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Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Ioun Eater
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/20/2016 11:04:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures series clocks in at 5 pages - the front cover contains the header, creature artwork and the social media icons/homepage of misfit studios as well as some introductory text. The SRD takes up 1 1/3 pages and the editorial is in a sidebar - to get all the material you thus have to print out the cover with the icons and part of the SRD as well.

Diminutive goat-headed constructs, these creatures want to eat ioun stones - once they have one, they can eat it as a standard action, gaining its benefits. They can sense ioun stones, can be repaired (and self-repair when ingesting the proper stone) and spit them at foes, shattering them on impact, inflicting bleeding wounds. Their spiked skin also nets them a defensive, retributive skin that deals damage to those that hit it unarmed or via natural weapons. They come with construction requirements.

It is pretty cool to see that these guys gain size via abilities...but, alas, we get not statblocks for such advanced ion eaters and have to do the math ourselves.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on both a formal and rules-language level - though the flavor text has a typo, confusing "green" with "greed" and e.g. a plural glitch or two. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and while I'm not big on the social icons and dispersal of non-gaming parts through the pdf, from an aesthetic point of view, there is not much to complain about. The pdf comes with the classic Crawthorne-artwork as well as the solid ioun eater artwork. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration, which is nice to see. The book has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I like the idea of these guys. In practice, though, Spike Y Jones' critters would all starve (they're constructs, so they wouldn't die) and still go extinct faster than you can say: "Natural selection would screw these guys over." Why? Look at the rules for diminutive creatures. Think of maximum heights when jumping. Guess what? These guys can't jump very high if you remember that and use it still. Otherwise, they can jump like fleas. They also can't climb. And no, the flavor text notwithstanding, they cannot fly. Even if no predators kill them, they just, RAW, have a VERY hard time getting anywhere near their food-source, which is wont to orbiting the heads of the titans called humanoids. This renders them a nuisance at best and a badly designed critter at worst that is hampered by one of the rougher sections of how small sizes and moving into hostile squares works. In short, even if your reading of the rules ignores the convention of maximum sizes for high jumps, they still will get whacked.

Thankfully, I don't have to elaborate on this particular clusterf*** of rules regarding AoOs, Acrobatics, etc. - and simply point out the fact that, no matter how you interpret the whole complex, the poor Ioun Eater still can't reach his nom. A good idea, flawed in execution, I can't go higher than 2 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Ioun Eater
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Castle Falkenstein
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2016 09:27:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive RPG clocks in at 226 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, leaving us with 221 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is Castle Falkenstein? In short, it is one diceless pioneer of the pioneers of both Neo-Victorianism and steampunk-aesthetics. The year if 1870 in an allotopia of our own world and it, unlike the literary genres, does not necessarily take a grim or even dark approach to the era: Instead, it very much embraces a fantastic glorification of the good, high life or the upstanding, virtuous epitome of the age of enlightenment before the cynicism and disillusion of fin de siècle and modernism set in.

Castle Falkenstein's take on a fantastic, steampunk world does assume the existence of dragons, faerie lords and an enlightened New Europa with an economy driven by steam and magic. PCs are called dramatic characters and the game, being diceless, is a relatively narrative-driven experience. Instead of dice, Castle Falkenstein employs cards. The system, as a whole, is very concise to the minutest detail - why no dice? Gentlemen and ladies use cards, not proletarian dice, obviously! So, if you expect to play the plight of the common man, then this will not necessarily deliver; instead, the focus of this system lies in depicting the gentleman scholar; the daring lady, the fey lord, where swords and weaponry clash in the name of high romance, a fantastic iteration of Jane Austen, as seen through Midsummer Night's Dream.

This emphasis of clean cut heroes and villains is represented in the book, for you are asked during character creation if you're good or evil. No neutrality, no shades of gray; this is about absolutes. Character sheets are small notebooks, intended to be filled out by the characters as they explore the fantastic world and a generous list of questions allows you to further and more clearly define the character you are creating.

Castel Falkenstein, as a stand-alone, features a total of 20 abilities - you choose skills that have ratings; one of these will be "Great", four will be "Good" and one "Poor" - all other skills remain at the rating "Average". These ratings basically double as a kind of bonus. To determine success of an action, you draw a card from a standard deck (you only need two of those to play) and add your rating. Simple, right?

Well, let's talk a second about the deck: The suite determines the type of challenge the card can be used for: Spades cover social challenges, also those pertaining to status; Hearts deals with emotional challenges (so basically empathy, sanity, relating, etc.); Diamonds are used for intellectual/scientific challenges and Clubs are used for physical challenges. Playing an appropriate card allows you to add the face card value to the respective challenge. When using a wrong suite for the task, you only add 1. If you e.g. tried to understand a complex engine about to blow and played a hearts-card, you'd only add +1. If you played a 6 of diamonds, you'd add +6 instead! So make sure you play your cards right!

As an aside, this system results in players, quite naturally, oscillating between the various types of skills: You will not find the traditional class-skill-dispersal in the game: Soldiers will use social skills, ladies will engage in physical pursuits, etc. - as an aside here: The lamentable sexism and unpleasant stance towards the fair sex in our historical Victorian age does not extend to the reality of Castle Falkenstein, explaining a more enlightened stance towards women as the logical result of fey ladies et al.

Back to cards: Face cards also have values assigned: Jacks clock in at 11 and every step beyond that adds +1 to the value, with aces trumping kings at 14 points and jokers delivering a whopping 15 points. Castel Falkenstein recognizes 5 levels of skill success: Fumbles happen when you have half or less of the required number; failures denote less than the required number. Partial success means you beat the number; full success when you exceed the target number by half or more and high successes exceed the target number required by double. Each player only holds 4 cards and the same holds true for the Host, the term employed for the GM...and all draw from the same deck.

Sorcery is working in a similar fashion and makes use of the second deck, but the suite in question here determines the type of magical effect the cards resonate with. Drawing more cards takes time to gather up energy and playing a wrong type of card can "taint" the respective final manifestation of the effect in question.

If that sounds opaque, let's take a look at an example, shall we?

All sorcerers belong to a Sorcerous Order. You have access to the Lore of that order. Unlike many fantasy systems, you don't have set spells that you memorize and then cast. Spells involve research and the cost is highly variable depending on a varied array of parameters, and you can only start gathering energy to cast a spell once you've determined these parameters.

Let's say you are part of the Illuminated Brotherhood and wish to use their Lore Simple Geas to exert control over someone. It has a base Thaumic Energy Requirement of 4. You would need to work out your Definitions, so Duration - how long do you want them to be under your control, the Range you'd need, how many people you'd want to affect, how well you know them, etc. In other words, with the same Lore, you could craft a spell that would enspell your significant other for a few seconds to engage in some nasty household chore, or one that would let you exert a massive amount of control over a vast array of strangers, forming them into a temporary army - but they would have wildly different Energy requirements. With the first of those, let's say you want it to last for 5 minutes, that adds 2; simple adds 1; touch adds 1; single subject affected adds 1; subject is mortal adds 1; know subject well adds 1. This results in a total of 11, from which we'd subtract your Good sorcery of 6 to bring us back down to 5. After determining this value, you'd begin drawing cards from the sorcery deck. The Aspect of this spell is Hearts. Any heart card you draw adds its value, any other CAN add 1 point of "unaligned energy", but using unaligned energy will add harmonic effects. You could also "release" an unaligned card (rules-language for returning it to the deck) and redraw, so if you are prepared to take more time, you can gather purely aligned energy - but if you are in a hurry, you might have to a take a risk with harmonics and the taint they add to the manifestation.

Combat resolution, ultimately, is working in a similar manner, with the amount of damage dealt being based on the weapon as well as the level of success of the respective attack; If you expect to take more than 3-4 good hits, then this will not be perfect for you; this is very much an allotopia, which means that characters, ultimately, are fragile. However, at the same time, there probably won't be too much PC-death: Much like the romanticized novels and literature, killing blows need to be declared. This, btw., also brings me to the subject of gender: If you're not playing a heroic woman and rather a lady, you'll rather be disabled by swooning, intense social confrontation, etc. - some of my female friends enjoyed this, while others...well, didn't, though these still had the chance to play other characters.

Anyways, there also would be the duel-engine, which works radically different from regular combat: The two characters have a hand of six cards: Two black, two red, two faces. Faces represent rests, black cards defense and red card offense, with the Fencing skill determining how often a character must rest after an exchange. A defense card automatically negates an offense card; an offense card unopposed by a defense card results in a hit. The pdf provides concise rules for the dueling experience, including weapons-changes, movements, etc. - interesting: When you trick foes into defending while you are resting, you have feinted them. While it may look cumbersome to have special dueling rules and while that means that other PCs will be waiting, it is an interesting fact that you can pretty easily live action simulate a duel fought via the card system, which can make for a truly interesting experience.

Speaking of which: The experience of reading and playing Castle Falkenstein are pretty different from what you usually receive. For one, the book's narrative framework follows Tom Olam, a computer game designer who was magickally abducted to the reality of Castle Falkenstein; as such, we read about how DaVinci's devices changed the worlds, how accords with the fey were made (you can actually play fey and there is a TON of fey influence here!), how King Ludwig did not lose the battle of Königgrätz and how that affects e.g. the way in which Bismarck is seen.

The latter aspects are particularly hilarious to me: I live about 2.5 hours from Schloss Neuschwanstein, grew up with tales of the mad king and in history classes, we learned, in detail, how Bismarck pretty much was a voice of pragmatic reason in an insane German political landscape. The attention to detail given to this magical, steampunk alternative to our own world is frankly impressive: From proper ways of addressing people of different social orders to dressing the part and even proper nomenclature, the book provides a level of detail and logical cohesion that is amazing to just soak up: When e.g. dashing Marianne first opens her corset when getting ready to duel, you can almost see the lighter, more fantastic pre-Penny Dreadful steampunk age of enlightenment and sophistication come to light. It's like reading Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier" minus all the cynicism and breakdowns and the inevitable all turning sour. Castle Falkenstein is fantastic in the truest sense, with Bayern fielding its own aeronavy, uniforms with their own designs and the influence of the dwarven people being just as pronounced as that of the fey.

It should also be noted that a short 3-page introduction scenario is included, set in, where else, Vienna. It is very hard to properly encapsulate the experience of reading Castle Falkenstein within the confines of a review, mainly because the less tangible components of this game are what makes it shine - the attention to detail, the imagination and love that went into the details of this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout is interesting: The first half of the book, the novel-section depicting the escapades of Tom Olan, is depicted in full-color, with artworks that make use of the aesthetics of period-piece artworks. The second half of the book is in b/w, contains the rules-information and is more aesthetically conservative. The electronic version of the book has a HUGE downside: The lack of bookmarks makes it basically impossible to efficiently use at the table: Get a print copy or print the pdf, otherwise you'll be in for a world of pain, particularly regarding the sorcery rules, at least in the beginning.

