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Shuigong - The Emperor's Watery Secret
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2017 10:12:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at a total of 16 pages, minus 3 for the editorial etc., leaving us with 13 pages of content, so what do we get?

This module was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of this book at Gencon.

The world of Orbis is one where steampunk influences abound, thanks to a special type of wood called scaldwood, which allows for the cleaner and more efficient generation of steam. Situated on this world, there is a nation roughly modeled after China - the Ten Thousand Scales, where the truth about the function of scaldwood and the actual use of steampunk-y technology is a jealously guarded secret, kept by advisors and bureaucracy from falling into the hands of the public, with the scheming at court keeping most issues far away from the emperor's notice. The PCs are contacted by the bureaucracy to deal with a rather significant issue - with 5 sample traits providing justification for them being chosen. The traits generally are solid and have but one issue: They do not specify their trait type.

Where should they go? Well, the deal offered to them provides a HUGE monetary benefit to go into Shuigong, the eponymous and restricted access filtration/sewer/water-processing system.

Anyways, this module is intended to be used with Gaming Paper's Mega Dungeon 3: The Sewers game aid, but does not require it - the final page is devoted to depicting the set-up of the gaming paper sheets, but also doubles as a map of the complex - player-friendly, in case you were wondering...

...and this is as far as I can go without SPOILING anything. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion from here on out.

...

..

.

All right, I mentioned the huge reward before, right? Well, players should be skeptical and if they manage to get on the bureaucrat's good side, they may gain some additional information: There is a monster hiding in Shuigong, and its body-count is rapidly rising. While details are scarce, public persons have been eliminated and the military had been sent in. To no avail. The dread "Beast Below" that has been causing the deaths in no monster, at least not in the classic sense of the word; rather than that, it is a man named Zihao, one born as a fourth son, but with serious magical talent. Emotionally and physically tortured by his brothers for the perceived favoritism he received, they sought to break his heart via a courtesan...and instead broke his mind. Zihao stalks the tunnels and has created a web of death below...one the PCs are now in the process of entering.

Shuigong is not a cosmetic backdrop - it is a proper environment: Pitch-black, slippery and potentially lethal, the place's structure influences CMD and Acrobatics and you should definitely know what you are doing - high Dex-characters will have some chance to shine here.

Exploring the dungeon that is Shuigong is btw. an internally consistent manner - it makes sense from the perspective of the deranged mastermind as well as from that of the GM: The obstacles the PCs will encounter focus on crippling PCs, on generating slowly a means of decreasing their potency; from deathblade poison-covered hidden blades to the creatures - which deserve special mention: The first would be hungry fleshes, which not only are diseased, they also accrue growth points and regenerates when hit by the wrong type of weapon, making for basically a puzzle-foe from the get-go.

This level of imaginative potential has been applied to more critters - take the plasmic otyugh, which can change its shape when in water - the interesting component here being definitely that the creature does not need to adhere to the standard formation of creature space, allowing for a creative application of flexibility and interesting tactical options I have not seen executed in any other critter so far. Even skeletons with filed feet or amphisbaena can be found here and astute players will slowly notice a sense of cohesion, that something is amiss - and indeed, the whole structure amounts to a gauntlet to soften up the pesky adventurers. From huecava and necrocrafts, the PCs will need more and more resources, as they slowly make their way towards the darkness and madness of Zihao and his ghoul retinue...

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are generally very good; while my print copy lacks some formatting among the statblocks (bolding/italicization), I have been told that this was cleaned up. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports several nice, original b/w-artworks. The print-version is a nice softcover. The cartography-overview page is solid and unfortunately, I can't comment on any pdf-versions, since I'm not sure there even exists one.

Dan Comrie's Shuigong is a nice, unpretentious, internally consistent dungeon crawl against relatively challenging foes that shows some sparks of brilliance and creativity among the builds for the adversaries; less so for the BBEG, but there is some true creativity herein. Considering the evocative twist on the classic sewer level trope, one can definitely consider this a nice module, particularly for slightly more experienced groups and convention play. While certainly not super-hard, it is definitely a potentially challenging module and I mean that in a good way. Not all encounters reach the highlight-level of brilliance, but for the brevity, the module does indeed deliver a fun excursion. All in all, a fun module - which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shuigong - The Emperor's Watery Secret
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Sewer Bestiary
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2017 15:06:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little bestiary clocks in at 16 pages, 3 of which are devoted to editorial, etc. - leaving us with 13 pages for the critters herein.

The review is based on the dead-tree version I received at Gencon in exchange for an unbiased, critical review. Due to me receiving a print copy, this was moved up in my review-queue.

All right, so we begin this bestiary with the CR 1 Chimerette, which is an AMAZING concept: Think of these guys as anti-familiars, instilled with an intense hatred for spellcasters and a will to free their enslaved brethren. And yes, non-spellcasters may gain these as companions with a new feat presented herein.

The CR 4 Cystling is a similarly evocative concept - basically a fey that has literally been consumed and trasnformed by the cancerous growth of unchecked civlization's refuse into a horribly disturbing mockery of its former self. Yeah...evocative.

The giant cone snail and its increased emperor iteration at CR 1/2 and 3, respectively, are similarly cool: Trails of slime make terrain difficult, poisonous stings, soft bits and the option to traverse walls make these nasty threats Speaking of animal-like threats: The vessel-capsizing CR 5 black boar with its jagged tusks is another effective, deadly threat that maintains the streamlined emphasis on efficiency you expect from animal builds.

The denlock, at CR 3, are basically long-necked, hairless degenerate dwellers of the realms below, adept at swarming and leaping pounces. The CR 2 plague drake is a great story foe - they hatch from dragon eggs corrupted and diseased and thus can make for a perfect angle to introduce draconic mentors or do one of the scaled majesties a favor.

At CR 7, the gatorpede is actually one of the few examples of weird hybrid creatures where I really can see it work - unique and deadly, it has the potential to become as popular as the classic owlbear. The CR 3 filth golem is usually not created - it happens when refuse manages to gain accidental sentience, emitting a powerful stench, nauseating blows and the classic immunity to magic make this for a great foe.

The CR 6 prismatic cube determines its color and precise effects anew every single round - from fire to acid and poison, it is a unique twist on the gelatinous cube. I've, as often, kept the best for last: The CR 9 rat emperor is basically a composite entity composed of a swarm of rats that grant it a collective intelligence - as such, it can swarm, spellcast, inflict the bubonic plague on foes...and worse. That's campaign BBEG-material, just add the required class levels and there we go, even at higher levels. My favorite critter herein, though...is one you will never see. No, not even with invisibility purge. Dire Midge Swarms, at CR 4, cause horrible itching and painful welts and they are particularly nasty when facing foes that are bleeding...oh, and they are so small you can't see them. This is amazing and I already know how I'll be using these critters.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; I noticed a minor formatting glitch of a purely aesthetic nature, but the Gaming Paper-crew has since told me they had fixed it, so consider this to be excellent. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, solid 2-column b/w-standard and each critter herein has a nice, original piece of artwork, all adhering to a uniform style. The softcover is solid and does not leave much to be desired for such a booklet.

A bestiary at this length has a tough job - it NEEDS to be all killer, no filler to warrant its dead tree price point, which is why you don't see too many small bestiaries at this length. Thankfully, the Gaming Paper crew has hired industry-legend Owen K.C. Stephens to write this pdf. This may be the first bestiary of his I have read and it's absolutely glorious, an all-killer, no-filler beauty that I really want to use in my games. Not a single creature herein is even "only" good - every single critter here is superb, making this one of the best small bestiaries I have read in a long, long while - and Legendary Games has spoiled me big time regarding great creature design. This is superb and well worth getting in print. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sewer Bestiary
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Trail of the Apprentice: The Bandit's Cave (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2017 07:43:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Trail of the Apprentice adventure arc (I refuse to use the term "AP" for anything that does not cover at least 12 levels) clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with a massive 20-page art- and map-folio that contains not only nice sample artworks to use as handouts (and the handout), but also player-friendly iterations of the maps featured herein, complete with grid etc.

So, this is the first of the series that uses Beginner's Box rules to (hopefully)bring ample of new blood into the hobby we all know and love. The first thing you should know, then, is that the series takes place on the world of Terrallien. This world is a relatively normal fantasy world, though gunpowder is known - other than that, the flavor is relatively vanilla and allows for easy integration into most campaign settings. The game begins in the idyllic village of Corbin, which also constitutes the first of two appendices; the second provides the two statblocks herein that are slightly more complex in the regular PFRPG-rules-version, since all other stats use the simplified beginner's box statblock notation. Nice to see this extra support, particularly considering that plenty of kiddie-groups use full-blown rules. All right, that would be my cue: The Trail of the Apprentice is a relatively kid-friendly AP, which means that kids ages 8+ should not encounter issues; heck, there are some 6 year-olds that wouldn't have issues with this. That being said, parents with particularly sensitive kids should definitely read this before playing.

The pdf also features the moon goddess Losinia in a complete write-up. Depending on domain chosen, one of 5 domain abilities is present, though e.g. calming touch's text continuously refers to binding ties in a glitch that should have been caught. The handout, if you've forgotten to print the maps from the associated file, is also reproduced herein, though it'll only come into play at the very end of the module.

Now before I go into the plot of the module, it should be noted that this is perhaps the most novice-GM-friendly module I have encountered for PFRPG - encouragement is given in the copious sidebars, from tactics to notes on how to run traps and detecting secret stuff to advice on scaling encounters, overland movement and similar tricks - for us veterans, that's all easy-peasy, sure - but it's nice to see a module set out this deliberately to make running it easy for a GM with literally 0 or next to 0 experience. That being said, as always, a GM obviously needs to know the rules - the advice pertains the practice of GMing.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Only GMs here? All right, so the plot is pretty simple: Lay down the map of the village, establish Corbin...and at dusk, the orcs attack. The PCs are interrupted from their nice stay at the tavern and the GM receives a lot of advice on playing orcs - and the first combat is on, as the PCs get a chance to defend the weapon shop. In the aftermath of the attack, the PCs are contacted by Sherif McBride to track down the orcs -for they have stolen a valuable artifact, a green serpent statue, from the local scholar This would be, btw., as good a place as any to note that the pdf does sport a ton of read-aloud text, making that aspect of "helping new GMs" work neatly as well.

