satyr receives +4 Str, +4 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Int, +4 Wis +6 Cha for a total of 22 points gained. The attribute-distribution over the levels, akin to what the dryad receives, is diversified enough to maintain functionality for the purpose of power-level of the satyr - no balance-concerns on my part.

A total of 6 feats are provided: Using Wis or Cha to determine bonus hit points, gaining a hoof attack, +4 to perception in woods and Survival to avoid being lost, drinking as a move or swift action...okay, I guess. Murmur of Roots nets a limited tremorsense in wooded terrain and Pied Piper is a cool one for the satyr, allowing them to call forth rat swarms - statblock provided, just fyi. This feat's amazing!

As always, we do not get age, height or weight tables or FCOs, but we do get a nice glossary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary cut-copy-paste 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 some bookmarks. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes: Fey ranks as one of the most refined from a mechanical point of view: In spite of the powerful tricks, the monster classes maintain a sense of balance I very much welcome. While the pdf has a couple of formal hiccups, this still remains one of the best installments so far. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Fey
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20 Things #6: Ancient Necropolis (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2016 09:11:32

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!

This installment of the system-neutral iteration of small 20 Things-pdfs starts with a nice 10-entry strong little table of things you can loot from the body of a tomb raider who met his match within the confines of the necropolis. But how did the unfortunates perish? Well, perhaps they ran afoul of one of the 20 curses featured within the pdf - and these deserve special mention, for they, though system-neutral, work rather well and are tied to nice objects, many of which have a gold value. 8 strange effects that may or may not be tied to these are also cool and supplement this well.

Speaking of which - the 20 minor hauntings featured herein are amazing: Ghostly priests dragging screaming servants away, spectral people blinking in and out of existence...yep, this does sport some seriously cool visuals and 12 strange sounds help supplement a general, rising sense of creepy tension.

The table for the things to be found in a Dusty Crypt and in a Sarcophagus (including the lid-subtable) will be familiar to veterans of Raging Swan Press-supplements, both having previously featured in GM's Miscellany: 20 Things before.

The pdf does conclude with a really good array of dressing, though - 20 things to be found in an ancient necropolis are evocative indeed: Thousands of tiny spider zombies, odd runes promising death, inexplicable breezes...and 10 pieces of burial niche dressing complement the pdf rather well.

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!

John Bennett and Creighton Broadhurst know how to do creepy and decrepit VERY well - this dressing pdf is an inspired little companion and, in spite of the partial reprint of two pages, the remaining dressing options are inspired enough to make this pdf a rather fun read and appropriately creepy option for GMs looking for a cool file to add to their arsenal. While owners of the big book gain a bit less out of this installment, what remains is still worth the low asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #6: Ancient Necropolis (System Neutral Edition)
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20 Things #5: Subterranean Mine (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2016 09:09:25

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!

Mining is dangerous - much more so in a fantasy world and thus, we begin this entry of the 20-things series with 12, cool perils to be encountered while exploring mines -from boarded up holes in the floor to sticky webbing, impregnable darkness and wide, underground streams, the pdf sports an intriguing array of nice potential set-pieces and challenges...or just dressing, depending on your generosity as the GM.

While 20 things to find in an abandoned mine have originally premiered in GM's Miscellany: 20 Things, the pdf does feature two tables that perfectly complement the array - 20 Hauntings and 20 Strange Discoveries: From skeletons with temperature drops to sounds of heavy footsteps to rat swarms that vanish, this pdf does feature several appropriately creepy happenings that combine well with 10 strange sounds. Now, as for the discoveries mentioned - these combine similarly well with the aforementioned, allowing for some nice storytelling: Thousands of rat skulls and aforementioned ghost swarm? Yep. Strange, deep sonic pulses or magnetic walls? This is the level of awesome I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press.

Now obviously, not all mines are abandoned and thus, non-abandoned mines come with their unique, less decrepit entries that also feature 12 things you can find on the bodies of miners....and finally, 20 things to be found within mining carts, hastily left behind, work for either type of mine.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst, Ron Calbick, Kalyna Conrad and Jeff Gomez finally deliver a 20 Things-entry I can get behind fully; in spite of one table being released before, the sheer level of coolness of the tables/dressing featured herein make this installment well worth the fair asking price - universally, whether you own the big book or not. The ties between some table-entries are the icing on the cake and can inspire the GM beyond the dressing-component. Love it. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #5: Subterranean Mine (System Neutral Edition)
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Into the Breach: The Rogue
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:09:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Flying Pincushion Games' class-centric series of pdfs clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with a massive 38 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin, as always, with new archetypes for the rogue class, the first of which would be the booksmart scout, who receives a modified list of class skills and replaces trapfinding with bardic knowledge. 2nd level needs passive benefits for the scout who successfully identifies hostile creatures instead of the usual evasion gained. 3rd level replaces trap sense with a swift action reroll of a filed Knowledge check at -5.

4th level nets a slightly inelegant ability - I like the notion, though: Increase sneak attack versus successfully identified foes. Alas, the increase is tied to the number by which the DC is beaten, which, considering the ridiculous minmaxing of skills is concerned, can deliver somewhat wobbly results. Adding in a level-based maximum would streamline this one. 6th level nets bonuses to social skills when first gathering info via Knowledge (local)...which is a bit wobbly, considering that you use Diplomacy, RAW, for info-gathering - NOT Knowledge (local). Uncanny dodge is delayed to 8th level and 10th level nets 1/day cognatogen. An okay archetype, though not one that blows me all away.

