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Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Hollow One
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2018 03:54:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 15, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Note: This is part of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-tome and represents a single stand-alone path from the book.

The series was crafted with an eye towards providing options for some of the more popular 3pp-materials: Psionics, pact-magic-based spirit-binding, temporal shenanigans (Time Thief and Warden), as well as e.g. Rite Publishing’s take of shapeshifting via the taskshaper. The pdf thus provides a lot of synergy if you have these respective supplements. However, at the same time, the book does not lose its value for groups that do not employ there – the mythic paths that help for the respective subsystems are fully viable even without using e.g. pact magic, sporting plenty of options that do not require the use of such a subsystem. In short: While the support is here, the designs within do not force you to employ these systems.

The supplement begins by codifying the origin of power-sources, which is helpful – I have more to say on the origins and structure of magical power, but that’ll have to wait until the review of the big book.

The second mythic path of the lost spheres to have a stand-alone release would be the Hollow One, who gets 3 hit points per tier and is really interesting: One of the base abilities of the path allows you to temporarily assign a negative condition, bad pact (pact magic!), disease of the like and switch it to another creature temporarily. This handling of affliction transfer is pretty tough to get right, and, much like before, the pdf does something smart in that it concisely codifies such terms. I also enjoyed the second of these abilities, which allows you to grant yourself a boon, which scales depending on by how many afflictions you’re affected, capping at tier to prevent abuse. Thirdly, you can use a swift action (SANS mythic power expenditure!) to ignore the detrimental effects of such an affliction. The base abilities already entwine rather well and promise some cool stuff for the path abilities here. The tier 10 option allows you to regain mythic power, allowing you to regain one if affected by two afflictions in a single round.

Among the path abilities, we have access to forlorn feats from that Transcendent 10-installment and a really cool one: Gain Charisma for every curse you suffer from! Similar tricks can be applied to other ability scores, making this a great offering for the angsty, doomed antihero that draws strength from a doomed fate thrust upon him. An aura that renders 1s and 2s automatic failures, ignoring possessions by entities…and the path builds on that: In an AMAZING idea, the path offers the means to tap into the SPs and psi-like abilities of possessing entities! That is frankly glorious! Stealing possessions and curses, leeching off supernatural abilities, gaining sneak attack based on tier versus creatures targeting you with an affliction (should specify that it lasts only for the duration of the affliction), negative energy channeling per affliction borne…or what about making morale or insight bonus granting abilities count as curses? What about reflexive rage or bloodrage? You can tap into the skills of possessing creatures as well. What about delivering poisons that affect you?

At 3rd tier, we have access to an oracle mystery, fast healing contingent on curses borne (not a fan), spreading afflictions in an aura…or, if you’re going for pact magic, bind a spirit OPPOSED to the first one! And that’s only a selection! Gating in an outsider with an opposed alignment that may be heartbound to you is also really cool and rife with roleplaying-potential. Even though I’m not happy with every single aspect of this path, I adore it to bits – this one requires serious system mastery to pull off, but rewards you with as close to playing Many-as-One as I have seen in pen & paper games. Two thumbs up, flavor-wise one of my favorite mythic paths ever.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level and rules-language level can be considered to be good, if not perfect, with minor deviations and rough edges here and there; that being said, considering the complexity of the material presented here, the quality of these components is still rather impressive. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a nice piece of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for yoru convenience.

Christen N. Sowards’ Hollow One mythic path requires some system mastery to get the most out of, sure. It’s also rougher around the edges than the godhunter, for example, and may require a bit of oversight and minor tweaking. Formally, this may not be perfect. BUT DAMN, I adore this supplement! I really mean it! Condition transfer, unique mechanics based on afflictions taken, blending of flavor and rules. The possession-mechanics are NOT for every game; no even close. But OH BOY, this guy represents, hands down, my favorite mythic path ever. It’s inspired in the right ways. It is creative, oozes narrative potential, and actually manages to innovate. It is rough, being an earlier release of the company, but oh BOY can it be pure amazing! Now, as a reviewer, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to; it is a bit too rough for 5 stars. However, what I can do, is to rate this 4 stars and designate it as one of the few supplements that absolutely are worth spending the time to add a few final polishing flourishes…and add my seal of approval regardless. I love this fellow, and if you enjoyed the ideas noted, check it out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Hollow One
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Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Godhunter
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2018 03:53:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 15, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Note: This is part of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-tome and represents a single stand-alone path from the book.

The series was crafted with an eye towards providing options for some of the more popular 3pp-materials: Psionics, pact-magic-based spirit-binding, temporal shenanigans (Time Thief and Warden), as well as e.g. Rite Publishing’s take of shapeshifting via the taskshaper. The pdf thus provides a lot of synergy if you have these respective supplements. However, at the same time, the book does not lose its value for groups that do not employ there – the mythic paths that help for the respective subsystems are fully viable even without using e.g. pact magic, sporting plenty of options that do not require the use of such a subsystem. In short: While the support is here, the designs within do not force you to employ these systems.

The supplement begins by codifying the origin of power-sources, which is helpful – I have more to say on the origins and structure of magical power, but that’ll have to wait until the review of the big book.

This pdf, obviously, depicts the godhunter, who gains 5 hit points per tier and the devour the divine ability, which may take one of three shapes: You can choose to either spend mythic power as an immediate action to add your tier to a saving throw AND gain a reroll versus a divine effect. On a success, you are not affected and instead heal hit points based on tier, which btw., when exceeding your maximum hit points, can partially be converted to temporary hit points. The second option lets you spend mythic power as an immediate action to collect divine remnants, so-called detria. These act as a means to duplicate, spell-storing style, one divine spell or spell-like ability of a creature slain. These may only be used by the godhunter that created them, and require UMD to activate. This one, RAW, does require a lot of spell/SP-tracking and can become pretty potent. Considering the value of mythic power, I have no issue with the power-level this has, and detria cannot be stockpiled as a balancing caveat. The third option represents the means to spend mythic power for a tier-based bonus to atk, and bonus damage versus divine spellcasters and outsiders. The path nets a path ability every tier and the capstone ability nets basically advantage on saves vs. divine spells cast by non-mythic targets, as well as SR versus divine spells.

Now, as far as path abilities are concerned, we have the option to get another one of the aforementioned devour the divine abilities. We have means to prevent teleportation and plane shifting, or, for example, a means to extend the benefits of the aforementioned attack/damage boost to any target currently affected by a divine spell, which is pretty interesting. Making detria behave as potions is nice…but I really like the means to for example steal channel energy uses. The path abilities also include interesting passive abilities – like divine spellcasters needing to save versus their own spells when targeting the godhunter, potentially being dazed for a round. Minor complaint here – the ability only specifically mentions targeting, meaning that area of effect effects not necessarily being included. Extending the benefits of the healing option to allies targeted nearby. Reducing the CL of hostile divine spells to determine duration is also nice – though I think that rounds reduced to 0 should probably cancel out this component; that, or have a 1 round minimum duration. Cool: There is an ability that lets you hijack divine spells. Item-use, transfer wounds.

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we have the means to employ metamagic feats via the burning of detria; imposing basically disadvantage (roll twice, take worse result) on concentration checks is intriguing. Leeching off excess healing in the vicinity. On the nitpicky side, the Hungry Zeal ability, which nets another use of the Zealotry ability, should specify the requirement of the Zealotry ability. Limited domain poaching and becoming immune to a domain of a vanquished spellcaster makes for some cool tricks – particularly since the latter is balanced, once more, by tier, having a sensible scaling. In short, as before, this offers further upgrades, building on previous tricks. The 6th tier abilities include means to hold more detria at once, as well as the option to use detria for Item Creation purposes…or what about tattoos infused with detria that render you immune to a divine spell, with the maximum spell level gated by tier?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is also significantly more precise than what we usually get to see. Considering the complexity of the material, this is commendable. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard, and the artwork featured is original and impressive. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards’ Godhunter is an interesting and long overdue means for mythic characters to depict the foe of certain gods…or, well, all deities! I like this mythic path very much, and while I am not 100% happy with all design-decisions herein, I consider this mythic path to be well worth checking out. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Godhunter
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Steelforge: Book 2
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2018 05:41:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second book of Dreamscarred Press‘ item-centric Steelforge-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 21.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first thing you should know, is that this supplement attempts to present an encompassing view – that means that it not only lists special item properties from Ultimate Psionics in its appendix, it also features the crown of chaos, dancing robes of Sharatwan, disruptor, dissonance, groundscorn boots of the twice-loved, heartstaff, helm of the hydra, Moldev, Severis and the Tempest’s Blade from Ultimate Psionics – basically the whole psionic items of legend series.

In case you’re new to the concept, here is the gist of it: Items of Legend are special magic items that level with their owners, but which also require a specific set of prerequisites to properly use, unlocking new abilities and combating the disposable-item-syndrome, sporting unique and evocative abilities. Many of the items have new artworks, and there is something that makes this section be more than a rethread: Unlike in Ultimate Psionics, we now get values for the respective items. That legendary item with 3 of its powers unlocked? It has a GP-value listed, which makes WBL-determining much easier on the GM. Depending on how nitpicky you are, this alone may make this worth getting. Each of these items also has its own full color artwork, which is nice for sure, though I wished the pdf used a less pixilated version of the artwork of the heartstaff. This is an aesthetic nitpick, though, and will not be taken into account regarding the final verdict. So yes, this section can be considered to be a success and helpful due to this inclusion.

On the player-facing side of things, we get the 5-level forgelord PrC, who gains up to +3 BAB-progression and Fort- as well as will-saves, no new proficiencies, d8 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. The PrC begins play with a bonus equal to class level to the crafting process’ related skill checks, as well as the ability to use the Master Craftsman, if you have it, to qualify for any Item Creation feat – essentially, this allows you to use class level as CL for all of them, instead of just for Craft Magic Arms and Armor and Craft Wondrous Item. At 2nd, 3rd and 4th level, the PrC nets access to class features of a previous class prior to entering the PrC, retaining its viability for classes that require the progression of their base features. The key ability of the PrC would be item attunement, which allows the forgelord to spend an hour in meditation with a magic item in order to attune to it. This grants the Least item attunement bonus for that category of item. At 3rd level, the forgelord may attune two items one of which also gets the associated Lesser benefits, while the other only has the Least benefit. This improves with 5th level, the ability providing the means to have up to 3 items attuned at any given time, one of which may also bestow the Greater benefit, with another only granting the Least and Lesser benefits and the third granting just the Least benefit. If an item would fall into more than one category, then the forgelord gets to choose in which category he’ll apply the benefits.