Michael Alyn Pondsmith's Castle Falkenstein is considered to be a classic of the steampunk genre and there is ample reason for that status. Unlike 90% of steampunk books and supplements I've read, it is not a loveless pastiche. It is not a book based on the futile attempts of making the reader feel clever for remembering some vague, hazy aspect of college-level history in another context. Instead, it is an exercise in expert world-crafting, where the very rules-system enforces, rather than detracts, from the immersion. The focus on high romance and the fantastic lend an angle of innocence to the whole proceedings that is downright refreshing: Instead of the grimdark sense of cataclysms we know from the fin-de-siècle and the 1920s, the emphasis here, unlike any gaslight-era setting I know of, lies on an impossible age of magical realism and chivalry in a very believable context. This does not mean that this is necessarily "unrealistic" or too b/w, mind you - instead, picture it a bit like the Victorian age equivalent of Prince Valiant comics (as an aside: The guy's called "Eisenherz" - literally "Ironheart" in German...much cooler!): I.e. you have a very resonant historic/mythological resonance, suffused with alternate concepts, but still very much and deeply rooted within the realities and possibilities of our own world.

In short: Castle Falkenstein is a phenomenal, captivating campaign setting and one that can depict e.g. comedies of manners just as easily as flying ship combats. This is, one of the very best steampunk settings/worlds I have ever read, regardless of whether you look at RPGs or at literature. Well, perhaps, you'd have to take away the "punk" aspect. Castle Falkenstein is neither gritty, nor grimy - it is a game of sophistication, manners, and as such, an exquisite delight - so steamsophistication would make for an more adept, if perhaps less catchy description.

That being said, the book, as amazing as it is, does have a couple of rough spots that a new edition, should we ever get to see one (which I ardently hope!), should clean up. The worst of the offenders being, frankly, organization. Castle Falkenstein, when you first open it, is a daunting proposal, intimidating even. Unlike e.g. Lords of Gossamer & Shadow and other diceless games I have played, the presentation of the rules frankly feels at times a bit obtuse: When you try to find out about e.g. rules for duels and first get an explanation of how everything works in a social context and in-game reality, that generally helps the sense of immersion, but locating the actual rules governing something can still be an exercise in frustration. Much like the often meandering prose of the age, Castle Falkenstein sometimes gets bogged down in evocative and captivating tidbits that inspire, yes, but that also detract from the playability of the game, in particular in the beginning.

My first session with the game was pretty problematic and, considering the high standards I have as a GM/Host, for my own ambitions, an unmitigated failure. This was mainly due to my own shortcomings, though: In order to play this game properly, I'd strongly suggest to have every player read this book. And make notes. It does not suffice to simply read it and guide the players through the process of character creation, particularly when sorcery's involved. In short: If your whole group is not prepared properly, the game can come to a grinding halt. So yes, rules-presentation is somewhat obtuse.

At the same time, once you DO have learned the rules (and they're not that hard...), the game offers an absolutely delightful playing experience that lends itself perfectly for dressing up, speaking in character and using all those hundreds of tidbits and knowledge you have gained from literature and history: Whether it's small facts from the lives of aristocracy, customs, or the tales of Jules Verne (yep, all historic personalities...did you know that Moriarty is sometimes in cahoots with Phileas Fogg?), from high adventure to comedies of manners and all in between, Castle Falkenstein delivers in a manner that is both heartwarming and amazing.

It is not the easiest game to learn; its lack of bookmarks sucks big time; but still, I can't help but love this world. It has so much heart and is so bereft of cynicism, so wondrous, that it makes for a fantastic experience to play. If you're lucky enough to have players that wholeheartedly embrace the aspect of ROLEplaying, that have the notion, knowledge and inclination of making evocative characters, doing their research, etc., then this is phenomenal. At the same time, Castle Falkenstein's appeal, more so than many an RPG's, is in my opinion based on the willingness and capability of immersing yourself and the group within its setting: If you have one player who just can't stay in character, who continuously blurts forth references to modern day life, who just can't get the appellations etc. right, you can make him a character from our world, stranded here...sure. But at least as far as I'm concerned, that somewhat detracts from the appeal of the world. Perhaps I am too elitist, but I can't picture anything more jarring. That is not to say you can't play like this, mind you: Frankly, you could go full-blown Bill & Ted with this, though personally, I think that would detract from the lovingly-crafted blending of historicity and fabulation.

How to rate this? Well, if you want to use the electronic version on a device...don't. 3.5 stars, at best. A core book sans bookmarks? Unacceptable and only good for being printed out. If you DO print it out, it becomes a whole different beast, though: Once you get past the somewhat rough start, once everyone has learned the rules and read the whole book (seriously recommended here!), then the game is absolutely amazing, evocative, captivating...a pure joy. On a formal level, the needlessly meandering and somewhat obtuse presentation of the rules is a big hurdle for the book, one that makes it suitable primarily for groups with some roleplaying experience already under their belt.

In the end, it is due to these structural hiccups and the lack of bookmarks that I cannot rate this book as highly as I'd like to - one of the two could be forgiven, but both, in conjunction, generate an overall unnecessary bump when learning the system. That being said, while my review cannot exceed a rating of 4 stars for this reason, Castle Falkenstein proves to be an exceedingly rewarding reading and playing experience that rewards those who manage to bypass the initial bump...and as such, it does receive my seal of approval. If you are looking for high adventure and chivalry and want a roleplaying system with a sensibility that rewards honor, virtue, etc. - this is exactly what you've been looking for!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein
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Psionics Augmented: Soulknives III
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2016 09:22:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third expansion-pdf for the soulknife class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page blank, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9.5 pages, though these pages are chock-full with text - and this time around, we look at a ton of PrCs...so what do we get?

After the obligatory introduction page, including the high-power-advice sidebar we know from the predecessors, we are introduced to the first of the PrCs, the Marvel. All PrCs herein cover the full 10 standard levels of PrCs.

The marvel, chassis-wise, receives d12 HD and receives 4 + Int skills per level as well as 9/10th manifester level progression, full BAB and 1/2 Fort-save progression. To qualify, you need to have the enhanced mind blade class feature as well as telekinetic athleticism, 2 psionic feats, one of which must be Psionic Body, the other an offense enhancer and the PrC also needs 5 ranks in two skills, 4 in a third, so qualification-wise, it is not too easy, nor too default to get into this one. The marvel, from level 1 out, continues to improve blade skills et al. as well as psychic warrior path abilities and trances. The PrC also adds Wisdom Modifier to Strength for the purpose of determining carrying capacity etc. and may throw rocks and objects that exceed the size limitations of the character. At 2nd level, while focused, the marvel receives a scaling bonus to natural AC and 3rd and 9th level provide psychic strike progression. 4th level nets fly speed 60 ft. with good maneuverability while psionically focused, up to class level + Wis-mod minutes per day. This limit is eliminated at 8th level, just fyi. 5th level nets DR 5/adamantine and 6th level a new blade skill. 7th level lets the character automatically overcome ANY DR while psionically focused (not a fan here). Tenth level increases DR to 10/-. and outsider apotheosis...and the marvel doesn't need to maintain psionic focus any more.

I like the marvel - it is a cool rendition of the psionic/telekinetic superhero-type of character and while the DR-ignoring is something I'll tweak, I have no complaints pertaining the balance of this one. Kudos!

The second PrC herein would be the primarch, who needs to be able to generate a +3 mind blade enhancement, must be capable of throwing the mind blade and has a few skill, skill skill and feat prereqs - like the marvel, not to easy and not too hard to qualify for. The PrC gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-save progression and psychic strike progression at both 3rd and 8th level. The PrC treats its level as soulknife levels for the purpose of blade skills etc. and the PrC and gifted blade support is included, if you're going for the high-psionics route. Interesting: The defining first level psychic epiphany class feature is defined by the blade skill used to qualify for the PrC: When qualifying via e.g. Ice Blade, your soulknife receives the frost weapon enhancement. The PrC may also, once per encounter as an immediate action, trade a blade skill for another one, a total of 3 + Wis-mod times. 4th level lets him trade out 2, 7th 3 and at 10th level, he gets a wildcard slot to be filled at the start of any given encounter. The trade lasts for 1 minute. One question: 4th and 7th level's additional trades: Are they included in the immediate action activation or not? As written, the ability sports no caveat that precludes you from using the ability multiple times in consecutive rounds, which makes the whole sequence a bit ambiguous.

2nd and 6th level provide new blade skills and 4th level further upgrades the power of the soulknife, following up on the 1st level ability; if you e.g. got the aforementioned frost improvement, you now increase damage and also get a related psi-like ability. Starting at 5th level, the primarch receives energy resistance or DR, depending on the element chosen, while retaining psionic focus and 10th level, further upgrades the sequence of blade-abilities with a cool capstone: For expenditure of both psychic strike and psionic focus, you can unleash some devastating psi-like abilities...or cause nasty Whirlwind bleeds. Neat!

The third PrC herein would be the Strategos, whose qualifying criteria require manifester level 5th as well as telepathy; it similarly is pretty easy to qualify for. The PrC gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Will-save progression, 9/10 manifester level progression. The PrC receives uncanny dodge at 4th level, improved uncanny dodge at 8th level and begin at 1st level with a collective. When using the metapsionic knife feat (which was one of the feats from PA: Soulknives II imho, power-level-wise, would be closer to a class feature than a feat...), the PrC may expend psychic strike in lieu psionic focus to deliver power effects through the mindblade. The PrC retains mind blade and blade skill efficiency progression of the soul knife and manifesting progression draws power from the tactician power list when choosing powers. 2nd level nets an insight bonus equal to the primary manifesting attribute modifier, capping at class level, versus foes in range of telepathy, but only versus foes whose surface thoughts he can read. Unique: The PrC may lend mind blades to allies (reducing the enhancement bonus of the blade) and he may also treat an ally's position as his own, using blade skills to attack through allies, which makes for a very interesting playing experience.

Starting at 3rd level, the PrC gains a collective skill, with every odd level thereafter granting an additional collective skill. These allow for the lending of mind armors or shields, swapping places with allies and charge the collective with his psychic strike, allowing allies to use the psychic strike charge as part of a free action. Interesting: Allies with psychic strike may also recharge a collective they're part of...which may be a bit strong if your players are wont to feature cohorts and the like. The maximum of 1 charge per collective, however, does retain balance for the ability. Beyond offensive and defensive buffs, the ability to add your own AoO to that of an ally can be pretty nasty, but also tactical. While it lets you combo hard, it can be considered to be still in line. The improved blade collective ability has some sort of ccp hiccup: "He is may now grant his mind blade to an ally without reducing his mind blade’s enhancement bonus. Mind blades gifted to allies have reduce their enhancement bonus reduced by 1, but do not reduce the bonuses of any other mind blades." I am pretty sure that something went wrong here. Sharing balde skills with allies is cool and 6th level increases telepathy save DCs by +2 as well as saves against the discipline by +2. The capstone is amazing: You vanish and make one attack per ally contained in the collective!

