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Mini-Dungeon #029: Heart of the Sacred Dawn
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2016 08:59:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!


This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


In ages long gone, the lord of dragons Tenebrash was vanquished by the order of sacred dawn with the help of an ancient relic, the lucespel. Now, evil has returned to the lands of mortals and it is up to the heroes to find and secure the lucespel within the confines of the now ruined temple-keep of the order of sacred dawn. The deity once in command of the artifact remains purposefully obscure and can be considered to be a great placeholder for deities from Saranrae to Latander or Arden. Within these sacred halls, only the mightiest of heroes have a chance to prove their mettle - to do so, they must defeat exceedingly powerful knights turned to spirit of adoration. The ruins also sport a riddle that requires the PCs to collect certain words, which prove to be the answer to a simple riddle. When solved a templated great black wyrm dread ghost still stands between the PCs and triumph...oh, and that one downright sadistic trap...that, RAW, is even triggered when the correct key has been taken, which may be an oversight. 3 x Power Word: Kill at CL 20 is nasty and probably should not be triggered when the correct key is used. Similarly, that should be a trap or at least a haunt; the pdf has a tough option for legendary rogues to bypass the boss fight, but not to find and disarm the killer-magic...which could result in some complaining. Beyond these secured portals, the artifact beckons - though its exact powers are left for the GM to decide.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!


Justin Andrew Mason's Heart of the Sacred Dawn is a mini-dungeon we can really use. Why? Simple: We don't have a lot of quality high-level material. The added requirements of high-level gameplay are tough to master and conversely, this pdf doesn't have the space to provide elaborate notes on the certainty of teleportation et al. That being said, the challenges are flavorful and diverse, with the kill-trap's trigger in either case being my one true structural gripe beyond wishing that the exploration required some more uses of high-level tricks and abilities. Apart from the combat challenges and overkill-kinda-trap, the module could be handled by lower level PCs as well.


How to rate this? Well, while not perfect, this constitutes a fun diversion for high-level PCs and in the hand of a good GM, this can be a pretty cool insertion. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #029: Heart of the Sacred Dawn
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Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 10:55:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive rule-book clocks in at 144 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page list of tables (important!), 6 pages of supporter-thanks, 1 page legal appendix, 1 page note-space, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 130 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Ähem. I feel old. ;) This is my birthday-review, my present from myself to myself, so please bear with me regarding the obvious deviation from my usual standard regarding reviewing. Kidding aside regarding age and the like...when I started playing, believe it or not, you young 'uns, the game didn't have that much to do with math. Sure, we needed it. But in contrast to taking hours upon hours to properly calculate the statblock of high-level foe xyz, those were simpler times. Heck, for the first 6+ years of my playing career, I didn't use any kind of battlemap...go wrap your head around this!


Why am I telling you this? Well, because this book basically represents the game I grew into gaming with; this is the old-school simple and distilled version of gaming. No looking up feats, no looking up complex interactions, no optimization. Different level-up caps for different classes. Fixed saving throws determined by level...next to no means to power-game and a lot of house-rules that continuously grew.


Okay, so what does this provide? Well, we already have the 6 classic attributes. Strength determines chances to kick open doors and modify carrying capacity, with melee to hit and damage modifiers ranging from -2 to +2 and -1 to +3, respectively. Fighters can use Strength for ranged weapons...if you follow the original rules. Constitution determines your chance to survive being raised from the dead...and nets you anything from -1 to +1 hit points per HD. High Charisma and Wisdom net you bonus XP (wrap your head around that!) and Dex, obviously, is important for all the thief tricks. Thief? Yup, once upon a time, it was thief, not rogue, ladies and gentlemen.


The classes provided herein cover the assassin, cleric, druid, fighter, magic-user, monk, paladin, ranger and thief...and yes, astute reader: Some of these are simply better than others. Why? Because back in the day, you needed damn good stats to qualify for some of them - which is still represented in optional rules. (Yep, that's where the "paladins are rare and all good-looking"-trope came from; Cha 17+ minimum. 18, btw., is the maximum you'll get with your 3d6...


Similarly, dual-classing and multiclassing are two different experiences, with dual-class characters requiring much more XP...but I digress. Non-human races often have an advancement cap for classes, but once again, alternate rules for this less beloved feature are presented. Oh, know what's also tricky: All classes cap HP at one point; depending on your class, you'll thereafter only get a single hit point per level.


While this may sound annoying, it's not - it keep the dreaded high-number mathematical breakdown all contemporary systems suffer from at bay. Oh, and alignment? Law, Neutrality, Chaos. That's it.


Okay, so item-purchases and equipment work pretty much as expected...but what about AC? There are two ways and two camps on how to handle the concept: Ascending and Descending AC. When you use descending armor as a rule, each character gets an unarmed AC of 9, with the lower results being better - a plate would net you -6 AC, for example. Ascending is pretty much the opposite and works like just about all contemporary systems in the d20-arena: 10 + value. Such stats are provided in brackets. So, whether you prefer one of the other, this book has you covered. Movement rate is similarly simple on ground and overland movement.


Swords and Wizardry, however, is NOT a simple reproduction - it streamlines and takes away some of the needlessly clunky components: Saves and XP, for example, both of which, frankly, have been sources of endless consternations among my players. ("Why is that a save versus spells and not deathrays?") So no, this is not simply an exercise in nostalgia. The round and its breakdown, swift and quick, is also presented in a concise manner - with multiple alternatives for specific tables. That being said, I really think a flat Attack-bonus would have been the simpler choice regarding attack rolls. Why? Because you have to consult massive tables dependant on the class to determine whether you hit or not. Sure, it's not rocket science...but it's a component I do not use in my OSR-games...boo and hiss, I use an atk-bonus. ;)


Still, do not take this is criticism on a formal level - it is just me stating a preference. Before I go on a further tangent or you stop reading - when using ascending AC, an imho easier to grasp table and one that does work well, and does the job admirably. Similarly, my games do have neutral clerics - an eventuality btw. also covered in alternate rules/referee-suggestions. Sample stronholds and information on hirelings complement this section...and then, there are SPELLS. A metric ton of SPELLS. They have a name. A range. A level. A duration. That's it. Simple and to the point.


This is where the referee section begins and it is this section alone that may be worth the download. Why? Because, beyond general and sound advice for GMs, the section actually sports multiple, nice dungeon-maps as well as tables upon tables you can use to generate creatures. Similarly, wilderness encounters and movement rates are covered...oh. And yes. Mass combat and siege combat. And unlike pathfinder's impotent, sucky siege engines (I house-ruled those so that PCs actually fear them), they friggin' kill you. Trebuchet hits you? You're DEAD. No, seriously. Game over, man. Game over. Call me a bastard GM...but I like that. Even Aerial Combat gets its section and is handled simply via maximum course alterations and minimum space between alterations - that's it. And while this may sound simple, it actually is a pretty ingenious system to make compelling dogfights.


And yes, before you ask, naval combat is here as well. These are the complete rules, so this book also sports an array of monster stats and advice on creating them - and if there is one thing that is a weakness of this book...well, alas, it's this section. You see, sans the massive math-laden statblocks, old-school games did tend to prosper in the fluff departments; where monsters had ecologies, societies, tactics etc. all spelled out in lavish detail, often inspiring the referee. You won't find that here. You only get the hard, cold and brief statblocks. That's it. The magic item-section on handing out treasure and the appropriate tables (yes, including cursed items) follow a similarly minimalistic approach - one suitable for the core book, yes...but also perhaps the one aspect where the book does not excel as much as in the previous sections.


The pdf, obviously, does feature a char-sheet, btw....and an impressive, very detailed index that makes using this book very easy.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard with a ton of new b/w-artworks that breathe the tradition of the classic - including ample wizards in pointy hats. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and yes, ladies and gentlemen...the Erol Otus cover alone may be worth downloading this. Unfortunately, I don't have the print version of this book...but I do own a ton of Frog God Games-material and they ALWAYS are great books.


Dennis Sustare, Marv Breig, Jason Cone, Allan T. Grohe Jr., Jerry Mapes, Bill Webb and Matthew Finch have created perhaps the best OSR-version for classic, fantasy roleplaying...and beyond simply being a highly customizable, easy to learn system, it affords for a great change of pace when you find yourself tired out by too many statblocks to crunch. This very much is not only a blast from the past, it is a great system to teach roleplaying...because it's simple. It's simple and elegant in its design without being restrictive. The "referee has the last call" rule trumps all and there frankly isn't much wiggle-room to power-game. This is delightfully easy to grasp and master and in presentation and quality a superb offering.


Oh, and it's FREE. As in: Doesn't cost a single damn dime. As in FREE. It takes the disparate classic rules and streamlines them without eliminating their wealth of options. Swords & Wizardry is, for traditional fantasy, my go-to OSR-rules-system and I wholeheartedly encourage you to check this out...who knows, perhaps you'll have an eureka effect as well; either because you haven't played a system this rules-light...or perhaps because you forgot how much FUN it actually can be. It's a different type of fun, when compared to the new systems, sure. But it is one I never want to miss, a type of game I'll always gladly return to. Get this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
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Lands of Porphyra Campaign Setting (PFRPG)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 10:53:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive campaign setting clocks in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 219 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Porphyra...Purple Duck Games' in-house setting is massive, it's regional (and extremely crunchy) player's guide clocking in regularly at 60+ pages...and unlike most campaign settings, this world was not crowdfunded...it just slowly, steadily, came to be...which is an impressive feat in my book. Anyways, Porphyra's details and unique components are many and have been suffusing Purple Duck Games-supplements for years: Whether it's the unique mini-game arabakmpsi, the lovecraft gaming toolkit or other offerings - never obtrusive, but the hints, the nods were there. More so than the player-option-centric "...of Porphyra"-series, both the great Purple Mountain dungeon-crawl-AP and books on deities and elemental lords, all open content, mind you, have already shown a vast potential.


Then again, such a wide variety of different environments and ideas could be jarring, right? Well...no. You see, there is a reason Porphyra is called the patchwork-planet...and it's more pronounced than in similar settings. Let me elaborate: When TSR generated some of the grand classics we all have come to know and love, from Planescape to Ravenloft, they split their customer-base...which was one among many factors that led inevitably to the end of the company. (And yes, I am aware of the other countless number of issues...but that would go beyond the scope of this review.) The lesson that most RPG-companies took from this was simple: Focus on a core world, but allow for maximum customization within that world. Most famously and successfully, we can see that approach in Golarion: There is Ravenloft-country, science-fantasy country, magic metropolis, pirate-country, Greyhawk-ish borderland/bandit kingdom-ish regions...you get the idea. Golarion, while certainly not perfect, ended up being a truly astonishing, fascinating setting that maintains a level of consistency in spite of this tonal patchwork. Not the best consistency, sure - but that's a system-immanent issue; one can't have the cake and eat it, too. What I'm trying to say here is, that I like Golarion. It's a patchwork, but a nice one. Which brings me back to Porphyra...which is also a patchwork...so what's the unique selling proposition of Porphyra versus Golarion?