Okay, regarding the benefits: The Least benefit of weapon attunement grants Weapon Proficiency as well as Weapon Focus while attuned; the Lesser one increases critical multiplier by 1 (not a fan), and the Greater one increases the enhancement bonus of the weapon by +2, explicitly allowing the raw boost to transcend +5, the total to transcend +10. I am not too happy with the latter one either; mathematically, it basically offsets the BAB-progression of the class, upgrading it to full, which isn’t a problem, but the breaking of hard limits imposed upon item bonuses further tilts an already offense-biased system further in favor of offense, with the critical multiplier enhancement an angle that already is problematic in PFRPG’s base chassis. If you’ve ever seen the PC and boss-ending capabilities of x4 weaponry in the right builds, you’ll know what I mean. The armor section, on the other hand, is amazing, providing bonuses to AC, reduced armor check penalties, and increased maximum Dexterity bonuses, with Lesser providing DR and the Greater one sporting something unique: You no longer count as wearing the armor if it would be beneficial for you! This is pretty damn cool and allows for e.g. armor-wearing monks to retain their class features. Here, the boost of defensive capabilities is very much appreciated.

Spell-in-a-can items increase CLs and UMD to use them is easier (minor nitpick – Use Magic Device). The Least option is cool: If the item has limited charges/uses per day, there is a 10% chance it won’t expend a use/charge. The Greater version allows for Metamagic/psionic addition to the effect, at the cost of a longer casting duration. Finally, disposable items begin with a 10% chance of not being expended as well as a Use Magic Device bonus. Expendables reappear in your hand, potions refill, etc. while ammunition does not explicitly state that – it just isn’t destroyed. This is a smart verbiage, as it prevents reloading confusion. The Lesser boon increases CL of the items, while the Greater one makes the DC scale based on ½ character level + highest ability score modifier. Really liked this one!! Finally, wondrous items allow for quicker activation, no longer occupy their slots (But nota bene regarding item stacking restrictions! They still apply!) and the Greater power allows them to continue working when suppressed for any reason, provided they succeed a Fortitude save versus the effect. The DC begins at 15, and increases by +2 for every subsequent round.

At 2nd level, the forgelord may 1/day as a standard action bestow one temporary charge to a charged item he’s attuned to, which lasts for one hour before dissipating. The ability gets a second daily use at 4th level. Also at 2nd level, once epr class level per day, non-instantaneous or continuous item effects with a duration may have their duration doubled, but only when replicating a spell or power with an effect to not exceed 3rd level, and only when attuned to the item. At 4th level, once per day when using the ability to extend an effect thus, the forgelord may choose to make it last 24 hours. Kudos: No sleep-cheesing here: Using the ability again before the previous one has run its course cancels the first use. At 5th level, we get a cool capstone: We get to create a lesser artifact, with some general guidelines provided that do not restrict creativity unduly, but which still provides context.

I really like the wide-open forgelord and the universal appeal it can have. The benefits are potent, and while I am not a fan of the weapon tweaks, I get the ideas behind them. All in all, I consider this to be a successful PrC.

While we’re on the topic of artifacts: The pdf provides 3 of them: Liar’s Quill is amazing. This item is subtle, and if you write something that is currently true, the quill changes what it writes. It can’t predict things, but as a research tool, it is great. This is a simple premise, sure, but using it in clever ways can be downright glorious for investigations and the like. (And yeah, sure, it also helps lying through writing, but the concept’s the star here.) The Incinerator Cannon can be programmed daily with a single sentence of no more than 20 words. When a target fitting that definition (which I assume may not be a named target, but which needs to be general…spelling that out would have been nice) enters range, it fires an empowered disintegrate at the target, with +20 atk. Oh, and it can be folded into an ioun stone-like orb that blasts foes nearby that fit the definition. Here’s the thing: Beyond programming, there is NO control of the artifact possible. This can be a great extermination-level weapon for PCs, but it can also be a rather dastardly liability when manipulated by smart villains. The final artifact would be the chessboard of the astral army, which comes with a full set of a new item type, the chess pieces of the astral army: These are different-level astral constructs, with precisely-codfied menu choices. The board has its full set and may store them, and when drawing the pieces from it, it enhances them. This one has a really cool means of destruction, requiring basically besting it n speed chess. And yes, the pieces are basically astral constructs in bottles, powers-in-a-can, but I maintain that this is how you make items and item classes interesting. Kudos!

Now, as you all probably know by now, I am a pretty big sucker for legendary items – I adore the concept, and I really love them; in fact, in may game, every PC end up with at least one of them. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the chapter I’m most interested in here, would be the new legendary items. As in the revisit to the previously-released ones, we get GP-values for their respective levels, allowing for easier WBL and treasure-calculations. A total of 4 such legendary items are provided, with the first being the city in a bottle. This one increases its power in 5 steps and basically combines bag of holding with Leadership and settlements that increase in size! This is conceptually amazing and super-useful for mega-dungeon campaigns, if you’re going for a less survivalist take on such mega-adventures.

Razor, the warrior’s weapon (written by Erin Heck) is a glasslike weapon made of magical force, and increases its powers in 10 steps. The weapon is basically a devouring blade that can consume other magic items, somewhat akin to e.g. the swordmaster or the bladebound magus. Values for fed and unfed statuses of the blade are provided. The weapon also becomes intelligent and Quick Draw, returning to the owner’s hand, uncanny dodge, 1/month true resurrection and changing properties complement an item, which btw. takes bladebound magus into account. Love this one! The ring of the grand vizier is a ring of protection with scaling improvements, occupying the ring chakra, enhancing the UMD skills of the character. The item also enhances Aid Another, insight bonuses and as a capstone, adds least akashic catalyst to all chakras. Finally, there would be twisted gambit, a 10-step improving glove (which oddly, does not specify occupying the proper slot in what I assume to be an oversight) that enhances your skills regarding gambling and Sleight of Hand, as well as the ability to use Sleight of Hand instead of Stealth. Gloves of storing function, the means to upgrade the gloves via gambling winnings, a luck pool for rerolls, calling for high or low rolls (with bonuses for right calls, penalties for wrong ones), high-level swift action teleport (with Stealth synergy), limited consumable creation…once more, a potent and cool item!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level: The pdf juggles complex concepts and manages to blend concepts and the rules that represent them well: The gambling item, for example, requires that the player gambles for a few of its tricks. I like these blendings. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ elegant 2-column full-color standard, with a blending of original and old artwork in full color, of varying quality. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version – Kudos! The pdf has basic bookmarks, but not ones for every single item.

Jacob Karpel and Patrick Miller deliver a great booklet of complex items. The GP-values for the psionic items of legends make this book much more useful, and the new material, as a whole, must be considered to be all-killer, no filler. Furthermore, while I am not happy with all design-decisions, and while I have noticed a precious few minor hiccups, none of them really impede the functionality of this supplement’s content, and I’d rather have amazing, ambitious material with VERY few minor blemishes, than bland perfection. In short: This is still on par with Dreamscarred Press’ high track record of complex, high-quality crunch. Highly recommended, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for this cool booklet!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steelforge: Book 2
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Legacies: ToS1-05 Path To Ambition
Publisher: First Ones Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2018 11:11:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page record sheet, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons as a prioritized review.

Now, this is an adventure for characters level 3 – 8, intended for use with the Tyrants of Saggakar living campaign, and as such, the pdf comes with 2 pages of patron notes, depicting briefings for factions. A pretty big plus: The module also features a wealth of different handouts – no less than 7 player handouts are presented, and while they are laid out like a regular page of the module, with the big “Tyrants of Saggakar”-header at the top and no parchment for letters etc., we do get, for example, a “Wanted”-picture, which is a nice touch.

The module sports two GM maps, but no player-friendly versions of the surroundings. Location-wise, this module takes place in Onero, the City of Sin, an interesting location, where, in contrast to the rest of the setting, folks are enslaved by a metaphysical concept, rather than potent beings of social strata – it is a sin defined by its vices, its greed and apathy, a place of decadent, ruthless splendor, if you will; for more detail, you can refer to the sourcebook depicting the city and its vicinity, though this supplement is not required to run the module. The settlement statblock is btw. included.

Now, on the formal level, the pdf is actually surprisingly detailed: We get copious amounts of read-aloud text, as well as a finely-grained degrees of success/failure: DC-checks regarding lore etc. oftn have plenty of different lines for different values, which is a rather nice touch and something I’d very much enjoy seeing more often.

Rules-wise, the pdf presents minion and mob-rules, as well as the relevant NPC statblocks for APL 3, 5 and 7.

Now, in order to discuss this module, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great. So, Onero is a free city state in a world of tyrannical houses – and so far, it has managed to evade the notice of the Great Houses, but this has changed when an agent of House Faremhi managed to intercept a letter between rebels and Onero’s council – worse, this news leaked, and now, the great houses sense easy slaves for the taking. As is wont in such cases, assassins were deployed, with one of these professionals, a man named Argoth, being quite successful indeed – two of the 6 senators of Onero have already fallen to his blade and the powers of his dark folk allies. Once again, as a professional, he does not leave loose ends…which makes a certain dark stalker and his kin a good scapegoat…and if a proper Patsy can be added, even better…

As hinted at before, the pdf comes with a remarkable amount of lore, like word on the street, etc., which can make for a nice reward for PCs doing their legwork. We join the intrepid adventurers, as they visit The Cage on the aptly-named Bloodsport Street. Yeah, told you the place was decadent, right? It is testament to the module’s details that PCs can actually challenge the champion – they have to remain just 5 rounds standing. Yes, this will not be easy…

Anyways, they are contacted by none other than Mayor Bani Mito, who hires the PCs to bring her the head of the assassin that has killed two members of the High Council so far – the City Watch’s stumped (and/or corrupt), so the PCs will have an investigation on their hands that will influence the course of Onero’s destiny. The details regarding word on the street and evidence retained remains and the pdf does provide guidance for the GM regarding questions that can be expected to be asked.

The investigation, as such…is remarkably interesting: There is a somewhat dark and interesting item that can help, the blood compass, but it is not strictly required to solve the module; during the course of the adventure, we visit the House of the Autumn Moon, a brothel with geisha-house aspirations, and the PCs may well get the item noted…or, well not. This sequence may be brief, but it is an interesting and atmosphere-wise nice section that reminded me of e.g. The Alienist, From Hell, etc. – urban, grimy and fun.

The trail, ultimately, will lead the PCs to the former keep of Tar Silfdar, five miles out of town, where a campsite speaks of occupants, where poisoned tapestries, traps and undead await. Cool: The Dark Folk can actually be communicated with, and the module sports quite a few, detailed lines, analogue in detail to the previously-noted investigation aspects. The leader of the dark folk, Moncius, may be negotiated with if defeated…did I mention the fungus farm? Oh, and the pdf ends with a great cutscene, wherein the killer has eliminated the Mayor…to be continued!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, with the Tyrants of Saggakar and FOE Entertainment logos as touches of color. Artworks are public-domain/stock pieces, but are pretty well chosen. As an unnecessary comfort detriment, the pdf lacks bookmarks.