The second archetype would be the descrier, once again with a modified class skill list and sneak attack's progression is slightly stunted - it's gained at 1st level and progresses by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter. 1st level also allows for exceptional focus, which, as a move action, lets the descrier gain some bonuses versus the chosen target and deal sneak attack damage versus such a foe, even if the creature would be immune to sneak attack...however, the damage dice is decreased to d4. This signature ability increases at higher levels. Instead of trap sense, you get a bonus feat at 3rd level, 4th level nets keen eyes (sneak versus dazed, entangled, exhausted, frightened or grappled foes), more conditions unlocked at 12th level, and 8th level lets the archetype cause sneak damage versus foes with concealment and bonuses to some skills versus the focused target. The highest level ability, at 16th level, auto-focuses foes properly identified. I like this modification of the chassis - it's solid, though the focus could certainly be used in additional, creative ways.

The third archetype would be the fugitive, who are hard to track, gain Int-mod to initiative and delay sneak attack progression. Generally, I like the idea of making overcome obstacles more dangerous for pursuers, but I certainly wished this one had a bit more precision - RAW, the damage-increase thus gained can make caltrops hyper-lethal and is permanent. A timeframe or maximum number affected is certainly required here. 14th level shields versus discern location etc. Haunted Skulks begin play with an oracle curse, but replace their rogue talents with a phantom - I like the idea of a cursed spiritualist-rogue, but losing rogue talents deprives the archetype of cool teamwork set-ups, talent-shares and similar tricks. Basically, this is the minimum-option iteration of the cool concept and falls a bit short of the excellence the idea could carry. The honeypot would be an interesting face-type archetype - the baseline of this one would be that the archetype is about generating an appealing look that increases Cha, but also makes everyone notice the character more easily. Yeah, it's basically the dandy/goth-archetype. ;) Kidding aside, gender neutrality at higher level makes this a nice homme/femme fatal(e)-iteration. Solid.

The kinetic sneak would e up next and 2nd level nets elemental focus and kinetic blast, though simple blast does not scale and surprise blast allows for sneak to damage via a feint...which is generally an issue: The class needs to use two actions, win the skill check and then hit for the bonus of a signature ability...all in all, a rogue with a bit of kineticist cobbled on. Not a fan.

Okay, so far, I have not been too impressed - that changes pretty much with the master hawserier archetype; with a grappling hook and lasso instead of hand crossbow/rapier in proficiency, the also gain +1 skill point at 1st level, to be invested in Craft (rope). Yes. You read correctly. Rope. We begin with better rope-use and Equipment Tricks at low-levels, but where the archetype becomes interesting is 6th level - here, 5 ropes are chosen from a massive list (+5 at 10th and 14th) - the character may now make these. For example, Blodeuwedd Hair. Or Cavefisher Filament. Yes, these ropes can utilize unique benefits AND come with equipment stats. So yes, even if you don't want to use this cool archetype, the item-scavenging potential here is pretty amazing. So yep, this guy - winner. My one complaint is that it takes pretty long until you get to the cool special ropes. I would have added level prereqs and dispersed the rope-gains more through the levels - as written, you have 3 bumps of versatility-trick gains, which is engine-wise less satisfying than continuous growth. Still: Nice work!

The Poacher is basically a ranger/rogue hybrid with trap emphasis. Okay, I guess, but I'm not blown away by the guy. The Quarrel knave would be more interesting - the idea behind this archetype is a valid dual-hand crossbow rogue, which does have means to use Acrobatics to deal with reload-based AoOs. I like the archetype's concept. Alas, the precision exhibited is not 100% there - 6th level unlocks Hail of Needles, which is basically flurry with hand crossbows...got ya...just, well, flurry is usually melee and thus, this needs a slight rewrite. While Rapid Reload takes care of the iterative attack issue with crossbows, the archetype does not note how interaction with the TWF-tree works here, since the base flurry builds on aforementioned feat-array. The archetype does get cool, Green Arrow-style modification of crossbows, class level points to customize them...and I really like these modifications, though, once again, at 8th level, they are pretty late in the game and I wished these signature tricks would be gained sooner. Conceptually cool, but has some rough edges.

Okay, so the next one sounds wonky, but stay with me - the trickster chef is a cooking specialist, who gains a nonlethal, save-based version of sneak attack - snack attack. Sounds lame? It's anything but that! You see, the archetype may select various recipes and snack attacks...well, make the target HUNGRY. Thus, presenting the targets with various special recipes (available via rogue talents), these guys can provide buffs, debuffs or soft terrain control - making the playing experience pretty cool and unique. Beyond this, the archetype actually gets a trick to further modify the properties of the meals cooked by using slain magical beasts...allowing for a bit of numerical tweaking. The most rounded of the archetypes so far and a rewarding, nice experience that could have carried +10 pages, engine-wise. The walking arsenal is a rogue who can hide weapons well, stitch them in clothes etc. -solid, but not an archetype that blew me away. The wild handler gets an animal companion and stunted sneak progression, but may have the companion employ rogue tricks. Pretty powerful, but considering the base rogue's issues, I'm good with that. Solid, but not amazingly creative.

