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Vigilantes of Skybourne
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2017 04:40:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion-pdf for the vigilante-class clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, we begin this pdf with a collection of archetypes, the first of which would be the living banner. At 2nd level, the archetype is locked into the inspired vigilante talent. At 3rd level, a unique peculiarity begins - the living banner receives access to the war sphere, using inspiration points instead of spell points. The totem abilities gained are always centered on the living banner and affect only allies while he's in the vigilante identity. In social identity, an ally within 30 ft. may be affected by the rally abilities, but not the totem abilities. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net a talent from the war sphere. This replaces startling appearance and unshakeable. 11th level allows for a cool option: Whenever the banner would be reduced below 0 hit points while in vigilante identity, an ally within 30 ft may aid another for AC as an immediate action - if the AC bonus suffices to raise the vigilante's AC high enough so the attack misses, it is negated. This one replaces frightening appearance. 17th level nets the ability to allow allies to execute an attack as an immediate action against an adjacent target when the banner crits, replacing stunning appearance. All in all, a cool archetype.

The Iron Lord is basically an Iron Man archetype - instead of the default dual identity, the archetype can conjure forth a bonded armor that is of masterwork quality, +1 enchanted for every odd level beyond first, with the +5 cap maintained. Enhancements/special qualities can be switched upon reaching a new level. The armor vanishes once it loses the iron lord's possession and 7th level provides a second suit of armor for more flexibility, with changes between suits and identities following the normal dual identity rules Starting at 3rd level, the iron lord unlocks progressively better special materials to craft the suit from, with 7th and 11th level providing progressively better options. Now this is not meant as criticism and I won't penalize the pdf for it, but I would have loved to see some GM guidelines of when to unlock new materials beyond the standard Paizo stuff. Oh well.

The third archetype, the masked duelist, gains Weapon Finesse with one-handed piercing weapons and light weapons, replacing seamless guise. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with the swashbuckler's panache, including dodging panache and opportune parry and riposte, with 3rd level unlcoking precise strike and swashbuckler's initiative. 6th level replaces another vigilante talent nets Dazzling Display and treats all Weapon Finnese'd weapons as Weapon Focus weapons for the feat's purpose. A number of times per day equal to Cha-mod, the masked duelist can mark a foe as part of Dazzling Display, potentially dazing the adversary. You've no doubt discerned it - this is the Zorro-archetype. And I like it. One issue remains, though, one that is retained from the base swashbuckler - the archetype, much like the swashbuckler class, lacks a reliable skirmishing option, one that imho would have really benefited the archetype.

The next one is pretty interesting - the Possessed gains 4+ Int skills per level and instead of vigilante specialization, he gains possessed identity The possessed identity can either be construct, aligned outsider, elemental, plant, dragon or construct. The vigilante identity, before you start groaning, does not gain all immunities of the respective types (which is good), but still provides unique tricks: Construct possessed do not require air to breathe; undead are treated as both undead and living for the purpose of spells and effects and elementals provide speeds. The transformation is magical and thus faster - it can be completed in 5 rounds, but it is anything but subtle. Somewhat disappointing - no guideline regarding how loud it is was provided. The possessed is btw. treated as a low caster for the spheres system, using Charisma as governing attribute, he does not gain talents. MSB and MSD increase normally, but the spell pool only equals 1/2 + casting ability modifier points - odd: Why not use Cha here?

The secret police gains proficiency with the bow, sap and whip instead of martial weapons, shields or medium armors and replace seamless guise with Enforcer. These guys receive a scaling unarmed damage (Small and Large damage values included) and may execute these even with hands full and applies full Str-mod to damage, including off-hand attacks. Nonlethal damage does not impose penalties to atks with these. This replaces level 1's social talent. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with an inqui's judgment and 8th level provides a ring of protection that increases in power as more class levels are gained and this ring may conjure forth tears of death with an immediate onset, replacing that level's vigilante talent. I really liked this one - strong theme, well executed.

The sky marine adds Fly to the class skills and loses medium armor proficiency. The vigilante identity of the archetype relies on war paint, oils, piercings, etc., and as such does not gain any protection from scrying etc. usually conveyed by dual identities. That being said, the vigilante identity provides a scaling dodge bonus and improved startling/frightening appearance duration/AoE. This also kills off seamless guise, obviously. 6th level replaces the vigilante talent gained there and at 13th level as well as Vengeance Strike with the ability to enhance a ship he gains control of, with a handy table listing the quite significant benefits. Also at this level, the archetype may designate any spot on the ship as a temporary control device via cranks and pulleys - cool! 12th level either increases maneuverability (for engines) or nets the ship the ability to work sans sails. The capstone is so cool - it makes the ship return to the archetype within 1 week...and if the archetype is in contact with the ship, both marine and ship receive regeneration 5. Cool!