Tracking the bandits overland, the PCs will soon enter Tiller's Marsh, and on the road, they will have a chance to deal with the classic of floral predators - a young assassin vine. The map provided for the encounter is btw. nice - as a whole, each combat-relevant place does get its map, which once again emphasizes the "easy for novices"-aspect of the series. The added tactics similarly help. In the gorgeously-mapped swamp, the PCs will have to deal with a lizardfolk attack and encounter their first hazard with swamp gas, which once again, is depicted in a manner that is easy to run -and yes, there is a player-friendly version that does not note the place the swamp-gas bubble bursts. The illustration of the lizardfolk makes for a great handout and depicts them as relatively nonthreatening - no one should get nightmares from these.

On their way, the next encounter represents an introduction to problem-solving, as the PCs can drag a local hunter from quicksand, with several possible means of achieving the goal being spelled out for the GM. In order to get to the bandit's cave, the PCs will also have to brave a giant grass spider's territory in what perhaps could be considered to be the most creepy of encounters herein, though smart PCs can simply provide food for the spider and bypass it completely. The eponymous bandit's cave, then, would be basically a simple 8-region cave - the progression is absolutely and deliberately linear to keep the group focused on progression - and as far as I'm concerned, it works that way. PCs who retreat and play it safe sans taking care may see that the bandits at least have some rudimentary tactics, though it should be noted that, including the boss Goroc and his wolf (lavishly-rendered), the challenge posed here is more than fair.

While a minor trap (introducing traps as a mechanic with ample GM-help) can pose a bit of a challenge, all but novices should cleave through these obstacles like a warm knife through butter - if e.g. kids already have some experience, you may need to beef that up a bit. (And if you have smart kids, using the regular rules, who known how to make effective builds, this becomes a slaughter...but then again, this is pretty much intentional.) The module ends, when the PCs find (surprise!) a letter of a mysterious "B" that tasked Goroc to steal the serpent - and no trace of it, which means the PCs are on their track to module #2 - the sage Ithamar tells them that the twin of teh statue, the white serpent, current in the care of Lord Samuel Wolfe, may well be in danger of theft as well - and sure enough, the PCs will head to the lord's private museum in Port Fairglade...in part #2.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, with the glitch, in the rules-section of the new deity of all things, constituting the most major blunder herein. Layout adheres to a nice, easy-to-read two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artworks provided are nice indeed and the plentiful full-color cartography is similarly great - for some groups, these may even represent the major draw here.

Paris Crenshaw's "Bandit's Cave" absolutely achieves its intended goal - if you'd rate a module in difficulty on a scale of 1 - 10 for both players and GMs, then this would be a 1 on both scales - this is a very easy introductory module that should not generate any frustration unless the dice REALLY hate the players...and that's part of the game as well, right? Anyways, this poses an interesting conundrum for me as a reviewer. You see, when you ask most folks of their very first RPG-experience, you probably won't hear about that AP with its elaborate plot, that highly complex investigation or that bone-chilling horror scenario that killed off all but one player.

What you'll hear, at least in my experience, is a variation of this simple, basic plot: Bandits and/or orcs/goblins/insert low-level humanoids attack; PCs track them to hideout and defeat them. Sometimes sans the tracking, beginning directly with the complex. The boss, usually, is a bandit with wolf, a shadow, a giant spider or an ogre. In the aftermath, the PCs find a very obvious hint that sends them on their quest. I have seen this set-up so many times in various configurations, I have, as a person, come to loathe it. Perhaps it's my personality structure and the fact that I lack a penchant for nostalgia, but as a person, I can't stand this set-up anymore. I wished I had AP-quality plots and complex modules back in the day.

That out of the way, I am not going to penalize this book for delivering what I'd call the "atomic roleplaying experience", the easiest introductory denominator, if you will, for that's exactly what the module is intended to do. The target demographic here is not a cheapshot of nostalgia cloaking a lack of imagination. Instead, every single aspect of the module is thoroughly designed to be easy on the players AND GM. GMs are so often forgotten, and while the learning curve of most GMs is pretty rapid and steep, a good GM can make or break not only a module, but how players perceive the hobby as a whole, particularly when they're new to it. It is here that the module sets itself apart from aforementioned adventures that employ the same atomic experience - it sets itself up, as deliberately as possible, to provide an enjoyable experience for everyone involved and achieves its goal very well, with each encounter and scene introducing one aspect of the game and how to handle it. That deserves applause.

Now there is one thing I considered to be somewhat surprising - you see, considering the focus of the module towards family gaming, towards new players and kids in particular, I was somewhat surprised to note that "good" behavior isn't really rewarded herein. Dealing with adversaries in a nonlethal fashion, an easy way of fine-tuning a moral compass in the making, and rewarding the players for being good guys, is not something the module does and constitutes the one aspect herein where I believe the module falls short of its mission-statement. How to rate this, then? Well, here things become difficult once again - jaded guys like yours truly won't get that much out of this module...but frankly, we're not the target demographic and later installments of the series do a better job there. But yeah, unless your nostalgically-inclined, experienced players and GMs probably won't be too blown away here. However, rating the pdf for such a demographic wouldn't be fair - instead, I will look at this under the premise of what kind of job it does as far as the "very first module"-aspect is concerned...and here, my own experience and cynicism aside, it excels.

Unless you're overly ambitious and want to jump in at the deep end, this represents the most gradual and easy way of "learning the tools of the trade" I have seen for current systems with the morals/nonlethal gripe being the one big flaw I can deduce. Hence, my final verdict for this module will clock in at 4 stars - GMs to be, those of you who never GMed before - this is your ticket towards realms unknown. It's not an epic saga of its own, but it is a fun time for all novices involved.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice: The Bandit's Cave (Pathfinder)
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Deadly Gardens: Petrified Plants
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2017 07:41:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin this Deadly Gardens-installment with something radically different - namely a new type of terrain, the stonebriar: These basically represent petrified thorn thickets - as such, either Strength- or Dexterity-checks can be attempted to pass through, with each 5 points over DC 10 providing 5 feet of progress, with Strength causing damage to the person trying to get through it that way. Slower, less lethal ways of passing through it also receive proper mechanical representation. And while I'd honestly usually complain about attribute-checks feeling a bit 5e-style, in this case, I think they're justified: The terrain is rare and probably should be this hampering/deadly. The terrain does not count as plant material for spells and effects, and in my one nitpick, I do believe that stone-manipulating tricks should affect it.

The new material woodstone shared properties with steel, but is treated as wood and is treated as both wood and stone for the purpose of interaction with appropriate magics. Prices for all types of magics are included and the connection to the elemental plane of earth make sure that the respective wands and staves should be in high demand by appropriate people.

Now, as you may have guessed, petrified plants would be represented by a template - depending on the HD of the base creatures, this may increase the CR from anything between +1 to +3. The higher the base HD, the higher the DR - at first, these are /adamantine, later even /- . The template kills any fire vulnerability, but decreases the speed. Its slams become more powerful and they may forego the additional damage of critical hits in favor of a free Awesome Blow. The pdf does feature two sample creatures with the template applied, the treant as seen on the cover and a greater ophidian vine.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series. The artwork provided is decent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity, which is nice.

Joe Kondrak's first offering (at least to my knowledge) that has crossed my path...is surprisingly cool. Now the template could use a bit more extravagant abilities, granted - but it does represent its concept pretty well. The new terrain type and material are surprisingly well-crafted as well, making this a pretty impressive freshman offering. And, as you all know, first offerings get the benefit of the doubt! Hence, my final verdict will round up from 4. 5 stars for the purpose of this platform - certainly worth the low and fair asking price!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Petrified Plants
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Kemonomimi - Moe Races (5e)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2017 07:37:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The D&D 5e-conversion of the Moe Races clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

"When the kami placed their thumbprint unto the forehead of man, breathing life into the husks of flesh, they wept tears of sorrow. Looking upon their children playing upon the ground, rolling in the fields of grass and running alone through lush tracks of wilderness, the Kami felt the hollowness of the human heartbeat, thumping alone." This is the beginning of the legend that talks of the creation of the kemonomimi, and it is but the beginning of a rather flavorful origin-myth, which continues to provide an interesting look at the respective sub-races of kemonomimi, all of which receive their own entry.

For those among my 5e-favoring readers concerned about conversion and detail, it should be noted that the racial entries mirror those in the PHB - that is, we get ample of flavor text as well as suggestions for which class to choose. The Akaimimi (red panda) increase Wisdom by 2 and Constitution by 1, are Medium, have a normal speed and gain darkvision as well as animal affinity towards red pandas and similar beasts - all kemonomimi-subtypes receive the affinity for their respectively aligned animals, just fyi. Similarly, they all have darkvision 60 ft.

Akaimimi may cast augury as an innate spell, recharging that on a long rest, with 10th level adding 1/week divination. You can spend this augury to ask questions to perform a specific task, granting benefits equal to guidance to yourself or another when performing it. Nice one! The race may also choose Arcana, Hisory, Nature or religion to gain proficiency in.

The araiguma (raccoon) kemonomimi increase Con by 2 and Int by 1, are Medium and beyond the standard kemonomimi abilities, they gain proficiency in either thieves' tools or Slight of Hand and may determine the next source of water as if using locate object. Similarly, they may purify food by washing it in fresh water, as the ritual. Nice.