The answer to that question is more complex than one would expect it to be. In order to answer it, I'll have to go a bit into the history of Porphyra, so bear with me while I give you the woefully oversimplified cliff notes-version of the setting's history, all right? The history of Porphyra features a dominance of the faith in elemental lords in the past as well as a successful effort to smash the invading forces of the Great Old Ones - from these wars and the faith in the forces of the elements, the Zendiqi erected an empire that dominated the small planet...until a coalition of orcs and elves spoke THE WORD to fight the oppressors. THE WORD beckoned and sundered dimensional barriers, issuing the so-called "Calling" throughout the multiverse, speaking to deities and calling them to Porphyra - for the first time, the gods had come to the world and the elemental lords were no longer uncontested masters of all they oversaw...for the deities did not arrive alone. The gods from worlds far and wide brought with them a plethora of lands, forever changing the nature of Porphyra itself, tacking them on with the eponymous mystical mineral porphyrite...purple glowing borders, seams now were part of the daily reality...and a religious and cultural clash of heretofore unseen proportions shook Porphyra to its very core, as the NewGod War raged and the armies of genies and elementals fought the deists and their outsiders. The war was brutal, bloody and its effects can be seen to this date, more than 800 hundred years later, in the lands of Porphyra.


It is due to the porphyrite borders that arctic environments can exist alongside simmering deserts...and, GM's willingness provided, the borders can limit e.g. bacteria or similar micro-organisms as well, allowing for potentially interesting explanations on why and how a given place managed to stand the test of time with superior, hostile forces nearby. Basically, this is a twist on domain-borders taken to its logical extreme in a high-fantasy context...and it works. Instead of trying to hide the discrepancy between lands and their themes, Porphyra embraces them, highlights them in a big, purple marker and makes them part of the storyline...which is a big, big difference in comparison to Golarion.


Similarly, the time-scale of the settings is different: Porphyra's current equilibrium does not change the fact that it has, per default, not a ton of fallen empires written into it. It's, as far as a campaign setting is concerned, a pretty young world. But isn't it missing out on something? Well...no. The patchwork nature of the world allows GMs to pretty seamlessly integrate e.g. different serpentfolk empires. "Yuan-ti? But I thought Serpentfolk were the Valossians?" - "Well, they are...in that landed territory over there. Here, on this side of the porphyrite border, we fought the yuan-ti..." The very nature of the setting makes plug-and-playing even relatively lore-heavy modules a relatively simple endeavors. And yes, I'm one of the GMs that takes longer for the fluff-conversion of modules than for the conversion of their crunch...I'm that picky in this regard and I know that at least some of you out there are as well...so yeah. Porphyra does this very well. Passing such a border, just fyi, can be accomplished by a 1st-level spell...usually.


The second component that sets Porphyra apart, and more so that the aforementioned patchwork-component, would be the direct consequence of the nature of its form: With all those deities and their lands, we also obviously have introduced races to Porphyra. Beyond the new races featured in the respective regional player's guides, the setting has its own racial hardcover, Fehr's Ethnology, which actually does feature a couple of my favorite PC-races alongside some less interesting ones. Speaking of races: Erkunae? Yup. Included here. And the sciene-fantasy component I mentioned? Well, there is the Advent Imperiax, born from the crash of a powerful space-ship, but I'll go into more details regarding that region in my upcoming review of that area's Player's Guide. The plethora of origin myths and stories thus mean that the setting, from the get-go, assumes an organic, pretty concise baseline to make the vast array of races and cultures work in an oddly sensible way. Know hoe obscure new half dhampir/half construct race XYZ never popped up before in your campaign, but how a new book introduced it? Well, in Porphyra, the sudden appearance of such individuals and new races can be rationalized much easier than in most settings.


From the blistering Siwathi desert to the classic and less weird Middle Kingdoms or the Birdman Mountains, the respective regions of Porphyra are depicted with sample intrigues (adventure/campaign hooks) to make use of them - from the empire of the dead to the swampy Fenian Triarchy, Freeport, the Hinterlands of Kesh and the Frozen North, Porphyra has a place to stick basically any module or supplement, any type of module but those reliant on geopolitical struggles without any hassle. (And frankly, even these are relatively easy to insert...and you could always judge parts of the world to have been ripped to Porphyra...) While the massive map of the world has btw. not been included (but can be found for PWYW here), the book sports an ample array of full-color maps of the respective regions and current events for the regions paint a picture of a world in flux.


There is another thing that makes Porphyra interesting in my book: Know how Dreamscarred pPress' campaign setting and Third Dawn AP is stalling and taking a long time to finish? Well...Porphyra has psionics integrated into its framework from the get-go. You can ignore it, sure...but seriously, Ultimate Psionics is one of the best books you can get in the crunch-departments..so personally, I'd suggest running Porphyra as intended, with full psionics support. Similarly, animal-headed anumi and the other remarkable races by Alluria Publishing are actually part of the Porphyra-canon. With so many races, a summary of races by region (with distinctions of landed and native). Rules-wise, the pdf also provides the Pantheist cleric, who gets more domains (3) and favored weapons, but at the cost of spells per day. The book also sports brief sketches of the deities (though, for more information, you should really check out the gods-book!) alongside their holy symbols. These religions also come with numerous new faith traits - none of which sported any significant issues, though different authors become very much apparent here - some lacked the proper trait bonus type, while others had it, showing a discrepancy in rules-language handling skills.


The time on Porphyra, the days, trade and the basic value of spells cast provide components you can easily scavenge for other games, with alternate currency ideas, unique flora and fauna and detailed information on the languages spoken lending a level of credibility to the setting as a whole, despite of its patchwork premise. Holidays, including rules-relevant effects and weather phenomena, from hurricanes to glass seas, are similarly covered, and moon-based magic, chaos magic, rune magic, covenant magic, word magic - you name it, it's probably here. Beyond an array of domains and subdomains, basic advice on psionics and several organizations complement the vast panorama depicted in this book: From the Brothers of the Blue Star to the Cordionic Knights-Errant or the Illuminates of Chaos, there are quite a few organizations in this book; something all too often neglected in campaign settings.


Beyond 3 PrCs (think tanky deist quasi paladin-knight that only needs to be lawful; juju-gunslingers and self-destructive fanatic, zendiqi), the pdf sports a vast array of traits and campaign traits (with similar minor hiccups as mentioned before). Beyond these, sketches of personalities to interact with, including items of note, notes on what the NPC is famous for and mini-hooks.


As many a campaign setting, this one also features a brief introductory module, for 1st level characters. The module is set in the Middle Kingdoms, perhaps the most traditional region of the world. Similarly, the module as such is pretty traditional in its structure: By exploring the eponymous ruins of Greencastle, the PCs may manage to unearth the truth of how the fortress fell and a rather dire secret I am not going to spoil here. The enemy-choices are my highlights here, giving some seldom-seen foes a chance to shine, though I should mention that, in general, this is a pretty straightforward, solidly challenging dungeon-crawl. Not more, but also not less. The full-color maps are nice, though player-friendly maps would have been appreciated.


The pdf also provides a list of Porphyra-related books, explanations on porphyran nomenclature, elemental and protean lords as well as a massive, detailed index - which is incredibly important for a book of this size and information density.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good. While I noticed a couple of typos and minor hiccups here and there, the book generally proved to be an enjoyable read that was not marred unduly by glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with a lot of full-color artworks and cartography being part of the deal. The very user-friendly standard means you can easily print out this tome, which is a big plus for me. Fans of 3pps may by now know quite a few of these artworks from other publications, since Purple Duck games sells art, but generally, the artwork herein can be considered neat indeed...particularly when considering that this is NOT crowdfunded! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, so these authors made Porphyra a reality: Project lead was Perry Fehr; Contributions from: Ken Austin, Thomas Baumbach, Carl Cramér, Daniel Denehy, Perry Fehr, Mark Gedak, August Hahn, Noble Hays, John Hazen, Sam Hing, Sean Holland, N. Jolly, Chrstopher Kaiser, James H. Lewis, Chris Longhurst, Liz Mackie, Josh McCrowell, Christopher Mennell, Scott Messer, Angel "ARMR" Miranda, Julian Neale, Daniel M Perez, David Pryzbyla, Marc Radle, David N. Ross, Treyson Sanders, Justin Sluder, Todd Stewart, Stefen Styrsky, Mike Welham, Jeremy Whelan, Patricia Willenborg.


Porphyra is a massive setting; a setting that breathes a spirit of eclectic high fantasy, with a metric ton of things to enjoy and do. Porphyra is inspired in that it consciously inorganic - like its namesake. Instead of trying to put a layer of consistency over the hodgepodge nature that campaigns become when one allows a ton of material, it embraces the theme and makes it internally consistent; Porphyra's central achievement lies in the sheer guts of managing to properly depict a world that is rooted in a can-do attitude, in a design philosophy that embraces the diversity of tastes and themes. The restrictions imposed still allow for tonal consistency, while basically inserting a semi-permeable membrane. Porphyra is an exercise in cultural osmosis within our hobby; it is a world that operates in line with many a campaign - diffusion of ideas through a semi-permeable membrane; in this, it mimics how a GM's brain is working, by making the exclusion/inclusion decision a part of its very design.


Don't get me wrong - Porphyra is not perfect; it may not be for everyone. But personally, I am certain I'll gladly return time and again to this patchwork planet...whether to scavenge ideas and cultures, items, crunch from the player's guides or to actually play there. Porphyra is, in short, a fun, evoctiave campaign setting that particularly time-starved GMs tired of BSing a reason why cultural context xyz doesn't work, will come to love for its plug-and-play nature - it is, in short, the USB-port of campaign settings. My final verdict, alas, also has to take the glitches that are here into account and thus will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5...and since I really like the premise and have come to appreciate Porphyra's diversity, this also receives my seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lands of Porphyra Campaign Setting (PFRPG)
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ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit 5E
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2016 11:42:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first After School Adventure with an Alice in Wonderland-theme clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


First of all - this is the first of a series of 5 adventures that bring new players up to level 5; as written, it is intended to get PCs halfway to level 2. However, since the module as such is basically defined by its nature as a kind of minigame, this book can easily be inserted into most longer modules - including the superb Pixies on Parade, for which inclusion notes are part of the deal.


This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? The module begins with the famous white rabbit popping up and who ever needed a chance to chase after the guy? Right! So, the PCs follow the fully statted, planeshifting and constantly teleporting white rabbit (whose statblock had a minor glitch that has since been rectified) into the dark green wood and here is where the module becomes its own minigame - you see, the map of the chase is basically a whole boardgame-style playing field. Each round, a character can move 6 squares, 4 if small on this playing fields. . (Alternatively, you can roll the dice for movement, which I'd actually recommend!)