The strategos is strong, but the relatively fragile framework makes for a nice balance for the concepts...and rules- and playing-experience-wise, these guys are frickin' glorious!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as good as usual for Dreamscarred Press - there are a few hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard and the book has the neat full-color artwork of the cover. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Chris Bennett's third expansion for the soulknife class provides 3 concise, fun PrCs. The Marvel and in particular, the strategos, are absolutely amazing. The primarch, while nice, didn't capture my imagination to the same extent, but that is a personal issue and not something I'd fault the pdf for. Where the second installment sported some options that I considered to be problematic, the ones herein work in the context of both relatively gritty and high-powered gameplay. While the PrCs are pretty strong, it is only in conjunction with previous installments that issues can show up for grittier games, so as long as you take care regarding the combo potential, you're fine with these. The strategos' playing experience as a center at the storm unleashed by his collective is intriguing and fun. How to rate this, then? Well, this may not be perfect, but it is a fun supplement that sports some design-wise intriguing options - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up fo the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives III
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Legendary Hybrids: Deadeye Hexer
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2016 09:20:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of Legendary Games' hybrid classes clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Hybrid classes - they can be amazing, but at the same time, they can be disparate entities sans unique mechanics...so what is the deadeye hexer? Well, first of all, he is basically a hybrid of the gunslinger and witch classes and gains, chassis-wise, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and 3/4 BAB-progression, which is SMART: Firearms don't need the gunslinger's full BAB-progression. The class also receives good Reflex and Will-saves as well as Intelligence-based prepared spellcasting draw from the witch's list, scaling up to 6th level. Weapon and armor proficiency-wise, they gain simple weapon and firearm proficiency as well as proficiency with light armors, which do not impede their spellcasting. As a minor layout complaint of an aesthetic nature, one sentence of the proficiency-write-up partially overlaps with the class table.

Somewhat akin to my own etherslinger, the deadeye hexer's gun acts as a catalyst for his magical powers, doubling as a kind of familiar. Huge issue: The firearm familiar's rules are supposedly found in Appendix A...which does not exist. The firearm familiar rules do exist, but yeah. Anyways, the firearm familiar receives scaling Intelligence, beginning at 6 and improving to 15 and similarly, its enhancement bonus becomes +1, increasing up to +5 at 1th level. 2nd level nets Quickdraw of the familiar, 7th improved empathic link and 13th the option to scry the familiar.

The deadeye hexer begins play with gunsmithing as well as a patron (9 of which are provided) as well as with a bullet hex. He gains an additional bullet hex at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Unless otherwise noted, using them is a standard action, they have scaling save DCs governed by Int and offensive ones need to hit the target. Missed bullet hexes do not count against the daily uses of the respective hex. 4 witch hexes are available (including slumber, with the cool tweak of inflicting nonlethal damage), but apart from that, we get only 6 such hexes for a total of 10...though thankfully, later levels also unlock major and grand bullet hexes, providing sufficient diversity and choice.

But what do the hexes do? Well, what about animate object via a bullet that hits a target? (Yep, only 1 in use at any give time.) Ranged bull rush via bullets? Yeah, pretty cool! As a full-round action, 15 ft.- shrapnel rain is pretty powerful, but action economy-wise somewhat justified...though I'd still include a minimum level for this one. At level 1, that is extremely strong. Concealment-granting clouds or whispering messages to bullets to warn others is pretty cool: In the latter case, you whisper up to 25 words to the bullet, fire in the air and its hits the ground near the creature, who may then proceed to read your message in the cracks formed by the bullet's impact. Come on, that is very, very neat.

Major bullet hexes are unlocked at 11th level, with 5 being provided: Here, we have an upgrade of aforementioned AoE-attack, immediate action + class level dodge bonus to an attack 1/24 hours when shot at, bullets that burrow further into the foe or Freischütz-like bullets that may hit multiple foes at progressively worse +atk make for some neat choices. 5 witch hexes may also be chosen here. Grand hex-wise, 4 of the witch's arsenal and 3 new ones are provided, with the ability being unlocked at 17th level. These include class level times d6 energy damage-causing bullets or hellfire bullets, which deal even more fire damage and linger, but only can affect a target once per day...or petrify foes.

Instead of grit, the deadeye hexer receives Mana at 2nd level, which acts in pretty much the same way and is governed by Intelligence and has full compatibility regarding grit, panache, etc. Deadeye hexers also receive, obviously, deeds at this level and may replace a deed with a gunslinger deed gained at a lower level. He gains 3 such deeds at 2nd level: One lets you cast a spell from the familiar sans preparing it, rerolling concealment miss chances and spending 1 mana to summon an unattended firearm as an immediate action to his hand, provided it is within 5 ft. per class level. 3 new deeds are gained every 4 levels thereafter: 6th level, for example, allows for concealment ignoring, potentially calling attended firearms and potentially using another hexer's firearm with said characters permission...or even force the gun to cooperate. 10th level lets you auto-confirm a threat via mana expenditure (no mana-regain, though) as well as swift action reload and scatter shots. 14th level unlocks mana-expenditure to add + Int-mod to saves, free action reload and acting during a surprise round. 18th level nets a killing shot powered by mana, preventing a misfire as long as he has at least 1 mana and always acting during a surprise round - as you may see, these mainly represent linear improvements of the respective abilities.

4th level nets nimble, which also doubles as the exceedingly unsatisfying capstone of the class. You get Nimble +5 and one 6th level spell more. Hooray.

The pdf has 3 feats: The obligatory extra bullet hex, +2 mana and a feat that lets you target a creature with a bullet hex that can affect it 1/day only a second time.

The pdf also contains 2 archetypes for the class, the first of which would be the eldritch musketeer, who must choose either musket or blunderbuss as firearm familiar and any ray, cone, line or ranged touch attack cast through the familiar adds the gun's enhancement bonus to the save DC as well as increasing the critical modifier of the spell, if any to x3!!! However, on a misfire or the target making a saving throw with a natural 20 (cool idea!), the gun first gains the broken condition, then detonates, though immediate action mana expenditure can prevent that in both cases - at 1 and 2 mana cost, respectively. This powerful ability replaces bullet hex. 3rd level allows for the sacrifice of spell slots to double critical threat ranges of the gun; one double for 2 spell level...or increase the critical multiplier by one. So yeah, you can sacrifice a level 6 spell as a swift action to upgrade critical multiplier to x7. URGH. Worse, I assume that casting spells through the gun that require an attack roll count as attacks for the purpose of this upgrade; at least the archetype does not explicitly forbid it. Do I really need to spell out how this exacerbates the issue of insane gunslinger crits and extends it to spells? Oh joy. The one thing the class or anything built upon the firearm chassis was a higher critical multiplier. Suffice to say, the hard spell limit does help, but still - this archetype will get nowhere near my game.

The second archetype, the hexslinger, modifies his proficiency to only cover one-handed firearms and must select a pistol as a fire arm familiar. Instead of deeds at 2nd level, he gets spell combat via the firearm, which is nice. Odd: The hexslinger still RAW gains Mana, which does exactly nothing until the higher level deeds are gained. 3rd level unlocks spellshot, allowing for the delivery of touch-spells via the firearm. 10th level replaces the deeds gained with greater spell combat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, though, as mentioned before, there are minor type-setting hiccups. From an RAW-nitpicky perspective, the functionality of bullet hexes should be a bit more precise - RAW the 1/day caveat of hexes could have used clean spelling out, as one could argue either way. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and manages to cram a lot of content in the pdf's pages. The artworks are a mixture of previously used and a new full-color piece - they generally are neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee's Deadeye Hexer does a lot of things right: the 3/4 BAB-chassis for the magical gunman is smart and makes the class work smoother regarding its math. The base class, apart from minor complaints mentioned, is well-executed. Personally, I would have loved to see more interaction between the hexes and mana, but that is primarily me and a matter of taste and as such will not influence the verdict. While I would have liked to see something unique for the hexslinger, the musketeer...is broken. Unless you really want a crit-fishing build from beyond hell, I'd strongly suggest disallowing it. Particularly irksome in the archetype is that both powerful options could be clearer in how they interact...or not interact, so even if x7 crit multipliers or tripled threat ranges before enchantments sound like a good idea to you (there are games out there that enjoy this type of thing, after all!), the archetype's precision is lacking.

In short: I like the base class, but the archetypes feel like afterthoughts and drag down the pdf. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. This has all the makings of a 5-star class and if you only want the base class, you should consider this 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 instead...but with the inclusion of the utterly OP eldritch musketeer, I can no longer recommend this unanimously. The lack of a rewarding capstone sucks. Still, the class does not deserve rounding down, but to have, of all things, bullet hexes not explicitly stating that they work with the same daily limitations as witch hexes is a big issue that actually led to a prolonged discussion in my playtest, so you should be aware of this component. My final verdict will still round up, if only by the teeny-tiniest of margins and because the class actually is not a hybrid that just smashes stuff together; the deadeye hexer has a distinct identity and playstyle I enjoy.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Hybrids: Deadeye Hexer
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Green Devil Face #3
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2016 09:19:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Green Devil Face magazine clocks in at 15 pages, the first page of which would be devoted to editorial + introduction, leaving us with 14 pages, so let's take a look!

Alfred John Dalziel begins with an interesting pool that regrows lost limbs - but, in the case of anything but a neutral adventurer, the limb has the opposite alignment of its owner, which may result in confusion. It is also suggested to make the save potentially penalizes, depending on the amount regrown. Yeah, call be cynical, but been there, done that.

Andreas Davour has a neat, sadistic little trap: A harmless room, non-descript, really, with a treasure chest in the middle. Inside are coins...but if you open the chest, the bottom slides away and opens to a grill of lava, which proceeds to heat the coins to searing levels. Two issues here: A) Coins made of precious metals melt pretty quickly and B), no suggested damage values or even general guidelines are provided - I am aware that this is pretty much the standard for the series, but I'd honestly have appreciated some guideline here.

The next trick by the same author would be the hypercube of doom: In an alcove is a small altar, made of cubes: The altar folds in upon itself when sufficient pressure is applied. "Make something up" - yeah, sorry, that doesn't really help me. No damage suggestions, no effect suggestions - just an opaque (and not in a good way) idea.

Andreas then proceeds to provide a relatively solid trap: A big room, mostly with some murky water, illuminated by some hazy flashes: In the middle of the dark room, a tank is precariously balanced on top of unstable poles. The tank contains electric eels. PCs will be in for a shock. Haha. Solid, in comparison to the former two.

James Edward Raggi IV is up next with "The Great Golden Ball": Somewhere in the dungeon, there is a huge pit, huge enough to not be able to see the other side. At the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions, chains are bolted to the floor and lead over the pit. Above the pit, anchored by the chains, is a golden ball - weightless, that will rip itself free sans the support of all chains and fly upwards...indefinitely. Actually attempting to get this treasure will potentially get PCs killed...and they'll only have themselves to blame. Pretty cool!