Unchained rogues also get some options, the first of which would be the brickbat striker, who gets a modified skill- and proficiency-list and d4 sneak attack dice. However, he does get ruinous assault at first level, which is basically an ability that lets you forego sneak attack damage dice in favor of inflicting various detrimental conditions, including entangling foes, sicken them or setting up higher DCs (the DC, if applicable, is btw. based on Dex and includes 1/2 class level scaling) and much like deeds, new options are unlocked at higher levels - 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th, to be more precise. Basically, a deed-like engine. The Bunk mentalist is based mostly on skill unlocks, unlocking a mentalism power alongside every skill unlock - think of these as unique, additional unlocks: Handle Animal, for example, nets you Animal Empathy at full class level. Learning one piece of info about Appraised items is a cool narrative device and a 3-round period of grace versus scrutiny when disguised similarly is nice. It should be noted that not all skills offer such powers, though. Pretty intriguing one. The Guild Capo can "add an additional +2 morale bonus to aid another actions." As what action? Sure, it becomes apparent in the follow-ups of the ability (since AoO decreases from standard to swift) but the base ability should specify the action to activate. Similarly, what's the range? Is line of sight required? Sure, the recipient must hear the capo...but you get the idea - the ability is functional, but could be clearer. 2nd level nets tactician and latter levels allow for teamwork feats instead of rogue talents. The sharpshooter is basically an archer-based rogue archetype and may inflict damage to foes unaware of the sniper...and OUTSIDE the first range increment. At short range, some penalties can be applied to foes nearby. My favorite non-complex archetype herein, though at-range sneak can be brutal - I'd most certainly add in a caveat that being hit by the first arrow constitutes being made aware of the sniper.

After all of these archetypes, the pdf also presents the Libertine variant class at d8 HD, 8+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all types of armor and shield. The key ability would be intrigue, gained at first level - the ability's precise effects depend on the interpersonal relationship with another creature: The attitude of the creature to the libertine determines the type of benefits the libertine receives. When the attitude changes...well, the bonus is lost, for the ability is predicated on 48 hours of one attitude. One can be maintained at 1st level , +1 at 5th and every 5 levels thereafter. As a standard action, libertines may reveal secrets of targets gained to cause negative conditions to the subjects of her intrigue, with increasingly devastating options. The class also gets a scaling bonus versus divine spells and SPs and 2nd level unlocks so-called quirks - basically, the talents of the class. These can employ both buffs and debuffs - see, the thing is, that several of these require basically an ally to be affected by intrigue. So far, the main issue of this roleplaying-centric class would be the restrictions imposed upon the intrigue as core mechanic...and a lack of notes on what kind of action is required to determine/switch intrigues. Alas, the rules-language of this class does feature some unpleasant hiccups beyond this -take the shameless ability: "As a standard action, the libertine interrupts another creature who is casting a spell..." Read that sentence very closely. Let that stand as an example. The libertine, as a concept, is something I really like; heck, I consider myself to be at least a bit of a decadent libertine. I want to like this class and enjoy its roleplaying focus...but it needs some upgrade to its combat utility and some serious streamlining of its rules-language, which is pretty much among the weakest in this pdf. Note that I want to note that this class concept has potential galore - add in some combat-utility and streamlining and I'll really like it. As written, its primary focus lies in very low-powered games.

The pdf concludes with a ton of traits - and these run from solid bonus traits and sport teh proper categories, but also feature some issues: Iconoclasm lets you vandalize holy symbols, altars, etc. as a full-round action. You may worsen the damage with more rounds expended - the more you expend, the longer it'll take to make the item work again. Problem here: How does that interact with enchanted altars? Do the spells collapse? Apart from such minor hiccups, these are solid.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are nice on a formal level, while on a rules-level, the offering could be more concise...though honestly, it ranges as one of the best Flying Pincushion has delivered so far...good development here! Layout adheres for the most part to a 2-column full-color standard with nice artworks in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Richard Litzkow, Andrew Hoskins, Benjamin Wilkins, David S. McCrae, Frank Gori, Jacob W. Michaels, Jeff Harris, Kris Newton, Matt Medeiros and Taylor Hubler's ItB-installment for the rogue is perhaps the most consistent the series has produced so far - this is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. There are almost no glaring issues of the "ruins everything"-variety herein and the pdf actually does feature quite a few nice tweaks for the rogue's engine. While a couple of them are none-too-inspired "mix two classes"-type of archetypes, there are also some that are truly worth getting this for, if only for scavenging - the master hawserier, trickster chef and brickbat striker, to name a few, certainly are interesting tweaks of the system.

This does not change the fact that the supplement, ultimately, is a mixed bag that contains some coolness and some more problematic options. In the end, though, I do believe that this does have some gems that can elevate it above mediocrity...which are balanced out by some of the less amazing components. Hence, ultimately, I can't get higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Breach: The Rogue
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Monster Classes: Savage Races I
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:07:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 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.

We begin with the bugbear, who, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium goblinoids with normal speed.

