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Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2017 04:46:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 255 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 248 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

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

Okay, so this is a massive book for the...let's say, more unconventional races out there. The respective write-ups have a couple of things in common, so let's start with establishing that: For the most part, the races have either not been properly covered in the respective books that introduced them or get some additional coverage herein; the write-ups contain a well-written prose-introduction to the race at hand, proper age, height & weight tables (YEAH!), the basic racial stats, alternate racial traits, notes on society, nomenclature and the like and racial equipment as well as archetypes. A formatting peculiarity here would be that the archetypes specify an "Associated Class" instead of putting the class-name in brackets behind the archetype's name, but that's a purely cosmetic decision. It is a matter of taste whether you like that the archetypes herein list the abilities they replace and modify in their respective lists in the beginning of the archetype entry. The plus-side is that you quickly see whether the build is relevant for your concept or not. The downside would be that one loses the direct correlation between abilities gained and replaced...but since I figure that this is more important for me in a reviewer-capacity than for people using the options, I will not penalize the book for that choice.

Racial deities can also be found and the respective entries sport sample NPCs for your perusal, beginning at the low levels and scaling up to the higher CRs - while the levels are different from race to race, you generally should find a feasible build for each roughly approximated level-range. 5 such builds are provided per race.

The pdf also contains a MASSIVE array of favored class options for each of the races, covering the classes up to and including the ACG, as well as the Ultimate Psionics-classes - yep, fans of Dreamscarred Press, this book has some serious fodder. Fans of rogue Genius Games amazing Time Thief class will similarly love that the class gets its due here. For those of us who enjoy a dash of science-fantasy, the chapter on racial technology should put a smile on quite a few faces, with 9 spells interacting with racial technology provided for your convenience, taking some of ten classics from ten Technology Guide. Similarly, feats required for crafting etc. have been reproduced in this section and we get specific items for the "non-high-powered" (more on that distinction, or at least as how I see it, later) races that are featured in the book. These items encompass a serum that lets tengu spout wings, heavy gravity beam-weapons (really cool!) or microwave based charge-draining guns. Skinwalkers gain ferocity-enhancing implants as well as enhancer-drugs or claw plating as well as a skinwalker bloodrager archetype that modifies bloodrage to grant less potent numerical benefits, instead enhancing the Mark versions of implanted cybertech as well as floating charges while in his bloodrage. Interesting one!

Samsarans can implant a memory decryption device and I was rather intrigued by the Technology/Time-Thief crossover archetype they get - at the cost of massive set-ups, these guys get less motes, but can use them to grant herself instant turns...and surprisingly, it avoids the readying exploit . From context and logic, it seems like delaying isn't viable either, but as a nitpick, I think it would have helped to spell that out here. Very potent, but interesting option for the class.

Lizardfolk equipment sports selectively harmful poisonous gas thrower, underwater combat tech and internalized triggers, while gillmen receive 3 archetypes: Voidwright arcanists may dabble in the dark tapestry mystery for arcane exploits and can drain tech items. I would not allow this guy. He casts Sor/Wiz spells as divine spells, which is utterly OP. The samurai ancient infantry gains limited bloodrager castintg with a unique list as well as tech expertise instead of mounts and order, which works out surprisingly well - like it! The advanced error dread tech and dread tricks and gains a tentacle at higher levels, but loses 3 terrors and psionic manifesting. Elans gain 5 pieces of cool devices, including hard light thieves' tools and enhancers versus psionic assaults in a solid, if potent item array. The catfolk tech rigger is a modification of the investigator class, replacing poison tricks and the associated alchemy options with appropriate technological replacements. Oh, and no studied strike, but we do get tech bombs. Finally, androids not only receive a rogue archetype, but also ten Technology domain.

Speaking of androids: These guys would be the first race graced with a full entry, so let's move from the tech-guide appendix back to the start of the tome, shall we? One note here: While it would be possible t analyze the content in piece by piece, this would bloat the review to something in the vicinity of 30+ pages - this book is incredibly dense. In favor of readability and to give you a proper overview of the material contained herein, I will thus endeavor to remain brief in my descriptions of the material.

As you can glean from the introduction of androids here, the regular races featured herein rank approximately on par with the stronger core races and plane-touched races. The base racial traits don't tend to be modified, but it should be noted that this does not mean that you won't get new material out of the race trait section: Androids, for example, can benefit from the anomaly alternate racial trait, which eliminates their morale bonus lock-out, but at an appropriately hefty cost. Similar alternates are provided and include making them e.g. being potentially prone to being bluffed. The living weapon brawler uses energy weapons instead of unarmed strikes in his distinct fighting style, while the nanoshade is a ninja who replaces ki pools with nanite reserves and even potentially infuse them into targets. Thought scribe psions replace disciplines and discipline abilities with psionic circuitry and Scribe Tattoo, gaining psionic tattooing at increasing potency. Wiremind cryptics lose the trap-related abilities in favor of some skill bonuses, which sounds unremarkable - but 6th level's ability is somewhat potentially problematic, granting effectively a second psionic focus. Considering the vast combo-potential of quite a lot abilities, this is something I'd be incredibly weary of at that level -I'd frankly disallow it and consider it problematic.

Beyond these archetypes, we get quite a few nice class options to evade at higher levels, for example, blindsight, add electricity damage to Elemental Fist, gain some resistances, extra race ability uses -etc. The philosophy, the Final Cause, and the associated inquisitor archetype are solid and the spells as well as the power presented herein (which allows you to Upload yourself into an android body) are intriguing. Items that allow androids to use nanite surges to generate antimagic shields (which are partially selective!) and such make for a cool array as well. It should also be noted that each of the races comes with a small chapter that deals with integration of the race into an ongoing campaign, its themes, etc. -which is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

The second races presented herein would be the catfolk, with the nine lives racial trait being worth of special mention - it can be sued exactly 9 times and can prevent death. This is, obviously, not intended for all campaigns, but depending on the type of game you're running, it can be considered to be amazing. Among the class options, we have the feral rager barbarian, who gains a mobility-focus (dodge-bonuses, Ref- instead of Will-save bonus in rage) in favor of the classic DR etc. Treedancer slayers get a modified talent selection and a replacement for tracking, moving stalker to 7th level and focusing on climbing etc. The race gets a whole array of rogue talents that include subtle communication via tails, fast squeezing, etc. The grymalkin bloodline gets a dazing touch attack. On the racial feat side, we get better flanking etc. as well as Copy-Cat, which allows you to duplicate of a feat used by an ally - its frame is that it requires the feat to be used in that encounter. And it has a per-encounter limit. sigh Insert here my rant on why per-encounter abilities make no sense whatsoever. On the plus-side: Low-range blindsense due to Sensitive Whiskers? Makes sense to me and the high-level Pounce and Rake option will find its fans. The racial deities number 3 this time around and the associated archetype this time around would be the ghost hunter paladin, who is, bingo a nemesis-type archetype focusing on the destruction of incorporeal foes. On the magic-side of things, we have a spell that allows the ignoring of circle of protection and protection from type spells (Yep, adding that to the arsenal of my nasties...) as well as an evil spell to cause toxoplasmosis and the conjuration of a semi-real, feral cat-swarm. A magical prayer kit and a wine that is potent, but used in religious ceremony, enhancing cleric abilities complement this section.

Changelings would be the third race herein and represent perhaps one of the most customizable of races I have seen - the alternate racial traits further diversify the array of choices the base race provides, with the option of Paternal heritage mattering (and replacing the hag heritage). This trait alone covers almost two pages, with races from drow to suli and the ARG-races covered alongside many herein. Kudos indeed! The Heartshorn witch is easily one of the coolest archetypes in the book: The witch removes her heart, making it into a stone - this acts as an Achilles heel, yes, but it also allows the witch to redirect (with restrictions) effects to the stone. This is simple and elegant and I really enjoy it. The incantrix sorcerer is a bit less cool, replacing bloodline arcana and the 9th and 15th level bloodline power with SR, arcane sight and Cha-based Knowledge and Spellcraft. The healing-themed Cleansed sorceror bloodline can mitigate some potent negative conditions and makes for an interesting take on the arcane healer. Some solid rogue talents and the accursed bloodrager bloodline (with limited use staggering gazes and horrific visage as well as other, neat hag-themed abilities) complement this section. We also get a Cleansed bloodrager bloodline that focuses more on gusts of wind to disperse miasmas or purification by fiery bursts, featuring more visceral and less angelic themes than the sorceror version -kudos for making these so distinct from one another.

The feats allow for the further development of the magical ancestry of the race...or for the storing of potions in your lungs (!!). Eye-dyes and 3 racial deities also are part of this chapter and we get no less than 4 archetypes associated with these deities, 2 for the cleric class, 1 inquisitor and 1 ranger, though apart from the caravan-master style ranger, I wasn't blown away by these brief tweaks of the base class. Hag Aspect spells and darklight as well as caps that make you hard to be remembered can also be found here.

Next up would be the elan race and it is one I have a love-hate-relationship with; on the one hand, I adore the race for its unique history and feeling, and on the other...well, if you've ever played a truly efficient elan, you know how potent they can be. The numerous traits featured herein do provide some nice customization options that stand out, providing e.g. temporary crystal armor, being breathless and the like - considering the power of the traits replaced, these make sense indeed. I am not a big fan of the alternate racial trait, which pays for +4 Str,D ex or Con with -2 Charisma, as that renders the race more min-maxy than it already is. This minor guffaw, however, is quickly remedied by one of my favorite archetypes herein, the ratha priest slayer psychic warrior, who specializes in hampering the abilities of the devout. Similarly, the creche defender fighter provides a nice, slightly psionic option - compared to the archetypes of the other races, these stand out via their conceptual strength and the fact that they offer distinct playing experiences. Some crossover rogue talents and the arcane elan bloodline for sorcerors allow for a wider focus for the race than before, which is another plus. The feats provide some nice expasnions for elan abilities in conjunction with psionics and from psiflares to mundane tomes that provide benefits, we have a strong equipment section as well. The racial deity is supplement by a psionics/oracle crossover that works rather well and the psychic domain. 5 solid racial powers can be found -and while one permanently degrades an item's hardness, its massive +5d6 damage boost can be a big issue with characters that have the option to create weaponry ex nihilo....so yeah, I'd strongly suggest banning that one. Speaking of which_: Crystals that can hold psionic focus for paltry +3K should die in a fiery blaze. Considering the massive combo-potential one such crystal alone can yield...

The gillmen section provides claws, among other things, as alternate racial traits (as often, you have to defer to the default rather than having the type of natural attack spelled out), though the angle is interesting - as presented here, the race has been freed from the dominion of their erstwhile masters, which is represented in a more wholesome flavor. Archetype-wise, we get an aqautic monk, the wave crasher, the lightningcaster magus (bingo: electricity specialist) and the tentacled horror bloodrager, who provides the eldritch flavor that you'd have expected, with tentacles that can hold but not use) items and higher-level off-hand tentacle attacks. The precise rules-interactions here can become a tad bit wobbly, as tentacles usually are natural attacks. The section also provides the nice catshark familiar as well as new options, once again including psionic ones and even a temporal talent and the order of the sinking ship, which is a bit problematic: When issuing an order, he is not affected by environmental damage, which RAW would include pits of acid, lava, etc. - it's pretty clear that that's not meant, but still - a more concise wording would make sense here. On the plus side, from giant seahorses to snapping turtles and manta rays, the new companions included are neat. The feats are okay, but I'm not 100% blown away by them, Racial deity wise, we get a good deity and Cthulhu, who also gets Bringer of Insanity warpriests, which tie into the Madness domain and replace sacred weapon with sneak attack - not blown away here. The depths shaman spirit is, on the other hand, pretty cool - and speaking of which, the racial spells this time around are nifty: Conjuring forth basically weaponized salmon to bludgeon your foes is cool. And yes, you can fence with a swordfish. Wall of water is also pretty classic. The magic item section this time around is decent, but not universally so: Adding + casting ability modifier to damage (even possible for SPs) can be rather potent, particularly underwater, when you also add the spell-level of the highest spell/SP known to damage dealt. Yes, it can only be used on melee weapons, but I can get past that as well.

The next race within would be the lizardfolk, who get a potentially diseased bite, chameleon scales, bulky or small physiology - some cool alternate racial options here. The tribal defender fighter would be a defensive fighter who gains several nice abilities that enhance the protection of allies, though the competing attack roll mechanic introduced at higher levels is not something I'm fond of. The cannibal bloodrager bloodline makes for a cool and well-crafted one, though, once again, a high-level option isn't perfect and can be (slightly and not too efficiently) cheesed. The chapter also contains the Anointed One PrC, which provides full BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and 2 + Int skills per level. The PrC focuses on an anointed weapon and the use of oils to enhance it, dabbling a bit in mutagens and discoveries for an alchemical fighter. The option to lock weapons with an attacker is interesting and concisely presented, making use of AoOs and the weapon in question to negate hits, which is per se, damn cool. A GM should just be weary to not let an indestructible weapon such as an artifact fall into the hands of the character. The serious array of racial feats allows for the expansion of the potency of the natural attacks. Personally, I am not a fan of yet another feat to increase the damage output of Vital Strikes. Two racial deities and 3 subdomains can be found, and no, I don't have any issues here. Oracles may choose the albinism curse, which is pretty cool The anti-fire battle-magic squall makes for a potent and neat spell and the magic items, for the most part, are neat - though once again there's an option here to further increase Vital Strike damage. As always, I'd advise caution here.