Onero, as a city supplement, did show potential and was interesting, but did not manage to transition to awesome. This module, however, is different. The read-aloud text is an example of well-crafted prose, and it, in conjunction with the EXCESSIVE amount of lore information that capable players can unearth, make the atmosphere, the city, come to life. To the point where I really wanted to see more! As far as I’m concerned, the investigation through Onero could have been much longer, but yeah. Author Randy price delivers a creative, cool and atmospheric module here: This is grimy, glorious dark fantasy that feels almost Lankhmar-esque. As far as I’m concerned, this module’s prose is to be commended. However, the brevity of the investigation is somewhat lamentable, and the exploration of the dungeon-locale is imho slightly less compelling, though once more, the read-aloud text manages to convey more atmosphere than many comparable modules.

Now, this is only the first part of the Price of Ambition-series, but even if you’re not interested in running a series, it makes for a great adventure that can be run in a decadent city. As far as I’m concerned, it managed to make me excited for the series! The only downsides here would be the brevity (when the investigation could have carried so much more!) and the lack of bookmarks. Still, even with these detriments, I consider this to still be an inexpensive, well-crafted module – for the low asking price, you certainly get your buck’s worth! My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legacies: ToS1-05 Path To Ambition
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Adventure Avenue: A Nightmare Awakening
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2018 11:07:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ Adventure Avenue-series clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 55 pages of content, though these have been laid out for pamphlet-size (6’’ by 9’’, or A5), which means that, provided your eyes can handle small text, you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this.

Now, first things first: On a formal level, the module sports two maps: One full-color regional map of the Burroughs of Dunmark, basically a horror-themed region of Porphyra, and a b/w-map of the dungeon featured herein. Unfortunately, we do not get a player-friendly version of the dungeon-map, which constitutes a comfort-detriment. On the plus-side regarding comfort, the module sports something that more adventures should have – namely, a list of treasure with selling value and rooms, if applicable, noted, and a second table that lists the XP-values of the threats faced within. Kudos for this nice GM-helper!

The pdf does, however, come with a bonus files penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, which depicts the hagiographical drake, a CR 7 critter that breathes poisonous fire and which also gets speed bursts. Nice one!

Back to the module: If the title and cover art were not ample indicator, this is a dark fantasy/horror adventure set against a fantasy backdrop; if you’re not playing in Porphyra, then it should be easy enough to integrate this into most campaigns. As the module makes use of the themes of Dream and some mythos-themes, it should easily fit into, for example, Fat Goblin Games’ Shadows over Vathak-setting, or adventure-sequences with dream- and cosmic horror themes. The encounters and locales sport brief read-aloud text sections, fyi, so yeah, this is very much helpful for GMs that have a problem improvising compelling descriptions.

In order to discuss this module in more detail, however, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. The pdf sports a couple of nice full-color full-page artworks, btw.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The PCs, via one of multiple hooks, are tasked to investigate the strange disappearance of Alra Vyrsmak and thus pick up her trail near the isolated and xenophobic village of Nirun’s Hillock. Already suspicious of outsiders, the climate of the village has not been improved by ill winds and strange dreams. The village gets its own village statblock, and the module here takes an event-driven form, using encounters to generate a growing sense of unease – the local shrine, for example, is creepy and features iconography associated with the Great Old Ones, and watching the strange worship may well show that some villagers are becoming pseudonatural! The night is also haunted by a nightgaunt, and dreams of the mythic kingdom of Iskandar beset those dreaming. Ultimately, the PCs will need to retrace Alra’s footsteps past the many branches of the Little Wander River, where remnant of fight with river folk have attracted leshy to the corpses, witchlights can lead the PCs into the hungry embrace of carnivorous plants, and Alra’s abandoned campsite has been taken over by Zoog. The next of aforementioned nightgaunt, strange and unearthly, would be an odd further place. Nice: these sections allow the GM to slowly establish an atmosphere of ever-growing apprehension, which culminates in the dungeon that makes up the main meat of the module.

You see, the complex that Alra’s trail leads to would be the Dreamer’s enclave, once used to control a vast swath of the region. The arrival of hapless Alra has resulted in the Dreamer awakening, taking a form imitating the sought after shade of Iskandar. The complex itself is rickety and multiple potential partial collapses must be contended with; partial flooding and cool haunts complement this section. The choice of monsters is nice and there even is a small bit of roleplaying interspersed here. Ultimately, the PCs will hopefully find Alra. Whose mind has been subjugated. Subduing the sage can provide a redemption-angle for the PCs to help with, which is a nice touch – but in order to actually triumph here, the PCs will have to collapse basically a kind-of-overlap/transition to the Plane of Dreams, and defeat the dreaded “Shade of Iskandar” – who turns out to be a rather potent nightmare lord mi-go! The pdf comes with all relevant stats; the original layout file was lost, though, so one comment sports a replacement creature – I don’t mind, as the proper replacement is valid and nice, but I figured I should mention that.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no serious accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and is printer-friendly. The full-color full-page artworks of monsters sported herein is Nice. Cartography is solid, though the lack of a player-friendly map is a bit of a bummer. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Roth’s “A Nightmare Awakening” is an unpretentious, well-crafted swamp-expedition with a mythos-angle; it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is tight in its representation of the tropes and themes we expect from the genre. The convenience of the tables and generally solid use of haunts, traps, etc. mitigates somewhat the absence of player-friendly maps. The star here, what elevates this module above many of its brethren, would be the smart use of unique terrain in conjunction with the previously-mentioned complications. The module does not feel sterile, and the dungeon manages to feel dangerous not by virtue of throwing tons of enemies at the PCs, but by means of its features. That’s a big plus for me. If you want just a dash of cosmic horror/dark fantasy with a mythos bent, then this delivers – it does not swamp you in hopelessness and does not require a plethora of subsystems to generate tension. This is not a brutal purist’s module, and, while not easy, it will not leave the PCs crippled or gibbering. In short: This is a nice piece of genre-writing, and as such, it deserves a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Avenue: A Nightmare Awakening
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Advanced Adventures #4: Prison of Meneptah
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2018 11:05:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front- and back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is intended for characters level 8 – 10, 4 – 7, to be precise. Well…I honestly think that twice that number may be more realistic, with a well-diversified group being of tantamount importance. Sans at least one character in the core 4 classes, this is essentially unbeatable.

So, an order of planes-exploring wizards has mounted an assault into basically a region of Hell that behaves akin to a pocket-plane. We’re talking about a desert here, just fyi. Okay, first thing: We’re talking about an order that can field excursions into Hell. This requires, for many settings, an introduction of such a powerful force, which is not exactly nice. That being said, the planar-angle, which otherwise doesn’t really come into play, serves as a justification for the extensive, elaborate background story: Basically, the good god Meneptah (stats included) led his civilization into battle against an evil civilization, resultin in his capture, and in the aftermath, destruction of his captors. How is this relevant to the plot? Well, it’s not. It’s a needlessly elaborate backgroundstory that makes adding the adventure sans the planar angle problematic. So, story-wise, you’re left with a) the option to introduce a super-powerful magic-user order, or b) introduce not one, but two fallen civilizations. Both are needlessly tough on a GM’s lore regarding the world and both ultimately have no bearing whatsoever on the plot. This verbose and extremely detailed amount of backstory is perhaps the one thing that you can consider to be a strength regarding the module, but ultimately, it is NEVER relevant for the PCs and cannot be unearthed

Oh, I wished that this was the main issue. I am “spoiling” the module in this review, and I won’t even bother with the usual warning apart from this, as the module does not warrant it.

Anyways, know how one of the things that make OSR-modules often stand out, is that the authors can focus on lore, creating cool scenarios, and less on stats? Because OSR.mechanics are so simple? Well, the pdf is sloppy in that regard, referencing weapons not featured in OSRIC’s tome.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The PCs basically enter the region, and begin with an overland exploration. There are some nomads (camp not mapped), some wilderness encounters and travel times noted; among the random encounters, we focus on desert monsters. Motivations for the encounters are pretty simplistic, but solid. From here, we move to the ruined capital of the evil Muhatian nation that imprisoned Menptah. The city’s ruins are not mapped, and enemy encounters are undead. Vanilla, bland undead. No unique abilities. Odd: The palace of the king is several hexes away from his capital, and mapped as an 8-keyed encounter region. That’s fully of the same, generic undead. It is also here that a nasty trap can be found – magical foodstuff that actually strengthens evil treants nearby. If the PCs are smart…that doesn’t matter. 20th level non-detection masks the alignment of effects and the illusion featured here. This kind of screw-job, alas, is a leitmotif throughout the adventure.

This becomes more evident in the Tomb of Zoser, which is a straight and linear dungeon exploration. (As in: Super-linear: 15 keyed locations, pretty much in a straight line.) Here, the elemental princes f ice and magma are imprisoned, sitting on their thrones, waiting for the PCs to stumble in. No, I am not kidding you. There is also an airship here that must be used to navigate basically to the end of the complex – no bypassing possible, with a combined Strength of 112 required to open a door otherwise. Indeed, this module is dickish. As in: Beyond “Tomb of Annihilation”-levels dickish. As in “What were they thinking???”-levels. Need an example? The gates to the tomb are poisoned – touching them nets you a save-or-die. And know what’s “fun” – it’s contact poison that ignores wearing gloves. Why? Because the author said so. It’s just not fair. I don’t object to save or die, but it should be earned, the result of the player’s actions. This is just dastardly, random, bad fiat.

Basically, you’ll note pretty soon that there are a couple of things that the module does:

You play this module EXACTLY how the author intended, or not at all. Alternate problem-solutions are not taken into account and actively discouraged. Creativity is punished. Constant “A Wizard Did It”-syndrome – I mean it. All the time. There is no rhyme or reason or theme to anything. The author tries to paint over this with lore. It doesn’t work. Overabundance of undead and ghosts. Guess what happens at the end of the little dungeon? Bingo! Punishment of exploration. The dickish nature of the dungeons and scenario as a whole penalizes the PCs for exploring, when their mission is to do just that. You murder-hobo EVERYTHING. You can’t skip/bypass encounters. Kill, kill, kill.

These are but the first issues. The next, similarly optional dungeon, is a 6-keyed locales temple may be the highlight of the module, with demon lord shrines and a lamia + demon-lover making for something unique…but again, no chance for the PCs to truly learn their extensive background story. The hackfest continues.

And then, we get to the prison, which MAKES NO SENSE whatsoever. The prison is NOT designed in any way to keep a deity imprisoned; it is crafted as a “test of worthiness” for the PCs, which makes NO SENSE, even if you buy into the backstory. The main-dungeon of the module, the one non-optional locale, is just DUMB. There is a sequence of rooms that is crafted to challenge the respective member of the 4 core classes. One for magic-users, one for fighters, one for thieves and one for clerics. There is also a fifth sequence of rooms that requires so-called puzzles to solve; depending on the equipment your PCs carry, they may not be able to pass here. Don’t have a bolt that you can bless? First room can be a dead end. And yes, ALL of these paths must be explored to enter the final room and free Meneptah. This dungeon is utterly ATROCIOUS and represents a great callback to everything that sucked about old-school adventures. If you need your nostalgia-goggles taken off, look no further.