Racial class-wise, they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor for each of the 3 levels of the class. At 1st and 3rd level, they get +2 Str, at 2nd level they get +2 Dex. Proficiency-wise, bugbears get simple weapons + morningstar ad javelin as well as light armor/shields. Perception and Stealth are always class skilsl for the bugbear and 2nd level nets scent. 3rd level increases the racial skill bonuses to +4.

Second up would be the gnoll, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium (gnoll subtype) humanoid with normal speed.

Racial class-wise (2 levels long, just fyi), they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor at 1st level as well as scent. 2nd level nets +2 Str...making this a lopsided, but still excellent and balanced take on the gnoll. Proficiency-wise, the class nets simple weapons, light & medium armor and shields - since the tower shield caveat is absence, those are included, which is a nice touch.

Thirdly, we're introduced to the playable ogre - who gets +2 Str and Con, -4 Int and Cha, begin play as Medium with 30 ft. movement, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +1 natural armor and the giant-subtype.

The racial class covers 4 levels and sports 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2+ Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as medium and light armor and shields, except tower shields. Ogres get +1 natural armor upon taking the first ogre class level, +1 at 3rd level. 2nd level provides size increase to Large size and 3rd level nets +10 ft. base movement rate.

Attribute-array-wise, the ogre receives +8 Strength, +4 Con and -2 Str over its 4 levels - which makes them as lopsided as intended, but shouldn't mechanically break the game.

The pdf also provides an array of 12 feats reprinted and slightly altered - including Snapping Jaws, Vestigial Head and similar gems. Beyond these, the pdf provides two feats by DSP, one of which has previously been published: Lurker in Darkness, the amazing option to not auto-fail versus numerous Perception-modes is still a total gem. The second, Stupendous Strength lets you wield two-handed weapons one-handed or one-handed weapons as light weapons - nice take on the oversized weapon trope.

The pdf concludes with the handy glossary for the supplemental racial rules. As always, neither age., height or weight tables, nor FCOs or the like are provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version.

Jeffrey Swank's savage races are as lopsided as you'd expect them to be - they're focused on the physical aspects and aren't as well-rounded as I like my PC-races...but for what they try to be, namely proper representations of the monstrous races in a balanced context, they are awesome. Low-point-buy groups may consider the ogre to be nasty, but ultimately, none of the races/classes herein will unhinge any game they're used in...unless the other players REALLY suck at making characters that are efficient. Balanced, solid and nice, this is an inexpensive, nice little book and showcases how talented the designer is. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Savage Races I
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20 Things #4: Smuggler's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:05:33

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!

All right, so we begin this installment of the 20-Things-series with things that can be found in a smuggler's storeroom - and they are sufficiently diverse: From quality brandy to scrolls of animate dead (may annoy purists who want total system neutrality) to barrels filled with sand and strange eggs, the good are pretty cool. However, there is something slightly inconsistent here: Some of the entries feature gold values, while others don't - which makes sense: The aforementioned eggs, for example, could be anything the GM desires. However, I am irked somewhat by some entries featuring a sample weight while others, though ostensibly "heavy" don't. I would have loved weights for all. Granted, that was an issue with the entry in its original iteration in the excellent GM's Miscellany: 20 Things, but that book was LONG; here, in such a small pdf, it stands out more.

The pdf does pretty much immediately remedy that by quoting one of the gems from aforementioned book next - 20 Things that can happen in a rowboat have been properly cleansed of PFRPG-relics and 12 things you can find in such a boat provide nice, complementary bits of information for the experience.

The third array of dressing, things that you can find on the beach, similarly was featured before in the 20-Things-compilation, though its now system-neutral iteration certainly has its raison d'être - no Pathfinder remnants to be found here and 10 pieces of flotsam and jetsam make certainly for intriguing finds while wandering the wind-tossed beaches of the fantasy world you're playing in though they, much like the 20 things to be found in a sea cave-entry, also have originally appeared in the compilation.

That does not mean there is no new content herein, mind you - the pdf does feature 20 things to find in a smuggler's lair, from discarded sacks of now rotten grain to barrels containing salt water and crabs for stew, piles of driftwood or strange acoustic flukes, the entries are nice and are supplemented via 12 portable goods - all of which have proper value and weight. Kudos!

Alas, all lives must end and smuggling is a dangerous profession and thus, on their bodies, erstwhile fine clothes, torn maps, thigh-high leather boots with concealed daggers and more can be found. Finally, 6 things to be found in a cargo hold are similarly neat.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst knows how to write great dressing and formally, apart from aforementioned weight inconsistency, the pdf does not leave much to be desired. In fact, if you do not already have the big dressing-book, this delivers a thematically concise and dense, fun selection. The system-neutral entries work well...but if you already have the big book, this only sports 2 new pages, which, if you already have the big book, makes it only desirable for completionists...or those that really want no remains of PFRPG on the pages. Personally, I would have preferred more new content...but that's just me as a long-time fan of Raging Swan Press. For those that already have the big book and don't mind a bit PFRPG here and there, this is an okay, if skippable release; for people who do not yet have said book, this becomes more compelling immediately. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #4: Smuggler's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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20 Things #3: Wizard's Tower (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:04:16

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 this pdf with 20 weird magical effects you can encounter in a wizard's tower - from beautifully-crafted illusions instead of tapestries to light-weighted objects starting to float, this selection is evocative and fun and, as supplemental material, sundials, impossible slender flagpoles and similar things are evocative, though system-neutrality purists may be annoyed by the reference to detect magic.