The next one would be the overwatch nets either a flying familiar or animal companion at full level, replacing the talent usually gained at 2nd level. 6th level nets improved empathic link, including the option to look through the companion's eyes, replacing 6th level's vigilante talent. The capstone lets the companion contribute up to 2 standard actions to vengeance strike. I consider this one somewhat problematic, taking into account the superiority of animal companions and their power at low levels; going druid-progression for them looks like a slight overkill to me. Ranger-route at -3 would have imho been smarter here, but it remains a pretty easy modification to execute, so yeah.

The uncanny archer loses medium armor proficiency and gains Precise Shot as a 1st level bonus feat. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a hunter's trick from the skirmisher ranger archetype, which may only be executed with ranged or thrown weapons. These may be used 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. This replaces 4th level's vigilante talent. 8th level replaces that vigilante talent with 30 ft.-range ranged maneuvers and 12th level provides a ricochet-shot. Decent, but not too interesting as far as I'm concerned. The vessel archetype is interesting - the archetype has no control between the identities - they have to start the day in the social identity and may not sue the vigilante abilities while in social identity. Starting at 1st level, when the vessel or an ally is below 50% hit points, the archetype can assume their vigilante identity as an immediate action. 5th level lets the vigilante transform 1/day as a standard action, regardless of ally conditions, 10th level lets them assume vigilante identity at will and unlocks the vigilante talents for the social identity. The form also nets class level x2 temporary hit points when assuming vigilante identity, though it should be noted that these cannot easily be cycled. Okay, so how would I play this? I'd find a fluffy little kitten. Then...yeah, you get the idea. I'd be angry and whop out my supernatural identity as well when a kitten is hurt. Anyways, at least you don't have to kill them...

Moving on, instead of vigilante specialization, the archetype receives a luck pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which may be spent as part of an attack or damage roll to add a surge-y +1d6 to atk, or +1d6 per 5 class levels to damage. As an immediate action, the vigilante may add this amount to saves, thus replacing vigilante specialization. Also as an immediate action, the vessel may boost an ally's save or AC by +1d6 by expending 2 luck points. I really like this mechanic, but alas, the ally option is a separate ability and does not specify when it is unlocked. Until 10th level, these cannot be used while in vigilante form.

The next chapter provides more archetypes, this time racial ones - if you remember my review of the PG and its gross power imbalances, you'll notice that this does not necessarily leave me stoked. So, for the purpose of this book, I'll just look at these on their own, distinct entities, all right? The Cecaelia deepstalker replaces Climb with Knowledge (history) and gains proficiency with heavy and light underwater crossbow, but loses medium armor and shields, excluding bucklers. 1st level nets poison use and seamless guise is replaces with a bonus to Craft (alchemy) and (traps) - how much? No idea - there is a box-like layout/formatting remnant where the bonus should be. I assume from context that it should be 1/2, though. 4th level replaces the vigilante talent gained with a ranger trap and 20th level nets a pretty hard to counter final death-y ability when reducing foes to 0 hp.

The aasimar divine avenger replaces 5th level's startling appearance with Call Truce and 11th level nets an ability in social identity that makes it hard to say no to the avenger, requiring a WIll-save to not have your attitude improved temporarily - which is cool. However, it replaces "startling appearance" - which is wrong. That ought to read frightening appearance. 17th level replaces stunning appearance with a stun versus anyone at least indifferent when the vigilante identity is revealed. Okay one, I guess, but nothing special. The fenghuang ebon phoenix can assume the eponymous ebon phoenix form in only 5 rounds (as always, talents can hasten that) - and once again, there is no guideline for Perception checks to notice the pretty stark transformation. 1st level locks the character in the Renown social talent and quickens the ability to gain renown in settlements with some fenghuang. The downside here being that it's pretty hard for these fellows to disguise themselves from their people. 2nd level nets bonuses to skills and atk and damage versus fey, which increase at 8th and 16th level. This type may be changed in a 24-hour-ritual that requires sufficient knowledge of the threat being lethal to his people. The capstone allows for a cold-based self-immolation + full-healing auto-resurrection that is particularly potent versus the chosen threat.

