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I Loot the Bag of Holding SNE
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2016 11:15:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment in Raging Swan Press' "I Loot the..."-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 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 a massive table of no less than 100 pieces of adventuring gear - and, in case you're wondering, they very much may be system-neutral and less crunchy that you could expect - but they are cool and diverse: A folding ladder, sticks that obscure the immediate area in purple smoke, camouflage nets for other biomes, differently colored sticks of chalk, dented breastplates - from the curious to the mundane, the table sports a solid diversity.


The second table herein sports 5o entries for artworks found in the bags of holding - and here, one can see the creativity of Mike Welham fully at work: A rendition of a treasure hoard that spits out one coin per day is, for example, just glorious: Think about it for a second - how does that influence local economy? Where do the coins come from, if they're not generated from scratch? Are they permanent or a type of fool's gold? A lot of potential here! What about bronze fish statuettes that swim in the water? Replica windmills that can be used to crush walnuts? This table is glorious.


The 3rd table herein, once again 50 entries long, features some rather unique books - whether it's "On the Safe Rearing of Basilisks", "Brain Surgery for Dragons" or "Planets in Alignment", a book pertaining to constellations that are soon about to come to pass, the pdf's books can be considered to be intriguing, fun and, more importantly, either elicit grins, provide hints or even adventure hooks.


Among the 50 esoteric objects in this pdf, one can find badger skeletons (including a scroll to reanimate the skeleton!), a ballista on wheels labeled "Cats only!", crystal ewers that can only be filled with rain water, doll heads missing eyes - this table similarly provides some evocative and foreboding visuals to enhance atmosphere in various ways.


The final table, once again 50 entries strong, provides odds and ends - blood-dripping over-sized meat-cleavers, coat racks holding jaunty clothes; noble outfits with "Disguises for heist" attached, scraps of letters pointing towards illicit love affairs, helmets improvised from steel buckets and delicate porcelain sets, to name a few, can be found in this table.


Conclusion:


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


Mike Welham has taken a rather hard task here - unlike as usual, there is precious few common ground to tread regarding the contents of bags of holding; there is no thematic red line to trod upon and thus, on a downside, the tables do feel a bit all over the place. That's also a strength of this pdf, though: With no significant restrictions imposed on creativity by themes, there are some truly delightfully creative hooks disguised as simple table entries here, with quite a few of them being simply inspiring.


As a whole, I felt that this was an inspired read, yes; but some of the items found herein do seem to me like they could have used some prices or at least minor magical rules/functions - at least for the PFRPG-version, which is btw. pretty identical to the system-neutral version. Granted, that's a staple for the series, but especially when considering items found in an iconic magic item, a bit of magic, a bit of treasure aspect, wouldn't have hurt this. Now, please bear in mind that I'm complaining at a VERY high level here - this is still an excellent buy and a great addition to the series. But from items found in a bag of holding, I would have expected a bit more meat. That whip fashioned from a squid's tentacle? Why not at least make it masterwork? Oh well, this still is, as mentioned, a great book, though one I prefer to see as a system-neutral book. As for my final verdict - the system-neutral version gets the full 5 stars + seal of approval. The PFRPG-version loses the seal due to the aforementioned complaints. In both iterations, this is a neat addition to the series, though.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Bag of Holding SNE
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I Loot the Bag of Holding
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2016 11:14:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment in Raging Swan Press' "I Loot the..."-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 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 a massive table of no less than 100 pieces of adventuring gear - and, in case you're wondering, they very much may be system-neutral and less crunchy that you could expect - but they are cool and diverse: A folding ladder, sticks that obscure the immediate area in purple smoke, camouflage nets for other biomes, differently colored sticks of chalk, dented breastplates - from the curious to the mundane, the table sports a solid diversity.


The second table herein sports 5o entries for artworks found in the bags of holding - and here, one can see the creativity of Mike Welham fully at work: A rendition of a treasure hoard that spits out one coin per day is, for example, just glorious: Think about it for a second - how does that influence local economy? Where do the coins come from, if they're not generated from scratch? Are they permanent or a type of fool's gold? A lot of potential here! What about bronze fish statuettes that swim in the water? Replica windmills that can be used to crush walnuts? This table is glorious.


The 3rd table herein, once again 50 entries long, features some rather unique books - whether it's "On the Safe Rearing of Basilisks", "Brain Surgery for Dragons" or "Planets in Alignment", a book pertaining to constellations that are soon about to come to pass, the pdf's books can be considered to be intriguing, fun and, more importantly, either elicit grins, provide hints or even adventure hooks.


Among the 50 esoteric objects in this pdf, one can find badger skeletons (including a scroll to reanimate the skeleton!), a ballista on wheels labeled "Cats only!", crystal ewers that can only be filled with rain water, doll heads missing eyes - this table similarly provides some evocative and foreboding visuals to enhance atmosphere in various ways.


The final table, once again 50 entries strong, provides odds and ends - blood-dripping over-sized meat-cleavers, coat racks holding jaunty clothes; noble outfits with "Disguises for heist" attached, scraps of letters pointing towards illicit love affairs, helmets improvised from steel buckets and delicate porcelain sets, to name a few, can be found in this table.


Conclusion:


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


Mike Welham has taken a rather hard task here - unlike as usual, there is precious few common ground to tread regarding the contents of bags of holding; there is no thematic red line to trod upon and thus, on a downside, the tables do feel a bit all over the place. That's also a strength of this pdf, though: With no significant restrictions imposed on creativity by themes, there are some truly delightfully creative hooks disguised as simple table entries here, with quite a few of them being simply inspiring.


As a whole, I felt that this was an inspired read, yes; but some of the items found herein do seem to me like they could have used some prices or at least minor magical rules/functions - at least for the PFRPG-version, which is btw. pretty identical to the system-neutral version. Granted, that's a staple for the series, but especially when considering items found in an iconic magic item, a bit of magic, a bit of treasure aspect, wouldn't have hurt this. Now, please bear in mind that I'm complaining at a VERY high level here - this is still an excellent buy and a great addition to the series. But from items found in a bag of holding, I would have expected a bit more meat. That whip fashioned from a squid's tentacle? Why not at least make it masterwork? Oh well, this still is, as mentioned, a great book, though one I prefer to see as a system-neutral book. As for my final verdict - the system-neutral version gets the full 5 stars + seal of approval. The PFRPG-version loses the seal due to the aforementioned complaints. In both iterations, this is a neat addition to the series, though.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Bag of Holding
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Deadly Gardens Volume 4: Ophidian Vine
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2016 11:12:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page SRD, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this installment of the Deadly Gardens-series with 3 new feats, the first of which mitigates the penalty of Handle Animal to deal with plant creatures and allows you to use it in conjunction with plant creatures bereft of Intelligence. The second feat, Toxin Wrangler, lets you harvest poison from living creatures with an indifferent attitude towards you. Third, Venom Doctor, is intriguing - it lets you use poisons to treat diseases - the patient suffers the effect of the poison once, but is not further poisoned, with the next save DC versus the disease the patient has to make being decreased by an amount equal to the poison's DC, up to a minimum of 5. Additionally, you have no risk of poisoning yourself when making poison, harvesting poisons or treating diseases or afflictions. I like the idea, though, depending on the importance of diseases in your game, I'd suggest, depending on campaign, 1/2 DC for grittier games - just an observation, mind you!


Now the next section of this book may, on its own, be worth getting this pdf. Why? Because it collects a metric ton of poisons from creatures in the bestiaries in a MASSIVE table that exceeds one page in scope, providing an easily referenced collection, with yield of harvested doses, market prices, etc. all included. And yes, there are some new ones (variants of magical, poisonous animals) here as well. Kudos for this section!


Now the eponymous ophidian vine comes in two iterations here - one at CR 1/2 and one at CR 4 - and yes, the b/w-artwork used for the critter is, as we've come to expect, gorgeous! Obviously, to maintain thematic consistency, the creature has a poisonous sap and the greater variant can be pictured as basically a stronger, tougher iteration of the snake-shaped vine. All in all, surprisingly, the creature this time around feels a bit...bland? Snake + plant...very basic, particularly in relation to the rather unique creatures featured in the series so far.


The pdf also sports two natural items, one would be aforementioned poison sap, with the second being basically the upgrade for the greater version's sap.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity - kudos! As mentioned before, the b/w-artwork by Becca Bean is simply stunning.


Russ Brown's ophidian vine is an odd one - while usually, the creatures are the stars in these small supplements, this time around I found myself most enamored with the poison-table and the harvest-poison-from-living feat. While I adore the idea of a serpentine plant creature, the build itself is not that extraordinary, though it should be considered to be solid. Generally, I have no significant complaints regarding this book. While the animal-handling feat would have imho warranted animal/plant companion stats for the ophidian vine, I am not going to penalize this book for the lack here. However, I do consider the creature itself, at least this time around, to simply not be that interesting. Note, though, that the poison-table in itself already may justify getting this book.


All in all, this is a good little book, worth the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, with particular usefulness for people who want the great poison-table.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens Volume 4: Ophidian Vine
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Everyman Iconics: Kyr'shin
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2016 09:22:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first installment of the Everyman Iconics-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so this book, basically, is an NPC-book...or a pregen-book...or a build-scavenge-book...all depending on what you're looking for. let me elaborate: This book takes the very first of Alexander Augunas' by now notorious kitsune characters, pretty much the face of Everyman Gaming, Kyr'shin Yilenzo and provides the build options for the character in an easy to grasp manner.


The pdf begins with an extensive fluffy background that renders the stats a proper character - with extensive description and background, the section also provides a personalized code of conduct by which Kyr'shin acts alongside detailed information on the kitsune's personality.


This is Everyman Gaming, however, so we do not simply get a smattering of statblocks thrown out way - instead, we get reprints of the respective archetypes utilized, which, this time around, would be the Gendarme, Honor Guard, Lore Warden and Martial Master-archetypes - correct, ladies and gentlemen - a total of 4 archetypes. Beyond that, Kyr'shin uses the order of dazzling lotus and his racial stats, feats and even traits have been reproduced within these pages.


The build is not restricted to core, however - instead, the book utilizes the absolutely glorious Antagonize-mechanic used in the superb Ultimate Charisma book (which is pretty much a must-buy for PFRPG!) as well as his list of combat tricks powered via Combat Stamina, making concise use of Pathfinder Unchained's stamina rules. And before you ask - yes, these rules have been reprinted for your convenience in this book.


Kyr'shin Yilenzo begins play as a kitsune cavalier with both the gendarme and honor guard archetypes and thus, he gets a mount. An allosaurus. Yep. The kitsune riding the dino. Neat! The character receives multiple follow-up builds, with the first being a CR 2 iteration that adds a cavalier level and the dual-archetyped fighter level into the fray. And yes, the statblocks are accompanied by the respective mount statblocks as well. The subsequent builds cover CR 6, 9, 13, 16 and 19...oh, and just fyi: Base mount stats for other characters riding an allosaurus are included...and the mount's feats are covered as well.


Then, the pdf suddenly switches layout from 2-column portrait to 3-column landscape - for a reason: The level 1, level 3 and level 7 iterations of the kitsune are provided in this format - easily printable on one page - and yep, these guys are basically the pregen-versions of Kyr'shin.


Pretty awesome, just fyi: A handy, massive table shows kyr'shin's default progression regarding levels/multiclassing, with save-progression, advancements and special abilities gained all codified in one handy table.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with great full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Alexander Augunas' Kyr'shin is a great character -an evocative, cool champion that is pretty fearsome as far as his combat capabilities are concerned. Unlike many a martial pregen/NPC, Kyr'shin has quite an array of unique tricks he can pull off, rendering the playing experience of the character very smooth. The attention to detail and handy explanations of material utilized herein also restricts the necessity to look anything up to a bare minimum, which is a HUGE plus in book. All in all, this guy represents a great, evocative NPC to introduce to your campaign, a great first taste of the cool material in Ultimate Charisma and an all-out well-made NPC. I enjoyed Kyr'shin and consider him to be a neat addition to the game - and what more could you ask from regarding an NPC-book?