All right, so first of all, know how PCs at this level have divinations? And how good modules incorporate their required use into their challenged? Well, none of them work in the complex. Why? No idea. Furthermore, teleportation, bypassing of rooms, etc. is strictly prohibited…for the players. The beings in the complex, the monsters etc. can use them wily-nily, which once more reeks of GM-fiat. Speaking of which: A room with a wall to scale…prevents flying. At this level. Why? Because the author wills it so. There is NO means to reward tactics. Smart players are stumped by doors locking, combat ensuing – attempts to prevent the like are met with the equivalent of a bad PC game forcing your wizard to open the door and stare right down into the minigun. This is scripted and strips the PCs of any meaningful agenda. Let’s return to our list and add:

Nerfing of earned Player character-capabilities to ensure that the module is played “the right way”, i.e. as the author wishes it to be played. Fiat and inconsistency regarding monster-capabilities – the PCs should have, at the very least, some way to unlock their powers. Living creatures placed sans rhyme or reason, waiting for the PCs. Constant sabotage of any player-agenda and clever use of PC-resources.

Wanna know what’s also pretty much the epitome of “fun”? A mirror of opposition at the end of the respective challenges that duplicates the respective class and has a chance to petrify EVERYONE else. This type of save or suck repeats for ALL of them. Also lulzy: There is a lever of an obscure puzzle that penalizes PCs that get it wrong (we get Myst-levels of hints) with no less than THREE different save or die/petrify-beams. Sounds like fun already? No? Surprise. If by some sort of masochistic drudgery, your players manage to get to the end, we’ll have a boring 2 demon-final boss fight that, after this complex, is all but guaranteed to wipe out remaining PCs – a balor and a nalfeshnee. At this level. After a dungeon of non-skippable save-or-die crap. This leads me to the final point to be added to the list:

Generic, bland enemy-selection, from start to finish. If it’s not generic, it makes no sense.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are pretty good, though the deviation from OSRIC’s formatting style somewhat galls; on a rules-language level, the pdf manages to get rules-aspects wrong, in spite of the system’s simplicity. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a couple of b/w-artworks that range from solid to okay. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-cartography is functional, but lacks player-friendly versions.

Alphonso Warden’s “Prison of Meneptah” has no redeeming qualities as far as I’m concerned. I try hard to see the positive in any supplement or module I review, but here, I got NOTHING.

This module is HORRIBLY designed and commits pretty much all cardinal sins you can imagine. It is a needlessly cruel and linear, nonsensical meatgrinder that punishes players for not thinking like the author. It’s less like playing a pen and paper RPG, and more like playing a horrible, badly-designed RPG on your PC or console. You know the type. The game that forces your wizard main character to open the door to the obvious death trap, because he’s the main character. That breaks its own rules for monsters and NPCs. The game that you can only win by making copious use of Quick Save/Load. This module is the pen and paper equivalent of such a game.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like tough as nails killer adventures and meatgrinders. But they need to be fair. LotFP has a couple of super-deadly modules I absolutely adore; and even in them, save-or-die must usually be earned and is the consequence of player-actions. This book hobbles and nerf PCs and then punishes them, constantly, for not playing by rules that the players and characters CAN’T KNOW. I ADORE puzzle-dungeons, and the final dungeon herein is pretty much a perfect example why they have a bad reputation – the challenges make no true sense and don’t fit into a prison. They are arbitrary and sloppily designed.

From the fluff that is needlessly hard on the GM regarding integration, to the lame enemies, linearity and mind-boggling blandness of the encounters faced – there simply is NOTHING to salvage here. I wouldn’t GM or play this adventure if you paid me for it. This has not seen contact with any semblance of reality at the table, and feels like a novelist’s attempt to write an adventure sans any understanding of how adventures actually work in practice. This lacks any semblance of foresight and, once you take away the lore, which has no impact on anything within and can’t be unearthed either, you’re left with the module that is pretty much the epitome of every single design-sin from the days of yore. There isn’t even nostalgia to be had here, courtesy of the super-generic and arbitrary challenges posed. This is not even “so bad it’s funny”-bad; it is just abysmal in every single way I can conceive.

This module has the dubious honor of being the single worst adventure I have read in the last 5 years. 1 star. Steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #4: Prison of Meneptah
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Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:26:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!

Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!

The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level; medium advancement track is assumed. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.

As far as rules-relevant content is concerned, the pdf is generally really solid, though there are a few hiccups: There is no unholy damage in Pathfinder, and it’s “Resistance 10”, not “resist 10” regarding the formatting of resistance in text. Oddly, in spite of being, according to the 5e-version, written originally for PFRPG, there is also a reference to a Dexterity saving throw that should reference to Reflex saves instead. These are the exception to the rules, though – as a whole, the module is solid and easy to run, and even the rare few glitches should not stump any GM.

There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While I think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.

Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I strongly recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.

PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.

In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.

Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.

As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?

You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…

The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few hiccups, but nothing truly glaring – it can be considered to be good, bordering on very good there. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.

Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.

That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The few hiccups do not tarnish the structure or fun you can have with the module, and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:24:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 81 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!

Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!

The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.

There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While I think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.

Now, as far as conversion goes, this is an interesting example: On the one hand, I could nitpick one instance of “Sense Motive” remaining, which should refer to Insight instead, and “Intimidate” in some statblocks should refer to Intimidation instead. Similarly, the statblocks, while bolding abilities etc. properly, do not italicize attack-names, for example, as well. So yeah, in the formal department, we have some unnecessary deviations. On the other hand, it is rather interesting to note that advantage and disadvantage are used properly, and that, by virtue of 5e’s design-aesthetic, the benefits that clever roleplaying may yield are more pronounced, which is a big plus for me. In direct contrast, I’d prefer how this version handles things. It’s a bit more challenging as far as I’m concerned. The rules-relevant components are per se well-crafted, with damage thresholds noted and damage types, as a whole, well-translated, though a few of deviations can be found regarding the paradigms can be found: There is no unholy damage in 5e and Wisdom damage is something that is quite scarce in 5e. That being said, these deviations are the exception, not the rule – poison and the poisoned condition, for example, are used properly. All in all, this is a well-made conversion, if not a perfect one.

Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I strongly recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.

PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.

In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.

Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.

As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?

You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…

The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the conversion is at once solid regarding the details and aesthetics, while sporting a few references that are relics – like a reference to Will saves that should refer to Wisdom saving throws. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.

Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.

That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The conversion is at once rather interesting and made with care, and on the other hand, sports a few unnecessary relics that could have been caught. This is what costs this version half a star, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars. That being said, in spite of these minor rough spots, this is still very much worth checking out, and flow-wise, I actually enjoyed this version a tad bit more – if you can look past them and have the means to choose versions, I’d go for this one, in spite of it being slightly less refined. Oh, and yes, I will round up for this one as well – this is well worth getting and rendered me absolutely stoked for the next adventure!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:23:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of this OSR-zine for LotFP clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/recommended reading/watching, 1 page advertisement/back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, laid out for pamphlet-size (A5, 6’’ by 9’’).

The reviews of this series of ‘zines were requested by one of my patreons.

The first thing you’ll notice past the introduction is a black background, with white letters – this stark contrast ties in well with a visual element depicting a white, smeared ankh, which also is an indicator that there is an entry to the mythical ghoul market nearby, a means to access this strange hub of dark transactions, where players may not only purchase magic items, but do so by permanently lowering their ability scores – the concept noted here is “essence”, and while the pdf comments that it’s a good way to get rid of excess Charisma for power, for example, though, if your game is like mine, that may be a bad idea. The article also sports a sample stat-array for ghouls and mentions a couple of interesting pets/beings to purchase, including wind whales and ego raptors, which come with prices noted properly in silver coins, but without any mechanics to accompany e.g. the nice idea of ostrich-like egoraptors, which can “fly in short bursts. Faster than a horse.” Okay, specify. Alas, the pdf does not do that.

Nice here: The place also sports dirgists, four-armed bards that play dissonant bagpipes of ghoul bones, offering services as fortune tellers. Salves also may be purchased, and the write-up also notes fairy amber, which can be attached to items to render it magic, stacking with itself, though every subsequent addition has a chance to render the item nonmagical. This…can be kind of problematic for LotFP’s more story-driven aesthetics, rewarding lucky players with a bonus-extent that is not necessarily assumed by the math underlying the system.

Anyways, one of the coolest aspects here would be the skinsmith, a corpulent cyclopean demon that can be found here. This entity gets its own article, which no longer sports the black background. The demon hearkens to Diablo’s butcher in a way, but actually offers some services that include reviving the dead, adding replacement/additional limbs, etc. The additional limb aspect could have used a bit of clarification – does an additional arm provide an additional weapon wielding capability, for example? If so, there would have been nice ways to balance that advantage via LotFPs rules, but we don’t get this. More crunchy would be that the demon’s services to revive the dead may come with a list of 12 sample mutations/grim alterations. Cool and elegant (and studded with proper rules), the being can also carve magical tattoos, which allow for the 1/day casting of a spell as if it were regularly prepared; it may also be cast 2/day, but the second time is burns the user for minor damage and loses its potency. Only magic-user spells qualify – thankfully! Anyways, I like this, though I do believe there should be a stated limit on the amount of such tattoos a given character can have. His final service would be the preparation of artisanal cadavers.

The next article depicts Vespero, the antiquarian, who receives a surprisingly amazing b/W-full-page artwork. This fellow is basically a magic item peddler bearing the accoutrements of a plague doctor, which is pretty damn cool imagery. He also comes with a handy GM-work-sheet to track stock, and his presence interacts with how settlements behave regarding purchasing opportunities – no complaints here, I really enjoyed this fellow. While we don’t get stats for the vendor, considering his role, I’m good with that.

We once more return to the black background with a white text, with a one-page article depicting Luminari, Lady of the Golden Lamp, a deity that resembles a firefly with human arms; lamp maidens follow the bidding of the being, and it is said, she can guide you into the dark recesses of the forest. This brief article comes with stats for a being that may be a servant of the entity itself…and it is creative, sports great use of evocative prose and is really fun to read. I can see her, coming down to drink the fire… Really potent stuff.

Next up is a brief low-level adventure, “Brahnwick is dead”, which takes place in the fully mapped thorp of Sylvan Lake. Huge kudos: We get a player-friendly map here!! That is a big plus, so you actually can print out one map. Heck, the houses of interest similarly are fully mapped, going beyond what I expected to find here (though here, we don’t get a key-less, player-friendly iteration). The module is basically a mini-sandbox that takes place in a village in the throes of madness, where looting goes on a damn has burst. It is a nice, free-form setpiece that is easy to integrate without much fuss. It didn’t blow me away, but the maps mean that it’s easy to quickly prepare and spontaneously run.