A total of 20 odd spell components and pouches are next - wool impregnated with dried wax, statuettes of bloodhounds, clay models of ziggurats and similar objects once again cover a nice array of themes, that are further emphasized by 20 odd objects to decorate a wizard's tower: Thick red curtains, battered suits of chainmail, soot-marred ceilings, pictures of "God-Thrones" and 8 odd sounds and a selection of 6 strange pickled and preserved things allow you to set up a nice level of creepy mood.

It should be noted, though, that aforementioned pickled things alongside the 20 entries for a Necromancer's Sanctum and the 20 notes on a wizard's laboratory can all be found in GM's Miscellany: 20 things Volume I.

There is more new content herein, though: The 20 entries that depict things you can find on a wizard's bookshelf (from cryptography to infernal genealogy) are amazing! Creative, diverse and inspiring and the 8 things you can find INSIDE these books add another level of coolness here. The final array of 20 things would be those that are found within a wizard's laboratory and the pdf sports some creative ideas here: A box with hundreds of little compartments that contain components, stone beakers or skull stands with lights flickering in the eyes - certainly an inspired array. 6 odd smells, some of which stick closer to the floor (and thus are noticed by halflings and gnomes) close the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst and Amber Underwood's dressing-file here is a neat installment; the new content provided is inspired in the best of senses - but at the same time, one third of the pdf can be familiar for gamers who already own the glorious GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I book. If you do not already have this gem, this pdf is excellent and 5 star + seal-worthy. If you already have this book, though, you do lose a portion of the file, which downgrades this to a good offering. In the end, my final verdict will clock in between both, at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #3: Wizard's Tower (System Neutral Edition)
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Don't Walk in Winter Wood
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:48:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of credits/thanks/reference, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? The simple answer would be that this is a cooperative, narrative, rules-light HORROR game set in a vaguely colonial setting in the United States. Society is one of rough and closely-knit, often isolated communities. Superstitions run wild and even well-meant belief may seem barbarous to us. Transportation is still mainly defined by equestrian means and print books are rare and expensive. AT night, it is still candles that are used to pierce the dark. Against said backdrop of, quite literally, dark times, there is the village. On its east side, there is the Winter Wood...and pretty much everyone agrees that its strange, unseasonal cold is not natural. The perpetual fog, its nature as unexplored and the people going missing - all of these mean that it is a place usually not visited.

Children grow up with folklore pertaining said dread wood - the first would be supplemented by Indian legends, underlined by e.g. The Algonquin Legends of New England, and war chiefs may still haunt this place. Similarly, the cowardice of erstwhile settlers may have brought the ire of a woman scorned, deprived of her husband upon the place - strange, legless apparitions and vanished women do not bode well...

The sad tale of Nelly Anderson supposedly has her taken by a strange crone of clouds and changing eye-colors; the purported Roe Witches, caught, according to statements, in some pagan rites and thus executed, replaced with effigies...deer with wolf-like, sharp teeth...and then there would be the soothsayer Caleb, who averted calamity from the village, only to give his life...consorting with a strange trophy...

Within the forest, there is a hole, which may lead to hell...and there was a strange tendency and occurrence of a grave robber paying dearly for his crime. A strange, horribly mutilated, perhaps undead bear, Scarfang...and, of course, wars and skirmishes among the colonial powers have also cast a dark shadow on this land. The chittering tress and a tale of cannibalism and, purportedly, eternal youth...and Mr. Buglesuede...the grey wolves and the dread meadow in the midst of the foreboding woods...oh, and those ghosts on the Indian hill... it is not wise to thread where so much darkness gathered...

The village does have a series of entries pertaining folk wisdom: Red thread around the throat of women does supposedly cloak them from evil. White grass supposedly kills you, inciting horrible hunger; doors are warded with iron nails or crucifixes and there is a secret sign to ward versus evil...of pagan origin, some belief. Similarly, the burial customs sport silver coins under the tongue and separate paths are taken home after burials. Of course, children's games are about dares here...but is it smart to recite the rhyme about the women of Roe?

So this would be the basic set-up - complex, evocative and suitable dark. How do you play it: Well, you have two types of players: The Walkers, each of which controls a single character. The second type would be the Watcher, who is basically the GM of the group. You need one six-sided die per player and some sort of object you can use as tokens. That's it. Regarding atmosphere, a dark place, slightly cold, is obviously ideal.

Character creation is dead simple: Make up a name, concept, motive - there you go. As a default, actions are described in the past tense and 3rd person, thus making it akin to the cooperative telling of a story. Whenever a character comes across something frightening or harmful, he hands the walker a cold token. Entering the wood nets you cold token #1. To determine whether you encounter something and for conflict resolution, the basic system is easy: You roll the d6 and compare it to the cold tokens you have: If you roll more than the cold tokens held, your result may become less pleasant - in short, this does mean that things escalate further, increasing the pace in the latter stages of a game. Upon gaining 6 or more cold tokens, you are taken out. And that's it. As simple as can be, right? Yep, but also deceptively efficient.