Among the merfolk, we gain two full-blown subtypes in addition to the alternate racial traits, with the angufolk and the octopi adding some nice visuals, though the latter, with +2 Dex and Con, are a bit lopsided on the physical side for my tastes. Still: Octopi-merfolk. Cool. Archetype-wise, the cyraniel bard is an investigator crossover with diminished spellcasting and an inspiration pool to enhance skills. The thematically-fitting aegan sorceror bloodline, which draws upon the Sea King's powers and the carcharodon bloodragers that tap into the wrath of megalodons, make for solid options, though the former has a purely cosmetic hiccup in the capstone header, sporting the "20" from the level it's gained. I really like the feat that lets you see better in murky water and mud and the swift octo-trip option among the racial feats. Edible cork and coral armor make for nice pieces of equipment. A new power lets you form legs on land and there are some nice utility underwater spells. The iconic belt of the land walker also provides a nice option to allow merfolk to adventure on dry land. I also liked the ink-grenades here and the artifact, the trident of the 7 seas, is appropriately potent!

The chapter on samsarans has the unfortunate handicap of having to compete with the Dynastic Races Compendium, though one should mention that it doesn't do a bad job at it - the alternate racial traits are solid and tie in well with the reincarnation-angle of the race. The pdf takes a different approach here, focusing more on the aspect of time, with the chronomancer wizard (who basically replaces schools etc. with spell echoes and customized bonus spells, arcane bond, etc.), the anti-evil knight eternal paladin and the timeless warden druid, who emphasizes the cyclical nature and is more a guardian-style priest of nature than a wood-stalking hermit, gaining channel energy, but losing wild shape, woodland stride, etc. The Panacean sorceror bloodline would, bingo, be another arcane healing option - their touch can provide nourishment and they even receive some lay on hands and mercy-tricks. Depending on your attributes, you may select feats to retain some knowledge from previous lives and some samsaran priests may even use channel energy to heal ability damage and drain - though thankfully with proper prerequisites and ratio - kudos! On the faith-side of things, the deity presented here is supplemented by the dreams mystery and the vision subdomain, both of which are solid options. I am particularly partial to the nonlethal damage causing touch that comes with a free merciful upgrade at later levels. Showing the truth of a soul via a polymorph-effect or gaining flashes of insight from previous lives are some examples for the spells featured herein...and there is a blade to grant final death to reincarnating creatures. It also makes sense to me that there are capsules that contain information from past lives. All in all, I liked the chapter, but compared to the in-depth look in Dynastic Races Compendium, it was shorter and thus had less space to develop its take on the race.

Next up would be the pretty potent skinwalker race, who gains alternate change shape options among the alternate racial traits and traits to ignore a single 5-ft.-square of difficult terrain while running or charging. The archetypes feature the beastwalker druid, who gains the ability to assume hybrid forms via wild shape. The kinetic assailant replaces the mind-blade enhancing options with the means to use move actions to store kinetic energy in unarmed or natural attacks, increasing their damage output. While generally functional, the core ability of the archetype deviates significantly in the way it is presented from how such rules-operations are usually phrased. As such, there are a couple of rough patches here. The rougarou witch replaces patron and may choose the governing attribute for her magic. With diminished spellcasting and familiar as well as a natural spellstrike variant, the archetype is really intriguing and provides an interesting playing experience - two thumbs up for this one! The wild stalker hunter is a minor tweak. Cursed scars and wounds and new animal foci make for more compelling options. The racial feats focus on enhancing natural attacks (such as using a swift action to add a grapple attempt to a bite), tripping foes that run from you, etc. - all in all an interesting selection and one that thankfully hides pounce behind a sufficient level-cap. Beyond 3 sample deities, we also get a new shaman spirit, who focuses on the moon - including "lunacy" to confuse targets - and yep, that's where the word comes from -in German it's "mondsüchtig" - moon-addicted, but that as an aside. I like the spirit! The moon/hunter-theme also extends to the spell-array, with one allowing for the sharing of the skinwalker's bestial form...The magic items cover an iteration of the classic lycanthrope-mantle, transformative masks and shape-locking arrows.

Next up would be the tengus, who can hail from ravens and sports a rather nice assortment of traits and solid alternate racial traits as well - no complaints here! Aerialist swashbucklers focus on jumping over foes, attacking them from above, etc., while crow shamans get modified class skills and spells as well as some trickster style at-range theft...and item-cloaking. Nice one! Kite fighters specialize in the war kite (!! - That's a new weapon herein, btw.) weapon, while raven knight cavaliers get a raven that can carry them at 1st level at 1/2 speed (important note, considering the limitations of aerial mounts - but I still wish it didn't use an absolute value and instead employed proper carrying capacity and size-interactions. Spell scavenger wizards can use left-over magic to power spells and siphon off magic from dispels - interesting. A critical Eye Gouge feat is interesting...though move action combat feat duplication once again suffers from per-encounter mechanics. Using filth to make weapons infectious is...disgusting, but cool. The pdf contains two racial deities as well as an OP damage channeler, whose channel energy damages both living and undead, excluding the character. Yeah, no. Full untyped damage there? Nope. The spying subdomain is nice and so are the new magic options, which include the long nose curse, sword snapping bite and the theft of eyes. The magic items include geta that allow tengus to walk through hurricanes and warkites that help jumping or call down lightning. Pretty cool chapter!

The final two races herein would be more potent than the others, which is why I considered them to be worthy of extra mentioning - the wyrwood has full construct immunities (but also their instantaneous 0 hp destruction), while the wyvarang begins play with unassisted personal flight. Both are imho aspects that require some GM-consideration. But both also have in common that we have basically heard and seen nothing about them or their respective culture before, with the wyrwood entry making pretty clear that they can be an intriguing option when handled with care. Their crafted nature and stone-based variant, the latter provided in the alternate, make for an interesting background. Similarly, there is an option for a wyrwood to have emotions, unlocking them for a variety of options. The character options have a really cool tactician, who gains 3 unique strategies as well as the option to act as full cover for allies and some free-form temporary hit points that are shared among the collective - I assume that these are replenished after a rest, but I'm not 100% sure - they could also manifest upon forming a collective. The golembreaker would be anti-construct/undead/etc. rogue - nice! Alchemists can gain construct-healing options via a discovery and there is the eldritch bloodline, which, for bloodragers, features shield and low-range force damage for those nearby while in a bloodrage. The sorceror iteration of the bloodline instead features at-range Sleight of Hand, spying, etc., focusing on arcane subterfuge. Feats to craft Wyrwoods and repair them are neat, but I am particularly impressed by the ability to hold positive or negative energy for a limited time and deliver it to targets - the two feats here are really intriguing. A form of variant channeling for constructs and two philosophies can be found alongside the amaranthine mystery, which focuses on knowledge and construct mastery - including flooding the minds of foes with information. Construct-affecting cure-variants can be found, and the remainder of the magic and psionic options is decent, with e.g. a psionic shield other variant. In the magic item section, an item class that can absorb energy damage to regain spell levels deserves some serious warning, as the item class can delimit spells. The massive price is what keeps me from complaining more here - not broken, but potent.

The wyvaran, forged by the Tinkerer from kobolds and wyverns in the magical forge known as Cauldron (no, not the city in the Volcano!) come with a slew of alternate racial traits that include honoring the trapmaking of their kobold forebears, poison glands, better darkvision and fast healing when taking electricity damage - thankfully with a daily maximum to avoid infinite healing exploits. The class options include the intuitor investigator, who replace Inspiration with Intuition (which is governed by Wisdom, as are other class features). Regulator rangers replace the druid-y components of the ranger with warpriest tricks, while stormlancer cavaliers gain either the Air or Weather blessing and flight-enhancing tricks instead of the whole mount/charge-tree - cool one! Skylord monks lose fast movement and slow fall in favor of better flight options. The wyvern bloodline allows, among other things, a bite and the option to assume a semi-wyvern form at higher levels. Including poison. The racial feat array includes several ones that enhance flight as well as options to use wings defensively and the option to use tail or wings for attacks - cool: These are properly codified as secondary/primary natural attacks. The equipment section sports shrieking armor (which makes a ruckus when charging) and there are two racial deities provided. Reaper clerics can deliver inflict spells via weaponry and they can use their scythes to generate arcs of energy that are half negative energy and half "pure force" - does that mean force damage? I'm honestly not sure, but either way, losing a domain and channel energy makes for a viable trade-off for these potent tricks. The racial spells include the 9th level pillar of doom, which is pretty damn badass (it can explode or topple) as well as the updraft cantrip, which can help while flying. The magic items this time around are less interesting in my book, offering a crown that causes panic, a morningstar with form of the dragon I - you get the idea.

It should be noted that the book contains a massive spells & powers appendix by class and level, as well as a massive 5-page index that helps navigating this massive tome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive for a crunch-book of this size. I mean it. The bonus and damage types are admirably, impressively consistent, the rules-language and narrative voices of the respective chapters have been brought together into a concise whole - the editors Richard Moore and Kevin Morris have done a really good job here. Considering the number of authors involved, that's an impressive accomplishment! Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the book sports a significant array of full-color artwork, both original and stock pieces. The book comes with EXCESSIVE, nested bookmarks for your convenience - in conjunction with the appendices, this makes navigation of the tome very comfortable. I cannot comment on the physical version, since I do not own it.

My heartfelt congratulations to the cadre of authors: Michael Eshleman, Joel Flank, Sasha Hall, Maurice de Mare, Dale McCoy Jr., Matthew Ryan, Richard Moore, Ken Morris, E. Steev Ramsdell, David N. Ross, Rachel Ventura and Goerge "Loki" Williams. Racial books have a hard time convincing me of their reason to exist - you see, I expect more from a race than stats - I expect a culture, an interesting roleplaying angle. That alone is, for many races, a hard task. This book had an even harder standing. I never made any pretensions of liking the ARG - I hate the book with a fiery passion. This tome is largely based on races from the ARG - but it manages to make them feel like more than the sum of their mechanics, adding depth and dimension to them. Now, I consider the wyvaran and wyrwood races, balance-wise, problematic; same goes for the skinwalkers, but it would not be fair to penalize this book, as it was crafted to build on the existing races. To cut an already oversized review short: This massive tome manages to add much-needed depth to the respective races. The racial class options, while not all pure amazing, most of the time tie in with racial options and forma concise whole that makes it pretty clear how they tie in with the race in question. This focused identity adds further dimensions to the races in question. The fluff serves to enhance the individual entries as well.

For a book of this size and depth, let it be known that the crunch is impressive - while there are some instances where I can complain and nitpick, as a whole, the book holds up really well. My gripes come mainly from my knowledge of combos, from minor nitpicks and a rather conservative power-aesthetic. I think, for example, that psionic options herein tend to severely undervalue the massive power that more psionic foci can net. It should be noted, that crunch I'd consider problematic remains the exception in a massive book.

Most folks probably will encounter no issues with the material herein and it should be strongly emphasized that the majority of the material herein works smoothly - to the point where I was honestly impressed. This may not be perfect, but it most assuredly is a high-quality compilation and an incredibly tightly-packed book of crunch that brings to life races that were nothing but pale stats before. What more can you ask for? If you hated these races before, then this book may change actually that! If you wanted more detail, then this book will deliver. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium (PFRPG)
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Incarnate Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2017 04:43:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

The incarnate is a hybrid of oracle and barbarian and receives d12 HD as well as 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons, as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Incarnates draw spells from the cleric spell list, which are first gained at 4th level. The spellcasting is spontaneous and governed by Charisma. They don't require a divine focus and may not swap mystery or cure/inflict spells when leveling up - as a minor complaint, these spell-references have not been italicized. Spellcasting caps at 4th level, just fyi. The class gets full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves.

2nd level provides uncanny dodge, 5th improved uncanny dodge and 7th level yields DR 1/-, which increases by +1 at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter. The incarnate begins play with fast movement and the oracle's curse - this sports an ambiguity: As oracle curse progression is usually tied to to levels, with non-oracle levels and HD counting as 1/2 levels, so it's not 100% clear whether incarnate levels are treated as oracle levels or as other levels for the purpose of this ability. 14th level nets a +4 bonus to Will-saves versus enchantment spells (but RAW, not abilities) while soulraging.

What is soulraging? Well, it is one of the defining features of this hybrid class: 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds for every level first level. While in soulrage, the character receives a +4 profane bonus to Str and Con (interesting bonus type choice) and a +2 morale bonus to Will-saves, but -2 to AC. The ability gets temporary hit point increase etc. right. Unlike a barb's rage, soulrage does not hamper skills that require concentration and incarnate spells (and only them - kudos!) can be cast while in soulrage. Soulrage btw. qualifies as rage for the purpose of feats and prerequisites. Analogue to the barbarian, 11th level provides an upgrade of the bonuses to +6/+3, respectively, with 17th level providing the tireless and 20th level the big +8/+4 upgrades.

However, soulrage, starting at 11th level, does allow for a unique trick: Upon entering soulrage, you can apply the effects of a cleric or mystery spell of 2nd level or lower to herself, with the limitation of requiring a range of touch or personal - and the use still consumes the spell slot. If the duration exceeds 1 round, it lasts for the whole soulrage, which is the aspect I consider most problematic here, as there are spells with durations that are significantly lower for a reason. The capstone eliminates the 2nd-level restriction, just fyi.

The second defining feature of this hybrid class would be its mysteries - chosen at first level, these act pretty much as you'd expect them to, but they are distinct from those of the standard oracle. The mysteries add 3 skills to the list of class skills and grant mystery bonus spells at 7th level and every 3 level thereafter, up to the 16th. As a minor complaint: The mystery base ability's wording mentions a spell gained at 4th level and the spell-progression mentioned in the base ability directly contradicts that of the mysteries themselves and the table - I assume that the latter are correct. Still, this is a pretty nasty hiccup that should have been caught. A total of 10 different mysteries are detailed herein, focusing mostly on a nature theme. The respective mysteries govern the precise abilities gained at 1st level, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, providing a linear ability progression in the revelations gained - in short, they behave a bit more like bloodlines than mysteries. Where appropriate, they are governed by Charisma, just fyi.