Precisely. My final verdict will clock in at an unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Iconics: Kyr'shin
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Legendary Villains: Evil Clerics
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2016 09:19:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third installment of Legendary Games' supplements containing powerful options for GMs crafting dastardly villains clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!


From Randall Flagg to Thulsa Doom, once you start thinking about it, popular fiction is rife with great cleric-y villain antagonists and the introduction of this book does quote several of these beloved antagonists as inspirations to draw upon before moving towards a rather crucial aspect of evil clerics: As servants of the divine, they INSPIRE. No matter whether they are fanatics, the traumatized or simply bigots, the term of demagogue often conjures up the clergy, spittle-faced, whipping their believers into a frenzy...just as much as thinking of evil clerics immediately conjures up scenes of black-robed cultists of the demonic or the elder gods congregating in abandoned places, with pure, evil power and a divine plan most maleficent at their finger tips. Much to my positive surprise, we thus begin this supplement with disruptive actions evil clerics can engage in - from notes on evil cleric buildings utilizing the kingdom-building mechanics to special, evil cleric related downtime events, the pdf is off to a great start: Subverting recruits or greasing the rumor mill - the power and insidious strategies employed are well-crafted and add a so far neglected componnet of the threat that evil clerics represent.


Now we begin with a 10-level Prestige Class, the Sinweaver, who gets 2+Int skills, d8 HD, full channel energy progression, 9/10th spellcasting progression, 3/4 BAB-progression and 1/2 Will-save progression. As the name implies, these clerics are themed around sin - as such, they can, as a SP, detect sin - as a nitpick, though, this one does not specify how often it can be used - I assume at-will, but clarification would have helped here anyways. t 1st level, the PrC gets a sin pool that can hold up to 3 + class level points and it refreshes to 3+1/2 class level upon resting. These points power the sin powers of the class and can also be expended as a free action when casting a spell to increase CL or DC by 1. Also at first level, the PrC gains the ability to "eat" confessions - basically, after interacting with a creature verbally for 10 minutes, the sineater may use a standard action, adding sin points to her pool depending on the sin consumed, though this can be resisted with a Will-save. Sin points gained can range from 1 - 5 and the pdf provides guidance regarding on what constitutes sinful thoughts etc. Also at 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter, the PrC gains access to one of the aforementioned sin powers. These provide a pretty extensive array of options - from supernatural disguise self to a melee touch that deals damage and grants said damage as temporary hit points, temporary switching of energy type channeled or enhanced senses that scale with PrC-level attained, the selection of powers is interesting.


As a nitpick, sineaters could kitten the whole system - since sentient creatures have sinful surface thoughts, eating the sins of animals via speak with animals is possible - a minimum Int/type-caveat could have helped here. Similarly, the temporary hit points granted by aforementioned touch could easily be drawn from slaying kittens, since the hit points gained are dependent on the damage caused, not the actual hit points lost by the target. While this is obviously no problem for GM NPCs and similarly should not be an issue in most games, it does provide an imho unnecessary loophole. Weapon enhancement can also be found, though, oddly, the weapon properties available have not been italicized here. At 3rd level, the PrC gains an aura that can be maintained for 1 round per sinweaver level, granting the sinweaver a +4 bonus to Charisma while in effect and forces those nearby to save or "become distracted by sinful thoughts." Okay, two things: One, what is the action to activate the aura? Swift? Immediate, free? No idea. Secondly: What does that "distracted" mean? It's not a default condition in PFRPG. Does it work akin to the distracting weapon quality? Does it render flat-footed as per Distracted Shot? No idea. At 10th level, the PrC allows for the class to "force a final confession from a dying creature" and raise it as a variant shade made of sin, beholden to the sinweaver...which is okay...but once again, kittenable, lacks the information for the action required to use the ability...and feels disjointed. Pet as a capstone? Okay, I guess...but...why? Overall, I wanted to like this PrC, but it feels disjointed to me, with the actual sins not really featuring prominently. Similarly, the issues with ability activation and abuse potential disqualify this one at my table, even though I really wanted to like it and do like the idea behind it.


The pdf goes on to provide archetypes for evil clerics, with the first being the Deceiver, who loses medium armor and shield proficiency and gets a modified skill-list. They may choose one domain available to another god - at 4th level, the archetype can expend uses of channel energy to change the energy of the channel, domain powers or even prepare spells with the [good]-descriptor. Cool! The archetype can also conceal the nature of the unholy symbol, masking it as the holy symbol of another deity and may add class dependant bonuses to social skills made to deceive believers. They can also imitate auras. At 8th level, the archetype can shift the blame to others and spontaneous casting is modified in a unique manner, gaining spontaneous conversion into trickery-related spells. Cool archetype!


The second archetype herein is basically the Calistria warrior-cleric you may wanted in theme- the Sacred Stinger gets a modified proficiency and skill-list (exchanging shields with several martial weapons). The archetype receives diminished spellcasting, but also bonus feats at 1st level, 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter...or rogue talents; and yep, 10th and 20th level expand the available list. 8th level nets poison use. All in all, a balanced, neat archetype somewhat lacking in the fact that it could have used some unique tricks.


After these archetypes, we are introduced to a new domain, the disease domain, which lets you burst pustules and fire bolts of viscera at nearby foes (30 ft.), nauseating and sickening foes, usable 3 + Wis-mod times per day. Clerics with this domain can't ever drop to below 1 in ability scores via diseases, with 4th level eliminating detrimental effects and 8th allowing you to contagion via a touch 1/2 cleric level times per day. Solid, if not a domain that blew me away.


The pdf also features 4 regular feats: One lets you Craft Cursed Items (or add curses to existing ones), while the other 3 feature modifications of channel energy, allowing for the addition of the sickening condition, contagion or darkness, with the latter scaling at +4d6 to instead use deeper darkness. These would be basically the "normal" feats herein; feats I'd generally consider feasible for evil PCs. But, at least for me, the series has excelled in the super-powerful story-driven feats as pioneered by Clinton J. Boomer. This book similarly has an array of very complex feats, that nevertheless are a tad bit less extreme than in previous books - here, they're called "Avatar of Evil"-feats. This time around, they are based on the Unholy Scar feat, which means the symbol of your deity is etched into your skin as a birthmark, scarification of the like, acting as an unholy symbol. When using this to channel negative energy to damage the living, its DC is increased by 2 and also acts as a phylactery of faithfulness. Any action versus your deity, though, strikes you progressively more crippling afflictions: Bestow Curse, blindness and then, all loss of power.


Now, in all but name (since those are closed IP), the feats themselves align with the core Pathfinder deities, with e.g. Bestial Avatar, obviously, being the feat for followers of Rovagug. As a swift action, such clerics can enter a barbarian rage for rounds equal to 1/2 cleric levels, but sans rage powers. Multiclass cleric/barbarians instead count as 2 levels higher for rage power granted ability purposes. The respective feats also add an array of spells to the spell-list known of the respective cleric - one at 3rd level and one for each subsequent spell level. However, beyond the restrictions of the Unholy Scar feat, each feat does come with a drawback and a specific obedience to follow: The aforementioned feat penalizes all Int-based checks by -2 and requires that you 1/week destroy an object of significant importance to another person, with your end-goal being the unleashing of the dread god from its confinement. Those that follow Norgorber can memory lapse via a touch Cha-mod times per day, but also become susceptible to influence, as dread secrets corrode their resolve and may afflict them with amnesia if their mental attributes ever fall to 0. Servants of the Old Ones are afflicted by madness and must conjure forth beings from beyond, while diabolical avatars must broker lopsided contracts. The Lamashtan avatar feat has a couple of formatting relic (strike-through boxes) instead of hyphens in its formatting, but otherwise is disturbing enough, with divinely-prescribed pregnancy every 3 years. All in all, these feats are rather well-balanced, considering their serious powers and story-implications and I can generally see them work for player characters.


The pdf also provides new cleric spells - 8 to be precise. They allow the target to conjure forth uncontrolled cockroach swarms from the fallen, assume three variants of diabolical aspect, induce amnesia and a spell-version of the good ole' infernal contract trope. A sound-based, somewhat blasphemy-ish unearthly chorus, dependent in efficiency on HD of the affected, makes for a solid 4th-lvel spell-option, while the award for the most disturbing evil spell, perhaps ever, goes to monstrous birth, creating a horrific duplicate in the target, an abomination that proceeds to hamper the target and then burst forth to slay its parent. Shudder-worthy indeed, even as a male.


The pdf also sports an assortment of magic items, half of which, though, are cursed! Cloaks of weakness, phylacteries of heresy...the ideas here are cool. There also would be an unholy symbol that allows the target to replace a domain power with another domain power that's part of the patron deity's portfolio, an altar that facilitates the binding of planar allies, a Cha-enhancing perfume (and one that attracts the undead!), a cannibalistic hunger inducing blade (lacking "blade" once in a cosmetic glitch), enchanted funeral shrouds...pretty cool. A glove containing deadly syringes would be among the more unique items here.


However, it is here that the pdf once again amps up the awesome factor: I've you've followed my reviews for a while, you may noticed that I am a ridiculous fan of the grimoire concept Legendary Games used in the plug-ins for both Carrion Crown and Jade Regent - you know, legendary tomes containing forbidden knowledge and unique benefits. This book does feature two new grimoires, with the first being the Book of Assignations, which contains the scriptures of an evil cult of the Lady of Wasps herself, potentially providing access to a Wasp faux familiar. The book also teaches to channel Con-damaging poison with your channel and contains a variant of faithful hound, a wasp that can deliver wicked stings. Oh, and have I mentioned the spell that generates a whip of wasps, which can transform into a swarm? Yeah, pretty cool!


The second grimoire in this book would be Nythria's Memory Shards, penned by an erstwhile faithful devotee of Norgorber, ultimately as an act of defiance in the face of her betrayal by the deity. The feats contained in this book allows for the addition of bleed to channel and a very powerful option for 10th level characters to stagger those hit by Weapon Specialization weapons. The grimoire also contains 4 new spells, one of which is a memory flooding based slightly superior confusion. At 7th level, save-or-die-touch is not really a favorite, but stealing faces of living or deceased foes and obscure identity both will find their fans - as the pdf notes, Nythria's main achievement was the theft of hundreds of faces - basically, this grimoire is just what fans of A Song of Ice and Fire's faceless men wanted.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not as precise as usual for Legendary Games - I noticed a couple of minor hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard usually employed in the Wrath of the Righteous plug-ins. The pdf sports a blending of new and old artwork - while all is high-quality, I still wished the grimoires had their own unique pieces instead of reused ones from previous grimoire-installments. With art being expensive, though, I understand this decision. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks that aren't in sequence and provide no nested bookmarks.


Jenny Jarzabski's evil clerics took me on a roller-coaster ride. I like the Ultimate Campaign-support and I cherished the grimoires. I was similarly positively surprised by the deceiver archetype and the fact that the complex avatar-feats actually work well with PCs as well. At the same time, the pdf, as a whole, felt somewhat less creative than the previous installments - I found myself a tad bit less enthused in the concepts evoked. And then there would be the PrC, which should be a great take on the Thassilonian cleric...but falls pretty short in multiple ways of what it sets out to do. As a totality, this pdf has some gems and some less refined pieces, with the gems elevating it above the fray. Hence, the book can be considered to be a solid, if not perfect purchase, with a rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Villains: Evil Clerics
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Kineticists of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2016 08:41:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first of the much lauded Kineticist of Porphyra-books clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 46 pages of content - however, you should be aware that the layout for this book is that of a single-column one, with the obvious intent of being printed out in A5 (or paperback) content, which means that there is a bit less content herein than you'd expect from the page-count. However, there is still A LOT of ground to cover, so let's take a look, shall we? Oh, one, more thing - this review is based on the fifth iteration of the book, just in case you were wondering.