The game continues to provide a section on building proper scenarios for the game - these steps are simple and contain the notion to build a premise, then the woods, mood and climax of resolution. Sound advice regarding the generation of folkloric fear (subtlety is king, my friends, and so is the rule of omission) bespeaks an obvious knowledge regarding how to run evocative horror. (Fyi: A solid b/w-conceptual map of the area's provided.)

The pdf also features ready-to-play scenarios, which focus on saving a girl from a witch's curse, strange lights in the woods (love that one's antagonist(s), but won't spoil it here; there's also a gory take on a classic creature's haunting from American mythology; there are foolish kids, seeking to steal totems..The sample scenarios with their details mean that, basically, you can just take this pdf and play sans any preparation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard in b/w and the book is intended for A5 (9'' by 6'') in size, so you'll rather have a booklet-style offering. The pdf's artwork is thematically-fitting photo-montage-ish artwork I enjoyed. The pdf has 3 rudimentary bookmarks, but I'd strongly suggest printing this out - navigating this in its electronic iteration can be distracting and none too comfortable.

Clint Krause, with additional material by Daniel Bayn, Jason L Blair, Rafael Chandler, Jeremy Keller, Daniel Moler and Jason Morningstar, has created a ridiculously simple, amazing little game that shows that horror needs no vast rules. This game is simple, works amazing as a means to show non-roleplayers how amazing RPGs can be, understands its genre and generates a truly evocative, disturbing atmosphere. The fact that you can play it literally with one die, if you want to, makes it a perfect companion for urban exploration or trips in the wilderness...or spontaneous games on days like Halloween, amidst the darkness... You can explain the rules in less than a minute and a watcher who has read this book (and has a good memory) can literally run the game without a book! Handing off, deliberately, slowly, a cold token can be nerve-wracking and the various ideas presented should carry a ton of games.

This is as simple as it gets and as efficient as it gets. This understands proper horror. An awesome, inexpensive little game - 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Don't Walk in Winter Wood
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Killer Clowns from Hell
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:44:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of how to use/introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages chockfull with content, so let's take a look!

Even before I read Stephen King's "It" or ever heard about a psycho called Gacey, clowns creeped me out - it was not full-blown coulrophobia, but rather an uncanny sense of unease - my infantile mind kept wondering what would make grown men paint their faces and generate antics. It is with some sense of self-conscious irony that I now look back on this and realize that, to a certain degree, the goth subculture and shock rock have taken the aesthetics of in particular the harlequin and reappropriated them...that my favorite supervillain ever is the Joker...that to this day, I consider the Jack of Tears introduced in 3.X's Blood Bayou one of the best villains to ever grace a d20-supplement. Evil clowns. They are creepy and awesome.

This pdf, then, would contain an assortment of outsiders that employ this most disturbing of tropes - but can the builds hold up to the legacy of the evocative theme? Well, let's look at the CR 9 Coulrodaemon: Think of these guys are daemonic harlequins, whose head floats above their body. They juggle burning skulls that corrupt the luck of those hit and also have an aura that generates pratfalls, which duplicate combat maneuvers...oh, and if you're like me and one of the folks who misses the time when monsters had a well-written habitat, ecology...you know, a story beyond stats, well, then this book does deliver just that!

The second clown herein would be the Mazzak demon at CR 10: Ogre-sized and covered with shaggy fur, these guys wield oversized hammers that can inflict negative conditions upon adversaries and generate a rain of shadowy objects that plummet from the sky, dealing damage to the unfortunates caught below, reflecting well their theme of gleeful sadism.

The CR 7 Paglichino (mockery devil) gets bardic performance akin to a court bard and may generate a shocking array of duplicates while turning invisible...and if he tires of laughing at foes being shocked, he can rematerialize and blow foes asunder...once again, a winner and one that reflects well the efficiency theme of devils.

The laetitius kyton can be found on the cover of this book and has a CR of 8...and if the war razor is no indicator...yep, these guys can take off their OWN faces and put them on foes, potentially suffocating them...and you thought slicing off faces was bad...delightfully disturbing!

At CR 14, the anglerfish-like Lophigogdue qlippoth look like gigantic misshapen anglerfish. Wait, what? That's not clowny, right? Well, wait a second...you see, these nasty beings veil themselves as travelling circuses! Oh yes, I can see that being truly sick...no wonder all the folks are weird, right? I never even thought of this one! Two thumbs up!

The CR 10 Bhozol Sahkil would be a hunched and lanky giant with terrible flexibility and a touch that can disfigure those afflicted; embodiments of the uncanny and fear of it, they may look humanoid...pretty harmless, even...but are anything but that. Emotional sadists, one and all, these critters complement the excellent array of critters presented herein perfectly.

