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Four Horsemen Present: Gruesome Fey
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2016 03:31:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second Gruesome monsters-supplement (for a handy list, use the Gruesome-tag on my homepage) clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So what are gruesome monsters? The simple explanation is: They're monsters that had a template added that represent a type of design I personally absolutely adore: Basically, the templates have a goal and that is to reward smart players. Taking a cue from the best of dark fantasy and horror gaming, the templates provided here make the creatures not only more lethal, they also add a psychological component via the Shock Value to them, representing the potential for PCs being intimidated/frightened by the sheer wrongness of the creatures presented. Furthermore, the templates may be lethal, yes, but they also come with an Achilles heel that rewards PCs acting smart and doing their legwork (meaning that knowledge DC-modifiers can glean crucial information - the modifiers and knowledge are part of the template) - mind you, you can ignore these components of the templates, sure...but why would you? The rewarding expression on player faces when they deal with such a foe courtesy of their smarts is priceless and represents one of the most cherished aspects in roleplaying gaming...at least in my opinion. It should also be noted that each such template comes with a sample creature that already has the template applied for your convenience.


So, obviously, we're all about the weird here, not the kind, friendly fey. The first template, clocking in at CR+2, would be the Believer, and oh boy, these guys just beg for complex, odd narratives: You see, the template allows the respective fey to create illusions that remain, infused with a sense of reality and worse, gaining potency when they're believed....but the sword cuts both ways: Disbelieving the lies and dream-reality woven can result in the fey losing power over the PCs...and they have yet another personality quirk, but I'm not spoiling that one. This is basically a perfect representation of the concept of superior fey glamours I've been championing in my home-game...and boy, do I love this template for it!


The second template would be a mythic one, the Exiled Lord (CR +1/2 mythic rank) is just as BRILLIANT: Basically, these fey are fey lords and ladies wandering the world, establishing their fey demesnes out there...and in their realm, they are nigh unstoppable foes with truly devastating options at their beck and call...but they also are subject to their own rules and laws and, taking a cue from real-world mythology, are subject to the compulsion to accept wagers, allowing for smart PCs to outwit truly superior foes far beyond their capability to defeat. BRILLIANT!


The third template herein would be the CR+2 Faded. Taking the awesome notion of gnomish blight one step further, the faded are losing their colors, seeking to drain magic and draining the spirit and vitality from their victims, stealing their very colors for disturbing visuals indeed.


At CR+2, Macabre fey, clothed in shadows while moving, make for perfect modifications of Kobold Press' more disturbing shadow fey: With movement that is plain WRONG they may also sing a song of sorrow and play on mortals via their pain akin to a virtuoso - including the disturbing requirement to utter truly disturbing things when faced with mortals: "Your scalp is so gorgeous...it would make for a great shawl..." shudder


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' beautiful grimoire-style full-color two-column standard and the pdf sports thematically-fitting stock-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
Stephen Rowe's gruesome fey are literally all killer, no filler: With each and every template providing a thoroughly inspired template that does something different, this little supplement is simply inspired in all the right ways. This is a superb little book and belongs into the toolkit folder of every self-respecting GM who has even a minor penchant for smart, inspired foes, for lethal templates...and for games that reward smarts. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for this glorious little book.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Gruesome Fey
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Martial Arts Guidebook (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/25/2015 07:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Disclaimer: I was an IndieGoGo-backer for this book back in the day, but was in no other way associated with the production of this book.


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


So, what do we get here: Basically, we get 6 schools of martial arts that teach so-called techniques. Techniques can be gained via a plethora of options: Number one would be the Martial training feat, which nets a character permanent access to one technique, which can then be used at-will. Alternatively, there is the Steel Discipline-feat, which nets 3+Int-mod Steel points per day, which can then be used as a resource to activate a martial technique. If the character already has grit, panache or kit or a similar resource, said resource receives an expansion and can then be used to activate a technique. Beyond that, one should realize that access to the school teaching the technique is considered to be a given requirement, putting the reins firmly in the hand of the GM, including a discussion on how to base technique-acquisition on roleplaying. Speaking of which: Technique-acquisition sans expenditure of feats via roleplaying also does sport a concise mechanic for such a means of introducing the material herein.


All of this should already hint at the dual focus of this book: On one side, this book is all about giving martial characters more interesting options, but it is also about providing a social context for martial characters. "But what if a character has no x feats to burn?" Well, you see, that's pretty much one of the truly beautiful components of this book: From antipaladin cruelties to gunslinger deeds, there are plenty of alternate class options to allow such characters to utilize the techniques introduced in this book, a component also supported via the new favored class options that are introduced with the explicit purpose of making techniques more easily accessible. This level of customization options btw. also extends to the techniques prerequisites, which come with 2 different sets: Essentially, just about everything regarding the acquisition of techniques is modular.


Okay, so what exactly do we get in this pdf's respective schools? Well, first of all, this is very much a roleplaying book, as opposed to being simply an enumeration of crunchy bits: Each of the martial schools sports a detailed, well-written introduction, concise pieces of information regarding the respective traditions, information on the respective training grounds, concise adventure hooks (including hazards etc.), boons to be gained from a positive association with the respective school...and new magic items - including nutrition-granting tea, for example. The schools also provide unique feats as well as sample characters - a copious, diverse array of them.


The intriguing thing about the crunchy bits here would be, to me, that they are ultimately perfect examples of Rite Publishing's virtues as a publisher in that they blend high concept fluff with interesting crunch. Want an example? Sure: The Wushin Mountain's diverse schools sport quite a few interesting feats, one of which ought to trigger all my hatred: Stone Swallower allows for the regeneration of ki, a limited resource. Why am I not frothing at the mouth and bashing it? Simple: For one, I love the idea that this feat requires the swallowing of stones for a unique visual. More importantly, though, the strict limitations of the daily uses of the feat render it powerful, yes, but also balanced.


Now as for the techniques - there are a lot of them and a lot of schools to choose from: The dwarven-inspired Badger Style, for example, allows you to break free of grapples and even from being swallowed whole with penalty-less full attacks...and there is "Humble the Mountain" - which is just so awesome: If you hit a foe with it, you reduce the foe to a kneeling position before you, which, while not rendering the target helpless, makes for awesome visuals - and yes, flying et al covered as well. Scaling bonus damage based on BAB versus foes, ignoring DR and hardness may sound brutal, but ultimately, it is the limitations of the technique that render it mathematically feasible in EVERY game. What about a technique that allows you to retaliate against foes that attacked you before with increased efficiency?


The polearm-based Axe Beak style lets you add weapon qualities temporarily to your polearm. What about a mechanically valid way of spearing your foe with a thrown polearm, charging him and retrieving the weapon in one fell swoop? The two-hand-fighting/double weapon-centric trickery of Fox Style allows you to increase your weapon's reach and is surprisingly a style that allows for some unique tricks, while e.g. the Tanuki Style's Shadow Dodge allows you to use smoke pellets for pretty awesome dodge-then-retaliate moves. Otter Style martial artists may kick foes back to strike them with their ranged weapons or execute ranged disarms and perform melee attacks with crossbows and bows and even grapple foes with your bowstring, strangling them!


Now if all of this does sound too WuXia for you in style, you'll be glad to hear that Western martial arts are covered in this book as well: The first of these would be pretty much your swashbuckling/fencing-style school that allows its practitioners to on-the-fly pick up disarmed weapons, ignore difficult terrain, etc. - including using 5-foot-steps to charge or force movement (save negates) with each attack you perform: A simulation of binding weapons with reciprocal movement can also be found among the techniques here. Very interesting from a mechanical point of view: The stances of this school allow for the modification of your initiative score, providing different benefits depending on your position - and if that sounds like too much book-keeping for the GM, just follow the pdf's advice and have the player track initiative. It's definitely worth it!


The Third Suns (get it? "The first son inherits, the second is for the church, the third for the military...") would be pretty much Zweihänder-based martial arts for templar-style knights: Here, we get glory-techniques that can provide the stuff of legends: Brutal offense, at the cost of potential vulnerability, this style is all bout high risk/reward ratios and potentially, means to find a glorious death...or triumph...which would be as good a place as any to also comment on the rather impressive fact that, where a given technique overlaps with a feat, the techniques actually feature proper synergy/additional tactical option, showing a thoroughly impressive level of system-knowledge and mastery. The Halls of Ivy under the Oaks, then, would be an elven tradition that is basically the representation of the concept of bladesinging, blending magic and martial arts: As such, the techniques require the sacrifice of spells...or, via a feat, impose a temporary penalty on your Constitution-score. Now here's the interesting component: The sacrificed spell's descriptors actually change the effects of the respective techniques! Yes, this is as well-crafted as you'd expect it to be. Better yet, the techniques provided herein allow for the expert countering of magic (and crippling of spellcasters further enforced by new weapon properties), making the technique a great alternative to similar tropes. There is also a truly devastating aura at long range that can utterly cripple the whole opposition with unique effects per descriptor- but at a steep cost to yourself that will mean you won't pull it all the time.


The Martyred Arrows school, strongly aligned with a clan of gargoyles, allows for its practitioners to utilize the unique teachings to part winds, make trick shots to cripple the opposition or fire a last-ditch shot at an opponent right next to you sans AoO or penalty...potentially in combination with other school-techniques. And there is Marty's Arrow. Fire at a foe and save. If you make the save, you only are reduced to -1 hp. If you fail, you die. The opponent hit, however, also needs to save or die. If you choose to willingly fail your save, the opponent also takes bonus damage equal to your remaining HP. And yes, this is a death-effect. So, on one hand, I want to complain about this technique...but then again, I'm a sucker for heroic sacrifice last ditch shots and the scaling save means that even characters with a good Fort-save run a very real risk whenever they unleash this one...so yes, not going to complain.


And then, finally, there would be the Ludi of the Waiting Koi - the gladiatorial type school. The techniques here are visceral and intriguing: As an immediate action, you can e.g. lower your AC as a response to an attack, interposing an attack with a net, tanglefoot bag etc. for one of the best counter-strike representations I've seen in quite a while. Better yet, as befitting of the school, we actually get synergy with performance combat and negating immediate and readied actions targeting you via shields allow for unique tactical options...and yes, net/piercing weapon-follow-up combos are part of the deal.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with b/w-bamboo-borders and the pdf sports copious amounts of high-quality b/w-artwork, most of which is new. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.


Timothy Wallace, Matthew Stinson, William Senn, Ben McFarland, Mike Wise and Aaron Phelps took some time to get this book done - sure. But know what: the wait was very damn well worth it! When Path of War hit sites, I expected that one to eliminate the necessity, but then was kind of disappointed by Path of War's explicit focus on high-level gameplay, on fantastic power beyond the means of some tables.


The Martial Arts Guidebook's main difference from this system lies in multiple instances: For one, more than the crunchy bits, this is very much a sourcebook that grounds the disciplines in a concise narrative framework. The balance of the martial arts maneuvers here is impeccable - and it manages something I did not expect.


The Martial Arts Guidebook takes table variation into account in an almost unprecedented manner. The fact that you have not 1, not 2, but, depending on how you count, up to 5 (!!!) ways to introduce this book's content to your game means ultimately that, depending on your campaign, you can limit these or de-limit them. Want full-blown martial arts? No feat-tax, easy access. Want point-based mechanic? Available. Want feat-tax based techniques? You can have those as well. Even the most gritty of 15-pt-buy campaigns can use the content herein - and so can high-fantasy 25-pt-buy rounds: The system works organically and smooth in either and manages to display a thoroughly impressive synergy with feats - it is here the guiding hand of Ben McFarland as a superb developer of exceedingly complex material can be seen at work - even when limited resources can be regained, there is always a fair balance here, no power-creep - this book is NOT about numerical escalation, this book is about broadening the options, about making combat more interesting and diverse - and it excels at its goal.