We begin, after a brief discussion on the discovery of kineticism on Porphyra, with a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the cerebral kineticist, whose key ability for wild talents, DCs, concentration etc. is not Constitution, but Intelligence. This, obviously, render the kineticist much more fragile and though the archetype gains the Knowledge skills, the archetype does replace its 1st level infusion with the ability to accept 2 points of burn without suffering any negative effects, +1 at 4th level and every 5 levels thereafter.


Now if you're like me, you'd consider this burn buffer to be pretty excellent for characters that do have a decent Con-stat (after all, the kineticist is not particularly MAD), but thankfully, the archetype does have something to reign the otherwise apparent abuse capability in - psychological burn, which means that the kineticist takes an increasing amount of debilitating conditions that last until burn is recovered (OUCH!) from a list that begins at dazzled and ends at comatose. Instead of elemental overflow, they can grant themselves a morale bonus to any mental ability score. Okay, we begin with a whopper - you read mental shield and think WTF. Then you start doing the math and, provided you do not utilize further burn-mitigating combos, it actually comes out rather nicely. Daring design...I like it.


The elemental avatar gets all primary elements as...well...primary elements, but pay for this flexibility with the inability to execute composite blasts apart from via elemental fusion and the fact that the first infusion gained is delayed to 3rd level, while the first utility wild talent is delayed to 2nd level, with additional ones showing up every 3 levels thereafter. On a plus, the added flexibility also applies to elemental defense. Now I mentioned elemental fusion - they gain this type of composite blast at 7th level, with either a combo of three physical damage types (avatar blast) or untyped damage (spirit blast) being the options available.


Both suffer from reduced damage dice (down to d4s) and are considered associated blasts for three elements (air, earth, water for avatar; electric, fire, cold for spirit blasts) for infusion purposes. Instead of metakinesis, these guys may, at 9th level add a second elemental defense per 2 burn accepted, as though they had accepted 1 point of burn for the purposes of its effects, replacing thus metakinesis (maximize). 10th level provides a simple blast wild talent as though it were a 1st level utility wild talent and, as a capstone, he can enter basically avatar-form, with elemental defenses and overflow are treated as though he had accepted 10 points of burn and reduces burn costs of kinetic blasts by 2, but with each round causing one burn and Con-mod being the cap for consecutive rounds spent in this state, being exhausted thereafter. So yeah, in case you were wondering - this is pretty much the avatar-archetypes fans of the franchise have been asking for.


The elemental scions can choose to gain both associated blasts for their elements or increase the damage of simple blasts by one step, altering elemental focus and replacing the infusion granted at level 1. 7th level nets the archetype a composite blast that requires the expanded element of the primary element and is treated as +2 levels for purpose of infusion and wild talent selection, +1 DC. Additionally, they gain +1 utility talent or infusion. Finally, if they elected not to increase damage dice, they may now do so for a simple blast in place of the infusion or wild talent gained and they may choose a simple blast wild talent as a 1st level wild talent; this ability, though, consumes the expanded element class feature. 15th level provides +1 DC for infusions and wild talents as well as damage die size-increase for simple and composite blasts, while also gaining +1 utility wild talent or infusion, eliminating the expanded element gained at 15th level. The capstone replaces omnikinesis with +1 infusion or wild talent and treats all infusions or wild talents as though they had been enhanced by +1 point of burn. Basically, this is the one-element-specialist. Should have been part of the base-class. Not too blown away, but what many people wanted.


The final archetype would be the kinetic duelist, who gets an expanded list of proficiencies and may channel his power in the form of a kinetic blade, allowing the duelist to make AoOs with it, with the lack of range (apart from via the ranged blast infusion) and a restriction of infusions available for their melee kinetic blast in blade form paying for this. The aforementioned ranged infusion is btw. potentially available from 1st level onwards, with 10th level unlocking kinetic whip mastery as a utility wild talent, allowing you to treat your blade-shaped blast instead like a whip-shaped blast - i.e. the signature kinetic blade mastery is instead applied as though it was used in conjunction with the kinetic whip infusion. 11th level allows the duelist to gather power as part of a full attack. 13th level provides a brutal trick: Kinetic Assault lets the duelist charge for 4 burn via the universal form infusion, not provoke AoOs...and increase DCs AND DOUBLE damage. OUCH. Considering the kineticist's damage output, that's pretty savage. Oh, and at 17th level, you can have two such blades...which is cool and all and has the proper rules-language to work...but still. These powers, btw., come at the cost of metakinesist and supercharge. I like this more melee-centric kineticist since it offers the most radical departure from the playing-style of a vanilla kineticist, but personally, I would have elected for a fixed value damage increase for the charge - flat-out doubling tends to be brutal in actual gameplay, when buffs, other archetypes, etc. come into play.


So far, so basic, right? These archetypes would not be, at least to me, the main meat of this book, though - that honor would be reserved for the new elements that can be seen as a liberation strike that frees the kineticist from all too restrictive elemental theme. Yeah, I know...avatar-fan--the-class, but personally, I wanted to play other guys...so what do we get? Well, the first element would be light, practiced by photokineticists, who gain Disguise and Knowledge (nature) as class skills and basic photokinesis as basic manipulation. light deals half damage when used in conjunction with the eruption form infusion. Defense-wise, the wild talent sports illusory duplicates that act like regenerating mirror images. The blasts inflict your choice of the three physical damage-types, with composite blasts allowing for the inclusion of cold or lightning damage, combination of physical damage-types etc. Things get a tad bit more interesting in the infusions, where you can basically make attacks that help hit a foe outlined by your light, dispelling magical darkness (hooray for non mathfinder-y abilities!) or faerie fire them -you get the idea.


The second new element provided herein would be sound, which nets Diplomacy and Knowledge (local), basic vibrokinesis and either sonic blast (sonic damage, one damage die step lower to account for scarcity of damage-type - NICE!) or vibration (bludgeoning) blast as simple blasts, with elemental defense, victorious aria, providing bonuses to all saves that increase for accepted burn. I am not 100% sold on auto-deafen when you accept burn for a sound wild talent, but the range of only 5 feet mitigates the no-save power of that effect. Now obviously, sound also gets new composite blasts. Infusion-wise, this is where things get...unique. Attuning infusion lets you treat the target of a successfully damaged target as origin of your own subsequent kinetic blasts and composite blasts, provided they include sound among their elements. This lasts for 1 minute and would be cool...however, you can ALSO reduce the damage dealt to 0 to double the duration to 2 minutes, allowing you to attune your whole group, if need be - why? Well, because there is no maximum number of attuned creatures; the only limit is the time-frame. Granted, the 30 ft. maximum range is an inhibitor, but one that a clever group can use. Still, it's this short range that keeps me from yelling OP here, just sayin'. ;)


Breaking down DR or hardness with sound, penalizing and disorienting foes - the massive infusion-chapter has quite a few tricks we've been waiting for...but you want to know what the third element does, right? Well, that would be time and chronokineticists get Appraise and Knowledge (history) as class skills, basic chronokinesis and an unytped blast that has damage reduced by one step...which imho could have been another step, considering the inability to defend against it...with anything. The elemental defense nets you increasing miss chances that can be strengthened by accepting more burn and wild talents render you temporarily incorporeal when accepting burn for them. Time lets you increase the damage dice of the composite blast alteration amplification by one step or deal nonlethal damage to the target. Level 5 daze infusions, Con-damage, forcing to roll twice and take the worse result...pretty cool. Now, where the pdf overshoots the target a bit is with hindering infusion, which, as a, level 1 burn 1 infusion, allows you to keep foes from executing AoOs for one round....which can be very nasty, if done properly. On the other hand, I can see people enjoying the tactical option this provides...so yeah. Personally, I would have made this one a tad bit more expensive.


However, it's not just the new elements that get material herein - the infusions also extend to the established elements, with e.g. the option to imprison targets à la ice tomb, full damage to incorporeal creatures (again, imho underpriced) or, and that would be pretty awesome, gravity-manipulation for void. You could also afflict foes with overload infusions, which penalize those hit for taking standard or full-round actions...ouch. (And yes, save to negate, thankfully!) I also particularly enjoyed the option to delay the onset of damage you caused by a couple of rounds.


Now where the pdf comes even more into its own, at least for me, would be in the significant array of utility wild talents that range from silence to mending or tree stride, generate auditory illusions, charm foes, delay the onset of negative conditions for yourself and allies (within limits), gain echolocation, create exploding illusions (now this is fun!), catapult allies around, create a doppelganger from light that may act as your point of origin for light-including blasts (and swap places with it via light speed travel)...pretty cool. The level 6 burn 1 immediate action micro-time stop called temporal interruption may be a bit too much, though - even with the caveat of not being capable of affecting other creatures or their objects, an additional standard action at only 1 burn is underpriced. Hard. Similarly, stealing swift actions, thanks to Will-save and SR, is fine with me at high levels (though 1 round per level is too long a duration and burn 0...not seeing it- that ability can literally break whole builds!), but also gaining a second swift action for only 1 burn as an additional trick... is too strong. It's also, paradoxically, less powerful than its greater version, which steals move actions. Move actions will generally break no whole build asunder. They'll cripple movement and damage-output, yep...but that's it. As a nitpick: I assume the stolen move action does not prevent full attacks, but clarification would be nice since there are instances when it does and when it doesn't.


The pdf also contains a huge array of feats, which allow for e.g. action expenditure to set up lower burn costs in the next round, which is nice. There seem to be some minor glitches here and there - Adaptive Utility, for example, reads "You treat the level of all utility wild talents have their effective spell level treated as 1/2 your kineticist level for determining their DC" - I think something went wrong here....as written, I can guesstimate what that one does, but I'm not 100% sure. better range, specialization, less burn for an infusion - the pdf's feat array covers the specialization options I actually expected from the core book...so kudos indeed, particularly for the much required feat to gather energy silently (only perceivable within 10 ft.)!


The pdf concludes with a sample character.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good; on a rules-level, they are similarly precise, juggling the intricate framework of kineticist terminology with ease and panache. Layout adheres, as mentioned before, to a 1-column standard and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with exceedingly detailed bookmarks for EVERYTHING. Each blast, each infusion. Kudos!


Jolly's Kineticists of Porphyra I is basically the required expansion for the base-class, the 3pp book that covers all the things the base class ought to have. And it does so in a refined, precise manner! I certainly understand the amount of praise this has received from its fanbase and the accolades, particularly for a construct of this complexity, are justified. This is high-difficulty design and NOTHING close to the design of the last book by N. Jolly I've read - the growth of the author is truly impressive. He and team KOP (Jacob McCoy, Mort, Onyx Tanuki) did a rather impressive job here.


After reading, testing and digesting this, I certainly get where all the love is coming from - there are no filler-options in this book. Each piece of crunch has serious use in game. At same time, I do wholeheartedly believe that some of the components are underpriced for what they allow the kineticist to do - no problem for high-powered groups, sure, but for grittier rounds...well. That can be a bit problematic. Not unmanageable, mind you...but yeah. There are some options I'll nerf for my game...but I'll get to that component more in detail in the review of KOP III, where I'll provide a preliminary conclusion to my tests of the KOP-material.


There's another component here I'd ask you to bear in mind: I have a hard time separating this from its follow-up books (reviews, as mentioned, forthcoming!) since I playtested them all at once. And in direct comparison, this one feels more like the "make the kineticist a properly working class beyond a very narrow take on a niche"-book, like the "basics that need to be finished before the mind-boggling stuff begins." This is basically the book that lets you do the whole Avatar-shticks, with some cool additional material thrown in, whereas book II and III go more than one step further. It is hence, I arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for me as a person.