The pdf also has a total of 6 new magic items for us, the first of which would be the capricious carriage, which comes with its own demiplane and certainly makes some twisted adventures possible. Clown shoes that enhance trip, but make you more clumsy and slow your movement are similarly neat. An enchanted hand-puppet theater (and a cursed, twisted version!) allow for cool storytelling and then there would be the slapstick armor, which allows you to Bluff foes easier (and generates your choice of funny sounds while you're being dismembered...). And yes, cursed version included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a unique, gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides original, awesome full-color artworks for ALL monsters herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is the first book by Deborah Kammerzell and Chris Van Horn I have read...and OH BOY does it make me want to read more! I am not kidding when I'm saying that this is absolutely amazing - the level of detail and information, the monster builds with their unique tricks, the cool and creative ideas I haven't seen before...instead of just making yet another It-ripoff with balloons and the like, we get full-blown amazing killer clowns that made me immediately dust off the ole' Blood Bayou. This little bestiary is literally all killer, no filler and well worth every cent - 5 stars + seal of approval, given without any hesitation. Get this...or the clowns might get you!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killer Clowns from Hell
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The Outer Presence
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:41:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/system for very rules-light investigative horror clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 2 pages of space for notes, 2 empty pages, 2 pages depicting the Kort'thalis glyph, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this book with character generation, which is pretty simple - we begin with choosing a profession from a list of 20, though adding new ones is heartily encouraged. For purposes of determining cohesion and identity within the world, 10 organizations and 6 possible relationships with said organizations can be found. A total of 8 different basic motivations and drives that push the character forward are similarly included and the system also assumes that you must pick one of 20 character flaws.

This background, mostly dressing, as you may have noticed, is in service to the very simple and important design paradigm that everyone is average until proven otherwise, which ties in with conflict resolution and basically anything. The system presented is based on the VSd6-engine also employed by other books by Kort'thalis Publishing, though with a modified focus towards the subject matter at hand. To reiterate: You usually roll a dice pool of 2d6 and consult the best value. Advantages on your end let you roll 3d6, disadvantages/slim chances are represented by rolling 1d6 and the worst cases require the rolling of 2d6 and taking the worse result.

The latter is particularly important if you wish to play a "Special" character - whether you're psychic, a sorceror, an alien or other weird entity or just hard to kill, the decision to become special has a serious drawback, namely that you either must take 3 flaws...or just 1 flaw. If you elect to pursue the latter option, you, alas, suck at your background and thus reduce your dice pool for related tasks by minus 1d6...which can accrue a lot of flack fast. You see, while the backgrounds mentioned before don't look like much on paper, they are your guideline to determine what you get to do and how many dice you can roll...

Dice pool interpretation is simple: 1 is a Critical failure, 2 is a failure, 3 a partial failure, 4 a partial success, 5 a success and 6 a critical success. I'd strongly suggest going with the optional rule, which lets you change your fate when rolling doubles, allowing for quirky twists of fate. Combat is also based on the dice pool system and the respective system: Even a roll of 4 wounds your victim and 2 wounds equal being rendered unconscious; 5 already knocks the foe out in one hit and 6...well. Instakill. It doesn't take a genius to determine that combat with this system is very lethal. Here's a very important aspect, though: You do get a bonus die per session, which you may use to increase your chances of success...and each session survived nets you another one. You'll need them. Trust me.

Encountering the truly weird, i.e. the insanity-inducing, pretty much is an instant efF-U for the poor sap of a character, who rolls a d6 and may immediately be converted to basically cultist status, assume fetal catatonia, begin ranting and raving, faint, develop a phobia...or, on a roll of 6, just shake it off. Yeps, a 1 in 6 chance to remain basically in control. You won't do a lot of fighting versus the weird (without dying horribly) in this system - a general notion I like as a fan of purist Cthulhu-esque games. Similarly, killing the basically unkillable is subject to GM-fiat more than just rolls and as such, can lend itself to appropriately bleak scenarios. Initiative, just fyi, is assumed to be handled via "common sense" - which may just boil down to rolling and going by results, but whatever works for your groups is fine. After the first combat, players won't be so keen to begin one anyways...at least they won't be after some of their own have died horribly.

Anyways, this is about the extent of the rules array; told you it was simple, right?

Anyways, the bulk of the book is actually devoted to a rather significantly-sized scenario, which lends the title its name. It is set in the 1970s (obviously) and begins when Dr. Karl Steiner and his expedition-force with rival Dr. Zachary Stevenson, assistant Vanessa Hargreaves and crony/lackey Elliot Richelieu and the student Jasper Johnson is lost in New Guinea, supposedly on an anthropology trip to study the Meepie tribe (which generates associations of "meek" and "sheeple"...at least for me) a random 12-entry table lets the GM easily determine what characters were doing when they got the class, for they are off to New Guinea on behalf of Miskatonic University!

...and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILER-territory. Players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, basically, while the system looks like it is geared up for bleak, purist Cthulhu-style horror, the scenario herein is actually somewhat of a Frankenstein-entity, which is a good and a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned. Even in the introductory scenes at university, a missive from Steiner can be found, which bespeaks already his madness and if that alone did not send your alarm-bells a-ringin' - well, then you probably haven't see the movies and read the books I have. Anyways, the first section of this module boils down to a bow before the exploitation classics like Cannibal Holocaust...or, if you'd be more literally inclined, "Heart of Darkness", one of the most misunderstood books ever written. The travel to the Meepie tribe, is, surprisingly, glossed over for the most part, which really surprised me, considering that Heart of Darkness is all about the progressive changes and the effects on the human psyche. Anyways, you may well insert and emphasize the journey - though the association with the aforementioned exploitation flicks becomes immediately obvious upon making contact with the Meepie - who are now lorded over by Dr. Steiner as a kind of god-king, leading them ever further into depravity.