The Inumimi, the dog kemonomimi, increase Strength by 2 and Wisdom by 1 and gain proficiency in Handle Animal or Survival in addition to the usual animal affinity and darkvision. The inumimi gain advantage on saves versus curses, hexes and similar abilities that bring bad luck and extend this benefit to adjacent allies. The fox-like Kitsunemimi increase their Intelligence by 2 and their Dexterity by 1 and may choose either Insight or Perception proficiency-wise. Their unique ability beyond the basics would be cunning planner: During a short or long rest, the character can plan for a specifc situation defined as either the kitsunemimi taking a declared action to affect a designated subject or such a subject taking an action against the kitsunemimi. Upon the conditions coming into play, you can add +1d4 to a relevant roll. The ability can be changed condition-wise in a short rest if not triggered; if triggered, it requires a long rest to recharge. Pretty cool!

The Nekomimi (based on cats, in case you're Japanese is rusty) increase Dexterity by 1 and Charisma by 2 and skill-proficiency-wise may choose either Athletics or Acrobatics. They may reroll a single dice roll, with a long rest to recharge. Tanukimimi (you guessed it - based on tanuki) increase Con by 2 and Cha by 1 and choose either Stealth or Survival as proficiency. As a bonus action, they can grant themselves character level + Constitution bonus temporary hit points, with a long rest to recharge.

The ahre-based Usagimimi receive an increase of Dexterity by 2 and Wisdom yb 1 and gain proficiency of a tool of their choice and one additional language and take only half as long to learn the use of either. They can perform the Dash, Disengage, Dodge or Search actions as a bonus action. Alternatively, they may use a bonus action to attack with a weapon they made themselves. This ability recharges after a short or long rest.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though the respective ability-headers are not italicized. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice and cute artworks for the respective Kemonomimi. With the Nekomimi as an exception, the artworks have to my knowledge not been used in pdfs apart from the other editions of this book, which is fair game. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment, though they are not required at this length.

Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose deliver a more than solid, well-made conversion of the kemonomimi to 5e here. The balance of the respective races is on par with the races of the PHB and every type of kemonomimi herein does have at least one unique trick that sets the race apart. It's also nice to see that the animal affinities for more combat related critters (dogs and cats) have obviously influenced the balancing of the respective races. As far as I'm concerned, what's in here is pretty internally consistent, with the usagimimi's pretty powerful skittish bonus action tricks making up for the relatively subdued crafting aspect of 5e in comparison to PFRPG.

In short - this is pretty much an excellent example on how to make a good conversion. Much like its PFRPG-brother, the pdf only covers the base races, though. Supplemental material cannot be found herein, we just get the nice fluff and the similarly nice races. As a whole, this is worth getting and can be considered to be a solid addition to 5e-gaming. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kemonomimi - Moe Races (5e)
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The Dimensional Wayfarer
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2017 07:36:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages, so let's take a look!

The dimensional wayfarer class' chassis nets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons + one exotic weapon of their choice as well as with light and medium armors, but not with shields. The class gets a 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Will-save progression and learns to cast spells spontaneously, with Wisdom governing (slightly uncommon) this type of spellcasting,, which is, fyi, drawn from a custom list. And here we begin with a big issue. The spellcasting notes that he casts a "mix of divine and arcane spells" - all right, I'll play. Does arcane spell failure affect them? Yes? No? Only those originally drawn from arcane lists? No frickin' idea.

The class begins play with planar channeling, which means they can channel baneful energies against creatures with the extraplanar subtype and can only harm, with a progression analogue to the cleric's channel energy. Weird " A dimensional wayfarer can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + his bonus for the relevant ability of the spellcasting class he selected." Thing is - the class does not select anything, which makes me believe that this is a remnant from a previous version in the design process.

Also at 1st level, the class gains a planar guide benefit - that would be favored enemy, favored terrain or terrain mastery for a previously chosen favored terrain. Only a previously chosen favored terrain qualifies for terrain mastery, with other planes being the focus here. +1 of the planar guide abilities is gained every 3 levels thereafter and they do not scale at later levels. The other first level ability lets them 1/day use dimensional knowledge (+1/day at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter) - using it requires a Knowledge check, with the precise knowledge depending on creature types and a range of 60 ft. For 10 by which the check is succeeded, the bonus granted is enhanced. At first level, this nets an atk-bonus, with 5th level unlocking save-bonuses and 9th level 1d6 bonus damage. Weird: The second one has a maximum range of 60 ft., whereas the other two don't have a maximum range. I assume the "allies within 60 ft." -AoE should pertain to all three. At 13th level, the dimensional wayfarer may single-target a foe who is then dazzled; higher DCs can net daze and stun - and I'm good with no save here; it's a limited ability and temporarily stunlocking a foe at this level is okay with me. 17th level provides once again an AC-boost for allies, though oddly, here the range is 30 ft. Oh well.

2nd level nets Spell Focus (abjuration) as a bonus feat as well as counterport - that is basically a means of conjuration spells counterspelling via any spell of the school qualifying. 5th level nets Spell Penetration as a bonus feat. (Feats are btw. not properly capitalized.) 6th level nets a +1 sacred bonus vs. outsider spells, SPs, Su and Ex saves and increases the spell save DC, Ex, su, etc.-DC and Cl versus such targets, +1 for every 6 levels. 6th level nets 1/day teleport as an SU, lacking the CL for ability interaction. The character also gets SR 5 + class level to resist the effects of dimensional locks and similar spells and abilities. Nope, spells not italicized. 12th level adds greater teleport or plane shift and increases said SR to 10 + class level. Weird: Cut-copy-paste remnant "This replaces planar mastery."

8th level becomes a bit problematic, adding the wayfarer's choice of panicked, sickened or staggered to creatures who fail versus the wayfarer's channel energy...that's a pretty strong save-or-suck at 8th level, in spite of its limits. 10th level nets commune as a 1/day SP, + 1/day every 4 levels thereafter. 14th level increases the counterportation capability as an immediate action and in a nice ability-interlock, two uses of planar channel can be expended to return an escaped critter - very cool! That being said, it imho could have been a bit clearer in that it also inflicts planar channel to the target - the ability is understandable, the sequence of its presentation is not too elegant, though. 16th level adds no-save banishment of outsiders and 19th level makes the teleport etc. 1/hour as well as 3/day astral projection, etherealness, gate, teleportation circle. The SR is upgraded to a base value of 15 + and, oddly, once again features the replace-angle-remnant.

The capstone adds further damage to creatures redirected. Beyond the spell-list of the class, the pdf also contains several spells. These contain some spells from rite Publishing's 1001 Spells as well as other sources - a chaotic bolt cantrip, a viable variant of dimension door - per se a solid addition to the class.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in previous Wayward Rogues Publishing-pdfs. They are still not at a point where I'd consider them good, though. There are both formal and rules-language hiccups here. Layout adheres to a nice full-color two-column standard and the interior artwork is solid stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks.

Robert Gresham's Dimensional Wayfarer is the best of the early hybrid classes he penned; while it is a Frankenstein-entity of cleric, planes walker PrC and arcane caster, its combination of tricks does have some potential. It is not a class that will necessarily blow you away and feels slightly unfocused at times, but in contrast to previous hybrid classes, it feels more like a cohesive entity, rather than just components smashed together. The distribution of abilities is nice, though the formatting and ccp-hiccups are jarring and detract from the pdf. That being said, I can see this appeal to someone who looks for the concept of a planar traveler/anti-outsider caster and it represents somewhat of a turning point for Wayward Rogues-classes. It gets better. The unresolved question of spellcasting as a basic mechanic does shoot down a core feature of the class, though, which is the main reason I cannot round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Dimensional Wayfarer
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The Grinding Gear
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2017 09:53:45

An Enzdeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 27 pages of content. However, the maps are 4 extra pages in a separate pdf and the module also comes with a handy 3-page GM-cheat-sheet. With the exception of the maps in the separate pdf, these pages generally are formatted for an A5-paper-size (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit up to 4 of the pages on one A4 sheet of paper, though your eyesight should be good if you opt for that option.

Okay, this module is called "Grinding Gear." It's penned by James Edward Raggi IV and is released by LotFP. From the cover, I expected a meat-grinder of epic proportions and indeed, the introduction seems to confirm that - the author talks about failure to gain the final treasure being a real option. But...is it really so nasty? Well, I'll answer that in the conclusion, but to prevent false expectations: This module expects you to track rations, light sources, encumbrance. These aspects DO matter herein and greatly influence whether or not you'd call this fair - the author makes sure that you should convey that to the players and not suddenly make these matter when they never mattered before. If you're like me and have a healthy leaning towards simulationalist gameplay and emphasize consistency in the world...well, then this can be played pretty much in sequence. I'd strongly urge Referees itching to run this to start enforcing these hard equipment tracking rules before beginning this module. Similarly, if your players have a bad attention span and don't make notes, this module will chew them up and spit them out, but notes (or even a good memory!) will certainly be sufficient to prevail. One more note: The cover may be macabre, but the contents of this are very much PG 13.

All right, and this is as far as I can go sans diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, while the cover with its massive array of corpses looks like one malevolent place and while it does feature prominently in the grounds of the dilapidated inn that makes up the first area for the PCs to explore: The corpses seem to litter the statue in pretty much a 20-ft.-radius and thus already provide a kind of hint regarding the diameter of whatever effect killed the beings. Similarly, closer examination will should the tell-tale signs of needle-like injuries and the beings seem to be pretty bloodless. You can probably find out where this is going - if not, let me spell it out for you: The statue indeed does contain the entry to the dungeon of Gavin Richrom, the creator of this complex.