However, as a reviewer, I have to take my audience into account and know that a lot of you have significantly more love for the elemental-themes than I do...and you get what you asked for. While I'd consider caution regarding some options, my official verdict as a reviewer will hence round up from 4.5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticists of Porphyra
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Four Horsemen Present: Venerable Character Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2016 08:37:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Four Horsemen Present series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 12.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this pdf with a grand contemplation of the venerable age and its defining traits - the senium, the time, when supposedly, the body starts to break down and death is approaching....only this time around, we talk about adventuring! While we probably all have been there, had a character retire from adventuring and then proceeded to play a son, niece or pupil of the old character...why? Why not actually pull out the old guns, with all their knowledge and experience? Indeed, this pdf deals with exactly this subject matter...and it does so by talking about different conceptions of old age, of what it means beyond the strict number of years: In a given culture, it could ascribe supernatural prowess to you; aging could be seen as a divine curse and we have to take into account that our aging is infinitely more graceful than that medieval societies were afforded: Without access to modern hygiene and means to offer proper prosthetics or medicine, old age was, at least to our own eyes, probably more horrific - so, as one of the suggestions goes, what if it was considered a disease by the young? This disturbing idea, once again, provides a palpably nasty option for story-telling...and what else can one ask for from such a content? Awesome!


In a fantasy-context, we obviously also have to take a look at the venerable non-human races and thus, the core-roster of races and their respective takes on old age are covered herein as well. After that, we proceed to reasons for venerable characters adventuring - from the apocalyptic threat to global (or local) sterility and the quest for youth eternal, the ideas here are evocative in presentation and make sense. As has become the tradition with these age-based books, the pdf also contains age-based traits, and, once again, bonuses used do not necessarily follow the usual trait-bonus, though some do. While this is cosmetic and I do enjoy e.g. the "sleep only 6 hours trait" (which I seem to have IRL in spite of not being venerable), I really wish they featured the respective proper trait sub-category.


A total of 11 feats for venerable characters are provided and let you e.g. use Int or Wis for attack rolls or feign frailty, allowing you to once per combat take 20 on Bluff. (Cue insert my rant against per-combat abilities.) Basically, the feats here allow you, for the cost of the feat-tax, to eliminate the negative repercussions of venerable age and use mental stats instead, turning them into bonuses...which, as a whole, may not suit every campaign, but makes sense from a mechanical point of view. There also is a "create attack plan with prep 1 minute" tactician-y feat. All in all, a solid "make classes that don't work anymore at old old+ work"- array of tools; not more, but also not less.


The pdf closes with basically a PrC-like class-template that only requires two skills with 5+ ranks and venerable age to qualify. The ancient sensei covers 10 levels and retains HD, save, etc.-progression of the favored class of the base character and the framework similarly assume a continued progression of spellcasting, already gained class abilities dependant on levels, etc. The ancient sensei gains 1/2 his ancient sensei level + Wis-mod insight points (min 1). These points can be used as a swift action and unless otherwise noted, their effects last for one round. Whether adding +1d6 per two ancient sensei levels to a favored class feature, gaining a rogue talent, rage power, etc. for 1 round; double the duration of a class feature with duration, add 1/2 ancient sensei level to atk, damage or skill-rolls granted by a favored class feature or +1/daily use. While I get what these are supposed to do...the wording here isn't that precise. If e.g. a class feature deals a fixed amount of damage like "1", could he add +1/2 level? The issue is system-immanent due to the universal nature of the PrC, but I so wished it would have been specific regarding what type of abilities can be enhanced how. Sure, you can deduce it...but still.


2nd level nets Leadership with scaling bonuses at higher levels and at 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter, the ancient sensei gains one insight ability, to be chosen from 21, unless I have miscounted: From solo tactics to immunity to poisons, instant skill mastery and similar tricks, the abilities themselves, which include spending insight to move as a swift action, feel generally solid (though I noticed "draw attacks of opportunity" which usually is "provoke" as a minor, but cosmetic deviation from the standard) and as a whole, look like they belong in the same power category, with slight fluctuations. 3rd level becomes brutal, as the sensei can spend insight to lend abilities thus gained to allies...which is a bit odd: So, if the sensei spends insight to lend such an ability and the ally gets it, got that. However, the ability reads that the ally keeps it for 1 round per character level of the sensei. If the ability requires activation like aforementioned swift action-move, can the target use the ability freely during this duration? If so, this is horribly OP. If not...well, then this needs some clarification. At 10th level, the ancient sensei may restore his insight by contemplating for 10 minutes per insight point.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. The blending of full-color and b/w-artworks, none of which I had seen before, is neat as well. The pdf comes cully bookmarked for your convenience.


Tim Hitchcok's take on venerable characters is generally fun and inspired - the hooks and things to consider are great and while I wasn't blown away by all traits, I liked enough of them. The feats fall squarely in the "offset penalty"-department, which is fine, considering the subject matter. The feats that didn't...well, seen those concepts done before...not too impressed there.


The ancient sensei, to me, is the pièce de résistance here and...I honestly shouldn't like it. It is a pretty powerful option and its very general rules, by virtue of its design, are somewhat less precise than I like my crunch to be - if you design for the totality of classes, some sand is bound to fall into the gears of the rules-mechanisms. The crunch has some minor flaws here that could have been addressed...but in spite of its complexity, ultimately it works - it may need some work by the GM to account for specifics, but the whole of the class, surprisingly, is something I enjoyed, with the focus on utility, leadership and defensive options meaning that most classes won't have an undue advantage when taking this quasi-PrC.


How to rate this, then? Well, while this is not perfect, it did have several components that captured my imagination, several nice ideas. However, from a crunch-perspective, I was somewhat less enthused after digesting the material. In the end, I consider this an interesting, if not perfect array of options, which is interesting for the interaction of fluff and crunch here. If you're interested in the whole deal, this is a 4 star-book for you. If you're in it for the crunch alone, you may want to subtract a star, though - in that regard, I actually prefer the mature character options.


Endzeitgest out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Venerable Character Options
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Strange Magic Expanded - The Elegist
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2016 09:01:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This expansion to the absolutely superb Strange Magic-book clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


An elegy is defined as a poem of serious reflection, usually written in elegiac couplets, often pertaining themes of death, existential dread etc. - with a traditional 3-part structure that features descriptio, lamentatio and consolatio - native speakers of English add a simple "n" and their function becomes pretty self-apparent. Now lyric comes from "lyra" and thus it should be no surprise to see the connotation and three-part structure making for a natural fit for the system of composition magic introduced in Strange Magic.


The elegist is a new base class that gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and begins play with 2 scores (scaling up to 5) and 1 melody per score (also scaling up to 5), with 3rd level unlocking 1st level spells, scaling up to 6th. Spells the elegist learns are drawn from the mesmerist spell list and obviously are psychic spells - after all, flavor-wise, the elegist takes his powers from the communion with the dead. Charisma is the governing attribute for the elegist's spellcasting. Elegists can cast each spell he knows exactly 1/day, with high Charisma instead adding new spells known. At 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the elegist may change a known spell to another of the same level or lower, though only spells of one level below his maximum spell level may be replaced thus. Spells are treated as spontaneous spells for all other purposes.


The elegist gets d6 HD and 4+Int skills per level. Intelligence governs his scores, with bonus scores at 1st level equal to Int-mod/3, rounded down. Each score must contain an intro, a melody and an outro, with third level and every 5 levels thereafter allowing for the addition of another melody to a given score, with 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter providing a bonus score.


The elegist gets a bit more MAD; though - to prepare or use a score, the elegist needs to have a Wisdom-score equal to 12 + number of melodies in the score, with save DC- being equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + Wis-mod. As established, compositions do not need to be refreshed via composition books, though changing them requires the support of said notes. The composition book begins with 3 intros/outros as well as 1+Wis-mod melodies, min 1. Each level grants one intro or outro as well as one melody and learning compositions follows pretty much a means akin to learning spells, with a cost of 100 gp times the composition's minimum level.


So far, so basic - at 1st level, the elegist gains the communion class feature, which allows the elegist to select a composer spirit, following taboos and rules somewhat akin to how the spirit influence on the medium class works. Not heeding a personality quirk results in dissonance, with 3 or higher locking the elegist out of the spirit's benevolent abilities , while also penalizing the elegist with -1 to composer level per dissonance point accrued. If the elegist reaches 3 dissonance, he must wait 24 hours to obtain a new composer spirit. At 10th level, the legist chooses a secondary spirit that only grants the 1st level ability, though they share the dissonance pool.


Conducting compositions works as always; should you require a break-down of how that works, please consult my reviews of Ultimate Composition etc. At 2nd level, the elegist gains a +1 deflection bonus to AC that increases by a further +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Since this protection is granted by the ghostly presences surrounding him, a 10th level elegist can, as an immediate action, project this bonus to another willing creature within 60 ft. as an immediate action. However, thereafter, the bonus is lost for 1 minute before reinstating itself...at least until 19th level, where the elegist continues to benefit from the bonus while outsourcing his deflection and where the cool-down no longer is required.


Also at 2nd level, the elegist may scribe folios from which composers may prepare compositions (basically scrolls for the system) and, as a capstone, the class no longer gains dissonance, instead gaining +2 to atk, skills and saves when taking a new spirit, until he first would take dissonance, whereupon the bonuses vanish. That's it - no more penalties.


The pdf provides a total of 10 composer spirits, who generally grant bonuses at 1st,m 4th and 7th level, though the 4th level-ability is upgraded at 14th. The first of these, Brother Francis, provides healing (not the biggest fan here, but oh well) and the option to play a score for a single ally, who, however, may benefit from all melodies contained as though they had been taken an additional time. Finally, the spirit grants a musica sacra at 7th level, usable 1/day as a full-level cantor.


Chordius Marigold can shout his music, with a conical effect instead, choosing whether to apply the benefits to the elegist every time, with higher levels providing lingering effects after the end of a composition, provided you do not immediately restart another composition - at least until 14th level. Immunity to the deafened composition is also included. The dervish lets you increase the range of your compositions as a move action and 4th level allows you to introduce a counterpoint, a single-melody, intro- and outro-less composition that may be woven into a given already active composition, with 14th level unlocking a second counterpoint. 7th level nets a refrain, which contains melodies equal to the score in effect, replacing temporarily the effects of the melodies f the ongoing composition at the cost of deducting 1 round from the duration of the score currently being conducted.


Lady Moon allows you to affect either only undead or everything but the undead and at 4th level, creatures affected gain Cha-mod resistance to negative or positive energy, respectively. 7th level allows the elegist to affect mindless undead as though they were not mindless and 14th level provides temporary hit points to all affected. Memed Labingi increases the DC by +1 versus adjacent creatures and allows you to emit a 5-feet pushing boost when letting a composition peter out, with 14th level increasing range and adding damage. 7th level nets DR equal to the number of non-ally creatures adjacent.


Sherman Smith gets a wizard cantrip and cleric orison at-will, with 4th level providing both a 1st level spell for both lists, but with each cast decreasing rounds remaining from your composition. 7th level upgrades composition conduction duration by 2 rounds and 14th level nets 3rd level spells. Sir Alphonse Worthington III, Esq. is a bit special - this spirit requires you to ALWAYS use his full name and begin with the masterpiece as first score...and after just one slight, he's gone...not 3 shots and out. One slight. However, he grants bonuses to saves versus compositions, performances, etc. 4th level nets the aforementioned masterpiece, which has an added melody slot, +2 slots at 14th level. Finally, if all creatures save versus the intro or outro of the masterpiece, you gain 1 temporary conducting round for the masterpiece. Btw.: These taboo-like restrictions are always pretty creative: Sherman Smith, the spellcasting spirit, needs you to alternate the SPs from cleric and wizard-lists, for example.