Let me reiterate this: On one hand, this is a thoroughly inspired book of crunch - but on the other hand, reducing it to this component would be a disgrace to the book; it is so much more. The styles presented here do not exist in a vacuum, though you can sure use them as such. Instead, the detailed information on the schools in this book render the techniques simply intriguing, organic components that can guide full-blown adventures, with sample NPCs and hooks galore. I did not expect to like this book and absolutely feel in love with this book, particularly since the options provide amply unique gambits and tactical options that can be introduced singularly or as complete packages into any given campaign sans unbalancing the material. Let's sum it up: Great fluff, great crunch, potentially perfect synergy with just about any Pathfinder-campaign...what more could I ask for? Well, simple: A sequel. The techniques provided in this book are brilliant and even if you take the crunch away, you'd get a thoroughly inspired book, one that has me wanting more. Whether Conan-esque grit, high fantasy WuXia or a more martially bent Western setting, this book delivers in spades - 5 stars + seal of approval and nomination as a candidate for my Top ten of 2015!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Martial Arts Guidebook (PFRPG)
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Call to Arms: Mantles of Power
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/25/2015 07:42:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Fat Goblin Games' Call to Arms series is a massive, huge beast of 94 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 88 pages of content - that's A LOT, so let's take a look, shall we?


Okay, we begin this installment of Call to Arms with a breakdown of what mantles are. Sounds strange? Well, it quite frankly shouldn't be considered to be strange. Think about it - there is more to a mantle than just the cloth and material from which it was woven - as the pdf aptly demonstrates, wearing a mantle can denote more than just "the wearer is protected from the weather" - in real world history, mantles have often been used to denote status and ultimately, power. Sheer, brutal, in your face POWER - whether religiously or by the grace of the kings, a gorgeous mantle had its own weight, a kind of symbolic capital. Now picture what happens in a world where such options actually carry significance beyond the realms of the symbolic, a world wherein faith can literally move mountains and where authority can literally break the will of others - aye, there is untapped potential here!


Similarly, there are armored mantles, but more on those later - for now, let us focus on mantles vested in authority - thus, we have ranks like acolytes, civilian commanders, scholars and the like - all covered, with respective boons associated with the mantles. This is brilliant not due to the respective mechanical relevance, but due to the social relevance and the sense of immersion it enhances; basically, we have items that enhance a world's inherent consistency here, with fluff, titles, etc. all there for your convenience.


Of course, this is not simply a book devoted to such prestige-mantles - we get concise tables of spell-level by class prices for mantles alongside a concise, easy to grasp break down of Item Creation of mantles. Obviously, specific magic mantles can be found within these pages as well - including cursed mantles and intelligent mantles...oh, and yes, mythic mantles - like the Lien of the Night-King...but what about the eponymous mantles of power?


You see, here, things become interesting indeed: A mantle is not necessarily only a physical vestment of authority - it has a symbolic dimension: We do speak of the proverbial mantle of authority for a reason. The pdf's mantles of powers can be pictured as basically an item-based mini-template, as a kind of story-reward beyond what regular items would provide - and as such, their massive benefits do come with a hefty responsibility - and a CR-adjustment...as well as a "Geis," for said power comes at a price...and requires investiture by a powerful being. Think of the mantles of power as particularly powerful emergences (See Imperiums CS), for example. Basically, these complex, exceedingly powerful mantles denote you as "the chosen one", the champion of a deity, etc. and similarly, such power can also be used for antagonists: What if there are beings that successfully take the mantles of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (not the writers!)? And yes, these mantles actually sport several abilities that interact with one another, allowing the wearers to consecrate weapons with their dread powers and tie them to their powerful tricks...and even better, there are ALTERNATE HORSEMEN mantles here as well...like anarchy or majesty, to give you two examples.


Oh, and have I mentioned the war of the seasons and the fey courts? Here, things become full-blown campaign setting/AP-style detailed: Much like Dresden Files' depiction of the fey, various positions in the respective courts of the fey coincide with mantles of power - from queens/kings to heir apparent, knights and jesters, there are A LOT of mantles of powers here - for each season!


While summer and winter generally blend positions in court with suite-of-card like themes, spring and autumn have their titles aligned with opposing pieces of a chess set, sporting e.g. "rooks". It should be noted that escalating mantles of general association and those highly prestigious mantles are all covered - basically, what we have here is a massive, template-based reward-system ready for your perusal that can be considered enough fodder for a whole campaign...or many of them. The significant level of power these offer may work btw. particularly well in low/rare magic item-campaigns. The significant ability-suites could offset the mathematical problems creeping in at higher levels to a certain extent. To give you a general idea of how long these mantles' respective write-ups are: The CR+8 King of Autumn's mantle covers more than 3 pages! And yes, the vast majority of this is CRUNCH. I am not kidding when I'm saying that these mantles can govern a whole campaign worth of material---or make for unique adversaries.


Oh, and there would be neutral parties that also receive 4 mantles and the Sidhe and mocking midnight Court templates/mantles to further expand the material.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - I noticed no significant array of glitches or issues. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes with nice full-color artworks.


Lucus Palosaari delivers essentially a bait and switch pdf - I went into this book expecting an array of magic mantles...and they're in here. But this book is so much more. The notion of mantles as a social structuring element is a brilliant "why has this not been done before?"-moment that made me cackle with glee. Obviously, I went into the mantles of power-section rather skeptical - the obvious power-increase being just nasty...but know what? This section is x campaigns and villains waiting to happen. The brilliant horsemen mantles will be wielded by champions of darkness in my game (or by the players...we'll see...) and then, there would be the fey-mantles.


Okay, let's get this out of the way: If you absolutely are not interested whatsoever in the whole war of seasons-concept, then you'll lose a significant array of pages in this book: 47 pages, to be more precise, all of which are devoted to the fey mantles-come-templates for the respective positions and they are pretty much glorious: Granted, I am a bit of a fanboy for fey politics and unique effects and the blending of mythological, pagan tropes and the crunch here is very well-crafted. Moreover, we actually get information on the otherwise often neglected spring and autumn courts and, better yet, they receive their own mechanically-unique identities. Essentially, this is a whole campaign's worth of unique rewards just waiting to happen and the investiture and geis mean that such mantles are not only hard to get...they're also hard to keep. Just think what poor Harry has to endure since he went Winter Knight...well, some geis make that look downright cute.


I've been thinking rather hard on how to rate this book - the mantles of power themselves are utterly brutal and should obviously be handled with care...and this book is more of a narrative device than an item-book...but judging this book as an item book in the straight, traditional way would quite frankly be a disservice to the inspired material contained herein. I'd rather be positively surprised and inspired to make adversaries and extensive stories than have more replacements for cloaks of resistance that end up not being used.


From the low-magic end of mantles as a sign of office and authority to the high-end fey-court intrigues, this supplement offers some truly inspired options - just don't expect a huge selection of vanilla magic mantles. That being said, this book is imho better off for its chutzpah of actually doing something radically different - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Mantles of Power
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Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2015 07:59:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This was moved up on my queue at the request of my players.


The prologue-adventure for Legendary Games' Sword and Planet-AP clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial introduction leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


While this module is designed to act as a prequel for the massive Legendary Planet AP, it also easily works on its own. The following being a review of an adventure, the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Whether to reclaim family property, at the behest of a seer or due to some other hook, the PCs find that their first journey has brought them to the otherwise pretty unremarkable village of Holver's Ferry (fully mapped, btw.) - but even at the ferry leading into the town, across a swift river leading into lake Shimmermere - alas, the drunken ferryman has no good fate in store: While he tried to quarantine the village, he failed - and he is about to pay the price, as psychotic villagers hack him apart. Oh yes, enter the PCs. Unresponsive and clearly driven mad, the PCs have to defeat the bloodthirsty villagers in a thematic callback that made me remember Resident Evil 4 - in all the right ways. Crossing the river one way or another, the impression that Holver's Ferry has been hit by some tragedy pretty much becomes apparent.


A sense of apocalyptic dread, piece by piece, encounter by encounter, will slowly seep into the consciousness of PCs and players alike, as a depressed widow endeavors to commit suicide, as they explore abandoned houses that look like their inhabitants have simply evaporated - something is odd. Hanged people dangle from the town's sacred oak and child survivors hide from anyone out there. The local inn shows signs of struggle, of desperate defense - and a man who had locked himself in, now just as bloodthirsty and dangerous as the first farmers encounetred. Things have become so bad that even goblinoids have entered the village. The priest is insane and burning undead can be found among the village's houses - a sense of grim doom has come to Holver's Ferry, and as the PCs find the halfling berserker (berserker Zimm - boy did I laugh when reading that one!), the gnome apothecary who retained his wits or draw the conclusions due to the hints left in the sheriff's office - the dread mystery needs to be solved.


This sandboxy horror section is well-presented and offer multiple means to draw the PCs further into the topics, whereafter the trail leads towards the Orphanage of mother Oddle. You see, what has happened here is an unlikely and far-out scenario: An invader from another world has engineered a mind-reprogramming bio weapon, the eponymous assimilation strain. Alas, the targeted viral strain's first iteration proved to yield a temporary, highly infectious burn-out rate and chaotic, terrible symptoms - the ones the PCs have witnessed firsthand in the horror at the town. The dread invader, a vanguard of the planned invasion, has since perfected a better strain of the virus and infected one powerful lumberjack, Silam Oddle - controlled by a disgusting, black tumor-like lump at the back of his neck, the PCs can save him, yes - but perhaps they have to take the poor man down. Beyond that, have I mentioned that his mother's mummified remains still remain in her room? Yes, creepy.


Rexel, the gnome alchemist, in the meanwhile, has probably gone missing, abducted by an adherer made from the remains of the town's erstwhile, missing sheriff. The trail leads towards Arvarenhode Manor's ruins, where the catacombs await under the rubble - provided the PCs can best the deadly creatures inhabiting the upper part of the ruins. In the catacombs, the PCs may save Rexel, battle the adherer and navigate a complex inhabited by a cool, uncommon selection of adversaries, with thematically-awesome descriptions and rooms. Finally, defeating the xoraphond creature behind the dread conflict ends the jagladine empire's invasion plan, while also providing a first taste of the things to come. The pdf concludes with alien technology (Technology Guide-compatible) and the new creature and two templates provided.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - the book has been further streamlined from its original inception. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column standard that is still pretty printer-friendly, with copious amounts of full-color high-quality artworks for each major player in the storyline. It should also be noted that the layout does not try to generate more pages by wide margins - there is a lot of information on each page, making the module more detailed and longer than you'd expect from most modules of this page-count - in my playtest, it took my exceedingly fast group 2 sessions to clear this module. About 90% of 32-page modules tend to be finished in 1 session, so yeah - quite a bunch of content. Cartography is beautiful and plentiful - and a massive art and map folio constitutes a huge array of handouts and options to directly show your players the maps or cut them up and use them as handouts. I hate being a complaining whiner, but one thing does become obvious with this art and map folio, though: A tad bit higher resolutions would have been appreciated for the maps etc. - you can see some pixels. On the plus-side, the print version does not suffer from these minor hiccups. The adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Tom Phillips has, slowly but surely, become one of my go-to authors regarding any scenario that provides horror, challenge and mystery - he knows his craft. Add Neil Spicer and the duo has created one awesome, damn cool low-level module that is challenging, potentially a bit disturbing and interesting. With a diverse, uncommon array of enemies that never falls into the bland 1st level routines, a mix of sandbox and dungeon-exploration, this module provides quite a bunch of cool ideas. The best component of this module, to me, is a more ephemeral one, though: The pacing of this module is impeccable. Horror and mystery, both as genres, hinge on timing and means of creating suspense, of build-ups and gradual escalation -and this module gets this component perfectly.