Gavin at once loved and hated adventurers - he worshiped their wits and panache, but when he lost his daughter to an adventurer (who subsequently met an untimely end), he constructed this place. Opening the complex' entry-level results in sleeping gas being dispersed in a 20 ft.-radius and the sound of the complex opening subsequently will attract the massive swarm of mosquito-bats (aka stirges) that lair in the attic of the ruins of the inn.

But if the players are smart, they can't only avoid exsanguination, they can also exploit this behavioral pattern to actually explore the otherwise pretty lethal attic of the inn. Speaking of inn, chapel, etc. - the patron saint of tinkers, St. McIver (Name could be easily replaced) does have a significance...as do other aspects. You see, if PCs are really thorough, they may actually end up finding a hint on the shingles of the very roof of the complex...and realize from the objects they can find in the ruin, that whoever lords over this place is obviously not 100% sane...

Now, while purging the aforementioned stirge-like creatures is perfectly feasible, the PCs should conserve their resources, for they still need to explore the dungeon. It should btw. be noted that, time and again, notes on plaques strewn throughout the dungeon very much make these aspects known - the very first room actually does note that the PCs (and players) must take care and carefully observe. The actual traps that litter the complex thus often do not feel like they are meant to destroy the PCs - instead, it feels like a twisted game between Richrom and the groups seeking to plunder his complex - think of it like playing through a dungeon made by The Riddler or the Joker, minus their leitmotifs, obviously. Suffice to say, the complex as such features traps that range from "You die!" to "Hand turns blue" - and the severity usually is tied well to the actions preceding it. Lack of caution does not necessarily get you killed, but observation will get you further: Determining e.g. the effects of a specific magical light in conjunction with the hint on the roof can yield further information and allow further progress into the complex - though hostile adventurers who just want to get out already make sure that this is not for the faint of heart.

Here's the paradox - the module tells PCs, for example to NOT enter an underground chapel - and indeed, the associated trap, which raises the floors of several pits, each of which contains a potentially TPK-strength foe, is nasty. However, the PCs will have to play the game - i.e. deduce how to enter it, disarm the trap...or go for the "take stuff and run approach" - and yep, the powerful critters are telegraphed ahead of time. This is not unfair. Similarly, the handout player map of a pat of level 2 constitutes an interesting fake lead - one which may make PCs actually abandon the quest if they're not diligent enough.

Risk and reward, in short, come hand in hand and the ability to determine when it's prudent to risk your life and when it's just stupid... that's pretty much what this module is all about, gaining that almost sixth sense, if you will. For example, braving a potentially very lethal rock-paper-scissors-themed trap can be an epic experience and result in an interesting enlightenment. Ultimately, the PCs will, by some means, whether it's a wall or deadly critters, be incapable of leaving the place - which is exactly why rations, torches, etc. become so important.

Similarly, e.g. a magical organ and deducing the mindset of the dungeon creator very much become important - in order to find the true tomb (not the false one on the handout...), the PCs will have to pass several puzzle rooms, in which slots will require the spelling of the proper answers - and it is here that careful exploration is rewarded, for one question would indeed be how many idols of St. Iver there are in the tomb. While some of them can be brute forced, as a whole, adventurers who are sloppy (much like the ones who got Richrom's daughter killed) may thus end their careers early, entombed alive, sans an idea to beat the dungeon. On the other hand, if the PCs did their job well, they may well find the true tomb - but once again, the ability of the PCs to get proper loot out of it (beyond the basics) is contingent on observation and carefully acting - rushing players may see parts of their reward crumble to pieces before their eyes...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. If your eyesight is pretty good, you can fit 4 of these 6'' by 9'' (A5) pages on one sheet of paper. The pdf does sports some nice b/w-artworks in the same style as the cover. The supplemental material and maps are decent and do their job appropriately. Two thumbs up for getting both a letterpack and an A4-version of the pdfs. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can't comment on the print version, since I do not own it.

James Edward Raggi IV's Grinding Gear is an amazing, challenging module that basically takes the play mode and assumptions of playing an investigation, the attention to detail, calculated risk-taking etc., and applies that to the genre of dungeon-crawling. The puzzles herein are fairer than those featured in pretty much most adventure-games and the means at the PC's disposal to deal with the challenges in the book mean that, as a whole, this can be considered to an all-out amazing dungeon for groups looking for a challenge.

It also, by virtue of its design, rewards you for thinking along, for not just tuning off. In short, this is an extremely rewarding, difficult, but fair challenge of a module, one that is much fairer than its title may suggest. Now yes, this can result in nasty deaths...but similarly, it never really requires just luck to defeat anything. Similarly, it challenges, since they mostly hinge on player competence rather than character competence, also mean that it can be converted VERY quickly and that it similarly can be run sans issues for a diverse set of levels, even beyond the official recommended range of 1 - 4. At 5th level, some aspects start lose their danger, though, so if you believe you need to water this down a bit, that's an option as well!

This is, in short, a glorious module that challenges players and PCs alike. Well worth the price of admission, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. If you're looking for a module that requires brains AND brawn to defeat, get this gem!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Grinding Gear
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Deadly Gardens: Green Man
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2017 09:49:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Fun fact: The crest of the place I grew up in featured the green man. Anyways, we begin with 2 magic items - a mask that enhances your saves versus plant-immunity-related conditions and that also has the option to clad yourself in vines, enhancing woodland stealth and existing natural armor...though I'm not exactly sure from the verbiage whether this only enhances pre-existing natural armor. Green man ornaments can be attached to structures and then proceed to repair/heal them at a rate of 1 per hour, which is pretty cool - though a GM obviously should impose a hard cap of the number of these available to avoid putting carpenters etc. out of jobs. ;)

Now, onwards to the critter in question: That would be the CR 9 Green Man: These tiny plants are lethal: By touching a victim, they not only cause damage - one of 6 different, random effects can clog the victim's breathing apparatus, subvert the body, etc. - all with a save to negate, but yeah, pretty nasty. Oh, and worse: These guys can possess plants, with a possessed tree's statblock being included for your convenience. All in all, a well-made, lethal adversary!

We do receive natural items this time around, though here, they are herbal remedies: A total of 8 are provided, from aloe (which can heal small amounts of fire damage) to dandelion (helps versus diseases) to peppers that can fortify you versus cold effects and spells and berries that can delay the onset of poisons (there is an amazing adventure in that one...) - I liked these items!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good - not absolutely perfect, but close. Layout adheres to the series' nice 2-column full-color standard and the artwork featured also on the cover is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jacob W. Michaels delivers a cool adversary herein - while the concept and precise execution are something I have seen theme-wise before, the execution is sufficiently interesting to make this worthwhile. The supplemental information is similarly a pretty neat and well-crafted. While the magic items are a bit weaker than the rest of the pdf, this is still worth the fair asking price. Still, it does not have this little edge of brilliance - it is a good critter, worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Green Man
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Village Backdrop: Suurin (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2017 09:48:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

The village of Suurin was once supposed to be an utopian experiment, a place of freedom and peace. Now, the halfling village sports a cadre of hobgoblin enforcers and pretty much everyone suffers from tell-tale black veins (as always, nomenclature and local appearances and dressing habits are covered)...for the little village has been transformed by Devia Brookshire into the Skez capital of the realm, definitely earning the soul-crushing disadvantage that the settlement stats feature. It should be noted that this one does have a market place entry, in spite of this being the 5e-version - you can actually purchase the drug Skez openly in its various iterations. Now there is one thing to note: In all iterations of the village, it seems to be geared primarily towards lower level gameplay - considering that, the DCs for village lore (10, 15 and 20) may be a bit high, but I'm still good with it.

If you'd look at the blue daffodil fields or at the map itself, you'd see nice halfling burrows that seem to come straight from LotR's movies; an idyllic place...however,, as rumors and events (6 of each are featured) make sure pretty quickly, this place is anything but that: Few are the people still resisting the drug and while the local inn still offers food (prices included), the village is firmly in the grip of Devia and her enforcers, with only a few stalwart folks, the bereaved and elderly, putting up token resistance.

Of course, the big unknown here is Skez and, much to my pleasant surprise, no less than three types of the powerful drug have been provided...and yes, even though this is the 5e-version, the drugs come with proper formatting and delightfully crunchy bits. They make use of 5e's neat exhaustion-mechanics. While personally, I would have worked with disadvantage versus illusions instead of a -4 penalty in the case of the final drug, that's a matter of aesthetics.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any relevant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jeff Gomez takes us on a trip to an utopia broken by greed, to a pastoral idyll firmly in the grip of the horror of industrialized drug production. The stark contrast between the "good old days" and the tainted reality is intriguing and the fact that even enforcers and the mastermind can be considered to be victims adds another layer of complexity to it. The inclusion of proper rules-representations of the drugs is just a nice icing on the cake. The village itself may have primarily one note, but it is a strong and clear one. I was pretty positively surprised by this one, particularly the fact that the drug-conversion shows more care than what one typically expect, making this pretty firmly entrenched in the system. My final verdict for the 5e-version will hence also clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Suurin (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Suurin System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2017 09:47:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

The village of Suurin was once supposed to be an utopian experiment, a place of freedom and peace. Now, the halfling village sports a cadre of hobgoblin enforcers and pretty much everyone suffers from tell-tale black veins (as always, nomenclature and local appearances and dressing habits are covered)...for the little village has been transformed by Devia Brookshire into the Skez capital of the realm, definitely earning the soul-crushing disadvantage that the settlement stats feature. It should be noted that this one does have a market place entry, in spite of being system-neutral - you can actually purchase the drug Skez openly in its various iterations.

If you'd look at the blue daffodil fields or at the map itself, you'd see nice halfling burrows that seem to come straight from LotR's movies; an idyllic place...however,, as rumors and events (6 of each are featured) make sure pretty quickly, this place is anything but that: Few are the people still resisting the drug and while the local inn still offers food (prices included), the village is firmly in the grip of Devia and her enforcers, with only a few stalwart folks, the bereaved and elderly, putting up token resistance.