His second contribution is a nice twist: You have a cavern, incredibly life-like hooded adventurers with hauls of treasure galore turned into statues, and a chained woman with strange upstanding hair...who actually is not a medusa, but rather a harmless, dressed up damsel, forced by mastermind xyz to behave as though she was one. Oh, and add giant snake. Oh, and the pretrified persons? Those actually ARE medusae...so de-petrifying them...bad idea. Their treasure also is a ruse, obviously.

Nasty set-up for a BBEG: Throne + lever. Flip the lever and all but safe zones start getting nasty spikes. Safe zones are subject to silence. Simple, but effective.

Akseli Envall presents the Zigzag Path of Doom, which is actually a square sequence of rooms, wherein lethal traps describe the eponymous zigzagging path of maiming, mayhem and death, which makes sense in particular for lived-in-dungeons that require a creature to have an easy way to access a treasure vault etc. Solid!

Caleb Jensen's contribution...rocks: The PCs happen upon a mummified corpse, warning them of the red stream. They hear mewing. They see a dire wolf seemingly attacking wild horses...and then realize that it is actually frolicking with them! The source of the mewing are Mer-fish, adorable piscine kittens. All's well as long as you don't have riding animals. Such beings will be enchanted by the adorably annoying kittens. Those wearing leather will potentially be spit upon by the kittens, cursing them and forcing them to basically become the annoying kind of die-hard vegans that screams "Murder" (here: literally) when anyone nearby eats meat and even vomit. Yeah, that'll go rather well in a quasi-medieval fantasy world...

Settembrini brings us a weird puzzle room - in the best of ways: Two strange basins with weird waters, some tools...and the option to grow Gelatinous Oozes - something that, once the PCs have discovered and survived, may become an interesting, if unreliable weapon.

Chris Weller's Swallow of Summoning is basically a magical swallow that can convey your messages and force those that listen to them to heed your requests....which is a nice idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout is no-frills b/w-1-column sans graphical elements and you can fit 4 of the pages on one letterpack or A4-page, if you print them out and don't mind relatively small fonts. The cartography, where present, does its minimalist job. Front and back cover are contained in a separate pdf and the issue comes with versions optimized both for US-letterpack and European A4-sizes, which is neat.

This collection of encounters is generally an interesting one that features some nice ideas...though frankly, I was somewhat less blown away by this one, especially in comparison to the first two GDFs. The tricks here are more common and there is a good chance that veteran GMs may have pulled off one or two of them already, which does diminish the appeal of the magazine, at least for me. While certainly not bad for the low and fair price-point, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars on this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Green Devil Face #3
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Book of Lairs for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:50:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 109 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisements, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with a total of 102 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, before we do...what is this? In short, it could be considered to be a massive companion tome to the even more massive Tome of Beasts, but that would be only the tip of the ice-berg. Basically, this massive book contains a significant array of set-piece locations you can easily drop into your game, with the opposition making partially use of the monsters from the Tome of Beasts. While the book does not contain the statblocks of the opposition, it does provide rules for e.g. traps and obstacles, if featured in the respective environment. The respective lairs come with gorgeous full-color maps that feature the keys; every keyed location points towards an area, including a sequence of read-aloud text. The respective lairs are intended for level 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14 and 15 - though several lairs e.g. are provided for 3rd level.

All right, this is about as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. So yeah, potential players should jump to the conclusion, even though I will try hard to not go into the nit and grit of the respective storylines told by the environments.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

Mike Welham goes first and provides a nasty old dockyard, where ratfolk have set up shop alongside some nasty wharflings and doppelrats; a suitable sidetrek challenge for 1st level PCs. 3rd level PCs may explore the lost halls of everforge, penned by Shawn Merwin - a dwarven hall now abandoned, where they may be just in time to prevent the ascension of a flame drake to its more powerful, probably too strong, iteration!

Also at this level, Mike Shea's "Den of the Rotten King", where a dread wererat king lords over the denizens of the underworld, which may be nice, but it pales before Mike Welham's trip to the Clockwork Tower - with the complex devices and interaction with the environment makes this one of the strongest offerings herein regarding its mechanics. At 4th level, Shawn Merwin provides a lindwurm lair in the titanic ranches of no other place than Yggdrasil! Oh, and add in some ravenfolk for added complication and you have a great lair.

Also at 4th level, Steve Winter invites us to visit the Castle of Sand, situated next to a gorgeous oasis...and yes, not all is here as it seems...but I'm not going to dispel that particular mirage here in the review. Brain England's Pirate's Cove for 5th level characters brings us to an almost archetypical pirate hide-out...that houses darkest horrors and a blasphemous cult instead! Mike Welham's All-seeing eye deals with a cult that has been on the wane...and features some disturbing motifs regarding eyes and the like - it does not have to turn sour...but then again, what would you do if you saw a disturbing cluster of eyes floating towards you? Yeah, thought so.

6th level PCs can look forward to a trip to Shawn Merwin's alchemists' guildhall - which may, map-wise, be one of the most conservative lairs herein, but it does feature an interesting component regarding the opposition that astute PCs may well notice....and the true villains here are perhaps not what the PCs expected. The Hive, penned by Mike Welham oncegain, would deal with the complex beholden to the feared spawn of Arbeyach and thus can be pictured best as a complex with a nasty termite/insect-theme.

Brian England takes us to the almost classic Temple of the Deep Ones at 7th level, where the PCs face off versus coral drakes, deep ones and similar critters. Not my favorite one, though the map provided for this one is truly gorgeous and colorful. James J. Haeck's Monument of the Thunderer, set in and on a gigantic dragon statue, certainly is one of the most amazing maps in concept herein and the lair, as such is high-concept and rewarding, though the opposition faced...well, isn't. The foes featured per default here are a bit bland. The same can definitely not be said about the 8th level "House of Reeds and Whispers", a wonderful, dark and horrific little set-piece that almost feels like it was penned by Richard Pett, and not Jon Sawatsky. Yes, this is intended as a compliment, Mr. Sawatsky, for the atmosphere here is neat indeed. If you are looking for a no-frills sword & sorcery-vibe, I'd certainly recommend Shawn Merwin's Tomb of the Scorpion King.

Marc Radle's dark forest has a direct tie-in with the umbral tower lair and represents basically a druidic area with a threat of shadow-themes eclipsing it; the location is per se solid, if less than what I expected from the evocative cartography. Shawn Merwin and Wolfgang Baur then proceed to take us to exactly said tower, which not only spotlights my beloved shadow-fey, it also offer advice for adapting it to temperate forests and features even a brief chase and some nice environmental options - another highlight herein. Marc Radle's Warlock crypt (9th level) redeems him - once again, we get the evocative themes we have come to enjoy from his writing, with the King in Silver and similar fexts making for unique foes, even though the map isin't as amazing as that of some other complexes.

Enrique Betran's Aboleth Grotto is a classic take on the trope and makes for a fun environment to explore, making good use of TOB's new critters...but it falls behind Robert Aducci's Bloowood of the Cruor Circle - which makes perhaps the coolest map I have seen for the dark druid theme...pretty much ever. Oh, and the adversaries also are neat. Shawn Merwin's Imperial Ghoul Outpost is per se nice, though I have an issue with the new material, which deals "1 point of necrotic damage" on a hit - is that +1 or does it convert 1 point to necrotic damage? Not sure there.

Jon Swatsky's cistern may not look as impressive as some of the other locations featured herein - but it represents one of the more challenging lairs in the book, if handled correctly by the GM, featuring some cool, unique environmental issues to deal with...

Steve Winters brings us back to the sand-choked tropes of sword & sorcery with the fane of serpents...including rival adventurers. As an aside, I combined that one with Legendary Games' shrine of serpents in my own game...worked rather neatly! Wolfgang Baur does show where his reputation comes from with the "Sky Stairs of Beldestan" - not only is this 14th level lair's cartography gorgeous to behold, the environment depicted is absolutely fantastic - and with traveler and pilgrims as well as death lurking at the top, this location just oozes pure style. Speaking of which: The kobold-commander-in-chief also presents the citadel of the void dragon, situated at the very edge of space; lack of air and the unique layout are just some of the obstacles to contend with here and yes, this lair is just as fantastic as the stairs. The final lair herein would be from the pen of none other than Jeff Grubb and pit the 15th level PCs against an umbral vampire. Yes, it features a soul organ and the complex is shaped like a star of David, adding some occult notions to the lair and ending the book on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a rules-language and formal level. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous, gorgeous full-color artworks, though fans of kobold press may be familiar with some of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Cartography is at once amazing and the biggest drawback of the book: If you do want to get player-friendly versions of the maps, you'll have to purchase them separately on the Kobold Press-store. I kinda get why, considering their quality, but it is still something that would gall me...particularly if got the print and it didn't have them. I do not have the print version of this book, so unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea if it features the player-friendly iterations of the maps or not.

The designers Robert Aducci, Wolfgang baur, Enrique bertran, Brian Engard, Jeff Grubb, James J. Haeck, Shawn Merwin, Marc Radle, Jon Sawatsky, Mike Shea, Mike Welham and Steve Winter have done a per se great job in this book - there is not a single bad lair herein; all of the locations are evocative, fun and feature something that would qualify them as worth being used. In the quality of the writing, there is not much to complain about.

I have seen a couple of posts floating around the internet that claim this is almost system-neutral...but I'd vehemently disagree there. This is very much a 5e-supplement through and through that intends to maximize its potential audience by appealing beyond the confines of its rules-system. And the evocative locations succeed in just that; this is a nice purchase for other systems as well...but this flexibility also somewhat hurts the direct usefulness of the book. You see, the creatures featured herein do not sport stats. This is intentional to maintain a broader appeal, and due to this book's status as a companion tome to the massive "Tome of Beasts."

However, this also means that you really NEED Tome of Beasts to make the most use out of the lairs presented herein...unless you're as versed as yours truly is and know what a "fext" or an "alseid" is, what powerlevel you'd use there, etc. So nope, I would not consider this book as such a good supplement for other systems....the maps, though...heck yes!

When used as intended for 5e with the Tome of Beasts, the consequence of the lack of stats herein is that the book demands a lot of page-flipping, as you have to look up the respective critters in the ToB, which represents a comfort detriment I considered somewhat annoying; similarly, I get why official D&D-supplements can't be quoted by page. Why this can't be done for the book this is a companion to, though, baffles me. I found myself searching quite a bit in the ToB-pdf while using this.

As a whole, I really, really loved most aspects of this massive books; the writing is excellent, the maps for the most part stellar...but the book does feel a bit inconsiderate, with its externalized player-maps, with its book-flipping sans page-numbers for stats that should imho be inside these pages. If you're willing to put up with these admittedly minor hassles when using this, you'll get a superb collection of material, but personally...I never quite managed to shake off that little sense of annoyance. So yeah - quality-wise, most definitely a true gem and, if that was all to judge, this would get my highest accolades. But having no player-friendly maps included is a huge deal for me and, combined with the slightly "more-difficult-than-need-be"-handling of the book, I can't go higher than 4 stars as my official verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Lairs for 5th Edition
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The Ice Ælves of Niflæheim
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:48:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This racial pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page preface/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is Niflæheim, the home of the ice ælves that so strongly shapes the whole race? Well, as the preface states, it is somewhere along the lines of Mad Max meeting 30 Days of Night - basically Antarctic survival in a fantastic context. It should come as no surprise then that the history of the ice ælves and their clades is written in blood and tragedy.