As a GM, you can obviously just spoon-feed the information to your PCs via various proxies, but not only are there multiple ways of unearthing the truth, there are several red herrings - and in my playtest, I kept as much information as possible opaque, making my players draw the conclusions themselves. Now if the players get stumped, you still have several means of putting them on track within the logic of the module. Furthermore, the module has ample instances wherein heroes can be heroes and actually save lives - an approach I always welcome in modules.


I honestly did not expect the prologue to Legendary Planet to be a mystery, much less one that is this good; whether played for weirdness or downright horror, this module makes clear from the get-go that it's not your standard fantasy fare. But only in hindsight. As a piece of advice: Don't tell your players necessarily that this will be a sword & planet module. There are several themes that make for delightful red herrings in the hands of a capable GM, making the realization of what is truly going on have even more of an impact.


The assimilation strain is an excellent module and a furious first in the series, one that makes me very happy I've been able to back the kickstarter. With great production values and content that must be considered awesome, this module is a great way to kick off the AP, one that has me stoked to see what's in store for us. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (Pathfinder)
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Ultimate Charisma
Publisher: Everyman Gaming, LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2015 05:44:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Ultimate Charisma clocks in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 61 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Ähem. GET THIS NOW!!!! No, seriously, get this NOW! ASAP! This book belongs into the library of every Pathfinder group. No exceptions. None.


...


Okay, you really want to read a gushing diatribe on how this book represents all that is awesome about 3pps? All right! A little history first: Alexander Augunas started Everyman Gaming to release a single, humble little pdf called "Psychological Combat." The first iteration of this little book was good...and then, he made it better. What does Psychological Combat represent? Basically, the pdf constitutes the one "less than 5 bucks"-crunch book that tops my list whenever someone asks me which little pdf to get.


It's, sans hyperbole, the most used little rules-book in my game. What does it do? Beyond brilliant archetypes that allow you to use performance combat in regular battles, psychological combat takes one of the most jarring rules-components and makes it significantly more elegant: Feint, Demoralize and Antagonize - what do they have in common? They behave pretty much like combat maneuvers without actually being combat maneuvers. They also sport different, somewhat inelegant rules. Well, know what? Alexander Augunas has streamlined them into a more maneuver-like system that imho should have been the default way PFRPG utilizes them - his system is, from a rules-aesthetic perspective, simply glorious - a thing of true beauty and the codification of antagonize as a generally available maneuver renders this book absolutely SUPERB. There is a reason this made my top ten list of 2014 - it fixes one of the most glaring rules-holes in PFRPG in an inspired way.


Now this alone would make this book downright superb - but how do you improve such a truly legendary little supplement? Well, you add in a book that is no less stellar: The Leadership Handbook. We all know Leadership, arguably the best feat in the game - and, as design-legend Ben McFarland has observed, Leadership constitutes a present for the GM: It denotes a thorough willingness to immerse your character deeper in the world of a given campaign...but it's also EXTREMELY strong...to the point where my previous campaign had ALL PCs take Leadership. Alexander Augunas did something at once radical and visionary: He made Leadership, the best feat in the game, free for everyone. This sounds crazy, OP - let's face it, downright insane.


Know what? In the hands of a lesser designer, it would have been just that. However, we're talking about one of the best crunch-designers currently operating in the 3pp-circuit. The Leadership Handbook's codification of leadership as a universally available feature turned out to be downright brilliant, particularly so since the book also provided perfect synergy with the kingdom building rules. Basically, you choose perks to modify the type of leadership and reputation you have - you can utilize these perks for improving your kingdom-building prowess, make your own organizations, improve your reputation...and more. "But what if I don't want a cohort or leadership?" There are loner perks, which allow for easy stabilization...or being a friggin' one-man army that can, in mass combat, actually destroy hostile armies. Come on, can you envision ANYTHING more awesome than a lone high-level dud walking calmly towards an incoming army...and then crushing it? Yes, these rules actually supplemented the material to do just that.


So that would be a basic amount of info regarding the absolutely superb basic frame this book was built on - but know what? It does NOT end here: This book sports ~ 1/3 of all new content: For one, there are significantly more perks to choose from, for both famous or infamous characters...and the concept of relationships is also explored, presented in a thoroughly concise and easy way that is ridiculously easy to grasp - we even get rules for dysfunctional relationships versus healthy relationships and the thus gained diversity is simply beautiful to behold...especially since all of this ties in perfectly with the aforementioned perk-system - a level of integration of holistic design that even extends to the traits covered in this book!


Speaking of holistic design: Know how sometimes new systems feel tacked on, how books like this tend to just complicate matters? Ultimate Charisma is pretty much the antithesis of such design: This book is so incredibly concise, so well-crafted, so inspired, it actually makes vanilla Pathfinder feel less refined in comparison - and I'm talking about all components, from Leadership to psychological combat to kingdom building...and yes, this plays imho perfectly with Legendary Games' kingdom-building expansions. I could go on and list the respective components point by point, but ultimately, this would not make this review better - in fact, it would artificially disjoin what must be considered one of the most concise, holistic experiences I've EVER read for any iteration of a d20-based system.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are stellar, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a BEAUTIFUL two-column full-color standard that sports copious amounts of Jacob Blackmon's gorgeous artwork, including ample new ones, big ones - this is a beautiful book indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I bought the print as soon as it went online and its matte paper is nice - no complaints here, apart from the fact that I would have loved the spine to actually feature "Ultimate Charisma." (Hej, it's me - I had to complain about something, right? ;P)


Okay, in case this is not exceedingly clear by now: I consider this book to be a huge MILESTONE in design. To me, Alexander Augunas' Ultimate Charisma represents all that is perfect and awesome about 3pp-material. There is literally no 3pp book apart from Raging Swan press Wilderness and Dungeon Dressing books that even comes close to seeing this much use at my table. There is no single session that goes by in which I do not whip out this book in one form or another. Ultimate Charisma is, no hyperbole, one of the most used books at my table - and its incredibly simple presentation that makes each and every rules herein simple and easy to grasp and does show the effortless-seeming design-mastery of Alexander Augunas.


Ultimate Charisma is a perfect representation of why I do this whole review thing: This book belongs into the library of every GM, no exceptions. It's a brilliant expansion of rules; it streamlines some of the most jarring components of PFRPG into a significantly improved version that plays perfectly with established components. There is literally NOTHING I do not absolutely adore about this superb book - to the point where I actually changed my format away from the point-by-point analysis because it simply would not do this wonderful book justice.


The literally only reason this is not a prime candidate for my Top Ten of 2015's number one spot is that 2/3rds of this book already received their accolades last year...but even if you do already own these, rest assured that Ultimate Charisma is worth every cent of the asking price. There are quite frankly almost no books that can compete with this stellar tome. Ultimate Charisma receives easy 5 stars + seal of approval and is to be henceforth considered an EZG-Essential, a book that each and every group should take a look at. This is one of the books that will be a benchmark for years to come for me - and designers: If you're frustrated about complaints that something does not feel concise, holistic - take a look here: This is literally how it's done. To the point where I really hope Paizo will take a look at the antagonize-etc.-rules here and consider them for future editions/unchained-type supplements. This component really ought to be core-canon...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Charisma
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Bondsworn: Desiderius and Keale
Publisher: Mór Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2015 05:42:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This is the first little pdf of Mór Games' Council of Lords-series; it clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is this? There is no single easy answer to this question, but I will try: A bondsworn constitutes a lordship and commons and as such, this should be considered a kind of sourcebook that can be used to flesh out either components of the Imperiums Campaign Setting...or to insert the material into a kingdom building context, but unlike similar supplements, the focus here does lie on the roleplaying aspects: While there are full statblocks to be found herein (alongside abbreviated ones that contain basic info for RP-heavy non-combat encounters), the captivating concept here lies less in the stark numbers and more in the narrative potential. You see, to me, the work in fleshing out the holdings of a given lord or clan are not necessarily founded on the crunch-work - there are quite frankly enough supplements out there to deliver that.


Instead, I consider the work to be in something more devious and ultimately harder to achieve component: Weaving a convincing tapestry/political landscape/structure. To drive home the point I'm trying to make: How many of us have endeavored to properly depict interesting struggles between barons, how many books have you read where that fell terribly flat of its own ambition? Well, and then there would be one famous example where this worked almost perfectly - I'm obviously talking about "A Song of Ice and Fire." Call me a nerd, but one of the developments in the Game of Thrones TV-series that irks me to no end is that the gross oversimplification of the political landscape is catching up to the series, making some of its more intricate elements coming apart at the seams. Where is this detour going?


Well, essentially, you should picture this book as a little look at two "A Song of Ice and Fire"-like noble houses, supplemented by some crunch. From mottos and traits to common knowledge regarding the respective houses, we have, ultimately here, two inspired houses with notes on the ranking members, DCs and the like all presented, to the point where, beyond known information on key players, we also get information on properly playing such a character...including reputation, naming-conventions and the like.


Oh, and the writing is downright stellar, to the point where I'm quite frankly grinning from ear to ear, having some fine tidbits for the scholars among us - Keale's chapter opens thus:


Prithee heorcnian æt mín luftíme fitt


Of hwítlocu ælfcyning hyghte Aladone


Hwonne íc wæs on mædencild íc aswáf án


æt þæm heald þære wintertid blóstmest


Ere ic I spurnan on se acsan ceald


Mædencild an ofhende winter weald


Aladone wæs bihrite and wéman mín blæt


Und mid aelfencræft ánerede mé


If you're a bit rusty, fret not - there is a handy translation provided - and yes, this direct quote of Minne-traditions is represented in the half-elven nature of most Keales as well as in the theme of the bondsworn. Oh, and yes, even the BANNERMEN of the bondsworn have their own motto! This focus on smart, narrative potential is btw. also mirrored in e.g. an artifact-level blade associated with a poem - reciting a line activates the power of the blade (regular English suffices here, btw.) - which, while not perfectly formatted, still adds a level of poetry, of immersion into the material here that is absent in so many supplements.


Better yet, there is a gamemaster section that not only provides inspired hooks, it also capitalizes on the genius emergence-rules innovation of the Imperiums setting, providing a unique benefit for both bondsworn featured herein.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though some missing italicizations for spells and minor hiccups like that do exist. Layout adheres to Imperiums' 2-column full-color standard, which, while beautiful, makes this slightly less printer-friendly than it could be. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


William Moomaw and Mario Podeschi deliver a most uncommon pdf here - one I wholeheartedly endorse you to check out - why? Because it is a supplement that does not exist primarily to justify numbers or the like, to provide bloat in that regard. Instead, what we have here is an inspired book that brims with narrative potential - not only for the Imperiums campaign setting, but also for others. The strength of this supplement does not lie exclusively in the rules presented, though they are neat: It is in the intelligent writing, in the well-crafted prose, in the captivating details that this pdf comes to life. It may not be perfect, but there is a reason I quoted "A Song of Fire and Ice" in this review: What we have here is a thoroughly intriguing political sandbox that practically demands expansion, that lives by virtue of the strength of its inspiring prose and by the grace of its daring, unconventioal premise.


It is, pretty much assumed in the 3pp-scene that crunch sells better than fluff and that groups are primarily interested in bashing foes and taking their loot and while there is crunch here, I certainly do hope some of you take a look at this pdf and buy it; What we have here are wonderful political factions that can drive whole campaigns, if you want them to - lavishly detailed and crafted with love and passion that oozes from the pages, factions that hint at the vast potential of this series. This is a great read for a truly fair price, so let's refute the notion that we gamers prefer cardboard cut-outs over detailed, diverse factions and political landscapes. In one sentence: This is a true, capital letters ROLEplaying supplement.