Of course, the big unknown here is Skez and, much to my pleasant surprise, no less than three types of the powerful drug have been provided...and yes, even though this would be the system-neutral version, the rules-language employed for them should retain compatibility with OSR-games and pretty much every game that knows fatigue damage, saves, etc. - so yeah, OSR and similar systems are perfectly fine. It's really nice to see the rules-language employed here being properly modified. Kudos for going the extra mile here!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any relevant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jeff Gomez takes us on a trip to an utopia broken by greed, to a pastoral idyll firmly in the grip of the horror of industrialized drug production. The stark contrast between the "good old days" and the tainted reality is intriguing and the fact that even enforcers and the mastermind can be considered to be victims adds another layer of complexity to it. The inclusion of proper rules-representations of the drugs is just a nice icing on the cake. The village itself may have primarily one note, but it is a strong and clear one. I was pretty positively surprised by this one, with the generally applicable, yet precise drug-rules making sense and representing a nice extra oomph here. For this reason, the system-neutral version will clock in at a final verdict of 5 stars as well.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Suurin System Neutral Edition
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Village Backdrop: Suurin
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2017 09:43:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

The village of Suurin was once supposed to be an utopian experiment, a place of freedom and peace. Now, the halfling village sports a cadre of hobgoblin enforcers and pretty much everyone suffers from tell-tale black veins (as always, nomenclature and local appearances and dressing habits are covered)...for the little village has been transformed by Devia Brookshire into the Skez capital of the realm, definitely earning the soul-crushing disadvantage that the settlement stats feature. It should be noted that presentation sequence has been slightly altered in comparison to older installments of the series, though the PFRPG-version, as always does feature not only the settlement statblock, but also a proper market place section.

If you'd look at the blue daffodil fields or at the map itself, you'd see nice halfling burrows that seem to come straight from LotR's movies; an idyllic place...however,, as rumors and events (6 of each are featured) make sure pretty quickly, this place is anything but that: Few are the people still resisting the drug and while the local inn still offers food (prices included), the village is firmly in the grip of Devia and her enforcers, with only a few stalwart folks, the bereaved and elderly, putting up token resistance.

Of course, the big unknown here is Skez and, much to my pleasant surprise, no less than three types of the powerful drug have been provided, including stats and proper mechanical representations for them - and all 3 are potent enough in their benefits to actually be enticing to the PCs....which can generate a story of its own... In a minor (and rare) formatting inconsistency of a purely cosmetic nature, the damage on failed saves reads, for example, "1d4 Cha damage, 1d4 Wis damage, 1d4 Constitution damage." It's a minor inconsistency, but yeah.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any relevant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jeff Gomez takes us on a trip to an utopia broken by greed, to a pastoral idyll firmly in the grip of the horror of industrialized drug production. The stark contrast between the "good old days" and the tainted reality is intriguing and the fact that even enforcers and the mastermind can be considered to be victims adds another layer of complexity to it. The inclusion of proper rules-representations of the drugs is just a nice icing on the cake. The village itself may have primarily one note, but it is a strong and clear one. My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Suurin
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Heroes of the Waves (A Polynesian Sourcebook)
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2017 13:07:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 41.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

So, what is this? In one sentence, it is basically a toolkit to play a fantasy campaign based on Polynesian culture. This in itself already adds some value to the book for me. Beyond Tolkienesque fantasy and mostly Japanese-inspired Anime or Chinese WuXia, it is pretty jarring that we don't make half as much use of those fantastic cultures and mythologies our diverse species has spawned in our games.

We begin with a two page introduction (though parts of the second page are blank space and then beginw ith basically a cultural primer: We learn about "Mana", which constitutes as a term the equivalent of Gottesgnadentum, the divinely-ordained right to rule; "Tapu" would be the origin of the word "taboo", while "hara" denotes errors in the eyes of gods. "Pono" is the term for atonement for transgressions. Similarly, there was a profession-based, loose caste-system that is explained here; while not as rigid as that of the Indian culture which we nowadays mostly associate with it. Something I wasn't aware of: Kahuna can mean different things - when added to a word like a profession, it can denote expertise in that field, while its second use is basically somewhat akin to "priest". If that sounds confusing, you can use the Maori term "Tohunga" instead.

Now, a specific cultural circle will result, ultimately in a changed array of assumptions and the pdf guides you through these. First would be the absence of metal; there were no land mammals, which obviously meant no farming and significantly different domesticated animals. Similarly, there would not be one culture, but rather an extensive pluralism. All magic is considered to be divine and the vast amount of islands mean that each can easily serve as a self-contained module - and the closed ecosystems there are fragile, which allows for an interesting angle, should you choose to pursue it. Armor was, considering temperatures and the omni-presence of the sea, pretty much non-existent and impractical and as such, the pdf provides a nice AC bonus by level, which is dubbed mana - three such progressions are provided, beginning at +6, +4 and +2, respectively, and scaling up to +34, +30 and +25 at 20th level. The adaption of this system to other classes is dead simple: You look at armor proficiency and then, depending on the default proficiency, you determine the scaling AC. It is pretty obvious that characters sans armor proficiency don't get Mana at all, but from a didactic point of view, it would have made sense to explicitly spell that out.

In the absence of horses etc., Ride (Dex) is replaced with Seafaring (Wis). This new skill is used to handle ocean travel, faster travel, etc. - and similarly, the skill may be used to prevent capsizing when fighting e.g. in a canoe; and yes, Acrobatics may be used for that one as well. Judging depth and determining underwater obstacles, fishing etc. - the skill is concisely presented.

Okay, the basics out of the way, we look next towards the respective classes: Paizo-classes (excluding the ACG, OA, etc.-classes) and LRGG-classes are discussed and categorized in 4 groups: Classes that require no work to fit a Polynesian setting, ones that require some work to make them fit, those that need some serious explanation and those that are simply inappropriate - they'd require mechanical tweaks as opposed to thematic modification. Similarly, races are appropriately codified: With some tweaks, the genasi-style elemental races make sense in a Polynesian context. Similarly, gnomes are thematically appropriate, but the classic Tolkien-races are not. Merfolk and Gillmen fit the bill as well and LRGG-races are discussed similarly.

Speaking of races: The samebito would be an aquatic humanoid with slow speed (never modified by armor or encumbrance) and they gain +2 Str and Cha, -2 Wis, gain a swim speed of 49 ft., are amphibious. They gain fast healing when completely submerged in water, up to a maximum of 2 x character level per day. They also have a 1d3 primary natural bite attack. As a whole, they are appropriate for every game and should not unbalance even gritty games. Well done. The menehune gnome subrace, replace gnome weapon training with an untyped +4 to Swim and Seafaring. (Personally, I would have preferred racial bonuses here.) They also replace the hatred trait with double carrying capacity.

The Nawao (Wild Men), weirdly, come with RP-values when the other races did not, but that's a cosmetic inconsistency. Similarly, the racial modifications of ability scores (+2 Con and Wis, -2 Int) are not properly formatted, but otherwise functional. They are monstrous humanoids, gain +2 to Intimidate, +4 to Stealth and +2 to Survival (all proper racial bonuses) and have darkvision. They also gain +1 to damage rolls with simple weapons and may 1/day fly into a frenzy upon taking damage, gaining +2 Str and Con, -2 to AC for 1 minute. The bonuses to Stealth and Survival may be replaced with Stealth and Knowledge (local).

The gaunt, blue-skinned and red-haired Turehu follow the same formatting-choices and gain +2 Cha and Dex, -2 Wis and always treat Perform (wind instrument) as a class skill. They have a 20 ft climb speed and gain +2 to saving throws. Nice: They are afraid of fire and take a penalty when near one. They also gain this penalty when eating "cook food" - an "-ed" is missing here, but I like the flavor here. They may also cast bane and bless at will, with Cha governing the save-DC. Problem: The ability is not properly codified as SP or SU; the presence of a codified caster level (equal to character level) does retain functionality, though. All in all, apart from cosmetic hiccups, a well-crafted racial chapter.

The pdf also features 2 base classes, the first of which would be the Kahuna. The class receives d6 HD, 8+ Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and prepared divine spellcasting governed by Wis of up to 9th level.To prepare spells, the kahuna creates a makeshift prayer hut (or uses an existing one) to communicate with the spirits. Now, kahuna begin play with an interesting ability - they may cast forbid action (reprinted here for your convenience) as a swift action a number of times per day equal to 3 + class level + Wis-mod. A creature may, however, ignore the tapu pronounced by the kahuna, even on a failed save - this, however, results in a penalty that scales over the levels to ALL d20 rolls as well as auto-failure of critical hit confirmation rolls. This allows the kahuna to deal with crit-fishing characters, which is pretty neat. At 5th level, the kahuna may instead employ greater forbid action for 2 uses. 10th level adds a confusion-effect to the breaking of a tapu. AT 15th level, all enemies within 10 ft. per class level can be affected by a tapu, though this use of the ability costs 4 daily uses.

3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter, the kahuna chooses a Craft, Profession or otherwise skill-represented talent of vital importance to the community, gaining the skill unlock powers for the chosen skill, with skill ranks still being required to determine the effects. The capstone makes the kahuna count as having at least 1/2 class level ranks in every skill. Nice: If you're not plaiyng with skill unlocks, alternate benefits are provided. The class also comes with its own spell-list and favored class options for the races featured here + Oread and Undine as well as LRGG's Lun'la.