It is against said exceedingly harsh environment that these people have carved out their own niche to prosper even, as their shamans gather the power of heimilimarks, seeking to return to the fields of Midgard...but, alas, there is the doomsday, the leitmotif of Rhûne, also attached to the ice ælves, for Níðhöggroth (amazing from a linguistic point of view: Sounds like a more Black Metal version of Níðhöggr!), the wyrm of the long winter, is drawn inexorably towards them...

The prose of the race being outstanding, what about the mechanics? The ice ælves receives +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, are native outsiders with darkvision and gain +2 to Perception, Survival and Stealth, +4 to Acrobatics when moving across slippery surfaces. They have cold resistance 5 and get elven immunities. They establish bounds with their heimilimarks, being immune to aging while within 5 miles of these as well as gaining at-will pass without trace in this area. They get snow stride and may, as a standard action, predict unerringly the weather in a given area for 24 hours. They are vulnerable to fire. The race comes with 3 alternate racial traits: +1 natural armor in exchange for elven immunities, 1/day ice armor and stone shield as SPs at the cost of weather prediction and elven immunities and finally, there are ælves that may subsist on a diet of snow alone, provided they eat 4 times the usual amount, but these also lose the forecast power.

As a whole, the race is pretty powerful, accounting for the increased power-level assumed by Rhûne. That being said, the power of the ice ælves is very much terrain bound: Unless your campaign exclusively happens in northern climes, the race will not prove to be unbalancing to even gritty games. In the frigid cold, though, they are very strong. The pdf provides a selection of favored class options that cover the advanced player's guide classes as well as the magus - these generally are nice, though e.g. the bolded cleric-line is not red like the others - which would be as good a place as any to note that there are some deviations in formatting from the established racial presentation, including, unfortunately, the absence of an age, height & weight table in this pdf. That being said, these, for the most part, are cosmetic.

The pdf also provides four mundane items - the relatively powerful grafa staff (aka combat shovel) and the fire proofing magical waters of Niflæheim being two: The third would be icicle arrows, the fourth a sheathe that freezes the weapon, making it harder to draw...which sounds odd, but becomes pretty cool (haha) once used in conjunction with one of the new feats: Weaponize Snow lets you make a limited array of fleeting snow weapons that obviously can be kept in shape longer via these sheathes. Those with the Touch of Niflæheim gain 3 + Wis-mod ray of frost per day and may use these to further enhance snow weapons to inflict +1d6 cold damage. Fists like Ice net you stone fist 3+ Wis-mod times per day, while Snow Slinger does the same for magic stone. Sharp Chill adds a scaling enhancement bonus to weaponized snow weapons. Snow Strider works in conjunction with Run and lets you change directions multiple times.

The pdf also contains 5 different magic items: Iceflame Torches produce a heatless flame, powered by the body heat of the wielder (fans of Dark Souls etc. - there is some amazing imagery here: "His flame sputters and soon,. only embers will remain..."), while Herklæði Crystal Gorgets can generate breastplate-equivalents of ice armor - makes sense and is pretty amazing! The 3 last items would be the heimilimarks, which come with lesser and greater versions as well. The lesser version nets you fire resistance and a kind of shields, but also allows you to expend this shield's absorption capabilities to provide SPs. The lesser iteration nets fire resistance, but provides ice SPs, which felt a bit odd to me, but if in doubt, I tend to assume intention rather than glitch. The regular version provides cold-based tricks. The greater version, obviously, have the most powerful SPs and, when holding it for long enough, you slowly start becoming an ice ælf.

The pdf concludes with 3 spells: Resonating Winds enhances the bardic dirge of doom; Night of Niflæheim is a more powerful, racial variant of darkness that also causes nonlethal cold damage...but said damage can be prevented by aforementioned iceflame torches. Finally, Instant Frozen Pool is basically an instant AoE-ranged trip.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the one weak point of this pdf: While significantly better than in the previous racial pdf on the jötunfolk, there are some hiccups that could have been avoided, even though they mainly are aesthetic. Layout is absolutely glorious: 2-column, full-color, gorgeous. The same can be said about the numerous full-color artworks herein: While two look a bit stock-art-y, the rest is on par with the amazing cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

I absolutely hate terrain races. The one thing I LOATHED about Sandstorm and Frostburn, two of my favorite 3.X books by WotC, was frankly the racial section. Why introduce cool terrain and then make races that ignore the rules, but suck in other contexts? Plus: Just slapping "terrain name" before a race or racial concept does not make for a cool race. The ice ælves of Niflæheim are pretty much anathema to this: Instead of getting an identity-less terrain-race, we are introduced to a harsh people steeped in their own mythology. The tricks of the trade of the race are amazing...and while they are a terrain race, I can't find it in me to hate them. The prose woven by Jaye Sonia and Mike Myler is too captivating for that; The ideas are too cool. (Yeah, I'll punch myself for that one later...) While the race is strong in the given climate, GMs that do not plan on exclusively playing in the depth of winter should have no issues using the ice ælves as presented here. It is only the minor hiccups like the missing age, height and weight table that truly keep this pdf from the highest accolades. As a whole, this can be considered to be a good book, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ice Ælves of Niflæheim
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Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: Doctor Class
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:45:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This free teaser for the Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland-setting clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a text of flavorful introduction and the considerations when making a doctor, we dive right into the mechanics of the class; as a minor nitpick, we do not get quick build notes for the class, but considering this one's teaser-nature, I'm okay with that. Doctors gain 1d8 Hit Dice, proficiency in light armor, shields, simple weapons, ranged martial weapons, Healer's kit and medical hit, Intelligence and Charisma and 3 skills chosen from History, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Science and Technology. Starting equipment nets you a medical kit and studded leather armor and either dagger or light hammer, light crossbow or autoslingshot and either a healer's kit or a scavenger's pack.

Why do we need doctors in the irradiated wasteland of 2099? Simple: Radiation really screws with magic. Doctors gain a fast heal ability that lets them stab a syringe of regenerative insta-heal stuff into allies; at first level, this heals 2d4 and increases at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th level in potency, for up to 9d4. The feature can be used proficiency bonus + Intelligence modifier times per day before requiring a long rest to recharge. Also at 1st level, the class may stabilize creatures as a bonus action via the use of the healer's kit.

At 2nd level, the doctor gains advised rest, which enhances the short rest of nearby creatures: If they expend Hir Dice to heal, they regain additional hit points, increasing the die size of the bonus received over the levels.

Starting at 5th level, you can make superlative serums: If you have a formerly living creature, you can draw biological material from it to imbue creatures with one of the creature's tricks - these are grouped in 3 classes, mind you: 11th and 15th level unlock more powerful abilities or features to bestow via these serums. 6th level nets extra attack as well as better medispray crafting. 18th level provides quadruple damage versus restrained targets (with a chance for instakills) and, as a capstone, the doctor may use all actions (including bonus actions, reaction etc.) to either complete restore a creature's HP or, if it has died, restore it to 1/2 maximum. This one's usable Intelligence modifier times per day.

At 3rd level, the class may choose one of three archetypes. These grant abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th and 14th level. Chemists also learn to employ herbalism kits and may prepare holistic serums that grant advantage on a saving throw, create serums that overload the adrenaline and thus enhance attributes (no, you can't exceed 20). You can also make serums that make the recipients quicker and even generate, at level 14, a contingency fast heal that kicks in when a creature's reduced to 0 hit points.

The physician gets advantage on salvaging medical technology and several skill proficiencies and may employ fast heal at range. 10th level adds an upgrade to fast heal and 14th level a long-range syringe weapon to deliver healing...or death. The third archetype, the surgeon, gains proficiency with martial weapons and may inflict additional damage 1/turn to a creature struck if the target is within 5 ft. or you have advantage. This amount increases at 7th, 10th and 14th level. 7th level also relieves limb conditions, something I am pretty excited to read more about in the final book. 10th level nets cunning striker, which is basically a whirlwind attack versus all foes nearby. As a minor complaint, it references sneak attack, when it should reference surgical precision. Finally, the archetype may reattach lost limbs, which is also pretty intriguing - I'm already pretty interested in how the rules'll pan out for those mechanics.

The pdf concludes with the medic character background, though said background does not come with the usual goal, etc.-tables, instead only focusing on the crunchy bits. Values and rules for both medical kits and medisprays are provided as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. Layout adheres to a mixture of 1-column and 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some solid stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks apart from the SRD.

Mike Myler's doctor is a cool, interesting class - in light of the issus cleric etc. will face in the radioactive wasteland, there will be plenty a group where these non-magical healers will be all but required. Similarly, the non-divine healing engine provided here is potent, but not overtly so and leaves stuff for the doc to do beyond being the heal-bot. Considering that this is FREE, it is definitely worth checking out, particularly if you wanted a non-divine healer for any type of 5e-game. Well worth getting, 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: Doctor Class
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Monster Classes: True Dragon
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:43:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

All right, the monster class for dragons covers 20 levels and features d12 HD, 6 + Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, full BAB-progression, all good saves and +1 natural AC, +1 at every class level gained. Dragons get a TON of natural attacks that increase in power for sizes and thus, a handy presentation with table etc. helps codify these. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon increases in age category. Dragons begin play with gliding wings and may use them to fly (50 ft., average maneuverability) at 5th level and increase that speed every 3 levels thereafter by 50 ft, though larger-sized dragons decrease their maneuverability to poor and clumsy, respectively 2nd level and 6th/10th net +10 ft. land speed. 2nd level unlocks the breath weapon (infinite uses, d8s as damage die, 1d4 cooldown) and 7th level has the secondary breath weapon unlock.

3rd level unlocks DR 3/magic, which is upgraded to 5/magic at 7th and 10/magic at 13th level, additionally treating the natural attacks of the dragon as magic. 4th level unlocks spellcasting of a 1st level sorceror, 5th level 120 ft. darkvision, 11th blindsense and if the dragon has a burrow speed, also tremorsense. 6th, 10th and 16th level provide size increases, 9th level SR 11 + HD and 17th frightful presence, though that one has not been properly bolded.

Attribute bonus-wise, the dragon gets +10 Str, +6 Con, +4 Int, +2 Wis,+6 Cha for a total of 28 points gained, which isn't as bad as some installments in the series, but considering...why did I bother listing these again?

The pdf provides individual race traits for all base chromatic and metallic dragons...and they influence the base class. Black Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Tiny, get swim speed equal to land speed, have the water subtype, are immune to acid and can breathe water. Their secondary breath weapon entangles foes, they get the SP to use darkness, which is not italicized, though speak with animals (reptiles only) does have that - it's gained at level 9, just fyi. The dragon also gets swamp stride at 6th level and the water befouling at 19th.