The board has multiple challenge squares - stopping in one with a challenge helps you speed the process along. Magic challenges let you teleport to the next magic challenge field on a successful Spellcraft check, with failure sending them one square back. Save challenges are based on attribute-based saving throws, while shortcut and skill challenges are based on skill check rolls like Wisdom (Perception) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) etc. The first character at the final clearing receives a treasure, but also has to face the boss, the tangleme tree (challenge 1/2) alone for a whole turn before the other PCs catch up - in the tree's embrace, the rabbit awaited - and a cake that should be eaten later already hints at the next adventure to come. On an aside - the tangleme tree's build is actually more interesting than in the PFRPG-version, so kudos there!


If you want, btw., you can also enjoy the map of the chase in a 6-page blown-up version that you can assemble and use minis with, for example. Should you be picky about the like - the lowest bottom parts of the map sport a relatively unobtrusive advertisement, but one you can easily cut off. In my test, none of the kiddos minded it, though.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork is gorgeous and appropriate for even the smallest of kids.


J Gray's first trip to Wonderland was very interesting for me. Why? Because, frankly, I wouldn't have used the Alice-mythology. Having read so many treatises and twists on the subject matter, it's hard for me to see the material with the same wide-eyed wonder I did as a child. Among all those gritty and dark revamps, taking the tropes and making them innocent is something I appreciated more than I thought I would. At the same time, you have to be aware that this module is neither particularly complex or unique in its mechanics - by design.


Why? Well, this is pretty much intended for players who have never played and RPG before. The challenges are pretty much simple "learn to roll X"-types of challenges that teach the basics pretty fast. The combat at the end etc. also are solid and fun, though perhaps not suitable challenges for kids that already have amassed some serious RPG-experience: If your kids have e.g. already completed a toned down AP made more child-friendly...then this won't challenge them. If, however, you're looking for a great gateway module that doesn't demand too much and that, by virtue of its design, looks much like a familiar board-game, then this will do the trick better than any other module I've reviewed so far.


Even experienced groups can get something out of this, though; namely the fact that you can scavenge the chase and chase-board and increase the challenge. Personally, I think that makes it rather worthwhile. As for a final verdict: For me and my players, this was a good experience; not a stellar one, but a nice one. Unlike the first After School Adventure, it focused more on teaching playing mechanics rather than teaching; how you react to that pretty much depends on what you've been looking for. In the end, though, such a verdict would not be fair - this module tries to teach the truly young ones the game and does so in an appropriately non-threatening, fun manner with nary a chance for failure possible.


While this does not suit every table, particularly for bringing new kids into the game, this does a great job - and this is what its intention ultimately is. Hence, I will rate this according to its intended goal, which it achieves. For kids ages 4 -6, this is a neat introduction, in particular for the more sensitive ones that don't already want to be Red Sonja or a similarly uncommon character due to their parents or elder siblings - for this, its intended audience, this certainly is a 5-star module. Older players and groups should take aforementioned caveats into account when getting this, but nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing how this mini-AP continues!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit 5E
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ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2016 11:40:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first After School Adventure with an Alice in Wonderland-theme clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


First of all - this is the first of a series of 5 adventures that bring new players up to level 5; as written, it is intended to get PCs halfway to level 2. However, since the module as such is basically defined by its nature as a kind of minigame, this book can easily be inserted into most longer modules - including the superb Pixies on Parade, for which inclusion notes are part of the deal.


This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? The module begins with the famous white rabbit popping up and who ever needed a chance to chase after the guy? Right! So, the PCs follow the fully statted, planeshifting and blinking white rabbit into the dark green wood and here is where the module becomes its own minigame - you see, the map of the chase is basically a whole boardgame-style playing field. Each round, a character can move 6 squares, 4 if small on this playing fields. (Alternatively, you can roll the dice for movement, which I'd actually recommend!)


The board has multiple challenge squares - stopping in one with a challenge helps you speed the process along. Magic challenges let you teleport to the next magic challenge field on a successful Spellcraft check, with failure sending them one square back. Save challenges are based on saving throws, while shortcut and skill challenges are based on skill check rolls like Perception etc. - each nets bonuses on successful checks, not necessarily a penalty on failure. The first character at the final clearing receives a treasure, but also has to face the boss, the tangleme tree (CR 1) alone for a whole round before the other PCs catch up - in the tree's embrace, the rabbit awaited - and a cake that should be eaten later already hints at the next adventure to come.


If you want, btw., you can also enjoy the map of the chase in a 6-page blown-up version that you can assemble and use minis with, for example. Should you be picky about the like - the lowest bottom parts of the map sport a relatively unobtrusive advertisement, but one you can easily cut off. In my test, none of the kiddos minded it, though.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork is gorgeous and appropriate for even the smallest of kids.


J Gray's first trip to Wonderland was very interesting for me. Why? Because, frankly, I wouldn't have used the Alice-mythology. Having read so many treatises and twists on the subject matter, it's hard for me to see the material with the same wide-eyed wonder I did as a child. Among all those gritty and dark revamps, taking the tropes and making them innocent is something I appreciated more than I thought I would. At the same time, you have to be aware that this module is neither particularly complex or unique in its mechanics - by design. Why? Well, this is pretty much intended for players who have never played and RPG before. The challenges are pretty much simple "learn to roll X"-types of challenges that teach the basics pretty fast. The combat at the end etc. also are solid and fun, though perhaps not suitable challenges for kids that already have amassed some serious RPG-experience: If your kids have e.g. already completed a toned down AP made more child-friendly...then this won't challenge them. If, however, you're looking for a great gateway module that doesn't demand too much and that, by virtue of its design, looks much like a familiar board-game, then this will do the trick better than any other module I've reviewed so far.


Even experienced groups can get something out of this, though; namely the fact that you can scavenge the chase and chase-board and increase the challenge. Personally, I think that makes it rather worthwhile. As for a final verdict: For me and my players, this was a good experience; not a stellar one, but a nice one. Unlike the first After School Adventure, it focused more on teaching playing mechanics rather than teaching; how you react to that pretty much depends on what you've been looking for. In the end, though, such a verdict would not be fair - this module tries to teach the truly young ones the game and does so in an appropriately non-threatening, fun manner with nary a chance for failure possible. While this does not suit every table, particularly for bringing new kids into the game, this does a great job - and this is what its intention ultimately is. Hence, I will rate this according to its intended goal, which it achieves. For kids ages 4 -6, this is a neat introduction, in particular for the more sensitive ones that don't already want to be Red Sonja or a similarly uncommon character due to their parents or elder siblings - for this, its intended audience, this certainly is a 5-star module. Older players and groups should take aforementioned caveats into account when getting this, but nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing how this mini-AP continues!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit
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Mythic Monsters #36: Mesoamerica
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2016 11:39:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 34 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 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this installment of the Mythic Monsters-series with an unconventional offering - while the couatl has already been covered in Guardians of Good, this installment features the 10-level Plumed Servant-PrC that gets 1/2 BAB-progression and Will-save progression, 2+Int skills per level, 6/10 levels arcane spellcasting progression. Requiring 5 ranks in various skills and 2nd level arcane spells as well as a roleplaying prereq and 2 languages, these casters get an aura of good and a domain at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter, though these only grant the domain powers. The spells associated with the domains can be learned as arcane spells when leveling up - and yes, this takes level-discrepancies between spell-lists into account. They gain a feather focus as an arcane bonded item in lieu of a divine focus and may use fly for class level minutes as an extraordinary ability. The higher levels provide detect alignment, stern gaze, scaling bonuses versus grapples and poison, elemental speech and may use plumes instead of potions for several items and they may make celestial armors from couatl feathers and skin instead of from gold. The fly-duration of the wings can btw. also be used as a resource to add metamagic to an array of spells. Detect thoughts, ethereal jaunt, timeless body and unlimited flight (coupled with freedom of movement) complement the PrC. Of course, this is MYTHIC monsters, so it should come as no surprise that full-blown mythic variants of the PrC's tricks have been included...which is nice - overall an okay option with cool flavor, but not a PrC that blew me away.


We are here for something different, right? Yep, the creatures! We begin with a classic: The CR 7/MR 3 Ahuizotl, whose voice mimicry is now supplemented by a fascination-causing illusion that drowns those unhappy enough to subject to it - and also extend its tail to a whopping 30 ft. A solid upgrade. The Cherufe,a t CR 16/MR 6 gets a retributive detonate, may generate ash storms, can throw exploding rocks, cause lava to burst forth by stomping and gets both fiery blood and aura - a great upgrade from the rather uninspired iteration in Bestiary 5 that makes the creature really come into its own!


At low levels, the CR 4/MR 1 chupacabra causes bleed damage and is a superb master of camouflage - and its chupar now causes mythic haste. Nice! The CR 10/MR 4 Guecubu can drag foes hit with it under the earth, burying them - awesome! Oh, and charges from burrowing and an aura of unluck complement another creature that now is a much better representation of the myths associated with it.


CR 21/ MR 8 and thus utterly deadly - the Lusca.Drawing power (and regeneration) from the carnage they inflict, decapitating bites, a mastery of sharks and a mythic-power-upgradeable bleed complement a lethal build. Peuchen get CR 12/MR 5 and may possess animals...and staggers foes that are constricted. With surprising coils, swift action vampiric touch and hypnotic scales, these can be considered, once again, a great upgrade for the base creature. At CR 6/MR 2, the saguaroi can grow additional limbs via mythic power for more slams or find even hidden sources of water - interesting potential ally....but not as cool as the mythic iteration of one of the coolest animals EVER: MYTHIC GIANT MANTIS-SHRIMP. Superb sight, great carapace, iterative pincer attacks (with the option to use mythic power to remove the penalties...) and sonic bursts that accompany their superbly fast strikes (including staggering foes) make this creature...GLORIOUS. And yes, their sight is incredible. Oh, and they get a superb full-color artwork and 3 variants.


The mythic tunche, at CR 21/MR 8 can absorb animals, plants and vermin, instantly killing them and incorporating them into their dread gestalt entity...which also allows them to split into multiple creatures. Oh, and they have a concentration-crippling aura and may use Rise of teh Jungle more than once...OUCH! The option to decrease their required actions for teleports also make them far more deadly than their already cool non-mythic brethren. Even more powerful, the mythic Tzitzimitl clocks in at CR 23/MR 9 and gets a lavish full-page artwork. Great: Eyebeams that combine dispelling, energy drain and damage...brutal. Their deeper darkness causes brutal cold damage, they can convert positive to negative energy and have an ability called apocalyptic harbinger that grants them some serious immunities. I really want to use this beast right now! (And yes, these guys have Sun Eater and Nailed to the Sky...'nuff said.


At the other end of the spectrum, namely at CR 1/MR 1, the xtabay is one of the most disturbing plot creatures I know - and that's all I'm going to say about them. The base creature is great; the mythic upgrade is also great, also thanks to one of several feats provided in this book to supplement the builds, here Mythic Feel Footfall. The CR 5/MR 2 Zuvembie can force the living to heed their call and can use nature's exile and power the undead they can animate as with mythic animate dead. Solid, if comparably less remarkable.