The cherufe archetype lava walker is only available for the amet subtype and all members of the archetype share the same vigilante identity, gaining a bonus to Intimidate. Interesting: No mundane or magical compulsion can make a cherufe give up a lava walker's identity. This replaces seamless guise. 2nd level last longer lava and +1/2 class level additional uses, allowing you to perform iterative attacks with it. The lava may also be added to wielded weapons and unarmed/natural attacks, with 5th level making it magical and 7th and 11th level increasing the damage output, the latter also increasing duration. This replaces 2nd level's vigilante talent. 12th level upgrades fire resistance to 25 (or 30 with hotblooded) instead of the vigilante talent. The Reimagined created has basically two modes - the vigilante form may have a different configuration of creation points, though each form per se is fixed.. 3rd level lets the archetype, as a standard action, move around the ability score bonus granted by the repurposed ability, with additional daily uses gained at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter.

The technophile tatulani replaces martial weapon proficiency with firearms and begins play with a battered laser pistol and replaces seamless guise with +1/2 class level to Craft (mechanical) and Knowledge (engineering). 1st level's social talent is exchanged for Technologist and 7th level provides the pretty amazing ability to, in 8 hours, repurpose a room into a crafting laboratory, cybernetics lab, medical lab or military lab, with the Craft-check made determining the charges available. The character also receives Craft Technological Arms and Armor and thus replaces the social talent gained at 7th level. I love this lab-improvising-mechanic...really cool, though I wished the archetype went one step further with it.

The cuazaj winged terror replaces 1st level's social talent with +1/2 class level to Craft (alchemy) and gains alchemist bombs instead of a vigilante talent at 2nd level, though he does not add Int-mod to damage.5th level's startling appearance is replaced with a 30 ft. average fly speed (40 ft. and good with Real Flight) and 17th level's stunning appearance is replaces with even better flight. Weird: While two of the appearance abilities are exchanged, level 11's frightening appearance still is here. Aesthetics-wise, I consider that choice a bit odd.

The pdf does feature archetypes for classes beyond the vigilante, the first of which would be the Beast Tamer for the damn cool Luchador-class. The beast tamer replaces skilled combatant with a full-progression animal companion (alongside a bonus on wild empathy and Handle Animal checks. Thing is...he does not get wild empathy, RAW. Oversight? I don't know. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide a teamwork feat, with class level acting as BAB for prerequisite purposes - all animal companions he has are treated as though they also had these feats. Basically a pet-luchador.

The cloaked killer ranger archetype replaces wild empathy with dual identity and replaces spells with the stalker's hidden strike ability at -3 levels and damage increasing by +1d8 per 2 levels thereafter. 7th level lets the killer move unimpeded through crowds and nets concealment as well as an Intimidate bonus to influence crowds instead of woodland stride. The mutator alchemist replaces the default mutagen with a so-called evolutionary catalyst, which, instead of a mutagen's usual benefits, provides a pool of 1/2 class level 8min 1) spell points as well as a single mutation vigilante talent. Brew Potion is replaced with dual identity and two discoveries and one grand discovery can be used to further enhance the evolutionary catalyst. More on those mutation talents below, just fyi.

The swordsmith fighter loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gains 4 + Int mod skills per level (thank you!), +1 per level that must be used for Craft (weapons). 5th level nets Master Craftsman for Craft (weapons). Starting at 3rd level, the swordsmith designates one weapon he made the blade of legend, which receives a +1 bonus when wielded by him, +1 at every odd level, with the usual +5 cap in place. The assigned abilities may be changed via a ritual and drawing said blade adds the bonus of the blade to Ref- and Will-saves as well as Cha-checks when drawn: The swordsmith basically transforms into an alternate identity, which may even be of a different alignment. However, the character may still be recognized by keen-eyed individuals. This replaces armor training ad qualifies as dual identity for prerequisite purposes. 19th level nets DR 5/- while wielding the sword instead of armor mastery and 20th level allows for on the fly reassignment of blade abilities. Love this one. It's basically He-man. Damn cool!