If my gushing rambling was not clue enough -I love this book. While not perfect, I will still award it 4.5 stars + seal of approval for its superb writing, rounded up for the purpose of this platform, with the ardent hope we'll get to see more.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bondsworn: Desiderius and Keale
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Advanced Races 15: Tosculi (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2015 05:40:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Advanced Races-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


So, what are the Tosculi? Well, the simple reply would be that they are lethal wasp-people that sports a dread hivemind, nigh-sociopathic towards all but the members of their hive-cities...but much like NeoExodus' Cavians, there are those that resist, the non-conformists - these hiveless tosculi, de-coupled from the free-will breaking militaristic society. Rules-wise, Tosculi get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, are small, have a movement rate of 30 ft. They also get 2 primary claw attacks at 1d3, +1 to AC, always treat Stealth and Perception as class skills and may share squares with other tosculi sans penalty. They also get gliding wings and may soften earth and stone 1/day as a SP. The class also has an alternate racial trait for gliding wings to bring them from 11 RP to 10 RP - absolute kudos here!


The tosculi also feature 4 alternate racial traits - scaling tanglefoot spittle, a primary 1d4 bite, better AC...or detect thoughts as a SP...but at the cost of increased susceptibility to mind-influencing effects. All of these are perfectly balanced versus the race's base tricks. New favored class options for alchemist, brawler, druid, fighter, monk, rogue, slayer and witch similarly are well-balanced indeed - no complaints here either!


Of course, we also receive racial archetypes, the first of which would be the war-warper alchemist - instead of swift alchemy, these guys get a functional stinger, which can be used to deliver pre-prepared poisons...and at high levels, they may insert a cancerous, evolving mass into targets that can utterly cripple adversaries - icky and awesome! The Hivemaster druid can gain the vermin subdomain via nature's bond or a vermin companion. Obviously, empathy for vermin, vermin shape wildshapes and a high-level swarm-form round out the archetype for a solid take on the concept, if not one that blew me out of the water.


We also receive information on 3 different types of equipment: Abdominal spikes, blinding powder and tosculi paper (slightly resistant to fire) are interesting indeed. We also get 5 racial feats, two of which allow for better gliding via the wings and even altitude maintenance in a limited way, while two others represent tosculi teamwork feats - which are okay, but a bit weak. On the other hand, the final feat, which allows you to make powders and splash weapons work as lines instead via Wing Fans is downright brilliant. The pdf also provides a 4-feat Style-feat-chain focusing on grappling and damage-output via natural weapons for a solid option array.


Regarding magical weapons and items, we get wasp-swarm bombs, a rod for hivemind-like attunement of participating characters. Salves that enhance defensive capabilities or a dazzling blade as well as a cool living spellbook are found herein as well and a fully stated old tosculi transmuter at CR 9.


The pdf closes with 7 new spells, which include a ghostly stinger dealing force damage a hive haven, retributive swarm cloaks, better senses, temporary warrior evolution into a tosculi warrior (stinger + wings) and a spell to strengthen a hiveless tosculi's vestigial wings.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the pdf sports gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Jeff Lee and Ben McFarland's Tosculi are perhaps the most streamlined race in the whole series: Perfectly balanced, there is nothing I can complain about...oh, and then there's the explicit note about fine-tuning balance, the great fluff and several pieces of intriguing, thematically fitting crunch that supplements the book rather well. This is pretty much a fun, awesome little racial book; A truly refined, well-written installment, a great little racial book and well worth 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 15: Tosculi (Pathfinder RPG)
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Ryuutama : Natural Fantasy Roleplay
Publisher: KOTODAMA HEAVY INDUSTRIES
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2015 03:29:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive RPG clocks in at 245 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 6 pages of KS-backers, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 234 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I received this book as a gift from one of my patreons for the purpose of a review. This pdf has been prioritized and moved up in my review-queue accordingly as a prioritized review.


The first thing you'll notice when opening this book is that it's extremely newbie-friendly: The concept of RPGs is explained in concise, easy to grasp terms - including an explanation of dice, terms and the like: I embarked on a brief experiment: I handed my printed out copy to my granny and told her to read it. Guess what? She got it. She finally understood what this roleplaying-mumbo-jumbo was all about. Ryuutama is extremely user-friendly and guides the players and GM, step by step, through the process of character generation, with classes being grouped by focus: Attack Type, Technical Type and Magical Type.


You have 4 basic stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Spirit - at character creation, each of these values can be either 4, 6 or 8: You choose from 6,6,6,6, or 4,6,6,8 or 4,4,8,8. The stat itself also represents the die you roll when testing. All other relevant stats are derived from these simple base attributes: Hp is Str x 2, MP (the resource used to cast spells) is Spirit x2, Carrying Capacity is Str+3 (if you exceed this level, you take the excess as penalty to your checks). Each character is supposed to have mastered a weapon, the use of which and damage is governed by attributes as well: Light Blades, for example have an accuracy of Dex+Int+1 and a damage of Int-1, while Axes use Str+Str-1 for accuracy and Str for damage. Each character also has a personal item, to which s/he has an emotional bond as well as 1000 GP starting budget to get ready for the journey...for in Ryuutama, the focus does not lie on slaying monsters or defeating demonic incursions.


Instead, the basic focus of this roleplaying game is one refreshingly different, one on properly traveling the world, hearkening back to the picturesque ideals and romanticized notions of the apprentice's journey, blended with a sense of wide-eyed wonder and creativity you'd expect in Hayao Miyazaki's works - and this focus also shows in the easy class kits available: From merchants to farmers and nobles, we have roles that go beyond the traditional 4-6 roles often featured in fantasy roleplaying. The respective classes sport unique skills that are derived from the base attributes in much the same way as the weapon damage I described above: I.e., you have dead simple basic math.


As for magic- there is incantation magic, which unlocks in 3 steps and season magic similarly unlocks with the progression through the character levels. The pdf also champions different roles for players and characters to fill - from quartermaster to leader and mapper, the roles make sense and prevent issues in game.


Leveling up is similarly a very simple, streamlined process: There are 10 levels, with every even level providing a stat-increase (i.e. d4 -> d6, d10 -> d12...). At 3rd and 7th level, characters get a terrain/weather specialty, choosing one of the 22 types and gaining +2 to rolls regarding this type. 4th level provides immunity versus one status effect and 5th level provides an extra class's benefits. 6th level provides a second type. At 9th level, you may 1/day take 10 in a given specialized season and 10th level provides basically a GM-centric ability to embark on a truly legendary journey.


Different qualities for objects are covered with easy modifiers - you can e.g. get uncool-looking items at a discounted price or unbreakable orichalcum items, all with mechanical repercussions. Similarly, effects of good (or bad!) food and public facilities like bath-houses, specialty goods and the like are covered in impressive detail. Animals also deserve special mention - you can bring one free animal with you (and don't have to micromanage said creature's upkeep), but only the merchant and farmer class may have more animals - and, interestingly, there are special qualities for animals: Loyal or particularly tough animals, for example, cost more but also grant you interesting benefits, while animals with an attitude problem may be cheaper...but refuse your command in inopportune moments.


From food to perfume to containers, there are a lot of nice items to bring along...including e.g. a grandfather clock! This item-driven approach also extends to healing herbs, of which a vast array is provided, by terrain and level: From moonlight Snowgrass to Barrierwood Stalk, the prevalence and usefulness of these can generate a healthy respect for mother nature.


Spellcasting is dead simple: Choose a spell you know, choose a target in the spell's range, speak the magic words, expend the MP and roll INT+SP - if you roll a double 1, the spell fails, otherwise it works just fine. Spell effects from the same spell do not stack, but those of different spells do. Casters may end a magical effect at any time. Incantation magic is based on study, seasonal magic is based on emotion...and that's about it. One paragraph and we have the foundation of a simple, efficient magic system. It should come as no surprise, then, that the presentation of the spells is similarly simple.


Now I've mentioned skill checks before, but how do they work? Basically, each skill is based on two attributes, like Str+Int or Dex+Sp. You roll the two dice. If you have a double 1, you have a critical fumble, if you roll maximum die-size, you instead get a critical success. If you're thinking that this makes criticals less likely in higher attributes, you'd thankfully be wrong: If you have e.g. a stat of 10 in a related attribute, any roll of 6+6, 6+8 or 6+10 would result in a critical success, making them pretty common occurrences. Skill-checks have a difficulty (like a DC) - if you manage to reach this number, you succeed. Contested checks are similarly simple: Both parties roll, the winner takes it all. Ties are simply rerolled. From hard exercise to drinking or delicate work, sample skills are provided and their difficulty, obviously, is modified by situational modifiers and retries are penalized slightly.


Concentration is interesting - you can pay a fumble point (gained from a fumble) or half your MP for a +1 bonus; both for a +2 bonus before attempting an action...but if your MP are 0, you faint...so in case you only have one MP, better make that shot count! This system is very simple, but one that provides a surprising element of tension in play - kudos! Condition is also important, as are conditions like sickness and injury.


With a focus on journeys over combat, travel speeds and terrain and weather types (and lavishly rendered, gorgeous dragons for each terrain type!) can be found here alongside common topological sights for the respective environments.


Battle is simple: I already covered weapon-rules; initiative is governed by Dex+Int and the battlefield has abstract areas and 5 objects strewn about the battlefield, making the tactical options available more diverse. Item use, defending, feinting - everything combat-related is just as concise and simple as the rules introduced so far. Characters die when their HP reaches negative Condition - so keeping up with food etc. is important indeed! And yes, the system per se champions a low lethality without making it too easy on the PCs and yes, nonlethal damage is covered in accordance with the child-friendly tone of Ryuutama.


The book also sports town-creation rules and even world-generation rules that guide the GM through the process in a rather simple and efficient manner. Speaking of the GM: It is important to note that the GM is more than just a spectator here: The GM has a dragon in human form, a Ryuujin, a kind of GM-PC that belongs to one of 4 different races, effectively the classes of the GM-PC. These characters sport an artefact and may provide Bénédictions for the players, which not only provide significant bonuses, they also act as roleplaying catalysts. Ryuujin are not constant additions to the traveling group, but they may show up when the PCs are in a pinch...or help them in other, unobtrusive (or obtrusive) ways - they are, however, not Elminster: Ryuujin may actually die, so PCs too complacent regarding their help may have to save their guardian dragon! When a Ryuujin goes full-blown dragon-form, that action is referred to as a réveil...but it does cost the Ryuujin's life points, providing an in-game rationale why they can't save the PCs all the time.


The focus on new and inexperienced roleplayers means that this book also goes, step by step, through the process of scenario-creation, simple though that process may be for Ryuutama. It should be noted that sheet-wise, I've scarcely seen a more detailed array of sheets: For scenario-structure, fight scenarios, towns and events, there's a specialty-sheet for just about everything, rendering this even more user-friendly than you'd expect. And yes, we get a simple, nice sample scenario for levels 1 - 2 to kick off the journey.


Now obviously, such an RP also requires adversaries, monsters, if you will: The massive book provides a huge array of them and going through them in detail would bloat this review beyond belief - however, there is a little gripe I can field here: Do not expect artworks for the monsters. While properly described, I still would have loved to see the absolutely lavish artwork to extend to the monster-section...but then again, I'm spoiled by the big, more main stream roleplaying games with infinitely higher budgets.