To give you a brief run-down of the mysteries: Battle provides expanded proficiencies - all martial AND exotic weapons (!!) - but the latter only while raging. 4th levels yields a high-range chant that provides minor bonuses to allies - and lacks an activation action, duration or what it takes to maintain it. We can also find better AoOs into threatened areas and, at high-levels DR based on stoneskin, replacing your regular DR...which may, in some situations, be a minor drawback, as stoneskin has a fixed cap of preventable damage AND revelation powers only work while soulraging. on a cosmetic side, the two highest level ability names have not been properly italicized.

The Bones mystery nets you an armor bonus-granting (and later also DR-granting) bones-armor while soulraging (COOL!) - but does the "last after soulrage ends"-timer rest upon reentering soulrage? the ability-interaction here is a bit wonky. Adding bleeding wounds to negative damage is nice, but if you don't take an inflict spell, you're locked out of the benefit until you gain the follow-up revelation power, since RAW, the incarnate does not have the spontaneous spell-conversion. High-level abilities here net you undead to fight beside you and a negative energy touch. Once again, action-economy is not always as clear as it should be - something that extends to quite a few abilities throughout the mysteries, mind you.

The respective mysteries also influence the capstone, mind you, with each granting a form of Apotheosis that is sufficiently strong - and the small rules interaction glitches herein do accumulate, unfortunately: I like e.g. a power word: kill 1/day, with hit point limit increased to 150, but I think it probably was intended to be a SP and thus codified. There is a cool heat aura in the flame mystery that causes damage and grants concealment with limited daily uses, fire breath, etc. - as a minor complaint, a couple of these should probably refer to class levels, not levels "Heavans"([sic!] - that typo is the header...) provides some cool star-based defensive and offensive options - including a nice idea to represent the dweller in dark via spells.

The life mystery nets channel energy while in soulrage. RAW, however, only damage healed and caused is used for the calculation, which means that daily uses are locked. That being said, transformation into a being of life is a pretty cool visual! (And yes, I can poke some minor holes in this one as well, but by now you get the idea.) The Lore mystery suddenly mentions a patron that the class does not have and focuses on violently probing the mind of others, representing the war-scholar type of trope. Nature has abilities that stabilize you via temporary fast healing and the option at higher levels to leech hit points (should be negative energy damage, imho) and gain temporary hit points. This would btw. be a place to mention an issue in rules-interaction: Several revelation powers duplicate spells as accompanying effects upon entering soulrage. However, these include summons, which I assume will vanish - still a ruling on duration-interactions would be fitting here. Stone provides reflexive weapon damage, stability and the like. Waves include cold damage and slow on critical hits, while wind e.g. adds stagger effects to crits. That may be a personal thing, but I'm not the biggest fan of such save-less crit-fishing boons, but that will not enter into the considerations of the final verdict. Still: Limited use long-range thunderclaps and the like are pretty cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are much better than usual for Wayward Rogues Publishing's offerings: While there are glitches in formatting, there are less than in previous classes. From a rules-language point of view, the class is mostly solid in its base-chassis, with only the interaction of revelation powers not always being perfect. If you're willing to make a few calls, though, the class remains pretty functional. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogue's 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a blend of really nice, original artworks and a few stock pieces. The pdf doesn't have bookmarks, which is an annoying comfort detriment. Furthermore, the pdf does not allow you to select, search of copy text, which is extremely annoying and a pretty big comfort detriment. If you want to extract information for your char-sheet, you have to do so by hand.

Rodney Sloan's incarnate ranks among the better of hybrid classes I covered from the Wayward Rogues. For one, while it does not have a potent leitmotif in the traditional sense, it does play in a pretty unique way, somewhat akin to a paladin/barb with oracle sprinkled in. Now, balance-wise, I am not 100% sold on all decisions, partially due to the minor ambiguities found herein. That being said, the linear mysteries provide distinct playstyles, which is a plus. On the downside, there is, apart from mystery choice, no player agenda here - you get this one choice and that's it. Still, while not perfect, I can see this class being fun for some groups, making this a quintessential mixed bag, slightly dragged down by the editing and comfort-issues. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Incarnate Hybrid Class
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The Illuminator's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2017 04:40:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansions-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction and explanation on how to use this book, we move on to new class options, the first of which would be the astrology hedgewitch tradition, which nets Knowledge (Geography), Knowledge (planes) and Perception as class skills and the Light sphere as a bonus magic talent. As a tradition power, these gals may project a so-called celestial aura as a swift action, which affects all allies (including the hedgewitch) within 30 ft. and lasts until dismissed - only one such aura may be projected at a given time and it increases the lighting levels up to normal. 4 types are included, of which you must choose 2. Moon nets an untyped (should probably be typed) bonus to Fort-saves and replenishing temporary hit points. Planet nets resistance to either fire or cold, with class levels added as scaling device. Star grants an untyped Perception bonus as well as a scaling initiative bonus (ouch) and Sun adds fire damage to weapon damage rolls, 1d4, +1d4 for every 5 class levels. Personally, I think that Moon, Star and Sun are significantly stronger than the other two options. The tradition secrets, 5 of which are presented, allow for the expansion of the aura radius or the ability to gain another aura. You can also gain an oracle revelation from the heavens mystery, modify the light-level of the aura...and the final one, the grand secret, lets you project two auras at once. The tradition mastery increases your character level by 5 for determining aura potency and lets you change auras as a swift action. A new hedgewitch secret lets you dabble in the tradition.

The pdf also contains archetypes, the first of which would be the glass-eye gunmage, who replaces Knowledge (local) with Knowledge (arcana) and Sleight of Hand with Spellcraft. He must also swap out two deeds of his choice, one at 1st and one at 3rd level. Instead of the first-level deed, he gains Lens Array, which nets a Perception bonus and allows for grit-expenditure to reroll Perception. The 3rd level deed lets him ignore penalties to Perception for being distracted or asleep and may expend 1 grit at the start of battle to not be treated as flat-footed. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the gunmage gains (lens) talents from the Light sphere, treating class levels as casting levels and using grit as a resource. EDIT: Big kudos to Amber Underwood and Drop Dead Studios - the previous issue in the lens-talents has been fixed, which means that the archetype works properly now! :D

The radiant paragon shifter replaces Handle Animal with bluff and gains the Light sphere at 1st level at full CL, as well as the Touch of Light drawback. This replaces animal empathy. The archetype also employs the new Bioluminescent Transformation feat at 3rd level, which adds glow to shapeshift, allowing for some combo potential. 8th level provides two unique traits to add to shapeshift - +1/2 caster level bonus to Stealth checks (untyped - meh) or demoralize as a swift action via sudden color-shifts. This replaces poison immunity.

The third archetype would be the sun warrior, based on the mageknight class, who replaces Handle Animal with Intimidate, uses Cha as casting ability modifier and is locked into the Light sphere at first level. The archetype also gains the Glory talent instead of gaining resist magic, and uses her class level as caster level "on" glows benefitting from Glory - which lets your glow shed low-range bright light for combo set-ups. This may be as well a place as any to note that the rules-language has some cosmetic deviations in the finer details - mostly nothing glaring, though. When the sun warrior would gain a mystic combat ability or bonus combat feat, the archetype may choose solar radiance abilities instead. 5 of these are presented and include for increased radius for Glory, selective light talent application when affecting equipment, more Light talents, lending the glow (not italicized here) affected by Glory to allies and free action Searing Light application ties in for a cool combo. By FAR the coolest archetype herein and the only one I really liked. It also lends itself very well for Dark Souls-esque characters: "Do you even praise the Sun, brah?" I'd enjoy playing this guy!

From here, we move on to basic talents, which include a minor errata for glow: When you create a glow you may cause it to shed bright light as part of the same action, but otherwise follow the normal rules for causing a glow to shed bright light. To give you a brief summary: (Lens) talents can be placed as a standard action on targets within glow, potentially requiring melee or ranged touch attacks to hit. Spell point expenditure can increase duration to 1 hour per CL. Among the (lens) talents, we can find Aiming Scope (here, proper bonus types are thankfully reinstated...) and the lenses include an option that nets you the option to Hide in Plain Sight - which is usually unlocked at a higher level - imho, this should have a minimum level requirement. Forcing rerolls from attackers and using lenses to ignore miss chances for living creatures is pretty potent - a reduction may have been more viable there. EDIT: Dim Lights only grants immunity to one's own lights to the target, but its wording could sue improvement - "You cause a target to suffer no ill effects from light." could be read as superseding/complementing the benefits of the talent.

(Nimbus) talents modify glow, but only one may b applied per glow. You may switch these as a free action, but they thankfully affect an area only once per round. These include the ability to make light-show style beams, selectively illuminate cubes or leave trails of light. There btw. also is an option to bypass the 1-nimbus restriction.

Beyond these subtypes, we also get quite an array of other talents - bending radiance, shedding black light, generate patterns that may cause targets to fall prone and we have dual application of light talents to glows. Very interesting would be Flash, which eliminates the end of turn only restriction imposed on the application of (light) talents. Having glow linger and controlling intensity as well as gaining artistic modifications of glows make for interesting, flavorful options. Nonlethal damage via glows also makes for a nice option.

The advanced magic chapter lets you generate motes of Dancing Lights glows, which is cool...but Diffuse Body is really intriguing. When you move while under the effects of Flicker, you actually move in two places - and only upon being attacked or targeted, you decide which location you are...basically Schrödinger's caster. Permanently imbuing objects with glow is nice, I guess. With another talent, you can turn a creature affected by Flicker into a being of pure light - very potent and thankfully locked behind an appropriate prereq-array...and the form may be further upgraded with vast movement superiority via Light Speed. Making the glow turn prismatic is similarly cool and Con-draining radiation light is cool. The chapter also contains two rituals - reflection/refraction, which alters objects and beacon pillar, creating a bauble you can crush to emit a beacon of light.

The feat-chapter includes Dual Sphere feats for Auroras and propulsion via beams, +2 MSB and MSD for Light sphere effects, doubled when trying to make an opposed check versus magical darkness; Firing light-based destructive blasts that are not hindered by windows, but by light-blocking things is nice. Creations of hard light, Photosynthesis. not a fan of addition of untyped damage to Searing Light, myself. 5 solid traits also are here and we get 3 sphere-specific drawbacks and 3 alternate racial traits. No complaints there.

The equipment section defines different light sources and types - motes, strobes, etc. -handy. Cool: radiant edge weapons project deadly light, slightly increasing their reach (Can I hear Burnt Ivory King?), but sans increasing the threatening range. Staves with sunset let glows linger slightly. There are 3 specific magic items, a veil that fortifies versus the dazzled condition, the brush that generates colorful ink and a nice miniature orrery. The pdf concludes with 6 radiant tattoos, which shed light and allows for hypnotizing targets while dancing, for doubling as a divine focus, etc. - no complaints here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good for the most part - in fact, the material is generally very good, though the class section could use some refinement - it has a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series. EDIT: The previously migraine-inducing bright, yellow headers have been dimmed down. Thank the deities! Artwork is a blend of the nice cover and some okay stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Amber Underwood had a relatively challenging task here - the sphere is simply not as "sexy" as some of its brethren, though this book does a valiant job enhancing the Light-options. While I disagree with some of the design decisions, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement with some minor imperfections. EDIT: With the headers and the archetype-glitch fixed, this now is a proper addition to the series, worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Illuminator's Handbook
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Mythic Magic: Horror Spells
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2017 14:39:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Magic-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, I know - it does sound a bit like a contradictio in adjecto - horror and mythic gameplay? Well, once one thinks about it, that seeming contradiction is immediately resolved: After all, when dealing with potent, heroic characters, why not even the playing field with high-powered, mythic villains? At the same time, the corruption of true paragons of virtue and demi-gods can indeed make for an intriguing set-up.

As always in this series, we take a massive hardcover's spells and add mythic upgrades to the respective spells, so let us survey how the horrific options fare when upgraded to mythic status! After an alphabetical list of the spells covered (handy), we begin with absurdity, which ties in, penalty-wise, with humor-based spells in addition to numerical escalation of penalties etc. - really creative here would be the 4th tier augment, which adds nauseated to the aftermath of fear-based effects that the spell would provide immunity for, which makes for a rather interesting array of options as far as I'm concerned.

Alleviate Corruption is a spell, at least in its mythic iteration, that should be welcomed by anyone disliking the implementation of the system, allowing for the removal of manifestations and a 2-stage decrease...oh, and via 6th tier augment and 3 uses of mythic power, you can potentially avoid catching corruptions. There also are mythic upgrades that do not require their sometimes problematic components and we have modifications, for e.g. assume appearance allowing for the assumption of a helpless target's appearance in a focus modification, with the augment further enhancing this trick - really cool!

Not all spells, obviously, are thus enhanced in breadth - ban corruption, for example, simply also suppresses the effects on a successful save as well and it also increases the spell's duration. Barbed chains can be used for grappling when properly augmented and blood ties eliminates the damage cap of transferred damage, which enhances the spell's already impressive narrative potential. Nice job there!

Contact entity, just fyi, lets you contact more of them and yields a bonus when interacting with them...oh, and at higher tiers, you can mix the eldritch abominations you contact! The curse of fell seasons is vastly expanded (1 mile per tier radius), also enhancing the cool visuals and potent curse-visuals of the base spell...and yes, obviously, this extends to curse of night. And yes, before you're asking, I'm so making dread lords use mythic spells and abilities. MUAHAHAHA!

...

Sorry, disregard that. The various curse terrain spells all get different entries - beyond control of hazard placement, we get more of them and yes, once again, the radius is vastly enhanced. Using decapitate as a response to a critical threat and get a bonus to confirmation...other than that, we have increased bonus damage and penalized saves for nonmythic creatures - ouch!