Theodore Beauregard...nets you fast healing 1 when conducting, 2 at 13th level. This quite a lot healing...not the biggest fan here. 4th level provides 15 ft. perfect maneuverability fly speed while conducting (30 ft. at 14th level) and 7th level nets immunity to mind-affecting effects while conducting. Thurg add dodge bonuses to allies affected by your scores and allows you to trigger intros or outros as a swift action, with 14th level adding movement to the action. Additionally, outros of scores lasting at least 4 rounds become harder to resist, requiring the reroll of the save and taking the worse result. The final spirit, Varas the Ruthless, requires you to stand your ground after being charged and adds sonic damage to your weapons (upgrades at 13th level), with 4th level making a specific melody in a score that requires a save hard to resist, requiring two saves and taking the worse result if the score has been performed for 3+ rounds. This restriction is eliminated at 14th level and 7th level provides sonic resistance. All in all, I liked these creative spirits and when I noticed issues, they pertained personal taste rather than true issues...and the flavor and quirks of the spirits are truly delightful. I certainly hope we'll see more of these spirits one day!


The class comes with extensive favored class options for the core races, aasimar, drow, fetchlings, hobgoblins, kitsune, kobolds, orcs, puddlings, tieflings, vanara and vishkanya. From combining outros with alchemical flask throwing to DR/slashing while composing, these FCOs are creative and fun.


The class also gets a unique archetype - the Amplifier, which may also be applied to the breakdancer class. Communion is granted at 1st level for breakdancers and stacks with elegist levels. The amplifier gets the rhythm mechanic: +1 rhythm when conducting a score; +0 when within the AoE of bardic performance/composition, -1 rhythm when in neither bardic or composition AoE, with max rhythm equal to the amplifier's Dex-mod. At 1st level, each spirit bound to the amplifier gains a single score with no intro or outro, but 1/2 the number of melodies allows for the base amplifier's scores, min 1. When the amplifier is not conducting a score or opus, musica sacra, etc., the spirit may instead conduct this score for a total of amplifier's composer level + Wis-mod, with dissonance being problematic, obviously. For breakdancers, this consumes the dance moves at 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level and elegists lose spectral presence. At 12th level, the amplifier gets two composer spirits, basically postponing (I think) the ability usually gained at 10th level - the wording here could be a bit clearer: "This does not stack with the secondary spirit gained by an elegist at 10th level."


The Elegist also features information for Pathfinder Unchained's Variant Multiclassing-rules and a handy compatibility-list of other composition archetypes with the elegist class, providing some nice notes on how to change the archetypes in question where required. The pdf also features a number of 10 new compositions: Danse Macabre lets you affect undead creatures with mind-affecting effects. Downtrod generates an undead-bolstering zone, while the graveyard dirge lets you go Michael Jackson's Thriller, animating the recently deceased as zombies for the duration of the composition. Inspire Grief provides the chances to add the shaken condition to all that take damage, while lament of the unclaimed lets you and your allies deal full damage to the incorporeal. Make Amends lets long-lasting compositions decrease dissonance and Sepulchral Tone concludes your score with a blast of negative energy. The Crossing leeches minor hit points from the adjacent for temporary hit points. (As a nitpick - the composition is called performance here once.) The Dutiful Paladin enhances weapons versus the undead and, finally, Upswell would be the positive-energy-based, good mirror of the evil Downtrod.


"But I don't have/want to buy Ultimate Composition/Strange Magic!" Well, you're in luck, for the whole list of compositions - you know, the massive array, is reprinted herein as well - tantalizingly hinting at classes like the harmonicist, to give you one example. The addition of this massive array of options means that this book works perfectly as a stand-alone offering - though obviously, it does gain something by use in conjunction with Strange Magic.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, as I've come to expect from Interjection Games. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard established for composition magic, with a neat blend of thematic public domain art that fits the theme. The pdf comes with minimalist bookmarks - table, spells known, that's it - while a few are better than none, this does make the class slightly less user-friendly than it could be.


Bradley Crouch and Jason Linker, at the request of Sasha Hall, have created a unique class utilizing the Strange Magic system. Why unique? Because, honestly, once you've understood how the composition system works, it pretty much is an easy class to understand. This is, design-wise, basically the medium, as adapted to the composition spellcasting system, with spirits that are more interesting and, in theme, closer to the evocative pact magic than to the bland mythic-based ones the medium usually gets. This is a good thing in my book and the spirits easily were my favorite part. Similarly, the synergy with the breakdancer, with the melee-centric spirits and archetype was something I really enjoyed. The elegist playing experience is interesting, though vanilla elegists are pretty MAD - you need all 3 mental attributes to excel in all systems, requiring you to prioritize components. This, perhaps, does account the relative high "to build"-complexity rating, though veterans of composition magic should probably consider this to e closer to 2 instead; at least after realizing that the spirits act basically as flexible micro-archetypes. Now personally, I am not the biggest fan of the healing options and there were some minor wording-instances where the pdf was precise, but could have used a tad bit more precision - but ultimately, that is just me being a very spoiled bastard of a reviewer.


Anyways, to sum it up, thematically, I loved the elegist and the tying into psychic spells adds a unique dimension to the class I ended up enjoying. I wished it did a bit more with the spirits, but what's here is certainly damn cool.


This, in short, is a welcome addition to the composition system and a fun class and I certainly hope there'll be more spirits in the future, for their unique tricks and the dissonance mechanic's potential are anything but tapped. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, in spite of the few minor hiccups - this is a great class and personal tastes and emphasis shouldn't influence the verdict too much.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Magic Expanded - The Elegist
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Deadly Gardens: Swarm of Blood Roses 5E
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2016 08:56:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The 5th edition conversion of the Blood Rose Swarm Deadly Gardens-installment clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this installment with 4 different alchemical items: Calming pollen that can render plant creatures dormant for short periods, water purification drops and an oil that causes plant creatures to gain resistance to bludgeoning and piercing damage. (Erroneously called "damage resistance" in a minor nomenclature nitpick.) As something to keep in mind for GMs - with only a base price of 40 gp, this oil should not be available for campaigns featuring plant PCs - in the hands of such a character, it is very strong. Finally, vita grow nets a plant creature regeneration of 1 hit point on each of its turns for 10 minutes. Once again, the aforementioned caveat applies - imho, plant PCs should not get this one.


The build of the swarm of blood roses clocks in at challenge 2 and is a dangerous build, considering the significant array of resistances it has. In a minor nitpick, the camouflage uses a lower-case mentioning of Stealth. The critter also gets a variant of climb speed that also ignores plant-based movement modifiers etc. With an alluring scent and deadly thorns, the critter, apart from the minor cosmetic hiccups mentioned, is neat - kudos for the creature-translation to 5e here!


The pdf also features two types of hazard, sinkholes and rockslides, which strangely have a CR-rating - I like that these are pretty dangerous...but e.g. references to a Reflex save are avoidable conversion-relics. A total of 5 terrain types, from kudzu-thicket to scree and thickets is nice - that being said, I would have liked the entries to denote their damage types - while generally, they are apparent from context, in 5e's rock-paper-scissor-y type of design, properly denoted damage types are pretty important. That being said, the terrain-dangers they pose are pretty awesome.


The pdf closes with two magic items - the cloak of fallen leaves that nets opponents disadvantage when you move (oddly not requiring attunement). Personally, I think that specifying the duration of this effect would have made the item easier to understand. Quickgrow Beans suffer no issues - they can generate easily-scalable bean stalks. Damn cool!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -as mentioned above, there are some minor hiccups and ambiguities to be found here. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity. The artwork is great, as has become the tradition for the series.


Russ Brown and Ismael Alavarez' second Deadly Garden conversion is more refined than the first, with a somewhat more precise grasp on the peculiarities of 5e. The terrain features in particular were enjoyable to me, if not always perfect. The presence of conversion relics herein isn't that pleasing, though, and the cloak could have used a teeny bit more precision. That being said, the critter's build is pretty neat and the pdf is an inexpensive purchase. hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the fair, low asking price to 4.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Swarm of Blood Roses 5E
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Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2016 09:30:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This HUGE AP/setting-supplement clocks in at a massive 437 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with pretty ridiculous 428 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, we begin this huge book by basically taking a glimpse at the region of the Sundered Kingdoms - wait, that's not the right way to describe it: The war-and calamity-torn Sunderlands receive a massive, stunningly detailed and well-written gazetteer that clocks in at 32 pages - from discussions on the local technology-level to area by area breakdowns of settlements and the like, we get a tremendous amount of detail here, including write ups for INNS as well as caravansarais...and it should be noted that this does not include the colossal 12-page, detailed history on this region in its afore-mentioned page-count. The level of captivating prose exhibited in these pages hearkens back to a time where immersion by means of detailed lore were more important: When e.g. the fully depicted, brief fable of a cat seeking a wife not only is mentioned, but in fact reproduced, that does enhance the believability of the area a great deal...and yes, settlements do get proper settlement statblocks.


But beyond these, the book is one about the eponymous cults - which not only provide stats for athames as well as some new domains for the respective cultist patrons - from classic Orcus and Tsathogga to Hastur, the entities of chaos and destruction and their dread obelisks of chaos that litter the landscape as dark monuments, as foci for the dread cults of darkness, come in a surprisingly detailed write-up that depicts a world teeter-tottering unknowingly on the very edge of annihilation by the forces of chaos, with twisted, evil versions of the Diplomacy-concept as a domain and the like adding a bit of crunch to the fray, though yet another shadow domain, for example, imho wasn't necessary.


The third chapter, then, would be the bestiary section and comes supplemented with both new hazards and common...and less common adversaries, including two spawns of demon lords and bone dragons, Similarly, the magic item chapter (including a cursed cowbell!) sports artifacts and wondrous objects galore, with aforementioned obelisk-powered items of chaos and unique items featuring prominently, already hinting at the things to come.


But you want o know about the adventures, right? All righty, so before we dive in, you should know that the previously released modules herein have been integrated into basically a cohesive storyline, a kind of meta-narrative not unlike those featured in Paizo-APs, making this not a collection of different adventures (though they can be played as such), but more of an arc connected by theme, if not by the necessity of sequential playing... Basically, you can play these modules as stand-alones or as connected pieces - they do not lose appeal by being separated from the overarcing structure.


Know, dear reader, that from this point forward, the SPOILERS abound! Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


We begin this tome's adventure section with Greg A. Vaughan's "Beasts Among Us", intended for 3rd level characters - uncomplicated, but savage, this module confronts the PCs with a massacred caravan and a trail leading towards a dread cult of bandits in the wilderness, happily butchering survivors - by stopping these brigands, the PCs can rescue one Kandrel, who was en route to the city of Endhome (of Lost City of Barakus)-fame and acts as a potential liaison for the powerful shipping magnate Lord Beval...provided the PCs can save him from the brutal fangs of the werewolf master of the brigands.


The second adventure, potentially to gather further influence, would be Patrick Lawinger's classic "Morrick Mansion" (level 3 - 5), which to this day remains one of my favorite 3.X modules released by Necromancer Games back in the day. Why? Because the module twists the traditional haunted mansion trope, detailed grounds and all, by making the primary antagonist of the module not simply a creature to be defeated - instead, as a kind of precursor to how haunts work nowadays, the adventure focuses on actually finding out how the calamities befell Morrick Mansion and breaking the mutation and insanity-causing chaotic curse that twists and changes the mansion grounds. From Grollek's Grove to finding out the truth behind the curse, the adventure is in probably its best iteration in this book. Kudos for saving this glorious classic for a new generation of gamers.


The third adventure is a new one and would once again be penned by none other than Greg A. Vaughan - "Shades of Yellow" (for levels 5 - 6). In the service of lord Beval, the PCs are sent forth to find Sir Bartol, a knight of esteem and renown, whose trail leads through hostile wilderness to the moor-bound village of Billockburne, where the PCs can unearth the truth about a seemingly-benign cult and hopefully save the knight's squire at least from an inglorious and horrific fate...but to truly stop the cult and put one and one together, the PCs will have to also stop a colossal, brutal nameless thing and clear the lethal chapel in the moors, where one of the dreaded obelisks has been partially excavated...Among the papers of Bartol, replicated as a handout that can be unearthed from these dread cultists, the PCs can heed a request for assistance in the Moon Fog Hills, where the next adventure looms...