The second class may be familiar to those of you who have LRGG's Alternate Path: Martial-pdf. The Tataued Warrior gets d10, 2 +Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields and prepared divine spellcasting guided by Cha, drawn from the ranger's list with certain modifications. These spells are unlocked at 4th level, analogue to the ranger. At 5th level, spellcasting is modified via the option to blood cast: As a swift action, the tataued warrior may cause spell level nonlethal damage to himself to change a prepared spell to another spell he knows. Minor complaint: Does this require concentration-checks/count as receiving damage for the purpose of concentration? I assume so, but I am not sure.

One of the coolest aspects here would be that following battle protocol is written into the class with ritual weapon: Upon commencing battle, a swift action sign of respect nets first a defensive bonus, with 6th level unlocking the option to use Cha-mod instead of Str for damage rolls and 10th adding both attributes to damage with the ritual weapon. I am not the biggest fan of dual attributes to anything, but as a whole, the execution here is solid. I mentioned the ritual weapon: This is a ritualistic object that may be empowered to act as a +1 weapon, with the state of empowerment lasting class level + Con-mod round. 4th level unlocks a variant form and allows for the changing of said forms via a ceremony, with every 4 levels thereafter increasing the potency of the weapon. That being said, the flexibility regarding enchantments and their scaling benefits is offset by a fatigue cool-down after use, similar to barbarian-rages. The scaling here is pretty conservative, just fyi, so even low-powered groups should be able to use this one. For high-powered groups; I'd suggest improving the enhancement-bonus granting-progression of the ritual weapon.

The second defining class feature beyond that, though, would be tataus, gained at 1st level and every even level thereafter, codified by level - and being awesome. New tataus are unlocked at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level and their benefits cover a wide range: Beyond the usual suspects like skill bonuses and bonus feats, there also are some unique benefits: Being able to use Stunning Fist in conjunction with the ritual weapon constitutes, for example, one such benefit. Starting with the options unlocked at 3rd level, the tataus gained also feature a drawback that often make for great roleplaying catalysts - the tatau of the goat, for example, requires that you frequently add a goat sound to the end of your sentences. Another tatau may make octopi consider you an attractive food source and draw them to you. What about gaining proficiency with all martial weapons and 3 exotic ones and being able to treat all manufactured weapons as ritual weapons? Yeah, that allows for the true master of arms playstyle...but it also makes all non-simple weapons wielded fragile... These drawbacks add a nice roleplaying component to the class and provide justifications for the spirit-suffused and superstitious cultural context. Really cool!

6th level unlocks the battle chant, which translates to +1 attack at the highest BAB as part of full-round actions and +2 to Intimidate checks, with a duration of Con-mod rounds and a swift action activation. 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter provides +1 daily use. The capstone of the class allows you to choose from up to 5 super-tataus that include a free true ressurection the first time you die each day and SR, or auto-confirming crits, for example. Pretty cool! The class comes with favored class options for the respective races featured herein, plus ifrit and merfolk.

Now, the next component of the pdf is particularly suitable for less high fantasy games and would pertain the condition introduced herein: Broken Bones, which can render the target shaken and produce penalties. As a minor formatting hiccup, two spell references are not properly italicized here. The pdf also provides a total of 6 new feats, three of which represent a new style, Kapu Kuialua, the art of bone breaking - the base feat allows you to break bones with each damage-causing attack; the follow-up extends that to weapon critical hits and the third, to grapple checks. Adding broken bones via stunning fist use expenditure to trips is also included. The final feat nets you the option to ceremoniously sacrifice a spell slot to increase your Mana-AC-bonus. There is also a "barbarian talent" (should be "rage power") and a bone-breaking antipaladin cruelty. A total of 7 mundane weapons (including two-handed martial finesse weapons) can be found as well.

The pdf sports 4 magic items: two types of tooth to call forth sharks, a hook that generates islands (in 3 levels of potency) and an enchanted surfboard. All have in common, that their spell-references are improperly formatted and lack italicization, though they otherwise are pretty cool. We conclude this pdf with 6 Hawaiian and 6 Maori deity-write-ups. These remain pretty basic, with one paragraph per deity, and unfortunately sport discrepancies in the domain selection: Kane, for example, sports 7 domains, while Ku only has 5. If that was intended to balance domains of different potency, I couldn't really make out the reasons for the choices made.

Conclusion:

Editing is pretty good on both a formal and rules-language level, but formatting is less consistent: From the presentation of races to the missing italicizations, there are a couple of avoidable glitches here. Layout adheres, apart from the 1-column intro, to a 2-column full-color standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The full color artworks are solid. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.

From the cultural notes to the concepts herein, there is a lot to love about this book. The Seafaring skill, bone breaking mechanic and class array generally are nice, with the tataued warrior being a rather cool character and the kahuna representing a powerful option indeed that has some cool crowd-control tricks. More importantly, this represents a great first step towards making your own Polynesian inspired campaign (come on, folks - write that campaign setting) - or to simply add material to a certain ethnicity that's pretty prominent in the Razor Coast. So yes, this is a good book and a fun offering I enjoyed reading.

At the same time, it could have been a tad bit more refined - the glitches that are herein make it unfortunately impossible for me to rate this as highly as I, as a person, would like to. Scott Gladstein, Dayton Johnson, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd have, however, crafted a toolkit I can recommend for anyone looking for a great first step into Polynesian culture - even if you're just looking for ideas to scavenge, this has something to offer. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I cannot round up. I do encourage you to pick this up -we need to send a sign that non-WuXia, non-Tolkienesque fantasy does exist and does have fans and people that want something different.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Waves (A Polynesian Sourcebook)
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Cultures of Celmae: Majeed
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2017 13:01:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, one of the aspects in my home-game that came from my deep love for the Sword & Sorcery-genre, it would be unique ability-score arrays and racial traits for different ethnicities - thus, I am pretty happy to see this pdf add mechanical relevance to a culture. The culture depicted herein would be the Majeed, who are humans that receive a +1 bonus to Will-saves. Now there is more to a culture, obviously - the Majeed, dusky-skinned, are the dominant seafaring nation of the world of Celmae and in an interesting twist, their social structure is actually fiercely matriarchal, flipping the despicable sexism to which women were subjected to in earlier ages on the head: Men are considered to be little more than breeding stock and fodder for the army, potentially also due to the emphasis of the worship of the sea goddess Amaura.

The culture of these beings, inextricably linked to the waves and water, in public baths and a fantastic iteration of the fables colossus of Rhodes generate a nice mythical resonance - even though the colossus' destructive ray could have warranted mechanical representation. The ongoing war with sahuagin and the hunters set to assault them further adds a nice tidbit of the local culture for these guys.

The pdf also sports 8 race traits for the Majeed, though none of them have been properly subtyped. It should also be noted that the bonus type array for the traits is inconsistent - there are some traits that properly use the trait bonus, while others remain untyped. Minor thing, sure, but an avoidable flaw. The traits generally are nice and include 1/day immediate action debuffs to accompany spellcasting, skill bonuses, and the like. Unfortunately-named: Sea Legs. there is already a feat with that name and the trait nets you not one, but two skills as class skills, which may be a bit much - the usual formula is a minor bonus and one class skill. As a whole, though, this section is pretty solid.

From the culture of the Majeed, we dive into the kingdom of Majera and receive a nice, quick summary of the history of the place - interesting btw. - the wealth of the empire has made being poor basically an affront to Amaura - which has its own massive array of potentially intriguing angles. The capital city of Harodai receives its own settlement statblock and we close with a deity write-up of Amaura - a generally nice write-up, though two favored weapons and 7 domains both exceed the standards established for deities, with the dual favored weapon opening up some issues regarding favored weapon proficiencies: Do worshipers get one? Both? The engine assumes one and this can put a bit of sand in the gears. These are ultimately minor hiccups, but they do drag this a bit down.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not yet good, but better than in older books by Wayward Rogues Publishing - there are a couple of rules-language and formal hiccups here. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice, original full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but they aren't necessarily required at this length.

Robert Gresham and Cody Martin provide a glimpse at the Majeed that constitutes a solid first look at a culture. It is very basic and there's not that much meat herein. The prose is solid for the most part, but the general flow of the text could be slightly smoother. The pdf is, if you're looking for such a mostly fluffy offering, worth a look, but falls slightly short of the potential the Majeed have - there could be slightly more information on colossus, on the customs, nomenclature, etc. - we only get a glimpse. The pdf has potential and offers a glimpse, but only a glimpse.

I certainly hope to learn more about this culture in the future, for the big bane of this pdf is that it simply has even less meat than the already minimal content featured in the Brynnyn-installment. What's here is per se solid, if not particularly grand prose...but at this length and with mostly fluff, it is the prose that needed to excel - and it's solid, sure...but not to the point where I'd consider this to be mega-compelling. However, at the same time, this is Pay What you Want as per the writing of this review and thus, allows you to determine yourself whether you consider this worthwhile or not. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 due to this being PWYW.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Majeed
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Everyman Options: Paranormal Classes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2017 11:53:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion for the new base-classes introduced in Paranormal Adventures clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin, as always in Everyman Gaming publications, with an introduction, ToC and a kind of mission statement, if you will - but beyond that, we begin directly with one of the most requested aspects for the shapeshifter class: MORE kingdoms. These, however, also come with new base shape abilities, so what do they offer? Well, for one, marine creatures are primarily air-breathers, but spend a lot of time in the water and thus gain Hold Breath, which also exists on its own. Being able to squeeze through narrow confines similarly is possible. Very interesting: Being Faceless is just as possible as gaining a shell, the later enhancing defensive fighting or total defense by the respectively noted bonus to AC. The respective kingdoms introduced follow the established formula. To recap: We get base shape, shape sizes, speed and the respective abilities granted by the kingdom, which are unlocked at 2nd, 8th and 15th level, respectively. The governing attributes of the respective kingdom are provided for one's convenience in brackets after the name. Simple and elegant in presentation.