The PCs will probably want to kill the Kurtz-ian villain that Steiner has become, but this is where the weird begins - for he does not perspire, victim to his self-inflicted, own horror and psychological devolution, but rather find out that the 7-eyes beast/deity Zor'raev Tsog is protecting the bestial man. Worse, his crony Eliot is very willing to kill. Let's hope the PCs keep their composure for now, for there are things to be found in the Meepie village - Jasper's journal, for example...as well as a scroll and a weird skull...but yeah. Between the feud with another tribe, the Kahli, and Steiner's atrocities, it should be possible to slip away and move towards the temple that seems to be Steiner's obsession - if the PCs manage to not be eaten by a giant snake, they may encounter an intriguing vignette here - the mountain does contain a weird, jellyfish-like thing, worshipped as deity by local tribesmen; examined by another expedition...and hunted by a large game hunter and his team, making for an intriguing dynamic...I just wished it had a bit more room to shine for its dynamics; at just one page, it feels like a captivating insertion and one you can easily cut in e.g. the convention-circuit. I think it could carry its own module...but onwards.

The second part of the module would be the exploration of Nafu Aata, the temple of dark secrets. The complex comes with a lavish map in b/w, though no player-friendly iteration can be found. Yes. Dungeon-exploration. With these rules. PCs will die. Horribly. The complex begins by throwing giant spiders at the PCs...thereafter, the hapless fools can find a statue of Zor'raev Tsog - who is lavishly-rendered in b/w...thogh, alas, in its obvious, awakened form. Pity that we don't get the non-fool-grabbing art to show the PCs...the artwork is amazing, but now will only be used when PCs are stupid enough to tinker with it. The rest of the complex's challenges, from water to strange, star-shaped entities, are surely sufficiently diverse...and include a battle of cultists of Zor'raev Tsog and teh Outer Presence sealed within the complex - both of which arrive from strange portals, ending in a combat of laser guns versus curved, magic daggers. The finale, ultimately, deals with the horrific-insight-granting, living black tentacle-studded relic. You see, the eponymous Outer Presence and Zor'raev Tsog don't really see eye to eye regarding the extinction/enslavement of humankind. Tsoggie sounds bad...but see that cover? That's what happens if the presence isn't stopped...which is nigh impossible. Thankfully, both Meepie, mad journal, the horribly-impregnated Vanessa that can be found here or other NPCs can fill in at least a bit of the blanks here.

The pdf concludes with further adventure suggestions as well as a nice primer of Meepie words for your roleplaying edification.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, cleanly-presented two-column b/w-standard. The pdf sports several absolutely gorgeous b/w-artworks, including full-page ones that make for cool handouts. Cartography is excellent, though a key-less, player-friendly version would have been nice. The pdf iteration of the book has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment -I'd suggest getting the print-version, which has thus the upside regarding the navigation aspects.

Venger As'Nas Satanis' Outer Presence is two things - for one, it is a simple, easy to explain and grasp roleplaying system that works rather well for purist horror modules. Oddly, then, would be the fact that the system eschews this basic strength (perhaps supplemented via a bit more investigation) and instead bashes you over the head with its barrage of the weird. This book is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face and, to make that clear, in my book, this is about as scary as a dungeon of bones and blood.

If you expect fully developed psychological horror, the system can deliver that, though the module employing it does not - this is very much indebted to the aesthetics of exploitation movies and pulpy explorations into the weird. Reading the module, it frankly feels like a jumbled mess of themes - Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness/Cannibal holocaust, interlude of weird set-piece, then dungeon, which includes sudden influx of potential scifi aesthetics. If your players stop to wonder and think this through, the module may crumble under its own weight and the fact that its themes feel a bit too crowded. You don't have one theme, but a rapid oscillation of horrible things. But guess what? In play, if you maintain a proper pace, you can actually employ this strategy to maintain a sense of wonder and surprise, always keeping the players on their toes. The Outer Presence, frankly, plays much, much better than it reads.

For all intents and purposes, this shouldn't work this well, but it does...which is surprising. At the same time, you should probably generate an atmosphere that emphasizes this pulpy aesthetic: If you go the whole way with sounds, lighting and locale, the module is too inconsistent in its themes to make full use of these components. There is no linear rise of tension, but rather a rapid succession of spikes and as such, a beer-and-pretzel-environment may actually work better here and make it still feel like pulpy horror; something also emphasized by the simplicity of rules.

So, while we had a blast, I'd hesitate calling the module-portion "horror" - it features horrific themes, yes, but the engine could do the horrific better than what is presented here. That being said, this can be an incredibly fun, pulpy experience of dying in horrible ways and marveling at what's around the next corner - think of this, in theme, closer to Cthulhu meets JohnnyQuest/Indiana Jones than bleak, nihilistic cthulhiana. In my own sense of the word, this is not horror - it does not generate fear, a sense of being disturbed or the like. This startles the players, it does not frighten them.

For people looking for a psychological scenario, I'd rate this as a low 4; however, for getting a fast-paced, easy to run and prepare pulpy one-shot, this is a fun book to have and works well in the context. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars...and while personally, I'd round down (since I'm very much a believer of the power of subtlety in horror, of establishing leitmotifs and themes and of some restraint being better than overkill), if you're looking for popcorn-cinema horror, this delivers in bucketloads and spades. Hence, my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Outer Presence
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