...and that would be the legendary classic "Aberrations" (level 6 - 9) by Casey W. Christofferson. It ranks, by far, as one of the most underappreciated modules Necromancer Games released back in the day - a disturbing yarn of horror and weird, dark fantasy, this module has it all: Deformed giants, savage caverns, legacies of insanity and murder, a brutal meat-grinder of a mansion and the chance to duke it out with the spawn of a demon lord - this adventure has it all and, frankly, I can't really do it enough justice: If you enjoy DCC-style dark fantasy and challenging modules, this one will do the trick. Seriously, this is a true classic that only gains impact by its ties to the unobtrusive metaplot of this saga.


The next adventure, once again penned by Greg A. Vaughan, would be "Vengenace in the Hollow Hills", for characters level 8-9, and is a deviation from in theme and style from classic dungeon-crawling, instead focusing on the hexploration of the eponymous hollow hills with elven allies, trying to stop the tainted wildmen harrying travelers and military alike - all seemingly entwined with the horrors witnessed in the previous adventure. If the PCs are to stop this threat, once and for all, they will have to take the fort of the wildmen...easier said than done, though. The Tsathogga-worshipping foes will make the taking of Fort Rannick from the classic RotRL-AP look like a friggin' cakewalk in comparison. Dumb PCs will die horribly...so let's hope that PCs smart and lucky enough to have lived so far will have learned to act smart...


And then, there would be "The Crystal Skull" by Dave Brohman- one of the most obscure and rare Necromancer Games modules (which I gladly own), this is a massive mini-campaign in itself, ranging levels from 9th - 12th...though the challenges posed in this one are SIGNIFICANT. Smart PCs may have followed multiple clues throughout this saga, pointing them towards the massive city of Penmorgh and invited to the home of one wizard named Pearsey, who beseeches the PCs to undergo a complex series of investigations into the dark things going on within the city - every year at Midsummer, 3 girls go missing, their bodies to later be found horribly mutilated....he wants the PCs to stop whatever horrific ritual is going on...and the PCs, following the trail, will have put themselves in the crosshair of deadly assassins and unearth the secrets behind two eminent guilds of the city...thereby, probably, inadvertently freeing dread Mhaazoul, 666th son of Orcus and nascent demon lord - to stop the dread entity, the PCs will have to track it overland through different settlements, survive the machinations of the lethal minions of the demon... to the Tower of Bone. Which is impenetrable for them...to enter the tower and stop dread Mhaazoul, the PCs will have to pass the ruined, subterranean dwarven city of Durandel, successfully navigate its claustrophobic confines and finally infiltrate and beat the dread tower and its master. Oh, and if that is not enough: The previously unreleased secret levels-bonus dungeon for this one is also included in the deal.


A total of 11 pages of handouts and 40 pages of maps are provided in this book as well - though, if you're like me and expected player-friendly maps sans legends or the like, I'll have to disappoint you - this time around, the book features none of these.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, in particular for a book of this massive size. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks. The physical book, as with all FGG-books,. is a superb, stitch-bound hardcover made to last. Interior artwork is generally high-quality, though a precious few pieces taken from crystal skull didn't blow me away then and still don't. Cartography is a bit less consistent than usual - while some maps are drop-dead gorgeous or at least functional, there are also some maps re-used from a time when the 3.X bubble had burst and funds were tight -and it shows. Compared to the other maps, these look a bit less impressive and I really wish they had been redone. Similarly, I would have wished for player-friendly maps.


Frog God Games, at this point, is an institution - when they announced this book, I was honestly puzzled who they'd tie the respective modules I already knew together in a meaningful way...and they did. While the metaplot isn't too pronounced when compared to singular mega-adventures, the themes and leitmotifs can be found throughout, lending a sense of cohesion to the whole. Indeed, the respective adventures (with the first, as a setting of the stage and thus, being relatively simple) feel surprisingly in line regarding their themes and content - a feat, considering their patchwork origins.


At the same time, though, there is a bit of thematic whiplash regarding the finale - while I really like "The Crystal Skull", it is also the most traditional of the modules herein - where the adventures before focused on a delightfully old-school dark fantasy with ample of weirdness, the final mini-campaign feels grim, yes. Dark, yes. But also more traditional in its structure, plot and locales presented. Personally, the middle trinity of Morrick Mansion, Shades of Yellow and the superb Aberrations, represents the sweet-spot of this saga and, chalk it up to my excessive collection of NG-material, but personally, I probably would have used the likewise classic and pretty obscure "Vindication" rather than "Crystal Skull" as a culmination of this arc...but yeah. I'm complaining at a very high level here. And I can see why CS was chosen - it has the fitting leitmotifs and is a very good, diverse adventure that features socializing, investigation and plenty of chances to swing one's sword at evil.


The matter of the fact is that this massive book contains a load of brilliant adventures, with some true classics. The build-upgrades for the NPCs are more versatile and utilize some builds that go beyond the standard. The organization is excellent and the only true complaint I can truly voice pertains to the lack of player-friendly maps and parts of the cartography.


How to rate this, then? Well, since this has ample of tie-ins with Endhome and Bard's Gate, GMs wishing to run either can and should definitely take a look; similarly, fans of the Lost lands will consider this a must-have purchase anyways. If you already own the three previously released modules and have played them, things get a bit more complicated - while the two new full-length modules are superb (excluding the intro-module here), only you can decide whether they may the tome as a whole worth it for you. If, however, you haven't played the classic modules, then this turns into an almost immediate no-brainer, for the history and context provided in this tome render the iterations of the modules superior to their classic 3.X versions.


In the end, I will rate this 5 stars + seal of approval as an official rating for those among us who haven't played the classics. For guys like yours truly, this still is a very good book, though perhaps one that should be closer to 4.5 stars. In the end, my official verdict will obviously be the former - this is, in a nut-shell, a collection of great material for those among us who like our fantasy dark without diving off into the grimdark spectrum.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms Pathfinder Edition
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#30 Haunts for Battlefields (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2016 09:27:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rite Publishing's #30-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this little pdf with a summary of the nature of haunts and how they operate, making the use of this pdf as painless and book-flipping-less as possible. After this brief explanation, persistent and minor haunts are explained and then we're right in the subject matter - haunts for battlefields.


This book pretty much offers exactly what it says on the tin, with haunts in the pages ranging in CR from CR 1 to CR 12. The effects of the haunts themselves, are diverse: From an overwhelming sense of battle-weariness to visions of burning barracks that may boil your blood to the haunting choir of prisoners sacrificed or executed, there is a lot to be found in this pdf.


The selection of haunt covers both the common (e.g. ear-piercing screams) to remnants of contagion that can be abated by planting a red spider-lily (all Japanese culture buffs out there, rejoice!). From the unsettling experience of watching dead birds emit unnerving cackles to the very earth growing acidic, detonating pustules, the pdf strikes a lot of tones - and it does so well: Both the somber aftermath and experience between the fighting and the pure chaos of warfare have their haunted representations amid these offerings, with destruction often pointing to and underlining the respective truth beyond the creation of the haunt.


In fact, the variance between modes and themes of haunts can be easily evoked by using haunts as transitionary elements - there are some that feature the dins of battle, which could conceivably used as great out- and in-game audio-cues to signify a transition from the somber to the chaotic and lethal aspect of warfare. The very earth grasping for the living, being carried away against one's will by a phantom horde, carpenter's tools used creatively by a torturer, the nascent greed of traumatic pillaging echoing through an area, phantoms of the dying projectile-vomiting acidic blood, rapid decomposition of the fallen and the very earth's mouth trying to swallow those whole that thread upon it - the diversity of the haunts herein is more than sufficient, and they may actually all be stringed together to form a truly nightmarish hell-hole of a battleground, often with means of combining the haunts already included:


When two haunts refer to barracks burning and work potentially well together, the GM simply has his work cut out for himself...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's classic two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a blend of full-color art I haven't seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


It feels almost like another life since I last reviewed a haunt book by T.H. Gulliver. The haunts books for the #30-series, universally remain my go-to default address for haunts: Precise, deadly, evocative and yet easy to plug into a given context, the books are classics...and so is this one. For a more than fair price, you get an evocative array of fun haunts that enriches the game...or an adventure. I firmly believe that a good GM can string these together as a great adventure locale or even as a mid-level adventure that requires exactly no combat encounters...just this eerie, forlorn battlefield, where the earth itself keens and loathes those that have savaged it. A great and evocative pdf, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Haunts for Battlefields (PFRPG)
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Tides of War: Volley Teamwork Feats
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2016 09:53:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version


The revised version of Flying Pincushion Games' Tides of War-book clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf begins with a brief introduction to the subject matter, before presenting several feats. These are based on Group Fire, a combat/teamwork feat that, as a full-round action, allows you to make a single ranged attack while calling to allies within 15 feet that have this feat. The allies may spend an immediate action to also fire on the target you are attacking, with each participant granting +1 to atk and damage, including the initiator. However, allies that perform this attack are staggered on their next turn. Okay, this is a HUGE step up from the first iteration of the pdf, let's see whether the feats that build on this are now similarly solid!


-Arcing Fire: Reduce cover-bonus to AC by half when firing in an arc; requires suficient space, obviously. Solid.


-Call the Firing Line: When you call for a group fire, all participants get your Cha-mod as a morale bonus to attack, but you can do this only a number of times per day equal to your ranks in Profession (soldier). NICE restriction-element here for the powerful bonus!


-Clustering Volley: Add total damage of group shots together before applying DR. Solid.


-Dodge this!: Each participant targets a 5-foot-squares instead, with scaling Ref-saves to negate the attack. Now this one is genius for hitting high AC targets, but damage is calculated only via base damage die. Nice and in line with similar damaging mechanisms.


-Dynamic Duo: When only using Group Fire with two members, both get a free Intimidate-check using the higher result +5. Actually useful for small units, like adventuring groups - kudos!


-Flying Pincushion: Penalize flying creatures with scaling benefits.


-Gauging Shot: Forego any benefits, but grant +2 to atk and damage rolls for your participating fellows.


-Improved Group Fire: Call out for Group Fire as part of a full attack.


-Greater Group Fire: Allies that participate can use their lowest BAB-attack when using Group Fire - if they do, they are not staggered, but may not be part of a Group Fire attack on their next turn.


-Throw Everything: Use group fire with bombs, kinetic blasts, bloodline/domain power-based attacks, etc. and even held spells. This can thankfully not be combined with Clustering Volley.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Flying Pincushion Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf needs no bookmarks at this length.


Frank Gori, with help from David S. McCrae and Jeff Harris has thoroughly revised the original, subpar iteration and created a thing of beauty here - for a low price, you can make creatures (and PCs!) actually fear the power of volleys...and the pdf also expands the usefulness of the feats for purposes of the adventuring groups. With completely cleaned up material, this is pretty much the antithesis to the previous offering: Creative, powerful and sensible, this covers its niche perfectly. 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tides of War: Volley Teamwork Feats
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Haunted Places
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2016 09:43:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, though one of these would be the gorgeous cover in an un-swished-version - kudos for the great artwork there!


After the by now traditional letter from the planes-hopping ship Flaming Crab, we dive right in and begin with the chimney coffin (lavishly rendered in b/w!), providing a cool CR 6 suffocation-based haunt. Two thumbs up for this fellow!