The next 4 pages sport a fantastic artwork on one page and use the remainder of the space t conduct an interview with Chris McDowall, creator of the “Into the Odd”-game (review forthcoming). The final article is a DIY manor – it’s fully mapped with a keyed, but no key-less version, and sports a worksheet that you can quickly fill out. Handy!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no glaring formal issues, though the rules-language components for some of the evocative concepts could have been tighter. Layout is definitely remarkable. This magazine looks surprisingly professional and the artworks and impressive maps make this one of the best-looking ‘zines I’ve read so far. That being said, I had issues printing this with 3 different printers, until I finally caved and reviewed it basically from the pdf. That was a bit of a bummer. Speaking of which, the pdf, alas, sports no bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment.

Clint Krause’s first VRA-installment is a pleasant surprise, as far as I’m concerned. It is a very stylish, neat little installment that sports quite a few fantastic, dark fantasy/horror-ish elements that are pretty evocative. The prose, as a whole, must be considered to be an impressive feat, though I couldn’t help but feel that a slightly tighter focus would have benefited the pdf. I wanted to see more on that butchering demon, more on the ghoul market, more on luminary… you get the idea. I do enjoy that this is unpretentious and irreverent in that it suggests stuff to hack and references other books, mirroring the DIY-aspect of OSR-gaming sans compromising presentation-quality. As a whole, I consider this to be a success, and the installment is available for PWYW. And know what? This is very much worth leaving a tip for. While it’s somewhat brief, it’s worth taking a look at if you enjoy dark and weird fantasy. It’s not necessarily a milestone, but even if you dislike all of the content, I wager you’ll still appreciate the surprisingly nice cartography. All in all, I consider this to be worth checking out, and taking PWYW into account, I consider this to be well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
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Starships, Stations and Salvage Guide
Publisher: Gamer Printshop
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 04:46:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 176 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction,1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 170 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

So, this supplement begins with new spaceship frames, beginning with anthropomorphic/zoomorphic spaceship frames ranging from Tiny to Medium; the supplement notes that the Tiny frame acts as a power armor in the character scale – but, unless I am sorely mistaken, Starfinder’s core rules do not have power armor as a codified entity; this may be intentional, though, as we can probably assume that rules for them will be introduced sooner, rather than later. Since there are a couple of references to this throughout the supplement, I assume this to be intentional.

Anyways, we get minotaur-shaped ships, ones designed to look akin to crabs, raven-ships…and all of these come with at least one or more fully realized maps/floor plans. The next different frame type would be living frames, which need to be sustained and may, conversely, starve – think Lexx, for example. The sample ships here include a nice racer, but unlike pretty much all maps herein, the ship’s map has no grid. Tardegrade and scarab-based ships certainly make sense and make for a cool and somewhat icky theme that I really enjoyed. The map quality for e.g. the scarab-ship is rather impressive. In a nice callback (sans IP, obviously) to the classic Illithiad supplement, we also find a Nautilus-based ship here…which btw. sports 7 (!!!) decks – all as full-page, full-color maps!

Following the theme of spaceshifts that are alive, we go into Necropunk-ish territory, with undead spaceship frames, with 5 different frames provided and 4 space ships with full stats and, once more, lavish full-page maps – what about for example, an oxolotl-shaped ship? Yeah, that’s pretty cool as far as I’m concerned!

Now, the pdf also mentioned salvaging, and considering how important that aspect is bound to be in a scifi-setting, this definitely constitutes an important aspect to be filled. A total of 7 frames are provided for your edification, with 5 different sample ships, once more fully detailed with full-color maps, are found. Speaking of which: A full chapter is devoted to the details of salvaging materials: Beacons and how to access them, haul-in and on site salvage operations – the chapter is enjoyable and uses different tackles to provide an edge for the respective pilot. That being said, the rules otherwise are pretty nifty and I assume this to be the catch-all term for e.g. engineering auxiliary thruster drones providing a bonus to tackling…though, once more, the concept is somewhat hazy and e.g. the bonus they convey to Piloting is unnecessarily untyped, when it should probably be typed. I am not a fan of the ship grappling system being based on swingy opposed rolls, when Starfinder favors a fixed value as DC. The rules here are generally well-crafted, but the sequence of their presentation could imho be a bit tighter – there is no unified table for salvage tools and salvage/repair bays, which makes handling of this section slightly more awkward than it should be.

Speaking of expansion bays: The pdf devotes a whole chapter to the topic and notes tonnage and space in its own chapter. Expansion bays cost btw. 25% of the original frame, capping at 1 per size level, but they also reduce thrust by 1. Several variants of drop pods (with a fully mapped one), and from accelerator launch bays to advanced scanners to increase passive scanning range, brigs – the material covered here is great, even if the exact verbiage isn’t always perfect. “[…]that has an increased security system of DC 35[…]” is somewhat clunky and obviously should reference the Engineering skill; this does not break the book, mind you, but such hiccups, including some formal ones “maybe” instead of “may be” crop up throughout the book – a nitpicky editor would have helped polishing the like. Really cool: With a lich core, we have an engine that subsists on the lifeforce of the living, but references some rules that I couldn’t really reverse-engineer. I assume that, to a degree, they were once codified and have been lost there; we also have halved damage that probably should account for weaponry that extends to the ethereal, considering that that’s the justification. Now, don’t get me wrong – I complain about this kind of thing because I actually really like the scope and ambition of this book. There are a ton of things regarding ship customization and themes that this tome covers, which have so far been absent. The potential of this book is vast.

Want an example? Well, what about a shadow drive, which is powered by negative energy and comes with a table of strange oddities that accompany this drive? There also is a little table of updated critical effects, and we get rules for space stations, codified as tier 21, with a massive 1200 station build points! To account for the vast size, we get Colossal expansion bay rules as well as super weapon rules…there is quite a lot to love here and I’m most certainly going to tinker with these; as a fan of Gundam etc. and several scifi anime, the theme of space stations with hyper potent weaponry are something I enjoy. Anyways, the book also sports a pretty massive equipment chapter, which also offers new material for characters: Spider-shaped exploration drones, gravity shields that reduce damage dies by tier, which adds a bit of interesting rock-paper-scissors to the weapon type. Like that!

The book also contains a lot of really cool hazards – from asteroid showers to cometary trails, explosive shockwaves, straddling black hole event horizons, etc., this chapter provides a little treasure trove of tweaks for the GM to enhance encounters. An optional rule for decompression is also pretty interesting. The pdf also provides a brief, three-part adventure-sketch, though I wasn’t particularly keen on it – it’s pretty straightforward and mainly a way to showcase how to use the book.

This is, however, still not where the book ends: We get a massive ship reference chapter, (including even more full-page full-color maps!) which also features multiple high-level NPCs, and the final bestiary contains not just space liches, but also a couple of starship-sized monsters, including ginormous space worms, several properly realized drone stats, etc. I noticed a couple of hiccups in the stats, though. This chapter also presents a variant of the kitsune race for Starfinder, but the presentation here deviates significantly from the standard, with feats particularly not even remotely adhering to any Starfinder formatting conventions, Spell references not italicized, and a power level that exceeds the core races.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; the massive book sports quite a few formal hiccups, and unfortunately, some of these have also reached into the rules-aspect of this book. The book is a VERY crunchy tome, and for these, precision is pretty important – and, don’t get me wrong, for the most part, the book is actually really precise and well-crafted. At the same time, there are deviations from how SFRPG usually handles some aspects of the game, and this, alas, can be found here and there, which is pretty jarring in contrast to the often interesting modifications and obvious knowledge the designer shows. This duality extends to the aesthetics-department: The 2-column full-color layout sports graphical elements that are pixilated on the borders and the artworks…well…they…exist. Some are solid (mostly those for mechanical things), but the majority are not exactly beautiful. At the same time, the cartography is so expansive it’s a joy, and the quality of the maps is significantly higher than either layout or artworks. In fact, with the vast amount of maps, this may well be worth the asking price for the maps themselves alone. Anyway, the pdf comes with bookmarks for the individual chapters, but not for specific ships or maps, which makes the navigation slightly less comfortable than it could be.

Edward Moyer’s massive tome has me torn as a reviewer. Not because of the aesthetics, mind you. I always advocate substance over style, and the pdf frankly provides a ton of bang for your buck. I’d rather have content than shiny stuff. On one hand, I loved a lot of the material; on the other hand, it is pretty evident that a really picky rules-developer or-editor would have made this massive tome a must-have book; as presented, I couldn’t help but consider this to be a bit less refined than what I’d have loved it to be. Considering the complexity of the Starfinder ship-rules, the sequence of presentation of the material itself within the book could have used a bit of restructuring. Do not misunderstand: As provided, this is a massive grab-bag, and the pdf contains something for pretty much every table, sporting the massive expansion for the SFRPG-rules that fully spaceship gaming can use.

While the editing inconsistencies and rules-aesthetic deviations would make me usually settle for a verdict as a mixed bag, the book at the same time also sports a surprising amount of truly interesting rules components that manage to do interesting things with the engine. Whenever the book’s minor flaws did show, I also found truly fun aspects here that made me smile and think about how to use this. As a fan of weird scifi/space opera, I adored the more far-out tricks herein, and the supplement also features the tools to run essentially a whole campaign (or at least a couple of adventures) based on salvaging. In short, this has a lot to offer. It is somewhat rough around the edges, requiring some modification and care by the GM, but the vast amount of different and neat maps elevates the supplement. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to the map quality and the cool material within.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Starships, Stations and Salvage Guide
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DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (The Complete Edition)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 04:41:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Haunting of Hastur-series clocks in at 28 pages of content if you take away the editorial, ToC, etc., but that does not really represent the module properly.

This review was moved up in my queue due to me receiving a print copy of the adventure.

You see, that page-count only covers the core adventure sported, and the book comes with two supplemental tomes: The first would be the Map and Illustration booklet, which provides full-page, high quality renditions of the artworks, as well as all the full-color maps of the module. These are provided in the pdf as well, and oddly, the maps in the Illustration and Map booklet are a bit pixilated.

Speaking of maps: My review of this supplement is based on the neat kickstarter print edition of this module, which comes with a detachable cover and full-color maps inside – these are high-quality indeed, and properly high-res, though no player-friendly, key-less versions are included. This is the ONE book I’d consider to be optional.

You see, there are two more supplemental books for this adventures, the Book of Lore and the Book of Puzzles. The former contains more than 20 (!!!) pages of handouts! No, I am NOT kidding you. More than 20 pages of frickin’ handouts, all laid out like documents, letters, etc. with different fonts etc. The Book of Puzzles covers 14 pages…and is AMAZING. You see, the module sports a series of puzzles…but not all tables enjoy having their wits challenged. So this remains optional. In this book, we can find three difficulties of puzzles, ranging from basic riddles to number puzzles, logic problems to cryptography quotes, these are damn cool and add some all too often neglected mental exercise to the gaming process. Two thumbs up!