A significant and concise Q&A-section closes the book - alongside the 18 (!!!) sheets, including e.g ration tracking, combat etc. - stunning!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pure excellence - I noticed not a single hiccup in the whole, massive book! Layout adheres to an easy to read 1-column full-color standard that is sufficiently printer-friendly. Artworks are copious and range from explanatory, chibi-style manga-comic panels that explain actions to stunning b/w-artworks for the Ryuujin. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with the sheets in additional zips.


Atsuhiro Okada's Ryuutama has been translated to English with a level of love that oozes from every page by Matt Sanchez and Andy Kitkowski - going above and beyond the duties of translators, they managed to maintain the intent of the original as far as my pretty lousy Japanese goes. (A Japanese reader kindly sent me an excerpt, showing me clearly the limits of my own rudimentary proficiency in the language... btw. also the reason this review was slightly delayed...) I am thoroughly impressed by the ability to properly capture not only the wording, but the intent of the original.


But you're not interested in these particulars, right? What you want to know is whether this is a good game. The answer to this question, without a doubt, has to be a triumphant, resounding "YES!" Ryuutama is not only breath of fresh air with its wholesome take on fantasy; its level of detail is staggering, its user-friendliness remarkable, particularly considering its status as a translated game. This game is exceedingly simple to understand and works perfectly for any children ages 4+ and up, but it also is a superb game for adults that can still feel the sense of wonder and wild-eyed excitement evoked in the best of Miyazaki's movies. What I love most, though, would be the unobtrusive GM-PC-angle alongside the fact that this game does not cuddle the children: Yes, this is a roleplaying game suitable for just about all ages, one that can easily teach basic math, responsibility, planning...but also one that can teach respect for mother nature...and one that does not shirk away from topics such as PC death. In this way, Ryuutama is not only fair, it is a game that, and this is my firm conviction, will really benefit the development of kids, supporting several virtues we all try to convey as well as the usual basic math competence we want to instill.


The staggering level of detail further enforces this...so when do we get the first full-blown journeys/scenarios for this glorious book? Oh yeah, right - the final verdict: Ryuutama is worth every cent of its fair asking price, is perfect for children and adults and an all-around well-crafted roleplaying game with easy rules and a unique theme - it is an easy 5 stars + seal of approval and receives a nomination for my Top Ten of 2015. If you're looking for a great way to introduce children to roleplaying or are fed up with slaying monsters and the cynicism of our world, embark on a journey with Ryuutama - I guarantee you won't regret it!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ryuutama : Natural Fantasy Roleplay
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Gossamer Worlds: The Otherlands (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2015 03:21:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, we begin this installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series with a warning - the theories herein are considered heresy by the established Lords and Ladies. You see, among the vast plethora of worlds and realities accessible, or so goes the hypothesis herein, there are some that may be considered...semi-sentient. Or at least "alive" in the broadest sense that the reality grows...like a plant...or a tumor. From a seed of contact, a chrysalis springs, ultimately leaving only a husk reality behind - or so goes the hypothesis.


You see, the otherlands constitute a kind of template, a kind of change - the reality does not overwrite completely a given world, but changes it into something creepily uncanny. The pdf uses a combination of "fey" and "alien" to describe the phenomenon and I am inclined to concur. Denizen-wise, we receive information on a few of them - the shining ones, which may or may not be the origin of fey myth; the Umbra-touched scattered ones and the hungry ones, which may be the origin of ours fear of giants, man-eating ogres and the like. The most powerful agents of the otherlands, though, remain the emissaries - we receive the full stats of such a being, the disturbing lady featured on the old cover. Finally, following the theme of otherness, doppelgängers are covered - spirits that may assume the guises of others, further cementing the theme of something subtly wrong with reality.


From Tír na nÓg to the underworld, some examples are provided herein as well and, as always, we conclude this brief sojourn into the weird with a list of the world's properties and advice on how to use it.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.


Matt Banach's Otherlands resonate with me - you see, neither jump-scares (which just startle), nor more traditional horror tends to do it for me. I'm not afraid irl of physical confrontation, nor of accidents, flights, water...you get the idea. The imagery of a raindrop falling in reverse, vanishing in the clouds? That's the stuff my nightmares are made of I still consider Koji Suzuki's Edge to be one of the creepiest books ever - what if Pi stops behaving like it ought to? ...You may now resume laughing at me, but to me, this wrongness is the stuff of my nightmares.


Otherlands taps into this type of uncanny wrongness and does so in a great way...but at the same time, I think it does not follow through with its awesome concept - so, you have this invading reality...where are the modifications on how powers, perhaps even Umbra and Eidolon, work? Dissolutions of a Lords'/Lady's powers? Essentially, this book provides a seed from which one can craft more and it does so admirably. At the same time, it falls short in that it does not provide a concise means to have these effects provide mechanical repercussions beyond the inspired fluff.


My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4 stars - a conceptually awesome pdf that "only" manages to be good on its own and needs the reader to come fully into its own.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: The Otherlands (Diceless)
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Cyborgs
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2015 03:19:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Toc, 2 pages explanation on how to use, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so the cyborg as envisioned here is a base class with d8, 6+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as proficiency with simple weapons and any weapons installed in modifications as well as light armors, but not shields. Obviously, they get Technologist as a 1st level bonus feat. The base class's modifications are more defined by two particular abilities, though, the first of which would be the Internal Nanite Matrix - this matrix nets the cyborg a scaling array of central nervous system powered nanite charges (abbreviated as NC), which can be used to power cybernetic modifications as well as tweaks. The array of these points would be equal to 5x class level + Int-modifier, with 8 hours of resting restoring the NC points expended; tweaks need to be prepared in advance.


1st level cyborgs begin play with a basic cybernetic modification and are part of the cyborg's body and thus not subject to disarm or sunder, with duration and power being determined by class levels attained. The cap for using NCs to power these enhancements is equal to the cyborg class level reached and unless otherwise noted, the modifications can be used at will, but have a cool-down period of 1 minute, during which they cannot be used again, preventing the spamming of individual choices. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net an additional such modification. The respective cybernetic modifications the cyborg can choose are interesting in that they tend to have more than one potential use - the basic spine-enhancer that provides an ability-score boost can e.g. provide either cerebral or spinal enhancements. On another interesting note, there are also some modifications that replace certain parts of the cyborg's body -arm modifications, for example, replace the cyborg's arm and hand - on a nitpicky note, I'd very much have appreciated this one precisely stating that the arm in question also eliminates the wrist slot, but that's just me being complaint-prone.


Arm-wise, you can get a weaponized mechabot arm for a circular saw blade arm that can be activated via NCs or get a medibot arm that not only improves healing capacities, it can also unlock certain spells as tweaks usually restricted for spinal implanted cybeorgs. powered arms and shielding arms complement this section and cyborgs may also elect to gain Propulsion Boosters, which may be used for water, underwater, etc. travel of 60 ft + 10 ft. per level in brutal bursts or use this booster to enhance his bull rush/overrun attempts: The jerky burst of speed feels very cyborg-y in its rules to me - kudos! Not all enhancements are this precise, though: Take Regenerative Nanites, one of the dermal implants: "The nanites require exposure to external power source to function. When created, the cyborg chooses a single type of energy (acid, cold, fire, electricity, negative energy, or sonic) to power the nanites. When activated the nanites grant fast healing, repairing a number of hit points each round equal to 1 + the cyborg’s Intelligence modifier, +1 additional point per 5 cyborg class levels. Once damage is fully repaired, the effect stops and the implants must be recharged." Does this mean they're only triggered by being subject to the energy? The wording seems to imply it, though usually, one such energy actually eliminates the nanites and, depending on the energy chosen and the free cantrip-availability of some of them, we might be looking at an easily cheesed infinite healing exploit - and sans the caveat, a similarly easy, but slow infinite healing exploit that is not suitable for every game. From sonar-powered blindsight to oxygen-storing gill-like enhancements and short-range bursts of sonic damage, the class per se features several intriguing and visually compelling enhancements - though aforementioned sonar projector either has a DC that's simply too high or a glitch - instead of 1/2 class level, the save DC is determined by adding full class level, which not only deviates from other abilities of other classes, but also from the majority of abilities of the class. Indeed, such minor imperfections can be found slightly more often herein than usual for a Legendary Games-supplement: The Force Pulse ranged stunning-option, for example, do not specify the damage type the pulse deals. Powerful, at-will NC-based eye-rays can also be found herein, though they do not remain the only component and tool at the cyborg's hands: Starting at 2nd level, the cyborg gains a nanite surge, which nets 1d4 temporary NC that can be assigned to a given modification, but not to a tweak. The cyborg gains another such surge at 5th level and every three levels thereafter, which can also be freely dispersed between a single surge or different, smaller surges.


Additionally, the humanity loss incurred by cyborgs is represented by Charisma-decreases at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. One the nitpicky side, the ability can't seem to decide whether "1 point" or "one point" increase of an attribute should be considered to be the standard. 7th level sees the cyborg determine a rapid recharge modification, which then decreases the recharge-interval. The cyborg may choose an additional such ability every 5 levels thereafter.


At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the cyborg also attains a modification mastery, which should be considered to be the talent-section of the class - these allow for e.g. skill-enhancers, gaining of feats, salvaging cybertech or integrating devices as cybernetic modifications. They can also siphon power from technological items into their nanite matrix, but only to a limit


Cyborgs also cast a type of "spells" called tweaks - these would be governed by Int and are somewhat different from regular spells in that, while they need to be prepared in advance, they are not expended upon being used - instead, they consume NC equal to their level - these "spells" are called tweaks and unlike spells, the cyborg is bound by his level regarding the amount of tweaks known Tweaks may only be replaced at 4th level and every even-numbered level thereafter. The interesting thing regarding these tweaks beyond their uncommon resource obviously lies in their restriction - basically, the modifications also determine the tweaks available - cyborgs with eye-enhancements get different tweaks than those with modified legs.


The pdf also sports 3 feats for cyborgs - while obvious what Anthroposophist means "You resist the effects of humanity loss to your Charisma by 1.", it is simply not too elegant in its wording: "resist" usually denotes resistance, which is the damage-reducing terminology usually employed for energy types and thus implies a flat-out reduction of the attribute decay. This, however, is contradicted by the ability to take the feat multiple times - the wording here could be more precise. The other feats allow for additional NC and the ability to use your body to boost tweaks: This is problematic, though: "You can bolster the effect of one of your tweaks increasing its power level for one use." All right, by how much? I get the Con-based duration, but the feat's actual effects, alas, remain somewhat opaque.


The pdf also sports archetypes for the cyborg (and other classes) - the cybermancer learns a limited amount of sorc/wizard spells as tweaks instead of modification mastery...and this one s pretty nasty: NC-based fireballs? OUCH, particularly since spell surge replaces the nanite surge and can be used to temporarily increase the CL. Hunter-Killers do not gain Technologist or Tweaks, but do gain a rogue's sneak attack progression and 8th level Death attack as well as quarry and an EX-based invisibility...which is very powerful and should, in spite of the flavor, probably be SP, if only for balance/invisibility-counter-measures - as written, this ability is extremely strong, borderline broken with Death Attack. Mechlancers get a cavalier-like mount that is subject to their class abilities and share NC between mount and cyborg - odd: The archetype does not pay for any of the better charges and the like, with the exception of a stunted tweak-progression, which is kind of nasty. Additionally, the archetype fails to specify how cybernetic modifications affect the mount - can the mechlancer modify the mount as a separate entity or is it treated as an extension of the cyborg? I'm not 100% sure and quite frankly believe that this archetype needs clarification.