Thereafter, we get a new spirit to channel for the Medium-class, the Child. You apply the spirit bonus to Bluff, Climb, Escape Artist, Perception and Stealth as well as Reflex-saves, which is, power-wise, in line with established spirits. As a seance boon, you get +1 to AC and favored locations would be orphanages, parks, playgrounds and schools, obviously. The influence penalty the spirit inflicts is equal to the spirit bonus as penalty to Int and Str based skill and ability checks, excluding Climb as well as attack rolls. Taboos include refusing to eat healthy food, taking any opportunity to play, an inability to stay up beyond bedtime, throwing tantrums and compulsory pranking -it's your choice and, as a whole, I like them. The lesser ability increases the bonuses for being aided by your fellows, the intermediate nets you basically improved evasion by another name (and sans restrictions) and the greater effect lets you let the spirit gain 1 point of influence "to make an immediate save against any mind-affecting effect." with a bonus equal to 1/2 your medium level. Okay, so "immediate" may not be the best wording here - it implies immediate action. Secondly, is the DC of the effect equal to the original DC? What about the few, but existing mind-influencing effects that do not allow for a save? Minor clarifications are in order here. As a supreme ability, this spirit offers a supernatural, component-less limited wish upon seeing the evening's first star...which is cool, but since it is supernatural, the ability should state the action required for activation.


The shifter's stone, a CR 6 boon loci, utilizes the myth of the norns and blends it with druidism, offering beast shape III as well as a great, general artwork. More interesting that that would be the fact that it comes with a second, corrupted CR 8 version that may transform you into harmless animals. This duality is well-executed here.


The Primal Spirit spiritualist archetype, who adds Handle Animal and Survival to the class skills instead of Bluff, also replacing the summon monster spells with summon nature's allies. The primal aspect at 1st level can be activated as a swift action, gaining an animal aspect chosen from the hunter's animal foci and while it is applied at full level, it does not also cover any companions and does not stack with the ability, though levels stack for purposes of foci's power. Also at 1st level, the archetype receives the option to grow ghostly claws as a free action, dealing 1d4 per claw, 1d3 if Small. The ability does not specify them to be primary natural weapons, though I assume they are. 7th level nets Eldritch Claws and increases the damage die by one step, thus replacing etheric tether. 2nd level nets wild empathy and 3rd level at-will detect undead and 5th level provides a constant hide from undead. This replaces the 3rd level bonded manifestation. 4th level nets a +2 insight bonus to AC and all saves, increasing by +2 at 12th and 20th level, replacing spiritual interference and its greater brethren. 6th level nets Wild shape at -2 level, with 8th level unlocking air walk, 12th level providing an ectoplasmic creature's phase lurch and 18th level the horrifying ooze ability. Elemental forms may not be assumed, but plant forms may. This, obviously, replaces spirit bond and its follow-up abilities. 13th level, finally, provides a secondary primal aspect.


The next haunt, once again lavishly rendered, would be the CR 4 stable of despair, which has some creepy imagery (think: Undead horse appearing and speaking to you...) indeed and the archetype here would be the rider of the undead paladin, who gains a skeletal mount, with touch of corruption powering simultaneous uses of channel energy and Command Undead. All in all, an okay archetype, but not one that blew me away.


The final haunt would be the unfinished painting (Anyone played Layers of Fear?), again at CR 4 - and it is the most complex of the haunts herein - arguably one that could power a whole low-level adventure. Similarly in line with this theme would be the mad painter mesmerist replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to all Artisan (painting) (???), Craft (painting) and Profession (painting) checks. That should probably be Performance...The mad painter can conjure forth a mystical brush with which he draws hypnotic patterns into thin air, either distracting or fascinating targets, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day, with 7th level decreasing the activation action to move and 13th allowing for the activation as a swift action as well - this ability is known as mystic strokes. Interesting variant of hypnotic stare. To implant tricks, the painter has to draw on the recipient's eyelids. At 1st level, the archetype ay expend spell slots to store spells in a given painting, making it a kind of "art"-bomb - the first subject within 20 ft. carefully examining the painting is affected, with -2 to the save. The painting can store spells for 1 hour per class level and can be enhanced with a password, allowing safe examination...and if that is not enough regarding great set-ups, I don't know what is!


3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the mad painter may choose another "stroke of insanity" to modify his mystic strokes with - whether it's affecting the mindless or instilling sluggishness in the targets, decreasing their movement rate. These modifications are all pretty cool and scale at 8th level. Starting at 6th level, the mad painter can use suggestions on targets affected by his strokes sans breaking the primary effect of the strokes-ability, an ability that increases to encompass the mass version of the spell, though that one was not italicized.


As a capstone, the mad painter can create paintings that kill a specific chosen creature looking at it. All in all, this is my favorite archetype by Flaming Crab Games so far - complex modifications, glorious theme, precise execution...and it is narrative gold, an adventure (or more) just waiting to happen.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf features several gorgeous pieces of b/w-artwork as well as stunning full-color variations of the cover - all of which I really dug. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


June Bordas, J Gray, Mike McKeown and Michael Ritter provide a great little pdf here - while I wasn't too impressed by the generally solid antipaladin archetype, the other material did impress me more than a bit; the mad painter, in particular, is a stroke of genius. ... Sorry for that bad pun right there, I'll hit myself later for it. Anyways, I really enjoyed the haunts as well - their descriptions are cool and evocative and they generally make sense.


While the pdf isn't as refined as the installment on culinary magic and while I would have loved to see even more haunts, this still remains a great, fun little pdf for a more than fair price point, with the artworks provided for the haunts making cool micro-handouts (they are, alas, a bit small). Still, showing them to players can work rather well!


All in all, this is a good book, with some minor blemishes, but also some gems and thus receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Haunted Places
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Four Horsemen Present: Mature Character Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2016 09:41:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Four Horsemen Present series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The first thing you'll notice herein is that this is not simply an accumulation of rules - we begin in a rather pleasant manner, we begin by highlighting several components of the ROLEplaying aspect of our game that can prove to be interesting for both players and GMs alike - mature themes. No, this does not mean that this book is gory or the like - it means that it highlights the effects of an enmity grown over long years of one's life, the transition of faith strengthening or weakening, the effects of notoriety and parentage, romance and tragedy and their potential effects on the respective character and his outlook on life. Each of these themes does come with one trait - though, annoyingly, while the traits themselves are solid, one does not use a trait-bonus, which is uncommon, and they do not list their sub-type of trait, which can be a bit problematic: Other than that, longer smites, the option to aid via pep talks and similar options are neat.


Then again, this is a Four Horsemen-product and as such, surprise, it does have some meaty crunch. The first archetype we find herein is the drifter gunslinger, who may use his Intimidate skill to set the DC of attempts to use social skills on him. Instead of the startling shot deed, he receives practiced reflexes, which allows him to execute AoOs versus creature trying to hide from him, potentially dispelling all but natural or greater invisibility in concealment methods and rendering the target apparent, failing its Stealth-check. Instead of expert loading, at 11th level, the class gets the recovering fire deed, which lets him counter crits, sneak attacks et al. with immediate action AoOs with loaded firearms. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity (on a nitpick; the pdf reads "draw" an attack of opportunity) and if the drifter hits, he halves the damage taken. Interesting, cool deed!


The generian alchemist becomes ever more resistant to magical aging as well as three discoveries to make aging bombs (temporary aging, mind you!) with increasing debuff effects. Solid.


The idealist medium does not channel other spirits - he channels a subjective notion of either his own past or the ideal he strives to be in a perceived future and also has a modified spell-list. Allies cannot participate in this self-channeling. Shared seance is replaced with the option to use the channeled ideal self to modify one's own saves, switching which save is strong and which weak progression-wise, allowing the medium to swap the strong Will-save for Fortitude, for example. Instead of haunt channeler, the archetype can select an attribute and meditate on it, gaining +1 to ability and skill-checks pertaining that attribute for the day, +2 at 10th level. 18th level nets timeless body. Concept-wise, I liked this one, but I wished the execution was slightly more dynamic.


Fighters may elect to become veterans: These guys only have a 3/4 BAB-progression, but gain 4 skills per level as well as good Fort and Will-saves and add Diplomacy, Perception, Sense Motive and Stealth to their class skills. Starting at 2nd level, they get an aura that decreases the penalties of fear and emotion-based effects in the area of the aura and 2nd level, he may, as part of rolling initiative share a teamwork feat with an ally, who is considered to have it for the remainder of the combat, with 10th level adding +1 teamwork feat to thus share. This basically sports the per-encounter-mechanic, which I loathe (and have ranted on long and hard against - arbitrarily defined timeframe sans cohesive in-game representation)...but that's just one issue. A more important one would be that the aura locks these guys out of Bravery feats by replacing that one. Additionally, the combat-commander option has been done in more mechanically interesting and viable terms in various classes...so no, not too blown away here.


On a more positive side, the pdf does sport 5 story-feats, which, story-wise, are pretty cool: Ecumenical represents finding moderation in faith, Lost Sibling poses the challenge of finding the sibling; Polymath a second favored class and Wasted Years eliminates the penalties for old age - all in all, the feats themselves are gold from a narrative point of view. From a mechanical point of view...less so.


Ecumenical nets you +2 to Diplomacy, Sense Motive and Knowledge (Religion) when dealing with a specific religion and the believers, which is pretty lame...but the completion benefit, which doubles the bonuses and nets you a second alignment as which you can count, is pretty cool. Sharing "you" spells with a lost sibling is similarly a pretty nice completion benefit...and it better be, with only +2 Diplomacy to gather information, +4 when it pertains your family as the base benefit. Conversely, a 1/day 1d6 immediate action bonus to attack roll, ability-check and saving throw via Mentor sounds pretty cool...but, as a completion benefit, it has Leadership. Sans prereq. While I am firmly in the "Leadership for all"-camp and use the expanded rules crafted by Alexander Augunas, not everyone is and this one lets you cheese Leadership's level prereq if your GM is snoring... All in all a section that left me with mixed feelings - if you can live with minor hiccups, the completion benefits make these worthwhile.


The pdf also provides the mortality sub-domain for death, which lets you use Wis-mod when channeling negative energy to cause damage and adds Wis-mod to channel damage caused. The other side would be the vigor subdomain of strength, which increases the Strength-based damage output of your weapons 3+ Cha-mod times for 1 minute, with the precise enhancement depending on the weapon-group you use - kudos for getting that one's rules-language right.


The pdf closes with 5 new spells, the first of which would be acrogeria, in both the level 6 regular and the level 9 mass version, which temporarily causes aging and related attribute damage, though the damage can be healed via the usual means. The 8th (6th level for alchemists) spell Athanasia renders the target immune to aging magic and the rigors of old age, but does not prolong life -which is cool and all, but what about attacks that age, but are not caused by "magic" -attacks of certain creatures, for example? Not really sure, but I think they still apply... Greenhorn penalizes skill-checks and may even make certain skills untrained for the duration, if the penalty exceeds the ranks, with penalty being based on level...now this spell is creative and unique! Finally, respect for elders grants age-category-scaling bonuses on mental attribute-dependent ability and skill-checks, with, rather cool, dragons, outsiders etc. also getting scaling info.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. The blending of full-color and b/w-artworks, none of which I had seen before, is neat as well. The pdf comes cully bookmarked for your convenience.


Steven T. Helt's take on mature character options is generally rather nice - the themes evoked and the ideas in the respective pieces of crunch are fun, but the precise execution of the archetypes and options herein fell a bit flat for me. The highlight, beyond the very cool greenhorn-spell, at least to me, would be the story feats and their built-in story-arcs as well as the traits, but in these, there are some minor blemishes to be found. Personally, I am not a big fan of the archetypes apart from the drifter, either and the pdf feels, as a whole, somewhat less inspired and creative than what I've come to expect from the horsemen. While by no means bad, this pdf did leave me with a sense of being okay, if not 100% perfect in execution, but also with the sense of lacking a true "blow-me-away"-moment. In the end, this is a good example of a solid product with minor rough edges. hence, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars. Due to in dubio pro reo policy, I'll round up for my official verdict, though, admittedly, as a person, this is closer to 3 for me.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Mature Character Options
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New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2016 10:19:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This revised installment of the New Paths-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The trickster class presented herein receives d8 HD, a now reduced 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus rapier, longsword, sap, short sword, shortbow, whip light armor and shields (excluding tower shields) and may freely cast spells while only wearing light armor and/or using a shield. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves and gains spellcasting.