Both are de facto 100% optional, as combat is always a means to bypass these locks, but frankly, I believe that the Book of Puzzles is absolutely mandatory. The Book of Lore is highly recommended as well. Why do I consider them to be so crucial? You see, this module is unique in that it can be cleared without a single combat encounter! As such, it can theoretically also be run as a 1-on-1-adventure, as it primarily tests PLAYER-skill, as opposed to character-skill. So, after module #1 was a pretty standard, solid dark fantasy yarn, we take a totally different approach here: The module is essentially one that can fit seamlessly with pretty much all fantasy games and, genre-wise, is what I’d consider to be one of the exceedingly rare examples of “strange archaeology.” More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

The module includes an optional appendix for inclusion in the world assumed by Dark Naga Adventures, a brief dressing list, a table of fluff-only mushroom effects and three magic items that are variants of classic ones. There is one new monster here, and its formatting slightly deviates from the standard conventions, noting e.g. “blunt” instead of “bludgeoning” among the resistances or “All Others” to shorten the ability score section. I do not like this needless deviation. This also would be a good place to note that a few cosmetic typos can be found in these books: “actoins”, “delimas” and the like – nothing serious, but something that an editing pass could have caught. The module also sports something I enjoy, namely a spell that allows, at high-levels, for excavation of complexes. The spell exists primarily to account for logic, but rules-formatting-wise, the duration should not be instantaneous; the duration and casting time are contradictory; the spell should have operated with concentration instead. In short: The rules-language components are somewhat rough around the edges. On the plus-side, the spell’s hiccups don’t really impede the module, as it primarily serves a lore purpose.

Okay, so another thing that is important should be noted right now: NO, this is not yet another Cthulhu-themed Zikurat-dungeon. It’s something radically, dauntingly, different. In order to explain what it is, though, I have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, so whether or not the PCs have completed module #1 (the ending here is smoother if they have), they are contacted to visit a nearby clay mine, where a Zikurat has been unearthed. Unbeknown to the PCs, they only see half of it – human side. Below the surface, the edifice stretches on its head, providing a symmetrical structures separated in two halves. One was held by the surface folk, and one by the Formene elves. Who are these elves? Well, picture an elven tribe that is Not evil, but still lives underground, acting as stewards of sorts to the realms below, a necessity, considering the power of the rare ores found there. It should be noted that Hastur’s rising back in the darker ages has made them go into isolation…and that the sound defeat of his forces in module #1 will sport the impetus for the elves breaking their self-imposed exile. The Zikurat was once a trade-hub, a magical nexus that made invasion by armed forces all but impossible, and thus, the PCs explore an edifice out of time.

The mysterious function of the location is slowly unearthed as the PCs defeat either puzzle locks or hack through the vault-guardians and piece together the lore in a rather fun combination of direct and indirect storytelling. From pylons to the unique structure of the zikurat, the module manages to do something only rarely seen: It manages to be exciting and atmospheric without constant threat of death. It is almost like a clever horror-point-and-click adventure, slowly building tension and excitement. This is also facilitated by the very presentation: Each room notes the respective means of ingress/egress, a brief description for the GM, one description that you can paraphrase to the players, and, where applicable, a summary of the lore, though the handouts in the Book of Lore do a much better job. Still: Kudos for not requiring them!

In short, the module works LIKE NO OTHER D&D-adventure I have read so far. It feels at once old-school in a good way, generating a sense of true exploration and investigation, but still does something fresh and distinct. I cannot overstate how much I love how courageous this is – and better yet, the adventure manages to pull this off without becoming boring, proving that you don’t have to hack apart something every 2 rooms. It breathes a sense of internal consistency and has what the first module lacked in abundance: It is utterly UNIQUE. That alone makes this worthwhile in my book.

Anyways, I could go through this room by room, but that wouldn’t help you and just bloat the adventure; we conclude the scenario when the PCs meet one of the fabled Formene, a mage who botched a teleportation, half trapped in stone and dying, who bestows upon them the tools to traverse the dangerous region that gave these elves their name to the fabled city of Talos…for the first time in literally an age, outsiders will be allowed to set foot in this mythic place…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but could have been slightly tighter for the experience, both on a rules-language and formal level; layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard in the pdf version, but frankly, I prefer the b/w of the print version. The artworks are b/w and adhere to different styles, with some being amazing. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really neat, though I wished we got a player-friendly version.

I…have a hard time rating L. Kevin Watson’s “The Buried Zikurat” (The Book of Lore’s handouts were written by Ismael Alvarez, Kalyna Conrad, Troy Daniels, Jennifer R. Povey and Matt Roth, fyi); on the one hand, the lack of player-friendly maps is a serious disappointment as far as I’m concerned. As noted, the editing could have been slightly tighter, particularly in the rules-department. HOWEVER. Ultimately, that is not really relevant. The adventure does not require any of these aspects. It is, in essence, a truly rules-lite take on the essence of roleplaying; this is not about tweaking numbers, it is about storytelling, about using your mind, about exploring wondrous places. This is an investigation and exploration of a wondrous locale that works, surprisingly, sans NPCs, sans searching for clues with roll upon roll; this is radical in the way in which it allows you to really ROLEplay. If you get frustrated, you can still easily start a fight, sure, but the emphasis here is radically, drastically, different.

And honestly, I adore this module for the courage this must have required. Think about how much chutzpah that must have taken to pull; write a module in this day and age that is not contingent on a big boss fight, a flashy over-the-top sequence, but one that can stand on its own by the virtue of being clever, by its atmosphere. I love this. It is one of the VERY few jamais-vu-experiences I have seen in the last years. If you enjoy using your mind and need a break from mindless crawling and hack’n’slashing, then get this RIGHT NOW….just get it with the lore and puzzle supplements.

While I like that the base module does not require them, it loses a lot of the unique flair that sets it apart; on its own, you should probably detract a star from the final verdict.

That being said, I consider this to be absolutely inspiring, and I will rate this as intended, with the companion tomes. And, in spite of its formal hiccups and minor rough edges, I consider this to be amazing and unique. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars for the whole experience, rounded up…and because I LOVE the courage and design of this adventure, I will also slap my seal of approval on this. Highly recommended for groups that want more out of gaming than killing monsters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (The Complete Edition)
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DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (5e Edition)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 04:40:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Haunting of Hastur-series clocks in at 28 pages of content if you take away the editorial, ToC, etc., but that does not really represent the module properly.

This review was moved up in my queue due to me receiving a print copy of the adventure.

You see, that page-count only covers the core adventure sported, and the book comes with two supplemental tomes: The first would be the Map and Illustration booklet, which provides full-page, high quality renditions of the artworks, as well as all the full-color maps of the module. These are provided in the pdf as well, and oddly, the maps in the Illustration and Map booklet are a bit pixilated.

Speaking of maps: My review of this supplement is based on the neat kickstarter print edition of this module, which comes with a detachable cover and full-color maps inside – these are high-quality indeed, and properly high-res, though no player-friendly, key-less versions are included. This is the ONE book I’d consider to be optional.

You see, there are two more supplemental books for this adventures, the Book of Lore and the Book of Puzzles. The former contains more than 20 (!!!) pages of handouts! No, I am NOT kidding you. More than 20 pages of frickin’ handouts, all laid out like documents, letters, etc. with different fonts etc. The Book of Puzzles covers 14 pages…and is AMAZING. You see, the module sports a series of puzzles…but not all tables enjoy having their wits challenged. So this remains optional. In this book, we can find three difficulties of puzzles, ranging from basic riddles to number puzzles, logic problems to cryptography quotes, these are damn cool and add some all too often neglected mental exercise to the gaming process. Two thumbs up!

Both are de facto 100% optional, as combat is always a means to bypass these locks, but frankly, I believe that the Book of Puzzles is absolutely mandatory. The Book of Lore is highly recommended as well. Why do I consider them to be so crucial? You see, this module is unique in that it can be cleared without a single combat encounter! As such, it can theoretically also be run as a 1-on-1-adventure, as it primarily tests PLAYER-skill, as opposed to character-skill. So, after module #1 was a pretty standard, solid dark fantasy yarn, we take a totally different approach here: The module is essentially one that can fit seamlessly with pretty much all fantasy games and, genre-wise, is what I’d consider to be one of the exceedingly rare examples of “strange archaeology.” More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

The module includes an optional appendix for inclusion in the world assumed by Dark Naga Adventures, a brief dressing list, a table of fluff-only mushroom effects and three magic items that are variants of classic ones. There is one new monster here, and its formatting slightly deviates from the standard conventions, noting e.g. “blunt” instead of “bludgeoning” among the resistances or “All Others” to shorten the ability score section. I do not like this needless deviation. This also would be a good place to note that a few cosmetic typos can be found in these books: “actoins”, “delimas” and the like – nothing serious, but something that an editing pass could have caught. The module also sports something I enjoy, namely a spell that allows, at high-levels, for excavation of complexes. The spell exists primarily to account for logic, but rules-formatting-wise, the duration should not be instantaneous; the duration and casting time are contradictory; the spell should have operated with concentration instead. In short: The rules-language components are somewhat rough around the edges. On the plus-side, the spell’s hiccups don’t really impede the module, as it primarily serves a lore purpose.

Okay, so another thing that is important should be noted right now: NO, this is not yet another Cthulhu-themed Zikurat-dungeon. It’s something radically, dauntingly, different. In order to explain what it is, though, I have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, so whether or not the PCs have completed module #1 (the ending here is smoother if they have), they are contacted to visit a nearby clay mine, where a Zikurat has been unearthed. Unbeknown to the PCs, they only see half of it – human side. Below the surface, the edifice stretches on its head, providing a symmetrical structures separated in two halves. One was held by the surface folk, and one by the Formene elves. Who are these elves? Well, picture an elven tribe that is Not evil, but still lives underground, acting as stewards of sorts to the realms below, a necessity, considering the power of the rare ores found there. It should be noted that Hastur’s rising back in the darker ages has made them go into isolation…and that the sound defeat of his forces in module #1 will sport the impetus for the elves breaking their self-imposed exile. The Zikurat was once a trade-hub, a magical nexus that made invasion by armed forces all but impossible, and thus, the PCs explore an edifice out of time.

The mysterious function of the location is slowly unearthed as the PCs defeat either puzzle locks or hack through the vault-guardians and piece together the lore in a rather fun combination of direct and indirect storytelling. From pylons to the unique structure of the zikurat, the module manages to do something only rarely seen: It manages to be exciting and atmospheric without constant threat of death. It is almost like a clever horror-point-and-click adventure, slowly building tension and excitement. This is also facilitated by the very presentation: Each room notes the respective means of ingress/egress, a brief description for the GM, one description that you can paraphrase to the players, and, where applicable, a summary of the lore, though the handouts in the Book of Lore do a much better job. Still: Kudos for not requiring them!