Decollate ties in with one of my favorite Ravenloft NPCs, allowing for the removal of heads of even unwilling victims. For this upgrade alone, I'd hug this pdf - to anthropomorphize it slightly...oh, and action economy and interaction are presented in clear and concise ways - pretty damn cool! Flickering Lights allow for slightly more control by rolling twice...while green caress amps up the body horror by making it work a bit like a plant apotheosis...not fully, but enough to be weird in an uncanny valley way. Impossible Angles increases the chaos of the direction stumbled in a fun manner, while, guess what, mythic massacre really lives up to its name...and the augment makes it conical and adds necromantic energy to the fray. As a minor complaint, that should probably be negative energy damage, not untyped.

The various effects for maze of madness and suffering are creative and honestly, can be used for really potent terrain hazards, should you choose so. Phobia's upgrade is also devious, providing new and sensible options to the spell. Pure narrative gold: The upgrade of the sacramental seal spell, which now comes with a mighty 10th tier augmentation that allows for at-range maintenance of the seal. "We were all safe while the kind of wizard lived...but now, the darkness has broken free..." It should also be noted that the new types of fear introduced in Horror Adventures have found their respective rules-language. Sleepwalking suggestion, btw., does now allow you to go full-blown Wieland-plot with it! And no, I have not nearly touched upon all of the spells, just tried to provide a nice and varied sampling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups in either formal or rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard for the series. The artworks should be mostly familiar ones for fans of LG - they are in full-color and mostly fit the content. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson deliver one furious, amazing upgrade for the spells in the Horror Adventures hardcover. As always in this series, I am impressed by the work that has went into this book, but more so than by the numerical upgrades and escalations, it is the increase in breadth, the better representation of mighty concepts that made me enjoy this. Much like the installment on Intrigue Spells, this amps up the themes and, in my book, the expanded curses and potent abilities herein just scream for being tied to the dread lords! The creative and concise rules-language delivers and, as a whole, this is not only a good options-book - it is a great book for GMs using Horror Adventures to get more out of the tools they have, to tell different stories. And that is more than most spellbooks can ever hope to accomplish. While there are a few cosmetic nitpicks I could field, ultimately, that would not do the book justice. I consider this an awesome expansion, well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Magic: Horror Spells
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Castle Falkenstein: Firearms & Margarine: An Adventure Entertainment
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2017 05:18:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Before you're asking: Of course Captain Thomas Olam is returning as the framing device for this adventure, with the esteemed Mr. J Gray acting as the transcriber of his notes. It should also be noted that the adventure comes with pregenerated dramatic characters - 6, to be precise. In a rather nice manner, the module collects the game-relevant stats on a few pages - but goes one step beyond: In the back, extensive, char-sheet-like depictions of the characters, complete with proper space for notes and even b/w-photographs depicting them can be found, enhancing the immersion. I strongly suggest handing these out to players when running it and not using the dramatic characters. You see, the German iteration of CoC uses period piece photography extensively and it does enhance immersion, so kudos for doing that!

We also get a massive city map of Paris, where the proceedings take place, in the pdf - both with a player-friendly iteration and one for the host, which contextualizes and places the adventuring locales. That being said, I do have a very minor gripe here, one that does not in any way impede the functionality of the adventure at hand, so consider this just me being a scoundrel: The city map as a physical artifact from the time must have been HUGE and as such, the one-page scans make reading streets-names etc. impossible. Now note that this is not required: The city map is here to put the adventuring locales in relation to one another, but as someone who really enjoys old maps, a high-res iteration would have been amazing. (And yes, quite probably, there is no such scan, but one may dream, right?)

Anyways, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to humbly ask you to excuse my digressions, so let us adjust our pince-nezes, put down our walking sticks and fans and take a look at what this recent account of Captain Olam has to offer. It should be noted that only the most dastardly rogue, tarnishing the good graces of the house of the Host of his regular game, would continue to read the following if he (or she) planned to attend the game wherein the proceedings depicted in this module take place. As the profane rabble is wont to say, from here on out, this review will contain copious amounts of SPOILERS.

...

..

.

Dear hosts, are we alone? Have all preening eyes, all scoundrels and spirits departed to their respective haunting grounds? Excellent, so let us commence with our discussion of the matter at hand! As we all know, this is an enlightened age that will catapult our species to realms heretofore unimagined and at the forefront of one such foray in the advancement of our glorious civilization would be the gentleman known as Martin Hoog, currently approaching the completion of his margarine factory, which will undoubtedly revolutionize significant aspects of our customs. However, as we all know, progress not always goes unopposed, and to the obvious concern of dairy farmers in the rural areas, we have to add the unfortunate sentiment of the brownie population - after all, it does seem like the machines will manage to even outdo the Faerie's vast working capacity.

The leader of this resistance, in case you were not aware, falls in this particular case to the Fae lady usually referred to as Danielle Bendit, and appropriate name, if her detractors are to be believed. The current state of affairs has her and her rabble preventing the opening of the factory. The protest has been going on for a couple of days, with no real progress on either side, as the authorities in their wisdom have to prevent a proper escalation of the proceedings. There are, of course, plenty of justifications for proper ladies and gentlemen to bear witness to the horrid proceedings that are about to unfold, but it should be noted that, if all else fails, one should not discard serendipitous coincidence as a means of getting the proper minds involved.

It is my sad duty to announce that there will be an incident most unfortunate, for, as Mme Bendit and her right-hand man Michel are about to announce the strategies of their further protests and the goals of their fledgling movement, a shot will ring - and provide the first decision, which only the cool heads of those of proper breeding and accomplishment may make: Whether to hound the assailant sniper or to move towards the stage and offer educated help; the chaos of hundreds of fae dispersing into the ethereal and panicked protesters fleeing the scene makes both endeavors rather complicated.

The office, from which the shot was fired, unsurprisingly yields a mystery - very perceptive characters may note signs that the window was kept open, an orphaned rifle with a scope awaiting - and particularly learned characters may deduce the "how" of this dastardly attack: The rifle was prepared by a devious mechanical mind with one of these fancy cells pioneered by Edmond Becquerel in 1839, firing as the fog cleared and light touched it.

At the same time, more compassionate characters with a less analytic bent (we shall not engage in the obvious associations here) may have moved towards the stage to find Michel, murdered in the arms of Mme Bendit, shot by cold iron - and as he lies there, only the most astute of characters will have a chance to collect further evidence before the poor creature suffers the Final Death, shortly before the griefstruck Mme Bendit is spirited away. Those among you illustrious hosts who fear that the obvious murder mystery here would be solved too easily by the inclusion of a certain order of thaumaturgical detectives should rest assured that proper guidance is provided to deal with such potential hindrances in a manner that if befittingly fair for dramatic characters.

Unless our valiant cast has split, the characters will hence have one primary lead, though one should not be remiss to mention that the arrival of the police force will put an end to the investigation of the scene of the deplorable crime. Recognizing the obvious potential for conflict inherent in the situation, and listening to their own valiant hearts and nerves of steel, our illustrious cast hence moves on to question the diverse beings involved in this most puzzling of cases - and here, the classic adage of truth, smoke and mirrors is indeed one that should prove true: The investigation of anarchist involvement and the grieving Mme can yield a surprising variety of rather intriguing clues. Astute individuals, examining the less than trustworthy guards employed at the factory as well as Mr. Hoog himself may even deduce a rather scandalous development and situation, though ultimately, not even that should suffice to coax veritas from the cloaking shadows - indeed, the potentially risky involvement with the préfet de police may proceed to escalate to a duel, though the puzzling demeanor exhibited here by the préfet can be considered to be another piece of this puzzle...or can it?

Indeed, the investigation of the proceedings can unearth a rather puzzling painting predicting the murder - precognition? Perilous premonition? Indeed, the colloquially so-called "red herrings" that are cleverly woven throughout this adventure render both murderous motivation and precise procedure of the dastardly deed a subject suitable for the magnificent minds that you, dear host, elect to entertain. Various ways can lead to the unearthing of the true culprit and the aftermath of the assassination will be strongly influenced by the astuteness of the minds involved - and yes, dear host: Much like any good mystery, there are multiple meandering ways to arrive at the elusive poodle's core, with the supplemental storylines and their conclusions allowing for the concise expansion and continuation of the adventure.

Who is responsible? How was it done? Why, my dear readers - that is only for the distinguished host to discover! It is my duty to mention in this context that the dramatis personae of this curious constellation of characters comes with the appropriate contextualization within the rules of the game. Those of us who enjoy the winding ways of history will be overjoyed to observe that Captain Olam's elaborations of the discrepancies between our world and his curious home have returned. Furthermore scholars of the Fae will most assuredly like the details provided for the Teuz, the brownies most commonly encountered in the Bretagne.

Conclusion:

The all too often thankless tasks of proofreader and editor have been fulfilled to my utmost satisfaction. The visual presentation of the subject matter at hand adheres to a 2-column standard, set against a beautiful, colored backdrop. The artistry of the photographs, portraits and paintings herein, taken from the vast treasure-trove of our species, serves well to enhance the consistent feeling of this book. Should you prefer one of these magical presentation methods, rest assured that more bookmarks can be found herein than would be feasible for a physical book.

Mister J Gray deserves my heartfelt congratulations for his triumphant transcription of this heretofore unreleased account from the fabulous fiction called "Castle Falkenstein." The adventure takes degrees of success and the importance of class, race, etc. well into account and presents a thoroughly compelling mystery that most assuredly is worthy of one or multiple encores. It is my utmost pleasure to be in the fortunate position to announce that the understanding of the period and the special considerations the presence of the Faerie have had on the world, should be considered more than adequate; indeed, I consider them worthy of heartfelt praise.

It is hence my honor and privilege to award this distinguished and entertaining murder mystery the honors of 5 stars as well as the seal of approval for extraordinary merits. A round of applause, mesdames et messieurs!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Firearms & Margarine: An Adventure Entertainment
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Fabulous Archetypes
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2017 05:14:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 1/3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 2/3 pages of content, so let's take a look! It should be noted that the pages are formatted and laid out for a 6'' by 9'' booklet standard, which means you can fit up to 4 of these pages on a given sheet of paper if your eyesight is good enough to cope with the letter-size.

We begin with a brief Yeats-quote as well as a short definition of what "fabulous" means within the context of this pdf before moving on to the unicorn rider cavalier archetype, who is locked into good alignment and a properly statted unicorn mount companion. (As a minor complaint from someone who has spent too many hours playing Robot Unicorn Attack's metal-version - pity, I wanted black unicorns...). The archetype comes with its own order, which is set apart by the unicorn choosing the rider. Edicts etc. are concisely defined and Perform and Survival are added, class skill-wise. The order also adds Charisma modifier in addition to Wisdom to the DC to avoid being demoralized.

8th level makes the natural attacks count as good and magic and provides at-will detect evil as a SP. 15th level provides Awesome Blow for the mount.

The next archetype would be Feyfriend, which can be taken by both druid and ranger, since it replaces the regular companion with a fey friend, thus replacing nature's/hunter's bond, respectively. Scaling is based on the druid-levels, which retains balance in the ranger's case. The feyfriend scales up to 16 HD, has 1/2 save-progression for all saves, 6 + Int skills and learns up to 8 feats. Additionally, the fey friend gains a +2 dodge bonus to AC at 3rd level, increasing that in increments of +2 every 3 levels thereafter. Analogue to this, 3rd level yields +1 to Dexterity and Charisma, increasing the value every 3 levels by a further +1 each. Level 1 yields link and share spells, level 3 nets evasion and 15th level improved evasion. Ability score increases are gained at 4th level and every 5 levels thereafter, excluding 19th - here, the ability score increase is instead delayed to 20th level. 6th level nets a +4 morale bonus to Will-saves.

The main draw, however, would be the SPs gained: The feyfriend begins play with a cantrip SP, unlocking one for first level or lower at 3rd level and gains more SPs every 3 levels after that, unlocking a new spell level every time. The SPs are governed by Cha and HD and the feyfriend must chooses, bard, druid, witch or wizard for the SP-selection. Big plus: 3/day limit for non-cantrip SPs. I see quite a few of you rolling their eyes right now - yes, this is potent. However, the feyfriend is diminutive and only has d6 HD to show, which does act, at least somewhat, as a balancing tool with the rather weak base frame. Still, the lack of tricks-requirements does mean that the chance is pretty high that you'll gain more out of the feyfriend. I wouldn't allow it is gritty campaigns, but in standard fantasy, you shouldn't encounter significant issues, considering the fragility of the fey.

After this companion archetype, we move on to the flower child druid, who may not be evil and adds Diplomacy, Knowledge (local) and Perform to her class skills. They lose all weapon proficiencies except for one simple weapon of the player's choice. The archetype gains +2 to Diplomacy and Perform and may retry a botched attempt to sway opinions a second time prior to the 24 hours elapsing. Instead of wild empathy, they may cause their elemental damage-causing spells to inflict nonlethal damage and they increase their CL with nonlethal damage causing spells by 1. The archetype is locked into a domain choice from a list as a replacement of "nature bond". As you can see, there are a couple of minor typos here.

The Ensorceller mesmerist is up next and may cast spells sans spell failure in light armor...and yep, these guys cast arcane spells instead. Instead of the mesmerist tricks gained at 2nd, 4th, 10th and 16th level, the archetype receives access to a bloodline chosen from a limited array. Instead of touch treatments gained at 3rd, 6th, 10th and 14th level, the archetype gains scaling bonuses versus gaze attacks, with 14th level providing immunity.