The pdf also features two 10-level-PrCs, the first of which would be the hellsworn, who receives d8 HD, 4 + skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and prereq-wise, 5th level access. Oh, and you have to pledge your soul to hell, obviously, which makes resurrection unreliable - the interesting aspect here is that dual identity, if present, means that only one identity is condemned to hell. 1st level nets the option to add hellfire damage (untyped) as a swift action to attacks with mutations, bombs, attacks, etc. The ability also improves at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, which extends to the skill bonuses it conveys. 2nd level provides class level DR/good and allows for quicker identity change. 4th level nets poison use as well as the option to conjure forth imp poison 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. 6th level nets 15 + class level SR and 8th level lets him inflict devil chills Cha-mod times per day. The capstone nets an aura of fear.

The second PrC would be the shrouded captain, who receives d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and can be taken prereq-wise as soon as 4th level. The character does need a ship, though - and losing it is nasty. They begin at 1st level with a shrouded crew, which means that the captain can cloak their identity, crafting basically dual identity's lite version for up to 10 x class level beings...which is an AMAZING rpg-catalyst! 3rd level and every three levels thereafter provide a social talent, which may be then included in the generated identities for crew members, though they can't get Renown and the ship will always be the Safe House, if applicable. 2nd level nets jolly roger, which doubles as dual identity for the captain, but extends its benefits to the ship - it also allows for ship intimidation and provides a scaling bonus to crew members' damage rolls and saves versus fear. 5th level and 7th level net a teamwork feat, which may then be shared with all crew members within 60 ft., for a daily total of 5 x class level rounds. 10th level is amazing: If the captain dies and is not returned to life within 24 hours, a member of the crew may take up his mantle, becoming for all intents and purposes the fallen captain, including personality and identity. And yes, this interacts properly with captains later returned to life. Amazing PrC full of flavor, one of the best Pirate-y ones I've seen.

The pdf also features a significant array of new class options for the vigilante: The enigma specialization makes the vigilante a Mid-caster using Cha, with class level + Cha-mod spell points, but does not gain magic talents. Two magical talents may be foregone in favor of a mutation vigilante talent. Mutation vigilante talents are supernatural abilities that do not provoke AoOs and, unless otherwise noted, require a standard action to activate. Many double as sphere effects and may thus be enhanced by magical talents, but may not be enhanced by staves. MSB is based on class level. The massive collection of talents include discoveries for alchemist bombs, Alteration sphere traits (Bestial Form, the talent, is not properly italicized), a combined teleport/darkness, [meld]-scavenging or several SPs. (Once again, one is not italicized correctly) that scale with levels. generating light daggers which can later be used to 30.-ft-whirlwind also are amazing...and yes, dear reader, if you're like me and loved the "Cloak and Dagger"-comics (Mantel und Degen, for my German readers) - the light and darkness-related tricks here are an amazing homage to these characters. Fire-breathing, laced energy, preventing lying, firing ocular blasts and radically improved speed all make sure that the ample inspiration from the superhero genre was well integrated with both spherecasting and the vigilante's engine. Speaking of which: You get two nerd-cred-points if you can reliably state the inspiration for "There is only the Night", which "kills" off a social identity and allows you to build a new one. So. Cool.

Social talent-wise, we get a bit less - only 5. One nets you a copycat, which you can use to retain your identity's secret, one that lets him buy at military discount in an area of renown, one that lets him request the help of fighters, one to make a ship the safe house and one that is the opposite of the aforementioned one that lets the vigilante have his vigilante identity "die" - only to construct a new one. The pdf also features favored class options for the skybourne races and closes with 6 feats: Clangorous Crash deafens foes temporarily when you roll maximum damage with a bludgeoning weapon (finally a reason to use hammers...). Dazzling Blow is smart: Single attack dazzling foes that also renders them flatfooted against you...but only until the start of your next turn, making this a great AoO/tactics set-up that can't be cheesed. Kidney Cutter allows your potshots to deal continuous nonlethal damage (neat!); Mutation nets you, bingo, a mutation. Sealed Mind proofs you versus divination/Mind Sphere abilities and Tertiary Identity nets you another social identity - cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-level - the pdf juggles complex concepts rather well. At the same time, there are some oversights and formatting hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to a really nice full-color two-column standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art and several amazing full-color pieces I haven't seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Sayre's vigilantes of Skybourne are pretty amazing as a whole; while not all archetypes wowed me, there are indeed some gems herein. In particular in the talent-selection, I kept grinning from ear to ear. As a longtime fan of Cloak And Dagger and as someone who grew up with He-man, there is a lot of heart's string-pulling involved here. The talents, if you're playing with Spheres of Power, are pretty much a reason of its own to get this. If you're not playing with the system, then this has less to offer, so let that stand as a warning.