In short, the module works LIKE NO OTHER D&D-adventure I have read so far. It feels at once old-school in a good way, generating a sense of true exploration and investigation, but still does something fresh and distinct. I cannot overstate how much I love how courageous this is – and better yet, the adventure manages to pull this off without becoming boring, proving that you don’t have to hack apart something every 2 rooms. It breathes a sense of internal consistency and has what the first module lacked in abundance: It is utterly UNIQUE. That alone makes this worthwhile in my book.

Anyways, I could go through this room by room, but that wouldn’t help you and just bloat the adventure; we conclude the scenario when the PCs meet one of the fabled Formene, a mage who botched a teleportation, half trapped in stone and dying, who bestows upon them the tools to traverse the dangerous region that gave these elves their name to the fabled city of Talos…for the first time in literally an age, outsiders will be allowed to set foot in this mythic place…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but could have been slightly tighter for the experience, both on a rules-language and formal level; layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard in the pdf version, but frankly, I prefer the b/w of the print version. The artworks are b/w and adhere to different styles, with some being amazing. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really neat, though I wished we got a player-friendly version.

I…have a hard time rating L. Kevin Watson’s “The Buried Zikurat” (The Book of Lore’s handouts were written by Ismael Alvarez, Kalyna Conrad, Troy Daniels, Jennifer R. Povey and Matt Roth, fyi); on the one hand, the lack of player-friendly maps is a serious disappointment as far as I’m concerned. As noted, the editing could have been slightly tighter, particularly in the rules-department. HOWEVER. Ultimately, that is not really relevant. The adventure does not require any of these aspects. It is, in essence, a truly rules-lite take on the essence of roleplaying; this is not about tweaking numbers, it is about storytelling, about using your mind, about exploring wondrous places. This is an investigation and exploration of a wondrous locale that works, surprisingly, sans NPCs, sans searching for clues with roll upon roll; this is radical in the way in which it allows you to really ROLEplay. If you get frustrated, you can still easily start a fight, sure, but the emphasis here is radically, drastically, different.

And honestly, I adore this module for the courage this must have required. Think about how much chutzpah that must have taken to pull; write a module in this day and age that is not contingent on a big boss fight, a flashy over-the-top sequence, but one that can stand on its own by the virtue of being clever, by its atmosphere. I love this. It is one of the VERY few jamais-vu-experiences I have seen in the last years. If you enjoy using your mind and need a break from mindless crawling and hack’n’slashing, then get this RIGHT NOW….just get it with the lore and puzzle supplements.

While I like that the base module does not require them, it loses a lot of the unique flair that sets it apart; on its own, you should probably detract a star from the final verdict.

That being said, I consider this to be absolutely inspiring, and I will rate this as intended, with the companion tomes. And, in spite of its formal hiccups and minor rough edges, I consider this to be amazing and unique. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars for the whole experience, rounded up…and because I LOVE the courage and design of this adventure, I will also slap my seal of approval on this. Highly recommended for groups that want more out of gaming than killing monsters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (5e Edition)
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In the Company of Unicorns (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2018 07:25:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s classic series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, as always,w e begin this supplement with a latter, as the meta-narrative of this series assumes that a member of the respective race is writing a letter to sage Qwilion of Questhaven; This sets the series apart from the get-go – unlike most racial supplements, the prose and colored/unreliable in-character narration assures that the pdf is actually fun to read and not just a dry assortment of numbers. This is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. In this case Phaedra, a member of the equine race of re’em, (how the unicorns refer to themselves) begins the narration with a summary of how the race views their own physiological differences from most humanoids. The pdf then proceeds to grant us insight into re’em culture, their herds etc. – and here, Rite Publishing must be commended. Instead of just duplicating the flavor from the PFRPG-version, we get a rewritten version of the whole account, taking e.g. the presence of warlocks in 5e into account. You may consider that to be a small thing, but for me, it represents the difference between doing what’s required and going the extra mile. It was an impressive surprise.

There is an obvious and intended “The Last Unicorn”-vibe conveyed by the prose, as the noble courtier tells us about the importance of hope…and sorrow…and what they can d. Beyond this glimpse at the psychology of these noble beings, we also learn about interactions with humanoids, providing a perspective on such happenstances from an insider’s perspective. So yeah, the flavor aspect is excellent.

Now, let’s take a look at the crunch, shall we? First of all, re’em increase their Constitution by 2 and mature quickly; they never die of old age, and their type is governed by the subrace chosen. However, it should be noted that spells that affect humanoids, thankfully, still affect re’em. As quadrupeds, re’em are restricted to horse barding and somewhat limited in using many consumables, but they may cast spells with somatic components as usual. They have darkvision and their horn deals 1d8 piercing damage. When charging at least 20 ft. in a straight line and attacking with the horn, this damage is increased by +2d6 piercing damage, making them rather lethal at first level. Re’em also have hooves and may use either both front or rear hooves for a 1d6 bludgeoning damage attack. These natural weapons are considered to be magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity.

4 subraces are provided: Celestial re’em increase Wisdom by 1, get the celestial type and know the spare the dying cantrip. 3rd level nets cure wounds once per long rest interval, 5th level lesser restoration once per rest interval. These are governed by Wisdom. The race also gains resistance to poison damage and advantage on saves vs. the poisoned condition, and these benefits extend to creatures riding the celestial re’em. The second subrace would be the ki-rin, who increase Charisma by 1, are celestial, type-wise, and when not wearing armor, have an AC of 12 + Charisma modifier, minimum +0. The armor class of riders may not be less than 10 your Charisma modifier, unless they are riding the ki-rin against their will. The alicorn of the ki-rin nets resistance as a cantrip, and 3rd level provides bless, 5th level aid, both of which are usable once per long rest interval and are governed by Charisma.

Thirdly, we have the fiendish re’em, the dark unicorns, who increase Intelligence by 1, are, type-wise, fiends and gain resistance to fire, which may be extended to riders. Their alicorn nets produce flame as a cantrip, with 3rd level yielding hellish rebuke and 5th level darkness once per long rest interval. You guessed it: Governed by Intelligence. Finally, sylvan re’em increase Dexterity or Charisma by 1 (your choice) and have the fey type; they have advantage on saving throws versus the charmed condition and can extend this benefit to riders. Their alicorn nets minor illusion as the cantrip, and at 3rd level faerie fire, at 5th level calm emotions. As before, both of these latter spells are governed by Charisma. All subraces also grant languages appropriate for their themes.

We get a new paladin oath next, the oath of the greenwood, which comes with fully formulated tenets and two new fighting styles are noted: Impaling and Trampling. Both are concisely presented. The oath gets its own oath spells and the 3rd level nets two channel divinity options: One is really cool, as it laces thunder in your hooves allowing for quicker movement and more damage/better attacks. The second option is also AMAZING, as it emphasizes teamwork: Nearby allies may target additional beings with beneficial healing-based spells. Love these! Also at 3rd level, we get mystic link, which allows you to attune your horn to a weapon as part of attuning the weapon, allowing you essentially to keep fighting with your horn. At 7th level, we get an amazing aura – the horn sheds light that the unicorn can suppress, sure, but this light also cancels darkness…and enlightens metaphysically, suppressing blindness! I love the visuals here. 15th level nets an additional channel divinity option (which is, slightly oddly, formatted differently than the previous ones, but that is pure aesthetics): Here, we have wind striding, allowing you to run over any substance unharmed, up to 90 ft. away from the ground, and you can carry up to two Medium riders with gear, provided you do not exceed maximum encumbrance. You can also ascend on empty air. I love this. The two rider option made me recall the famous templar symbol…and the mythological link works, once you recall that unicorns were often used as a cipher for Jesus in occult Christian texts., 20th level allows you to call an ancestral unicorn to your side to aid you. Cool!

We also receive the elder unicorn sorcerous bloodline. From 1st level on, when learning spells, you can choose druid spells instead, up to half of your total of spells known. You also gain proficiency in Religion and Nature, and may use Charisma as governing attribute for them instead. 6th level has a cool trick: When you cast a druid spell, but it doesn’t do damage (even if you intended it to do damage!), you get to cast a cantrip as a bonus action. If the cantrip deals damage, it deals bonus damage equal to the level of the spell slot expend by the triggering spell. This makes “missing” with spells less of a bummer and nets a second chance. Love it! At 14th level, the character learns geas as well as the option to expend a spell slot: If the spell slot expended had a higher spell level than a curse, oath, etc., you can end the effect. The ability takes same level of curse and spell slot into account. Really cool! 18th level is also really cool, teamwork wise: After casting a spell with a spell slot of 1st level or higher on your turn, you may take a reaction to a nearby ally casting a spell. If you do, the spell is enhanced and treated as one level higher. Love this!

We also get the vile pact of the sundered horn for warlocks, accounting btw. also for re’em that sacrifice their own horn! Cool!

The pdf also sports a paragon/exemplar class, here, the Silvermane Exemplar, who comes btw. with quick build rules. Only re’em qualify and they get 1d8 HD; proficiency-wise, we get all armor, one type of artisan’s tools, Constitution and Charisma saving throws, and two skills chosen from Athletics, Insight, Nature, Perception, persuasion, Religion and Survival. Starting equipment is noted and the class begins play with the mage hand cantrip, which may be explicitly used with proficiency bonus, if any, when employed with artisan’s tools and ability checks. Ability scores increase at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, up to and including 16th level. A silvermane exemplar begins play with a pool of inner light, equal to the class level. This resource may be sued to cast the spells granted by the alicorn class feature additional times sans a low rest (1 point for 1st level spells, 2 points for 2nd level spells). Additionally, as an action, you can spend a point and touch a willing creature, granting the target Charisma modifier temporary hit points. Alternatively, as an action, you may heal 5 times the amount of inner light spent of the ability in hit points to a target creature.

2nd level provides one of my favorite class features of the class, Purity and Sorrow. When you hit a creature with an attack roll, you gain Sorrow. When you restore hit points to an ally or provide temporary hit points/end conditions for them, you gain Purity. When you restore it points or grant temporary hit points, you may expend Sorrow to add 1d6 to the hit points granted or restored. When you roll damage for an attack, you may expend Purity and add +1d6 radiant damage to the damage dealt. These fade after 1 minute if not used. The dice they employ increase to d8 at 5th, d10 at 10th and d12 at 15th level. I love this, though it should specify that e.g. hurting harmless kittens could not provide Sorrow. Anyways, this feature thus rewards alternating between offense and defense and encapsulates the flavor really well. 5th level provides multiattack, 6th level the oath’s mystic link for weapon-to-horn-attunement; additionally, 6th level lets you spend inner light to grant adjacent creatures resistance to one of several damage types, with more targets costing more points. 9th level yields an alternate, humanoid form. At 13th level, when moving or using Dash, you can spend 1 inner light to teleport the distance instead. Starting at 14th level, when gaining or ending Purity, you can use a bonus action to generate a breeze that ends harmful conditions for a creature nearby. This does not net you Purity. You can also end confusion or curses, within limits. 17th level lets you spend 4 inner light to grow glorious, feathered wings that last until you gain Sorrow. At 20th level, you regain 4 points of inner light after a short rest.