Now it is the selection of shapeshifter kingdoms that proves to be the intriguing aspect: Aardvarks can, for example, not only run pretty fast, they can actually smell through rock, dirt, etc. and at higher levels, they excel at fighting prone and kipping up from a prone position...and at 15th level, they may even rend while prone. This may sound goofy at first glance, but this actually allows for an interesting fighting style. Anteaters gain a repositioning tongue that can pull targets closer (alas, sans synergy for the purpose of standard reposition maneuvers) - there is one issue here, though - I think that the tongue probably should have a reach. It can be intended as default reach, which is why I won't hold that against the pdf, but from the context and multiple repositioning (and flair)-perspective, I think that reach was perhaps intended. (And it would be cool...but perhaps, I watched too many pink panther cartoons as a child...) I digress. Armadillos, surprisingly, are all about defense, while bats begin with unassisted personal flight -as always, my usual "DMs should take heed of low-level flight"-caveat applies, but overall balance-wise, I am pretty okay with it. I really like the bivalve kingdom that can fluidly clamp the shell shut and burrow at higher levels. The Bovine kingdom plays on the sexual dimorphism of the species and grants different options for the sexes as well as trample capability. And as someone who has once evaded a charging wild boar, let me tell you, these are NOT to be trifled with.

A wide smile graced my face, when I noticed that camels can dirty trick-spit foes as well as move through difficult terrain - the combo makes for a relatively nice skirmishing action here. Centipedes gain poison, grab and constrict and those seeking to emulate our sleeping overlords in the sunken cities are in luck: The cephalopod kingdom's part of the deal as well. And yes, at 15th level, you'll have up to 8 tentacle attacks. OUCH. Cetaceans can bull rush in a unique way, while crustaceans at high level are expert grapplers, though both kingdoms are more conservative in design. Deer make nice skirmishers and are highly mobile, while echidna gain defensive spines and, once again, a tongue. Elephants could potentially be problematic, depending on the game - their shape size is Huge. Enchinoderms get pull and staggering spines and yes, friends of horses etc. - the equine kingdom's part of the deal! Gastropods and Marsupials are similarly covered...in the latter case, I am sorely tempted of making a monk who uses his trampling as well as a tail attack. (Kudos if you got that reference!) Mongoose are ferocious and are resilient to poison, while monkeys excel at skills, dirty tricks, etc. Raccoons follow a similar base-line, while the rhinoceros kingdom is suitably unsubtle. Scorpions similarly are unlocked, as are sirenias, sloths and skunks. And yes, sloths can gain a neat burst of speed, while skunks get their signature sickening spray (later nauseated). Turtles and Weasels complement the impressive array of new options here.

Unless I have miscounted, you may also choose from no less than 25 (!!) subkingdoms that should make our friends Down Under happy - koala and kangaroo are part of the deal, just so you know...and so are Gophers, who can carry significant loads in their cheeks and retrieve them via swift actions! That is SO AMAZING. I mean, come on, don't tell me you never wanted to make a badass hamster-hero? Hilarious RP-potential, btw.: While carrying stuff in your cheeks, you're difficult to understand. Add some M&Ms, grapes or similar goodies, stuff them in while playing, et voilà - hilarity. Two thumbs up! Legless humanoids, megabats...and there is a blanaced version of multi-armed humanoid options here...same goes for multiple heads. Whether you want to go rabbit or starfish...or even, yes, sheep - the subkingdoms are intriguing and often are associated with different attributes than the regular kingdoms.

Now the vessel class was a surprise to me back in the day - I frankly believed I had that role covered, but it did bring an interesting engine to the table that made me slowly come around to liking it. The class also receives an assortment of various new passengers to choose from. These follow the established formula. To recap: Each has an alignment, associated domains (3), a damage reduction, a flavorful manifestation of grace as well as a linear sequence of grace boons, which are gained/enhanced at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Concept-wise, these passengers provide a diverse array - we begin with the animate dream, who receives the defensive capabilities you'd expect (better saves vs. emotion, fear, etc. effects) and SR, but also receives tiring strikes, higher-level intangibility and suggestion implanting. It should be noted that said dream, like nightshade or oni, do not receive bracketed subtypes, though e.g. asura and manasaputra do receive these. The former btw. do receive nondetection as well as high-level resistance towards divine magic., while the latter provides Cha-based monk-like defenses. At higher levels, these guys can fire rays of cosmic fire, which inflict both fire damage and positive energy damage - and in contrast to another instance of 3pp-use of positive energy damage, it does not harm creatures usually not harmed by it, which makes it more in line with established depictions of the damage type, so I'm good with it.

Nightshade vessels are the nightmares of evil clerics, being healed by negative energy as well as by positive energy in an interesting variation of the usual type of depictions of such abilities. Channeling energy and summon forth undead similarly are in line with the expected tricks. Oni passengers convey better revitalizing, grace-powered immediate action death knell and such nasty combos. Qlippoth-bound vessels gain tentacles and may capitalize on the aberrant anatomy of their passengers, inflict horrid fungal infections and receive a nasty gaze at 9th level. More subtle and deceptive would be the spells added, courtesy of the rakshasa passenger, as well as the shape changing and spell-poaching, later more flexible when used in conjunction with grace expenditure. The sakhil are slightly less interesting, with a focus on fear and emotion and a grace-powered frightful presence that can be combined with other actions.

The vessel also gets to choose two different archetypes - the possessed vessel is treated as the passenger's type and is susceptible to possession, but may also expend grace to eject passengers. Nice tweak of the base engine. The Psychic Vessel gains psychic spellcasting drawn from the psychic's spell-list of up to 6th level and replaces 2nd level's omen with a small phrenic pool and a phrenic amplification. A total of 4 new omens can be found: Breath of Grace is basically a grace-powered variant of breath of life; Omen of Sorcery nets one or two sorc-spells; quick weal-woe visions and divination with really cool associated imagery of speaking in tongues complement this assortment.

Now perhaps the most radical of flavor-paradigm-innovations herein would be vessel usurpers. Vessels usually are outsiders; usurpers behave very much like passengers, but grant insight bonuses instead of sacred/profane bonuses and generally tend to not be too nice - whether it's the fey, ghost or yithian, I don't applaud the respective usurpers for their designs per se - they behave very much like passengers. I do love, however, that e.g. the Yithian allows me to go full-blown Loath Nolder (kudos if you know those games; more kudos if you've completed them!) - their design is certainly nice! However, at the same time, I found myself wishing that they had a more pronounced behavioral change mechanic to complement their flavor...or a more different feel. That being said, I very much consider the concept to be rife with potential!

Beyond the new class options for the original paranormal classes, we also receive an assortment of archetypes that unlocks options for existing ones: The Devourer alchemist, for example, replaces mutagen (and cognatogen, if applicable) with the option to consume parts of a creature vanquished, allowing them to scavenge abilities associated with the kingdoms and subkingdoms of the shapeshifter. As such, it should come as no surprise that the archetype receives a more melee-centric replacement for throw anything, as well as the option to receive instincts instead of discoveries. The kingdom abilities of the creature consumed are unlocked at 4th level, with higher-level kingdom abilities being unlocked later, thus consuming 3 discoveries the class would usually receive. 14th level increases the duration of the shapeshifting, thus replacing persistent mutagen.

NICE one: The pdf takes the concept of animal companion archetypes and introduces the fey-touched archetype for such companions: Instead of Str/Dex-bonus with becoming intelligent and a fey creature; 3rd level replaces evasion with fey-associated resistances and DR/cold iron and 9th level provides Eldritch Claws instead of Multiattack, with 15th level providing short-range teleport. I REALLY like this one; it trades raw power for versatility and it even provides concise synergy with previously established hunter levels. Kudos!! The Linewalker arcanist is, as the title implies, a specialist of detecting ley lines - instead of consuming spells, the arcane reservois of this archetype may be replenished via tapping into ley lines, which not only is flavorful, it also puts some control in the hands of the GM, a design decision I do applaud. However, before the power-gamers start pulling out the pitchforks, I should mention that these guys can seriously enhance spell save DCs and, at high levels, make better use of places of power. I'm not the biggest fan of the class, but I found myself contemplating this archetype quite a bit - kudos!

Now, the original Paranormal Adventures is basically an unabashed love-letter to the Supernatural TV-series and the bloodrager leviathan spawn, locked into the aberrant bloodline, would be a continuation of the themes established - with environmental and even planar adaption and high-level fast healing while raging, the archetype manages to convey well (and in a balanced form) the power of the leviathan. Similarly, the sorcerors may now choose the levialogos mutated bloodline that enhances your disguises and nets you nasty tentacles.

A new bardic masterpiece that first exhausts targets, then sends them asleep. As a minor complaint - the page-reference of the Blessed Conduit cleric archetype is incorrect for the book (the page it should reference is 23, where the spell is found - not 13), though these Magic domain-using clerics would otherwise be a neat take on the ley line using cleric. The Occultist receives the essence guide archetype, who gets an alternate array of spells, sense undead, expend mental focus to generate an aura that impedes undead, generate anti-undead circles - basically a ghost-hunter. Solid, if not mind-boggling.

Unchained Monks may use new ki powers to gain ghost touch, remove fear and similar emotion effects and even separate from the body to project his spirit - the latter in particular is nice, The pdf also provides a wide array of ranger traps (YEAH!) that include ghost salt traps, net launchers, etc. Rogues may elect to receive Psychic Sensitivity and a total of 7 new shapeshifter insticts can be found - these include becoming more lethal when faced with multiple enemies (you know, cornered beast and all...) as well as the ability to smell poison, which is pretty amazing.