Blue Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get immunity to paralysis and petrification, have the earth subtype, are immune to electricity and have slow speed, but also burrow speed and tremorsense 5 ft. while burrowing. Their secondary breath weapon knocks foes prone, they get the SP to use ventriloquism, minor image and ghost sound, may create water at-will and at 5th level, imitate sounds. 19th level unlocks a powerful electricity aura.

Green Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get swim speed equal to land speed, have the air subtype, are immune to sleep, paralysis and acid. Their secondary breath weapon entangles foes, they get the SP to use entangle, charm person and suggestion, just fyi. The dragon can breathe water and gains slow speed, but also swim speed equal to base speed. The secondary breath weapon generates plant growth that makes terrain difficult the dragon may ignore. 6th level nets woodland stride and 15th trackless step.

Red Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get slow speed, have the fire subtype and cold vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and fire. Their secondary breath weapon duplicates obscuring mist (not italicized) and may see through smoke at 6th level. They also get the SP to use detect magic, pyrotechnics and suggestion, just fyi.

White Dragons get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, start off as Tiny, get normal speed and burrow speed at 1/2 base speed (with 5 ft. tremorsense while digging), have the cold subtype and fire vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and cold. Their secondary breath weapon duplicates grease and 1st level provides icewalking. 6th level nets Snow Vision, 9th level ice shaping at-will and 19th level cold aura.

Brass Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Tiny, get normal speed and burrow speed at 1/2 base speed (with 5 ft. tremorsense while digging), have the fire subtype and cold vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and fire. Their secondary breath weapon is the sleep gas and 9th level nets at-will move earth, 12th level at-will gust of wind. They also get the SP to use speak with animals, endure elements and suggestion, just fyi.

Bronze Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get slow speed and swim speed equal to land speed, have the water subtype, are immune to sleep, paralysis and electricity. They may breathe water. Their secondary breath weapon is the repulsion gas and 9th level nets at-will polymorph, 12th level water mastery. They also get the SP to use speak with animals, create food and water and fog cloud, just fyi.

Copper Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Tiny, get slow speed, have the earth subtype, are immune to sleep, paralysis and acid. They may spider climb at 3rd level and at 6th level age category is added to Craft (traps) and Perception checks to detect traps. The dragon may also defuse magical traps and 9th level provides uncanny dodge. Their secondary breath weapon is the slowing gas.

Gold Dragons get +2 Str, start off as Small, get slow speed and swim speed equal to land speed, have the fire subtype and vulnerability to cold and are immune to sleep, paralysis and fire. They may breathe water. Their secondary breath weapon is the weakening gas and 6th level nets polymorph, 9th level locate objects and at 10th level, the fly speed is 50 feet faster than that of another dragon, but at the cost of worse maneuverability12th level water mastery. At 19th level, these dragons can enspell gems to grant luck bonuses. They also get the SP to use detect evil, bless and daylight, just fyi.

Silver Dragons get +2 Str, start off as Small, get slow speed, have the cold subtype and fire vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and cold.. Their secondary breath weapon is the paralyzing gas and 3rd level nets polymorph, 4th level cloudwalking. 9th level improves maneuverability by one step over other dragons and 12th level nets fog vision They also get the SP to use detect evil, feather fall and fog cloud, just fyi.

The pdf provides 4 new feats for Half-dragon or Humanoid Forms, multiclass-stacking and Village Burner makes for a cool feat I'll use for my NPCs, allowing for extended strafing fire via breath weapons. The pdf, as always, features some feat-reprints for our convenience (Flyby Attack, Hold Prey and Multiattack) and a neat glossary. The pdf has no favored class options or age, height and weight tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups - I am pretty positive that something is missing from the red dragon's write up, since the dragon is weaker than the others. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank has managed to succeed in the task of breaking dragons down as a monster class. The dragons are generally well-balanced...among themselves. Obviously not with regular groups. The problem is that the pdf fails to address a TON of crucial issues: Why aren't dragons quadruped? What kind of magic item slots do they have? No clue.

And there is ANOTHER issue...or rather none: This pdf would have a raison d'être...were it not for Rite Publishing's brilliant "In the Company of Dragons." Said book has better player agenda, better balancing, age, height and weight, culture - EVERYTHING. There is not a single discipline where ItC: Dragons does not blow this out of the water. Get that book instead...and if you have it, you can probably use this pdf (provided you got it as part of the subscription) to scavenge alternate racial traits or something. That's literally the only use for this pdf I can come up with. Get In the Company of Dragons; it's superior in every single way.

Considering the balance-issue, the lack of information and being outclassed this hard, I'll have to settle on a final verdict of 1 star - I can't find a reason to use this, unless you have the subscription and are unwilling to get ItC: Dragons.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: True Dragon
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Mythic Monsters #38: China
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/15/2016 04:12:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' amazing Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction/how to use, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this installment, as always, with supplemental content - this time around, that would be two pages containing 6 feats and 5 minor artifacts. The feats would be so-called Blessings and come with regular and mythic iterations: One enhances your Survival skills in forests and makes you harder to track; two unlock skills as class skills and one unlocks foo dogs for summon monster et al. Slightly problematic: The Blessing of the Lungwang allows you to 1/round gain +2 to atk on the next attack versus a foe that has hit you, with the mythic version allowing for multiple foes to be eligible. Another one lets you 1/day bypass DR/hardness as adamantine. These feats are okay, but ultimately not something I'd get excited about.

The artifacts in question represent extremely powerful gifts bestowed upon mortals by the powerful dragons, with walking on gasses, powerful crescent blades and chakrams, pearls generating abundance and similar tricks making for an evocative, unique array that certainly supplements WuXia gameplay and options well.

But we're here for the creatures, right? Right! At CR 5/MR 2, mythic foo lions cause damage to weapons (and fists) of those that attack them and also come with a pretty cool mythic template for the creation of further foo creatures, with new/improved abilities at every rank, including retributive attack, ghost sight, etc. - I like the template...a lot. But at the same time I don't get why the mythic iteration doesn't do something cool with freeze...oh well.

The mythic hundun, at CR 26/MR 10, is BRUTAL; she can teleport targets closer via mythic power and the strange attractor, her entropic mind is more potent, she may actually drain mythic power and her very touch may basically destroy almost everything. As a minor gripe the build is missing the notes of the signature strange attractor, which imho would have made for an excellent upgrade for mythic treatment; the absence of the ability (referenced in the statblock) also makes for unnecessary book-flipping.

After these, we check out the majestic imperial dragons next: Imperial Forest Dragons (age category mature adult) clock in at CR 19/MR 7 and may animate plants at will, controlling multiple trees and gain an alternate poisonous breath. They are also a living growth accelerant and act as a massive fast healing battery for plants in the vicinity. While the base abilities of the non-mythic dragon have not been listed, they are part of its statblock here and since they are less iconic than e.g. the foo lion's freeze or the hundun's strange attractor, I can live with that.

The imperial sea dragon provided is very old and hits a lofty CR 20/MR 8; these guys are constantly under tongues and gain +4 to Diplomacy (nice nod towards the mythology) and they calm waters. They may also generate basically a panacea water 1/week, making the water exceedingly potent in dealing with curses, diseases etc. - and at this CR/MR, I can even live with it being a flat-out heal instead of tied to CL/HD. They also get a kind of DR based on tier to ability drain, damage negative levels, etc., may duplicate mythic control weather with mythic power and use mythic power to call forth shipwrecking maelstroms. Nice!

At CR 16/MR 6, imperial sky dragons come in the adult age category here and gain evasion while airborne, may hijack cloud/gas/mist spells, have indomitable will, which may be further enhanced by mythic power and may cloak itself in swirling winds. So put down that bow...Lavishly rendered in a full-page spread as seen on the cover, the ancient CR 25/MR 10 sovereign dragon is brutal: Two pages. With the series' relatively small font. Yeah, I love the guy, particularly that his breath is determined by the very seasons! Oh, and both breath weapon-charge-combo, magic eating etc. are amazing; with nary a glance they can send foes cowering and they may shed a sacred tear 1/year...oh, and mythic true seeing (reproduced for your convenience)...all awesome.

At CR 21/MR 8, the mythic imperial underworld dragon can strip foes of fire resistance and immunity via the aptly named "Burn for me"-ability; they may also breathe chocking gas that locks down actions of those affected. It may also burrow down, only to erupt in a burst of devastating lava - yeah, awesome boss material! The disturbing Jinmenju's mythic iteration stands at CR 13/MR 5 gets an excellent upgrade to its fruits - they are now addicted and those that partake in them can be controlled. Oh, and their fruits now also laugh and may be flung. Damn, this critter gives me the shivers...

The Terracotta soldier presented herein comes to our game at CR 7/MR 3 and features a nasty death-curse...oh, and they can call forth non-mythic terracotta soldiers...and they may reform upon being destroyed, taking several myths associated with them and providing some nice additional fodder. There also is a variant for archers and horsemen provided - though the archers only get variant feats and the riders as noted to be Large and 10 HD, with new feats provided...but actually getting BAB etc. for these would have been nice....the page containing them has enough blank space to potentially allow for that. At the same CR/MR, the jumping vampires, the jiang-shi, start overcoming weaknesses, depending on mythic rank and the template provided provides a 9-rank progression...which I greatly appreciated. In fact, the design philosophy here is remarkably close to the increasing power-levels by age I employ in my own home game for vampires.

There also is a low-CR critter herein: The mythic xiao at CR 3/MR 1 does not provoke AoOs when disarming or stealing and may use mythic power to steal more. Solid.

The CR 8/MR 3 mythic yahuai receives a Wisdom-damaging roar and three additional abilities, based on specific form - including poison stingers, flight, grab and constricts, etc.

The new creature herein, absolutely beautifully depicted, would be the CR 7/MR 3 mythic nian may add frightful presence to those charged, have a deep-seated aversion to the color red as well as sensitive ears...but don't underestimate these deadly predators: They may charge, withdraw and run at angles and reposition those hit by its Vital Strike bite/gore-supplemented assaults...very cool, efficient and brutal critter.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, i noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the artworks featured herein are nice - in particular the nian's artwork is amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee and Loren Sieg deliver herein: As befitting of the series, the creatures featured herein are pretty much amazing and superior in how they represent the tropes of the original beings the monsters are based on. That being said, this series has also spoiled me beyond belief when it comes to critters and e.g. the hundun and variant terracotta soldiers felt like a bit less than what they easily could have been. Similarly, the xiao could have used a bit more love...but, don't be fooled - this is still a pretty much excellent book and hence receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up, also due to the feats being not that amazing. Blame the series for spoiling me and get this. ;)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #38: China
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Psionics Augmented: Soulknives II
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/15/2016 04:11:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion for the soulknife-class clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief page of intro that also contains scaling advice for high-powered campaigns (such as those using Path of War), we begin with a chapter of feats and traits - before we take a look at the particulars here, it should be noted that manifesting call weaponry is defined as doubling as an alternate prerequisite for forming a mindblade, which means that the feats herein are useful for contexts beyond that of the soulknife class in many a case. A total of 13 feats are presented, with a corresponding table for our convenience, and span a rather interesting array of concepts: There are, for example, feats herein that make multiclassing a soulknife significantly more viable - whether its synergy with the dread's devastating touch or the cryptic's pattern, these options very much are appreciated, as far as I'm concerned - have I mentioned rage blade synergy, delivering ranged touch powers via mindblades?