Obviously, the class also has some sort of choice baked in; that would be the noble orders. These define your class features gained at 1st, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 18th level. 4 orders are provided: Royals, Courtiers, Knights and Knaves. Royals gain fire bolt and may later heal a creature within 30 ft. when healing via inner light while they have Sorrow. Healing and aforementioned mystic link improvement as well as a high level sun-crowned form make for a cool choice here. The courtiers are more skillful and have, as befitting their title, charm/dominate-themed abilities and sanctuary effects. These are the more tricky ones. Knights get a fighting style, may grant allies the ability to move as a reaction and penalize foes with Purity/Sorrow dice. Finally, the order of knaves has a cool ability that allows them to disguise their horn – if a target doesn’t know your name, he fails to see it! Using abilities, obviously, can also reveal who you are, and the order focuses on establishing a bond with another character, which can be really rewarding, roleplaying-wise.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the book is excellent and really interesting, providing a distinct array of complex rules-concepts. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful, new two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a lot of interesting full-color artworks that diverge in styles employed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

BJ Hensley’s original PFRPG-take on the playable unicorn was already rather cool; what Brandes Stoddard did with it, was inspired. The 5e.version of the playable unicorn is creative, distinct and provides a surprisingly concise take on the concept. The class options are well-crafted and the new class rocks, offering a playstyle that feels distinct, fresh and different. The fact that the lore reflects the mechanics is just the icing on an awesome cake. I love this supplement. The only blemishes I could find are exceedingly minor and represent only aesthetic gripes. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Company of Unicorns (5E)
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Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Gamemaster's Guide
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2018 07:22:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM’s Guide to the region of Ina’oth clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 58 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: While this does not require the Player’s Guide to Ina’oth, it is interesting to note that there is no overlap between them per se – the two guides have been crafted to complement each other, which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. Instead of getting an unredacted version of the Player’s Guide, we get basically a massive amount of new material and a glimpse behind the curtain. In short, this is a great example of how Player’s/GM’s Guides should be employed.

Okay, structurally, we begin with a piece of introductory prose, presented as a letter, including a proper visual representation of said missive. Aesthetically, that much is certain from the get-go, we have a distinct and nice book here – the grimoires-style layout (with stains and splotches) makes this an aesthetically-pleasing experience to read, complemented by plenty of flavor-wise perfect full-color artworks; while some obvious have been taken from the public domain, they have been recolored or modified…or chosen perfectly to seamlessly generate a unified aesthetic as far as artwork is concerned. The original pieces I saw are, no surprise there for Fat Goblin Games, really, really nice.

But what about the content? Well, this guide begins with the usual introductory notes and some advice for the GM that is important to bear in mind – Vathak as a setting is conductive to a variety of different horror types, and selecting properly the themes to convey is important. Anyways, after this, we receive a brief history of the region, with the amazing banner added as a pleasing visual identity. We thus learn of the golden age long gone, far from the grip of the dreaded old ones and vampire lords, but we also learn of the bitter wars that ravaged the land, of the Plague of Shadows and worse – Ina’oth, at least to me, has a very distinct Masque of the Red Death vibe, with disease as a leitmotif.

Next up, we take a tour of the settlements of Ina’oth, and here, we get not only juicy and evocative angles, we actually also get full settlement statblocks for these places…and if that should not suffice for you, then rest assured that that the massive 50-entry-strong table of random settlement hooks should inspire you. Why are a settlement’s sole inhabitants children? Why does a crazed old couple attempt to fling excrement at the PCs, calling them plaguebearers? The table is excellent and absolutely inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring: We go through the lands of Ina’oth and sport something that should be considered to be required for pretty much all games: We get DCs for knowledge the PCs might have on the area, yes, but instead of just getting the success…we also get massive amounts of information for FAILED checks. This is a simple operation, yes, but it adds to the element of uncertainty required by good horror. (Suffice to say, the GM should roll such checks.) Beyond that, PCs that do their legwork may unearth even more information, adding yet another level to this section. This is tremendously useful and takes the need to redact and compartmentalize information off the GM’s shoulders. I adore this. Please continue doing this!

Anyways, if all that technical stuff regarding immediate usefulness does not inetrest you, well then I still have excellent news. You see, Ina’oth’s regions are written in the most inspiring way I’ve seen since the old 3.X Ravenloft Gazetteers, with a focus on immediate usefulness, rather than novel-like plots. In short, this book does a phenomenal job here! Now, this level of quality also extends to the movers and shakers of the region, providing detailed, fluff-centric write-ups for the powerful beings f the region…and for, for example, the dreaded Stick Man, an impossibly gaunt man shrouded in black, with a wide-brimmed hat…From the locales to the persons, a palpable sense of the horrific, a knowledge of what works, suffuses this supplement. This, unsurprisingly, also extends to the fluff-only write-ups of the potent organizations that can be found in the region: Dedicants of Miasma, who arose during the Plague of Shadows, are often surgeons and the like, struck by visions of horrible winds felling men and plagues alike – here, we have the belief of the old concept of miasma, aptly translated into what may or may not actually grant power. Knights of the Blackened Sun seek to harness the power of the One True God and the vampiric lords at the same time, making for a ruthless and philosophically interesting knightly order, while the people of ash believe that they were killed in a past life and may attain knowledge and learn how to escape what they perceive as the cycle of reincarnation. No, this is, by far not everything, and I remained rather brief here, because I do believe that this should be read in its entirety to properly work.

The book also explains, in details, the realities of life in the region and also has a whole section devoted to festivals and local traditions, which adds tremendously to the sense of this being an actual region. Heck, we even get a fully-depicted prayer for the dead here!

Now, in the beginning, we already read about the book being cognizant of the different tropes associated with horror subgenres. If you, as the GM, are not 100% sure, though, well, there is an extensive selection of adventure hooks provided for Gothic Horror, Survival Horror or Cosmic Horror, grouped by theme. I love this. The next section becomes crunchier and provides something that, once again, should imho have been standard a long time ago: We are introduced to a variety of diseases, which come with multiple stages! This can mean that even Pathfinder’s liberal magics will be taxed more by curing them, and adds a level of tension here…particularly since the engine provided means that you can easily design further stages and tweak what’s here. The Plague of Shadows, for example, is presented as a 3-stage disease. Know what’s even cooler? We get a disease-template that you can employ to change things up and further codify and tweak these hazards!

The last big chapter is something most GMs will adore: With the region’s focus on ghouls and ghosts, the guide does not seek to needlessly reinvent the wheel. Instead of clogging your game with a ton of templates, it provides an extensive array of alternate monster features, with CR-modifications noted. Are you old-school and want a ghost that ages you? Ability’s here. Fancy some Ring-action? Drowning’s an option. What about ghosts that can hitch a ride on beings that defeat them, to rejuvenate next to their one-time vanquishers? (YOU FREED HER!!) Oh yes. What about…splitting and being there in multiple places at once? What if misplaced love of a lover makes a ghoul return as a corpse loved? Did I mention the table that sports 12 disturbing ghoul hobbies or 12 advice/services that could be gained from “friendly”/satiated ghouls? We also get 12 mementos for them, and 12 sample quirky mannerisms – obviously with a focus on the odd and somewhat macabre.

The pdf closes with 2 monsters: The face taker, at CR 10, can compress itself and rip the faces off their victims, adding them to their horrid form. The CR 4 shroud mummy, then, would be one of the most interesting, at least theme-wise, variant mummies I know, sporting the ability to demoralize via their death imprints and to leech away the life of those caught in their shrouds.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous 2-column standard that blends perfectly together with the artwork to create an aesthetically-pleasing whole. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

John Bennett provides a true gem here. The Gm’s Guide to Ina’oth focuses on being useful for the GM. While there is plenty of amazing lore to be found here, I was surprised by how actually USEFUL this book is – the hooks and angles, the details and settlements…this is basically both a great region sourcebook AND a great horror toolkit; even if you do not play in Vathak, this is worth every cent of its asking price. The prose and ideas are interesting and fun to read, further cementing Fat Goblin Games’ run of excellent Vathak-supplements. If you even remotely enjoy horror and if you are not adverse to having annoying stuff like signature abilities and settlement statblocks laid out for you, if you enjoy some nice dressing to go along with inspiration for both folks, places and organizations, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this.

As an additional aside: This may be a coincidence, but even if you do not play Pathfinder, the book’s structure and ideas, when seen as apart from the rules-components, still warrant getting this one in my book. If you like your games dark, then this will have something for you! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest sliver of a doubt!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Gamemaster's Guide
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Star Log.EM-013: Augmentative Equipment
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2018 11:09:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with a brief look at augmentation in the galaxy and the Xa-Osoro system in general, before getting a massive table that lists the material by price and level, noting system modified as well. We also have the new weapon fusion, biointegration, which clocks in at only 680 credits, which represents the classic means of the integrated weapon. While deployed, you can’t do anything with the hand but use that weapon. Unfusing is a move action and only one-handed weapons may be fused thus – the plus-side being obviously that dropping or disarming is out of the question, and half damage dealt to the fused weapon is dealt to the character instead of the item, which can make for an interesting double-edged sword. Haha. Get it? …Sorry for the bad pun.

Anyways, we also get two new armor upgrades. Phantom emitters are classified as hybrids, and can compress armor via extradimensional means into 1/16th of the usual size sans modifying your size category, allowing you to squeeze through 1/4th your space sans counting as squeezing. While the armor is thus compressed, you have 360° vision and move via rolling, restricting you to unarmed strikes that benefit from shock, but are not considered to be archaic. On the plus-side, total defense in ball form is more useful. Weapon integration systems can be installed into light and heavy armor only and make it possible to install weapons as though the suit were a power armor, with weapon types codified properly by weapons slots granted by this upgrade.

The pdf also sports 4 different biotech augmentations. Adamantine boneplates are provided up to MK 7, granting increasing DR (or improving your existing one); as it applies to the skeleton, it has a different system than dermal plating, but they may explicitly not be combined. Good catch. Biotic Flight is added to the spinal column and comes in Mk 1 – 3, beginning with basically gliding and improving to include first clumsy and slow, then better, flight. Spiked growth depend, system-wise, on where you get them, but they enhance your climbing capabilities and provide the means to inflict piercing damage with unarmed strikes – the augmentation is presented in one version. Cool: the rules take hardness of surface scaled into account AND also provides a benefit for folks with Improved Unarmed Strike. Kudos!

Finally, the muscle mass magnifier lets you execute penetrating unarmed strikes, with 9th level plus adding critical effects. Nice! They are presented up to Mk 10.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I sported no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s colorful and nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice artwork, as seen on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ augmentative equipment provides several pretty crucial modifications for characters. The rules are precise and make good use of SFRPG’s item levels; the presentation is precise and, as a whole, I really enjoyed this one, as it provides some classics that I as an old Shadowrun-veteran simply expect to see from futuristic games. In short: Very much recommended, 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-013: Augmentative Equipment
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