Bloodragers may elect to become techragers, which get the artificer domain power, crafting, DR and minor bonuses versus poisons, death effects, etc. and at high levels, you may infect foes with a nano-virus than send them into unconsciousness, then kills them and adds a final insult to the injury by making the victim a cyber-zombie, as represented by the template featured herein.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty precise; on a rules-level, though, there are more ambiguities in here than I'm comfortable with. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' beautiful two-column full-color standard for Iron Gods-plug-ins and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports the good type of unobtrusive hyperlinks. The pdf sports gorgeous full-color artworks, some of which you'll know, while others are brand-new.


Tim Hitchcock and Jason Nelson deliver a class I really, really want to love - the cyborg has several thoroughly inspired pieces of content and the way it plays very much mirrors well the feeling of jerky bursts I wanted to see in cyborgs. I am a big fan of the cool-down/recharge mechanic and consider it to be not only awesome, but also rather inspired. At the same time, though, this pdf is haunted by instances of flawed rules-language, imprecise tidbits and, worse, some options that fall in the borderline broken category - I'm not sold on the balancing of archetypes, the wording of feats, infinite healing (not suitable for every table, even when slow - personally, I ban every class with this feature...)...you get the idea. While the cyborg as a whole works, there are a LOT of small glitches in the construction of this one that make it feel, ironically, like it was cobbled together from two systems with different power-levels/requirements - on the one hand, you have high-concept awesomeness and complex material done right, on the other, the class sputters and glitches...and the archetypes obviously should have seen a bit more playtesting...


As much as I love a significant section of this pdf, about 3/4 of it, the rest ties into it and is seriously flawed in some sections, dragging down the book. My final verdict, with a heavy heart, will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cyborgs
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Spheres of Power
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/21/2015 04:23:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Spheres of Power is one massive book - 230 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of KS-backer-thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 220 (!!!) pages of content, so let's dive in!


As you can glean from the sheer length of this book, my usual in-depth analysis would bloat this review to extents unprecedented, so instead, I will paint in somewhat broader strokes than usual - also, since, apart from the well-written chapter-introduction fluff-texts, the vast majority of content herein is CRUNCH.


So, the basic principle is pretty simple: Spheres of Power represents an alternate magic system that can work as a substitution for the default vancian casting and alongside it. Personally, I'd suggest using it as a replacement, mainly for a couple of reasons. For one, there is the factor of terminology. Spheres of Power utilizes the term "Caster Level" to mean something different - basically, it could be likened to the base attack bonus and, similarly, there are full, 3/4 and 1/2 progressions for classes and the like you'd convert to the system: Paladins, for example, would adhere to 1/2 CL-progression as "low casters." Saving throws are no longer based on spell levels, and instead adhere to the classic 10 + 1/2 caster level +casting ability modifier, if appropriate. Casting ability modifiers (CAM) are dependent on the respective class used. Casting time ranges from 1 hour to 1 swift action and distances adhere to pretty much the concise close, medium, long distinction we already know from spells.


Characters utilizing the Spheres of Power-system also utilize spell points equal to class level + casting ability modifier. It should be noted that the multiclass rulings for these basic components are VERY smooth and easy to grasp. Spheres of Power also introduces the MSB and MSD - Magic Skill Bonus and Magic Skill Defense. MSB is equal to total levels in casting classes; MSD is equal to 11 + total levels in casting classes. This becomes relevant in instances of pure concentration or when pitting your magical force against another caster becomes the relevant thing you're trying to do. Concentration is d20+MSB+ability modifier - for spell-level interactions, an effect's spell level is equal to 1/2 caster level, with the option of manifesting a magical effect voluntarily at a lower caster level to render concentration easier. Penetrating SR is done via d20+MSB - simple, elegant and the same ease also works for any call for CL-checks: You instead roll MSB.


...


And that's about the basics. The system's core rules fit comfortably on two pages. That's a GOOD thing. Even better, the presentation is so simple and concise, it renders grasping the system hilariously easy. There also is no divine/arcane divide anymore, just fyi - so yes, false gods and the like...suddenly a much more likely narrative option. It gets better: Magic is divided not into traditional schools and subschools, but into spheres. Each time your caster level increases, you get magic talents - these can be used to unlock new spheres OR to learn special tricks within your available spheres.


You see, each sphere has basic abilities that work at-will (byebye, 5-minute adventuring day/nova issue...)...and others, that require the expenditure of spell points. Hence, you can actually remain relevant as a caster sans burning through your resources and still shine in your core competences - though, obviously, burning through your resources will yield its own benefits. This basic system also allows for exceedingly simple customization of existing classes into the frame-work of spheres of power, meaning you will not be missing out on your favorite 3pp-class or archetype, just because your group opted to go for Spheres of Power.


From the very get-go, this radically changes how magic and particularly, magic specialists, work - you no longer have a specialization represented in things you can't do, but rather by the things you CAN do AND, at the same time, you get magic that is less prone to resulting in nigh-godlike omnipotence casters at high levels - basically, sphere casters will excel at their given fields, with literally your choices each level mattering more than your class or its access to ridiculous amounts of resources, but at the same time, they will be at the same time more restricted. Magic at once becomes more manageable, but also more reliable and less bursty than in the vancian default. A total of 20 spheres are provided and each covers a significant array of utterly awesome options.


Let's take the Alteration-sphere as the first example, shall we? If you're like me and have been delving into the gritty details of shapechanging and its mechanics, you'll have noticed a serious array of pretty complicated details hiding in the proverbial shadows of polymorph-y effects - granted, the issues have been mitigated a bit by Pathfinder, but there still are ample instances wherein a particular modification of one's body becomes problematic and requires some dedicated close-reading. Alteration's basic ability, Shapeshift, requires a standard action to activate and shifts either you or a touched creature, with a duration of concentration. Unwilling creatures receive a save and necessitate the expenditure of 1 spell point to shift.


Additionally, you can expend 1 spell point to maintain shapeshift for 1 round/caster level sans concentration for 1 spell point. The ability is codified properly as a polymorph effect, and yes, we get rules for interactions between shapeshift effects, allowing you to MSB-check to see which shift prevails. Targets affected lose extraordinary and supernatural abilities and instead gain those noted...and yes, equipment and magic item activation is also properly covered. Disguise-interaction can be found and intriguingly, targets can also be partially changed via blank form, granting them e.g. low-light or darkvision, natural attacks (all sporting the proper primary/secondary classification) or cosmetic appearances.


Now this is the extent of things you can do with just access to the sphere - sans talents. Add talents into the fray and things become really interesting: Want to transform into animals or makes other creatures into humanoids? Check. Just affect the mind of the target, for a lycanthrope-like berserk, animalistic state? Check. Add lunging to natural attacks? Check. Poach amid nice monster abilities à la trip or tremorsense? Yup. Size changes? Bingo. You won't be able to do them all unless you specialize, but if you wanted a shapechanger with a focus on the undead and vermin...well, here you go, 2 talents and you're covered. And btw.: I am only lightly touching on the options one single sphere allows you to have...now contemplate what you can build with 20 of them!


Obviously, the material provided herein not only shows some extreme care regarding its rules-language and set-up, it also needs, by virtue of its "alternate system"-ambition, be able to cover the most divisive aspects of magic, the ones with the most potential for issues...and beyond complexity beasts like aforementioned alteration, there are two spheres that pretty much exemplify the basic tenets of combat-centric magic: Destruction and Life. Destruction's base ability is somewhat notorious, since it originally provided force-damage blasts at-will...which is a pretty nasty, since it is the best damage-type you can conceivably have and makes incorporeal foes too easy to eliminate. It is my happy duty to report that the damage-type has since been changed to bludgeoning, rendering the warlock-y blasting the sphere grants as a base ability less problematic.


The scaling of +1d6 every odd level and the limited range still maintain reasons for non-magical ranged weapons to exist, though you can use talents to extend the range - again, a matter of player agenda. Each blast can be further customized by one blast shape and one blast type talent, which allows for some form of control. Now, yes, this is a pretty simple means of adding warlock-y blasting capacity to your caster, but at the same time, this is the one sphere I'm not completely blown away by - mainly, since I'm a huge fan of the highly customizable ethermagic introduced in Interjection Games' Strange Magic-book: The variety there and the unique options as well as the damage-scaling are a tad bit more precise and refined and personally, I consider the resource-management there a bit more compelling...but know what? If you're mathematically up to the task, you can fuse the two/recodify ethermagic as its own sphere - the easy basic structure of spheres of power allows for such blending and ultimate, that is perhaps the biggest strength of the system.


The Life sphere, then, would be the other means by which a system could be broken: After all, this one is all about healing and by now you know how much I loathe any system that provides infinite healing. The Life sphere does just that...and at the same time, it doesn't. The base, at-will ability, allows you to provide temporary hit points to a touched target, but only up to your CL and only when the target is injured - basically, you can band-aid minor injuries, while major ones require the expenditure of spell points for proper healing, which the sphere also provides. While quite a few minor negative conditions and even ability damage can thus be alleviated via the expenditure of spell points, the tying to the resources of the respective character (remember: One pool of points for ALL spheres...), suddenly, we have an interesting resource-management game here that emphasizes the severity of different injuries by virtue of whether they can be covered by invigorate or not. My one gripe here is that invigorate's scaling could have been a tad bit less linear at higher levels, when damage far eclipses its usefulness, but then again, I can modify that to properly fit my own tenets with just a modicum of preparation and basic math. The impressive component with this sphere, at least in my book, is that it manages to provide an infinite source of HP-replenishment without breaking the game in play - even in relatively gritty contexts. Flavor-wise, it also does not suffer from in-game logic issues that haunt similar solutions or healing surges...so yes, consider me thoroughly impressed.


These three spheres, highlighting some of the most problematic potential aspects, should provide enough insight on why this system as a base set-up, has merit...but we're not just left with it. Instead, we get no less than 11 (!!!) base classes.


Since my usual in-depth analysis would bloat this horribly, please bear with me as I'm going through them at an enhanced pace:


The Armorist: d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB, good Fort-save 1/2 caster progression via Wis. This guy can create special bonded equipment (weapon, armor, etc.) with preset enchantments and swap between them on the fly in combat. Like it!


The Elementalist: d8, 4+Int skills 3/4 BAB, good Fort- and Ref-save 3/4 caster progression via Cha. Take the Destruction sphere for free with slightly better elemental enhancements as well as some monk-y tricks like evasion. Another Airbender-esque class. Okay when you're looking for it with Spheres, but I've seen cooler takes on the concept.


The Eliciter: d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB, good Will-save, 3/4 caster progression via Cha. This guy is pretty much the instigator/enchantment-type of manipulator who supplements his spellcasting via 3+1/2 class level hypnotism-abilities; If gaslighting, (de-)buffing and generally being a good face is something you enjoy, then that's a great class for the subject matter.


The Fey Adept: d8, 4+Int skills per level, good Will-save, 1/2 BAB, full caster progression via Cha. If the name wasn't ample clue - here we get the illusion sphere as a bonus talent and generally supplement these tricks with shadow/nature-themed tricks. If creative illusions and fooling foes with nasty tricks is your game, then this is the one you want. Also, obviously, if you like the slightly sinister tint of fey-type material. (In Midgard, this would e.g. be interesting...)


The Hedgewitch: d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB, good Will-save, 3/4 caster progression via either Int, Wis or Cha, chosen at first level. This class chooses a tradition that can be considered a thematic "bloodline"-like concept that represents different takes on the concept of the witch, with individual, exclusive customization options.


The Incanter: d6, 2+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB, good Will-save, full caster progression via Int, Wis or Cha. This essentially can be summed up as the full-caster grab-bag class - basically, you can trade in things like domains and bloodlines (obviously minus spells and the like) for specialization points, which can be gained by losing the bonus feats of the class in ever-increasing amounts. The class also allows for such specializations to modify the spheres. Nice one.