Vigilantes also are covered, beginning with the cryptid, whose vigilante identity basically takes use of shapechanger mechanics - think of that as pretty much every werewolf-superhero or e.g. the archetype for fans of "The Wolf Among US" (the adaption of the Fables-comics). The invoker, unsurprisingly, would then be basically a vigilante/vessel-crossover, replacing, akin to the shapeshifter-crossover, vigilante specialization, having the passenger take care of the transformation. Basically, you could go Captain Marvel with that one, with grace accepting etc. - Shazam! (And nope, transformation is NOT subtle...but pretty fast!)

The final archetype is pretty complex and creepy as all hell - the poppet witch, who replaces patron spells with her own array: The witch receives an animated toy as a creepy construct familiar that has a soul focus that can be used to replace bodies...think of that a bit like Chucky, your new familiar. Oh, and the hexes further enhance this theme, allowing you to gain eitehr Improved Familiar...or an animal companion's power! Yes, your creepy killer-doll can actually...be a good creepy killer doll and you won't be penalized thanks to aforementioned soul mechanic, for sending it into the fray. Marionette-like domination, transforming targets into doll-effigies. This archetype is supremely creepy, mechanically complex and pretty much represents the designer at his best. LOVE it.

We conclude this pdf with a total of 9 feats: Cursing stares for mesmerists is neat; similarly, using channel energy to generate a mobile barrier versus fey, better defenses versus emotion effects, sharing a square with same-sized eidolon/phantom...some cool tricks there, though sharing a square and counting as flanking can be seriously nasty. Gaining a stun-inducing defense versus telepathic contact or divination and ghost touch shots for gunslingers are cool. Finally, the pdf introduces the new Sphinx Style, which provides benefits versus foes that you have identified - including potential negation of energy resistances or hardness, based on feats of the style. I usually am NOT a fan of such metagame-y tricks...but here, the implementation is damn cool.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while very good, aren't perfect - there are a couple of minor hiccups, though they do not impede the functionality of the rules- Rules-language, as pretty much always in Alexander Augunas' books, is precise and to the point. The pdf's artworks are in full-color and Jacob Blackmon's signature style. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though individual kingdoms and passengers have not been bookmarked, which may require a bit of page-flipping.

Alexander Augunas and Matt Morris deliver a cool expansion for the Paranormal Adventures classes; the material herein unlocks several of the neat tricks for other classes and features some true gems - the poppet witch, for example, is amazing and the yithian usurper similarly is cool. Plus: HAMSTER-cheek-action! I mean, come on, how cool is that? That being said, not each and every component herein is that inspired. A couple of the options feel, at least to me, like they could have carried a bit more. That being said, this is simply me being horribly spoiled by Everyman Gaming and similar high-caliber designers/publishers - this is pretty much a must-own expansion for the cool Paranormal Classes - and as such, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Options: Paranormal Classes
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Obscene Serpent Religion
Publisher: Neoplastic Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2017 11:47:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, the trope of the serpent cult is probably one of the oldest and most tired ones out there; throughout the pulp genre, horror, etc., serpents and snakes are one of the creepy go-to-critters for evil cults, rivaled only by spiders and bats. At one point, I was surprised to come to the realization that "Is evil, worships snakes"...well, does not really make for a good rationale if you take a closer look.

This is where this book comes in - it depicts everything you need to add some depth to your serpent cult...or constitutes a perfect one-stop-shop package to get a properly detailed serpent cult for your game. That being said, the emphasis here is on EVIL serpent cult. Capital letters. This is not a pdf for kids or the faint of heart: If the cover was not ample cue for you, the very layout and aesthetics of this pdf borrow heavily from black metal aesthetics. This means in particular that, if nightmarish artworks of long-haired dudes, mutilated corpses and ample gore, full-frontal nudity of males and females and drawn depictions of human sacrifice make you uncomfortable...well, then this is not for you. This is very much adult content. I mean, come on, what did you expect? It has "Obscene" literally in the title. If, however, you have a hearty collection of black/death metal cds, you'll have seen MUCH worse in the artworks and probably appreciate the fact that each artwork mirrors to some extent a style favored in cover and interior artworks of darker metal subgenres. Personally, I can appreciate that...but then again, I have a twisted, dark sense of aesthetics. Speaking of which - the fact that the abbreviation for this book is "OSR" and the black metal font of the author's name on the cover just add to that very thoroughly constructed overall impression.

All right, still here? Great! The cult depicted herein would be the Circle of Constriction (CoC...get it?) and we begin with the 6 (of course!) commandments of the circle, all of which you could easily poach. Beyond details on worshipping serpents, revering art and uttering sibilant holy tongue twisters (several provided!), these generally make sense from a dark and twisted way: "The Goddess is mother and murderess, holy above all others. The Goddess slithers through endless rain in a paradise of wounded birds and slow rabbits, her realm populated by children stillborn by umbilical strangulation..." Yeah, told you I was not kidding when I said "dark."

6 sample identities of the Goddess are btw. provided, though you can easily mix and match - from Cihuacoatl to Ningishizda and Renet, the entries themselves are similarly well-written. The faith must go further than commandments, obviously - thus, 6 tenets of the faith are provided, the first of which would be the self-injection of sweet nectar, a draught created from the willingly granted blood of sentient serpents that can provide a variety of benefits, depending on snake type: Adders extend threat range to 18+; Mamba can deliver 2/day poison bites, while Diamondback injection enhances saves.

Obviously, ophiophages need to be killed and a proper devotee must walk the gallery in the halls of undulation. Oh, and serve Saint Siavaca, perhaps the most nightmarish of beings herein: She had her arms and legs surgically removed and now moves by means of a serpentine harness of steel; she also had her jaws broken and reset, with metal fangs inserted. She subsists on a diet of heretics and infidels and new members must guard her while her hair is shorn or while she feeds. And yes, one artwork depicts her in her horrific glory, directly under a gutted corpse of an unfortunate victim...

The completion of the quests of the hexagram may hold ritualistic importance for the cult or raise one's standing within it, provided deep cover (or a very twisted campaign) is what you're going for: These include the theft of organs, lethally forcing a serpent into the body of a heretic in a public place (and getting away alive...), plunging someone into the darkest depths of despair, preventing the birth of children destined for greatness/goodness...yeah...have I mentioned that this is a toolkit to make a really EVIL serpent cult? Beyond these quests, the pdf also sports a brief 2d6-based mission generator: Roll 1d6 for the first part, 1d6 for the second, there you go.

A total of 6 sites of religious importance for the cult, from a snake-men village to the lair of the fabled True Hydra and the Glade of the First Kill, the places evoke a sufficiently dread sense of foreboding. But why follow the Goddess? Well, a total of 6 powers can be found here: The first lets you animate organs of corpses, which act as ambulatory spies (told you: Gory!), gaining scales...or a hiss that prevents any lies. Questions answered with it must be answered truthfully...if you're a mammal. Transmitting brief messages via a quasi-telepathy and decapitating victims, looking into their eyes and discerning some truth from that. Yup.

With 4d20, you can generate name, surname, epithet and situation of serpent cultists on the fly. Another sequence of 3d6 lets you generate encounters on the fly. The pdf also provides the benefits of imbibing sable nectar, sweet nectar mixed with the blood of a half-serpent being (like a medusa etc.) - this draught can have unpleasant side-effects, but may provide a total of up to 10 different bonuses, each of which lasts 1d6 hours.

Where there is orthodoxy, there must also thrive heresy; even in an admittedly twisted serpent cult. In this case, that would be the existence of Scarlet Nectar - it is sweet nectar mixed withs erpent blood, lasts 1d8 hours and has a benefit depending on the snake used: Pit viper blood nets you the ability to detect body heat up to 100' away, while mangroves render you invisible while in a tree.

Finally, the pdf does contain a new creature, the skin vessel: Skins of powerful persons who are filled up with serpents alongside thin tubes, animating the horrific conglomerate. More alien, these things, usually little more intelligent than zombies, sometimes gain sentience...and have a habit of believing people to not be real...though they'll happily talk to your skeleton or organs...which need liberation in the eyes of many of these grotesqueries.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, though the rules-language, in spite of being intended for LotFP and similar retro-clones, could be a bit more precise. The 2-column-layout is peculiar: Following the Black Metal booklet aesthetics, the presentation of the text leaves quite some space at the top and bottom of the page, so yeah, not the printer-friendliest file to print out. The cover is provided as a separate .png. The b/w-artworks are pretty impressive if you have a penchant for dark and disturbing imagery, even more so if you have a decent black/death metal collection - each artwork quotes a certain CD in motif, aesthetics or composition. So yes, this very much is a kind of concept-pdf. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. I don't own the PoD-version of this one, so I can't comment on it.

Rafael Chandler's "Obscene Serpent Religion" is very much a well-written excursion into a nightmarish serpent cult. Next time your jaded players yawn at a priest of Seth, are bored by yuan-ti, snake-men, what have you...or even contemplate that these guys aren't so bad...this is your toolkit. From the villainous quests to the disturbing practices, this makes snake-cults EVIL again. Not "slightly edgy and misunderstood", frickin' depraved and EVIL. Capital letters.

Oh, and there is another thing:

This is "Pay what you want".

If you end up being offended, you can simply delete it, but if you've read this far, you'll probably have figured out by now whether or not this could be for you and your group. It should btw. also be noted that the lulu-PoD is REALLY cheap - it is an at-cost offering that nets 0 profit. Personally, I wholeheartedly believe that this worth a tip. It may not be for everyone, but if you're not faint of heart, like the visuals and want to make a serpent cult appropriate for really dark fantasy or horror...well, there you go, this does a fantastic job at the task at hand. Just keep it out of kid hands and if you're easily offended or disturbed, do yourself a favor and skip it.

With this toolkit, you'll be good to go. Now if this was a commercial venture in the traditional sense, I'd probably go for something in the 4.5/4-star-range (with the caveat to beware due to the explicit nature), but considering that this is Pay What You Want, I absolutely will round up and give this a small bonus. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Obscene Serpent Religion
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