That being said, I am not a big fan of all of the feat options: Gaining a free psychic strike recharge on a successful critical hit, for example, is a pretty significant incision into the action-economy-balance of the soulknife class, even if it is restricted to 1/round. While I can see plenty a game where this represents no issue, I similarly can picture enough where this represents a balance-concern. (For later compilation and the publisher's convenience - there also is a typo here: "psychci".) There is also one that lets you recharge the psychic strike whenever you eliminate an adversary; while it has an Int 3-caveat, it exacerbates the issue observed with crits and extends it. Speaking of balance-concerns - there is one feat that represents this more than pretty much any other feat I have seen in a long time: After BAB 6+, you can expend psionic focus to add psychic strike to ALL attacks until the start of your next turn. Yeah...that thing is not getting anywhere near my game. Similarly, the feat that increases psychic strike's charging to a swift action pretty much is the epitome of power creep.

At the same time, though, I should definitely mention the Dancing Shadow Style, which builds on Cloak Dance to allow for psychic blade recharges as part of the Cloak Dance - which is AMAZING design; it rewards a relevant choice of the character with an added benefit and emphasizes changes in tactics; it and its follow-up feats are true gems.

Beyond these feats, we also get 6 traits -and all feature meaningful, cool bonuses - like the trick shot talent as well as a bonus to ranged mindblade attacks. These traits, while relatively potent, universally are fun options and as such, can be considered to be neat additions to the class. The next section is something I have not expected, namely a take on the PrCs featured in Ultimate Psionics, making them more suitable for interaction with the base class! The adaptive warrior, elocator, mystic archer, pyrokineticist and warmind are included in the deal and the modifications make distinctions between manifesting and non-manifesting soulknives. Kudos!

The pdf also features the Ashen Blade PrC, which receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, as well as 3/4 BAB-progression and 1/2 Ref-save progression. The PrC also receives access to manifesting powers, beginning with one power and learning up to 7, with manifester level scaling up to 4th and power points totaling 71 in the end. Manifestation is governed by Wisdom. At 1st level, the PrC may augment strikes by spending power points to apply augments, up to class level ones. The ability may be used 5 + Wis-mod times per day and the ability begins with one augment and allows for the addition of a second at 4th, a third at 7th level, respectively. Thus, the augments are grouped by class - 4 of them are basic (1st level), 3 are adept augments (4th level) and 2 are master augments, which are unlocked at 7th level. As a minor complaint, these unlock steps must be deduced from context - the ability itself does not designate the augments as such and when they're gained, so that aspect could be slightly more player-friendly.

The respective augments feature a slightly vampiric theme - hits that destroy psionic focus on a failed save, increased damage, attribute damage, hitting ghosts, short-term power point drain - the effects here are pretty cool. Now purists of psionics will notice that the save DC here deviates from the standard established by Ultimate Psionics - instead of using the 10 + 1/2 class level + attribute, the abilities featured here are based on a fixed value (like 17) + attribute modifier, as used by Path of War. The ashen blade helps feinting and the PrC may manifest and dismiss a mind dagger as part of a standard action attack, further enhancing Stealth and feinting options - which I generally like. 2nd level and every 3 thereafter provide psychic strike progression and at the same level, the PrC provides bonuses to Stealth and Bluff while maintaining psionic focus, which scale fyi at 5th and 9th level...unless the character already has it, in which case PrC levels are treated as class levels for scaling purposes. 3rd and 9th level provide blade skills and 10th level eliminates the daily cap of augments and regains psychic strike or psionic focus when the PrC eliminates a foe with at least 1 HD and Int 3 or higher...so non-kittenable. As a capstone, that still is strong...or weak, depending on your take. If you see no problems with aforementioned feats, this capstone only nets you an end to the 1/round regain of the OP feats. Still, as a whole, I don't have much to complain here: Strong, flavorful soulknife-assassin PrC.

The pdf continues to provide a total of 5 gifted blade powers, which makes sense, considering that it pretty much is the default go-to for the option of high-power/high-psionics games and so far bereft of unique options. These powers are pretty amazing: You can hand copies of your mind blade to allies via bestow blade; there also is a power that grants you, as a move action, a quasi-psychic strike to unleash with your attacks, allowing for blade skill combos...which can be both strong and amazing. Gaining an astral suit via a power is pretty cool...though e.g. mindscramble, to me, feels like it does not belong: You manifest it as a standard action, attack a foe and deal +2d6 nonlethal damage, stunning the foe on a failed Will-save. I'm not opposed to it, mind you...it just...kinda feels more like...well, a maneuver than a power to me. That may just be me. It will not influence the verdict. Tactile Telekinesis is amazing and brings some strength-feat utility as well as a buff to the field. Kudos for this one!

The pdf also features 5 new items: Crystal iouns enhance the exceedingly cool, if somewhat strong panoply of blade ability. Crystalline setting features a similar ability for the augmented blade. The Blade Bangles occupy the wrist slot and contain blade skills, unlocking them for soulknives capable of fulfilling the prerequisites. The greaves of Mehsim are also amazing, allowing for the expenditure of psychic strike to gain physical acceleration for psychic strike damage dice. Finally, skin of the blade is a psychoactive skin containing Psychokinetic Armor, which can be enhanced as though the soulknife had Enhanced Mind Armaments.

The pdf ends with 2 pages that render this pdf pretty much a must-have purchase for soulknife-users: The augmented enhancement list, which contains a massive, new and updated table of weapon special abilities as well as shield special abilities, all hyperlinked for your convenience.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal and rules-level, are very good - apart from typo-level minor hiccups, I noticed nothing peculiar apart from aforementioned deviation from Ultimate Psionics-standard in ability save DCs. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and features two amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Chris Bennett is a talented designer; I never doubted that and I actually like what he has crafted here. Purists may scoff at the Path of War-y save DCs, but that is an issue you can remedy relatively easily if it really does irk you. Where things get more problematic for me as a reviewer and as a GM is with the feats and the tendency I observed with the psionics augmented-series as a whole, excluding the universally appealing, amazing Living Legend. If you've been following my reviews, you'll notice that I am a HUGE fanboy of psionics. I have always been one of the guys who stepped on the barricades when someone complained about psionics being overpowered, often due to them frankly not understanding the rules. In Psionics Augmented: Soulknives I, I got swept away by the brilliance of the design, sure...but the matter of the fact remains that the series has been increasing its power-level, slowly but steadily, towards the power-level employed by Path of War. From damn cool, but too strong wilder powers to unlimited AoO-blasts that outblast full casters or alchemists in staying power, the series does have its pitfalls and makes it, slowly but surely, harder to unanimously defend psionics as a whole.

During the playtest of this one, which otherwise represents a well-crafted book, I found myself handsifting through the feats of which to allow in my main campaign and which not to. At one point, I just universally allowed anything psionics-related; while e.g. the psychic strike/focus regain mechanics work perfectly in a game that assumes Path of War's increased power level and while they bring the class on par with that, they can be pictured as pretty much...well, OP in other, grittier games like the ones I favor in my main campaign. Some options here are potent to the point where not taking them would frankly be stupid - they're that strong.

In spite of the helpful (Upwards! I'm not kidding you!) scaling advice sidebar this may have, ultimately, one always has a hard time having the cake and eating it, too: You can either make a system that caters to the standard power-level assumed by PFRPG-classes, or you can intentionally go beyond that. As soon as you do not clearly make clear which it is you're gunning for, you have a problem on your hands. GMs without the necessary experience that unanimously allow this pdf in their conservative games after having only good experiences with Ultimate Psionics, will potentially have a nasty surprise on their hands, and one that is harder to pinpoint due to potentially stemming from feats rather than rules-clusters archetypes of PrCs represent. This, as a whole, is a troubling development as far as I'm concerned and one I know that may alienate at least a part of the customer base. I'd like to propose the introduction of some sort of designator for these powerful components, some sort of identification for newer GMs to make their lives easier...or, perhaps, a clean mission statement that, from now on out, the series is gunning for the high-power games only...which imho would be a pity.

I demonstrated in PA: Soulknives I's review how easily an optional nerf could be made to Chris Bennett's amazing panoply-engine to unlock his designs for the conservative part of the customer base. It's not a hard thing to do and something that could easily exist alongside the increased power-level featured herein. I can't rate this as a file only for truly high-powered games. Such games may consider this well-worth and 5 stars. Grittier games, though, will run into trouble when employing this pdf, and understanding the power of several feats herein, their combo-potential AND requiring the GM to hand-select them, imposes a strain on that makes this a 3 star-file, in spite of its quality, for such groups. As a person, this is, unfortunately, where this pdf falls for me; I love its precision and craftsmanship, artistry even, but it also is one that needs control. As a reviewer, however, I need to take into account that there similarly are players and groups out there that crave exactly this increasing power-level, that want this exactly as written. Hence, my final verdict will fall on 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives II
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Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Gaze Grabber
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/15/2016 04:09:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures series clocks in at 5 pages - the front cover contains the header, creature artwork and the social media icons/homepage of misfit studios as well as some introductory text. The SRD takes up 1 1/3 pages and the editorial is in a sidebar - to get all the material you thus have to print out the cover with the icons and part of the SRD as well.

So, what are gaze grabbers? Think of them as basically oversized tribbles with a toothy mouth and several flimsy eyestalks attacked. They obviously have all-around vision and may, as a standard action, direct their gaze towards a victim within 30 ft., who then must succeed a Dc 9 Will-save to avoid being stunned...if that sounds low...well. The more eyes the gaze grabber uses, the higher the DC becomes: +1 per eye directed at a target. Nice: When the creature gets into melee distance, the flexibility of its eyestalks suddenly makes it impossible to properly avert one's eyes, though the potency of the collective gaze is obviously still diminished. Only half the eyes can increase the save DC when used thus...but do you round up or down? No idea there. Attacking and eliminating eyestalks via both called shots and on the fly methods are covered here and while the base gaze grabber at CR 2 is assumed to have 3d12 eyes, those with 20+ have a CR of 3, those with 30 or more a CR of 4, accounting for the then nigh-unbeatable DCs of these tiny aberrations. Now it should be noted that the creature's bite attack's base damage, at 1d4, is slightly beyond the standard for Tiny size, which would be 1d3.