The Holistic would be an unchained monk archetype, who replaces Intimidate and Knowledge (history) with Craft (alchemy) and Heal. Instead of stunning fis, the archetype adds +1/2 clss level as a bonus to Heal checks (skill reference not italicized here). 2nd level yields joint cracking, replacing the bonus feats gained at 2nd and 6th level: Pretty cool: the archetype can, as a standard action, suppress Str or Dex damage from a willing ally, with the amount increasing from 1d4 to up to 2d6. And yep, an ally may only benefit once per 24-hour interval from it. I really like this, idea-wise!! Holistic tea is cool: Requiring the use of an "alchemy kit" (should be "alchemist's kit"), the character can brew tea - by also expending ki, they may make the tea heal living creatures, replacing the ki powers gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter - instead, the healing capabilities increase on these levels. Like it! 13th level yields aromatherapy, 3/day mass cure light wounds as a properly codified SP. The rules are solid and work, but teh ability should probably be SP, not SU. Oh well, that one's cosmetic.

The final archetype herein would be the jolter wizard, who gains 4 + Int skills per level and an expanded class skill list that includes the physical skills - you know, Escape Artist, Stealth, Climb, etc. The spelljolter can expend a spell as a swift or immediate action to grant himself a bonus to said aforementioned array of physical skills. Additionally, he may, as an immediate action, grant himself the bonus to Reflex saves, replacing arcane bond thus. Instead of 5th level's bonus feat, the archetype can expend spells as a swift action to grant himself a dodge bonus to AC equal to the spell's level, for 1 round. Instead of 10th level's bonus feat, he may now also use spelljolt to fortify his Fort- and Will-saves. Really annoying, though: The archetype uses a "magical bonus" for all but the AC-bonus. Know how many bonus types we have in PFRPG? Why not use one of them?

Cool, btw.: The pdf comes with a bonus monster pdf penned by Mark Gedak, the CR 2 meadow maid, a flexible angel that may seem fey-like and is drawn to idyllic pastures, carrying a consecration aura around with her - nice critter!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, good on a formal level - apart from some minor & cosmetic hiccups and a few typo-level glitches, I noticed nothing glaring that would compromise the content. Layout adheres to PDG's 1-column standard for 6'' by 9''-sized booklets and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked - kudos!

Aaron Hollingworth's fabulous archetypes area generally well-crafted lot - in particular the holistic is REALLY cool and adds a whole new dimension to the monk class that makes SENSE. The concepts and their representations are solid and well-made and the spelljolter sports an interesting playing experience, in spite of its brevity. While I was not utterly blown away by this humble pdf, when one considers the low and more than fair price-point, this most assuredly is worth getting, particularly if the holistic or riding a unicorn interests you. The bonus critter adds even more bang for your buck, which makes this a nice offering. As a whole, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fabulous Archetypes
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5E Mini-Dungeon #029: Heart of the Sacred Dawn
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2017 05:13:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

In ages long gone, the lord of dragons Tenebrash was vanquished by the order of sacred dawn with the help of an ancient relic, the lucespel. Now, evil has returned to the lands of mortals and it is up to the heroes to find and secure the lucespel within the confines of the now ruined temple-keep of the order of sacred dawn. The deity once in command of the artifact remains purposefully obscure and can be considered to be a great placeholder for deities from Saranrae to Latander or Arden.

Within these sacred halls, only the mightiest of heroes have a chance to prove their mettle - to do so, they must defeat exceedingly powerful knights turned to planetars. The ruins also sport a task that requires the PCs to collect certain words, which prove to be the answer to a simple riddle. When solved an ancient black dragon still stands between the PCs and triumph...oh, and that one downright sadistic trap...that, RAW, is even triggered when the correct key has been taken, which may be an oversight. 3 x Power Word: Kill should not be triggered when the correct key is used. Similarly, that should be a trap or at least something like an avoidable terrain hazard, as the pdf has a tough option for legendary rogues to bypass some components. Beyond these secured portals, the artifact beckons - though its exact powers are left for the GM to decide.

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #029: Heart of the Sacred Dawn
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The Tidus Tomb - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2017 05:09:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The module does come with a high-res jpg of the map of the complex featured herein - while keys have been purged from it, the secret doors are still on the map. HOWEVER, I do applaud how they're implemented - when cutting up a printed version of the map or partially concealing one in VTT, you don't have the tell-tale "S" in the wall, but rather after it, making the map featured actually pretty player-friendly! Kudos!

It should be noted that a handy summary at the beginning of the complex highlights the room height, doors, illumination, etc. - all at a glance, which is nice from a comfort point of view.

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

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

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the name of the "tidus tomb" actually is a butchered name: You see, the monarch who was laid to rest here was a horrible germaphobe (picture how that must have sucked in the Early Modern period that serves as a backdrop for the fantasy world of most games...) and hence, the people joked that he would inhabit "the tidiest tomb" ever! Unfortunately, this monarch, Khazdoran, was kept from his rightful rest by his own compulsion, which rendered the tomb haunted.

Via one of three sample adventuring hooks (or one of the GM's own devising), the players are hence set out to explore this locale...and the atmosphere is interesting: In the tradition of Pyromaniac Press modules, we get extensive read-aloud texts that help GMs less confident in their improvisational skills in depicting the place. The nature of the tomb and its inhabitants is btw. hinted at in the very structure and dressing: Neatly polished and carefully arranged piles of bones in the front start establishing the leitmotif of the complex from the get-go.

Exploring the tomb with pit the PCs sooner or later in conflict with the "cleaners" of the place, gelatinous cubes and skeletons, and allow them to rescue a poor artist, whose handiwork can be seen in the restored murals of the place. Being rather obsessive, the ghost of the ancient monarch has conscripted the poor sod to restore them to former glory...or end up on the menu of the cubes. Among the strange things you can encounter would be a mascot skeleton non-combatant who follows the PCs around, unless destroyed. Yeah, this has a weird angle and I mean that as a complement.

Now, the 5e-conversion deserves special mention here - it goes beyond the basics like converting skill DCs, poisons, damage thresholds etc.: A cursed item has, for example, been replaced with an animated rug and the formal aspects, items and loot all have been adjusted to properly work within the different power-level aesthetics of 5e. That being said, the module is significantly harder in the 5e-version. Since gelatinous cubes are stronger in 5e than in PFRPG, these can be a bit more of a challenge here.

Regarding further threats, we can encounter animated, pristine armors here...and it should be noted that the faded and restored murals act as a nice way of filling in the story and the undead monarch. The PCs ultimately can find the funerary barge of Khazdoran, where the remnants of a scholar's account can provide a hint - there is a soul prism here and, while Khazdoran actually should not be tied to it, his deeply-held conviction is that the prism, ultimately is his anchor - thus, destroying this vessel ends his haunting of the tomb forever. The pdf does note that it is "extremely fragile", implying that any attack will destroy it, but I still wish we got some sort of mechanical representation or stats for the vessel here - still, that is not a serious gripe. It should be noted that the ghost uses default stats for ghosts in 5e, which accounts for the one page less in page-count of this version when compared to the PFRPG-iteration. That may be me, but I really would have liked the ghost to have some unique tricks up his sleeve. On the balance-plus-side, the ghost makes for a slightly easier boss in 5e than in PFRPG, which emphasizes smart play more - you can conceivably play this and really rock it...or have a tough time. It very much depends on the players.

What do I mean by this? Clean and none-too-intrusive PCs may make their way to the ghost before he even realizes that they are here...but woe betide those that trigger his cleanliness compulsions... The ghost itself is a pretty potent being and has interesting tactics - like possessing PCs and running into gelatinous cubes, but as a whole, the tomb should be a challenging, but manageable sidetrek that sports quite an array of loot to find - nothing too jarring, mind you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press' nice two-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks featured herein are original and pretty amazing pieces, particularly for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf actually comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really nice as well.

Micah Watt's "Tidus Tomb" is a nice, creative little sidetrek that is worth checking out: The flavor-text is engrossing and the theme of the dungeon similarly is pretty...neat. (Sorry, I couldn't resist this groaner pun...I'll hit myself later for it...) Anyways, I did enjoy this indeed. If there is anything to complain about, then it would be that, as far as non-combat challenges are concerned, the module feels a bit drumroll sterile! (Sorry, I must have hit my head this morning...) Kidding aside, the flavor and dressing are amazing and lavishly-detailed, but if you expect creative hazards or traps or the like, you won't find that here, which makes the dungeon easy to run, but at the same time, it makes the combats feel a slightly less diverse than they could be. The conversion excels at its attention. No complaints in that regard.

The 5e-iteration of this module is definitely harder than the PFRPG-version and whether you like that or don't depends ultimately on personal preferences. With the potent and rather tough cubes (84 hit points...), the module certainly feels less suited for a lighthearted interpretation than the PFRPG-version. So, how to rate this? Well, as a whole, I enjoyed this and while I consider the dungeon's mechanics per se to be slightly less than what they could have been, this is well worth checking out. The well-done conversion makes the module run in a slightly different manner, which is actually something I personally enjoyed, gaming aesthetics-wise. For the extremely fair price of just 2 bucks, this makes for a fun and creative, well-presented sidetrek. The 5e version has a slightly different focus, resulting from the respective changes in focus, creature potency etc., but ultimately evens out - it is a bit more focused on smart player decisions, at least in my book.

Ultimately, I like both versions and as such, my final verdict will clock in at the same verdict, 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tidus Tomb - 5th Edition
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The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2017 04:59:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The module does come with a high-res jpg of the map of the complex featured herein - while keys have been purged from it, the secret doors are still on the map. HOWEVER, I do applaud how they're implemented - when cutting up a printed version of the map or partially concealing one in VTT, you don't have the tell-tale "S" in the wall, but rather after it, making the map featured actually pretty player-friendly! Kudos!

It should be noted that a handy summary at the beginning of the complex highlights the room height, doors, illumination, etc. - all at a glance, which is nice from a comfort point of view.

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

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

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the name of the "tidus tomb" actually is a butchered name: You see, the monarch who was laid to rest here was a horrible germaphobe (picture how that must have sucked in the Early Modern period that serves as a backdrop for the fantasy world of most games...) and hence, the people joked that he would inhabit "the tidiest tomb" ever! Unfortunately, this monarch, Khazdoran, was kept from his rightful rest by his own compulsion, which rendered the tomb haunted.

Via one of three sample adventuring hooks (or one of the GM's own devising), the players are hence set out to explore this locale...and the atmosphere is interesting: In the tradition of Pyromaniac Press modules, we get extensive read-aloud texts that help GMs less confident in their improvisational skills in depicting the place. The nature of the tomb and its inhabitants is btw. hinted at in the very structure and dressing: Neatly polished and carefully arranged piles of bones in the front start establishing the leitmotif of the complex from the get-go.

Exploring the tomb with pit the PCs sooner or later in conflict with the "cleaners" of the place, gelatinous cubes and skeletons, and allow them to rescue a poor artist, whose handiwork can be seen in the restored murals of the place. Being rather obsessive, the ghost of the ancient monarch has conscripted the poor sod to restore them to former glory...or end up on the menu of the cubes. Among the strange things you can encounter would be a mascot skeleton non-combatant who follows the PCs around, unless destroyed. Yeah, this has a weird angle and I mean that as a complement.

Regarding further threats, we can encounter animated, pristine armors here...and it should be noted that the faded and restored murals act as a nice way of filling in the story and the undead monarch. The PCs ultimately can find the funerary barge of Khazdoran, where the remnants of a scholar's account can provide a hint - there is a soul prism here and, while Khazdoran actually should not be tied to it, his deeply-held conviction is that the prism, ultimately is his anchor - thus, destroying this vessel ends his haunting of the tomb forever. The pdf does note that it is "extremely fragile", implying that any attack will destroy it, but I still wish we got some sort of mechanical representation or stats for the vessel here - still, that is not a serious gripe. Interesting: Clean and none-too-intrusive PCs may make their way to the ghost before he even realizes that they are here...but woe betide those that trigger his cleanliness compulsions... The ghost itself is a pretty potent being and has interesting tactics - like possessing PCs and running into gelatinous cubes, but as a whole, the tomb should be a challenging, but manageable sidetrek that sports quite an array of loot to find - nothing too jarring, mind you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press' nice two-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks featured herein are original and pretty amazing pieces, particularly for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf actually comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really nice as well.

Micah Watt's "Tidus Tomb" is a nice, creative little sidetrek that is worth checking out: The flavor-text is engrossing and the theme of the dungeon similarly is pretty...neat. (Sorry, I couldn't resist this groaner pun...I'll hit myself later for it...) Anyways, I did enjoy this indeed. If there is anything to complain about, then it would be that, as far as non-combat challenges are concerned, the module feels a bit drumroll sterile! (Sorry, I must have hit my head this morning...) Kidding aside, the flavor and dressing are amazing and lavishly-detailed, but if you expect creative hazards or traps or the like, you won't find that here, which makes the dungeon easy to run, but at the same time, it makes the combats feel a slightly less diverse than they could be. On the plus-side, poisons and cursed items do make this dungeon anything but a cakewalk!

However, the module does have a pretty cool advantage over comparable offerings: Beyond the great production values, it can be run in a variety of ways: You could easily depict this module and its proceedings as tragic, creepy or even as comical! In fact, I'd actually advise you to depict the ghost as a tragicomic figure - it may provide the most fun for the players involved. So, how to rate this? Well, as a whole, I enjoyed this and while I consider the dungeon's mechanics per se to be slightly less than what they could have been, this is well worth checking out. For the extremely fair price of just 2 bucks, this makes for a fun and creative, well-presented sidetrek. As such, 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!]
The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
Click to show product description

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The S'rulyan Vault
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2017 04:54:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, before we get into it - let me make one thing abundantly clear: This is NOT a regular gaming supplement. Instead, this is one massive blue-white old-school map. The gigantic map is intended for the massive size of 34'' times 44'' and it comes in two high-res iterations - one in the classic blue and white and one in full-color and a parchment-style look.