The Mageknight: d10, 2+Int skills per level, Full BAB, good Fort- and Will-saves, 1/2 caster progression via Int, Cha or Wis. This would be the pala, bloodrager, magus-y garb-bag class. With Stalwart (evasion for Fort-and Will-saves), it has one of my pet-peeve abilities at 3rd level and over all, feels a bit like it doesn't really manage the grab-bag aspect that well...nor its own schtick. Among the classes presented herein, it's perhaps one of the conceptually weaker ones.


The Shifter: d8,4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB, good Fort- And Ref-saves, 3/4 caster progression via Wis, would, surprise, be the kind of druidy/alteration-sphere-specialist that lets you (and allies) go full blown wolpertinger via further natural attack/tricks and customization options.


The Soul Weaver: d6, 2+Int skills, 1/2 BAB, good Will-saves, full caster progression via Cha. This would be the healer/cleric/necromancer-type character that is determined by channel energy and the duality of blessings and blights. Nice one!


The Symbiat: d8, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB, good Ref- and Will-saves, 3/4 caster progression via Int. perhaps the class with the coolest fluff: Basically, you have a strange psionic aberration from the far realms/outer dark fused with your very souls, granting better tricks of the Mind and Telekinesis spheres and psionic-flavored additional tricks. Anime-Psion, the class, effectively. I like it enough to be thinking about how to blend this with DSP's psionics.


The Thaumaturge: d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB, good Will-save, full caster progression via Int, Wis or Cha. Theme-wise, this one is a bit occult-y, having the ability to enhance his tricks for the chance of backlash and a general sense of the Spheres of Power-class for the grittier games...make no mistake, though: These guys can still go pretty much blast-happy on foes.


All right, so that would be the base-classes...but that's not even close to the end of this massive book. Instead, next, there are archetypes - in fact, one for each core class. Don't want to do the conversion work? Here's what you need. Neat! The 10-level bokor PrC would be particularly feasible for campaigns featuring both spells and sphere-casting, since it can be envisioned as a hybrid vancian/sphere-caster. Nice if you require the like; personally, I think Spheres work better as a substitution.


Okay, where things get interesting, at least for me, is with the advanced magic-chapter: Instead of smashing these components into the design of the vanilla spheres, the advanced magic talents provided can be envisioned as the rather brutal options: 2-mile darkness? Check. Tsunamis and summoning? Check - This section is absolutely, marvelously, brilliant. Why? Because it does right what so many systems like this do not get: There is a lot table-variation out there. From low-fantasy grit to epic high-fantasy, from magic suffused space-opera to horror-esque sci-fantasy, there are infinite ways to play the game - and this chapter collects the high-fantasy, huge AoE, narrative effects and takes that requirement off the GM's shoulders: No skimming through the spheres and disallowing certain options - simply restrict this chapter (or unlock) it at your leisure and there you go. Quite honestly, this is absolutely stunning: Want to play a game where PCs can unleash tsunamis against dragon-fleets? Allow! Want to play gritty survival at low levels? Ban (at least for the PCs...)! Simple, elegant and as tightly phrased and presented as possible. A joy to read and a fistpump-worthy hell yeah moment if there ever was one.


Secondly, rituals deserve special mention - know how I mentioned that imho, this works best as a substitution? If you're like me, you will have rolled your eyes and thought: "Oh great, so module xyz, which banks on spell zyx, now won't work." Enter rituals. Basically, this allows you to redesign spells into sphere-based rituals that duplicate the spell's effects and aligns them with spheres. While personally, I'm not a big fan of adding the power imbalance of the triple scaling axis of spells back in, particularly when a module requires the like, a limited system-transparency is thus maintained...and you can still tinker with the casting time (which is increased significantly) even further: This allows magic to have a Sword & Sorcery-style flair: Sure, there is the quick sphere-casting...and then, there is the time-consuming, dread, city-leveling rituals...and you can add wonderful lists of exotic components to the fray for further adventuring opportunities and means for the PCs to foil evil ritualists. Optional pricing and tables of strange effects further supplement this use of the rules.


The Spellcrafting system that allows you to make your own magical effects, at least to me, somewhat pales in its actual requirement (seeing how many spells can be converted), but who am I to complain...particularly when my beauties, one of my favorite sub-systems, incantations, are covered as well? This book, at this point on my initial read, had achieved an almost creepy level of "EZG likes it" - something further escalated by the copious player options that not only manage to get counterspelling and circle casting and contingencies right; no, beyond mere feats and the like, it was the accumulation of casting traditions that further elated me to levels of joy seldom obtained: Basically, you choose boons and drawbacks for casting traditions, representing benefits and drawbacks of individual approaches to magic, with general and sphere-specific ones all coming together in one glorious customization fest that should have both players and GMS alike grin from ear to ear.


Okay, but what about the magic items? One whole chapter is devoted to magic items, crafting and modified effects, further underlining the massively-detailed, holistic approach of the book. And yes, you'd be right in a way that this book may sound daunting at first glance - it's really not. Also thanks to a massive chapter guiding you through the implementation of rules, the cherry-picking process and manipulation/creation of more of them - before actually delving into several brief sketches of sample campaign settings sporting the rules- Oh, and, just in case you're like me a grumpy guy and now would begin complaining about "magic not existing in its own vacuum" and things like "world consistency" - what about no less than 6 sample organizations, including traits and TPA/CPA-levels? Heck yes.


But, you know me: I'll still complain over the lack of NPCs. Well, we get those as well. And skeleton/zombie/animated object toolkits. Oh, and char-sheets.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch -while I noticed very minor inconsistencies here and there (one ability reading: (primary...) while another read (Primary...) and the like, at this point, any complaints about those sound hollow. One pet-peeve of mine makes me constantly cringe, though: The books gets cold damage wrong, constantly referring to it as "frost damage" etc. - something that btw. also extends to the expansion..but at least it is consistent in this glitch.


Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with ample of original full-color artworks. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and provides an interactive version of the char-sheet. Unfortunately, I do not own the physical copy of this book, so no, I can't comment on that version.


Adam Meyers, Owen K.C. Stephens, Thomas Keene, Ryan Ricks - gentlemen, you have me utterly flabbergasted. It's time to come clean here: I wasn't excited about this book in the least. Not at all. I saw the KS and literally thought "Meh, don't need it." You see, the pitch of avatar/fiction-like spellcasting simply didn't appeal too much to me. Damn, was I wrong. For one, sphere casting is much (MUCH!) better balanced than vacian spellcasting and the introduction of the material herein should end the martial/caster-strife for most groups. Secondly, this book actually manages something just about unprecedented: It manages to account for table variations in an almost uncanny way: You can use Spheres of Power with Interjection Games-classes, psionics, Akashic Mysteries...and actually get a balanced, cool game. similarly, you could highly restrict it and go full-blown gritty...or utterly anime-style high-fantasy. This system's modularity is a thing of true beauty, its easy means for potential expansion a milestone. Now granted, there are some minor aspects I am not a fan of - stalwart, the destruction-sphere's blasting and similar elements all didn't blow me away - but see, that's the beauty of the system: By means of its elegance and relatively open design, I see no reason why a capable GM couldn't tweak, mesh and blend the living hell out of this system.


Beyond an increased emphasis on meaningful player-agenda, tight rules-language and a holistic claim it actually manages to fulfill, spheres of power also has these cool tidbits: From the advanced customization to relics and incantations, this massive book takes just about anything you could complain about and tells you "Jep, already covered that...here." This may very well be one of the, if not the most refined, yet open casting systems I've seen in a long, long time - one that still can, but doesn't need to, draw on the vast canon of published Pathfinder-material.


If the above, gushing monologue wasn't ample clue for you: Spheres of Power is a phenomenal book, a tome of a quality you only rarely get to see and one that is, quite frankly, significantly better than the limited KS-pitch back in the day ever made me hope it could be. Spheres of Power is a universally, absolutely superb book, one that cannot only inspire characters or the like - it can inspire campaigns. It is my firm conviction that this book belongs into the library of the distinguished Pathfinder-GM: There is an exceedingly high chance that my next campaign will use these rules (alongside non-vancian casting classes by e.g. Dreamscarred Press and Interjection Games) to take a complete break from vancian spellcasting. Not because I don't like spells and the vancian system - quite the contrary, actually. However, because I believe that using this book and using different spellcasting methods lets you tell a whole cosmos of different tales, of different power-levels and dichotomies between casters and non-casters.


I'll say it again - Spheres of Power is one of the most impressive books I've read in a long while; it may not be perfect, but it is a thorough inspiration and I staunchly believe that any group can benefit from at least contemplating using this book when starting a new campaign (or initiating a magic-altering event/switching settings, etc.). Spheres of Power is a milestone-level book I will certainly try to get in print. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, seal of approval, nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 as well as the EZG Essentials-tag, since its facilitation for story-telling and its ridiculously high scavenging/system-fusion potential. A stellar tome, well worth every cent of its fair asking price.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Power
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Mythic Minis 80: Inherent Advancement
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/21/2015 04:20:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review


All right, the final mythic mini for now clocks in at 4 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page content, let's go!


So, what is this about? Well, as anyone who has played the game, particularly in a low/rare-magic game knows, the engine's numbers are predicated on a certain array of items: Rings of protection and cloaks of resistance in particular alongside ability-enhancing items. What this pdf proposes is an interesting alternative, namely the awarding of mythic tiers instead of treasure, while also championing a concentration of treasure in key items - a practice I'm btw. preaching and using myself in my games, with scaling magical items being common in my games - so yes, this makes magic items feel less super-market-like...which is a damn good thing in my book.


But the system presented is pretty elegant beyond that: Basically, every time a character gains a level, he may choose one of the following benefits, with the abilities having caps, but stacking.


Inherent Bonuses and Magical Arms and Armor: Weapons are ONLY magical in the hands of a character that has taken the ability for either magical arms or armor and shield; To use a weapon +2 at its proper potency, a character would need to take the ability for weapons twice, for example.


Items like rings of protection do not exist in their usual form, instead being command-word items that duplicate spells, with several suggestions provided.


Finally, there are ability-enhancements, better casting, resistances, skills, toughness, feats, AC and the like -a relatively diverse selection of benefits


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jason nelson's inherent advancement mythic mini ends the series with a massive bang; I absolutely love this little pdf; my only gripe with it being that I'd REALLY love a full book that codifies the magic items this eliminates in more detailed manner - a massive inherent advancement book, with class-specific inherent advancement paths and unique benefits. This has HUGE potential and on the one page allotted, the basics are covered for a system that almost begs to be expanded upon. Capturing me like few books in the series have, this gets full 5 stars + seal of approval...and my ardent hope that the rules will be significantly expanded upon in the future - so we may put boring items and Christmas-tree-characters studded with lame magic items to rest for once and for all.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 80: Inherent Advancement
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Pathways #54 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/21/2015 04:18:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rite Publishing's Pathways clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 12 pages advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I usually don't do free books anymore, but since a patreon asked me to cover the current Pathways, here we go.


After Dave Paul's well-written editorial, we begin with Rite Publishing's mastermind Steven D. Russell providing a new template, this time around the CR+2 dread phantom armor template, which is, in the tradition of templates with the "dread" prefix, an actually badass, properly deadly version of the concept featured, including a dread curse to negate armor and equipment-based bonuses...OUCH!


One of the most prolific and constantly high-quality-delivering freelancers out there, Mike Welham, has a collection of truly unique items up his sleeve: magical snow-globes. Whether strange snowmen or avalanches, the copious array of unique effects that always transcend being paltry spells in cans render this item category interesting indeed: A well-crafted and truly fun article.