We end this pdf with a true legend - Xipe Totec, golden-skinned and clad in flayed skins. In case you didn't know - this is actually a deity in Aztec mythology, more popularly known as Tezcatlipoca and was the deity of life, death and rebirth. Either a former deity or on the verge of deific ascendancy, this CR 30/MR 10 killer with his flaying criticals, heart eating and the option to infuse creatures with spellcasting capacity, he ranks among the coolest builds in the series AND makes for a superb boss/plot-device...oh, and he's basically impossible to destroy. His artwork, btw., is absolutely awesome.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games two-column full color standard. The original pieces of full color art provided are high-quality and awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Mike Welham and Jason Nelson have crafted a great array of monsters here - while personally, I'm not too blown away by the PrC in the beginning and while a precious few creatures could have used a bit more, as a whole, this is a truly evocative, unique array of adversaries. More important, at least to me as a professed aficionado of Aztec mythology and Mesoamerican folklore, the creatures herein just are infinitely closer to what they ought to be doing. Increasingly, I can observe this series spoiling me horribly regarding monsters - I expect by now that a creature has a couple of unique, flavorful tricks up its sleeve - so much so that the last two bestiaries, from a mechanic point of view, often disappointed me. This pdf's achievement, then, would lie in actually making these evocative, classic and oh so awesome beings finally live up to their myths. Mythic indeed. 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #36: Mesoamerica
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Fin Starling's Guide to Morsain
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2016 10:58:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive Player's Guide/sourcebook clocks in at 55 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Once upon a time, there was a massive, gorgeous hardcover that AAW Games made; so beautiful was the hardcover, it brought tears of joy to the eyes of many a GM out there as they marveled at the gorgeous artwork and the intricate details of the massive city of Morsain contained therein, as they read all the evocative ideas and plot-hooks that seemed to leap from the very page. But, alas, this massive mega-adventure had an issue - you see, it did draw upon one of the most recognizable fairy tales in all the lands of earth and its premise worked best if the PCs didn't yet know that.


This made quite a few GMs out in the land very, very sad: "Alas, woe betide me, grim is my lot - I can't just show off the book sans spoiling this reveal, but I do so want to let my players gaze upon the resplendence of this tome!" The cries did sound far and wide in the lands of Pathfinderia and its neighbor 3.Xia and the stricken GMs pulled their hair and tinkered with their tools, but so great was the work, they didn't do all too well in redacting the original.


It came thus to be, that, deep within the base of mighty AAW games, the hardworking wordmsiths and cartographers did hear the plight of their loyal supporters and, light a brownie properly appeased, went to work with fervor unmatched, the goal being a lofty one that was higher than the ole' beanstalk of Jack: To make a book for all the players to enjoy without spoiling the huge adventure they had made to such massive acclaim.


Thus, they did send out their ravens, far and wide, to all the lands and even across the ocean to their talented associates and had them draw like they had never drawn before - Justin Andrew Mason crafted a cover, Eric Quigley made visions astounding and as far as in remote Finland and Rumania, the eager quills of Mates Laurentia and Tommi Salama did move like the wind, making maps and art staggering, shining from the pages - with wrinkles and a parchment-look, all sans spoiling details for players far and wide. Jensen Toperzer took all of these gems, sent promptly back from the hands of talent most compelling, and promptly crafted a unified look, laid it all out for the people to marvel and rejoice.


And so it came to be, that, upon pages like wrinkled parchment, between prose penned by Will Myers, the conucopia of images and vistas came to life, depicting fair Morsain in all its glory - and all without mentioning or spoiling what this was about. And thus, the GMs rejoiced and cackled with glee, all according to their own temperament.


Alack and alas, this was not yet the end of the story, for the book was supposed to also have some new tricks for players to enjoy and that it did: There would be the alchemicalist, an alchemist most wondrous and different, one that sported a companion creature, a pet, if you will, which would then grow in both prowess and intellect. The concept of this complex build was most captivating, true - but in the details, some jealous creatures with intent most malign, did sneak in: You see, these masters of chemicals most uncommon get gels that replace the bombs of their brethren, but the gels, diverse and wondrous, do have some hiccups in the details, with mentions of heat damage instead of fire damage and similar minor glitches. The evil gremlins snickered and laughed, since now GMs would do need a bit of time to make this one work as smoothly as intended.


Undeterred by this, the wordsmiths made a royal guard archetype for the fighter -and here, the gremlins did not succeed in their malevolence: Designating wards, these stalwart champions made for compelling bodyguards that could truly protect their chosen wards and stagger those foolish enough to try to attack those under their protection and devoted to taking these fools alive.


Finally, they did weave the Gambler base class, which would get d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, good Ref- and Will-saves, proficiency with a unique weapon list and spontaneous spellcasting via Cha of up to 4th level, with its own list. The gambler can cast spells in light armor sans penalty and gains bonuses to social skills against creatures of an ever increasing array of types/subtypes. 4+ Cha-mod rounds (+2 per level), the gambler can begin a gambler's commentary, which was not unlike bardic performance, though the precise effects differed. With an emphasis on banter, the gambler also proved to be more resilient to sonic or language-dependant effects and skill bonuses when playing favored games, while also being favored by lady luck in his defenses and capable of drawing forth items or even, at higher levels, quickly take 10, and, in limited capacity, take 20. Alas, the gremlins swallowed and gobbled up the italicizations in the spell list, which also had two new spells exclusive to the class, with one allowing for scaling rerolls at level 1 - a good thing, it is exclusive!


But wait, this is not where it end - a zip-file was added with much care; two other pdfs included for your edification: A second version of the guide, not bar its beauty, one should say; a GM's booklet was included alongside, and in its pages, the Gobhoblin at the CR 8 and the Phocce at CR 12 await the gleeful use of worldsmiths far and wide, with copious amounts of tricks and unique flavor accompanying them, resounding mythologies on their heels - alas, the gremlins did succeed in this little book as well, swallowing a verb here and scrambling a number there - a warning to all, to of their mischief beware!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are, on the one hand, very good - the formal components of this guide are well done; at the same time, the rules-language does sport a couple of hiccups that made me gnash my teeth. While the glitches aren't as pronounced as to render this pdf problematic, they do transcend what I'd consider negligible. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard that is a sheer joy to behold, with a huge amount of stunning full color artwork and supreme full color cartography of player-friendly maps complementing a truly aesthetically compelling book that ranks among the most beautiful you can buy for in PFRPG 3pp-circuit - certainly in the Player's Guide subgenre. The pdfs all come fully bookmarked for your convenience.


So, how does the tale of the guide to Morsain end? Well, much like many of the best stories, with a happy end, though one tinted with a bit of tragedy. You see, this book's first half, frankly, can be considered to rank among the finest, most evocative player's guides I have ever read. The prose is captivating and engrossing, the book SPOILER-free and yet engaging - and I LOVE it for that. In fact, judged only in this regard, this would probably be one of my all-time favorite PGs and worthy of a candidate spot for this year's top ten.


Alas, the additional material, in quality, falls a bit short of what the rest of the guide offers: The alternate bard-style gambler and the alchemicalist archetype both have unique and captivating concepts, but both also have several instances where the rules-language feels like it could have used a streamlining: Damage-types, minor wording hiccups - the like. Both also, at least to me, feel like they should have been branded as alternate classes and expanded slightly - both aren't necessarily OP or anything and I don't think they'd wreck the game, but neither are they as concisely presented as they should have been. On the plus-side: The Royal Guard is pretty awesome - think of it as similar to Dreamscarred Press' Warder, but sans the Path of War power-level-increase or WuXia-style supernatural attacks, rendering it a feasible option for just about every campaign and one of my favorite takes on the bodyguard concept in PFRPG.


How to rate this, then? Well, this is where I am in a pickle - and where you can read this story two ways: For the crunch alone, I'd probably not recommend getting this; in that discipline, I'd probably rate this 3.5 to 4 stars. However, as a Player's Guide, this book excels in a triumphant and extremely immersive, unique manner. Will Myers and Stephen Yeardley have certainly upped the ante regarding the production values, quality and sense of immersion such a guide can get - this most certainly is a huge step up from the first Player's Guide AAW Games made; in fact, I'd consider the fluff and atmosphere evoked, the PG section, 5 stars + seal-level material. Ultimately, I tend to average the two scores in such an instance - which would result at a final verdict of 4.5 stars...but to round up or down? Well, if you want this for the crunch alone, I'd suggest you round down; personally, both due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this lives by its flavor and does its job so well, I will round up.


...and thus, the reviewer stopped typing for a second and lived, almost, happily ever after. Or, to paraphrase how those tales end in German: "Und wenn er nicht gestorben ist, so lebt er wohl noch heute." (Roughly: "And if he hasn't died in the meanwhile, he is still living out there today.")


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fin Starling's Guide to Morsain
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The Secrets of the Taskshaper (13th Age Compatible)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2016 10:54:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This adaptation of the taskshaper class to the 13th Age rule-set clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is the taskshaper? In case you are not familiar with the exceedingly awesome background of the class - it is one of the most challenging classes to GM for in PFRPG, defined by the option to basically shapechange and poach abilities from monsters, a class suffused with great background info: You see, as the in-character prose that guides you through this pdf makes amply clear, the taskshaper is a creature changed by the fey, with themes of changelings and the mythological lord Auberyon being part of the deal. As such, after the well-written introductory prose, we dive into the particulars of the class.


The taskshaper has an original form - basically the race you had prior to becoming a taskshaper. They can choose either +2 Dex or Cha, provided they have not already increased said ability score, A smattering of sample backgrounds are provided for your convenience. You begin play with the gear of the latest person you impersonated, up to 50 gp worth and are wanted for a minor misdeed...or you halve starting gold and are not wanted and get decent clothes as well as light armor. And a simple weapon. Armor follows the 11 -> 13 -> 15 progression, shields netting +1.


The taskshaper being a unique creature regarding its flavor, thus proceeds to classify natural weapons by type - tables align these with one-handed or two-handed weapon equivalents and, from different bites to stings and special attacks, this classification is simple, to the point and easy to grasp. Ranged weapons gain a similar classification, just fyi. The taskshaper receives (8+Con-mod) x3 starting hit points, scaling up to x24 at 10th level. Each level nets a feat and 4th, 7th and 10th level provide ability upgrades, as noted. Damage bonus from ability score increases to x2 at 5th level and x3 at 8th level. The Form pool (more on that later) begins at 1st level and upgrades at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level. Ini is Dex + level. AC is 11 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis +level; PD is 11 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex +level; MD is 12 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + level. The taskshaper gets 8 recoveries, recovery rate of 1d8 x level + Con-mod, 8 background points (max 5 in one), 3 icon relationships and 3 talents. When transformed, their basic attacks can govern hit damage with Cha instead of Str or Dex, both in melee and ranged combat.