Spellcasting of the trickster is slightly more tricky (I'll punch myself later for that one) than you'd expect: The trickster's spellcasting is governed by Intelligence and thus is prepared according to convention. However, spells prepared are not expended upon being cast - instead, the spell slot of the appropriate level is expended. Metamagic is handled as for sorcerors and similar spontaneous casting classes. High Intelligence influences the number of spells a trickster can cast, but not the amount of spell-slots he has - this is pretty important for balance, so bear that in mind. So, in summary, we have an actually working blend of prepared and spontaneous casting here for a surprisingly unique take on the old vancian system. And yes, concise rules for cantrips gained (often overlooked) and spellbooks (ditto!) are part of the deal here. This section is rather elegant - kudos here! Tricksters begin play with 4 cantrips known and 2 1st level spells and increase that up to 6 for each spell level, barring 5th and 6th, which cap at 5. 5 is also the maximum spells per day limit. Akin to the alchemist and similar classes, spellcasting caps at spell level 6.


The trickster also receives access to sneak attack and begins play with +1d6, increasing this by +1d6 at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, at first level, the trickster gains trapfinding. So far, so rogue-y, right?


Well, second level becomes a bit more unique, as the trickster gains a forte on which to focus, of which 4 are provided. Structure-wise, the fortes provide immediate benefits and unlock new abilities at 5th and 9th level. The first would be Acrobat, which not only provides skill-bonuses to movement-related skills and eliminates the need for running starts to get the associated bonus. Additional movement while not carrying heavy load or the like and no armor check penalty for Dex-based skills can also be found here. At 5th level, the trickster gains a scaling bonus to AC and CMD and may also act as though under freedom of movement for trickster level round per day, but only for movement purposes. The 9th level ability has been similarly redesigned - provided the trickster has at least 10 ft., he can dimension door as part of the move action expended, but, in a unique twist, the total distance he can thus travel is limited and capped with a daily max.


The second forte is arcane accomplice, which nets a familiar, though the familiar receives Disable Device and Sleight of Hand as class skills and can deal sneak attack as long as it's within 30 ft. of the trickster - and yes, this means you can basically double-team on your own, greatly increasing the validity of sneak attack, though, for balance's sake, a familiar's sneak attack uses d4s, which proved mathematically feasible in my tests. 5th level goes one step further and nets the familiar all teamwork feats of the trickster as well as AC +2, while 9th level provides basically spring attack for the familiar, but only with regards to delivering harmless touch attacks - and yes, this is more versatile than you'd think.


The third forte is Beguile and provides +1 to DCs and +1 to rolls to overcome SR, scaling by +1 at 5th and 9th level - but only when targeting creatures that would be denied their Dexterity-modifier or that are helpless. At 5th level, when successfully feinting, the target would be denied his Dex-mod to AC for the next melee attack or spell targeting by the trickster, but only when performed on or before his next turn. 9th level decreases the required action to feint to a move action, a swift action if the trickster has Improved Feint.


The fourth forte is Spell Pilfer, which is easily the most unique of the fortes: As an immediate action, the trickster can make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) to identify the spell and, if successful, the trickster may attempt to pilfer the spell. The caster receives a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 trickster class level + Int-mod to negate the attempt. If the caster fails, he loses access to the spell known or prepared spell, while the trickster temporarily (1/2 class levels, minimum 1) adds the spell to his list of spells known. While the spell is pilfered, the original caster may not cast it, but the trickster may, provided he has an available spell slot. Only one spell (again, VERY important for balance) can be pilfered at a given time - pilfering a second spell, the previous spell immediately reverts to the owner. This ability can be used 3 + Intelligence mod times per day. It should be noted that tricksters can only pilfer spells they can cast, another VERY important limitation. Now you may have noted that Will-saves are pretty easy for most casters - thus, at 5th level, the trickster's Wisdom modifier is also added to the DC to resist the pilfer attempt. I am usually fiercely opposed to dual attribute-mods to anything, but considering that Wis is NOT a trickster's crucial stat in any way, in practice, this is not problematic. 9th level allows the trickster to pilfer spells above his casting capacity, but thankfully with the caveat that the trickster can't cast such spells - so no abuse possible. This is a very impressive ability in my book, since it makes spell theft work sans holes in the wording, sans abuse. Love it!


The new, fifth forte would be shadow, which nets a +2 insight bonus on Stealth checks in dim light or less and it also nets low-light vision and darkvision 30 ft. (Or +30 ft., if the trickster already has darkvision.) They also get +2 to saves (untyped) versus spells with the shadow subschool or darkness descriptor. 5th level nets Hide in Plain Sight while within 10 ft. of a shadow is pretty powerful; usually, one assumes 6th or 7th level as the soonest at which this one should be available. Shadow and darkness spells are cast at CL +1. At 9th level, the trickster SR equal to 12 + class level versus these spells. When I heard about this new forte, I was pretty excited. I admit to being less excited by now - the shadow forte isn't that interesting. It isn't bad by any means and the free bonus content is nice to have...but I'm not that blown away by it.


Starting at 3rd level the trickster adds +1 competence bonus to Bluff, Disguise, Escape Artist, Sleight of Hand or Stealth, increasing the bonus by +1 every third level, though the new bonuses gained may be freely distributed among aforementioned spells. 3rd level also nets evasion and 6th, 12th and 18th level provides bonus feats from a limited list. 8th level provides uncanny dodge, 11th improved uncanny dodge.


At the level, as a standard action, the trickster can cast a spell with a range of touch and deliver it as part of a melee attack, with the restriction of only working in conjunction with spells that have a casting time of 1 standard action or less. If the trickster hits, he also deals sneak attack damage in conjunction with the touch spell. Important: Misses mean the spell is lost, not held! This, combined with 3/4 BAB, is an important balancing mechanism...At least until high levels, for at 17th level, it is no longer lost - as a minor nitpick, while it is clear from the wording, it would have been nice to see the class explicitly specify that the trickster can hold only one sneakspell charge to avoid stacking them up.


Spells thus delivered may also not be enhanced by metamagic and, have a crit mod of x2. 9th level provides ranged legerdemain, though the ability is thankfully MORE precise than that of the arcane trickster PrC, specifying how far you can propel stolen objects and increasing the required skill ranks to 5. At 14th level, the trickster receives Filch Spell, which allows the trickster to hijack spells requiring direction (flaming spheres etc.) as a move action 3+Inttelligence modifier times per day. 15th level provides Surprise spells - but unlike the imprecise original take on the ability, this one clarifies from the get-go how it works with magic missiles or AoE-spells. As a capstone, the trickster treats all sneak attack damage 1s and 2s as 3s and automatically confirms all crits when using sneak attack. Additionally, the trickster may add metamagic to sneakspells sans increasing the casting time.


It should be noted that the trickster, still exceedingly powerful, now has a suggestion to decrease the power of the class: The suggestion is to eliminate necromancy and evocation from the spells they can cast. While this may be a sound idea and a quick and dirty elimination of the blasting capabilities of the trickster, it only marginally addresses the issue of power - an alternate, more conservative spell-progression would have been a more prudent solution in my book and maintained the universality of character concepts one can realize - instead of restricting the options, reducing the resources available, especially considering the strong framework of the class, would have made sense to me.


The pdf now also contains the dual forte trickster archetype: Instead of the bonus feats at 6th, 12th and 18th level, these guys can select a second forte at -4 class level at 6th level. And yes, this is pretty much broken. Individual effects of one forte's three benefits usually exceed that of a comparative feat gained - for three feats, you basically get the effects of three class abilities that all exceed the individual potency of a comparable feat. Instead of improved uncanny dodge and filch spell, 11th level and 14th level net this archetype further enhancements of their respective primary forte...and they are...basically the best-of regarding class abilities you can ask for. Acrobat? + sneak damage when you move at least 10 ft. At 20th level, the archetype gets both fortes at full potency. I...consider this archetype broken. What it exchanges for the significant flexibility and power gain does not add up. Not getting near my game.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch and precise, I noticed but one minor fringe case; other than that - all around precise and well done in both formal and rules-language departments. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports multiple gorgeous pieces of original art. The pdf comes with bookmarks in spite of its brevity - nice.


Marc Radle's trickster is interesting - it is a testament to how much we love the concept of a rogue-y character that the by now pretty broken (as in: too weak) base class continues to see truly excellent takes on the trope. Regarding customization options, both the talented rogue and in particularly, Legendary Games' absolutely brilliant Legendary Rogues-book provided options for the "mundane" rogue that retain their viability in the system. Why "retain"? Well, simple: You see, the rogue has been pretty much a casualty to changing design-paradigms in PFRPG - when the core-rules were releases, the value of a rogue talent was obviously set to about a feat or less, while later classes have increased the value of class-specific options - compare alchemist discoveries and rogue talents if you need proof of that...or look at the ninja's framework and unique tricks and you'll notice the paradigm-shift.


The trickster, however, is not a simple rogue redesign - it could be summed up as a magus/rogue-hybrid, but that does not do the class justice: Instead of cobbling together two classes, the trickster is a completely unique class. Let me sum up the unique benefits here: The trickster streamlines problematic arcane trickster class features, has a unique spellcasting-blend that plays different from standard classes while being easy to understand and it provides a balanced, strong means to represent the sneak attack double team as well as, most importantly, creating the AWESOME spell pilfer mechanic.


Where am I going with this history lesson/comparison? Well, the trickster is stronger than the vanilla rogue - no doubt. It frankly SHOULD be - there are three classes that need versatility/power-upgrades: Rogue, monk and (versatility-wise/unique class feature-wise) fighter. The trickster is stronger than the rogue can deliver solid damage - much like a magus, this class is a glass cannon, though one that also is a rather good face/skill-monkey. Personally, I very much welcome the decrease in skills per level, though this in no way decreases the potency of the class.


So...generally, I'm a bit torn on the revision. You see, when Marc sent me the revised file, I really dug the changes as a list. The revised Acrobatics forte is unique, magical and has cool mechanics that I really, really like - and I thought this would be what I wouldn't like. In contrast, I expected to like the shadow forte and was pretty underwhelmed by it. It has no ability that stands out as unique, it's just a selection of specialist tricks and some shadow-dancery material thrown in. Basically, the previously lamest forte is now pure awesome...and we get a new one, that is now, in comparison to all others, pretty lame....but then again, I may just have the trope done in too many, often more captivating ways.


Still, I had the highest hopes for the alternate balancing...and am not sold on it, as mentioned above. The alternate balancing doesn't do much, apart from restricting the damage output and if you get creative, you can still rock out damage via the other spell schools. Perhaps not as much...but it feels like a band-aid for a bullet wound to me. The trickster, even with that limitation, does not lose much in its potency apart from direct damage-dealing capacity via spells. Still, the care would usually warrant an upgrade in rating...


And then, there would be the archetype. And it's even stronger than the base trickster. Significantly so. I consider it broken. The exchange-value of fortes for feats and the other abilities are all off. Not going to get anywhere near my game.


How to rate this, then? I'm somewhat loathe to say it, but, as a person, I ended up liking this, as a whole, less than the previous iteration. While the 6+Int skill-issue and the slightly weaker Acrobatics-forte were not perfect, the pdf had no big issues. The dual forte archetype, to me, is a big issue - it's significantly stronger than anything the original pdf contained and an archetype I'd disallow in even my high-powered games.


You know, I feel like a total prick...this is a free addition, more content...but ultimately, in spite of the now superior acrobatics forte, the archetype really drags this down for me. Usually, I'd actually rate this down for that one. However, due to the fact that this is a free revision, I will maintain a rating of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for this revision, with an explicit note to be very careful with the dual forte archetype. It may suit your game, it won't come anyway close to my table unless I'm playtesting something with Path of War-powerlevel.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
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