Dave Paul's subterranean spells receive a second showcase in this pdf, but this time around, Creighton Broadhurst's table does warrant special and more in-depth mention: There is a massive potion-generator allowing a GM to create a huge array of different means for GMs to create all kinds of odd and diverse alchemical potions, including mechanically relevant options alongside those that are...cosmetic, but interesting. An inspired collection of tables here and one followed up with 20 things to loot from a wizard's body.


Andrew Marlowe also has some new material for us with Winter's Chosen - an article containing 9 new feats for the chosen of winter - including a cool-down, short-range breath weapon. While the former is a bit OP in some campaigns, this chapter still is inspired...why? Well, there are, for example, feats which utilize a specific weapon enchantment, which allow you to perform additional attacks with unique effects, but at the cost of suspending the item's enchantment for some time - I haven't seen that one before and actually enjoyed it! Oh, and the flavor was great...so yes, I'm using these for my NPCs... Oh, and the chapter also sports new equipment tricks and 3 wondrous item tricks - cool! (...get it?...Sorry, will punch myself later...)


Next up would be none other than Adam Meyers, the man behind Drop Dead Studios, the man who crafted the legendary Spheres of Power-system with a cool interview that you should read...and then, we close the issue, as always, with a best-of of my own reviews and the Path Less Traveled-comic by Jacob Blackmon.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed some minor hiccups, none were too serious. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf's cover art is awesome.


This installment of Pathways, while briefer than its predecessor, does have some truly neat features - whether the template, Creighton's potion-generator, Mike's snowglobes or Andrew's feats - each of the components warrants downloading this one...after all, know what? This one is FREE. It costs zilch, nothing - and it is damn well worth each MB on your HD. Seeing that there's literally nothing to lose in checking this out, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways #54 (PFRPG)
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Lost in Dream (Fiction)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2015 02:45:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


I'm going to deviate a bit from my usual standard here, since Lost in Dream is a fiction book - at 273 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of editorial 1 page ToC, 1 page author bio, 1 page back cover, this one leaves 266 pages of content, so what do we get here?


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


This being a fiction review, I am going to deviate in one crucial point from my usual shtick as a reviewer - I will not tell you explicitly what the story is about. Instead, I will try to give you a general idea and analyze the respective characters and plot according to my skills. Lost in Dream, first and foremost, is a novel set in the Dreamlands also shared by the legendary Coliseum Morpheuon; and yes, I purposefully evoked the Dreamlands here, not the Plane of Dreams - this is, very much in its tone and originality, a novel seeking to evoke the sheer wonder and grotesquery of H.P. Lovecraft's legendary story - and it actually succeeds in this endeavor for the most part; unlike it, though, we begin in medias res in the company of a man called Rube (probably not coincidentally named akin to the famous Cartoonist...) and his daughter, as they're standing aboard a vessel of the dread Denizens of Leng, watching a titanic sea monster gobble up telepathic whales...but as so often in dreams, things are not as they seem.


You see, one of the big strengths of this novel lies in the way that the prose, by omission and misdirection, manages to captivate the fleeting, opaque and unstable nature of dream itself - without, surprisingly, becoming annoying. An example: Rube's daughter (and no, that's not a SPOILER - it's the first chapter...), isn't with him, his initial conversation a lull, a phantom conjured forth by reality, more so than perception in general, being fluid.


Which brings me to a second and most important point concerning this novel: Lost in Dream is a gaming novel...and it isn't. You know what they say, the old maxim, that authors should not play RPGs too much to avoid them and their rules creeping into the subject matter, limiting the perspective. (Exceptions to the rule exist - Clinton J. Boomer's novels, for example - though even he deviates in his writing from RPG-y rules and utilize his own setting instead...)


This is and is not true I tend to agree with this notion, mainly due to my intense dislike for most novels, whether they're published for the Forgotten realms, Pathfinder or any other such established setting. Most, not all, mind you. The dislike for this type of novel usually stems from two components: 1) If you're writing for a game system, even implicitly, you're expected to adhere to the system's limitations and as such, e.g. Vancian casting and similar limitations need to be taken into account. 2) While such limitations make for great gaming, in most novels, they fail pretty hard to evoke a sense of tension that drives forth the plot. Similar observations can be made regarding creatures and characters. Ultimately, it is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't"-Catch 22 situation....which brings this rambling excursion full circle.


If you're familiar with the way in which the fluid reality of the realm of dreams is handled in game, you'll also realize several important key factors. For one, the limitations, by virtue of the power of dreams, hopes etc. to shape reality and fuel the narrative, are less pronounced. Secondly, their singular focus and obsessions, in this book, Rube's search for his daughter, becomes less a one-note character motivation and takes on another dimension, one that ultimately shapes the very journey from the shackles of the dread Denizens of Leng to the inevitable conclusion.


Beyond these, one should not be remiss to mention "Jax", the blue-skinned fellow traveler that shakes Rube out of his initial contemplation. Where Rube is the straight man, Jax takes the role of the planes-wise mentor...and it is more often than not that his dialog made me smile: Beyond the scathing sarcasm employed by the good man, his utilization of time-honored insiders like the adored "berk" made me conjure up fond memories of Planescape and all the adventures embarked upon in that context.


The onomatopoeia utilized in the planar slang of Jax does its fair share to entertain the readers, while also cementing the basic feeling of uncanny estrangement (more in an Entfremdung-kind of way, if you're familiar with the literary concept) that is also mirrored by his oscillation between high-brow sentence structures and less refined minor profanities, always creating a picture of someone not 100% used to thinking and speaking as we do...and hitting a stride regarding my own personal predilections.


Which also brings me, personally, to the biggest surprise regarding this novel: You see, gaming novels, particularly those straying deep into the weird and fantastical, tend to lose on one end of the spectrum: Either the threat falls apart and becomes unbelievable, as the heroes nuke the fridge (like Dresden Files' Changes threw the whole premise of any balance or credible threat of...anything to Harry out...) while maintaining the high fantasy aspect. Or, personal, deeply human components take the upper hand and ultimately make you consider them respective protagonists unsympathetic by virtue of them not "getting their act together" when so much's at stake. In a minor way, Rube does fall into the latter category in a minor way...but then again, it is his humanity, the theme of his obsession, his quest, which ultimately fuels the plot of Lost in Dream.


On a character-perspective, the respective protagonists are solid and do their job of serving as a means for identification well; the true value of this book, though, does lie in its absolutely exquisite and inspired world-building, which does render the overall experience of this book rather pleasant. Now, I do know how this sounds, when ultimately, it shouldn't: This is not 2312's plodding and detailed world-building and neither does it feature bland characters that are only tangentially there to justify the world-building: The protagonists very much remain crucial - once again, also thanks to the unique set-up and world provided. If the world is shaped by desires and dreams, one should expect the reality to adhere to them and their fictions - it is thus in a positive way, somewhat akin to Silent Hill 2's narrative, that one can analyze components of the novel as to their respective actions regarding the protagonists...though here, discrepancies are not only existent, they make sense: After all, this is a collective narrative of a reality, not one tailor-made to punish one character.


If all of this sounds too high-brow of an analysis or too plodding, I should not be remiss to mention that this book's overall plot pretty much is a tour-de-force, making this a page-turner, if you will: There is action galore and the pondering I embarked upon above do not represent the focus of the book - they are merely a product of it. It is very much possible to read this as a straight, fun and extremely creative action-laden narrative, should you choose to - though you'd miss out some of the more subtle components of the subtext.


On the formal side, the book comes with a pdf-version, a kindle-version and an epub-version; I used the former to read it and its bookmarks and one-column standard made it easy to read.


Ultimately, this novel is a great read, though one that made me wish it took a bit more time here and there, dived deeper into the psychological ramifications of dreaming and their effect on world, had sported a slight bit more subtle symbolism - but then again, I am a difficult audience to say the least. This book still can be considered an excellent read and a furious debut for author Matt Banach. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost in Dream (Fiction)
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Four Horsemen Present: Gruesome Aberrations
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2015 02:42:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first on the new Four Horsemen Present-pdfs clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!


In case you've new to the concept of "gruesome" templates -in case you've missed the previous installments that featured the concept (for handy links to reviews and products, click on the "Gruesome-series" tab in this review on my homepage): Basically, we get a template as well as a sample creature, both of which deviate from what you usually get to see. First of all, the respective monsters do feature a shock value - particularly suitable for horror/dark fantasy scenarios, these values allow for a simulation of the unsettling effects these creatures can have on the heroes facing them. Beyond that, though, they quite simply tend to be designed in a thoroughly excellent manner that surpasses most creatures, at least in my book.


Why? Well, as you may have gleaned from my reviews, I tend to be a pretty brutal GM, but at the same time, years upon years of horror/dark fantasy games have instilled a desire in me and my players for them to be rewarded for being SMART. Not for being meta-gamey, but for being SMART. Gruesome templates tend to feature offensive/defensive capabilities that render the creatures brutal challenges...but they also feature a weakness the players and PCs can exploit to triumph...and better yet, the templates provide information to actually glean such weaknesses. This makes the series extremely rewarding for both GMs and players - GMs can see the fear in the PCs as they scramble for the hills; players get the satisfaction of seeing the lethal adversaries fall and be destroyed as they exploit their Achilles' heel. I'm a huge fan of this type of design and so far, the supplements featuring the gruesome templates have been superb, to say the least.


The templates herein, after an explanation of the above-mentioned peculiarities, would be as follows: We begin with the CR+0 bound horror, which is tied in its life-force to a place, on object or a person, called the creature's "charge" - they may possess said being and are practically immortal and may even rejuvenate from total destruction: However, via their charge, they can be influenced via their charge. This is pretty much a rendition of the classic "bound to darkness"-trope and the narrative potential is vast: Will the Pcs elect to kill innocent XYZ to stop the dread aberration? Can they escort the haunted charge back to a safe haven to get rid of the constantly respawning beast?


The CR+2 eternal template follows a similar vein: These creatures get MASSIVE defensive capabilities - from bonus feats to resistances and DR, these bastards are exceedingly hard to kill...and they auto-resurrect...only killed in a particular manner, which is unique for each eternal creature and which may be tied to creatures, artifacts, innocents, materials, etc. It is a cool take on the nigh-unstoppable nemesis that combines well with the prior one. That being said, both fill the same narrative niche.


The CR+2 fleshwarper creature can at-will modify its body to adapt to circumstances in both offense and defense. Additionally, a fleshwarper's mere touch can instill painful, paralyzing deformity in a target and even twist the minds of the helpless to serve this nasty being - and yes, this pretty much would allow for a more versatile rendition of Resident Evil 4's adversaries - just add parasites to the mix and there you go. The next template would be a mythic one - the Old One, who adds +1/2 tier to CR. Beyond massive boosts to intellect (minimum 20!!!), their very presence makes non-mythic creatures fall to the floor and grovel before the creature...and the effect may also be wiped from their minds! With triggered suggestion-instilling telepathy and options to ignore the laws of space, these guys are deadly...and yes, permanent confusion-inducing, spellcasting as a caster of their choice with levels equal to HD and yes, they are undying...but also, thankfully, apathetic, which may be the only reason why the PCs survive an encounter with such a magnificent adversary...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports 2 nice artworks.


Stephen Rowe's aberrations deliver - each and every template herein has something serious going on for it and does feature some mechanically interesting tricks. At the same time, I do feel like there could have been slightly less conceptual overlap between the templates - we get 3 variations of the immortal nemesis-beast herein, which, while all different in focus and execution, ultimately serve similar purposes on a meta-level, though at vastly diverging power-levels. Ultimately, this remains my only viable gripe and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Gruesome Aberrations
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