The first class feature of the taskshaper would be perfect imitator, which allows you to assist allies with tasks or repeat a task you have observed. At champion-tier, you can use a feat to learn a wizard spell and cast it 1/day. You cast this via Cha and may replace the spell with another, provided you can learn it from a spellbook. The Epic tier feat can even uncover repressed memories via this copying, provided you beat the MD of the creature. The second class feature would be Moment of Change, which allows you to 1/battle gain minor bonuses as a free action by reshaping your body. You may also use this ability as a quick action to shapechange into one of your forms known or the combination of forms known. Additionally, you can expend this moment to modify an assumed form. Adventurer feat nets +1 such moment, Champion-tier's feat increases the aforementioned bonus and nets another moment, while the epic feat provides +2 moments of change per battle. Additionally, 1/encounter, you regain all moments upon becoming staggered. Here, presentation is a tad bit confusing - the dev's note mentions 10 moments for a scenario of two epic-tier taskshapers duking it off, which is, obviously correct -it's 5 per character. The dev's note does make that sound like it's 10 per character, so a bit of confusion there. Moments of change are regained upon a short rest. Reverting to your original form, just fyi, does not require moment o change expenditure.


The taskshaper class also receives some talents, the first of which allows you to mimic an object - which becomes particularly unique at epic tier, when you can assume full properties of objects, including magical bonuses and special abilities, but the special abilities do require the expenditure of moment of change uses and size-requirements and restrictions still apply, but may be overcome with your shapechanging. Slightly odd from a wording point of view: The epic-tier feat also nets the option to conduct a ritual to make a functional non-combat utility copy lasting for 1 hour per moment of change used - this looks like you create the object, while the reversal clause does imply that reverting to your original form takes longer. Basically, I think the taskshaper turns into this item, but the wording is simply a bit opaque here.


Shift Condition is intriguing - it allows you to expend recoveries to delay/temporarily halt conditions, ongoing damage and last gasp saves, with epic tier allowing you to transfer these to adversaries...thankfully, this does reset the counters. Troll Blood improves your healing capacity, making the save easy to use full effect recoveries, with the epic feat granting you 10 hp of healing for 5 minutes. This is a bit odd, since even a regular troll's regeneration is tied to uses in battle, not a time-frame. Protean Touch makes your face and body malleable, allowing you to freely assume other guises and grants you a free 5-point background, with champion-tier weaponizing this to allow you to prevent touched foes from taking move or quick actions, while the epic-tier feat lets you grant limited shapechanging to your allies...and gain a touch that can pulverize foes.


So, what exactly do the forms do and how do they work? Well, you begin play knowing 4 forms, learning new forms requires a first-hand experience. Thereafter, provided you can learn a new form, one day of experimentation does the trick. You retain your size unless specifically noted and can speak in forms. Unless specifically noted, items do not change with you. Upon becoming disabled or dying, you revert to your original form and while forms have no duration, you only regain moments of change when resting in your original form. You may also use moments of change to only partially transform parts of your body - these never cause damage to yourself. You retain a certain recognizable quality when changed and forms assumed come with a 20-entry table that sports unique distinctive marks.


Now here is the cool thing regarding the forms - the respective transformations offer some non-combat utility, modifications of defense-stats, natural attacks and provide you with a selection of diverse abilities - you choose multiple such tricks when you assume a form. Beast Form, for example, would allow you to gain +2 to AC and PD in addition to the base form's modifications and make you venomous. Or, you could be venomous and constrict. Or increase damage die of your attacks and gain a 16+-triggered secondary attack. Some suggestions for e.g. which of these traits would be appropriate for e.g. bears, etc. are a welcome bonus. Starting at level 3, aquatic beast forms, ooze and plant bodies are unlocked, while level 5 unlocks the avian beast form, elemental body (air, earth and water). Level 7 nets you access to diminutive and large size, Elemental Body (Fire) and level 9, finally, lets you take the forms of dragons and, yes...even swarms! The forms themselves are varied and unique, their fluff being pretty awesome and they actually also feature quite a few interesting things to consider: Fire Elemental Body, for example, nets you a cool vs. PD attack with ongoing fire damage...but also makes you susceptible to non-flammable liquid and weakened if you have no material to burn.


That being said, personally, I'm a bit of a stickler for precision and partial change and its interaction with the forms could have used a bit of clarification -when I take e.g. the fire elemental's body, does this mean I get aforementioned weaknesses? The ability for the PD-attack mentions that it replaces the regular attacks - but what if one only assumed parts of this form? I assume that's not possible since it and a bunch of the other forms have the "body"-caveat, which looks like it means that it is only available for total change...but I am not sure. A bit of clarification for such cases would be nice, even though GMs can probably handle these decisions.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard, is nice regarding art-direction and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Patryk Adamski's adaptation of Steven D. Russell's cool taskshaper class works exceedingly well for the most part. While I consider the relatively few moments of change a bit too restrictive, (Boys, I need to take a short break...again.), that is a relatively easily changed component that can be attuned to a given campaign. The unique and complex options of the taskshaper are somewhat simpler in 13th Age than in Pathfinder, but that does make sense and actually does the class some good - the acquisition of forms and their limits ultimately requires no GM-book-keeping in this version, which is pretty awesome. At the same time, there are a couple of instances where the otherwise precise rules-language could have imho used some further clarifications regarding specific interaction with shapechanging objects, partial changes, etc. While these issues are not glaring, they do mean that the GM is required to make some judgment class when the class is used. Still, this does manage to convey the unique nature of the taskshaper to 13th Age - and that is a great thing.


How to rate this, then? Well, while not perfect, this is an inexpensive, evocative addition to 13th Age, one that particularly should be interesting for more experienced 13th Age-players. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Taskshaper (13th Age Compatible)
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Drow of Porphyra - The Xelusine: Sirens of Sin
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2016 12:17:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third book taking a look at the diverse types of drow stranded on the patch-work world of Porphyra clocks in at a massive 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!


"You know us. You have always known us. We are what you wish you could be in your darkest moments, when you cannot help but give in to the worst of what you are. We have all the grace you lack then, and none of the regret." This is how this pdf begins, and it is a perfect introduction of both the in-character narrative that suffuses this pdf and to the nature of the Xelusine - they sprang forth from asceticism thwarted, from a wish most tainted and they killed their god, from his corpse erecting the primordial pillars of sin, metaphysically reaching out from the void beyond dreams and omens...and they don't even end up in either abyss or hell - an eternity of sin and debauchery await them in Hamarita.


The Xelusine are the poisoned honey on a voluptuous body, the shuddering ecstasy that changes one's life, the end of guilt; an embodiment of an addictive personality; the dark and handsome stranger; the smoking dame that just smelled like trouble that walked into the room; the decadent courtier; they are the relationship that is self-destructive and yet the most fulfilling you can imagine. They also sport a structure of circles and sin-based factions (obviously 7, one for each mortal sin), each with its own specialties - what the truth about them is, how they work - the in-character prose is delightfully crafted as it slowly reveals the truths of the race...or does it?


The pdf provides a full-blown, wonderfully detailed decadent code of conduct for the Xelusine, the dance, and the triumph of their decadence is indeed lavish, intoxicating even, in its depiction - with a Karza's call to war against them as a well-written counterpoint. Rules-wise, the Xelusine get the Silver-tongued racial trait, guidance, beguiling gift and unnatural lust as SP and also a vulnerability to diseases. It should come as no surprise that this subrace of drow features a significant array of alternate racial traits that tie in with fey-like tricks and sin-themed tricks.


The pdf provides favored class options for bards, clerics, druids, hetaera, monks, rangers, rogues and sorcerors, with clerics following the 7 sins, with associated domains and subdomains. FYI: This pdf comes fully hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com, with the good type of hyperlinks - nice! A vile rite of sacrifice and actually evocative, unique traits are provided - with cult leadership score modifications, etc. The pdf also sports relatively concise and brief rules for satisfaction and temptation. Wait, I should probably mention the rather cool Cult Leadership feat featured herein - why? Because it actually also has cool downtime exploits for the cult cell and even sports mass combat rules info! KUDOS! At 5th level, there is a feat called Masochism, which ties in well with the torture/interrogation rules and helps against Intimidation - and, as a nice bonus, it is NOT evil. Still, not the most compelling feat I know - but nice to see nonetheless. (Seriously, I really loathe the stigmatization of BDSM and coding of it as evil...)


The pdf, btw., has a template...created drow. Yes, the Xelusine can make non-drow drow.


Want to know, though, what made this pdf even more worth it for me? The concise rules to create custom aphrodisiacs. Think of that as a more complex variant of the Karza's poison creation, but for addiction-inducing things and practices. And yes, I really wanted this and it's the only PFRPG-book I know of that has proper rules for the like. The pdf also provides an armor-type that helps the seducer and, like previous installments of the series, we do get sample cities and adventure hooks for these.


Beyond all of these, the pdf offers a ton of domains/subdomains for the Xelusine - from the Apathy domain to its Conceit brethren, they are cool, though there are minor formatting glitches here - like a bolded ability name that should be italicized...but that's, ultimately, cosmetic. The pdf closes with two new spells - one that creates an extra-dimensional den of sin and the second one, which fires a sin blast - a victim struck sees his or her actions in the next round restricted according to the sin. (This one uses a d7-die to determine the sin- which is a bit odd. I happen to have one, but if you don't, use a d8 with 8= reroll.)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches in either formal or rules-language criteria - kudos! Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports gorgeous full-color artwork, one of which (in case you're prude) shows a tastefully drawn nipple. (Which probably is one reason this does not have the PFRPG-compatible logo.)


Okay, the Nalbrezu were already awesome; the Xelusine? Oh boy. Pure, glorious decadence; the poisoned nectar, the scions of delicious sin; tainted and evil, yes, but oh so rewarding. Patricia Willenborg has really hit her stride here; the aphrodisiac-rules are tasteful and concise; the depiction of the race superb and well-written. The supplemental material and balancing of the drow-subtype is tight and the writing is evocative, fun and inspiring. This book, much like its predecessor, is well-written, concisely presented and takes a novel, mature and unique take on the drow - one that does not shy away from the subtext that has been part of dark elf lore ever since their inceptions in various fantasy worlds.


I love this pdf; it was a great read and has provided more ideas for drow and encounters with them and how they operate than most other books I've read on the race. The Cult Leadership rules are tight and may be worth it even if you're not interested in the Xelusine as such - this is fun, unique, well-written and daring. Two thumbs up for this one. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - The Xelusine: Sirens of Sin
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The Telekinetic's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2016 12:15:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of Drop Dead Studios' patreon-powered Spheres of Power--expansion books clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page TOC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Well, but let's begin this analysis not from the beginning, but rather the end: telekinesis was one of the components in Spheres of Power that was awesome, but not necessarily perfect: Hence, this book provides needed clarification in its 7th chapter: Items held via telekinesis are considered to be attended or held and multiple telekinetic grapples are covered and the bludgeon-option of telekinesis is similarly clarified, eliminating all the small issues, including proficiency-questions and damage types - kudos! Hostile lift is also clarified alongside e.g. acceleration (which now works in conjunction with abilities that can be performed at the end of a charge). For our convenience, dancing weapon reaches are collected in a table by size and divided mind is similarly clarified.