Now this would not be Kort'thalis Publishing if the massive map didn't have some fun details showing up - cartographer Glynn Seal has included, among others, tentacles, clearly visible and erupting from pits and walls, black holes, magical vortices, sarcophagi, obviously magical circles and the like. The pdf does have grids and between the rooms, decorative skeletons of dragons can be seen in the earth. The vault itself provides a great selection of artificially created rooms as well as natural caverns and pools connected with subterranean tunnels, rifts and the like make for an inspiring dungeon - the map is one of the kind that you can put before an experienced GM and just watch him or her improvise a great game around - so yeah, the main selling-point of this product is excellent.

One note, though - if you're using a lot of mobile devices and the like, you should be aware of the fact that the high-res maps clock in at over 20 MBs for the blue-white-version, over 100 mbs for the parchment version.

Okay, that out of the way, the product does come with a pdf - this pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages. One of these pages is devoted to a nice char-sheet and one page is devoted to notes.

The pdf depicts the history of the S'rulyan Vault, speaking of the rise of a champion of mankind, the pact of the horrid snake-men with the demon lord S'rul...and how a band of brave adventurers defeated the snake-men just as they were about to exterminate mankind. They achieved this feat with the Helm of Power, a mighty relic...and three adventurers emerged...their children and heirs taking the mantles of kingdoms. One of these, alas, has reawakened S'rul...and the genocidal plans of the demon and its powerful allies once again are in full motion.

1 million gold pieces are the ostensible reward for the demon's head...so who will claim it? Okay, this back-story is AWESOME. Cheesy and cliché in just the right ways to evoke classic tropes. The pdf provides 10 sample motivations to make the quest personal and 12 rumors are provided to add more local color to the proceedings. There even is read-aloud text for the facade of the dungeon and advice on the chance for random encounters.

The pdf then proceeds to provide a d20 table of random things that can be found - treasure, traps, monsters, discovery, science-fantasy gizmos - the like. But, you know, since this is not a module, but more of a geomorph, these remain somewhat opaque, which slightly hampers their impact. The pdf also provides a 20-entry generator for the behavior of encountered humanoids, and a 100-entry table of strange things to find - from platinum pieces to toe clippings and weird vials or erotic lithographies, the treasure table is a definite highlight herein.

As the PCs explore the vault, they will find a weird brotherhood - men that claim that the world has ended in the meanwhile - and RAW, there is a 50% chance the world has indeed ended, with 4 sample cataclysms provided, in case you can't make up your own. A snake-men spy, 12 sample magic item treasures are also in here...and may make some purists scowl: A dagger +3 with a 1 in 4 chance of making a target hit a sentient ooze (no save) will probably annoy new-school fans for not sporting a save, old-school purists for its plusses. These aren't bad, mind you, but they could use some refinement and suffer from the quasi-system-neutral approach. 3 sample artifacts and relics follow and, oddly, one actually sports a save. Indeed, the rules for these are actually better - perhaps due to the extended space allotted to them. An 8-entry table of cursed item modifications can also be found here.

The final section of the pdf contains a fortunes/fortune-reading generator: D4 for the fortune teller, d12 for the means of reading fortunes, d10 and d8 for the two components of the reading itself, d6 for the third part of the reading...and d20 for the price the fortune teller expects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout of the pdf adheres to an elegant, nice 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf does come with great b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The maps are excellent high-res jpgs - Glynn Seal's cartography is excellent here.

Venger As' Nas Satanis' and Glynn Seal's S'rulyan Vault is a glorious map, let me make that abundantly clear. It is not particularly inexpensive, but if you enjoy evocative maps, it is most certainly worth getting.

That being said, the accompanying pdf is less focused than what we usually get from Venger: The pdf can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a hyper-specific, detailed adventure-outline or a highly-generic collection of various generators. These are not bad, mind you, but everything in the pdf never really clicks together, never forms a cohesive whole. The parts are pretty much amazing when they are specific...and when they are generic, they feel suddenly like they have less gravitas...resulting in a somewhat strange disjoint in the internal flavor.

Now, since his product is billed primarily as the map, I am going to rate it as such - and as a map, it is a very good offering. At the same time, I found myself wishing there was a version sans the hidden tunnel below the pool, for example. The pdf is a nice bonus, but not enough to catapult this to the level I'd consider excellent. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The S'rulyan Vault
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MediaFront
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2017 05:33:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for Cybergeneration 2027 clocks in at 82 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was gifted to me by one of my patreons for the purpose of a prioritized review.

Ah, cybergeneration 2027 - here we are again, and this time, we're talking about media and its role in the comparatively now retro and not-so-far future of 2027, and, once again, the sourcebook has undoubtedly aged a bit - but actually less than what one would consider at first. The introductory, in-character chapter that highlights the status quo of the combat against the powers-that-be is interesting, in that what it says, criticism-wise about TV and the like, still holds true to this date - as a n indoctrination form of media and as a kind of sedative, its social ramifications are pretty much as anticipated. Similarly, the notion of subliminal messages, while different in how it is considered today, has found application in psychology, advertisement, etc. - the way in which the like works may be different in reality, but the notion of messages and impulses being conveyed via non-explicit means is very much one that we can observe every day.

The book does contain rules to resist the more explicit and powerful subliminal messages that are considered to be existing in the game-world and the pdf also talks about music - here, the predictions ring less true than regarding other media: Considering the way in which MP3s and the internet in general have acted as a democratizing factor for the various types of music, the notion of corporate-controlled audio-media seems ridiculous from the perspective of these days, at least if you're like me and deeply entrenched in the more obscure types of music out there. Then again, it is hardly the book's fault that it could not anticipate e.g. the existence of obscure styles like doom jazz, the infinite iterations of strange music and the like. Taking a cue from Philip K. Dick, the addictive idea of braindance, addictive control over one's endorphins via so-called braindance chips, can be found here: Not as destructive as Shadowrun's BTL-chips, but still dangerous.

The way in which virtuality is depicted is another one that has not yet aligned properly - the virtual reality here is not yet a thoroughly suffused space, though the consequences of advertisement and its less nice components in the real world should allow for plenty of inspiration to further modify this particular section. Beyond this general overview, the media stations, as presented, make for perhaps the component of the book, where dystopia and reality come most disturbingly close: The big media agencies and how they cater to ideologies and agendas. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduct how Fox News, tabloid newspapers and private persons, politicians and terrorists alike nowadays spin media, how they bury crucial information.

Here's a disturbing experiment for you: Remember in the 80s and 90s, when we all were afraid of surveillance of the Orwellian Big Brother? During the war on terror and our panic, governments throughout the world have started using surveillance methods that would have resulted in massive protests a few years before that...and worse, due to the digital revolution in social media, we don't even need to be surveyed any more: For the most part, we take care of that ourselves via our accounts, our constant sharing of even the most ill-conceived of opinions...and we thus engage in struggles we wouldn't have a few years back. Worse, at one point, we, as a collective conglomerate of cultures, seem to have lost, at least to a degree, the ability to engage in a critical discussion. It took me many years to realize that, what at one point was simply a discussion on different points of view, is nowadays considered to be "rude", that discussing politics, faith, belief etc. has become all but impossible with many folks, as any diverging opinion leads to the fear of offending one another.

I frankly don't get it. This polarization is poison for the democratic process...but, to a degree, it is instilled by media, it is the product of a dystopian vision that is much closer to our state of affairs than the Orwellian: Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" - as he correctly predicted back in interviews (you can look those up on youtube),. we have arrived at a state, where the issue is not that valid and viable information cannot be found, but rather at a state where we have a VERY hard time distinguishing correct and crucial information from the incessant flood of meaningless drivel. It is this concept that has given rise to the notion of "fake News" in the first place - and it is devious. Why? Because the first thing any autocratic government needs to do, is to discredit media supportive of a non-autocratic stance; it is, to a certain degree, an immunization and indoctrination via doubts that hampers the ability of the opposed forces to act, while at the same time fortifying the resolve of one's followers. Never mind that, once sufficient disparity has been created, these very forces will generate what you'd consider "Fake News" by an objective point of view. As an aside, the same process has been applied, for many years, towards sciences, slowly undermining the credibility of FACTS in the public eye...but that is something for a different rant.

Sorry for the digression, but there's a reason for it: This book depicts a media-landscape that is very much the product of such a process - and as such, it remains frighteningly topical, at least as far as I'm concerned. Once again, btw., we have the respective media-outlets discussed in a way that shows players how to make use of them. Beyond these, different strategies of resistance are discussed from ski patrolling to the shotgun approach of CyberRevolution propaganda championed in Baton Rouge. We learn about erasing subliminal messages, about inserting their own in broadcasts (slippery slope there, from an ethical perspective...).

The state of the media and the history of its development (including direct cable and HDTV!) are talked about and while not all achievements of modern media structures have been anticipated, enough have been featured. Granted, the RAM-sizes discussed in the equipment-section, and the like don't look so staggering as they once might have, but as a whole, this chapter still holds up rather well, with small HDs, flatcams and the like. The pdf also explains, in detail, the jargon associated with the media landscape, which is a nice plus indeed. Media manipulation skill checks, cracking encoded information, the interaction with different forms of media - the chapter is pretty comprehensive and should allow for a rather easy upgrade to include changes since the book's original publication.

Signal piracy and all the tools for the trade are included in the respective chapter, featuring the shop-window-dressing-style classic visual representations of quite a bunch of the respective tools. Beyond these, we also are introduced to two new yogangs, the first of whom would be the lookers, who basically have mastered the art of manipulation - their yogang skill is based on ATT and is called The Look - it lets them bypass age-restrictions, score modeling contracts, money, etc. - basically, they are the good-looking style-guide. The taggers take the graffiti and tagging aspect and their yogang skill is based on EMP, allowing them to read and conceal messages in tags....which is significantly less useful than most yogang skills.

Beyond these two yogangs, we do get a new type of cyberevolved, the Jammer, a converter of sonic energy, both on the receiving and transmitting end, allowing for the modulation of one's voice, reception and stunning screams etc. The hexite-lined throat also lets them swallow contraband...some other interesting uses for the effects of the Carbon Plague have also been provided, but, as a whole, I wasn't too impressed by the jammer.

The Gen GM-section provides rules for audience approval...and it helps codifying tasks and tells the Gm to NOT follow the rules when it would hamper their enjoyment of the system. Sample NPCs are up next, with two fully depicted, including stats...

...and this is how far I can go without delving into MASSIVE SPOILER TERRITORY. The book's final third is taken up by the module "Occult of Personality" - and if you want to play this, you should jump to the conclusion RIGHT NOW.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin this module with propaganda: A whole bunch of it, including buzzwords etc. - namely pertaining the persecution of the Evolved, which has been on the rise for a while. The sample angles for the various forms of media we receive here add a nice level of detail (and probably uncomfortable feelings) to the proceedings. If the characters have partaken in EcoFront's module, they will remember the vidiot-yogang nightcrawlers, who are embarking on a counter-propaganda wave. The module then assumes that a family member (or nearby NPC) embraces the cold, hard logic of the propaganda and turns them in - which results in a fun assassination attempt. Yay. While the book does mention the serious impact this can have on trust between PCs and adults, it is also a VERY dark turn - not all cybergeneration games will be particularly stoked by it. Particularly if you're running the game for kids, it should be mentioned that I'd strongly suggest toning down the potentially rather disturbing fallout this can have. (Then again, a lot of movies do exactly this plotline, so I'm not penalizing the module for it - it's just something to bear in mind...)

The module continues with the nightcrawlers trying to deduce what happened, to a pretty solid guy from the CDC who vanished at one point - Dr. David Chiang. The trail leads to a killed Facer and from there, it is a series of interactions, not all of them nonviolent, with aspects of yogang street-culture, all in order to gain a V-card...and there's a mole subplot here as well. Ultimately, the information and potential crackdows should make clear that they are on to something - and while they do have the information to proof media manipulation, Chiang is still missing - and the legwork to ferret out leads is very detailed and requires some serious skill on parts of the players. With some serious legwork, the PCs can piece together enough of Chiang to make a digital V-Chiang to get on air and fight a propaganda battle - and that makes for a rather amazing and uncommon climax indeed. I really, really liked it - and yes, I only grazed at the subplots and actual tasks before the PCs...but you do want to play this, right?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a bit less concise than usual for Cybergeneration supplements - I noticed a few typos here and there. Layout adheres to the nice, classic 2-column b/w-standard with a lot of original, well-made and internally concise artworks. The scan this time around is qualitatively solid and didn't sport blemishes. As a huge downside, though, we get NO BOOKMARKS. Pdfs sans bookmarks make navigation a big hassle. I can't comment on the dead tree version, since I do not own it.

Edward Bolme, Will Moss, David Ackerman, Justin Schmid and Eric Heisserer's MediaFront is actually my favorite of the 3 "-Front"-expansion books. It has aged remarkably well regarding its tone and overall tropes. While its module requires some tact to pull off properly, it is also one of my favorites, as its focus on legwork and being smart is very pronounced; the uncommon finale in particular adds a sense of unconventional gravitas and tension to the proceedings, one beyond "bad guys shoot at us" - this makes the book, as a whole, by far my favorite in the expansion-series. That being said, at the same, there are aspects here where the book has aged, and where a careful facelift would make sense. The new CyberEvolved isn't that glorious and I'm not the biggest fan of the taggers either, but those remain two minor complaints in an otherwise compelling and interesting sourcebook that is well worth checking out, even beyond the confines of the rules-system.

The flaws, however, in conjunction with the lack of bookmarks for the pdf, do unfortunately prohibit me from rating this as highly as I'd like to - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MediaFront
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Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2017 05:31:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review is based on the revised version of the tavern and was designated as a prioritized review by my patreons.