To make that clear - SoP-using groups that feature vigilantes should consider this a must-have, though not all options reach the level of awesomeness as the ones I mentioned: The Zorro-archetype inherits the issues of the swashbuckler and the hellsworn, while obviously a homage to Spawn lacks symbiotic costume and the unique timer, ending up being basically just another hell-themed PrC...one that, theoretically and RAW, could be cheesed via the new talents that let an identity "die". So yeah, this is not perfect, but it represents a book worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Skybourne
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Templar Base Class
Publisher: ARMR Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2017 04:38:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 4 pages for the templar base class.

The templar has d10 HD, 2 + Int-mod (lower cap'd in the pdf) skills per level, full BAB-progression and good Fort- as well as Will-saves. They gain proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, except tower shields. The templar can cast arcane spells gained from the class (and only those) sans arcane spell failure. 4th level nets prepared arcane spellcasting based on Intelligence at -3 levels, with spells drawn from the sorc/wiz-list. As soon as they can cast spells, they may do so with hands full - and here the "only templar spells"-caveat is missing.

The class begins play with at-will detect magic and the option to 1/day chastise another as a swift action, which is basically a variant smite sans the bonus to atk, but with + class level to damage and a -2 penalty for attacking other targets while the ability is in effect. It may be used an additional time per day at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, though the ability itself does not spell that out - you need to look at the table to deduce that.

At first level, the templar also pledges an oath - these basically come with flavorful adventuring modifications and provide a passive benefit and an active benefit: These include gaining proficiency with tower shields, Arcane Strike as a bonus feat or an increased spell level of +3 (for full CL). The active benefits interact with chastise and provide e.g. DR, attack bonuses, save bonuses and AC - the standards, all of which scale with the chastise daily use progression. 2nd level provides eldritch hands, which is a temporary hit points granting variant of lay on hands, governed by Int (not properly capitalized in text), with 1/2 class level + Int-mod daily uses and 1d10 + 1/2 class level gained for use. This is upgrades to 2d10 + class level at 14th level.

The temporary hit points last an hour and touching others is a standard action, personal sue a swift action. 3rd level nets a familiar at full progression (WTF?), with 10th level providing Improved Familiar for free. 5th level provides at-will mount, though it can't be recast until its duration expires, so no mount spamming, which represents a nice catch. This upgrades to phantom steed at 11th level.

6th level and every 3 thereafter net a bonus feat chosen from combat, metamagic, Spell Focus or Spell Mastery or an Arcane Discovery.

Starting at 8th level, as a standard action, the templar can generate a 1-round aura that increases CLs or arcane spells by 1 and their DC similarly by 1, usable 3 + Int-mod times per day. 11th level allows the templar to expend two uses of chastise to grant all allies within 10 feet the ability to chastise, though they need to do so before the templar's next turn. Sooo, can the chastise once? As often as the templar? Before or after expenditure? Do they deplete his chastise-uses? That one could be more precise. The aura is a bit too opaque. It is upgraded by another +1 and a decreased activation action at 17th level. The capstone makes the templar immune to mundane weapons (Yay at this level?) and allows him to once per chastise double the damage bonus, add a targeted greater dispel magic AND end the chastise, allowing for a flexibility the class could have used sooner.

The pdf sports a feat for +2 chastise uses and the eldritch vindicator, a cold iron bastard sword that becomes more powerful in the hands of a templar...bingo, it's basically the equivalent of the good ole' holy avenger etc. It also sports some minor formatting hiccups.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are decent - the rules-language and formal criteria, for the most part, are solid, if not always perfect. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artwork's nice for a PWYW file. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

The templar by Angel "ARMR" Miranda is a decent take on the arcane paladin - nothing more, nothing less. It is, in short, a pretty basic rules-operation, with the oaths being the one source of player-agenda apart from the spells. The class's spellcasting engine is pretty brutal, but has to make up for the loss of mercies...which brings me to another point - this is basic and it could have been interesting: Adapting arcane mercies or tapping a substitution ability into the sellcasting instead of going the standard route could have made this guy really interesting. As written, it is a decent take on the trope, though I've seen better. On the plus-side, this being PWYW means that you can check it out rather easily and determine whether it's for you or not. If you need a quick arcane pala class with minor rough edges and sans frills, this may be worth taking a look at. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up by virtue of being PWYW.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Templar Base Class
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Shuigong - The Emperor's Watery Secret
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2017 10:12:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

..

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

...

..

.

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Enzdeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Majeed
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