Very useful: The chapter also sports a quick reference sheet that codifies density of materials, objects sizes with sample items and a handy table codifies weapon size in relation to item size: Ammunition is e.g. considered three size categories smaller than the weapon for it, while two-handed weapons are considered to be the same size as the wielder - exceedingly useful, not only for the purpose of this book. All right, now that we're on the current page regarding Spheres of Power-telekinesis, let's take a look at the new options presented herein after the introductory fluff!


The first piece of crunch the book offers is the Electrokinetic Elementalist - instead of weave energy, he receives access to the Destruction and Telekinesis sphere, with the Electric Blast Destruction talent as a bonus magic talent (here, the pdf has a superfluous plural "s"), but also gains the Energy Focus (electric blast) and Limited Telekinesis drawbacks sans bonus talents. If the character already had access to either of the spheres, he does not gain alternatives, but neither does he gain the drawbacks associated with the respective spheres. It should be noted that the character does gain a talent of his choice if he already has electric blast.


The character uses the full class level as caster level for purposes of electricity damage-causing destructive blasts and when using telekinesis to manipulate metal objects. Instead of bonus feats granted by the Elementalist class, the Electrokinetic may choose electrokinetic stunts, basically the array of talents of the class. A total of 8 such stunts are provided, and they range from making living creatures count as metal for telekinesis-purposes to the ability to see bioelectricity (translated as 60 ft.-blindsense that only applies to living creatures). Interesting: Using swift actions to charge metal bludgeoning telekinesis attacks with electricity-based destructive blasts...and no, before you ask:


They may not be modified by blast shapes - good catch there. Better healing and a kind of DR versus ability damage and drain also are pretty cool and I know that increased range will be one that more than a couple of PCs out there will enjoy. Redirecting electricity that failed to penetrate your Elemental Defense is also rather cool. Obviously, these guys are locked into electricity as a favored element, but subsequent levels provide no additional elements. Elemental Defense grants resistance 10 versus electricity and sonic, scaling to 25 and at 7th level, elemental movement is replaced with a fly speed that scales in efficiency (including maneuverability). 9th level nets Thunder Blast as bonus talent (full CL) and may now use destructive blasts dealing sonic damage, in spite of the Energy Focus drawback. While I am not the biggest fan of the Elementalist class, I really enjoyed this unique archetype - kudos!


The second one would be the Hekatonkheires Symbiat - and I have to come clean here: One of my favorite, gory, smart and disturbing anime is Elfenlied. I actually have the boxed set here. Well, the briefest means of describing this archetype is "Elfenlied - the archetype." The archetype gains the Telekinesis sphere as a bonus magic talent and treats symbiat levels as CL for the sphere, replacing mental powers. At 1st level, the archetype gains Thousand Unseen Hands. This works as follows: The hekatonkheires gains Mind Limb as a bonus feat, but gains +1 limb, both of which may be used via the same swift action and are capable of handling and manipulating items. Their reach is increased by +5 ft. and at 3rd level, the archetype may use said limbs as slashing damage-causing secondary tentacle attacks governed by Casting Ability modifier instead of Str, with increased size NOT increasing damage - kudos for catching that! At 6th level, these limbs may wield weapons and receive increased damage-output that increases again at 12th and 15th level, while additional limbs (which fall in two categories, strong and small mind limbs), reach and increased effective Strength with them are covered. This replaces psionics and 20th level provides free action, truly devastating mind limbs instead of Greater Psionics. Absolutely AWESOME archetype - kudos!


The armorist class may elect to become a Soaring Blade, who is proficient with simple and martial weapons and light armor and may only use telekinesis in conjunction with equipment summoned via Summon Equipment and Bound Equipment. This drawback may be bought off, but you only get full CL= class level in instances where the drawback would apply - basically, this is the telekinetic fencer/item-controller and as such, he may conjure fort equipment in telekinesis range - it is btw. here that oversized equipment as mentioned in the beginning of this review, becomes relevant: In contrast to regular armorists, these guys have a reason to conjure forth equipment. Dancing Weapons and increased AoOs per round with telekinetically wielded weapons are gained and the tricks further expanded by Divided Mind and Orbit. As a minor complaint: The 5th level House of Blades ability is not properly formatted. It should be noted that soaring blades may not select the heavy armor, movement or tower shield tricks, but the armorist does gain 8 new tricks...and they are pretty cool: Whether it's setting weapons to orbit you or calling forth a barrage of phantasmal blades, the tricks are cool and complement another well-crafted archetype.


The last archetype herein would the Unseen Horror thaumaturge, who is always accompanied by a lurking, unseen force gained at fourth level - invisible and capable of doing minor manipulations and moving options, replacing 4th level's bonus feat. At 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the thaumaturge may select one of 8 sample augmentations for this force instead of the usual bonus feats - whether it's very limited skills per level, increased Strength-score, gaining a second one or one with serpentine properties - a nice one for flavor, I guess.


Of course, the pdf also features quite an array of different feats available for your perusal: Beyond the usual +x class ability feats, the chapter introduces Protokinesis-feats, which let you apply telekinetic powers as innate SPs with a CL equal to you class level and an indefinite duration. They do not work while you're unconscious, but allow you to stand on e.g. thin objects that would otherwise be unable to support you, move on walls or ceilings or generate aforementioned mind limbs - these feats are awesome. Modifying telekinesis with enhancements or creating items of telekinetic force via overlap with the creation sphere similarly are cool tricks. I also like suffusing illusions with telekinetic force or swift action-based telekinesis-supplemented physical boosts. Similarly, the new traits, which interact well with drawbacks etc., constitute a well-crafted addition to the options presented herein.


Of course, there also are a lot of new talents for the Telekinesis sphere: Whether it's calling items to hand, accelerating, catching projectiles sans readying actions or shifting gravity (including information on heavy and light gravity) - the tricks herein are rather inspired and versatile and provide A LOT of tactical depth: Missed with that bludgeon? Well, if you have Homing, you can expend an immediate action to have the bludgeon circle back to the target. Want objects orbiting you? The option is here. Levitate objects or creatures sans seeing them? Kinetic Sense is what you require. And yes, you may even mimic simple tools. Glorious chapter!


The advanced magics section allows you to nail creatures or objects in the air...permanently! Wanted a Darth Vader grasp? Talent's here. Did you always think gravity was something for wusses or that your character should be its center? Well, objective and null gravity are options you have via gravity manipulation. And yes, even telekinetic puppetry of creatures is covered. 7 rituals and two awesome incantations further complement this section: The second incantation btw. allows you to make a ruined keep fly. Yes, AWESOME!


The equipment-section also deserves special note: Whether it's Arcsilver or the other two special materials introduced, they are pretty cool. Now the arcing property is pretty nasty - applied only to ranged weapons, it allows the weapon in question to describe a 90° turn, treating said turning square as the proper one for cover purposes. At only +1, I can make rather nasty combos here. Nice: Flying thrown weapons allow you to make full attacks at range, somewhat validating the often neglected thrown weapons. (And yes, don't use this with hurlers...but then again, those builds are brutal, so I won't hold that against this one...) The 5 specific magic items provided are similarly well-crafted and generally can be considered worthwhile.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but there are some deviations from standardized rules-language. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios' two-column full-color standard. Artwork-wise, there is a solid mix of new and old full-color artwork and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Author Amber Underwood has done an impressive job - first of all, this pdf clears up the problems with regular telekinesis. That, in and of itself, would already be an impressive feat. Adding unique and evocative options beyond that...well, that's where this starts to become truly impressive. Particularly considering that this is the first supplement I've seen Amber Underwood tackle, the mastery of complex rules can be considered impressive. In fact, this whole pdf is pretty much seal-material, with the notable exception of the item-chapter, where multiple options go beyond what I'd consider appropriate for the respective power-levels. Granted, high-fantasy groups will not have issues there, but in the context of more gritty campaigns, some of the tricks here will prove to be problematic. My final verdict, considering the superb quality of a majority of content herein, will hence be 5 stars. If you're playing a relatively high-fantasy campaign, consider this a universal must-buy; even gritty round should get this, but take care regarding the items.)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Telekinetic's Handbook
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ASA: Madam Margareth's Magic Potion
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2016 11:35:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This brief educational module clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


So, this is an adventure - but it's also more than that; It's a little educational exercise for kids. So yeah, potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, first things first - you need red cabbage, white vinegar, baking soda, a large pot, a glass bottle, a strainer and an ice cube tray and about 3 hours preparation in advance to make special ice-cubes; of these, about ~30 minutes are required to prepare the potion. The calm of a peaceful midsummer's afternoon is broken by an agitated youth, who runs forth, saying that Cecil's in trouble. After a brief interlude, where characters may use their skills (whether it's Survival or Climb) to scout for Cecil, the kids and Margareth will find Cecil - who has eaten a wild mushroom in the forest. Unfortunately, the healer does not have all the ingredients; she needs frost stones, which are, alas, guarded by a vicious yeti who doesn't like visitors.


The kids will need to procure frost stones from the yeti (the special ice-cubes prepared); these will then need o be dropped into the potion she hands the PCs (the other prop she prepared). On trek to the mountains, the PCs can outrun or battle some hungry wolves and start climbing the mountain. At the summit, the PCs can battle the yeti and find the frost stones - and watch them change the color of the potion! Back down below, a pained Cecil will have learned to lesson to not eat wild mushrooms. After the adventure, the module sums up how exactly the trick with the red cabbage and the ice cubes worked - basically, this is teaching by adventure.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with two bookmarks in spite of its brevity. The module isn't too heavy on art apart from the beautiful layout's numerous graphic elements, but honestly, it doesn't need to be - the original art that's here is awesome. Stats and spells are hyperlinked for your convenience.


Justin Andrew Mason's after school adventure is awesome, pure and simple. Let me elaborate: I think our current generation and developments in society have caused children to not have enough time for...well, actually being children. When I reminisce about my childhood (which wasn't always pleasant, to say the least), I tend to not have any nostalgic rose-tinted glasses on. But my mom went all the way trying to teach me as much as possible without making it feel like cramming. And guess what? Lessons associated with things you love and enjoy...they tend to stick. I can still remember all those lessons and pieces of information. You can run this module in 2-4 hours, depending on your pace...and it imparts one important life lesson as well as providing a memorable concept to impart the acidic/alkaline concepts as well as pH-indicator concepts to the kids. If I were to complain about one thing, then perhaps that an explanation of these concepts for people who did not enjoy a proper education (or just forgot) would have been nice in an appendix...but seriously, you can research that in 5 minutes while the cabbage is simmering.