All right, so, the tavern does feature paraphernalia galore, representing the two eponymous animals, but just short of being cluttered. Patrons frequenting the establishment are scrutinized by two guards - Evie, a young human female, and Durgul, a similarly young half-orc - while flirtatious, they both are actually pretty devoted to one another. Food and beverages served are surprisingly healthy and delicious, though, unlike later installments of the series, we do not actually get a proper menu. The second story of the establishment does btw. contain a discreetly-run brothel.

Really nice would be the rather detailed 8 rumors and 8 sample events featured here for the tavern - an obvious hyperlink here is unfortunately dead. The NPCs that make this place come alive feature btw. an elven, peg-legged, but pretty attractive and cool lady/pirate turned bartender - her stats in 5e are lovingly handcrafted and the lady actually is a REALLY fast climber and swimmer...and if she can swing on chandeliers etc., she'll deliver pain...don't underestimate this lady!! The pdf also features a fluff-only write-up for the head chef Louisa, the madam, as well as 6 further, nice NPCs. Disappointing: Neither the kitsune geisha, nor the ifrit lady has been converted to 5e- this takes a significant factor out of the proceedings and relegates them to fluff-only.

The two guards mentioned before, on the other side, have been converted to 5e: Evie can take an additional action and heal herself, with rests to recharge, while Durgul gets better hits versus grappled foes, better crits and is an expert barroom brawler. The duo should definitely not be underestimated! If you're comparing this directly to the PFRPG-version, I should note that we get only one iteration of the duo for 5e - while that iteration is cooler than the PFRPG-versions, it's still 2 versions of the duo less.

It should be noted that the nice b/w-cartography for the place is player-friendly. Big plus there!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups here. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in b/w is nice for such an inexpensive file. While it does not sport a scale, the default can probably be assumed.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's Tangible Tavern series has come a long way since its humble inception; comparing this to the more recent additions to its canon does illustrate that fact rather well. "The Bull & The Bear" is not a bad tavern and it can be inserted rather easily into any given city, but at the same time, it is less special, less unique than later offerings. The dynamics of the NPCs are fun and so is the dressing - but as a whole, the place remained pretty pale to me, never really coming alive to the same extent that the other, mostly absolutely excellent installments in the series did. I also expected, to some extent, a fortune/dual-themed or finance-themed angle that never really surfaced here. The 5e-version's statblocks, as has become the tradition with the series, are pretty nice and lovingly-made.

While I understand the lack of higher-level builds for the two guards, the lack of stats for the other NPCs apart from the barkeep do gall me a bit - which is why this does not score higher than the PFRPG-version. While we get less individual statblocks, I like the ones we do get more. Hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for this iteration as well.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (5e)
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Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2017 05:28:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review is based on the revised version of the tavern and was designated as a prioritized review by my patreons.

All right, so, the tavern does feature paraphernalia galore, representing the two eponymous animals, but just short of being cluttered. Patrons frequenting the establishment are scrutinized by two guards - Evie, a young human female, and Durgul, a similarly young half-orc - while flirtatious, they both are actually pretty devoted to one another. Food and beverages served are surprisingly healthy and delicious, though, unlike later installments of the series, we do not actually get a proper menu. The second story of the establishment does btw. contain a discreetly-run brothel.

Really nice would be the rather detailed 8 rumors and 8 sample events featured here for the tavern. The NPCs that make this place come alive feature btw. an elven, peg-legged, but pretty attractive and cool lady/pirate turned bartender (using unchained rogue as part of her built) and a fluff-only write-up for the head chef Louisa, the madam, as well as 4 further, nice NPCs. On the crunchier side, we do get statblocks for the kitsune geisha and the ifrit rogue that can be found here...

...and the two guards mentioned before actually not only come with one, but 3 statblocks, with the more advanced ones clocking in at CR 4 and 9, respectively.

It should be noted that the nice b/w-cartography for the place is player-friendly. Big plus there!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups here. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in b/w is nice for such an inexpensive file. While it does not sport a scale, the default can probably be assumed.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's Tangible Tavern series has come a long way since its humble inception; comparing this to the more recent additions to its canon does illustrate that fact rather well. "The Bull & The Bear" is not a bad tavern and it can be inserted rather easily into any given city, but at the same time, it is less special, less unique than later offerings. The dynamics of the NPCs are fun and so is the dressing - but as a whole, the place remained pretty pale to me, never really coming alive to the same extent that the other, mostly absolutely excellent installments in the series did. I also expected, to some extent, a fortune/dual-themed or finance-themed angle that never really surfaced here. Anyways, for the fair and low price, this is still worth getting, which is why my final verdict will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (PFRPG)
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Alternate Paths: Social Characters
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:30:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the Alternate Paths-series clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with an impressive 83 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

So, what is this book? One could picture this supplement, as a whole, as a spiritual heir to both Ultimate Intrigue and Campaign, but I'll get more into the nit and grit of that later. In case you have not discerned that - this may not be the book to get if you're looking to run a murder-hobo dungeon-crawling campaign - the focus here is on intrigue, social iteration, etc. As such, the book assumes use of the downtime-rules from Ultimate Campaign. The pdf then provides a couple of considerations for characters and for what it means to be "civilized" and some general assumptions there - this ties into the dichotomy between primal and civilized characters, which is also represented by a few favored class options grouped not by class, but by what end of the primal/civilized-dichotomy the character represents.

We move on from here to considerations on certain types of deities - these represent general tropes of urban gods and come with the proper array of domains and the like. In an interesting conceptual twist, some deities are classified as predatory, meaning that they don't have followers in the traditional sense, but that they are basically "worshiped" by falling prey to the: Drugs, as an example, would one such concept. I do like how this influences potentially the meta-considerations of the game and we also get to know about locational deities.

Now, beyond this, we are introduced to the concept of social "caste" - the pdf acknowledges that this may not be the best word to describe the system, but, as a matter of fact, it makes sense - if you take a look at how historical societies worked (and continue to work, to a degree), you'll notice that the notion is not only restricted to pseudo-Indian environments. Social caste may be advanced via certain classes in the book and a feat can also be used at character creation to inherit caste. It is interesting to note that the higher castes come with a required minimum level - if you want to take levels in the 3-level socialite PrC, for example, each level will have new minimum level requirements, which thus means that upper caste characters will generally have a higher level than lower caste beings. The PrC nets, just fyi d8 HD, 6 + Int mod skills. It sports full spellcasting progression and nets a social path bonus each level - more on those later. For the purpose of the PrC, PCs start as "strangers" and progress through the 3 castes. Each of the castes has several distinct social paths: These include e.g. crime bosses gaining an income as well as a bonus to Intimidate and Bluff versus lawful creatures. Commanders gain morale bonuses when attacking professional soldiers and beings in your organizational hierarchy cannot deny you proper requests...but all of those paths also come with a social responsibility - these are similarly tied to roleplaying, with the example of teh crime boss requiring the boss to keep his charges safe, while the commander, obviously, is beholden to the structures of the military in which he serves.

Being famous or infamous, a physician or the like all can be found. In the middle castes, we can find merchant princes, ministers and bannerman, while the lower castes contain ascetics or champions - I kinda wished we got a bit more of these - 4 lower versus 7 upper caste paths show the system tilting a bit towards the more prestigious occupations. That being said, the system does engage in something that does rub me the wrong way: We get "misc. bonuses" in quite a few of the abilities granted by these paths - know how many bonus types PFRPG has? Do we really need another one that is not clearly defined? Not a fan here, particularly since some have been codified according to proper types.

The pdf also introduces a mechanic for social combat - unlike Ultimate Intrigue's verbal duels, these social combats are designed to be pretty rules-light and may take place in combat. As a standard action, you roll 1d20 and add the number of skill ranks (NOT the easily cheesable skill's value!) and the associated ability score modifier - the skill must qualify as being a social combat skill, obviously. Yes, these are concisely defined. The DC would be 10 + 1/2 the opponent's HD + the highest mental ability score modifier of the target opponent. If you exceed the target DC, the opponent takes 1d6 nonlethal damage per 2 ranks in the skill used. If you exceed the DC by 5, you also gain an edge. Social combat is a language-dependent, mind-affecting ability. A character defeated primarily by social combat gains the yielding condition - it cannot take hostile actions, may only defend themselves and is considered defeated - it should be noted that the GM retains some control here.

I mentioned edges - there are three of these and only one may be spent per social combat. These may be used to reduce the number of damaging d6s rolled taken from social attacks, can add +2d6 to the social combat damage, or add +4 to a social combat roll. It should be noted that this section does not specify an activation action, which it should - it is pretty clear from context that using an edge should not require an action and is considered to be part of the respective proceedings. The mechanic is precise, mind you - just complaining about the oversight of this formality.

A further aspect that influences social combat would be determination - these would be the creature's willingness to stay in combat: Determination is equal to the creature's highest mental attribute + the creature's HD. (As a minor nitpick: HD are usually noted first in such formulae.) Now, pretty interesting: The determination of a creature is modified, according to situations: A parent protecting his/her offspring, would e.g. double determination, while convincing peasants to rise up against a hated despot is much easier and halves their determination.

So, how does social combat run? Well, the result of using this system is that wise-cracking heroes can deplete pretty efficiently the determination of otherwise superior, but brutish/dumb creatures, getting them to stand down/see the error of their ways. Since determination is tracked individually, larger amounts of foes can make for more rewarding combats, while combats versus few or singular enemies can be solved decisively and quickly. Whether you like that or don't depends very much on your game's playstyle. That being said, the simplicity and elegance of the system allows for VERY easy GM-customization: You can run these social combat rules completely without determination...or you could use determination as additional "social-only" temporary "hit points" that kick in upon reaching 0 hit points, if you want to. So yeah, I am not the biggest fan of the default system, but I very much enjoy what you can easily do with it.

All right, next up would be 3 new classes: The noble gets d8 HD, a whopping 8 + Int-mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, the class gains access to simple weapons, hand crossbow, rapier and all one-handed non-exotic firearms as well as light armor. At the start of each social encounter or verbal duel, they gain edges equal to Charisma modifier +1/4 class level, which are designated as noble edges. I assume that these do not adhere to the usual "1 edge per social combat"-rule, but I am frankly not sure. They begin play as a member of the upper class and gain a social path, as per the previous rules. Noblesse oblige, however and thus, each noble must choose and adhere to a given ideology: Personal glory, group glory, organizational glory, greater good or movements may be chosen and all have in common that they feature restrictions for the noble and also determine cases in which edges may not be used. These are concisely defined. The noble begins play with renown and increase that to great renown at 5th level, incredible reknown at 9th, fabulous reknown at 13th and regal renown at 17th level. And yes, these are concisely presented.

Second level yields social graces (another is gained at every even level thereafter) - in case you have not figured that out, indeed, there is some overlap between the social aspects of the vigilante class and the noble Instead of such a social grace, teamwork feats, social combat feats, social caste feats or the aforementioned social bonuses may be gained.

2nd level also yields the ability to talk down foes - when inflicting non-lethal damage via social combat, they may enhance their damage output, temporarily inflict negative conditions and allies may be targeted to grant them temporary hit points. This, weirdly, mentions an ally saving against it, which is not something the social combat rules here sport as a default. At 6th level, the push button ability allows for the expenditure of noble edges to determine the attribute of the target used to defend against a social attack. Beyond that, depending on the attribute chosen, the noble may choose one of two different effects to generate associated effects, ranging from calming targets to treating damage rolls as 4s or granting more temporary hp. Starting at 7th level, the noble may use noble edges to talk down foes as a swift action, but may not exceed one talk down attempt per turn.

3rd level allow for the combination of regular and social combat attacks. 4th level allows for the use of edges to grant morale boosts to themselves (only one per round and here, noble edges and regular ones are distinctly set apart, clearing up any confusion there...but still, wished that the base mechanics had noted that.). 5th level provides basically evasion for Will-saves,, which extends to all allies within line of sight and earshot at 19th level. 11th level increases talking down social damage, while 15th level increases the steps attitude is moved via Diplomacy and Intimidate. As a capstone, we get immunity to mind-influencing effects and auto-confirmed crits in the area of renown. And yes, the immunity can be suppressed. The class comes with FCOs for the base races and some more exotic ones from LRGG's oeuvre.

Furthermore, the class comes with a massive list of aforementioned social graces as well as advice on playing a noble - which centers on both elaborating the class mechanics and the roleplaying aspects of it. We even get suggestions for different "types" of noble and fitting social graces. All in all, I enjoyed this class more than I thought I would, in spite of the few hiccups, it is generally a worthwhile option.

The next class would be the legionary, who gets d10 HD, must be non-chaotic, and receives full BAB-progression, good Will-saves, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors and shields, including tower shields. The class chooses a unit type at first level - these unit types are assigned social classes and receive their own class features - each day when assigning tactics, this type may be chosen and the social classes act as a limitation here. From quicker flurry-like thrown attacks to bonuses to atk and damage when they have not moved, the respective unit type features generally are interesting and fit the themes. They also scale with class levels. As always, I am not a fan of per encounter abilities, which e.g. the triarii sport (insert my long and at this point, well-known rant why this makes no sense). Cool: Second level yields bonuses to AC when receiving a morale bonus or sharing a teamwork feat and may share spaces with allies, which can be rather potent. They also get a kind of wildcard equipment ability called "arsenal" at 3rd level, which may not be cheesed. Magical arsenal is unlocked at 8th level, which can be galling for some GMs, but yeah - I can see it work in some campaigns.