As always, the pdf comes with 3 solid adventure hooks to employ the critters.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and while I'm not big on the social icons and dispersal of non-gaming parts through the pdf, from an aesthetic point of view, there is not much to complain about. The pdf comes with the classic Crawthorne-artwork as well as the gaze grabber artwork, which is decent. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration, which is nice to see. The book has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Spike Y Jones' gaze grabber is a decent creature; while it is a one-trick pony, its one trick is creative in its execution. That being said, it is a save-or-suck critter that either goes down fast or, in groups, can TPK whole groups of unlucky PCs. All are stunned and eaten, that's it. Attacking the eyes themselves, considering the low HP and sucky AC of the gaze grabber, makes for a bad proposition, which does undermine somewhat the tactical dimension of dealing with these critters. While not bad per se, the critter thus falls a bit short of the potential the concept has. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Gaze Grabber
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Four Horsemen Present: Mythic Kingdoms
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2016 04:40:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "Four Horsemen present"-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page of editorial, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Mythic kingdoms? Do we need the combination of mythic rules and kingdom building rules? My reply here would be a yes: While the kingdom building rules do a great job in simulating the machinations of a regular realm, and while Legendary Games' superb books expanding upon them add aerial and underwater warfare and the like to the fray, it is a fact that the rules do not really account for wars between truly fantastic nations...or a fantastic nation going to war with more mundane civilizations. The question of what happens if Eldorado or Xin-Shalast went to war with mundane realms? You can answer that. Such fabled realms usually have fabled leaders - at the very heart of a mythic kingdom, thus, sit mythic heroes (or villains). The blending of the individual and the kingdom level is as seamless as possible, via two mythic universal path abilities, the 1st tier mythic leader and the 6th tier mythic kingdom; the former affects a settlement you govern, the latter the whole kingdom.

But what are the advantages? Well, you can grant the settlement/kingdom mythic advantages...but these must be paid for with mythic disadvantages. Each of the entries thus features a line to affect settlement and kingdom. And the mythic advantages are AMAZING. I mean...ouch. I get why you need disadvantages to balance them out. If a place, for example, has the army advantage, it receives an army of undead, golems, guardian spirits...that replenishes every day. The only way to defeat it permanently is to eliminate the source of mythic power - i.e. the characters."We were impervious to the darkness, guarded by the ancient protectors, for as long as our kind king rules..." Yeah, this quality alone pretty much writes its own adventure....or even campaign.

The mythic advantages retain this exceedingly impressive level of quality and imaginative potential: Do you want a settlement or place that has the option to magically exile the unwanted? That can be found herein. A blessed holy city/realm to represent the fantasy-equivalent of Jerusalem/Mekka or Prester John's realm? In this pdf. A realm prophesied to become something great? Oh, do you want a city of doors and portals that can be accessed via special keys (mythic magic items also depicted within)? A place that can be returned t via keys? Yeah, if that sounds like this nets you the tools to simulate a war with Sigil...you'd be right. What about a mythic kingdom that seems to move, being hard to find? One with legendary buildings? A repository of vast knowledge? A place with different gravity? Yup. You can making flying kingdoms...or those that bring forth particularly powerful beings by virtue of increased gravity...or a tyrannical realm, where the tyrant's domination literally crushes those under his dominion. Magical planar traits, morphic fey realms, kingdoms that can actually move or those protected from negative influences...yes, this has the means of making a kingdom on...for example the negative energy plane...or making simply the city of brass. Fabulously wealthy or technologically advanced realms similarly lie within the realms (get it? sorry, will punch myself later for that...) possibility.

Now if sword & sorcery, fantasy or pretty much any other literary genre have taught us anything regarding such larger than life nations, then that they also generally tend to have a fatal flaw: Mythic disadvantages are the calamities, the chinks in the resplendent armor of these legendary nations. These, in turn, are no less unique and worthy of storytelling: Some mythic kingdoms may be struck by apathy, a crushing world-weariness; perhaps, the kingdom has been beset by a catastrophe that sent it beneath the surface of the earth...or it suffers from a horrid curse affecting magical objects. Perhaps the very people are cursed...or flow of time or gravity behaves erratically. Dead magic, restless dead stalking the streets, places that are tumbling through the planes...or those simply unnatural - if the advantages are what makes a kingdom presented here awe-inspiring, then these are what makes them grounded, what ultimately makes them an evocative place for adventurers to visit, save or condemn.

Now I already mentioned enhanced structures: Taverns with phantom steeds or ghostly carriages; healing chapels that rid pilgrims of curses - the pdf features a ridiculously simple and concise way of presenting such places. The rules presented comfortably fit on one page, but frankly, are impressive in their elegance. And then, there would be three sample settlements crafted with the rules presented herein: The clockwork fortress of Null, the Dread Necropolis and the planar crossroads that wanted to be the center of ever-changing limbo.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed neither formal, nor rules-language hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf sports 2 decent full color artworks and one b/w-piece. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Stephen Rowe's Mythic Kingdoms are pretty much everything I hoped they'd be. When the horsemen asked what we'd like to see and I posted "Mythic Kingdoms", I almost immediately regretted it; why? Because I end up disappointed more often than not by the particular execution of a concept near and dear to my heart. It is with some trepidation, but also hope that I opened this pdf; after all, Stephen Rowe is a supremely talented designer.

Well, to cut a long ramble short, he has surpassed himself here. In German, there is the colloquialism of the "eierlegende Wollmilchsau" (literally: Egg-laying Wool-milk-pig) to denote a fantastic tool that does everything at once. Mythic Kingdoms is pretty much the eierlegende Wollmilchsau of the theme, succeeding in phenomenal ways beyond my expectations. It seamlessly stitches the levels of character, settlement and kingdom together, provides a bridge between the mythic character and the kingdom, without losing the importance of the mythic character in question. The advantages and disadvantages both universally resonate with the truly fantastic, taking ample inspiration from mythology. The fact that the respective pieces of content can be applied on both a settlement and kingdom level is similarly amazing. Oh, and, as an aside, the book is exceedingly cool, even if you do not play a mythic game; the advantages and disadvantages, frankly, can be utilized by GMs beyond kingdom-building or mythic game-play to add the sense of the epic to the respective environment.

In short: This is a little masterpiece, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval as well as nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Whether you want more magical settlements or kingdoms, consider this a must-have purchase.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Mythic Kingdoms
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Griffonport
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2016 04:38:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a neat full color map of Griffonport and its bay...and it is a town steeped in history, as we learn about the pact of providing griffons to the prides in exchange for the noble eponymous griffons acting as military steeds...though recently, the horse population's been on the decline, which results in some tensions. Griffonbay island, situated in the bay and erstwhile headquarter of a notorious pirate, has since then become basically an elven embassy, with said pirate missing. Though pro forma part of the nation of Brynndell, Griffonport is, for most intents and purposes, a free city.

The pdf goes on to depict the three noble families and also speak about the covert and overt representations of spiritual life in the guise of the fane of the Grey (or Gray - the pdf is inconsistent here) Maiden, a nasty cult of Shub-Niggurath and a shrine of the sea-goddess. The town comes with its properly formatted settlement statblock as well as with a neat timeline.

Now something that's hard to convey in a review of text alone would be the unique layout of the town: While the aforementioned map is player-friendly and does not contain spoilers, it covers more than the town proper, instead dealing with the whole region of the bay. This increased scope is represented as well in the rest of the pdf, when the respective sub-regions are once again shown on the map, with keyed locations thrown in; in Griffonport proper's case, a total of 10 such locations can be found. There would also be the char district, hewn from gigantic pine trees, it is basically a former logging district that acts as the more shady, externalized neighborhood as well as sawmill, glassworks and similar locales...you know, places that would never represent nasty surprises for adventurers. Ähem. Minor quest notes/ideas can also be found here alongside an "Achemist" who is facing a unique issue...

Between the town and this place, the breaking yards contain horse breeding grounds and are obviously less urbanized than other places...but 9 little rumors help adding some flavor to this region as well. I already mentioned the elven-controlled sping lotus district on the island off the coast...and it features its own cadre of detailed fluff-only NPCs and power-structures, making sure than you can get some additional mileage out of this unique place. Oh, and, once again, we get a couple of rumors.

Beyond that, though, the festival of the lotus is just one of the past-times here - with 4 sample games/parties that PCs may engage in, from the risky Talonspar, in which you use a sick horse to try to lure and capture aerial predators to the board-game runaway.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - while I noticed a couple of editing glitches that could have easily been caught, I won't complain too much here. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The artworks featured range from jaw-droppingly beautiful to nice and the cartography, as mentioned, is nice.

Now this town is featured in the Whispers of the Dark Mother mini-AP and, as such, is actually intended as a supplemental material. The cadre of authors (Robert Gresham, Ewan Cummings, Jessica Carson, John C. Rock, Jarret Sigler) could certainly have gone a more conservative route...but instead, we actually get a unique, distinctly fantastic town...for PWYW. And that's a big thing; compared to Brighton, the previous free town by Wayward Rogues Publishing, Griffonport is a distinct step forward. The town is interesting fun and makes, in spite of the editing hiccups here and there, for a worthwhile download that is well-worth leaving a tip for the company. While not perfect, I will gladly settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the PWYW-nature of this book. Take a look at the unique town and judge for yourself!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Griffonport
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Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Treeshadow
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2016 04:36:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures series clocks in at 5 pages - the front cover containing the header, creature artwork and the social media icons/homepage of misfit studios. The SRD takes up 1 1/3 pages and the editorial is in a sidebar - to get all the material you thus have to print out the cover with the icons as well.

What is a treeshadow? The simple response would be that it is a particularly nasty CR 4 fey - dubbed dkar'thu in their own language, the resemble dark-skinned, fanged elves that generally choose to live their days as a kind of ambush predator: They merge with trees along well-traveled paths and then burst forth from them to slice mortals to ribbons with their claws, believing themselves to be guardians of feykind...a task entwined with their quasi-religious fervor. When they begin their turn in a tree, they get DR 10/adamantine or cold iron and inflict +2d6 with all attacks; additionally, they do not provoke AoOs from leaving threatened squares when emerging from a tree. Tree merging is a bit of an oddity, ability-wise, since it does not explicitly state an action - this is due to it happening basically at will when the treeshadow ends his movement next to a Large or nigger inanimate (nice catch!) living tree. While thus merged, they retain their flexibility and may still move - but the tree is visually twisted...though this twisting is lessened via prolonged habitation; the longer they wait, the better their camouflage becomes. It should be noted that the base damage (2d6) of their claws is non-standard for their size, which is something purists may scoff at; personally, I can live with that.

As always, we get 3 solid adventure hooks to supplement the critter presented here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and while I'm not big on the social icons and dispersal of non-gaming parts through the pdf, from an aesthetic point of view, there is not much to complain about. The pdf comes with the classic Crawthorne-artwork as well as the treeshadow artwork, which is okay, if nothing special The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration, which is nice to see. The book has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Emily Brumfield's treeshadow is an impressive little build: Fey are pretty fragile and making a good skirmishing fey based on melee attacks is a pretty nice feat in itself. The abilities of the monster are connected well internally and leave me, frankly, not with a lot to complain about. For a buck, this is worth getting. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Treeshadow
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