Fun, educational and suitable for children of all ages (and even open-minded adults who enjoy this kind of thing), this little educational adventure is absolutely awesome - 5 stars + seal of approval. We need more of them! Seriously, so much more! With enough of these avid roleplaying kids will not only start excelling in language/history-based subjects and math, but also in other subjects. Really awesome in concept and execution. Get this!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Madam Margareth's Magic Potion
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Subterranean Races - Puddling Archetypes
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2016 11:32:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This long overdue expansion for the awesome puddling-race clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this little collection with the Crystalbroken - puddling bloodragers that had a mishap when interacting with memory-crystals...resulting in unforeseen split personalities. These translate, mechanics-wise, to them being capable of replacing the bloodrager's 1st level bloodline power with cleric domain- or sorceror bloodline- powered SPs. Interesting - this can only be cast when bloodraging, but the usual bloodrager spells can't be cast. The archetype continues this theme, replacing powers with more SPs and later even domain powers/sorceror bloodline powers. It should be noted that this archetype is particularly rewarding when used in conjunction with The Big Book of Bloodlines.


The moderator wizard can speak telepathically to all creatures touching it (later: range 30 ft.) and may even restrict the communication of one touching character. This costs arcane school and the bonus feat at 10th level. Additionally, the archetype nets at 8th level status of all creatures in this telepathic network. Very flavorful archetype.


The protoplasmic fist monk replaces the bonus feat gained at first level with gaining DR 1/- due to wobbling until the next turn whenever he uses ki or stunning fist. 2nd level nets a 25% chance to ignore precision damage (50% at 10th level), while 3rd level allows the puddling to move on walls, sticking to surfaces spider climb-style Wis-mod times per day sans cost; subsequent uses cost 1 point of ki. Falling on creatures counts as charging and at higher levels, these guys can engulf creatures, which allows them to gain ki on a temporary basis - and no, this cannot be kitten'd. Unique: At 12th level, even when helpless or paralyzed, they can turn into an exceedingly fast moving, shapeless goo...and yes, this means auto-escape from grapples, though the ability costs 2 ki and a move action to activate. Pretty awesome!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, even ki has been properly italicized. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard with stock art and the pdf's artwork is stock, excluding the cute cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


The puddling archetypes Bradley Crouch has crafted herein are flavorful, balanced and fun. They all have a cool, unique shtick that makes them stand out, with particularly the monk archetype being pretty damn cool. That being said, they live very much from the cool flavor of the race and should not be considered separate entities - they add to the canon of puddlings and probably won't blow power-gamers away; they are not weak, but their fascination lies in their interaction with the puddling race and the emphasis on unique playing experiences that feel unique, on the roleplaying aspect, which trumps the rollplaying aspect here. Instead, one should consider these to be truly fun, unique and flavorful options for a more than fair price point. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Races - Puddling Archetypes
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Ottolf's Handy Manual of Everyday Magic
Publisher: Land's End Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2016 11:30:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The freshman offering (and so far only one) of Land's End Press clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief bit of introductory fluff, we begin with an elaboration of the unusual concepts depicted in this book: Exotic cantrips are cantrips that aren't automatically available from the get-go - they are rewards and have to be sought out. Some spells herein are augmentable - much like psionic powers and e.g. many spells in 5E, these spells can be prepared at higher levels, which increases its potency. However, it still can be counterspelled by its regular version. Spells on scrolls and similar items that can be augmented are cast as per the creator using the spell in the item's creation - if you used an augmented version, the item will also use the augmented version. The augments have the spell-level increase in brackets behind the augment-subheader. Finally, there are spells herein that have reversible effects: These spells allow you to spontaneously decide whether you want to cast the regular or reversed effect. The presentation of all of these concepts is concise and to the point.


Before diving into the spells themselves, we are introduced to the spells by class-list, with wizard/sorceror also featuring the schools listed - it is here one notices that this pdf has aged quite a bit: The spell-lists don't even cover the APG-classes, much less the later ones, so that is something to take into account for players of the current iteration of PFRPG. It should be noted that generally, the utility magic herein centers on the lower spell levels - clerics, and sorcerors/wizards get 1 and 2 3rd level spells, respectively - all other spells are below that in their levels.


So, what do the spells do? Well, Abigail's Discernible Tracks, for example, causes your footprints to emit a faint glow, with an augment allowing for additional creatures to be affected - basically a trail of magical breadcrumbs. Assort and Arrange also falls neatly in the realm of useful spells - it can be cast to affect a number of objects to align them according to your specifications: Think of that one as a magical "Sort by..."-function we all know from our PCs. Oh boy...I really wished this spell existed in our daily world...


An aura that makes you conspicuous, the hilarious beard on demand...there are some gems here. Also pretty evocative: Boffenpot's Bubbleblabber, a spell that produces bubbles when you try to speak in which the words are visibly trapped - only to be heard when the bubble bursts. Problematic from a balance point of view: Spellcasters affected can't cast any verbal spells, making this a pretty powerful level 1 save-or-suck-experience. Cool: Enchanting a chair to accept exactly one set of buttocks. A cantrip can create a 1-gallon-bottle to carry fluids around with you. Pretty cool: Bottling emotions, short messages or scents becomes possible as well. Connoisseur's Savvy is a bit of a problematic cantrip, as it ruins any story that hinges on anything ingested, like poison - the cantrip identifies presences of magical ingredients and the precise nature and quantity of mundane ones in a meal.


Less problematic, but pretty cool: Instantly conjuring forth a massive diagram. Also pretty interesting: a cantrip that lets you talk in a made up language and seem really authentic, with the augment-option to have additional creatures, like allies, understand you - I don't get, however, why Linguistics can't be used to potentially decipher this one. Oh well. A spell that helps a steed or other creature know the way home is pretty cool. Creating a jumbled mess out of a string (or instantly straightening one out) is also nice. Underpowered for the level: There is a paladin spell level 1 that lets your armor glow and keeps it clean of blood. Yeah right, I'll waste a precious slot I could use for bless weapon on that...


Speaking of issues in an otherwise solid presentation - bonuses, when present, do not adhere to the codified types - when I read "magical bonus", I cringe inside... Creating an illusory raconteur to regale your guests is certainly nice for wizards that dumped that Charisma-stat hard. Speaking of cool ideas: ottolf's insufferable guest: Get a flea-or cockroach-ridden sheet. Take it to a room. Cast the spell. Et voilà, a truly insufferable, prickish autonomous creature of your race and size, but not otherwise appearance or gender, that will provide a more than convenient alibi for whatever you're planning. Everyone will remember it. I want to craft a module around that. Enchanting containers of alcohol to not spill the drinks would be another spell that could have saved many a keyboard or laptop.


At spell to make a target incapable of giving away money is also interesting, but since the effect seems to be based on teleportation, the spell should have the appropriate descriptor - btw.: Descriptors generally can't be found in this book's spell-blocks. Interesting: Making all your pockets have the same entry point, instant drying or falling through water (up to 60 feet) also make for uncommon options - and yes, the latter does cover interaction with snow and ice. A cantrip that lets you seem awake while you're taking a nap is another spell I wish I knew in real life and gaining information about a person from the tombstone is interesting -and, surprisingly, will not break any investigations. A spell that enchants targets to perceive tasks as riddled with problems or an instant passage of seasons for a plant can be found herein alongside the zone of questionable truth, which fyi makes everything seems like a lie. The pdf comes with some nice appendices for permanency on objects/areas and self only as well as self and other creatures with associated gold costs and a handy index of spells.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good: Rules language and formal language are excellent, but in the spell-blocks, there are minor deviations here and there - cosmetic ones, sure...but still. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column standard with a parchment-like bachground that may not render this particularly printer-friendly...but still. This is a VERY professional-looking book. The artwork herein is original, with interior artwork being original b/w-pieces that illustrate some of the spells. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.


Cristián Andreu's freshman offering looks like the work of a veteran - this book, from cover to cover, is exceedingly professional, beautiful and generally well-made. While some of the spells sport minor balance hiccups, they are few and far in-between and the spells themselves are professional, well-crafted, employ solid rules-language...what more? Well, what about covering all classes?


I noted that this had aged not too well, right? Well, this was released 2014. Yeah. If this had come out, I don't know, in 2010, this would have been a milestone and cool, awesome, evocative. 2014? Well...exotic cantrips are established and augmentation...know from both mythic and psionic rules. Reversed spells? Seen that one before as well. The implementation is great - don't get me wrong. It is not, however, that innovative any more.


This does not make this a bad book, mind you - far from it. But it does make it dated on release - no support for even the APG-classes, magus, etc.? Not cool. I don't think that ALL classes need to be covered, mind you - but the APG is pretty much default, seminal - it is when PFRPG came to its own, became completely distinct from 3.X. So yeah. That is a BIG thing for me. It does not mitigate the quality of the spells herein...but it is a pretty serious flaw.


Anyways, how to rate this? Well, ultimately, this is, flaws aside, an impressive freshman offering - and as such, it does get a bit of leeway. hence, I arrive at a final rating of 4 stars - a good pdf that falls slightly short of greatness.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ottolf's Handy Manual of Everyday Magic
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SoR1: A Page of Scrolls
Publisher: Casey Brown
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2016 10:58:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This first module in the Shadows over Riverton AP clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This adventure was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a critical and unbiased review.


Wait: Before we do dive into the SPOILERS, let me make something very clear. Are you interested in Greyhawk's bandit kingdoms? Well, if you've been following my homepage, you'll notice how last Friday, I reviewed basically the unofficial chronicles of the Bandit Kingdoms, right? Right. Note how I enjoyed the sentiments there, the style and everything? How I wished that this institution was still around, that I could play in it? Well, the Living Greyhawk campaign may be gone, but this module, in themes and presentation, very much breathes the spirit of the bandit kingdoms, if not, obviously, the IP. This does mean a couple of things: For one, there is a more than pronounced level of detail available here, with footnotes helping with less common rules, concise use of skills and DCs - the presentation does show the experience of author Casey Brown in the harsh realities of living campaigns - and yes, this includes notes to scale challenges to higher APLs. This level of detail, and this is very important for the potential buyer to know, extends to the eponymous town of Riverton as depicted herein: Apart from the map and the handout, the pdf has no less than 7 pages devoted to Riverton -and the city's details are truly captivating.


Without spoiling anything, here's basically the gist: 18 years ago, The Bastard, a powerful cambion, gathered an army of humanoids and, via the support of shadow demons as assassins, managed to take Riverton and subject it to his brutal yoke. The people did not let that stand, however - they slowly, but surely eliminated the powerful abyssal assassins and then, civil war erupted and Riverton's champions managed to drive The Bastard and his servants from the town. However, a significant population of humanoids remained, which is probably one of the reasons Riverton, to this day, is governed by a Plar - "Someone who rules over a motley group." Beyond the racial tensions between the more monstrous humanoids and the general populace, recent weeks have brought dire warnings and refugees from the North streaming to Riverton, further adding tinder to the explosive cocktail brewing. If that does sound interesting, you'll be happy to hear that Riverton's depiction in its details goes one step beyond what just about every sourcebook does: We get full-blown settlement statblocks and write-ups for not only Riverton, but also beggartown, the somewhat remote harbor town-quarter and the respective districts (!!!), overall generating a truly compelling backdrop, which, in style, presentation and theme would work perfectly with just about every Frog God Games or Raging Swan Press-supplement in theme and style.