3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a teamwork feat and 4th level grants access to the first so-called legionary tactic, +1 every 4 levels thereafter. Galling: The wording here is messed up: Beyond a bear/bare-glitch, the wording here contradicts itself, implying two base tactics at 4th level versus the 1 it previously states - it requires checking the class table to deduce which one it is.

The legionary tactics are associated with the aforementioned unit types and two per unit type are provided. While these generally are pretty cool, the downside of the limited choice is that there won't be much variation between different legionaries of one caste. At 10th level, 1/3 class level of them may be reassigned as a swift action...which, considering the limited selection, is less potent than you'd think.

6th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield Skill Focus in a skill (or a noble's social grace) - these also include unlocks and double as increases in rank. The capstone nets massive social skill bonuses and automatic critical confirmation versus professional soldiers. I really like that "professional soldier" is defined here concisely - and so is "citizen"...but frankly, that should NOT be hidden in a class capstone. Considering that this is not the only ability referring to these concepts, it should have been properly defined in the base terminology employed by the book. The class sports a few favored class options.

The third class featured within would be the showman, who receives d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, must be non-lawful and gains 4 + Int skills per level as well as a custom proficiency list. Showmen are subject to arcane spell failure - the showman gains spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th spell level, drawing from his own spell-list.

The signature ability of the class, gained at first level, would be a phantom blade - a magical blade that may be drawn as a move action...and yes, Quick Draw etc. is taken into account. When attacking with this weapon, Charisma is used instead of Strength for calculating damage (the rules-language is a bit wonky here, referring to score instead of modifier) and the showman may expend spell slots to increase the damage output of the phantom blade. It attacks, fyi, touch AC. It should be noted that damage type of this bonus damage and the phantom blade is not properly codified either. Targets hit by the blade may succeed a Will-save - if they do, they greatly reduce the damage output of the blade. Also slightly wonky: The conjured, versatile phantom blade is eligible for use with Weapon Focus, which makes all kinds of no sense and renders interaction with other abilities rather wonky. 5th, 117th and 17th level increase the potency and reality of the blade as well as the damage-types the blade may use - which provides a clue that the bonus damage and base phantom weapon damage should not by untyped, but rather the same as the weapon duplicated. 7th level allows for the sacrifice of spells to increase the save DC of the blade.

Starting at 3rd level, the class gains Weapon finesse and always treats the phantom weapon as finnessable. He also gains the first so-called bladewarp, of which there are two types: Shapes and effects. Only one effect may be applied to any given phantom weapon, but any number of shape bladewarps may be applied. Another one is gained at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. These are very potent and interesting, allowing you to strike at enemy spellslots/unused spells, confusing targets etc. Effects add power, while shapes allow for unique twists, but at the cost of making the blade easier to see through.

2nd level provides a bonus to Perform and more gold earned as well as the first carnival trick, with more being learned at 4th level and every even level thereafter . these represent the talents of the class. While the above hiccups did not bode well for the class, I was more than a bit positively surprised by the carnival tricks featured herein: We get the ability to basically teleport within illusions by stepping into the fantasy, readying counters to actions via skill-checks and knowing smiles or the ability to instill an identity crisis in the target that may well be more real than the poor hapless sod imagined. In short: These talents are really creative and make for cool poaching/hacking options, even if you don't plan on using the class as written.

13th level provides more reality for illusions, further enhancing this reality at 19th level. Minor nitpick: Spell-reference not italicized. The capstone eliminates the blade's save and increases the DC of his illusions. The spell-list's spells are not italicized and the class gains, once again a couple of different favored class options.

Now, while the base class has couple of unnecessary hiccups, it does come with a per se pretty intriguing archetype: the ringleader replaces spellcasting with an ability to generate temporary clones - and the archetype manages to concisely define and reign in this most difficult of abilities to prevent cheesing in a thoroughly concise and impressive manner. Instead of enhancing phantom baldes via spellcasting, he may expend clone uses to increases the damage output versus targets. Carnival tricks are restricted to a degree and 3 unique ones are presented. Additionally, 4th level and every 6 levels thereafter replace the carnival trick gained there with upgrades to clone staying power, with 10th level increasing the daily array of clones beyond the usual scaling of the base ability. Pretty cool: Shell-game-like switching of positions and at higher levels, the destruction of a clone can yield confusion to foes and reflexive swapping. This archetype is really nice and extremely hackable - I really, really enjoy it.

From here on out, we get 7 new spells - layout-wise, their pages sport quite a bit of free space - more than two could have fit on a given page, but that's a cosmetic complaint. From making targets seem buffoonish to making targets look like you (in a variety of versions) or the conviction of being attacked by chickens or other fowl, the spells are pretty nice. Magical very important papers help lending a sense of authority to the PC - but it should be noted that it has a couple of minor formatting deviations. Beyond the usual "extra" class feature feats, the chapter with new feats contains feat-based access to social paths, further enhances their bonuses or allows you to be part of more than one caste via Man of Two Worlds. Similarly, the paths and the social combat system entwine here, granting special attacks to e.g. Academics and sporting the [Social Style] descriptor - a type of bearing in a social context, if you will - otherwise, they can be switched akin to regular styles. And yes, much like regular styles, they sport 2 follow-up feats each and can be considered to be intriguing.

The final section of the pdf provides a significant array of different political services, codifying the arranging of relationships, assassinations, bribes, buyouts, etc. - these are well-codified with examples and descriptions, etc. - and both sources and modifiers are included, ending the pdf on a nice note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, traditionally a weak point of LRGG's offerings are generally good - while there are a couple of minor formatting hiccups and some abilities that could use a bit of refinement, as a whole, this represents a step up. On the big plus side, for the most part, this book does actually interesting things, often complex ones, and excels in some seriously difficult rules-operations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with a blend of b/w and full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed and nested bookmarks.

Scott Gladstein, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd have created a supplement here that I like more than any previous one in the series: While I personally loved the ascetic character-installment's esoteric tweaks, these did require a lot of GM-skill and consideration to properly use and this book is significantly more player-and GM-friendly. That being said, the book has, beyond a few editing hiccups, two crucial flaws that keep it from reaching the lofty praise I'd otherwise heap upon it:

One, the terminology and its definitions is didactically, not that well organized. Having to look up e.g. the definition of being a "professional soldier" in a capstone is not something I consider to be wise. Secondly, and more importantly in my book, the per se very cool social combat system presented herein could and should be a bit clearer in its presentation - and it honestly is stunning to me why the pdf does not elaborate for a page or so on the means of tweaking its baseline.

You see, the math of the system is pretty solid for what it seeks to be, but the default use creates a very distinct and pretty social default mode of operations...and that one may be one some GMs loathe. HOWEVER, the system, with absolutely 0 work on part of the GM, can be tweaked to enable for play in pretty much any campaign and playstyle you want to use. I can see the math, how it works in various campaign types and how it must be tweaked to accommodate them at one glance...but the same may not hold true for all customers. It is baffling to me why the pdf does not explain the repercussions of e.g. ignoring determination, of increasing/decreasing it, etc., when it is quite evident that some serious work has gone into the social combat mechanic. In short, even if you're like me and don't like the default, which provides pretty speedy resolutions, you may well want to take a closer look here - the system offers much more than what one can perceive at first glance.

The classes contained here are on the solid-to-good level: They offer unique tricks as well as sufficient customization options, even though a few minor hiccups can be found. The showman feels a bit like an odd man out - while per se not a bad class, it doesn't really tie in with the leitmotifs established here. I generally do like the caste-system mechanics and the favors, though the former could have used a bit of expansion.

How to rate this, then? Well, the balancing here is pretty good and similarly, even potent and high-difficulty tricks have been codified rather well. While the pdf does have a couple of hiccups that would see me usually penalize it further than I do in this review, I did draw a lot of inspiration from this book and that is something I rather cherish. If you expect perfection from a supplement and some rules that immediately let you go to town, then this may not be what you're looking for. However, if you're willing to work with the book, perhaps expand it a bit and do some tweaking, then you most assuredly will get your money's worth here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Social Characters
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Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:29:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second version of this module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that 6 level 1 pregens, making use of the unique Veranthea rules for races and characters, are included in the deal...and they are all pretty strong, which is probably a good thing, considering what awaits the PCs herein.

This pdf is intended as an introduction to the continent of Grethadnis in Veranthea and can be used as the first module, which, in combination with Spring of Disorder and Grualroth's Rot, to form a sequence of modules. Assuming character creation, the pdf sports 7 sample campaign traits to invest the characters more within the world of Grethadnis and provides two hooks that can act as shadows of the things to come.

The module begins in Yawvil's Realm and sports two fully-statted, depicted villages for your convenience - generally, the region is considered to be rather peaceful, but the pdf does provide information on random encounters. Three minor, sample quests can be found here - from e.g. defeating a shadow to putting their weight behind one side of a power-struggle, these sketches are okay as supplemental material.

But you want to know about the module, right? All right, but from here on, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Only GMs left? All right! We begin this module on the Great Road throughout the realm of Veranthea's powerful arch-wizard, with an encounter of PCs meeting the Vyrystavyas gypsies - invited for a friendly gaming bout, things turn strange fast: The gypsies unwittingly carried a new artifact the Polysabie, a magical d20 - upon being completed, the roll sports some rather odd effects: Whether it's that a given area believes you're a warlock/witch, being compelled to craft wooden animals when trying to infiltrate structures or being stunned when hearing "her ring" or that you may cause misfortune to grant yourself a bonus...the effects are diverse, but on the nasty side. Worse: Upon having rolled the artifact, it becomes HEAVY...and, as panicked gypsies are sure to tell the PCs: An unstoppable Black Knight manifests. (And yes, in order to destroy the artifact, they will need to trek it through all continents, as this one tends to disappear when the black knight is defeated...)

If you haven't noticed that by now: Yes, the Black Knight pretty much is a unique monster and sports rather Monty Python-ish, obvious abilities - with limbs falling off and insults as well as a glare that may stop you dead in your tracks, the inhuman knight is lethal at CR 3. (And yes, the headbutt is BRUTAL - don't underestimate a limbless black knight!)

Defeating the Black Knight, space warps and rips the PCs to the continent of Urethiel, the domain of His Golden Personage of Fortitude, to be precise. Welcomed by pig farmers has been suffering from bandits (which turn out to be cunning ratfolk). Having defeated these scoundrels, the PCs return...to find another Polysabie-roll in process...and an even stronger Black Knight waiting for them, one with completely different abilities (and CR 4...)

...and, once again, the fabric of space and time tear asunder...and bring the PCs to Trectoyri - or rather, the Free Isle, where a knight's tournament is in process - thankfully, Lord Agresta (a nod to Lou Agresta, perhaps?) notes that the games must go on, the polysabie found and the Black Knight defeated. Unbeknown to the PCs, a doppelganger has acquired the lethal artifact and may well try to infiltrate the PC's group...and, once again, a new iteration of the Black Knight, more powerful than before and with a unique build (and a chainsaw sword) needs to be bested - this time at CR 5. Beating this lethal foe (with actually rather challenging damage-output that may well instakill a PC...), the polysabie's power is broken, space rips asunder one final time and the PCs are ready to tackle the aforementioned, excellent Spring of Disorder module...after all, the PCs have coincidentally been dropped right in the vicinity.

In the revised edition, the battle maps for the respective encounters come with detailed terrain feature explanations that are included in the back, in their appendix of sorts, adding a more tactical dimension to the proceedings, which helps the boss battles, the main focus of the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to Veranthea Codex's two-column standards, which cram a LOT of text on one given page and look pretty busy, but also manage to depict a lot of content per page, with each continent having its own unique, visual style. Artworks are solid and in color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is in full-color and okay - not beautiful, but player-friendly.

Mike Myler's Black Knight is a pretty awesome idea as such and works well for convention games or as a means to introduce new players to Veranthea. The idea of the Black Knight and Polysabie per se are gold - they could have been lame, but ended up being rather cool. However, not everything about this module is great - basically, the story is a very thinly-veiled pretense for granting an impression of the continents, so expect no narrative feats here.

Similarly, there is basically nothing interesting going on beyond the iterations of the Black Knight - the other encounters and things to do herein basically can be considered to be...filler or minimalist window dressing...but the inclusion of battle maps and cartography helps make the respective encounters feel actually more relevant.

This, however, does not change that basically, this book has one cool item/pretense for the journey, 3 great adversaries...and is, bar that, a non-entity of a module. The revision does help offset that with notes on terrain, adding at least a bit of environmental tactics to the sequence of boss battles against the knight, which are btw. really well-made and cool...and lethal as all hell.

Whether or not this module is for you, depends pretty much on if you consider three cool Black Knight builds and the polysabie enough to carry the brief module - Veranthea as a setting is great, but the "tour the continents"-facet didn't really work out too well for me. The continents don't get to shine due to the module's brevity, their distinct characteristics touched upon at best in a cursory manner.

Due to the brevity of this module, none of the continents have much time and space to grow on the PCs, to provide anything beyond the most rudimentary of glimpses of what they are about - basically, this is a set-up for a big module, cut down to the bare skeleton. What we have here are challenging, really cool encounters, trapped in a non-entity of a module.

The black knight and artifact are nice...but on their own, they don't manage to make this a truly great module. This can be a ton of fun...or end up being a huge dud of a module. Running this with kids that do not know Monty Python, for example, did not work as well, while nostalgia can make this fun for an adult group. In the end, though, I have to rate this as a module, and here it has issues that, alas, remain in the revised version, which remains pretty much structurally unchanged.

My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars - if you can live with its barebones pretense of a story...but I will round down for the revised version as well. If the idea of 3 hard boss fights in sequence does not excite you or isn't enough for you to consider this worthwhile, then detract a star and steer clear. If fighting Monty Python's black knight with chainsaw swords sounds fun to you, particularly if you're looking for something you can easily run in a con-environment, this may be worth checking out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight 2.0
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