So yes, this, theme-wise, pretty much represents the best of Greyhawk-aesthetics. This does extend to creatures though: Goblins are e.g. not illiterate here and the revised background stories and flavor assumed for Golarion does not necessarily hold true within these pages. Which brings me full circle around to the unofficial bandit kingdom summary I mentioned before. In case you haven't noticed: This pdf, in its spirit, detail and style, very much can be considered the heir to the Bandit Kingdoms aesthetics and flavor. Having read the guide, it is very hard to divorce the module's premise from this heritage; you see, the section that amounts to a mini campaign setting with Riverton and its environments reverberates with the stories of the bandit kingdoms to an exceedingly pronounced degree - it feels like the sequel the narrative was always supposed to have.


Okay, this is as far as I can go without resorting to SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs here? We begin with an establishing shot, as the PCs make their way towards the gates of Riverton, towards Flaneur's gate, where access to the city can be gained; against a backdrop of refugees and yes, slavers, the PCs will have a taste of the frontier spirit and rough and tumble mindset beyond the borders, as they can save Stafania Wunderlich Homeagain, a halfling associated with the prominent Homeagain family, from slavers. The level of detail employed here is stunning and something you usually only see in modules by Raging Swan Press or 4 Dollar Dungeons - whether via combat or Intimidation, the pdf is not content in simply resolving the task with a skill check, but takes roleplaying and decisions as well as circumstances into account, extending this care to the consequences of the encounter as well. Beyond this intermezzo, the PCs will also have an easy means of bypassing the notorious anti-elven orc-captain Llerdnirg, who far exceeds the PCs in capability - probably with the help of one Ahren, a clumsy diviner in the employ of the local wizard's college. Pcs that understand Orcish may actually be rewarded with additional read-aloud text, to give you another example for the commendable level of care employed here.


Having entered the city, it is also Ahren that tries to recruit the PCs for a specific task: You see, the clumsy diviner has lost a scroll, which has fallen into the canalization under Riverton, a place that is the home of quite a few unpleasant folks. It is here that the brief mini-dungeon episode begins, as the PCs climb down into the canals to retrieve the scroll. The canals as such extend the level of detail employed for the social encounters above ground to the terrain and encounter with both intelligent and nonintelligent adversaries, providing a diverse set of challenges and including means for nonviolent conflict resolution, tough as those may be.


So yeah, while you may well roll your eyes at a sewer level, it actually is a well-crafted one, with a handy GM-reference for underwater combat being included in the deal. Beyond that, it should be mentioned that, while CR-appropriate, this is no hand-holding exercise: There are ample harder modules out there, but PCs unwilling to act and fight smart will be tested to their limits if Fortuna does not favor them. The brief sojourn into the stinking and infectious depths does end with some interesting loose ends: Hints towards a conspiracy/slaver-ring and the very nature of the scroll - blood biography - render the potential for future developments more than pronounced, particularly since the PCs will have had their first taste of the sunken remnants of former ages of Riverton below the surface...and since they may have made a tenuous alliance with goblins...or eradicated them completely. The overall sense with which this pdf leaves you is one of baited anticipation - much like a good establishing shot/first module, this seeds a lot of hooks and potential and provides a fascinating vista for further developments and already points towards a serious array of potential consequences for the actions of the PCs. The pdf also sports a new spell that lets you detect hidden writing and the scroll case in question is actually a new magic item.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are superb - I noticed not a single glitch. Layout adheres to a clean two-column full-color standard with the pages sporting a yellowish used parchment look. The artworks are serviceable and the full-color map is neat as well, though we do not get a player-friendly map to cut up and present to the players. I hope that future installments of the series will sport a map of Riverton, but for the purpose of this module, it is not (yet) required and therefore absent. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a nasty comfort detriment. The print version is thus preferable and can be considered to be a nice, solid softcover.


Casey Brown's "A Page of Scrolls" is an establishing shot of a module: It establishes a tone, connections and challenges, a specific design approach and does so with flying colors. The flair and atmosphere evoked are superb and captivating, particularly for those of us even remotely familiar with the bandit kingdoms, to which this is a predecessor in anything but closed IP. That being said, as much as I adore the flavor and design approach, the level of detail and care, this module ultimately remains just that - the establishing shot. If you take the level of detail, the atmosphere and the setting up away and look at this on its own, it loses some of its appeal due to the overall brevity of the module. The easiest means of understanding what this is would be to simply picture this as an excellent first part in a multi-part organized play saga, with some excellent gazetteer-style information added. As such, the module feels a bit lacking in its resolution, but does so by design. In the end, this made me exceedingly excited to see where the saga will go from here, but also left me somewhat dissatisfied regarding cliffhangers or first, pronounced consequence, instead just hinting at the things to come.


It is thus, that I arrive at a final verdict of 4 stars, with the explicit note that I can't wait to see where this series will go.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
SoR1: A Page of Scrolls
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Subterranean Races: The Puddlings [PFRPG]
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2016 10:55:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


It is by now a tested trope that even gods may die in fantasy gaming - and where death is a possibility, one should not be surprised to see the concept of the divine assassin - whether in the guise of a Red Mantis of a psychotic killer. The assumption of this book is that there at least once was a divine assassin (perhaps a predecessor?) that has failed. When the divine assassin was sent to destroy Aggranius, lord of facets, the deity was prepared and rendered his own body into an eternal, resplendent prison for the slayer of gods, creating a race of oozes as stewards in the process.


At first, these beings, dissolving most materials, were basically stuck in a type of stone age - but ingenuity and an abundance of divinely infused crystals from their dead, but pretty present god, has allowed them to create their very own, unique technology, advancing in leaps and bounds in spite of their handicap. Now, ages later, the divine energy of Aggranius is faltering, the divine assassin stirs - and it's time for the puddlings to break their self-imposed isolation.


Now here is the deal - unlike about 99% of underworld races, puddlings...actually are not only cute, they are actually pretty nice guys! Relentlessly curious, they love interacting with outsiders, have a society based on consensus and always have a hat or two available for outsiders. Racial stat wise, puddlings get +2 Int and Con, -2 Dex, are medium, have a speed of 20 ft and speak puddle, their own language. They have acid resistance 5, get +2 to saves versus transmutation spells and effects, +1 to a skill of their own choosing, +1 DC of any transmutation cast. Puddlings with Int 11+ get 3/day mending as a SP. They have darkvision 60 ft. Contact to a puddling body causes 1 point of acid damage to metal, leather and paper equipment, with adamantine and acid resistant equipment being immune to this. They can't wear armor, but can wear shields, but their body's membrane can be enchanted as though it were a masterwork armor.


Instead of acid resistance, they can have the option to 1/hour spit acid (1d6 +1 per two character levels) as a ranged touch attack, increased acid damage (faster degrading for items, but retributive acid damage) or no item degrading. Extending the skill bonus to another skill. Now pretty cool: When you wear a magical het, you increase your Charisma, with the bonus scaling the more magical the hat is. Why? Because puddlings use hats to determine leaders for a certain duration. Hilarious and cool. Further enhancing skill bonuses is also possible. Overall, the race is balanced, cool and unique, with the alternate racial traits feeling right regarding their balancing - oh, and yes, age, height and weight tables are included and the race gets neat FCOs for the bard, fighter, monk, rogue, tinker and wizard classes.


The race also sports an array of 8 racial feats that grant light fortification, rerolls for the skills you obsess about (i.e. the ones you've chosen via racial traits), critical hits that let you penalize foes via latent telepathy, emit a blinding pulse 3/day, gain increasing armor bonuses, squeeze into cracks and crevices...and there even is an achievement feat that lets outsiders benefit from puddling arcanocrystals.


Which brings me to the puddling's unique resources - the arcane crystals, which can be used to decrease the costs of item creation. And yes, mining DCs and the like are provided. Arcane gel is interesting - also made from these crystals, it can be used as splash weapon and acts as an amplifier for magic, increasing the damage caused by subsequent exposure of magical energies. Memory crystals are used to keep...well, memories and consensus crystals are used to homogenize opinions - they thus are an integral component of puddling society. Mindtonic is a powerful tonic that can cure insanity and mental attribute drain to mental scores, making that tonic a good reason to travel to the puddling lands. The mugshot crystal can be used to...well duplicate mugshots...or show stretches of places, allowing for easier familiarization for purposes of scrying or teleport: Think of it as a kind of crystalline photo. Obsession enhancers and a costly, droning enhancer for casters complement a cool array of unique items.


A total of 5 different alchemical items can be found in these pages: Bouncers would be crystalline mines that ignore puddlings, while etch gel allows the puddlings to make exceedingly intricate stone work. Peptidoglycan boosters allows puddlings to gain the benefits of potions...and they can be thrown at puddlings, though that does deal a bit of damage to the recipient. The idea of throwing potions at creatures pretty much is awesome. Similarly, geodes that create crystalline caltrops are pretty cool.


The pdf's magic items are unique as well - Cryslinders, aka "wizard-in-a-can" or "Sunder that first!" are basically gel-based flame/acid/etc.-throwers. And yeah, the visuals are AWESOME and tunable variants are included. Decay-rate decreasing conservation-boxes and then there would be the humongous hat. This hat detects any other hats within one mile and then one-ups then. It sticks to the head of the wearer and also allows the wearer to record a d20 and use the recorded number instead of another roll. Talking poles help communication skills and can enhance the aforementioned blinding pulses of Puddling Fast-Talk. Universal Dictator translate puddle into other languages and the vessel of endless gel does basically what you'd expect.


The pdf also provides a bestiary: At CR 8, Arcanoplasm can absorb magic, also damage items with its attacks and unleash powerful force-damage storms. Damn cool! The CR 1 Blindfish is hard to keep track of and is farmed mainly for the use of its eyes as spell components. Finally, the CR 6 Crystallite is very dangerous to unarmed fighters and these using natural weapons, deals Con-damage (ouch!) and can use crystalline shockwaves - appropriately dangerous for remnants of Aggranius' consciousness.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf uses stock-art apart from the exceedingly cute cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.


Bradley Crouch is famous for his mastery of crunch and class-design, not for races. Turns out that he excels at the latter as well: The puddlings are awesome. For one, the very concept is novel, fun and unique. More importantly, the race actually PLAYS completely differently from other races: The collective of items and feats makes sure that the race as a whole actually feels completely different from any other race I have reviewed - the crunch actually emphasizes the unique history, society and structure of the society of these lovable blobs of goo. More importantly, they are a breath of levity, of fun and hope in the often pretty grimdark underworld.


How good is this pdf? Well, it's good enough to actually have introduced them to my main campaign. They are unique, distinct in mechanics and flavor, with each component of content herein emphasizing their unique culture. This is awesomeness and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the missing bookmarks. Get this unique race and bring some serious fun and wonder to your games!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Races: The Puddlings [PFRPG]
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